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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey Day

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! If you didn’t know, Guyana has the largest Thanksgiving celebrations of any country. It’s true! We have parades that rival the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City. We eat huge turkeys, mountains of mashed potatoes, and pounds of stuffing. Candied yams? Of course! Families travel far and wide to see each other. And because families are so large here, at least three or four turkeys are usually cooked for any normal sized family gathering. It’s a magical time of festivities and celebrations!

Well, not quite. Shockingly, Guyana doesn’t celebrate this quintessential American holiday. Who knew? But that doesn’t mean that we Peace Corps Volunteers can’t stuff ourselves silly. One thing you might learn about us is that we take very seriously any opportunity to gather and cook immense amounts of tasty food. We don’t need holidays for this, but when a holiday comes up….? Basically, we go a little crazy. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving, by being on a Thursday, conflicted with my usual work schedule. No amount of logic (“it’s a BIG holiday in America… and I’m American!”) could get me out of work. So I had to settle for a few beers after work with a Peace Corps friend to celebrate. I’m not complaining, but it wasn’t the major celebration I knew I was missing back home. Luckily, we volunteers are not quitters. After a bit of lobbying of our Peace Corps staff, we got a free vacation weekend to come into Georgetown for a volunteer Thanksgiving dinner. So that’s where I am now, waiting to fill my belly with lots of good food.

I’m in charge of mashed potatoes. In honor of my late sister-in-law, who made the most absolutely delicious mashed potatoes of all time, I am trying to make them as creamy (read – unhealthy) as possible. My simple but effective recipe is as follows: boil potatoes (about half a pound per person), mash potatoes while stirring in a brick of cream cheese and a small tub of butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Sounds good, eh? I know that Lottie had a slightly more complex recipe, possibly including cheese, but I’m not sure. All I remember is that they turned out creamy and yellow. So that’s what I’m going for too. All the eight girls in my group who are going to eat these… they aren’t going to complain, right? Thanksgiving isn’t about trying to eat healthy.

Anyways, that’s today. I missed Thanksgiving last year, so I’m excited to spend it with friends. It also coincides with the five-months-to-go mark in my Peace Corps service. That doesn’t sound like a short time until you’ve already spent twenty-one months in country. I actually know it’s going to go by really fast. Not only do I have a gardening project that I need to begin and finish in that time, but I also have to fit in various conferences and vacations (I’ve got about fifteen days of vacation left – use it or lose it!). Add in holidays and knock off that last month because I’ll be wrapping everything up, and I’m practically done! But as Guyanese people say, I’m of two minds about it. On one hand, I’m happy to be close to the end. I’m proud of myself to finish this, which has been hard at times. I also think I’ve done some really good projects and hopefully made a small but discernable difference. On the other hand, this has been a tough year and a half. My group is half of what we started with. Work has sometimes been very slow. And I’m already getting very excited about law school and what comes after Peace Corps. So, much like all my time here, I’m divided about how I feel about this experience.

Anyways, here’s a funny thing that happened last night. A few of us were eating at a local Chinese restaurant. We were sitting outside and finishing off our beers, when a guy approached us. Now, we’re kind of used to people approaching us when we hang in big groups, but usually they tend to be drunk or begging for money (or both). But this guy was completely sober. Much more interestingly, he was holding a door under his arm. He approached us and said, in all seriousness, “you guys wanna buy a door?” We all looked at each other, and my friend Lauren said “no, we don’t need any doors.” The guy nodded and turned around and walked back onto the road, while we all stifled laughs. We spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out where the door was from, if it came with hinges, and what he wanted the money for. It was a pretty funny, and strangely typical, Guyanese experience.