Saturday, December 11, 2004

Dec. 11, 2004


I come home from a full day of working at the clinic and
teaching at the primary school and realize I have to turn
right back around and walk to the market. However, as I
walk through the stalls and stalls of fresh fruits and
vegetables brought in by the many boats and trucks, a
familiar sound comes into my ear. Could that possibly be
‘jingle bells’ I hear? But I am sweating, in shorts and
sandals and there are coconut and palm trees all around me
and cattle and sheep and such on the road…oh, yes it must
be that Christmas in July thing. But then a quick look at
my watch and it has been confirmed that I am not dreaming
after all and that was reggae ‘jingle bells’ that I heard
playing from the music cart down the road. So as I walk
along picking up the mangoes, pineapple, plantain and
cassava on my shopping list for a meal I am preparing, I
whistle along to the tune with a smile on my face. This is
all real after all! I’m sure this time of year has had many
of you running around to the malls and decorating your
homes and preparing for a white Christmas. Here in Guyana,
things are also picking up with the holiday season.
Although they try to pick up a gift for a family member or
friend if they are able, the biggest seasonal influence is
that of fixing up your home. People clean like it is going
out of style, getting new curtains (a very BIG tradition),
painting, fixing things, taking everything out of their
homes and giving it a thorough once over. I have been told
that this is an occurrence that lasts until Christmas eve
when all the hammering, sweeping, scrubbing and painting
comes to an end and everything is put back in the home just
so during the day, any decorations and lights are put up,
and it looks spanking new for Christmas day. Foods like
pepperpot (which includes the all popular pig trotters,
cows heel and pigs tail along with pork and salt beef and
casareep….mmm?!) and black cake are popular seasonal treats
and can be found in a number of households along with many
other local dishes to fill their bellies on the special
day. Although it is popular in the states, for many who may
not regularly go to church, to pack the church on Christmas
Eve, this is an event here to occur more oftentimes on Old
Years Night (new years eve). Each day I continue to learn
about all the differences that the holidays have to offer.
Not only that, but celebrating new holidays like the recent
Hindu holiday of Diwali and learning from a Muslim friend
of mine more in depth about Ramadan which they’ve recently
finished and many others that are occurring throughout the
year. It is also funny to celebrate those from the states
like Halloween and Thanksgiving that they do not recognize.
Especially funny when you can’t even find a turkey around
to ‘try’ to make it work.
These past few months have really been a challenging and
yet productive few. I found that I hit the wall back in
October and early November where I was faced with feelings
of isolation, sickness, and lack of enthusiasm, but quickly
rebounded back and have been working with a renewed sense
of my typical high motivation (minus the safety issue I and
other volunteers encountered around the country in separate
incidents) . I think you sometimes question why you are
away from friends and family and living in a place where
you see things you wish you hadn’t, live with some
harassment and discrimination, and fight with the lack of
knowledge and resources. But, then I am so quickly reminded
by the beautiful, loving and smiling children I have the
privilege of teaching and the staff and patients I work
with at the clinic, when they appreciate and embrace me
being here and living with them in Guyana. This is why I
have been focused so much on the projects that I have been
busy with. In addition to some of you who have expressed
helping me with medical, dental, office and school
supplies, I am currently working on writing 3 grants. One
has already been written and submitted for a PEPFAR
(president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief) grant to do
puppet shows and media campaign in all the schools focused
on stigma and discrimination of those affected and infected
by HIV and AIDS in Region 10. Another is one that I have
just begun working on with a much needed building extension
for my school through a SIMAP grant, which I have found may
be an organization that may or may not be willing to help.
The other is the big one that I have previously mentioned
in the Wilderness adventure (eco) challenge Guyana. Mike
Geurink, a peace corps colleague of mine, and I just had a
very productive meeting with many big agencies and
individuals in the country on Thursday and we have made
positive steps towards submitting the proposal to National
Geographic and Discovery. It will take number of people and
organizations to assist us in this process and we are
learning a whole lot along the way in trying to put
together first, a successful proposal, and then, of course,
a successful race.
I hope that all of you are enjoying the holiday season and
are reminded of what is most important at this time of
year. Although the presents and the tree are typical
staples, don’t forget that it is the friends and families
you are with that make it the warmest in your hearts. As I
am away from my family and friends this holiday season,
please send me your prayers and best wishes in your
thoughts and hearts through the miles. Happy Holidays!
Peace and love,
kristen