The Fun That Was Peace Corps Guyana - Mark's Blog

Postings from just north of the equator. Let's see if training in CPR and First Aid prepares me to teach Health Education in a small, remote village in Guyana. I'm thinking... no. Read all about this ill advised decision! In addition, here is the required Peace Corps disclaimer: "The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps." So, please, don't confuse me with the White House Press Secretary.

Monday, October 16, 2006


So I'm a little sad over here, though I will admit it is mixed with anticipation of fun. First off, I am sad to report that one of my best friends from Peace Corps out here on the coast left last week. He still had about seven months left in PC and was the senior volunteer on the coast. He had been, in some ways, a sort of mentor to me, I guess. At least in all the fun things we do on the coast. Through him, I met a fair amount of interesting and sometimes influential people out here. But above all that, he was (and still is) a really good friend and someone I always enjoyed hanging out with. I will definitely miss him. I can't say that I really feel bad for him leaving. He is meeting up with his girlfriend and then traveling to Thailand, with no return ticket. So damn. I guess I'm sad and jealous.

But life is good too. Tomorrow I have yet another conference, this one on Abstinence and Being Faithful approaches to fighting HIV/AIDS. Though I am completely convinced that AB-only approaches don't work effectively, sometimes we are obligated to do AB-only talks or workshops, such as at schools or some religious institutions. So, despite my personal thoughts, this conference should be good. And anyways, we Peace Corps volunteers are always looking for an excuse (preferably paid by PC) to see each other. And when this conference is over, I will be accompanying six or so John Hopkins Doctors into remote Amerindian villages along the Pomeroon River for seven days. My friend Patty and I will be doing HIV outreach and education. And I'm trying to get around 7,000 condoms to distribute too. I have to pick those up in Georgetown this Friday, which should be funny as hell. That's about 40-50 boxes of condoms. This will be hilarious.

So life is good. But sometimes I don't feel like I give you guys a taste of what my life is like. So here are some random things that have happened to me or thoughts I've had.

- I constantly get asked at the health center I work at if I'm a doctor. Most often, after talking to someone for five minutes, they ask me if I'm a Cuban doctor. Um, was I speaking English to you or Spanish? To be fair, there are a lot of Cuban doctors in country. But still...

- Constant questions as to whether I'm married. When I say no, they are often offers of daughters, friends, or just knowing comments about how I could have any girl on the coast. I know, I know. It's pretty obvious when girls I'm friends with randomly tell me how they want to marry a white guy. Uh, yeah... that's not awkward.

- similarly, if any girls up in America want to get married, I know about 350,000 guys here who are very interested.

- Any time I pass a moderately full rum shop (basically an open air bar), I get calls of "hey white boy, take a drink with us!" And when I say that it's 1:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday and I have a meeting in an hour, they say "that's okay! We'll just drink for half an hour." And that actually sounds really enticing.

- Foods I've eaten that I have never or rarely eaten before: crocodile, iguana, snail, laba (basically a giant rat that lives in the bush - it's pretty good), tapir/bush cow, wild hog, salapenter (a big lizard), and eggs. Haha, Greg see that? I'm eating eggs now. Let's be proud of me.

- I like the drunk guys who can't understand me when they are completely smashed. They keep turning to each other and saying, with completely slurred words, "what language he speak?" And I'm thinking "you can't understand me? This is a joke."

- Speaking of, when people get really full of alcohol, they say they are high. If they keep drinking and get sick, then they are drunk. So Americans say drunk when Guyanese would say high. This is funny to me mostly because there is a hard liquor of about 120 proof that is called "High Wine." Imagine something in America called "Drunk Wine." I don't know if it would sell.

- At Indian weddings, the men tend to stay in the back and just drink the whole time. So by the time the ceremony is over, there is a group of high men, wanting to dance. But the women stay out of the way. So you end up with a group of ten or twenty men, all dancing with each other. And I definitely mean with each other. There is a lot of hand holding, hip-gyrations, and whatnot. The best part is that no one thinks it's weird at all. And if you asked around, most would probably express either neutral to not-gay-friendly opinions. Just hilarious.

- I've watched more The Price Is Right down here than every last one of you combined, I bet. And that is a really weird show to watch with Guyanese people. First off, the premise is crazy. People are just giddy about getting free stuff. But man, what a weird image of America to send out to the world. Yeah that's right, we just get living room sets and new cars randomly. Happens all the time. That's America!

- Most Guyanese go to New York City when they leave Guyana. So when I tell people I'm from California, I often get blank stares and then attempts to figure out where that is in New York City - near the Bronx or Queens? Oftentimes I just lie and say NYC to make it easy.

I guess these are just little snippets of life down here. I mean, they barely add up to one percent of my life. But they are little glimpses of life here. To me it's normal by now. So I even forget these little things the next day. But I'll try to remember these things more often.

A little note: please no one send me down any emails or anything about the Baseball playoffs or World Series. I think my friend down here is getting his brother to TiVo the games, burn them on DVD, and send them down. So we will spend a weekend watching baseball. I know, we're totally cool. But that makes me immensely excited. So don't ruin it. Thanks! I hope everyone else is doing well!