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.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Why I'm Famous

So apparently I'm famous. I know this because I've just had about 33 new Peace Corps volunteers fly into the country and tell me. You see, the newest group finally arrived in country after much delay (like, about a year...). They are all fresh-faced and full of energy. It's actually refreshing to see such enthusiasm. But it's also really funny because they know pretty much nothing about this country. Which should be an obvious statement. I didn't know anything about this place either when I showed up. But this results in hilariously random questions. They want to learn so much, but they know nothing so their questions are completely directionless and cover anything from housing to food to work to the heat to the culture to how to travel after Peace Corps (hold on buddy, do your two years first).

So it turned out, though, that almost all of them had tried to do a little research before they came. And a first obvious plan is to Google blogs about Peace Corps Guyana. Lo and behold, this blog pops up first. I'm famous! Or at least with this new group. Apparently almost everyone had read it, sometimes from the first post. So they quickly recognized me - often as the puma guy. I've become famous as "Guyanese Mark."

Anyways, I can't say it was so much an ego boost as much as kinda weird. The digital world colliding with the real world. I guess I always kinda assumed it was just my family, friends, and random people I would never meet. But it didn't occur to me that the new group would find me. Oh well. So welcome to my larger readership (though now they don't need to read this because they can just talk to me. So I guess my readership just dipped by 33 people. Sad).

Riding With Wildlife

A short story about why I think Guyana is just a hilarious place. It seems like weird stuff like this happens all the time. Anyways, I had to go into Georgetown for my mid-service medical tests last week. The raining season has started up, which means this trip was especially miserable. Usually it takes me around two and half hours, taking cars, mini-buses, and speed boats. So I’m waiting in Supenaam for my speed boat to leave, sitting in the light rain. Finally it fills up with two guys carrying a really big bag. As they sit down right behind me, they inform the passengers that the bag is carrying a bunch of snakes and a caiman (an alligator). Oh.

The boat pulls away and we start our half hour ride across the Essequibo River, winding between the islands and navigating small swells. And the rain has kicked up, which means we all hide behind oversized, rubber sheets. After about fifteen minutes, I hear a commotion behind me. I look back to see a caiman about four feet long halfway out of its rice bag. One of the guys has his foot on the caiman’s head and is yelling at his friend to pick up the rest of the animal. The boat driver has basically stopped the boat and jumped up onto his seat, pulling his bare feel away from the caiman, which is now biting anything it can and holding on. Finally they pull the caiman out of its rice bag and try to tie his snout closed. There, obviously, is a lot of colorful language going on right now. And it didn’t help that one of the guys was completely inept at getting the piece of string around his snout. It keeps slipping off, which resulted in even more cussing. I’m looking at all this, imagining the caiman chewing its way out of the bag again and biting the back of my foot. So suddenly it’s very much in my interest for this caiman to get its snout closed. So I pull a Velcro tie off my backpack (good ol’ North Face) and hand it to the guys. The inept guy takes it and completely fails at putting it on the caiman’s snout. So I take it back and put it on the caiman myself. They then get him back in the rice bag.

We start moving again. I ask the guy how many snakes he has. He says he’s got about forty of all sizes in his bag. I’m considering how likely it is for a snake to chew through a rice bag. He says he gets them from the Pomeroon River from Amerindian people who catch them. And then he takes them to Georgetown, where he exports them. I decided not to question the legality of it all. And anyway, the guy was really nice. But as we’re talking, the boat slows down and stops, dead in the water. The boat driver thinks he’s out of gas. So suddenly I’m in a dead speed boat in the driving rain with forty snakes and an angry caiman? Is this the Guyanese version of “Life of Pi?”

Luckily the driver finds a second canister of gas and we finish our journey to Parika. The caiman stays in his bag and the snakes choose not to join the party. So it all ended well enough. I guess if I was new to Guyana, the fact that two guys with forty snakes and a caiman shared my boat would be story. But after fifteen months here, the caiman has to escape and I have to tie his snout closed for it to become worthy to re-tell. If I ever extended for a third year here, maybe I’d have to wrestle it off the boat to save a small baby? Probably…