I’ve arrived in Georgetown, Guyana and my new adventure for the year has kicked off to a brilliant start. Our day of travel on Monday was long and consisted of 5 airports, including the troubling airport of Miami and a brief layover at the Port of Spain in Trinidad. Other than being immensely tired from having slept in the airport the night before, the travel was no issue. I met up with my three comrades in the J terminal of the Miami airport and together, we all went through security for Caribbean Airlines. We arrived in Guyana after restless tossing and turning on both of our flights south at about 9:30pm and we were through customs and greeting our driver by 11:00.
The long, fast-paced, wild drive into the city from the airport quickly reminded me of the time I spent in Panama four years ago. I suppose the overwhelming heat and random smells that we whizzed by also helped trigger my memory. After relatively calm flights throughout the entire day, it was certainly jarring to be racing through the Guyana night on busy roads. It’s so hard to describe what traffic in the developing world is like, and, I can’t be sure of this, but I think traffic in Guyana is the craziest I’ve ever seen –certainly worse than Nairobi.
Our first three days in Guyana have been spent attempting to get oriented to our surroundings. Each of us volunteers has spent at least some time at our placement sites, and we’re all desperately trying to make sense of our environments and what role we should be playing in them. I for one, have very little idea what I will be doing come Monday for the first day of school, but I know everything will work out. We’re all tied up in our American ways of thinking and are doing our best to adjust to this new culture. Speaking of which, I can’t understand a darn thing anyone is saying! I thought coming to an English speaking country would have it’s advantages, and believe me, it does; I was just a little too optimistic about the fact that there wouldn’t be a language barrier. Everyone talks so fast and with such heavy accents that I constantly find myself asking them to repeat whatever they had just said. Alas, it’s something else to get used to.
The food here has thankfully not taken any getting used to. I find myself digesting everything pretty well and enjoying the food that is placed in front of me. Some of my vegetarian roommates are braving some of the meat dishes that are being presented to us, but I don’t think I’m ready to stomach any of that stuff just yet. We’ll be on our own tonight for our first meal, so we’re excited to be getting more into the swing of things after being here for almost three full days.
The heat in Guyana was something I worried about before leaving and something I expected to be much worse. I’ve noticed that if you’re doing something strenuous or happen to be out in the direct sunlight, then you feel the heat and the humidity and you begin to sweat. If you hang in the shade and recognize the cool breeze coming in off of the ocean, you don’t feel as hot. I think my Eskimo blood may actually be able to survive this equator weather. We’ll see. And, since I mentioned the ocean, fun fact: Georgetown sits 8 feet below sea level. Gulp!
Work: I’ve gone to the orphanage where I’ll be teaching the past three days now and have been slowly developing some sort of relationship with the boys there. There are 51 in all, although the word on the street is that some of the older ones will be moving out next week and two new little boys moved in this afternoon while I was there, so I’m not sure what the final headcount will be for the year. It was just chance that I happened to be around when the director of the orphanage pulled up her car with the two new boys in the back seat. It was a difficult situation to watch as the two confused (and terrified) 5 year olds climbed out of the car and were greeted by dozens of little boys. One of them started crying after a few minutes, and I couldn’t blame him. I’m not sure if the two of them are newly orphaned or are just transferring in from another organization, but to think that these little guys will be living at the orphanage until they turn 17 is heartbreaking. I suppose I never really put the pieces together, I recognize that little kids are in the orphanages, but I never took the time to think about how they got there, at what point in their lives they transferred in, and what the emotional process of moving into a crowded orphanage is like. A little sad, but a reality. From what I’ve experienced so far, the boys at this orphanage are 100 times better off than the boys and girls in the Kenyan orphanage I lived at.
That’s a quick run down of what has been going on these past few days. We’re all really looking forward to falling into a bit more of a routine than we’ve found ourselves in this week. It’s been a tiring road just getting to Guyana (an eight month process)! So, we’re looking forward to the weekend ahead and are hopeful that sooner rather than later we’ll start to make sense of much of the stuff going on around us. Until then, we continue to lean on one another and to keep as positive as possible knowing we are guests in this culture and this country.
Until next time!