Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Early Termination: Thoughts A Year And Some Months Later

My decision to end my Peace Corps service early is something, even over a year later, that I still struggle with.  Its not that my reasons for leaving weren't valid, its more that I wish I hadn't left because of them.  Well its true that my PC experience wasn't particularly good, I can't help but wonder if it would have gotten better, or would I have spend another year unhappy with what I was doing and at odds with staff? That's something I can't answer and wish I could.  Looking back, I'd rather be able to say that I stayed, whether things improved or not, and be able to answer that question.

The students I was working with and myself are the ones who lost the most when I left. I lost experiences, opportunities, and now face the rather difficult task of explaining to people, potential employers, who have never been in PC, why I left. I lost out on more that I will ever know, an experience that I will never get back. The friends made during PC service share experiences that bond them, and if you aren't there for those experiences, that bond diminishes. I lost what could have been great friends because I wasn't there. That's not to say I'm not still friends with some people from my group, I am, just not as many and its not the same as it would have been had I stayed. And I feel like I failed, which isn't something I'm used to. But if nothing else, I learned never to make the mistake of quitting early again.

I'm not the only person from my group to leave.  Other's ET'd before me, some were medically separated (though I don't think they were all unhappy about that), and others left for various other reasons. From the few I've talked to since returning, I don't think they have struggled with their decision to ET as much as I have.  I can't seem to get over it.  I wish I had taken more time to make the decision. I wish things had been different, that I had tried harder, that I had better training (or an assignment I was qualified for), that I had done whatever I had to in order to stay.  I wish I could have a redo, a second chance, but that's not a possibility.

Applying for PC is a long process and I had been excited about serving.  The reality of PC is nothing like what I had expected.  I knew the work would be challenging, that being away from home and family would be a struggle sometimes, that integrating into my community would take work.  What I didn't expect was the absolute lack of support I received from staff.

My advice for new volunteers is to keep your head down, don't make trouble, get through training, go to your site and have as little to do with staff as possible. Make your service your own, don't let others interfere with it, though I'm sure that's easier said than done.

I miss my community, the friends I made, I missed being there for my friends pregnancy and getting to meet her baby, and the opportunities that I missed and will continues to miss out on. This isn't to say that everyone regrets leaving, I'm just one who does.  If ETing is the right decision for you, do for it, just make sure its what you really want as there is no turning back.

If you're considering ETing, have ET'd, just have questions and or want to talk, feel free to message me.

Missing it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What Happens When a PCVs Computer Dies?

The answer to this can vary and it depends on how much the PCV relies on her computer.  For me, it meant no blog posts for 4 months and using the internet/skyping through my old iPhone.  Also, stir-craziness and crafting can, and did, increase. Ends up you can make pretty cute boxy things out of toilet paper rolls! My computer is my connection to the world outside of Guyana.  It's how I keep in touch with people at home and (somewhat obsessively) plan for post-Peace Corps, from looking at grad-schools to planning out my backpacking trip at the very end.  I have a lot of free time and my computer allows me to watch movies and re-watch TV shows from home.  It helps make time go a little faster and keep craziness at bay.

Now, to play catch-up.  School started again in September and is not winding down for the Christmas vacation.  Guyana celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. I spent the night going to different neighbors, visiting, and helping to light Diyas, small bowls filled with oil that are lit to signify the triumph of good over evil.  People put, generally, somewhere over 100 of these around their homes and let them burn all night.  At first this seemed a little dangerous since most homes are made of wood, but, at least in my community, all was fine!

In the days leading up to and the day of, people were setting off fireworks, little bomb things, and sparklers.  The fireworks and sparklers were fun, but the bomb things startled me every time! I went for a walk with two of my neighbors Diwali night and swear I almost got hit with the stupid things!
It was really a fun night and the Diyas all around were beautiful.  And we had a blackout for a few hours, so they also provided light.

Other than that, I don't think too much has happened in the last few months. I've settled into a routine that just isn't exciting enough to write about.   I just returned from a visit home, but there will be more to come on that later. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Hard

Being away from home, missing family and friends, living in another culture, feeling underprepared and underqualified, handwashing your clothes, constantly being on the lookout for critters in your house, feeling pressured by your work and unproductive compared to other volunteers and your own expectations.  All of these things are hard to live with.  Really hard. 

Going into Peace Corps, I knew it was going to be difficult and a challenge to my boundaries.  I've lived abroad before, I knew before leaving for PC what to expect, was as prepared for it as I could be, but knowing that doesn't make being here easier.  What experience does provide is the knowledge that the onslaught of feelings and stresses eventually eases, its a constant ebb and flow, highs and lows.  Almost constantly emotionally draining.  Among volunteers here, being exhausted by 6pm and in bed by 8pm is pretty normal. 

We had our Re-Connect conference last month, and it was amazing, and crazy, and comfortable, almost too comfortable.  For a week all 31volunteers from GUY24 were in a nice hotel with hot showers, AC, 3 meals a day (plus snacks!), American TV, and the presence of friends, some of whom we hadn't seen since swear-in 3.5 months earlier.  It was great while it lasted, but coming back to site after was difficult.  I went from being with people, friends, constantly to spending lots of time alone (though I do spend a good portion of each day visiting with neighbors), back to my house, which never seems clean, and with none of the luxuries of hotel life.

Homesickness set in. We all go through ups and downs while we're here, and it's hard to cling to the ups while in the downs.  I was lucky the first few months and didn't have too many downs and rarely got homesick.  Adjusting back to regular life after living in a mini-America for a week sucks. I've definitely had more ups and downs recently then I did the first few months, but it's to be expected and I knew it was coming.  I miss family a lot, but I even miss the general conveniences of home and even the culture, which I can complain endlessly about but which is still normal and comforting.  I crave access to a variety of restaraunts, Trader Joes, Target, my favorite clothing stores, and basic materialistic goods that I don't have here, and in reality don't need, but that I find comfort and normalacy in.  I wouldn't trade this experience for those things, but I can't forget that they exist.

It's also summer vacation right now, which means lots of down time.  This is nice, alows for some quality relaxing and hammock time, but also just too much free time to fill.  When I applied for PC I knew from what I'd heard that I would have lots of free time and read a lot of books.  I just underestimated how much.  Once school starts up again I know I'll be busier and am hoping to start some projects outside of school, but for now I have time to be out in my community, spending time with neighbors, meeting new people, and getting to know the culture, and traveling to visit other volunteers. 

My feelings seems to be in a near constant flux, changing by the minute, hour, day, week.  But this is good.  It means when I am feeling homesick, frustrated, stressed, etc, that I know it will change, thinkgs will get better. In the end, while being here is hard, I know it will be worth it. 

I saw a quote recently that says, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."  Well, I'm out of my comfort zone, so I must be living life, hopefully to its fullest. 

And I know I've been a slacker about keeping this up to date, but I promise another blog with what I've actually been doing the last 3 months will be coming soon :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Life: 3 Months In

I've now been in Guyana for just over 3 months and at site for just over 1 month.  Time is a little crazy here; the days go by pretty slowly, the weeks fly by, and the months just seem to come and go.  When I think of being here in the terms of 2 years, I won't lie, I panic a bit.  Two years is a long time. But I think its going to be over before I realize it.  Guy22 has been leaving gradually over the last month, and watching them go has been...strange.  It's odd to think that in 2 years, my group will be the one leaving, that our time here will be over.  For now, that seems far off and I prefer to think in the shorter term (while obsessively looking at Master's programs for after)  and give myself things to look forward to.  This makes 2 years much less daunting.

During the week my life is pretty tame and I live on a schedule that goes something like this:

7:00-alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.

7:05-alarm goes off again. Either get up or hit snooze.

7:08-7:18-Enter bathroom, first checking for strange animals/creepy crawlies, once I've determined it safe, enter bathroom and have cold shower.
7:20-7:40-figure out what I clean/mostly clean clothes I have that match/somewhat match and get dressed.

7:40-7:45-look in fridge to determine if there is food for breakfast. Probably not.

7:45-8:05-alternately look on fb and lay in hammock. Maybe both. At the same time.

8:05-8:15-get ready to leave

8:15-8:45-walk to school. Hopefully its not raining.

8:45-3:00-at work. Trying to figure out what I'm doing/how to do it.

3:00-3:30-walk home in the blazing hot sun.

3:30-6:00-hang out at my neighbors and play with cute kids and/or veg at home on the internet.

6:00-8:30-at home. probably not doing much.

8:30-take laptop, go to bed, and fall asleep while watching movie.

8:30-7:05-Alternately be woken up by: dogs barking, trucks, and other strange sounds. Eventually remember that, yes, I do have ear plugs. Back to sleep.

I love my community and all my neighbors who have been nothing but welcoming.  The babies across the canal from me who I spend time with almost every day have learned to (kind of) say my name! I've now been taken to 3 different Mandir's and given (pretty bad) impromptu speeches at all. I've been to yoga at one of the Mandir's twice now.  I love it, but its more aerobic than what I've done at home.  I mean, I've never done squats or jumping jacks in a yoga class before.  There is also what I would consider normal, relaxing yoga, as well.

Work is a little crazy, though that's mostly because I still don't feel particularly confident in what I'm doing.  Teaching literacy is a lot harder that I expected, but I'm figuring it out.  I'm doing pull-out groups with just the lowest readers from each grade.  My classes have just started, but I'm hopeful they'll go well.  I'm going to take pictures at some point, but my school is basically a one-room wooden building on stilts.  The classrooms are divided by chalkboards, and the library and computer lab have their own rooms downstairs.

As for my house...well...it's been interesting.  I live in the downstairs and a family lives upstairs, but the stairs have been sealed, so its totally separate.  Maybe 2 weeks ago I had a tarantula, scary hairy legs and all, fall on me while I was in the shower. Definitely one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.  Though screaming, I was coherent enough to grab my towel as I ran away.  When no one responded to my shrieks of horror, I realized I was going to have to deal with the situation myself.  I put on my lime-green rainboots, grabbed my broom, and re-entered the chamber of horrors, also known as my bathroom.  With the assistance of my handy broom, I was able to kill the furry legged critter and continue on with my day, though I remain skeptical when entering the bathroom.

 Spider that fell on me in the shower. Death by broom.

Then it happened again.  Not a tarantula falling from the sky onto me, but critters invading.  I was contentedly laying in my hammock one night last week when I saw what I thought was a bat fly by.  I promptly screamed, leaped up, and went to see it where it landed on the window in my kitchen. Thankfully, it wasn't a bat, just a giant moth.  Unfortunately, that wasn't to be the end of my terror that night.  Once I realized it wasn't a bat, I became aware of other things.  There was a tarantula on my wall.  Yes, another black, furry, terrifying spider.  More screaming followed. Though that would be enough for any person for one night, I then noticed a big crappo (frog the emits some kind of poison when you get to close to it) and a baby crappo.  I now had a giant moth, a tarantula, and 2 frogs to cope with.

First, the worst of the offenders had to be dealt with.  The tarantula needed to go. I tried spraying it with Fish Spray (like Baygon, it kills bugs).  That only made it angry and run towards me. Insert more screaming. Realizing that wasn't going to work, I once again grabbed my broom and started trying to beat it to death.  It just wouldn't die! Every time I thought it had finally met its end, it would stop playing dead and come at me again.

At this point Tasha, my friend who lives upstairs, having heard all my yelping came down to help.  She was able to successfully kill the dreaded tarantula, and, with more yelps from both of us, we ushered the frogs away.  A carpenter is supposed to be coming this week to put screens on my windows and do something about the broken door that the frogs came in from and hopefully my land lord will be doing something to help keep the spiders away.  I don't know how many more tarantulas I can handle. Other than that, my house is nice.

My weekends are packed full.  I spend a lot of time in Georgetown (Town), have done 2 more has runs, which have both been fun and involved me getting caught in the rain and the 2nd wading through some pretty gross trenches, at night, and having to scoot around the cows and goats in the path.  Last Saturday was a holiday, Arrival Day, and I went to the nearby park with another PCV, Holly, to see the floats that were build like old houses and watch/listen to some Indian dancing/singing.

To go back in time a bit, Easter, which is celebrated on Monday here, was also lots of fun.  I painted eggs with friends, most were hard boiled, but we did do one the hard way: blowing the yoke out through a pin prick.  Hard work. I went to National Park and saw hundreds of kites being flown.  Kites are flown to symbolize the spirit of Jesus rising to Heaven.

I also went to Leguan, a secluded beach in the Essoquibo River, with some friends. There was some fire-side cooking, swimming in the rain, and general fun hanging out.

And I do get some awesome sunsets...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hash Run

On Sunday I participated in my first ever Hash Run.  No, it's not what you're thinking.  These runs are done all over the world and it's basically a group of people who get together to do runs in different parts of the country.  It's not a marathon and I would say about 1/2 the people doing it, including me, walked it.  This run was in my region, which is why I went, and took us through some beautiful areas, including sugar cane fields.

The most entertaining part of the day was before the run even began when I was at the sea wall with a few others when Holly decided she wanted to touch the water.  Now, the tide was in so the water wasn't quite to the wall, but leading up to the wall is like slanted stone and slippery when wet.  So, of course, Holly fell in.  And couldn't get out.  Another PCV, Ricky, tried to rescue her.  Only he ended up slipping into the water as well.  With everything, including his phone, in his pocket.  Now, with 2 people in the water, a human chain was started to get them out.  It was really pretty entertaining to watch, though they did reek afterward. 

Anyway, after the run there was plenty of food and drinks.  It was a beautiful walk, a lot of fun, and I hope to be doing more of these runs/walks in different parts of Guyana.  Apparently they do some in the jungle!!!!

Also, I have my permanent address.  Letters and package always appreciated.  I love getting snail mail :-)

Lot 18
Canal #1
West Bank Demerara
Guyana, South America

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I'm officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! All 32 of us made it through training and became PCVs! It's actually the 1st time in at least 3 years that no one has dropped out during training, so YAY! We spent the week in a hotel in Georgetown having some sessions and hanging out.  The hotel even had AC and hot water!!!! Heavenly! This was on top of a pool and internet.  Pure amazingness.  It was a really good week.  It was great to all get to be together, including the remote people, and spend some time together before we head off in our own directions.

For the ceremony some of us dressed up in traditional outfits.  The remote people wore traditional Amerindian accessories, from grass skirts (over dresses/pants), to feather head pieces.  Some wore traditional African outfits, and others, including myself, wore traditional Indian outfits.  It really depended a lot on what ethnicity our host families were and it was a lot of fun.  Getting a sari on so that it doesn't fall off is really hard!
 All the girls in saris

The Minister of Health, a representative from the Ministry of Education, and the U.S. Ambassador were among the speakers.  It was a nice ceremony, with two great speeches from fellow just-sworn-in volunteers, and an absolutely awesome video put together by Matt, that was probably the biggest highlight.

Anyway....I'M A PCV!!!!

 Korea poses

 The group with the Minister of Health, Ambassador Hart, Rep. from the Ministry of Education, our Country Director Brennan Brewer

Friday, March 30, 2012

Phagwah, Site Placement (!), and HFA

A lot has been going on in the last few days.  Thursday was Phagwah, Friday was site placement, and Saturday was Host Family Appreciation day.  So, I'm going to start by telling you about....


Phagwah is a Hindu festival of colors and is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil and the beginning of a new season, Spring. People go around throwing colored powder or colored we powder stuff at each other.  If you want to stay clean, the streets aren't safe. Just as a tidbit, the colored powder is basically dyed baby-powder and generally comes off of skin and out of clothes.  The wet stuff...well, if you're blonde your going to have multicolored hair for a while.  And its not going to come out of your clothes. 

I went to the Indian Cultural Center with a PCV and another friend.  It was amazing! There was tons of bright colored powder, kids with water-guns (to be avoided at all costs), and lots of fun.  The Prime Minister was there and he was also very effectively Phagwahed.  Its actually amazing the access people have to their public officials here.  If anyone tried throwing colored power on out VP, they would be taken down before the powder had a chance to hit.  Here, its totally acceptable, expected, to Phagwah officials.  I was an amazing experience and I can't wait to do it again next year!

Shaleenie, Me, Princess


We got our site placements! And as I'm writing this a little late, we've also has site visits!  I will be staying in West Demerara in Canal #1 Village! Not sure exactly what my new address will be, but I'll let you know when I do!  I'm going to be working at Two Brother's Primary school working mostly with teaching literacy to low-readers, phonics, and some Health and Family Life Education! It's a great school, only 97 students, 5 teachers, and a head mistress who seems pretty awesome!
Canal #1 is about 15-20 minutes from where I'm living during training.  I have mixed emotions about this.  I love the area, its super close to the capital, close to my friends and host family, but it's nowhere new.  I'm also 7 miles down the canal and the only food source are the fruit trees and small snack stands...so I'll be coming out frequently to get food.  I don't have another volunteer very close by, but its easy to get to Georgetown and there are 2 others from my group (Guy24) as well as a bunch of people from Guy23 here too!  

The area is actually pretty rural, especially considering its proximity to Georgetown.  I have goats, cows, chickens/roosters, and other random animals roaming around my yard as well as 2 dogs that come with my new place.  I'm living in the downstairs of a house with a family above.  The 2 dogs are actually the family's, but there outdoor dogs and always on my doorstep.  And super friendly.  My place is big, much bigger than I was expecting, with 2 bedrooms (that both have beds!), a big living area, and a bathroom that may be a little sketch.  It also cam with a hammock! Love! And gets lots of light!

But on to my sketch bathroom.  It's really not bad.  It's just that almost every time I opened the door there was another critter. This is how The Bathroom Saga went:

1. Giant spider=bashed to death by rolling pin.  Body left to rot.
2. Frog. Ignored. 
3.  Spider body gone.  Frog not to be found.
4.  Another giant spider.  Too fast for death my rolling pin.  Score: Me-1, Spider-1
5.  Return of the frog.  Put on my yellow rubber gloves, scared the frog, it peed, eventually got it into the bucket and outside.  

I also went through an insane amount of Baygon killing other flying insects.  Pretty sure I inhaled an unsafe amount...

I love my new home, I think I'm going to enjoy living in the Canal, and I can't wait for school to start!  Also, I have plenty of space for any of you to come visit me :-)

When it came to actually getting our assignments the PC staff had us play a game of bingo and each site and who was there was revealed one by one.  It was kind of torturous wondering when it was going to be you, but also really fun :)

 The Weapon

 The Victim

 The Cleaning Crew

My home!


The day after we got our site assignments was Host Family Appreciation day.  We prepared food, had a talent show of sorts, played games, ate, and expressed our appreciation for our families.  I absolutely love my host family, so it was something I wanted them to enjoy.  It actually started a little rocky due to bad weather and a lack of electricity, but we were able to pull it together and it was really a lot of fun!
A group of us did an "Indian" dance.  We practiced a few times beforehand, but we ended up editing about 5 minutes before. It wasn't the most perfect/coordinated of dances, but it was good, we had fun doing it, and the families enjoyed it, either despite or because of the mistakes I can't say for sure.


  Everyone with their families