Sunday, August 21, 2005

Aug. 21, 2005


I travel up and down the sandy hills surrounding the rainforest with the wind blowing in my hair as the scenery passes by. The taxi, like all traffic in Guyana, goes a million miles and hour and breaks about 10 traffic violations (US that is) along the way. Our only hold up is the mandatory stop at highway patrol as the large machine gun ridden officers ask for identification (really judging the opportunity for bribes). After a short delay upon arrival at the airport, I can clearly see the party I am here to meet….it is not particularly hard to pick out the white skin in the crowd. After oftentimes wondering what my friends and family would think of this place I have called home for over a year and a half, my dad, brother and sister in law stepped off the plane and into the land of many waters. This was my second set of visitors as I had Amber and Rachael Murray here a year ago and I am curious about the feedback this new group will give me. What an opportunity to see through their eyes this place, the people and the culture. We began this journey (along with another volunteer and her visiting parents) by heading on a boat into the overhanging rainforest to the Amerindian village of Santa Mission and after spending the day then continued on later in the afternoon after more travel to Shanklands on the Essequibo River. Here we had a chance to hike around, relax and even got to see a tarantula, caiman (small alligator), parrots, canje pheasant and much more, including the beautiful flora of the surrounding area for a couple of days. We then traveled by boat over to the community of Bartica where the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cayuni Rivers come together. We quickly jumped on to the back of a cantor truck and headed off amongst the villages and outlying areas in search of adventure. Bartica allowed us the opportunity over a couple days to hike in some pristine rainforests, see toucan and monkey, and even climb up and into a waterfall. What fun that was for all!

We then made our journey back towards the capital city on the always exciting transportation, with our last leg coming on boat across the mouth of the Atlantic and to the stelling at the back of Starbroek Market. We were quickly engulfed by the chaos that ensued. In every crevice there are people, goods, animals, vehicles and things. You are bombarded by so many different sounds….from the millions of honking horns, sellers trying to get you to buy their goods, touts trying to get you on buses, horse hooves on the pavement as they pull carts along, music of all sorts at full volume….the city was packed and booming and I couldn’t help but have a little laugh inside wondering what our visitors were thinking. If you didn’t watch out and look both ways at all times you’d probably end up in the trench (trust me…yuck!). As we explored this wild and busy city on foot, hitch hiking and crazy buses, we had a nice break in staying with a friend of mine who works for the Embassy. After a few days we then flew out on a small plane into the interior to Kaieteur and Orinduk waterfalls. What an unbelievable site to see, especially when you can hang off the edges of 850 foot drops and really get up close and personal with Kaieteur (no guardrails here my friends). Then we boarded and flew to the Brazilian border where Orinduk Falls cascades through the countryside. We approach and a small red dirt runway presented itself, children soon running to shyly greet us. It was quite the adventure in this tiered and vast grouping of waterfalls with its interesting stone formations and fury of water. After all this excitement we made our way back to my home of Linden. Here we took in the many faces and places that are so dear to me in this country. I think they really enjoyed seeing in person who and where I am always telling stories about. So through all the crazy transportation, I feel that this land of many waters left quite the impression on our guests. For as I was reminded again, that it is a land of “many”….many waters, many beautiful and pristine forests, many resources, many beautiful and diverse cultures, but also many hardships, challenges with waste and government, and poverty. But through it all one thing remains true, it is a land of many loving, helpful and wonderful people and that is what the stronghold of the society is. I have to pinch myself and shake my head to decide if it all was a dream or if they were really here just a short time ago. What a whirlwind!

Just as much a whirlwind has been this 2 month school holiday for me. During this time, I have taken a break from some of my other projects to put on some great camps. The first was being part of a nation wide secondary school health camp followed by a girls soccer camp for a week, 2 weeks of Fit Kids camp with my primary school kids, family here, then 2 more weeks of kids camps. It will almost be a relief to get back to the clinic and teaching and other projects (in one more week) with all the work it has been. My soccer and basketball teams have also continued to practice in the mornings and afternoons, which leaves me wiped out at the end of each day wondering how much more sweat I have to offer. I feel that sweating the one constant I ever do…from work to play to relaxing, except for the few times a day I am taking a cold bucket bath!

Upcoming events are a big US gov’t funded grant (through PEPFAR) we are beginning with AIDS/HIV education in the schools, a 4 game tour to St. Lucia as I am playing with the nat’l women’s basketball team in September, and many other assistance organization coming through with clinical supplies, books, soccer equipment, PE t-shirts for my school kids, and more. For it must be said that all of the many things that I have had the opportunity to contribute here are only possible with your assistance. I am merely a go between in this process where you are making an unbelievable difference with the people in my community and in Guyana. You have brought smiles to faces, food and clothing to many, resources and education to others and have made a lasting impression with these projects and much more. I just get to be the spark to get the engine going and hope each and every day that the wheels stay on this car and all continues to gain momentum past my last 6ish months and into the future!

All my best,
kristen