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

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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.

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

Life, Then and Now…

I’m back!!!!

After a long break from the blogging world, I have decided it is time to fill y’all in on life here in Guyana the last few months, 9 to be exact. Below I have included a quick slideshow/timeline with a few highlights from each of the months of my service thus far. I would love to go into more detail on what life has been like here in Guyana, but filling you in on 9-10 months of service is quite the task. That said, in the future I will be doing my best to post more frequent updates, hopefully Monthly, that aren’t too lengthy.

Hope you all enjoy, and please stay tuned for a few new updates on traveling in Suriname, French Guiana, and an adventure into the Amazon Jungle.

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Tasty Tuesday: Guyanese Salara

For those that know me personally, you know that I have a soft spot for delicious food and because of that I have decided to incorporate recipes into my blog from time to time. Do bear in mind that recipes do not necessarily exist here in Guyana, everything is made to taste and by scratch, so the amount of ingredients is quite hard to catch. That said, let’s get started!!!

This first recipe is of a traditional Guyanese pastry called Salara, others know it as a Red Coconut Roll. Might I add, if you have a sweet tooth, this recipe will be just for you!

Image
Guyanese Salara

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening

Filling:

  • 2 Coconuts (Shredded, yields ~ 2 cups coconut)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon or nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • Strawberry food coloring

 

  1. Put flour, shortening, sugar, water, and yeast into a big mixing bowl.
  2. Knead all ingredients in the bowl until you make a stiff dough. Shape the dough into a ball and let sit for about 1 hour or until it expands to about double in size.
  3. While waiting for dough to expand, start creating the filling, add the following ingredients into a bowl:
    1. Coconut
    2. 1/2 cup sugar
    3. 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
    5. Strawberry food coloring
  4. Once ingredients are in the bowl, mix them up until all of the filling is red in color. Cover and let sit until dough is ready.
  5. Once dough is ready, punch down dough and divide it into 2 separate pieces.
  6. Take the first piece and roll it into a large rectangle, nothing smaller then a 12×8 rectangle.
  7. Next, get the filling bowl and spread have of the filling evenly across the piece of dough.
  8. Slowly roll the dough with the filling, starting at the top and moving down. Once the dough is rolled, close the ends and place on a baking pan.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 for second roll.
  10. Once both rolls are placed in the baking pan lightly coat with honey for added flavor, cover and let sit until over preheats to 375 degrees.
  11. Once oven is preheated, place pan in oven and let bake for 20-30 minutes.

This recipe will yield enough Salara for roughly 10 people and is a very nice welcoming into the Guyanese food culture! Hope you all enjoy!!

-J

 

Week 4: Job Description

Image
The Health Center I am currently working at, in a small village called Supply.

The last couple of weeks I have been receiving many emails regarding my actual job here in Guyana. As many of you know, I accepted my invitation to serve as a Community Health Promoter. This blog will hopefully give you a general idea of what I will be doing the next 2+ years here in Guyana.

To start, here are a few main facts about the project itself. The project is titled EH!PICC, which stands for Engaging Health Partners and Individuals for Community Change. Within this program, we have a few overall objectives:

  1. Maternal, Infant, and Child Health Promotion
  2. Life Skills for Healthy Behaviors

This is my Primary project while here in Guyana… That said, what I will do is not limited to these specific areas as my specific job function may change a little depending on my actual Placement here in Guyana. Luckily for me, I have experience in both Health and Education, therefore that opens the door for opportunities to teach within the school system as well.

With that, I will again bullet point a few of the key points of my experiences within the Health Center and Primary School these last two weeks:

  • Health Center: At the local health center I have learned how to read charts, distribute medications to patients with chronic diseases, and how to give antenatal exams.
  • Primary School: I have been to the Primary School one time, which was supposed to be an observation. During this first school visit, we did not observe, we taught a lesson with no preparation. Not knowing what to teach, we worked with what we knew and what we hoped the kids would know within the school. We did a lesson on Nutrition by looking at what the children ate and applied it to the food pyramid (which is outdated, I know) but it went really well, and we were able to get the kids actively involved in the lesson itself.

The first experience within the schools gave all of us a quick glimpse of what is is like the be an actual Peace Corps Volunteer working within the schools. The expectation is there, when you walk in the door to have a lesson planned for the students, regardless if you are there to teach or to observe. Overall though, it was an amazing experience and we know now what to expect next time we go into the schools.

Anyways, this blog was a stretch to write as I am extremely distracted, so hopefully there is some sort of structure to the blog itself. Again, stay tuned for more in the future!!!

-J

Staging!!!!

Staging_email

As many of have learned, the process for Peace Corps is and can seem very long and exhausting. One of the last steps after getting invited, and getting medically cleared is to wait for that infamous “Staging” email.

When you get your invitation, it lists a few dates: (1) Orientation Dates, (2) Pre-Service Training Dates, and (3) Service dates. All of these dates are “subject to change” if the need arises. With that the Orientation date is your staging date, the location of staging varies based off your country of service and international flight availability, for us in Guy26, we got Miami, Florida.

After receiving this email, you are instructed to call the Peace Corps and let them book both your flight and hotel for you. They will book a flight that allows you to get to the city staging is in for your group and will get you to your orientation on time. This “Orientation” is a brief 7-8 hour time where you get acquainted with the Peace Corps mission and standards, as well as meet the others you will be spending the next 27 months with.

The next dates are the Pre-Service Training (PST) dates and Service dates. These dates give you an idea of how long your in-country PST will last and when the official “start” and “finish” dates of your service with the Peace Corps. I will provide more details on these in the near future.

As for now, I have come to realize that the amount of uncertainty that lies within the full process has been both stressful, yet exciting. But, knowing that on April 27th I will be leaving my hometown in Oregon with a one way ticket to Miami, then another to Guyana, is quite a crazy feeling. These next few weeks I will use to spend time with close friends and family to say my brief goodbyes and prepare for the unknown journey that lies ahead.

-J