Wednesday, March 30, 2005

March 30, 2005

I stepped off the plane in Minneapolis after a long day of
flying from Guyana to Barbados, Trinidad and Miami and
instantly I knew I was in a whole other world. The air
filling my lungs was dry and brisk and I felt a chill run
through my body. I wondered if my body remembered how to
make those goose bumps. After what seemed like eternity
walking though the airport I came down the escalator to a
welcoming committee of faces that I have only seen in my
dreams for a very long time. This was no mirage, rather
some family and friends with welcoming arms. As the first
days unfolded in the Twin Cities, I felt my mind going
through such an array of emotions. From being overwhelmed
by the pace, the lifestyle, the many familiar faces, the
choices and variety of goods and services head
was flooded with so many different thoughts and feelings.
Walking into places like Target and Cub foods nearly made
my head spin after merely shopping in market stalls for the
past 14 months. How easy things were here. I could get in
my vehicle, go anywhere I wanted, see anyone I wanted to
see and have access to any store, restaurant, and
entertainment...anything my heart desired so readily and
easily. Although many of those superficial things were very
nice, one thing remains at the heart and soul of my visit.
This was the opportunity to see, hug, visit with and share
with those who have meant so much to me in my
family, my friends, and the communities I have lived in.
How special it was to actually talk extensively and share
with those all the thoughts and feelings I’ve kept inside
through the many months of living an isolated lifestyle
free of television, phone and other amenities. I so enjoyed
sharing my experiences, stories, and photographs with
friends, family, school children in Minneapolis, and with
Trinity Lutheran Church in Waupaca. For it is these
experiences and people that I have committed myself to
while continuing to expand the many projects I’m involved
in. As wonderful as it was to be home, it was also very
clear to me that I still have much to do and accomplish in
Guyana and my Peace Corps service. I thank everyone for
making my trip home such a great experience. It was
wonderful to catch up on what some of you have been up to.
I am so very thankful and lucky to have family and friends
in my life that have helped shape me into whom I am today
and by extension give me the strength to do the things I am
doing abroad. Your support is simply priceless!
Equipped with some new supplies, I got back onto the plane
to travel back to South America while I simultaneously
reminded my heart and mind to be strong once again. Landing
in Guyana, I walked out onto the runway off the plane as
the thick humidity and warm air blanketed me. After being
back in my community for just 24 hours, I had to repack for
the Easter holiday rodeo on the Brazilian border in Lethem.
You board a bus and travel the only bumpy, dirt road that
takes you the nearly 300 miles from Linden into the
interior and then to the savannahs and mountains of
southern Guyana. This trip takes anywhere from 12-20 hours
(for 300 miles!). It is interesting how you are traveling
in thick rainforest for the first half of the trip only to
be spit out onto completely flat, dry and desolate lands
with the Pakoraima and Kanuku Mountains on the horizon. The
air becomes very dry and a constant dust filled wind swirls
amidst the arid heat. It didn’t even seem like the same
country. The Lethem rodeo is one of Guyana’s highlights
that takes place every year over the long Easter holiday.
Guyana is on Easter holiday from Thursday afternoon through
Easter Monday and then goes back to work on Tuesday. A very
convenient time for many to travel without having to take
off work. Out on the savannahs with the mountains in the
background people gather to take in a traditional rodeo
with vaqueros (cowboys) competing in all traditional
competitions. However, the most interesting is that their
get up of cowboy hat, vest and chaps leaves out any
shoes...can you even imagine a shoeless vaquero?! While
also there and staying on a ranch, we had the chance to
hike to hidden waterfalls in the mountains and walked
across the Takatu River that separates Guyana and Brazil.
We walked the 4+ miles into Brazil to the town of Bonfin.
How different the houses, people and town looked in this
country only a few short miles from Guyana. I was able to
speak Spanish with them to somewhat communicate with their
Portuguese. The one clear thing that I could see was that
even with poverty evident, the country has clean and well
kept streets as it is a product of their more stable
government. The whole experience to the southern part of
the country was yet another chance to see the ever variable
faces and places of Guyana and beyond. What a wonderfully
diverse country I am living in.
Thank you again for such a fantastic trip home!
Love, Kristen

"Peace is found not in what surrounds us, but in what we hold within."

Peace Corps Volunteer-Guyana
Kristen Tews
P.O. Box 32085
Mackenzie, Linden
Guyana, South America