Life Update: 6 Months in Country!

I’m alive! I know it’s been a few months since I last posted, but this is one of the few opportunities that I can get wifi on my laptop to post on my blog! I promise I’ll try to update more often going forward šŸ™‚ So much has happened since swearing-in as an official PCV in August – here are some of the highlights.

School

As the first term of school comes to an end, I can hardly believe the time has passed this quickly. Soon after arriving at site, I met a bunch of teachers, along with my wonderful counterpart, who I am co-teaching HFLE with. School officially started the first Monday in September – but as with starting anything new, nothing like getting off to a bumpy start than a teachers strike! The first week of school, most teachers in Guyana and all the teachers at my school went on strike. As volunteers, we are not allowed to participate in political expression in our host country aka we’re not allowed to strike, so at school that the first week was a few administrative staff, 800 students, and me. What a way to start off service, right? Although it was overwhelming at first, I met a lot of students that the first week, and was able to get familiar with the school, so I call that a win. An agreement was made between the government and the teachers, so the strike ended after that week, and back to normal school. Or so I thought…

The first academic term of the school year is also known as sports term – meaning that all students are able to participate in a variety of sports – track and field events, cricket, circle tennis, etc. It also means that classes got interrupted on a weekly basis for about a month so these competitions could take place. Competitions took place between students in the school, and the winners then advanced to inter-school (competing against schools in the area) and inter-branch (competing against schools in the region) and if you topped all of that, off to nationals you go! There are some really fast kids in my school, and they even have a teacher’s competitions, and the headmaster at my school was so fast he made it all the way to nationals! I uh…am training for next year!

Pictured above: A fellow teacher and I brave the sun at day 3 of sports. During competitions within the school, everyone is divided into different “houses” named after local Amerindian missions to compete against each other. This is Team Whyaka’s awesome banner!

In the middle of sports came International Teacher’s Day on October 5th. Here, the holiday is widely celebrated to show appreciation to the local teachers. The kids in my homeroom class threw my counterpart and I a fabulous party complete with cake, a little bubbly (non-alcoholic of course), a program of dancing and singing, and presents (pictured to the right).

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In the afternoon, all the students were dismissed and the school whisked us all off to Lake Capoey for an afternoon of food and fun. My first Teachers Day was a day I’ll never forget.

With all of the events going on, there has been a lot of interruption to regular classes, but I did still manage to get some teaching in this term! Something that I’ve struggled with is classroom management. Never having formally taught in a classroom before, I knew this was going to be a rough start, and hopefully learn along the way. It’s difficult, and often very frustrating to command the attention of 30 students while also providing them with valuable information in a student-centered, non-boring kind of way. Hats off to teachers everywhere – you are all true super heroes. Other volunteers and teachers have been having the same issue so I’ve gotten a lot of tips that so far seem to be working, and I am very thankful for that.

Some of my students doing the human knot activity. Teaches problem-solving and communication skills!

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Other events at the school this term included graduation, and coming up in a few days – Christmas Social. Graduation is held for the previous year’s students in November because the students CSEC examination results don’t come out until August. Not sure why its November specifically, but all the secondary schools have their graduations around this time. And when I say graduation, I mean prom. Dress-wise of course. Students come dressed in their uniforms, but everyone else (Teachers especially) pull out the best and the brightest new dresses from their closets to dress up for the occasion. It’s the must-attend event of the season! During graduation, they give out trophies to the students, and recognize the top performers in school and on the CSEC exams. I’m pretty sure the top student walked away with atleast 20 trophies! Coming up in a few days is the students Christmas Social, where they get to come to school dressed up, instead of in uniform and have a party with all their friends to celebrate the upcoming holiday season. The kids are getting so excited, and I can’t wait to see them all dressed up!

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Stage set up for Graduation. Look at all those trophies!

Community

Along with all the craziness at school, I’ve also been getting acclimated to my community. For the first 5 months, volunteers live in their communities with a host family, before moving into independent housing (if you want to). Since August, I’ve been living with my wonderful host mom, Aunty Meno, who has really become my mom-away-from-mom here in Guyana.

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Aunty Meno and I at Essequibo Nite!

She’s an amazing woman, who spoils me rotten and keeps me sane! She is so welcoming and open-minded and opens her home to any of my fellow volunteers who need a place to crash, some food, or just someone to gaff with. I am so thankful for her. She’s also a landlady, so when my five month homestay is up, she’s going to let me rent one of her apartments – a mere 20 ft away from her house (which is the best part). She’s been introducing me to all kinds of people in the community, and neighboring villages and helps me with whatever I need. She’s an angel!

I live in a small village within walking distance of a larger village/town with a bank, supermarkets and clothing stores, etc. which is really nice because I get the quietness of my small village, but I’m never too far away if I need anything at a moments notice. I’ve made friends with some of the teachers that live by me, and they’ve invited me to different religious functions in the community. I’m learning so much about Guyanese foods, culture and traditions from them.

Holidays

There’s been quite a few holidays since I’ve arrived at site! Guyana is made up of three main religious groups – Christians, Hindus, and Muslims so we get holidays on any major days in those religions.

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Early morning at Masjid

Soon after I arrived at site, it was Eid-al-Adha, an Islamic holiday celebrating the festival of sacrifice. My host mom celebrates this holiday, so she took me and a few other volunteers with her to Masjid in the morning for a short service before they sacrifice animals to eat. The service was early, but beautiful. She also took a bunch of us volunteers with her to Masjid for the holiday in November, called Youman Nabi, celebrating the prophet’s birthday.

September, along with the start of school was also Amerindian Heritage Month.

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Volunteers celebrating heritage at Capoey Mission!

Guyanese take this month to celebrate and showcase its indigenous population. There are many local Amerindian missions close by, and they all had different days where you go to the mission and they have a program showcasing Amerindian dances, booths to try different “bush meats”, fly and piwari (indigenous alcohol) and buy handcrafted jewelry and headpieces. I was lucky enough to go to two different heritage days – one at Capoey Mission (where a fellow volunteer lives and even danced in the showcase) and one at Mainstay Village where I did a little shopping. It was a privilege to experience different Amerindian Cultures and I can’t wait to go back.

I also was able to celebrate holidays that are a part of my own religion, Hinduism.

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Holding diyas the night of Diwali!

It is very interesting to see the differences between how traditions are done here in Guyana, vs. in the states or even in India. During October, the Hindu festival of Navaratri took place, a 9-night festival celebrating good over evil. Fellow teachers invited me to the local mandir for services, which I was glad to take part in. I also celebrated Diwali here, the Hindu festival of lights. I’ve never experienced anything like it before – everyone lights hundreds of diyas (lights) in the night and cooks a lot of food for when neighbors and friends stop by on their walk through the villages. It was a Diwali I will never forget.

A big upcoming holiday is Christmas. Christmas is a huge holiday here in Guyana filled with lots of food and celebration in the streets, at people’s houses, etc. I am a little sad to be missing Christmas with my family back home, but I am really excited to experience a Guyanese Christmas!

Oh – I can’t forget! Celebrating all of Guyana’s holidays has been amazing, but us volunteers wanted to bring a little bit of home to Guyana, by celebrating American Thanksgiving. My host mom was gracious enough to let us use my future apartment as the venue. A group of 14 of us from Regions 2 + 3 got together and cooked a feast!

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There was apple pie, mango crumble, stuffing, cornbread, bora (green beans) casserole, and more. Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without a turkey…hard to come by in Guyana but we were determined. Not finding any luck with a frozen one, we went to the market and bought a live turkey! My host mom helped us kill and pluck it, and luckily someone in the group knew what to do with it, how to cook it, etc. Too bad it was only enough for 4. It’s the thought that counts, right? Anyway, it turned out to be an amazing weekend filled with lots of good food and great company. Made up for the fact that I missed at home with my family!

So thats the highlight of what’s been going on in my life for the past few months. Promise to update more often! Stay tuned for – Christmas in Guyana, Suriname for New Years, and moving into Independent Housing!

P.S.

Another life update – I adopted a kitten! One of my fellow PCV’s host family’s cat had lots of babies that they were giving up for adoption! My host mom was chill with it, so I about a month and half ago, I came home with Jasper. He’s almost 3 months old, and loves to run around and nibble on people’s toes. He’s a little rough around the edges but he’s a total sweetheart once you get to know him!

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Meet Jasper!

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