Here we are, my friends, at the end of month #10. Ten months down and one to go. As I write this, I have just over four weeks before my experience in Guyana concludes. As time has passed these last few weeks, I find myself ready for the experience to wrap up. I may feel something completely different in the days ahead, but for now, I’m really looking forward to what the near future has to offer me. Slowly but surely, small pieces of this experience are concluding each day. So many people keep talking about how it seems like I’ve just arrived here. I almost want to smack these people. Before I arrived here, I was told by some people that you have to commit two years to a place to really get a feel for it, because otherwise you’ll be leaving just as you’re getting the hang of things. I’d like to slap these people, too. A year commitment to anything is incredible, and difficult, and so many other adjectives. Hats off to the people who commit to more than one year, but hats off to the one-year crowd, too. Heck, my one-year commitment to live in this strange land lasted longer than many marriages do these days. I’m proud of what came out of this year.
In the middle of last month, Guyana had their elections for multiple offices, including president and prime minister. It was quite the experience being here as all of this went down. Elections here are quite the opposite of what they are in the United States. For example, in the U.S., you never have to think about your safety as you go to the polls to vote. That isn’t necessarily the case here. It wasn’t terrible, but there were numerous instances when ballot boxes were tampered with and small tiffs turned into bigger problems. For the most part, I guess it was a relatively peaceful election season.
A new government was elected and, thankfully, this meant the old, corrupt government of 22 years had to pack up their bags and step out of power. The time leading up to elections, and the time right after the votes were counted was tense in Guyana. The country basically shut down. It took days for the results to come out, and while we waited, you could cut the tension in the city with a knife. I think I was one of the only people in the country that was still going to work. Instead of taking the bus to work, I would take a cab, just to be safe. But there was no one on the road. Stores were closed, sellers didn’t bother setting up their stands, no one was on the road because no one had anywhere to go. It was a ghost town. This all occurred over a month ago and I was thinking recently about how strange it is that a city this size could ever have been so quiet, so deserted. But that’s what happens when you live in a country like this. You have a little fear.
Since the new president has taken power, the country has really started to turn around in terms of cleanliness. This could all just be for show, to prove to people how things are really going to change around here, but I’m hopeful that people will remain optimistic, do their part to keep things clean, and the government can step in when necessary. So far, the amount of trash around the city has begun to improve and, most importantly, the canals have been dug out and cleaned out, to allow better drainage. Who knew accumulated garbage could cause so many problems?
Weather – Rainy Season and More Flooding
That being said about the canals, as you may have read in my last newsletter to you, we’ve experienced some flooding in my house over the course of May/June, also know as “the rainy season.” Now that June has wrapped up, I’m hopeful that the showers are fewer and the flooding ceases completely. The Guyanese really weren’t kidding when I first arrived here in August and they told me about the notorious May/June. It really is a wet, wet, wet time of year. It rained just about everyday in May and June and, in some cases, the amount of rain coming down was enough to overflow the gutters and canals and cause the streets and first floor buildings to flood. My home flooded twice this June.
It’s been uncomfortable trying to get through the rainy season, but there always seems to be a silver lining, too. The rain never lasts all day, it usually clears up in the afternoon and gives you a chance to step into the sunlight and dry off. The other unfortunate problem that comes with the rain is that our water source is a drum on top of our house, which collects the rainwater. This water is clean, for the most part, but because it’s coming right out of the sky and has no time to be warmed by the sun, it’s very cold. This is appreciated for the showers that take place after work-outs, but is most unappreciated for the showers that take place when you first wake up, just before work.
As I said, June is now finished, so perhaps there are blue skies ahead for us.
For me, having lived in four communities over the course of the last five years, getting to this point in time is quite a milestone. I have no plans to live in a community again in the near future. More importantly, I don’t foresee myself living in a community again in the distant future. I think this part of my life has come to a natural close. I’ve lived with some fascinating, wonderful, fun individuals the last five years, but it’s time that I move away from this whole “intentional community” thing. It’s time that I start selecting my roommates and the people I live with myself again.
My roommate Jess will be boarding a plane for America in one week. Monica will the leave the day after her. This means that my Guyanese community experience will be complete next week. It is what it is. We have weathered so much together.
The conclusion of the school year is a tough one for me. This week (the final week) of school is a week set aside for what I like to call “babysitting.” There is work to do for the teachers—we have to correct our final exams and submit our grades to the head mistress and the sister in charge of the school, but the boys still need to be looked after. This, unfortunately, isn’t the priority for all of the teachers, so a lot of the boys roam around looking for things to do. It’s a frustrating time, but I’ve grown used to it since this is the third term that I’ve now completed. Ten days ago or so, on the last day of classes before finals began, the day came to a close and I watched as my class filed out of the room (okay, ran out of the room) to start their weekend. As I sat down, I realized what had just happened. I had finished teaching. That part of this year had just concluded. Honestly, my first thought was, “dang, I want to do that again.” But then, less than a second later, I realized that would involve living in Guyana again for another year, away from my family and friends, away from a culture that I have recently gained more respect for. As much as I would love to have another go around working at Bosco Academy, as much as I would love to teach another class of boys next year, the rest of “it” just outweighs the job.
That being said, it certainly was a wonderful experience.
The official last day of school is this Friday. Graduation will be held on Thursday for the four grade six boys who will be graduating and the 14-year-old boy in my class—there’s the possibility he may actually be able to move on after this year, which I couldn’t be more thankful about. The graduation should be an important experience for the boys. They get to graduate away from spending their entire lives at the orphanage. Next year, they get to go to a school off of the compound, which will be so, so good for them.
Since my job will be over after this Friday, I’m planning on making my own work over the next few weeks in Guyana. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to spend ample time with the boys outside of the school setting. My class has already told me I should just bring them to my house for the whole of July. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
I’m hopeful I don’t go into shock when I return to America. Which side of the road do you guys drive on again?
Goodbye is a process. One that has to begin now, one that has already begun. I think it will follow me to America. The process of leaving this place behind is going to take a little while to digest. But, again, the pros of leaving far outweigh the cons. Unfortunately, there just happen to be cons to deal with. At least the goodbyes come slowly. First school concludes, then community, then, one by one, I can have farewells with the boys at the orphanage. Ultimately, the final goodbye will take place at the airport, one I’ll silently say to myself as the wheels of the plane lift off and take me off of this soil for the first time in eleven months.
Let’s set the goodbyes aside for a second though. I cannot wait to say “hello” to you all again! Hugs all around when I return to New York in August. I hope to see and experience as many of you as possible when I’m back in the Northeast.
All the best.