Sunday, February 29, 2004

Feb. 29, 2004

We have been having quite the fun filled week. I suppose it
is always safe to say that even within Peace Corps
training, there is always time for a good time! Last
weekend was filled with many 'culture days'. We were
introduced to their national pastime, cricket. I was the
big "hero", scoring 19 runs for the team. Basically, if you
can hit a baseball, you can protect your wicket against the
bowler. Their is a series of 3 wooden wickets on two ends
of a pitch where the batter is in front of one and your
other runner is on the opposite side. The ball is bowled
over hand with no bend in the elbow trying to knock down
the wooden wickets on the bounce. When you hit it with a
flat wooden bat you and the other runner exchange until the
fielders can get the ball back to hit the wickets down. You
are out if they knock down the wicket on the bowl, if they
catch it in the air when you hit, or if the wicket is
knocked when you and the runner are in between sides.
Anywho, thats just a brief description. You can find people
playing just about anywhere on the street or on an
organized field. We were able to take in one of the biggest
national celebrations of the year last Monday. It is
Mashramani or "Mash". It is their birth of the republic or
equivalent to our 4th of july. However, people get totally
crazy and have a lot of fun. Needless to say, I had no
problem joining in. In
Georgetown, people in the thousands
line the streets with loud music, cold drinks and hang out
as a huge parade rolls by. The parade is filled with
magnificent and colorful costumes, beautiful floats, and
lots of dancing and music. It was truely a site to see!
Along with the celebration on monday, many parties continue
line the neighborhoods where people lime (hang out) on the
streets, have extremely loud music and you even see fire
flame balls filling the sky. It was one very long and fun
This past week we spent the mornings going into the health
clinics to observe. It was quite shocking to see the lack
of resources. They have a huge problem in the country now
with a shortage of nurses and doctors as they all leave for
greener pastures, usually in the states. Not a whole lot
more health care goes on for children except weighing and
basing their nouishment solely on that and asking the
mothers what they are feeding them and then immunizations.
There is really so much I believe we can help with in this
country wide shortage. Yesterday, we traveled down the
Demerara by boat and then another hour and a half into the
interior to a small AmerIndian village called Santa
Mission. It was truely surreal heading deep into the jungle
on a boat and seeing a very rural and remote area of the
country. It is such a simple life with beautiful people,
but the homes and thatch buildings are so far removed from
what we are used to. There is currently a volunteer in this
location and mentioned that she has seen it all in the
clinic and has even had to deliver a few babies. Although
delivering sounds somewhat impressive, the problem is that
some of these babies are stillborn due to their large size
and very small mothers who should have had a cesarean but
couldn't get to the city hours away. So, an eye opening
I enjoyed a fresh pinneaple I picked up at a road side
stand this afternoon and something called chana which is a
mixture of spiced chick peas with black eyes peas over,
yes, rice (of course!). I will continue to explain all the
very intersting dishes as I go.
It has been very rainy, muggy and hot the past few days.
You can only allow you skin in the sun for minutes before
being fried, even with 45 SPF. Even my hair is being
bleached by the sun back to the blond from my childhood.
You have to be really careful with the environment here or
you will end up with serious blisters and a bad, bad burn.
I am off to finish my new most unfavorite
love from
Guyana, kristen


Thursday, February 19, 2004

Feb. 19, 2004

Many of you have been asking about a lot of the everyday
specifics of my days here in
Guyana, so I thought it
fitting to fill you in on a few.

First, all of you that grew up on a farm will really enjoy
this one...I actually am woken up every moring around 5ish
or earlier by roosters crowing. I, too, thought that was
only in the movies. Actually, many people tend to go to bed
very early by around 8-9 and get up between 4-5. That is
mainly due to getting a lot of work done before the heat of
the day hits. It is quite challenging to go to bed early,
though, as the homes are pretty wide open with windows open
and air flowing freely through much of the house. You hear
all the sounds of the night and the music is ever present
and always VERY loud. That and the people carousing and
dogs barking makes for a tough nights rest.

A few things that many of you may take for granted...First,
most people do not have shower heads and you have to bucket
bathe to get clean. Basically you stand in a shower with a
bucket of cold (there is no such thing as warm) rain water
and throw it on yourself and lather up in between. The rain
water collection system is situated with large gathering
tanks that is then hooked up to the homes plumbing system.
We do have a shower head that water occasionally literally
trickles out of that I sometimes use, but it is usually not
worth it. Next, washing machines....I am looking at it when
I look in the mirror. Yes, you have to wash all of your
clothes by hand and can be a very long process of soaking,
scrubbing, ringing, rinsing, ringing, rinsing...until two
hours later you walk outside to hang up two small loads. I
am now very appreciative of the invention of the
! Again, a couple may have a machine, but it is very
few and far between as money and water are a very scarce
Guyanese food is a whole other story as it is complicated
with the various ethnic groups. As the country was settled,
numerous different groups came into the country maninly due
to colonization and working on plantations. These groups
are of british decent, the people from
India, Africa, the
portugese and the chinese with the Afro and Indo-Guyanese
making up the majority. This is in addition to the native
Amerindian peoples. With that you can see that it makes for
a very diverse group of people that make up this culture.
Each of these peoples have different specialties when it
comes to food that are quite different. I will have to go
into them at another time. It has been said in the
Afro-Guyanese group that I am a part of that if it doesn't
include rice, it isn't a meal. So, needless to say, I have
a lot of rice, more rice, more rice.....oh and then beans,
black-eyed peas, fish or chicken and then a vegetable of
sorts. That is one very big plus, the unbelievable amount
of new and different fruits and vegetables. We were in the
market today bargaining at the various stands while
learning the new foods. It made for a very great lesson in
knowing how much is appropriate when you bargain for the
price you want to spend. Again I will go into more specific
dishes later...but, as for food, I will leave all the
wisconsonites with an interesting thought...powdered milk
is now a reality!!! Most people here have never even seen
bottled milk or thought about putting cold milk on cereal.
I remember asking for cereal one day and I got a bowl of
hot powdered milk on some flakes....they thought it was
strange to want "cold" milk!
Continues to be very sticky and hot. I have gone through
the last days of training pretty much sweating throughout
the day. Not exactly the funnest thing in the world in a
skirt!!! We have a big weekend this weekend for numerous
'culture days' for training. A celebration called
Mashramani is on monday and is a huge deal. I will fill you
in on that and the cricket game we are playing tomorrow in
the next email. Until ya, kristen

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Guyana - February, 2004


After living in Guyana for over five months, I finally had overnight houseguests!

My parents and sister flew into Guyana on February 5th and were able to stay with me until the 13th. Needless to say, it was an amazing experience! They were able to dance and sing songs at a youth campfire, participate in a service project, take part in a Guyanese house blessing, chase cows and donkeys out of my yard, attend a late-night guitar jam session, play basketball with the neighborhoods kids, and of course – they attended all three of my Sunday morning worship services. When the trip was over, we were all a bit tired from trying to pack a month’s worth of activity into a week!

A major highlight of the trip was being able to see Kaiteur National Park, which is located southwest of New Amsterdam into Guyana’s interior rainforest. It was a fantastic adventure! Not only were we able to see many plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, the waterfall itself was completely breathtaking. Kaiteur Falls is the largest single-drop waterfall in the world at 741 feet. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, especially when I was able to stand at the brink of the falls and look all the way down! It was awesome! (Don’t worry. I took plenty of pictures!)

As I reflect upon my family’s visit, one thing I know I’ll never forget was standing in the pulpit, looking into the congregation, and seeing my parents and sister sitting among the 250 Guyanese people in attendance. (It surely wasn’t difficult to locate the Wisconsinites in the crowd!) Also, I will never forget the thrill of seeing them interact with the loving and generous people whom I been trying to describe in these letters for the past five months! All in all, it was a fantastic trip that none of us will ever forget. There were only two things that could have made their trip better: 1) I wish they could have stayed longer, and 2) I wish my brother and sister in-law could have come. (Who knows, I’ll be here for six more months, so maybe I will convince them to make the journey!)

While my parents and sister were here, I was reminded of two significant realities: 1) I am extremely blessed to have such loving and supportive family, and 2) I am extremely blessed to have such a loving and supportive congregation. I know that it can be difficult for my family as I am away, but they have remained supportive throughout our time apart. Also, I know that it can be difficult for this congregation to have a foreign Intern, yet they have remained supportive throughout our time together. I simply thank God for my family and I thank God for the people of Ebenezer Lutheran Church.

And of course, I want to thank you all for your continued prayers and good wishes. Your support means a great deal to me. With Ash Wednesday less than a week away, things are going to get real busy during the next six weeks, so I will need your support now more than ever! So keep those prayers coming!

I wish you all peace and love,

Brian Konkol

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Feb. 11, 2004

So a bit more detail about the observances up to this
point. As I mentioned in the previous email, the people
here are really very, very nice. It is normal practice for
people to say good morning/afternoon/night to everyone you
pass even if you don't know them. This is more true in the
small village setting. As a woman in a country where
machismo is very high, it is also normal practice to expect
every group of men you pass to verbally "heckle" you with
hey pretty girl/white girl/white meat/etc.(those are the
nicer ones). The other thing that just about EVERY male
does is to do what is called 'sipping', which is to
basically do a kissing sound. You hear it hundreds of times
a day on the streets and in nearly every situation. One way
to combat that is to acknowledge them first and then it
tends to tame what could have been said. One big, big, big
problem here is the garbage situation. Pretty much the
people expect the government to take care of things (which
I have only seen one garbage truck in the city and one
trash can in my village). What I'm basically saying is that
there is garbage and animal feces everywhere. That is
really an understatement. It is something that they are
going to have to face as it is already epidemic at this
point. In terms of transportation, it is a crazy, crazy
experience. They drive on the left side, but really you can
expect to be on any part of the road until a car or pothole
comes. It is a bit like riding a rollar coaster really. The
main mode of transportation is the minibus, walking, bikes,
scooters, and even horse drawn trailors heading to town. I
will just put it this way in saying that there is a reason
why we are not allowed to drive and even if we could, I
wouldn't. It is a whole different world on these roads!
Even amongst all the choas one thing that is very important
to guyanese is their appearance. Your clothes are always
clean, pressed and crisp. Even if you have one outfit, when
you go out, you look nice. Unless it is for sports, shorts
are not really worn by women out. I usually wear a skirt or
capris with a nice shirt. Although it is very warm, sleeves
and pants are frequently worn. It is the cutest thing in
the world to see the hundreds of kids heading out of the
village in the morning in their school uniforms. The
temperatures are always in the upper 80s to 90ish with lots
of humidity. I thought it would be very challenging, but
you really do get somewhat used to it. You get used to
feeling a little "sticky" throughout the day and night. It
is actully not bad at all with a nice breeze. One of the
guys in PC with me, Mike and I headed to the local school
yard where all the local kids to younger adults hang out
and play sports in the late afternoon until dark. Yes, we
have already gotten into a couple bball games. It takes a
great deal of time to get accepted, but we were on a team
that won 5 in a row tonight, so that helps. I was actually
very surprised to see they were really good players with
the majority of sports focus here is cricket and soccer.
There is also a futball (soccer) game going on and lots of
people mingling around. It is just a great way for us to
get accepted in the community and really have people watch
out for you.
I have really been enjoying my time here and feel that
everything has been progressing nicely. The training is
very intensive and the people at Peace Corps
Guyana are
really, really thorough and good.
More to come.....
From, kristen

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Feb. 7,2004


So I made it here safe and sound. Where to start,
really...After spending a couple days in
Miami for some
pre-departure training, I am now in a small village called
Mocha ("Maw-kaw") living with my host family for the 2
month training. So I suppose I should back up a little.
It has been wonderful meeting this group of like-minded
individuals who also committed two+ years of their life to
peace corps service in
Guyana. There are certainly a few
"loud" ones that can keep up with all my Tews inherited
On Wednesday we flew to
Guyana stopping in Barbados which I
guess is a typical stop along the way. Although we arrived
after dark to a reception of PC staff, I already began to
get a feel for the new country I was going to call my home.
Let me say that the very first thing I can stay is that the
people are really as nice as everyone says Guyanese people
are. Always a warm greeting for you and even the comment of
"hey white girl" can be turned into a good afternoon with a
small wave. We spent the first couple of days in the busier
city of Georgetown starting our training and then yesterday
we met with our host parents we would be staying with for 2
months. Our group is split into two small villages outside
Georgetown, Mocha and Grove. Mocha is more afro-guyanese
and Grove is more indo-guyanese in nature. My host parents
are a cute couple that I can really call my host
grandparents who have been married for 47 years! I live in
more of an extended family situation where 2 of their 6
children live in the home with us, one grandchild (my
little buddy Omar) and the oldest son and his 7 or 8 (I
think that's about what I have counted) in the house behind
us. So it's one crazy place. There is no way I can get into
all the details now about the small village now, but the
feel is that this is a community where everyone knows each
other and each others business. They mostly speak Creolese
(which is an islandly sound that is english based) that I
am beginning to understand.

I will continue to give you all more details about my daily
happenings with emails. Keep the emails and
letters/carepackes coming as they will certainly continue
to be a source of strength throughout this process.

Love, kristen