Tuesday, May 24, 2005

May 24, 2005

Over time I find some of my senses become sharpened while yet others become dull. There is a fine line between what is “new” to my surroundings and what has become the norm. Yes, there is certainly poverty, extreme weather, various cultures, races and sets of values, as I have said before. Living as foreigner in Guyana for an extended amount of time has truly allowed me to become one with those whom I living and working with, understanding their struggles, their values, their morals. It is interesting how this can frustrate you to no extent at times while other times a smile comes to my face thinking how different we are around the world in how we think and go about our lives based on where we are raised and what we are exposed to. One thing that I have also begun to realize is how much impact I really can and have had here. I joined Peace Corps as many others do with volunteering abroad with this organization and others, that you want to ‘make a difference, interact with a new culture, share ideas, motivate people, reach out to as many as you can in any way you can’. As cliché as it may have seemed, working hard and spending much time with those here has allowed me to make positive steps towards progress.

This past weekend was the result of some progress in one of my secondary projects. Banks DIH, which is one of the largest companies in Guyana, sponsored a women’s soccer tournament for teams from all around the country. Although this may not seem a very big thing to those of you in the states where women and girls participating in sports has been readily accepted for quite some time now, here it is a HUGE step. It was such a wonderful thing to see such a tremendous amount of talented female athletes all competing in a tournament where they were not the warm-up game or an exhibition met with much laughter and criticism, rather the main event. It was crazy to think of all this talent that could match up to many Division I collegiate programs in the US, yet they don’t have really any opportunity such as that in the county. We are currently in talks with Trinidad and Tobago’s women’s programs to do some sort of camp/tournament for those here and around the Caribbean. It is funny that playing and being white and from the states that they all think I know Mia Hamm or have played with her and that was only exaggerated after I “got lucky” and scored the game winning goal in our first match going 1-0. I quickly assured them that Mia I certainly was not and that Mia herself could probably make up a team all by herself and I would just be her water girl! The only downfall for me on the weekend was the grapefruit sized sprained ankle I woke up with Monday morning. It would probably not have been so bad had I not played on it after the incident….but what wonders about 6 layers of duct tape and ibuprofen can do…I don’t have to explain to any of you how competitive I have always been. ☺

On a similar note, we were also able to schedule and play a couple of women’s basketball games on the outside hard-court that my team practices and plays on. A unique scene with the cracked blacktop, the half working lights, the broken down concrete, brick, chain-link fence, and the wooden bleachers…all packed with people trying to see our game. Our team was successful, but for me the funniest part was that during the first half, the power went out in our town (as is typical) and we sat and waited in complete blackout for about 45 minutes until the power came back on and we resumed the game. We were lucky as the next days it went off for 6-8 hours at a time along with water.

So overall, it is great to see such progress with many of the projects I am involved in and especially one area that I have had such a passion for in my life with athletics. It is interesting how hard it is to get projects started and people interested and motivated and then the scales tip and you cannot keep up with all the balls you are juggling at the same time. I have to say that many of these projects would not be nearly as successful without the tremendous help and assistance some of you have helped with from medical and school supplies, monetary assistance with food, clothes, books and other needs for families and much, much more. It means more to us here than I can ever explain. Every little bit helps out and is reflected in the smiles I see and the hugs I receive.

On a very different note, I also had the opportunity to attend the wedding of one of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers to an Indo-Guyanese guy. I have never been to a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony and it was such a beautiful site to see. All of us in attendance from the volunteer community decided to come dressed in traditional Indian wear. It was such a gorgeous display for all who attended, volunteers and locals alike, the beautiful and vibrant colors the garments and the ceremony displayed. And as is also typical, you have seven curry for the meal (no meat which is traditional) that is served in almost production line format. You are given a giant leaf filled with seven delicious and magnificent entrees served from people with different pots coming by that you eat with your hands. How convenient that you have no silver wear, no clean up, you only throw away your leaf and join the line by the pipe to rinse off your hands and face with the rest of the guests. Coming from much different wedding ceremonies in the states, it was so refreshing how beautiful everything was in the event, yet while also being so simple. Definitely something that adds to the “new” in my list of experiences here in Guyana.

I hope all of you are enjoying the changing of the seasons and are finally getting the chance to get outside for some warmer weather. Don’t hesitate to fill me in on what you are all up to…it is one of the things that keeps me going and strong through the best and toughest of times!

Love, kristen