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 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!!!!

 

 

 

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.

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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)

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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!!

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Hope you all have a wonderful day!

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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!

June 2015 Updates

Another month has quickly passed here in Guyana, and with the departure of Guy25 Volunteers, the addition of Guy27 Volunteers, school coming to an end, Camp GLOW quickly approaching, Mid-Service Training (MST) around the corner, and a visit home to visit family and friends in September, it seems as if this upcoming year will go by even quicker then the first. For now, though, let’s get to the updates of what “actually” happened this month. Mashabo (Region 2)

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Mashabo Lake

After being in Guyana for just over year, I have had the opportunity to visit a lot of the different sites that other volunteers live in. With that I have learned that the most beautiful places in Guyana aren’t necessarily those that people know about, but they are the little villages/hikes that are off the beaten path, not in travel guides or travel blogs, and are the places that will give you a more unique experience to the cultures and lifestyles here in Guyana.

The Mashabo hike is one of those off the beaten path adventures here in Guyana. We started the morning catching the 5 AM ferry to cross the Essequibo River going from Parika to Supenaam, where we caught a car to a side road just before Aurora. We then walked for about 30 minutes to the beginning of the trail that sits around the beautiful man made lake. The trail around the lake takes roughly 2-3 hours to complete depending on how quick you walk the trail. Once you reach Mashabo, there are plenty of places that you can take a quick dip in the water to cool off after the hike. After we got our feet wet and had a quick lunch, we caught a cheap boat ($500 GYD) to head back to the trail entrance.

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Group that walked the Mashabo rim trail!

World Map Project I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Maura (Guy25) and Genelle (Guy26) on the World Map Project that she did with her school at Windsor Forest Primary in Region 3. Here are a couple pictures of the process and finished product.

Guy27 Swearing-In

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Guy27

On July 8, 2015, another group of Peace Corps Volunteers have been sworn in here in Guyana, 42 to be exact. This group of health and education volunteers will be working in Health Centers/Posts, Schools, with local NGOs, and working in the area of Deaf-Education. They are spread out through Regions 1-6, and Region 10 here in Guyana, in both Coastal and Rural (Hinterland) sites. Cheers to making it through training, and I know I don’t speak for myself when I say that this next year will be great and nothing less then memorable, glad to be sharing this next year with all of y’all! — Here are a few more photos of what’s gone on this last month. Please stay tuned for a bunch of updates this upcoming month with Camp GLOW and MST right around the corner.

May 2015: Events, Elections, Holidays, and the jist…

May has been one of the most eventful months here in Guyana including 3 public holidays, elections, a Hindu wedding, and all of this while trying to prepare for the end of the school year. So let’s start at the beginning!!

A Trip To Waramuri Mission

Coconut Water
Coconut Water

At the beginning of the month, I had the opportunity to visit one of the most remote volunteers currently serving here in Guyana up in Region 1. To reach her site from Georgetown you take Bus 32 to Parika, where you can either catch a ferry or speedboat to cross the Essequibo River to reach Supenaam, followed by a hired car that will take you to Charity, and here you will board your final speedboat that will take you down the Pomeroon River and into the Atlantic Ocean before you turn inland to go down a creek where you reach her site that sits on top of a sandy hill. The trip there was only half as good as the experience at her site. The community was extremely welcoming and nights were filled with playing Volleyball, Football, and teaching some of the locals how to Line Dance. The days were filled with paddling in hand carved canoes, along with Health Outreach trips down the river with the opportunity to try fresh coconut water and freshly baked Cassava bread for the first time.

Holidays In Guyana

  • Labour Day (May 1, 2015) – Labour Day is a holiday celebrated by the working class of Guyana. During this day, in Georgetown, you will find lots of locals marching the streets together to represent their rights and freedom within the workforce.
  • Indian Arrival Day (May 5, 2015) – This day celebrates the arrival of East Indians to the country of Guyana which happened on May 8, 1838. Most East Indians came to Guyana to work in sugar plantations, and currently make up nearly 50% of the population.  There isn’t a large celebration for this holiday, but you will find a lot of mini-celebrations happening within their villages.
  • Independence Day (May 26, 2015) – Guyana gained their independence in May of 1966. Here in Guyana, there is a huge celebration at the Stadium where many of the locals unite as one to celebrate the Independence of Guyana.

Weddings In Guyana

Guyana is the land of many cultures, and with that each culture has different traditions for major life events such as weddings.

As most volunteers will tell you, Hindu weddings don’t usually last 1 day, they usually last a minimum of 2 and sometimes 3+ days and are filled with lots of music, dancing, and good times. The most important things that happen during this time are the pre- and post-wedding rituals that include the father giving away his daughter and the seven step ritual where each step corresponds with a vow that the groom makes to the bride.

Elections

Elections in Guyana happen once every 5 years, and this year the voting took place on May 11, 2015. During this week, all volunteers were either asked to standfast which meant to stay inside their homes as a safety precaution in case anything were to happen or consolidated. Minor protests did occur near the countries capital, Georgetown, but for the most part everyone remained in their homes because everything (stores/shops/transportation) was shut down for the week.

On May 15, the Final Results were released for the election and the results showed that the opposing party, the APNU, won the election by just a couple thousand votes. This is a big change for Guyana as the Ministry’s are currently in the process of implementing changes in policy/curriculum and most importantly changes in Leadership across the Ministry’s.

Stay tuned for more details on this in the future.

Colored Pencil Project

A few months back at our PDM (Program and Design Management) Conference, the Colored Pencil Project (CPP) had done a quick presentation and donated a bunch of colored pencils for us to use within our communities.

I thought that the CPP would be a great opportunity to wrap-up the school year with my Grade 5 and Grade 6 students at the Primary school. Here are a few photos from the first day of the CPP. Stay tuned for another post with more photos of the CPP.

A few other photo updates…

Where the Essequibo meets the Atlantic
Where the Essequibo meets the Atlantic

April 2015: Peace Corps, So Far…

“Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but about the journey itself.” – Author Unknown

Brazil and the Amazon Jungle

You may think that a trip to the Amazon Jungle is an adventure itself, it is, but you need to get there first, and that’s how this adventure began. We started our journey in Georgetown, Guyana where we boarded an overnight bus to Lethem that lasted roughly 21+ hours, went through 500+ miles of unpaved roads, and included 3 flat tires. We then transferred into another mini-bus where we crossed the border to Brazil, followed by a taxi to Boa Vista where we boarded another night bus heading to Manaus, the major hub for all Amazon Jungle trips. This was a very nice bus ride, minus the midnight interrogation by the Brazilian Armed Forces armed with machine guns while we were half asleep. Once in Manaus, we took a taxi to Hostel Manaus, where we stayed for 1 night. The following morning, our tour company Iguana Turismo picked us up to take us to another boat where we crossed the Rio Negro and Amazon Rivers. Once we arrived at shore, we took 1 more bus for about 1.5 hours to reach a little creek where we boarded our last boat ride that lasted about 1 hour where we ended at Juma Jungle Lodge, the place we stayed for our Amazon Trip. The trip didn’t take too long, only about 2.5 days of traveling. The jungle tour itself started and stayed on a high note for the 4 days we were there. During this time we got the opportunity to hold a Sloth, Caiman, catch and eat Piranha, sleep in a hammock in the Jungle, trek through the Amazon, swim in the river, see Pink Dolphins, and see the beautiful sunrise over the river. After the tour, we spent a few more days exploring the wonderful city of Manaus, where we went to a small secluded beach off an island in the river, saw a show at the Manaus Opera House, and enjoyed many amazing Brazilian dishes.

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Camp BRO Guyana

Every year the Peace Corps Guyana Gender and Development Task Force plans a large Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) that focuses on empowering teenage girls here in Guyana. With the success we have had on Camp GLOW, we decided to start from scratch and design a Camp BRO (Boys Redefining Others) that focuses on Gender Stereotypes, Self-Identity, and other important topics for boys aged 10-11. This year we had our first Camp BRO in Region 2, and it was a major success as we learned what went well and what things we can spend more time on trying to improve for future Camp BROS. Please stay tuned for more updates on Camp BRO in the near future. 11149257_10152999628267639_286892497314709852_n Region 3: Santa Mission

This month I also got the opportunity to visit one of the volunteers who lives in a more rural site here in Guyana, she has a blog that you can also follow HERE. She lives in Santa Mission and it is a small village in Region 3 that you can only reach by boat. From Georgetown you take Bus 42 to the Timehri docks, and board a boat that crosses the Demerara and takes you down Kamuni creek for about 45 mins to 1 hour, and you reach the sandy hill where Santa Mission lies. This is a very small community of about 200 residents that has a nice spot to swim, lots of trails to hike/run through, and a community craft shop that sells traditional hand woven Amerindian baskets, coasters, and the likes. This village will also be the site of the Guyana Trail Marathon that will be held this upcoming November. Kelly posted a blog about the planning of this marathon here: Creating A Marathon. A group of us volunteers have decided to support this marathon and some will be running the 10k, the Half Marathon, and some the full Marathon.

Other Update’s

As many of you have noticed, I haven’t posted many things over the course of the last year… That said, I just passed my 1 year anniversary since I have arrived here in Guyana and the plan is to post more regularly on what’s going on throughout my service. But I’ll do my best to catch y’all up just briefly right here. Since January, I have been working at my Health Center 2 days a week assisting the Health Workers with Infant/Child Clinic. During these days, we have on average 30 patients, and sometimes up to 70-80 patients. During this clinic, we weigh the children, and give the parents a brief interview ensuring the child hasn’t been sick and is following the normal growth and development pattern. We then give them another date for their return visit which will be between 1 and 6 months depending on the age of the child. The last 3 days of the week I spend my time in Stewartville (a village near Leonora) teaching HIV/AIDS to both Grade 5 and Grade 6 students at the Primary School, and teaching Health Family Life Education (HFLE) to Grade 7 and Grade 8 students at the Secondary School. We cover topics such as sexual health, goal setting, decision making, health communication, etc. in these classes. During the weekends I spend my free time doing typical household chores such as washing my clothes, cleaning my house, and going to Market in town to get my vegetables for the week. If I am not doing chores, I am usually hanging out in my hammock watching TV Shows on my laptop, reading, or doing work for the Gender and Development Task Force that I am apart of here in Guyana, because as you know, a volunteers job never ends. But as many people would agree, every day in the Peace Corps seems to take forever, but somehow time still flies by. The next group of volunteers have already arrived here in Guyana and have been here for nearly 2 weeks. It seems like just yesterday that I arrived here with my group, Guy26. Last, but not least, two more friends have sadly departed Guyana to pursue others goals. You both will be missed greatly here in Guyana, but the memories we’ve created over the last year will last a life time… I look forward to seeing both of you in the near future!

That’s it for now… Stay tuned for the next update!!!!!

– J

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