Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oct. 12, 2004

Sometimes my thoughts about being in Guyana make me wonder
if I am becoming more callous or jaded the longer I am
here. Meaning, things that at one time seemed outrageous or
unbelievable, become just a part of everyday life. I think
one thing is for certain, you have to have thick skin and
be a confident and independent person to make it as a white
female here. I find that many things that puzzle me are how
many contrasts or antagonistic things that occur within the
society. Here are just a few examples: they want the
children to learn, but yet they give them licks or lashes
in school for anything from being late, to spelling a word
wrong or mispronouncing something...I am to integrate into
my community, yet it is unsafe for me to leave my house
after dark....they think that having garbage around in the
streets is uncleanly, yet they throw bottles, bags,
wrappers out the window, in the river, on the
street....they complain about not having enough money for
food, yet they just have to get the new pair of shoes or
pants...they think it is funny or bizarre that I am out
running in the morning or have exercise groups for
women,children and elderly and yet the society struggles
with diabetes and hypertension...the list can go on and on
and on. What seems so obvious to me, I find I spend a lot
of time trying to make others understand. 'No Mame, I will
not throw your lunch garbage out the window of the bus for
you' as I get a strong stare and a smack of the teeth for.
I guess it can be hard at times to stay upbeat and
cheerful, when so many things bombard you everyday that can
quickly bring you down from things you see, to things that
are said to you. However, there are so many small things
things and people I know I have made an impact on here in
the midst of it all. I have become a godmother for my
friends daughter who now bears my name (kristen faith), my
womens walking group, the elderly and pregnant moms
exercises continue strong (a smile on my face to see old
ladies in their dresses and fancy hats and old men in ties
and slacks doing this stuff) and my 550 students at Regma
just keep getting closer and closer and now are always
coming up for hugs with huge smiles on their faces...even
the boys who were once more reserved. It is funny how when
you actually encourage kids, give them praises, and allow
them to just do their best and not yell and hit them, how
great they respond. I have also begun a number of projects
for which I am going to have a good deal of work to do for.
I am starting to undertake a huge project to organize an
ECO challenge. It will take many big sponsors and
lots of combined efforts, but last word from my Guyanese
collaborator is that and Discovery channel may come
on board with a good proposal.My goal is to raise funds to
build a new clinic or add on to the primary school.
Please think of me and pray for me in this
project. I am also beginning what is called an agape fund.
It is something I became familiar with at my dads church in
that it assists those in need with food, clothes, etc. that
I identify in the community. I already have a few people
who do small chores for me that I have assisted with my
very small local salary, but for those of you ask how you
can help, it is a great fund or donation you can assist
A quick inspiration story. A young indigenous Amerindian
woman from upriver has a dream to make something of
herself, get educated, not settle for having babies and
really become something more than was expected. After
finishing primary school, she became the first girl in her
community to leave and pursue a secondary education in
Linden. Upon completion, she went back home and ended up
getting married and starting a family. She still wanted
more. She convinced her community to support her in
becoming a community health worker for which she was sent
for and then returned to her village. After a few years she
began talking to, writing constantly and calling the
Ministry of Health trying to get them to accept her into
further schooling to become a certified midwife. In the
meantime, she becomes captain (chief) of her tribe and
makes huge strides in the community. She is still not sure
how she got through. A few more years and again she wanted
more. Somehow, even though the positions were filled and
they were annoyed by her constant calling and writing, her
name was chosen to study and become a medex (kind of a
nurse practitioner). She then came to linden for a position
and a couple more years passed and she and I come face to
face during peace corps training as Salome is going to be
my counterpart/boss. I was thrilled by this match where we
became quick friends and coworkers as I knew I had a thing
or two to learn from a woman (now with 4 children) and so
much experience. Then I get a knock on my door one night.
It is Salome with a letter in her hand. She has just opened
it and has a look of disbelief on her face...she just got
into the American International School of Medicine-Guyana
Branch! Now the discussion turns to how she will make it
happen with 17,15, 7 and 2 year old girls, traveling 75
miles to classes and no such thing as financial aid. She
did get a scholarship for reduced tuition fees (from USD
$5000 down to $1300 per semester), but virtually has no
money. She has now begun medical school at the age of 40
with a lifetime of experience and has taught me so much
about persistence, drive, faith and integrity. I only am
saddened now that she won't get to tell me all her
unbelievable stories on an everyday basis. I tell you this
story to show how it is never too late to do the things in
life you want to do, that your limits are all what you make
of them, and that when you put both your heart and mind to
something, you can make it happen. The next time we think
an idea is outrageous...I'm too old, I'm too settled, I
have this or that commitment, just think back to the
Amerindian woman, Salome, in this story and then ask
yourself again.
love, kristen