Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Guyana - May, 2004

Greetings from Guyana!

The Month of May can be described in three words: 1) Rain, 2) Rain, and 3) Rain.

I am getting my first experience of what Guyanese call “May/June Rains”. To put it simply, this is the most rainfall I have seen in all my life! Nearly every day it drizzles, storms, or downpours for at least a couple hours. While in Wisconsin I use the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs” when the weather gets intense, whereas here in Guyana I like to say, “It’s raining cats, dogs, cows, horses, pigs, and donkeys!” If it keeps raining at this rate, pretty soon I am going to imitate Noah and start building my own ark!

The large amount of rainfall would not be much of a problem if it weren’t for the deteriorating drainage systems in Guyana. (Since Guyana’s elevation is under sea level, it relies on an intricate arrangement of drains to flow water from the land back into the sea.) Because of pollution, poor maintenance, and overall carelessness, many of Guyana’s water drains are clogged and/or broken. The conditions get worse every year, so it leads to flooding in many areas (my front yard being one of them!). Where I live, if rain falls during the night I can expect to be greeted with 3-6 inches of water at my front steps. What a great way to start the day! I’ve tried my best to impersonate Moses and part the flooded waters, but to date it hasn’t worked. I’ll keep trying…

From May 2nd to the 4th, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana enjoyed its annual convention. The gathering was held in the town of Skeldon, which is a beautiful settlement located on the eastern coast of Guyana - near the border with Suriname. I enjoyed the convention, for it was a wonderful opportunity to meet with pastors and parishioners from all over the country. We were able to discuss life and ministry, as well as the past, present, and future of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana. (And of course, in our free time we all argued over the struggling West Indies cricket team!) All in all, the gathering left me excited about the direction the Church is heading, and it reminded me of how blessed I am to be working alongside such wonderful men and women.

During the past eight months I’ve been concentrating a great deal on encouraging people to consider a life in ministry. Specifically, I’ve been guest-preaching at churches throughout the country and trying my best to motivate others to take their faith more seriously. This process has required a lot of work (and some careful driving!), but I have already begun to see the fruits of these labors. In fact, during this past week I was approached by two young men who are now considering ordained ministry. They told me that they always thought you had to be “an old guy” in order to be a pastor, but now that they’ve seen a “young guy” working in the church (and having so much fun!), they now realize they don’t have to wait twenty years to answer God’s calling for their lives. This is certainly an exciting time! Guyana desperately needs more pastors, so I pray that these two young men will continue to pursue a life in ordained ministry. And of course, I pray that more people will follow in their footsteps.

Although my time in Guyana is beginning to run short, I believe God is going to do many great things during these next two months. I look forward to many more adventures to come, and when they happen, I’ll try my best to report them all to you!

Thank you for all your continued prayers and support. I look forward to hearing from you.

With peace, love, and God’s blessings,

Brian Konkol

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

May 12, 2004

The rainy season is ON! And let me say that although there
are times when I have thought to be in a heavy downfall in
the states, my mind has now been changed. It doesn't
necessarily rain all day, but it is intermittent heavy rain
throughout with occasional absolute dumps. One minute the
sun is blazing down on you and the next you are in a heavy
downfall and the place is muddy and wet. You definitely
cannot go around anywhere right now without carrying an
umbrella. It is really used just about all the time,
though, rainy season or not, just to keep the sweltering
sun off your skin. Even as my skin has a really golden
bronze and my hair is bleached out, I still have to wear
plenty of sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and use the
umbrella all the time. It is either that, or I hope the
Peace Corps pays for skin cancer treatment for the future!
I have kept quite busy in my projects and things are
really starting to unfold here in Linden. I am getting much
more involved at the clinic seeing patients and doing the
consultation and have now started a stretching/yoga type
class for my pregnant mothers and an elderly club. It is
almost crazy to see the pregnant moms in the yoga 'warrior
pose' as just behind them I see through the screenless
windows cattle on the road, people canoeing by on the river
coming to open market and rundown homes and buildings and
such on the other side. I have really had a lot of those
"moments" in the last few weeks with my projects to bring a
big smile to my face. Another one of those moments has come
with the addition of me beginning to teach 17 classes
(about 550 total kids) of primary students at Regma Primary
for what is essentially K-5 or 1-6 (I haven't quite figured
that out yet). They are so very cute and I guess you can
say that I think I know what Jesus felt like riding the
donkey into town on Palm Sunday as everytime I come down
the road to the school, the kids come running, yelling
"miss, miss, or teacher kristen" in their cute accents
trying to get my attention, wave or grab my hand. I am
teaching PE for all of them and it is funny that when we
have class, most of the kids take their shoes off, as they
don't want to ruin what is most likely their only pair. So,
as I am in the blazing heat, I smile as I see these
children of all beautiful shades of color in their uniforms
running barefoot around cones, or playing cricket, futbol
or basketball, or just doing jumping jacks with huge smiles
on their faces. It is definitely a busy, but very
fullfilling project and I hope to get them all some
t-shirts printed for Regma Primary PE for the future.
I am continuing to learn all sorts of fun new recipes with
the numerous fruits and vegetables from the market. One
thing that you can say without a doubt, is that everything
is a process here. If you are hungry, you don't really have
things to just 'grab' and eat unless you are willing to
chance something from a shop on the road (not advisable
unless you have a port-a-potty in your bag). You have to
plan and cook enough food the day before for leftovers for
the next day or two or just plan on cooking for a couple
hours each day. Not only is cooking a process, but it is
something that can be said for most things...
transportation, washing, bathing, shopping in the
market...there really is no fast anything here (except
maybe how fast the minibuses drive). For instance, if you
are going to town or need to cross the river on a boat, you
sit and wait until the bus or boat is totally crammed full
before you leave. If it is 2 minutes, or two hours, you sit
and wait sweating and crammed on top of others. Being hot
and sweating is really just a part of the life whether you
like it or not.
I have still continued to find new hiking spots and meet
new people around town. I even had the chance to have some
Kenyan VSOs make a traditional Kenyan meal for myself and
some friends last weekend. Just a few more things to add to
the growing menu of things to cook.
As always, keep the emails and things coming. It really
does keep me going when I have one of those blah days or I
ask myself why I am here. They are few and far between, but
there all the same. Thanks for all the support!
I will try to keep dry...love, kristen tews

Sunday, May 9, 2004

May 29, 2004

There are often things that become routine that you hardly
think about over time. One of these is simply getting into
bed at night. As many of you take off all the decorative
pillows and things that adorn your bed, I let down my life
saver (mosquito net) and ensure that every corner is tucked
in tight. Then I quickly get under, lying for a few seconds
to see if any got in to feast on me for the night. I lay
there with the sounds of the world around me. It is almost
like a mini tent. You hear insects and birds and rain and
such at night and then wake up to the sheep baaaing and
chickens crowing in the backyard waiting to be let out to
wander the streets for the day. The house I stay at with
local family, as many are, have a space that separates the
roof from the walls of the house which makes for an easy
fly zone for birds, crawling little lizards and frogs, and
whatever else ventures in...hopefully not a snake! Also,
the windows are open with tilting panes of glass and bars
for safety. The house rooms are separated only by walls
that are partitioned with no ceiling, so it is open to the
roof. The roof is wood planks that are covered with
corrugated metal. I wake up to the white of the net and the
sounds of the outside floating in. This is how my morning
starts. I try to head out the door for a short run in the
morning where it would be rude not to say good morning and
make eye contact with everyone. Gets a bit tiresome, but is
customary at all times of the day. After getting cleaned
up, I am already sweating and this is how the workday
begins. I stop at the apple banana (the mini ones you see
in the grocery store that are so, so good off the tree)
lady for something to get me going along with some freshly
made passion, guava, pine, or mango juice from the produce
stand a little down the way on my walk. When I get to the
clinic, each day is very different depending on what day of
the week it is. I either get busy with seeing infants, get
my pregnant ladies ready for a education session and
prenatal exercises, take blood pressures and blood sugar
levels for my diabetic/hypertension clinic or pack
everything up for my boat ride up the river (but going
south). I went up the river the past two weeks twice to
both Muritaro and Mallali, and have really begun to gain
the respect of the people and started some programs for
them. I usually start the day by doing a talk and maybe
some exercises with the people who have paddled in for
clinic, get my physiotherapy patients lined up for
treatment, and then hike or paddle over to the school where
I do PE with the children. We have had to stop in for shut
ins on our way back up the river quite frequently as of
late. These are people that would not have any sort of
treatment if they hadn't flagged us down on the way in to
tell us to stop on our way home. They often thank us by
giving us some of the seasonal fruits that have just
rippened (many of which are very good and even a bit
strange, but I can't remember the names). With the rainy
season, the banks of the river have flooded out many of the
peoples docks and yards as it has risen over 6 feet. But,
as I mentioned previously, they are mostly all situated on
stilts, so it usually doesn't trouble the home. It is so
neat to see how the land and plants change with the season
"change". Things that were once there, are now under water,
some plants sprout beautiful flowers and yet others are now
bearing fruit. Speaking of fruits and such, many of you
have asked so much about recipes, so I am going to try to
put in some in my emails. The first will be for roti (a
flaky tortilla like food that is used many different ways).
The other will be for a pumpkin (here it looks like a huge
acorn squash), potato curry that can be rolled into the
roti. My time is almost done right now for limited internet
use, so I will start with the above in the next email.
Things continue well here...hope you are all enjoying the
spring in the states and getting your garden in.
love, kristen