GuyaNEWS: The Transition From Guyana to America

As promised, here I am one more time, delivering one last message to your inbox. Instead of leaving off with my last e-mail to you in which I was just about to leave Guyana, I thought it would bring things a little more full-circle if I let you know how everything has been since my return “home”.

It happened. I left Guyana and now I’m back in America. It’s been over three weeks since my feet left the ground. Time just has a way of moving and I often feel like I can’t catch up. Honestly though, it’s OK. I’m glad to be back. Most importantly, I’m glad to be gaining some perspective. How many times did I write in my journal or mumble to friends while I was in Guyana, “I just need to get a little perspective”? A lot is the answer. The thing is though, even though I knew I needed this almighty perspective, I had no idea what it would actually look like once I was getting it, once I was outside of the experience. Basically, what I’ve learned very quickly, is that I’m happy to be out of Guyana. I’m glad the experience happened and I’m glad the experience has concluded. This is an emotional part of life that I have gone through before–I think I love a place so much that I could never leave it, and then I leave, and everything is fine. I realize that it’s for the best that I leave it in the past. Guyana may very well be in my future. I hope it is. But I’d like to go back just for short periods of time from here on out. I don’t want to live long-term in a place like Guyana again in the coming years. We need a little space from each other, just for now. The perspective is amazing. I treasure the last year now, as I’m wrapping it up into a little box and tying a bow on it–mostly joking.

So, here’s a few thoughts that have bolted across my brain since I’ve returned to this continent:

Weather

I officially give up on trying to make sense of the human body and what living in certain climates does to it. I loved living in the Sub-Arctic. Heat is just not my jam. Yes, the cold did get to me, but for the most part, I prefer cold weather over hot weather. I recall in May, the temperature in Nome being in the low 30’s, and I felt the need to run around in shorts. Upon my return from the equator earlier this month, walking outside in the northern Indiana mornings was almost unbearable without a sweatshirt. I felt like such a loser, but I couldn’t help it. The cold felt like it was soaking into my bones. I assumed my blood had thinned. Now, with more than two weeks of American living under my belt, I can’t figure out what my body is suppose to be feeling. This afternoon, for example, I was hanging some of my clothes on the line outside of my house. The sun was beating down on me and I began to sweat. Surely my body remembers the cruelty of the Guyanese sun from just a few weeks ago. Shouldn’t I be able to cope with a little North American heat? And then, even more strange than the heat, I walk into the shade of my house and feel so chilled that I need to fetch a sweater or crawl under a blanket. I just don’t understand it. I guess, since it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway, I give up trying to figure it out. I’ll just bring a sweatshirt and a pair of shorts with me wherever I go from now on.

Do I Miss Them?

The boys. My class in particular. I just want to have them around the dinner table with me and my family. My mother already loves them, I know my siblings would too. I can hear some of the things they would say, some of the comments they would make about my life up here. I don’t think they would be able to make much sense out of the food we eat or the location of the house that I’m dwelling in. I do; however, think they would enjoy themselves. While I don’t find myself missing Guyana, I do find myself missing the people. I miss the boys, my co-workers, and all of the random acquaintances I gathered throughout the year. There are beautiful people wherever you go around this globe. It’s a wonderful thing.

Things Are Strange Here in ‘Merca

  • There are highways to drive on.
  • There are bridges that criss-cross over other roads.
  • There are enormous, unnecessary buildings.
  • There is way too much focus on things like air conditioning–open a window!
  • Laundry is SO easy to do. You put the clothes in the machine and walk away. When you come back, all you have to do is hang the clothes up to dry. So great.
  • The temperature fluctuates throughout the day. There are actual nighttime lows and daytime highs. It isn’t always just 90 degrees–this takes some major getting used to.
  • People are wasteful.
  • There is clean, drinkable water in the toilet. What!?
  • The portion sizes of food here are enormous. My stomach has had to do some major stretching.
  • A lot of the people in this country are very, very overweight.
  • There are lawnmowers here. People ride on them and push them.
  • The county fair happened last week–this means that this country not only has the capability to have a traveling theme park, but it has theme parks in general.
  • Recycling is possible in this country.
  • There are reusable bags in this country.
  • Going to the store and market doesn’t have to be an all morning/afternoon outing.
  • There have been multiple thunderstorms.

These are just some of the things falling onto the page out of my head. There are so many things that I’m evaluating in my head as I go.

Sleep and Appetite

As I said, there are a number of things that are taking some getting used to. When I first arrived to the University of Notre Dame, I got to the dorm I would be staying in one night before the rest of the group arrived. Not only did I have my own room for the night, but I had the whole dorm to myself. It was difficult falling asleep in the silence. I could hear my ears ringing–that’s how little sound was passing through the building. After growing used to the soothing sound of fans accented by the barking of wild dogs, honking taxis, early morning weed whackers, and phones from the taxi hub next door ringing all night, the silence was deafening. It was too quiet to fall asleep. I was overjoyed when my roommate for the week arrived the next day and turned out to be a snorer. It was my saving grace from the silence.

The rest of my time in Notre Dame was no issue sleep-wise. Since returning home I’ve found it just a tiny bit difficult to stay asleep, but for the most part I’m doing okay. What I’ve noticed is that I seem to have all of a sudden transitioned into adulthood. Sleeping-in just doesn’t seem to be necessary anymore. Even if I only get six hours of sleep, I find myself stirring with the sun and out of bed around 6:30 or 7. I think I would have developed this sleep pattern sooner, but working with the boys this last year required an extra hour or two of sleep each night. It all makes sense in my head.

My appetite! I just don’t know. It was at an all-time low for my last stretch of time in Guyana and into Aruba. Then, when I got to Notre Dame, I was given an $80 gift card to buy food for the week. I found it very difficult to try to spend this kind of money over the course of five days. The food was filling and came in large portions. Each time another meal would come around, I’d get confused because my stomach was still filled from having eaten the previous two meals. Basically, I wasn’t even a little hungry the whole week. My stomach was full the whole time. It was actually rather uncomfortable. My body also had a difficult time processing the water that I was drinking (mostly bottled, FML). I had to leave most of the sessions/classes multiple times just to empty my bladder. I may have spent more time at the urinal than in the classroom over the course of the week. I’ve narrowed it down to two things: Either the water was so pure it passed through my system really quickly or I was drinking too much water because I’m used to sweating it all out throughout the course of a day. Either way, it was an interesting week inside my digestive system–you’re welcome, I know you wanted to know all of this.

Now that I’m home, I’m eating this: https://mattylife.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/a-return-to-vegan-country/

Suriname, Aruba, Notre Dame (Gasp, Breathe, Chill)

When I crossed over into Suriname in July, I felt like I was kicking hard for the surface and bursting into the air, gasping for breath as I became reacquainted with what it was like to have oxygen flowing into my body. When I went to Aruba two weeks later, I felt as though I was relearning how to breathe normally, to take slow, steady breaths. When I arrived in Notre Dame at the beginning of this month, it was as if I had permission to forget about breathing regularly all together as I dove deeper down into a meditative state of breathing, of just being, of letting the air in and not thinking too much about it. Each of these steps, each of these ventures, were completely necessary in getting me to where I am today. I needed each of them, in the order that they happened to me. I don’t want to think about what kind of shape I’d be in otherwise. I would certainly be far behind the state I currently find myself in. I’m so, so grateful and thankful to each little aspect of the universe (human or not) that lined everything up so perfectly for me in order to make these three trips happen, to give me the chance to land smoothly and gracefully back into my “normal” life. The alternative would have involved forgetting to put down the landing gear, a relatively hard collision with the ground, and a few dozen casualties.

While I Was in South Bend, IN

Here are some of the photos I took while in Indiana at the beginning of this month. Keep in mind, these were my first few hours and days back in America, so I was doing some hardcore adjusting.

DSCN5080

Think we can handle this, guys?

There are water-outages all the time in Guyana. The city shuts the water off every night around 9:00 and it doesn’t come back on until 6:00 or so the next morning. Also, there was never hot water, just whatever temperature water happened to be in the pipe.

This is drinking water. You can just drink it. No boiling or treatment needed.

This is drinking water. You can just drink it. No boiling or treatment needed. It comes right out of the fountain when you want it to.

This is crazy to think about. We are so fortunate to live in a place with clean water that we’re allowed to sip on for free.

You can recycle AND it's difficult to find a garbage can. Cool!

You can recycle AND it’s difficult to find a garbage can. Cool!

Nothing gets recycled in GT, so this was sooooo incredibly nice to see. No more throwing bottles into the landfill!

This is really nice. Rawr.

This is really nice. Rawr.

“Sir, is this a castle?”

This is a big building.

This is a big building.

Every building on campus was ridiculously beautiful. How do we find balance (MYTH!) in this world between beauty and poverty? Er, how do we…spread the love/wealth/joy?

Hmm, not once does it mention the word

Hmm, not once does it mention the word “gay” or “LGBT”. Odd.

But just the fact that this was on campus reminds me that everything is going to be okay. “The world only spins forward, the world only spins forward.”

Emotions

Ah, the ever present feelings. Feel everything. Feel Everything. FEEL EVERYTHING. I certainly like to dramatize my feelings sometimes. The truth of the matter is, the transition is going okay so far. I forget what all the pamphlets say about when the breakdown is suppose to happen, but so far I’m good. I witnessed a lot in my time in Guyana, I saw a lot, I felt a lot. But for now, I’m good. I’m right where I want to be–I keep finding myself in these awesome positions where I’m existing right where I want to be existing. I think about Guyana a lot still. How could I not? But the thoughts are fleeting most of the time. I think about certain boys once in a while when something reminds me of them. I like to imagine how they would fit into life up here. But I’m confident things in this world are shaking out the way that they’re suppose to. Everything will be okay.

Something that has really been fun to watch, and a total blessing if I do say so myself, is this multi-night meteor shower that has been going on since I returned home. My first night back, I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a stroll/wander-session outside from 1-4am. I saw so many meteors that I could hardly stand it. There are some impressive things in this world, but I think one of my favorites is looking up into a clear night sky and having the ability to just gawk at the brilliance of the millions of stars, the pattern of the Milky Way as it stretches across the sky, and the utter bliss and excitement of watching things tear into the Earths atmosphere, especially when they streak across the sky for an extended amount of time. I think, in a way, this meteor shower has been one giant prayer. Each night, whether sleepy or not, I’ve been poking my head outside and catching a few foreign objects making their way toward earth with my eyes before retiring for the night.

So, the stars have been keeping me company, but even if they weren’t, I’m still doing fine. I think the most difficult part thus far was when I was in Guyana, wondering if I was going to miss it or not. Life is peculiar sometimes, the human experience is baffling.

Homecoming

My family always has a little something special for me when I come home after an extended period of time away. This time around, I was greeted with this sign and the Guyanese flag draped over my soon-to-be bed:

Always a nice welcome home.

Always a nice welcome home.

Just in case I missed Guyana, I can sleep right beneath it. So thoughtful.

Just in case I missed Guyana, I can sleep right beneath it.

The Real End

I’m home now. This is actually going to be my final correspondence with you via e-mail. You received 12 of them throughout the year from me and I’m so appreciative that you allowed me to pop up in your inbox once a month for the last year. Your thoughts, prayers and encouraging words assisted me greatly in getting through many of the very difficult stretches of time in Guyana. I am thankful and blessed to know each of you.

So, indeed, this concludes our time together. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I loved being able to think up what I would be typing to you at the end of each month as I lived out my time abroad. You were never far from my thoughts. If you have any interest in continuing to correspond with me, please, feel free to do so. Also, as always, if you’d like to reread any issues of GuyaNEWS from the past year or have any interest in checking out the 130+ other blog posts from the year, head on over to my blog: mattylife.wordpress.com. I’ll be updating the blog regularly in the weeks to come as I organize my journals and photos from the last year. It’s as if the journey is far from over. In a way, it’s just beginning.

On now to the next great thing!  I’m going to take this whole being back in America thing in stride. One year in Guyana–DONE!

Thanks for the love.

Peace,

Matty

About mattylife

"And no one is a stranger...for long."
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2 Responses to GuyaNEWS: The Transition From Guyana to America

  1. bguiffre says:

    I’ll miss GuyaNEWS! Great last entry Matty.

  2. Larry says:

    Sounds like being back is a bit overwhelming – in a mostly good way. Glad you made it back well and healthy. I always enjoy your positive perspective.

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