Christmas in Guyana
As everyone told me here over the past few weeks, in Guyana the holidays are bright. I’ve been surprisingly busy this holiday season. I had a Christmas party at my health post for the young children of the community. We raised money, decorated the health post, got presents for the children, convinced Santa Claus to come from, ahem, California, and made food. We probably had over a 100 kids and moms come. It was a real success as far as I was concerned. My nurse thought so too, though she is strangely transfixed on how a few mothers took extra food or drinks. She always says how disappointed in their behavior. I think whatever but know it’s better to say nothing.
So I got to be Santa Claus down here, as you can see. (oh, the second picture is Santa with a few of my family members down here.) The suit actually looked pretty good. Everyone was really happy with it. I got the suit custom-made here by a really nice lady. And she didn’t even charge me when she found out it was for a party for the kids. So nice! But I can say this much – Santa was never meant to visit the tropics. I had to wear that suit for about three hours, most of the time sitting with my back in the sun and letting a parade of kids sit on my lap. So you can imagine that I got a little warm. And by a little warm, I mean I sweat through the thing and wanted to pass out from dehydration. But that’s okay, because I was there for the kids. And the kids liked me. Especially the 1 to 3 year olds, of whom about half would look at me and then burst into uncontrollable crying and screaming. Nothing gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling better than having crying kids on your lap, scared witless by your appearance. It was actually pretty funny (maybe until hour two or so, that is).
But really, it was a great time. The kids got their little presents, got their pictures taken on my lap, and everyone ate fried rice, chow mein, and chicken curry. You know, traditional Christmas food. Anyways, I think we’ll do it next year, except we might try to plan better and raise more money. This was the first time we’ve ever done this, so it was a total experiment. And I think with some better planning, we can cut out the crazy running around and last minute planning that happened this time.
So that was a few days before Christmas. Since only two people from my group went home for Christmas, the rest of us all spent Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day (the 26th) in Bartica, a really cool town down the Essequibo River. We rented out a guesthouse that had five bedrooms, big balconies, a huge kitchen, and a pool. It was really nice. And we had Christmas with each other. We cooked what was probably one of the best Christmas meals ever on Christmas Eve. We had three turkeys for eleven people! I made some awesome mashed potatoes (mix potatoes, garlic, a tub of butter, a block of cream cheese, evaporated milk, salt and pepper to taste – and yes, they were yellow). We had stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, salad, dinner rolls, and everything else that I’m forgetting. Basically it was all American food, which is kinda an accomplishment here. And it was glorious. I ate til it hurt.
Christmas was mostly eating leftovers and lounging by the pool. Nothing says Christmas better than tanning in my swimsuit and a Santa hat. So it was real nice. None of us wanted to leave the next day. And no one truly missed their families, even Jill, who had never spent a Christmas not with her family.
Then I spent a week at work, wishing it was New Years. I’m so conditioned to the school schedule, when you get that month off for Christmas. So imagine for the first time having to work that week between Christmas and New Years. I was dying. Luckily it was a short week.
So New Year’s Eve, or Old Year’s Night as it is known here, was fun too. I stayed on the coast, going up to the main town on the coast for some big parties at the local clubs. Guyanese people have some interesting traditions on Old Year’s Night. Many like to be in church or mandir when midnight strikes. And then, around 12:30 they go to the bars and start drinking, partying until dawn or so. So when my friend and I got to the main club at 11:30, it was pretty empty. At midnight, I was on the dance floor with my friend and one other couple. And the DJ didn’t even tell us it was midnight. It was actually pretty funny. But people started coming later and the place got a little fuller. And then I started seeing people I knew. I think I got home around 3 or so. It was a good time, though I was surprised how few people came out. I had heard that Christmas Eve was huge here, with the road being shut down from the amount of people out. So maybe everyone spent their money then? And it did start raining really hard just after midnight, so that would have kept people away. So who knows? I had a good time.
Anyways, it’s kinda hard for me to imagine that it is 2007. I’ve spent ten months here in Guyana – I’ve got another sixteen months to go. And I get to spend the whole of 2007 here. Wow. It should be interesting. I hope I can get a little more done work-wise. We want to build an extension to our health post, which is one room and probably smaller than your living room. This is especially needed if we start counseling our pregnant mothers about getting HIV tests, which require confidentiality. And you can imagine how a one room place does not really offer confidentiality. So we’re going to work on this.
But generally, I’m happy here. I was talking to my fellow PCV Patty, who is probably my best friend here. We really rely on each other to stay sane and get things done here. We were both realizing that we no longer think about our time here in Guyana as optional. I mean, at the beginning there was a sense of how, if it got bad, we could go home. But now we are used to life here. And so we see the ups and downs as just normal. I don’t think about going home or even how I have a choice to be here or not. I think that this is my home for these two years. And why would you leave your home? Hopefully this is healthy. I think so.