Christmas and Kaieteur Falls!

In December of 2013, I remember receiving my invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guyana. Immediately after I accepted, I opened my computer and did a quick Google search on the culture, things to do, and hikes that are in Guyana. One of the things that popped up was National Geographic’s Traveler’s List of 2014 of Place To Visit, which included Guyana because of its natural beauty, Kaieteur Falls, and all of the untouched jungle that covers nearly 90% of the country. I was immediately drawn in, and started doing research on off the beaten path hikes and things to do here in Guyana, and this blog post is about finally having the opportunity to hike Kaieteur Falls over Christmas in 2015.

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Day 1 – 4:00 AM

Our day started early, around 4 AM as we were waiting for a cab to pick us up at my house in Region 3 to go to the Rainforest Tours (Contact Information at end of blog) in Georgetown. On the way, our cab driver got a flat tire right after he crossed the Demerara Bridge heading into town, we had to call a another cab company to take us the last 4 minutes to the office where we all boarded a standard mini bus heading to Mahdia, a small mining down in Region 8.

The bus ride lasted about 8 hours and went down the Lethem highway. It is the rainy season, so the road had lots of rain filled potholes, which made for a bumpy ride. We stopped at a small village along the way to have lunch, then about 15 minutes later turned off the main road towards Mahdia. We went down this road for about an hour before catching a ferry across the Essequibo River followed by another 3 hours in the bus through more dirt road with rain filled potholes before reaching another river where we boarded 2 boats to move to our first camp for the night, Amatuk.

We reached Amatuk mid-afternoon, and quickly set up camp before dark. Amatuk is a small island near Amatuk Falls, the word Amatuk means Love, and the island is named Amatuk because it is shaped like a heart. After setting up camp, we had dinner, followed by a good nights rest.

Day 2 – 5:30 AM

We rose early on the second day, had a quick breakfast and walked out to see Amatuk Falls. After looking at the falls, we took about across the river, and walked through a small trail for about 15 minutes where we were going to catch boats going down the Potaro River.

Boating down the Potaro River in Guyana
Boating down the Potaro River in Guyana

We took the boat for about 1 hour, before reaching a mining camp that’s deep in the bush. Our tour guides took us in to the camp so we could see what mining is like here in Guyana. After our quick visit, we went about another 30 minutes down the river where another small waterfalls was located. Because of the location of the waterfall, we all had to get out of the boat, take the boat out of the water, and walk the boat about a 1/4 mile through a trail that bypassed the waterfall. We then set the boat down on some sticks that were set up between the rocks, and it slid right into the river.

Jungle Boat Ramp
Jungle Boat Ramp

Once the boat was in the river, we proceeded up the Lower Potaro River in two separate groups to our next camp for the night, the Tukait Guesthouse. The Tukait Guesthouse is nestled in the trees, is extremely quiet, has 3 bedrooms with beds/sheets, plenty of hammock space, a kitchen, and solar panels that allowed us to charge up all of our electronics before our hike. Once everyone arrived, we had a quick lunch, then took a 1 hour hike to Stone Creek Falls, the trail consisted of 30 minutes on brush/dirt and about 30 minutes climbing over boulders while barefoot. Once there, we spent about an hour swimming underneath the water falls that stood about 200 feet tall. Definitely one of my most memorable Christmas experiences ever.

Day 3 – 9:00 AM

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On Day 3, we all woke up between 6 and 7 am and started packing our bags for the last part of our trip, the hike to Kaieteur. We were told by our guides that the trail has several different parts, the easy part, the oh my god “OMG Trail”, and another flat easy part… We stopped at a couple smaller waterfalls along the trail, walked up and bathed quickly in them, and then proceeded up the OMG trail. The OMG Trail is pretty steep alongside the mountain that has roots, branches, and rocks that you are hiking through to get to the top of the falls. The trail wasn’t too bad, even with a pack on, it only took about 2 hours to hike to the top which included several breaks along the way.

Once you reach the Airstrip/Guesthouse sign, you know that you are close to the falls. You will then walk through and to three separate viewpoints of Kaieteur Falls, where you will have the chance to take photos and see the spectacular beautiful Kaieteur Falls. Words can’t describe how amazing it is to actually see the falls up close and in person… Pictures can’t even capture the moment and how you feel.

Guesthouse/Airstrip
Guesthouse/Airstrip

After we spent a little bit of time at the Falls, we all went to the Kaieteur Gueshouse where we set up camp for the night. The Kaieteur Guesthouse has 4 queen size beds, and hammock space. We all opted to share beds and get a good nights rest before heading back to Georgetown the next day.

Overall, I can say that this is one of my favorite trips that I have done since I have been in Guyana. This hike, although expensive, gives you the opportunity to see a side of Guyana you can’t get in any other villages. You can to see the untouched, natural beauty of Guyana’s Rainfroest, and you get the chance to stand on top of the worlds tallest single-drop waterfall, standing at 781′ feet. This is definitely something I recommend to ALL volunteers. I know it’s exciting and a lot of people will chose to do the flight because it’s much cheaper, but the flight only puts you on top of Kaieteur Falls for about 2 hours, the hike puts you there for a FULL night allowing you to spend a lot of time at the falls. Also, make sure you go during the rainy season (December-March) that way the falls is completely full.

You can play doing this hike two separate ways:

  • Through Frank at Rainforest Tours, a local tour company that can be reached at +592 624-3298 and rainforesttours@gmail.com.

Or you can plan everything yourself. To do this, you will want to call Frank from Rainforest Tours in advance, and book his property at Amatuk. Then you can call the following people to arrange transportation and guides for the last few legs of the trip. They are listed in the order you will need them. You will also need to bring your own food if you plan your trip this way.

  1. Frank – Rainforest Tours, Amatuk Camp +592 624-3298
  2. Kaieteur National Park for park permits and Guesthouse Reservations (Kaieteur and Tukait): +592 226-7974
  3. Bus from GT to Mahdia – Ion (Driver): +592 646-3158
  4. Transport from Mahdia to Pamela – Kalac (driver): +592 673-9459
  5. Boat/Tour Guide from Pamela to Falls – Roy: +592 677-3886
  6. Air Services Limited for your flight out of Kaieteur: +592 222-2994

Through Rainforest Tours, we had Roy as our Tour Guide. He was awesome, so if you need help with any of the planning I am sure he’d be willing to help or lead your tour. Not sure on pricing, you would have to call and discuss it with him, he can be reached at, Roy: +592 602-8851.

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That’s it for now! Hope you all had an amazing Christmas, a had an even better New Years! Cheers to 2016!

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Packing Suggestions (Part 2) from LD

Hi Future Volunteers!

I know you don’t know me yet but I can’t wait to Facebook stalk you to find out who the new group is! I’m kidding…sort of. Jeremy asked me to give you some advice for packing and for living modestly. When you sign up for Peace Corps, you’re also signing up for a two year commitment to live out of two suitcases and on a local budget. I know when I was packing, I was very stressed so hopefully this will help a few of you ease your nerves. I wrote this list with the ladies in mind (sorry boys).

First of all, Guyana does have (almost) everything you need…you may need to go into town to get it or it may be twice as expensive as it normally is, but it’s there. So if you forget to pack underwear or a water bottle, don’t panic. Second of all, shipping things from home is always an option too so think priority when you’re trying to squeeze your life in those two suitcases. I’ll go through my list of things to consider packing then I’ll mention a few things you shouldn’t even bother with.

Note: A second Packing Suggestions list can be found here Packing Suggestions (Part 1).

What to Pack:

  • Photos of friends and family
  • Umbrella (at least 2)-I use my umbrella every single day for sun or rain so it goes through a lot of wear-and-tear
  • Full polyester sheets-they’re really lightweight and dry super-fast in the sun….I found some at Ross for $5
  • Pillow (optional)-the ones here are lumpy and hurt your neck
  • Things to do in your spare time because there will be a lot of down time-art, diary, books, musical instruments, etc
  • Tampons (they only sell them at a few places in town)
  • Small purse or hand bag that zips and goes across your body for security purposes
  • 1 pair of jeans (you don’t really need more than that)
  • Phone-if you bring an iphone with you, make sure you get it unlocked before you come otherwise it’s very expensive to get done here
  • Inexpensive cute but fairly conservative clothes-think Forever21-they have a very American-like style here
  • Comfortable, supportive, and durable shoes or flats-many girls have Toms, Sanuks, or Crocs-you do A LOT of walking
  • Comfortable, supportive, and durable flip flops
  • French press (optional)…my mom sent me one and it changed my life. I HAVE to have (good) coffee every morning so she also sent me coffee from home too…otherwise they really only use instant coffee here
  • Lightweight, breathable rain coat
  • Cotton or Patagonia underwear
  • Sundresses or skirts that come to knees or lower
  • Lightweight cardigans (shoulders cannot be exposed in school or professional settings)
  • External hard drive-us volunteers like to share movies and tv shows and it’s a good way to spend your weekends, especially if you have no internet

What to ditch:

  • Heavy sweatshirt or sweatpants. You just don’t need them. It’s too darn hot.
  • Bug spray (maybe one bottle to start you off but otherwise Peace Corps will provide you with some pretty intense spray)
  • Sunscreen and over-the-counter meds…again, PC will provide these but bring some if you need specific ones or just to hold you over until they’re actually given to you
  • Face make-up-it’ll melt off anyway
  • Valuable jewelry

A tip that another volunteer taught me is when you’re packing, put a lot of clothes or items in Tupper wear containers or zip lock bags. They come in handy once you’re at site and it’s hard to find good quality ones here. Most volunteers bring a medium to large hiking backpack and an additional large one…but the hiking one is good for short trips to visit other volunteers or excursions with friends.

As far as living modestly goes, it is completely possible to live on the PC budget if you’re smart about it. You can’t really live the luxurious life you lived back in America, which you come to appreciate how you probably never really needed that stuff anyway. I go to the market once a week and buy only what I will be cooking for that week. I try to make all of my own food and avoid buying take-out or street food as much as possible. I walk almost everywhere. Public transportation is cheap, but if you do it often, it adds up. I don’t go out on the weekends that much, instead I relax at home in my hammock watching movies and I love it. If you’re able to save money here and there, then you’ll be able to splurge every once and a while on ice cream or that bottle of wine that’s impossible to find. One last thing, I highly recommend saving money before coming to travel and explore this beautiful country and the surrounding area. I’ve only had to dip into my personal money once but it was worth it.

Alright folks, this is all I could think of for now. Please feel free to reach out to any of us on FB, we’re more than willing to help, especially because we were in your shoes a year and a half ago! I hope this helped. Can’t wait to meet you all just now =)

Lindsey Daugherty, GUY26

LDblog

Packing Suggestions (Part 1)

Packing for Peace Corps Service, for some, may be one of the most challenging tasks before departure. I remember sitting at home, researching other volunteers packing lists from a variety of countries trying to pinpoint my exact needs for packing. Unfortunately, this worked to an extent, but the trick to packing for Peace Corps is packing items that are light and can be used for a variety of different things.

Here, I will share the things that I brought to Guyana that were most useful, and share some items that I think would be beneficial to bring. That said, packing for service in Guyana will be tough, because there are two different types of placements (Hinterland/Town) and the needs for each of these could drastically vary, and you wont know where you are placed until the end of PST. Anyways, here’s a few packing suggestions I have for y’all!

My initial packing list can be found here: Jeremy’s PC Packing List. I have also included the full list below with suggestions in a quote box below the list.

And Lindsey, another Guy26 has been so kind to write a blog with her packing suggestions for the ladies and that can be found: HERE!

Luggage

  • Osprey Aether 70L Backpack
  • REI 34″ Rolling Duffel
    (Check REI or the REI Outlet for Clearance items)
  • Swiss Laptop Backpack (Carry-On)

I brought my Osprey Aether 70L backpack and purchased a REI 34″ Rolling Duffel during the end of year clearance at REI and both turned out to work perfectly. If you purchase a pack between 55-70L, you should be good. This will allow you to take a backpack on any trips you take during service, it’s easy to carry, and you won’t stick out as much in town rolling a suitcase down the roads that aren’t necessarily flat.

Electronics

  • Acer Aspire V5 11.3″ Laptop
  • Samsung External DVD+RW Drive
  • 1 extra Laptop battery and charge cable
  • Microsoft Travel size USB Mouse
  • 2x USB Flash Drives
  • 4x SD Cards
  • 2TB Western Digital MyPassport External Hard Drive (My Passport drives are USB Powered)
  • Panasonic Lumix LX-7 Camera w/ Extra Batteries
  • Panasonic DMC-TS5 Waterproof Camera
  • 10x Amazon Rechargeable AA Batteries
  • Amazon Paperwhite Kindle
  • Targus Surge Protector with USB Ports
  • iHome Rechargeable Portable Speakers
  • Blackberry 9780 Unlocked with Extra battery
  • GoPro Black Edition Camera w/ Extra battery, LCD Viewscreen

Prior to coming, a lot of volunteers mentioned that the humidity destroys electronics here, I honestly felt like volunteers were exaggerating just a little. After being here for nearly 2 years, I can confirm what they were saying… Electronics come here and they do die, it’s sad. So try to bring an older laptop and older electronics here that you wouldn’t mind to part with if they stop working here. That said, I purchased 2 thick SealLine Dry Bags (Amazon Link) and they have helped a lot with keeping all of my electronics protected… I purchased a 10L and a 20L, they are extremely thick and I highly recommend at least one dry bag, especially since some of you will be taking boats in and out of your sites.

Other things to bring… a point and shoot camera with a case, a few SD cards, several USB drives, a external hard drive for TV shows, movies, books, etc., as many volunteers have plenty of media they can share with you. I also purchased some rechargeable AA batteries from Amazon to bring and they have worked out amazing. The battery quality here is terrible, so spending $10 before you come on a few rechargeable batteries will save you the headache later on. Make sure you bring a surge protector and a small rechargeable portable speaker, just incase your computer speakers die.

Clothing

  • 2 Champion Lightweight Golf Pants (Black and Khaki)
  • Chaco Belt
  • 14 Underwear
  • 13 Socks (7 athletic socks, 6 cotton)
  • 1 Jeans
  • 3 Cargo shorts
  • 1 Swim trunks
  • 4 Running short sleeve shirts
  • 2 Cotton T-shirts
  • 3 Tank tops
  • 2 Short sleeve button ups
  • 2 Golf Polos (UnderArmour)
  • 1 Tie
  • 1 Button Down
  • 1 Sweatshirt
  • 1 Light Jacket
  • 2 Mizuno Running shoes
  • 2 Sperry’s (for work shoes)
  • 1 Chaco Sandals
  • 1 Chaco Hiking Sandals
  • 1 Flip Flops

The clothing that has worked best for me, is all of my active gear. For my work days, I wear Golf Pants and Polos that are quick dry and breathable, you only need maybe 2 pairs of paints and a couple shirts, and Target has Champion Pants/Polos and they are fairly cheap… Check the clearance rack first though.

I brought 2 weeks worth of socks and underwear, a Chaco belt, several running shirts (again, breathable, comfortable, quick dry), a couple tanktops, a few pairs of cargo shorts, swim drunks, 2 pairs of running shoes, 1 running jacket, chacos, 2 button downs, 1 pair of flip flops.

All of the items I listed above I have used, except the Chaco’s, which I took home in September when I visited. Flip Flops can also be purchased here for a cheap price, so bring a pair of two, and if they break, you can get a pair here.

Toiletries

  • 8 Toothbrushes
  • 4 Tubes of toothpaste
  • 1 WAHL Travel Size electric shaver
  • 2 Tweezers
  • 1 Toe-nail clippers
  • 1 Travel size Q-Tips
  • 4 bars of soap
  • 4 sticks of Deoderant
  • Travel Toothbrush/Soap holder
  • 1 Hand sanitizer

Most of what you need is readily available here in Guyana… Some of the items though, won’t have the same quality as they have in the United States. Bring plenty of toothbrushes and toothpaste, these are two things that aren’t the best quality here. If you care about good hair products, bring one big bottle of shampoo and some deodorant… Other then that, everything is fairly cheap to purchase here.

Outdoor Items

  • ENO Single Nest Travel Hammock
  • ENO Bug Net
  • ENO Atlas Hammock Straps
  • Cool Max Sleep Sack
  • Leatherman pocket knife
  • Black Diamond LED Solar Powered Headlamp
  • Solar powered flash-light
  • Solar Charger 14W USB
  • Sea to Summit Dry Lite Large Quick Dry Towel
  • 10L Seal Line Dry Bag
  • 20L Seal Line Dry Bag
  • 2 Nalgene Water bottles

I definitely recommend bringing some sort of travel hammock. The ENO hammocks are a favorite among volunteers because they are light, compact, and go up in less then 5 minutes; make sure to grab the straps and the mosquito net when you purchase your hammock as well. Do bring a Leatherman, or some sort of multi-tool pocket knife, you never know when these will come in handy. A headlamp is also a good investment as we do have blackouts occasionally, and some people in the hinterland/rural sites don’t have electricity. As mentioned before, the Dry Bags are important for electronics, a quick dry towel is nice for traveling, and a couple 1L water bottles because you will be thirsty, often. Most volunteers go with the Nalgenes because of the quality, but bring whatever you can.

Kitchen Items

  • 4-in-1 Can Opener
  • High quality ceramic cutting knives with potato peeler
  • Small Tupperware set

I highly recommend bringing ALL of these. The knives here in Guyana aren’t the best of quality, neither are the Tupperware. Also, if you don’t bring a knife set, a potato peeler was really nice… I eat potatoes a couple times a week, and it just makes preparing my food that much quicker.

Misc Items

  • 1 Full size Sheet Set
  • 1 Pillow (to fill space in my bag)
  • 2 Moleskine Journals
  • Small body Guitar with Case
  • 3 sets of Guitar strings
  • 1 Guitar tuner
  • Hanging closet (cubbie) organizer for storage
  • 2 pairs of Sunglasses
  • Ironman Watch
  • Resistance bands set
  • 1 Jump Rope
  • Duct Tape
  • 5 Bandanas
  • 1 “Wind-Resistance” High quality Umbrella
  • Several Textbooks
    – Nutrition through Lifecycle
    – Basic Nutrition
    – Lesson Plans
    – Guitar Theory
  • Travel Guides
    – Lonely Planet South America
    – Brandt Guyana Travel Guide

Bring at least 1 set of full size sheets, the quality of sheets here is NOT good and they are expensive.  Pillows can be found here, but it can be expensive to get a nice good quality pillow. Last minute, I decided to not bring my guitar and I purchased one here in Guyana… That was a mistake, as the Guitars here aren’t good quality at all, that said, if you have a really nice guitar, do bear in mind the humidity here, some have mentioned that their necks have warped due to the climate and what not… The most important item I brought from this list is the Hanging Closet Organizer, and I use this as my dresser because I was placed in a house that didn’t have anything in it… This saved me money right off the bat, also, can be used for storing dishes or tupperware or anything… Definitely bring one of these. Make sure to bring an umbrella, and any textbooks that you want as reference materials. I crossed them out because I have a bunch of those as digital files now and they are pretty heavy to lug around.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Again, these are all suggestions, not requirements and each person will have a few different things that they would like to add as each one of us was placed in a different situation (housing wise), some of us needed everything from purchasing flooring, to not needing anything at all. So the trick is bringing items that can be used for a variety of things, and if you don’t use something that you bring, there’s probably a volunteer who could use it… A lot of items do get passed around between volunteers, so don’t stress about a lot of these things.

Good luck and happy packing!!!!

 

 

 

Flashback Friday: Getting to French Guiana from Guyana

Last year, I had planned a trip to Paramaribo, Suriname for the big New Years Celebration that they have each year. Since I was going to Suriname, I figured I would attempt to make my way into French Guiana as well, only problem was I couldn’t find any accurate information on transportation, so I just went on a whim and made the trip documenting everything along the way… So hopefully this information will be helpful to any volunteers or fellow backpackers who choose to go into French Guiana from Guyana/Suriname.

Here are just a few pictures from French Guiana.

Getting To French Guiana

The first step in getting to French Guiana is by making your way to Paramaribo, Suriname, which can be done really easily by a variety of bus services that do direct routes from Georgetown to Paramaribo. These buses usually cost around $6,000GY (Note: Cost will vary depending on pickup location.) one way from Georgetown, but if you make prior arrangements, they will pick you up on the way anywhere between Regions 5 and 6 and will take you directly to your accommodation in Paramaribo. Here are the phone numbers for the service I used.

  • Bobby’s Bus Service
    • Guyana Offices: 234-1343 / 234-1456 / 622-8591 / 621-6010
    • Suriname Office: 862-3948 / 892-8133 / 715-5954 / 874-3897
    • Email: soenitasardjoe@yahoo.com

Now, once you are in Paramaribo, you will need to head down to the waterfront where you will find several different options of transportation (Government Bus, Public Bus, and a Taxi). Each of these comes with a different price tag, and details of each of these are below:

  1. V.B. Government Bus – The government bus is the most budget friendly way of getting to Albina, with a price tag of about $8.50 SRD (about $2.60 USD). The bus takes about 2.5 hours to reach but tickets must be purchased in advance (Jeremy’s Traveler Tip: Try to purchase these tickets at least 1 day before you would like to leave). Tickets can be purchased at the NVB Bus Shed that sits between Heiligenweg and Knufflestracht streets down by the waterfront. There are two (2) government buses that leave daily, 8:00AM and 12:00PM. If traveling all the way to Cayenne, you need to be on the 8:00AM bus.
  2. Public Bus – If the Government Bus is sold out, there are several Public Buses that are down by the waterfront charging around $25 – $30 SRD (about $7.60 – $9.00 USD) for a one way ticket. These buses will also take roughly 2.5 hours to arrive in Albina.
  3. Taxi/Hired Card – The most expensive way cost about $70 SRD (about $22 USD) and takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to arrive to Albina.

Now that you are in Albina, a small town on the Marowijne River that separates Suriname and French Guiana, you will be bombarded by Boat drivers looking to fill their boats to cross the river to St. Laurent. The boat ride takes about 20-30 minutes and costs around $15 SRD or 3 Euro (about $4.50 USD), when taking the boat, just make sure you tell them to take you to the Taxi’s, not the visitor center. Oh and DON’T FORGET YOUR PEACE CORPS APPROVED LIFE JACKET!

The last step in this journey is a 3.5-4 hour cab ride from St. Laurent to Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. The cab ride cost 35 Euro (about $40 USD) per person and will take you through a bunch of windy roads, where you’ll get to see the beautiful green scenery of French Guiana.  The options are extremely limited for transportation to Cayenne, public busses are non-existent, unless you are in Cayenne, and even then they aren’t reliable.

Just a few more tips for successful travel in French Guiana:

  1. Brush up on your French skills, most people in French Guiana either don’t speak English or speak very little.
  2. Search for cheap accommodation in advance, they are rare in French Guiana, you can use sites such as CouchSurfing and AirBnB.
  3. Make sure you check out the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and try the homemade Rhum and exotic/tropical fruits.
  4. Plan ahead and visit Iles du Salut, a group of Islands that housed the most dangerous prisoners of French Guiana in the late 1800’s to the mid 1950’s. If you book ahead, you can sleep in a prison cell, in a hammock and have all meals included.
  5. Visit the Centre Spatial Guyanais, one of the closest Space Centers to the equator. If you time your trip right, you may even get to see a Launch!

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There it is… It’s not too bad of a trip, and a nice fun little adventure for those who have the adventurers spirit! Good luck!

Diwali and the Guyana Trail Marathon

Diwali

One of the best parts of being a volunteer in Guyana, is the opportunity to experience so many different holidays from such a diverse country. Diwali is one of those holidays that is celebrated by the East Indian population, and was celebrated on November 11th this year.

Diwali, which means row of lights, is celebrated on the darkest night of the year. During this night, many homes will begin to light diya’s (small clay pots with a wick and coconut oil) and place them in every nook and cranny to light up their homes. The diya’s are lit as a form of worship for Goddess Lakshmi to seek blessing for material and spiritual fulfillment.

Other traditions during this holiday include, distribution of sweets which signifies the importance of serving and sharing, exchange of greetings which denotes goodwill, deep cleaning of houses/Mandirs that illuminates the road for the Goddess so that she has no problem with light if she visits their homes, and wearing new clothes which signifies healthy souls in healthy bodies.

diwali2015-7

This year, I had the wonderful opportunity to experience this holiday in a small village down the Essequibo River in Region 3, St. Lawrence. I made my way to St. Lawrence in the early afternoon, and right as it got dark, we started lighting diya’s and placing them around the house. After we placed the diya’s around the home, we had a few sweets, walked the street, and lit fireworks with the children and others who kindly welcomed us into their homes for the holidays.

For the volunteers who are currently or will be serving in Guyana, I highly recommend spending Diwali in both a smaller village and in Georgetown where you get to see the Motorcade and larger Diwali Celebration, both are amazing experiences.

Here are just a few photos from Diwali this year.

Guyana Trail Marathon (10K)

marathon-3

On November 14, 2015, the very first Trail Marathon was held here in Guyana. The race itself was held in a small village, Santa Mission, that has a population of roughly 200 people. The race had 3 separate events: the 10k, half-marathon, and full marathon and hosted a maximum of 100 runners from 8 different countries (USA, Canada, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Russia, Germany, and England).

Overall, the race was an amazing experience, very well organized and it was amazing to see the whole village come together and host such an amazing event for all of the national/international visitors. Below, I’ve written a brief recap of my experience for the 10K.

The morning of the race started really early as I had to wake up around 3:45 AM to take a cab to the Mariott in Georgetown to catch one of the early morning busses to the docks in Timehri, where I would take a boat to Santa Mission. The boat to Santa Mission took roughly 30 minutes, and was one of the coolest (weather-wise), beautiful boat rides I have been on, as I had the opportunity to see the sun come up over the savanna.

Once in Santa Mission, all of the volunteers met at Kelly’s old house to get ready for the race. Since I had arrived so early, I had the opportunity to see the start of both the half- and full marathons, which made me wish I could’ve ran one of them, but lack of training and having bronchitis for nearly 2 months, prevented me from being able to do ANY sort of exercise or training. That said, all of the races went through trails within the jungle that surround village. All of the trails were clear of debris, had a little bit of mud/swampy areas because of the rain, had markers at each km, bottles of water at each km, a couple ATV’s that drove down the trail making sure all participants were good, and aid stations randomly spread out through the race that included water, electrolyte drinks, gel packets, etc.

Overall, the 10K was a pretty good course… I will say that the course was one of the most challenging I have ever run. This may be due to the lack of training, but I think a lot of it has to do with the humidity, heat, and different surfaces that you run on during the race, from sand to soft trails to solid dirt trails. All of these things though, made for an amazing day spent at one of the most beautiful places in Guyana with some of the most welcoming individuals in Guyana.

Here are just a couple more photos from the race, along with the final finishing times for the winners of the three events:

– Marathon: 4 hr 46 min
– Half-Marathon: 2 hr 17 min
– 10K: 55 min 52 sec

Finishing the 10K!
Finishing the 10K!

In other brief news, the other day I was walking home from work and heard some meowing/crying coming from a garbage can. I looked inside, and found these 4 cute little kittens inside the garbage, grabbed them, took them home, got them some food, and am happy to say that I found them all new homes within a couple of days!!

kittens1

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

kittens2

Home & Panama: A Nice 3 Week Vacation

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Jenni & Heather – My 2 closest friends!

After nearly a year in a half in Guyana, I made my first trip back to the states to surprise my family and friends in Oregon. It took nearly 36 hours for me to arrive home from Guyana, sleeping in airports, eating $6 hot dogs, almost missing one of my flights with a 30 minute layover, and drinking my first Starbucks Coffee in a year in a half. Once I arrived, two of my closest friends picked me up at the airport and took me to a nice breakfast at a small restaurant outside of Portland, Oregon where I enjoyed some delicious Cinnamon Apple French Toast, Sausage Links, Bacon, and Over-Easy Eggs, followed by a delicious White Chocolate Mocha from Dutch Bros. I arrived home, about 2 hours later, and the carefully orchestrated plan of surprising my mom worked, and I spent the next few hours catching up with them and Heather.

The next two weeks flew by… In the two weeks that I didn’t really have planned prior to coming home, I had went to the Oregon Coast and it was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen there, went to the Foo Fighters Concert with a close friend of mine, Isaac, went to a Portland Timbers game and got a pretty smooth haircut by my close friend, Jenni, enjoyed some good homestyle cooking mixed with a nearly endless amount of IPA’s from Oregon’s Best Breweries, visited with my Cousin Jess and her husband Rayko, sharing news that they are expecting, and lastly, one of my cousins getting married here in a couple weeks. It was a lot of good news, and although I feel like I’ve missed a lot, it was nice to be around family and here of all of the amazing things that are going on back home and what I will be coming back to.

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Leaving was pretty hard, but not as hard as leaving for the Peace Corps initially. I did have a mix-up at the airport in Los Angeles when I had to recheck into my next flight, they said my visa wasn’t valid and they wouldn’t let me on the airplane. Luckily, I talked to a different airline attendant and was able to get checked in and board my international flight within 25 minutes of it leaving to Panama.

—–Panama—–

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A few hours later, I arrived in Panama where I would be spending the next week traveling around, trying to get back into my routine before heading back to Guyana. In Panama, I spent roughly 3 days in Casco Viejo, where I ate at small local restaurants, walked around Old Town, went to the Panama Canal, and chatted with other travelers from Holland, Australia, Canada, United States, and Chile. The next couple of days I spent in Boquette, which is a small town north of Panama City that is the starting point for the Volcan Baru hike, among many other hikes and waterfalls in the area. Boquette is a very nice little town and I stayed in a very accommodating hostel named, Refugio del Rio.

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Summit of Volcan Baru!

In Boquette, I had the opportunity to do the overnight Volcan Baru hike, which is the highest point in Panama at 11,398 feet. We started this hike around 1:30-2:00 AM and reached summit shortly after 6AM to see the sunrise. On a clear day, from the top of Volcan Baru, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Unfortunately, the day I went to the top, I was only able to see the Pacific Ocean, but was told that typically individuals can see both Oceans if they go in February. I definitely recommend this hike to anyone who plans on visiting Panama. From here, I took the public transportation back to Panama City where I spent my last night, before catching my 8AM flight back to Georgetown, Guyana.

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Panama Canal

Here are just a few travel tips for those planning on trips through Panama:

  1. Practice your Spanish, not a lot of Panamanians speak fluent English.
  2. The food in Panama is good and cheap, try to find cheap local restaurants to eat at, you’ll spend $3-$5 USD on meal; it’s even cheaper if you go to a Supermarket to purchase and cook your own food.
  3. Don’t take a cab to the Panama Canal, there are shuttles that offer the same service for 25% of the cost of the cab, same goes for the airport on your way out of Panama, Airport Taxi costs $30 USD, shuttle cost $7 USD.
  4. If you’d like to see a ship go through the Panama Canal, call ahead for their schedule, once in Panama.
  5. If you’d like to go to Bocas del Torro, go to the Albrook Bus Terminal one day in advance and talk to them about a bus ticket. Bus tickets are cheap in Panama, not the most comfortable, but cheap and perfect for the budget backpacker/traveler.
  6. Have fun, take in the culture, chat with some locals, and take some time to go hiking through the trails and waterfalls of Chiriqui.

As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I would be posting a video with photos/videos from the Amazon Jungle trip I took back in March/April of 2015. Here is a link to that video! Hope y’all enjoy!

Just a few updates from Peace Corps Guyana

Camp GLOW Group Photo
Camp GLOW Group Photo

Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) 2015

The last two years, I have had the pleasure of working with Host-Country Nationals (HCN) and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers on the Gender and Development Task Force, to plan a week long youth empowerment/leadership Camp for girls throughout Guyana. This year, Camp GLOW was held at Kuru Kuru Training College for one week in late July. Camp GLOW has been in Guyana for roughly 5 years and is designed to inspire and empower young women to become strong leaders within their communities. This camp focuses on self-esteem, decision-making, goal setting, career planning, communication, healthy lifestyles, and many other important topics.

Currently, we have several large Mini-GLOW Groups that have formed throughout Guyana because of Camp GLOWs, the most notable of these, Linden GLOW Group. The girls who are apart of the Linden GLOW group have went above and beyond with planning their own Annual Mini-GLOWs as well as running a weekly GLOW Show on the local radio station. In an effort to continue to make this sustainable, we are at a stage where we are passing more and more of the tasks on to former GLOW Girls/Counselors/Mentors and GAD/Peace Corps is taking more of a behind the scenes and supportive role for Camp. As a member of GAD, I can honestly say that I am extremely excited to see where GLOW is going as well as other Camps we are currently working on.

Below you can find a few photos from Camp GLOW 2015.

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GUY26 Mid-Service Training (MST)

11791983_10100394632021351_6747025656571482112_oDuring Peace Corps service, you will have a variety of different In-Service Training’s (IST) such as Pre-Service Training (PST), Reconnect, Program and Design Management (PDM), Gender Norms, Mid-Service Training (MST), and Completion of Service (COS). All of these IST’s give volunteers an opportunity to share projects they are currently working on with volunteers/staff members, a chance for volunteers to lime and gaff, and an opportunity to reflect on how your first year of service has went with your challenges and successes.

MST, for Guy 26, went well as we all had the opportunity to re-read our Aspiration Statements that we turned in to Peace Corps Guyana after we received our invitations and reflect on how our service has been compared to what we wrote in our initial Aspiration Statements. For me, I will say that I didn’t foresee how hard some of my challenges would actually be joining the Peace Corps. I will include more on these challenges in a later blog post for all of you to read. After reading our previous Aspiration Statements, we all took the time to write a 2nd year Aspiration Statement, we will revisit these here in a few months when we go to COS conference.

In short, MST was amazing and it was nice to spend one-week with the Peace Corps family known as GUY26.

Other Updates

Guyana's Oldest Church
Guyana’s Oldest Church

In June, I had the opportunity to visit one of the GUY27 volunteers, Emily, who lives in one of the more remote sites here in Guyana, Mallali. Mallali is a small Amerindian village that takes roughly 2 hours to reach via Speedboat from Linden down the Demerara River. As you head down the Demerara river, about an hour into the boat ride, you will stumble upon a church nestled between some trees with a dock, this is known to many as the oldest Church currently in Guyana!

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Grade 6 Graduation

At the end of June, all of the Grade 6 students I have been working with on Health Family Life Education (HFLE) and HIV/AIDS were graduating and moving on to other schools within Region 3. I was asked by the Head Mistress and Grade 6 teacher to be the guest speaker for these students at their Graduation. I will say that this was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had here in Guyana, especially after seeing the amazing progress all of these students have made in the last 6 months that I have been working with them.

Leonora Primary Students at the Guyana Zoo
Leonora Primary Students at the Guyana Zoo

I also had the opportunity of to help chaperone a group of Primary School students from Leonora Primary to the Guyana Zoo on a short little field trip with another GUY27 Volunteer, Kelly. The children had the opportunity to see a lot of the animals that are specific to Guyana, including many birds such as the Macaw, Monkeys, Manatees, etc.

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Region 3 Summer Camps

In early July, PCV’s in Region 3 were asked to help assist the Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Sport with youth camps they were doing in Region 3. These camps focused on sports, healthy coping-skills/methods, healthy eating, art therapy, along with several other topics. I helped assist a camp that was being held in Bellewest with sessions relating to Sports and Health. These camps had students ranging from ages 4-16, so sessions were a challenge to plan considering the large gap of knowledge between the ages of the children. In general, the camps/sessions went really well throughout all of Region 3.

In September (sorry for bouncing around the dates so much) I also had the opportunity to finally visit Parika Beach. It’s a small beach that typically hosts beach parties on Sunday’s, but during the day time, is really quiet and has covered tables that you can sit at and have a small picnic/drink with friends. It is definitely one of the cleanest beaches here in Guyana, and one of my favorite spots, so far.

As for now, you’ve been officially caught up on updates from the last couple of months, minus my visit home/Panama which will come in a separate post. Here are just a few of the posts to look forward to in the near future:

  1. Visit home and traveling through Panama;
  2. Throwback Post on How to Get to French Guiana from Suriname;
  3. Challenges from my first year of Service;
  4. A-Z Travel Guide to Guyana.

Some of these will come at later dates, but they are all in progress and on the horizon of being posted, just now.

Catch y’all later!