I have survived my first two weeks as a Peace Corps trainee in Guyana. It has been an interesting first week, and although I am a little tired, I have learned a ton. After a day of staging in Miami, all 34 PC Guyana (“Guy 26” as we are called, because we are the 26th group here) trainees headed off the Guyana. Our group is a mix between Health and Education volunteers, with slightly more volunteers being in education. We arrived the first night at a resort called Splashmins were we stayed for almost the whole week. As trainees, we were essentially held captive inside Splashmins. This particular resort was next to a man made lake, and it had a beach, conference room, field for sports, etc. They also had a bar, which was quite popular among the trainees. Life at Splashmins was pretty easy. I woke up, had a quick workout with some of the other trainees, went to class all day, and in the evenings, we played beach volleyball, ate dinner (we were fed 5 times a day, because I guess we needed snacks too), and went to the bar. It was rough.
Since most of the day consisted of training, in a sort of classroom, we covered an array of topics, from anxieties and excitement, to cultural norms and sexual assault. There was SO much information. The most commonly talked about topic among volunteers, however, was placement. A little background- There are two types of placement sites: Coastal and Hinterland. 90% of the population lives on the coast, and coastal sites generally have much greater access to resources. The ever accurate Wikipedia has some good info on Guyana and the different areas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guyana. Homes on the coast often (but definitely not always) have many modern comforts, such as electricity and running water. Hinterland sites are generally more remote, and often, require much more travel time to reach. Attitudes and beliefs vary among these communities too, with Hinterland sites generally being more traditional. I was definitely pushing for a coastal site. I don’t mind a lack of electricity or bigger bugs, but being hours away from the closest volunteer, with no internet? No thanks.
After a week of all this, I think that everyone was a little anxious to get out. Although being at a resort with AC and daily beach volleyball was nice, I’m pretty confident that had we been there any longer, our training group would have quickly turned in Real World: Guy 26. In the evenings, once beer started flowing, conversation quickly went from getting to know each other, to “who would you hook up with?”, and other similar questions. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how chill a group of people is. Shit will hit the fan sooner or later.
The morning we found out about our host families was fully of excitement an anxiety. The PC staff had split volunteers into Coastal and Hinterland training sites, and hid envelopes with our names for us to find. Inside each envelope was a slip that said “Coastal” or “Hinterland”, and a picture of an animal that we would match with our host family. Once the staff said “go”, it was a mad dash to find the envelopes. I found my envelope and eagerly ripped it open. Coastal it was!
I have been living with my host family for a week now and it has been awesome! I now live in a village called Timehri. My host mom is so sweet, and I have three host sisters who are 22, 24, and 26, which is great because I had instant friends to hang out with! I’m pretty convinced they are the best host family ever. I live right across the house from the training site which is really nice because it takes me less than a minute to walk there. I still have “classes” all day, just at the new site. My mom makes my breakfast, lunch and dinner, and so far the food is pretty tasty (although it’s definitely not low cal). It’s been fun sharing host family stories with all the other trainees. Although there are some cultural differences, I think integration into our communities won’t be too terribly hard. It’s all pretty cool.
I think I’m really going to like Guyana.