Saturday, December 11, 2010

In no way would I ever consider myself an animal’s rights activist, however, as of late, I have found myself actively practicing…For almost my entire year I lived among geckos, mainly because they are everywhere in my room. Small ones, big ones, young ones, geckos with their original tales, geckos with tails re-grown. The geckos can be light green, dark green or brown.They can have a very textured back with interesting patterns or just a few basic patterns. Geckos are like the reptilian squirrel. They chirp, chase and nip at each other all around the walls of my room when they want to mate. When the courting is over and the action does begin, I don’t know of a species that makes the act itself symbolic of love as they intertwine their bodies and rest peacefully.
I didn’t mind living side by side with the Geckos for the past year and a half because I figured they eat a lot of the bugs in my room, and they don’t really cause any harm. Sometimes when I was bored I would snag one off the wall and play with it, or pet it (probably to the dismay of the animal). My biggest problem with the Geckos is that they shit everywhere! On the walls, on the windowsills, on my magazines, on my mirror, they have even shit on my toothbrush, and when I say toothbrush I mean to emphasize the brush part in toothbrush.


So as I was saying I have recently become somewhat of a animal activist. I have decided that the geckos in my room should be freed from captivity and returned to their natural environment.To do so, I swiftly grab them from the wall. When doing this, it is important not to grab them by the tail because the tails are made to detach! The art is to trap them under your cupped hand, slightly press and then pinch the body. Of course, when you press against the wall, try not to smash, you will easily know if you press to hard because they will let out a yelp which sounds an awful lot like a squeak toy.

The next thing I do is walk outside and throw them onto the Star Fruit tree about 20 feet away from me. 9 out of 10 times, they stick right to the leaf. For the ones who don’t stick right away, fear not, geckos are made to fall. I don’t know how many times I have witnessed geckos fall anywhere from 10-20ft ceilings onto hard cement floors, only to crawl right back up. So have no fear, I am not endangering them by chucking them 15-20ft. I used to toss them to the Golden Apple tree next to my room, but I think it was too close because I could swear they would end up right back in my room, not the problem when I toss them to the star fruit tree.

Carrying on, I have about 5 months left here in Guyana. I have had a wonderful time while living here, and I have lived here long enough that I can comfortably call it home. I feel so comfortable here now that I find it strange and a little worrisome that I will be back in the states in 5 months. I think I will have sensory overload between, hot showers, driving, experiencing seasons or weather below 70 degrees!

Here is a recap of things that have happened over the past handful of months.

Mid July-August:

In my last blog I wrote about funerals or at least Hindu-Guyanese funerals. This blog I will speak about Weddings! The summer, much like in the States is the big wedding season in Guyana. A Christian wedding in Guyana isn’t going to be much different than your stereotypic wedding back home. It is going to look different than a wedding back home due to some circumstances but the structure is very much the same. A Indo-Guyanese wedding, or more specifically a Hindu-Guyanese wedding however is much, much, much different. First of all, there are two wedding houses, the Dulahon’s (grooms) and Dulhah’s (wife). Depending on the family, the celebration at a certain wedding house can go for 3-10 days. That means entertaining your guests during the entire period the family wishes to host. And again depending on the family, that could mean giant speakers, pounding music day and night. It most certainly means feeding your guests and making sure there is enough drink, hard and soft to go around for that same amount of time. There is a ceremony done with the Dulahah’s service, where after everyone stains her yellow, and the same night at the dulahans house, they have a Jhandi and after they stain him yellow. On the final day of the celebration the Dulahon goes and picks up his new wife and brings her back to his home.


At the end of July and the beginning of August, I was lucky enough to sneak out of Guyana on a vacation spent with my family. I enjoyed great food, hot showers and fast internet, which is also when I posted my last blog.

Upon returning however, I had a very, very terrible dream.

In this dream I was asked to leave Peace Corps Guyana. Like most dreams, I don’t remember any details but do remember in my dream it being extremely unfair and unjust. When I awoke in the morning, I was dumbfounded and a little shaken for the rest of the day. The dream did however, re-energize me as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guyana. May-August were tough months for me and I felt a little placid and stagnate. Again thanks to this dream, I have beenkicking ass again and have that optimistic, productive attitude back which was very similar to what I felt my first 6 months here, which is great because I have less than that left!

September-October:

September was mainly getting back into the swing of things. I had a new job with a semi-new organization. For my entire service I had been helping Hope For All, which is a grass roots organization that works with HIV related patients. In the past I had been helping teach an after school program. In the program we are specifically working with kids who have a parent who has HIV, who themselves have HIV and/or have been orphaned by HIV-AIDS. There are around 10 kids directly in our program from the surrounding area but when word gets round that there is an after school program, others are to quick to follow. Some days we have up to 30 kids amongst us, some are friends of the kids that want to come and learn and some are sent by their parents.

As I was saying, I have taken a more full time position with Hope For All and besides the After School Program I have been involved with their In School Program. This mainly consists of me going to 5 secondary schools in my area and teaching a life skills class. This includes, STI’s, Drugs & Alcohol, Values, Settings Goals, Self Esteem, etc., etc…

Another new thing that I started doing was opening a gym about a block from my house. The owner of the neighborhood Grocery Store recently has opened a gym full of boxing equipment and some weights. He asked me to open it up for him, and make sure if people come they don’t hurt themselves lifting and keep the place in order.

The thing I think I remember the most about September was the death of one of our family’s pets. Sometime last year we got 2 puppies, sisters. They were close to a year old come September. Where I live there is one main, 2 lane, road that runs parallel with the ocean coast.The road is quite busy during the day and is not advantageous to animals. Sadly, one of the sister’s was hit by a car and killed one day. Thankfully there was good found in this sad situation. One was that the lone, living sister earned a name (my family isn’t big on naming pets.) The name being….Puppy! Which actually was the name of both the sister’s but after the untimely death, reserved for the living. The second good thing is that shortly after my family took in two strays. A boy and an ole’bitch with saggy tits. I joked with my family that they are starting Guyana’s first animal shelter (Guyana has many, many, strays, hence all the road kill.) I took the initiative to force upon my family that we must name the other two dogs, or more simply put I named them. Scratch and Mamma is what I came up with, and puppy got a full name Princess Puppy but Puppy for short. Now if I can only get my host family to address the dogs by their correct sex. Like my old roommate Phil, they have an innate talent to call the males, she and the females he! It wouldn’t drive me crazy if they called them all he or she but the fact that they do the exact opposite?!?!?!?!

November (No deaths or depressing stuff this month, promise!):


November was a great month! To start with, out of nowhere, after working out alone in the gym around 5 days a week—people started to show up, 30-40 people from around 5-8 pm started to show up. Anywhere from ages of 15-35. I don’t expect this to last, due to my own traveling, lack of someone to help sustain it, and the overall lack of attention span in people, it’s just the first wave but I hope that there won’t be a big gap between the first and second.



The other great thing that went on for me this month was my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving!This year for Thanksgiving I traveled to Mabarumba where we have a few volunteers living and had a fantastic time. Mabarumba is in region 1 or the “Northwest” as it is often called and quite beautiful. It is rolling hills filled with incredible greenery. The only thing better then the scenery was the dinner. We had a turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, mash potatoes, my hot-pepper and cheese cornbread and so much more. At the dinner there was close to twenty of us, some a few PCVs, some World Teach volunteers and two Wings for Humanity families. Overall it was a great Thanksgiving that left me fully satisfied with a overly swollen belly.


Before I finish this post I will leave you with one last tid-bit. One of the anti-malaria pills we have the option of taking is called LariamÒ or more specifically, Mefloquine Hydrochloride.Why I bring this up is because after taking it for a while, I recently came across the Medication Guide for Lariam, which has been hidden in my room since training. Under the, “What is the most important information I should know about Lariam?” section, #2 reads:

Lariam can rarely cause serious mental problems in some patients.

I just want to take a second and thank Lariam for being so honest with us. I especially like the part where they write, “…some patients.” I never knew the word “Some” when used as an adjective could accurately describe a quantity, especially when the quantity deals with the number of people who experience side effects from taking this drug. For example, if they had written:

Lariam can rarely cause serious mental problems in patients.

I would feel more assured. Or what if they tried:

Lariam can rarely cause serious mental problems in most/many/majority patients.

Then I started thinking, what if we took this same assurance and applied it to other things.

Crack Coccaine can rarely cause burglary, loss of teeth and severe addiction insome users.

Alcohol can rarely cause domestic violence or physical abuse in some users.

Television can rarely cause extreme laziness in some watchers.

Racism can rarely cause discrimination in some people.

My blog can rarely cause boredom, chronic yawning and constant eye rolling in...Some readers!

These were just some things I thought of, but if you my reader can come up with some more I think it would be real fun to read them in my comments box.

Thanks for stopping in to read my blog again!

Dave

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm still kickin!


I have been serving in the Peace Corps for almost 15 months now. I have been in Guyana for 17 months (2 months of training.) It has been 8 months since I have written in my blog! It is hard to believe I have been here long enough to not have updated this thing for so long. It is now the end of July. Anyway, I have lots to update on and this will probably be one of my longer posts!

The weather in June and July was wonderful! It rained so much more compared to the very dry months of March-May. Most Guyanese I’ve encountered will tell you they don’t like the rain, “It make a messa tings! Is what my friend Sabo always says to me. In Guyana, if the temperature drops down to 70 degrees, a lot of people catch cold, and sadly one of our neighbors died of pneumonia.

In the Hindu tradition, at least that of a Guyanese Hindu, when a family member dies, you have 13 days of mourning. The last day is the big day with lots of food and drink and usually doesn’t go into night, while all the other days of mourning are usually at night. During this time, usually within the first few days, the body is cremated. For 13 days/nights relatives, neighbors , friends and even random white people go to be with the family during their time of loss. The families usually set up a tent in front of their house or on the side, rent some tables and prepare some snacks for the guests. Mostly people will sit down play Dominos, cards and have a good gaff. No one is ever particularly sad at these or at least no one is showing any sadness. I really like it compared to the system I know. The system I know only has 1 day where you show up if you can and mourn the dead (assuming the funeral and burial are on the same day.) After that everyone goes on their way and can be left to grieve alone. In this system, those who are grieving the most are with family and friends for 13 nights. Also, it can be real hard for people to make “one day” especially if travelling is involved but 13 days gives a large window to make time.

Mash In February I celebrated Mashamani. Mashamani is the Guyanese National holiday celebrating hard work. Depending on how you look at it, it is kind of like our Labor Day back in the states and it kind of isn’t since they already have a National Labor Day! There are many parades through out the country and I was able to march in a parade with the organization Hope For All, an origanization that a fellow Peace Corps member works for. The starting time for the Mashamani parade this year was moved from 2PM to 12PM and the length was doubled. And I can almost guarantee you that the person or people that changed the time and distance did not march otherwise they would have never made the change. The entire march was on black top , directly underneath the sun on a very sunny day! It took me over 4 hours to run about 26 miles, during the Mashamani parade we walked, danced 3.5 miles in three and a half hours. The sun had kicked my butt and I was as close to exhausted as I had been when I ran the marathon. However, the parade was a success and quite fun. Everyone celebrates Mashamani and watches the parade go by. Hope For All, is a AIDS awareness organization that works with children who have HIV/AIDS, have parents that have HIV/AIDS or have been orphaned by the disease. They also offer free testing and it was my pleasure to walk with such an organization. I help out with Hope For All a lot and they always are very thankful for help received.

Phagwa

The next holiday was Phagwa. Phagwa was a blast last year and I celebrated it twice. I had only figured to celebrate Phagwa once this year but alas circumstances and fate figured differently. Phagwa is the Hindu holiday that celebrates, life, spring time, creation and colors. Depending on the year Phagwa can go for several days but for the most part where I live it is celebrated for 2 days. The first day many people go to Mandir (Hindu church for those of you less informed.) While at the Mandir, you sit around on mats and listen to music being played and song and some people dance and then POOPH! Colored baby powder all over your face.

The other day celebrated is the International day of Phagwa. Where I live everyone from the coast goes to the center grounds and Mega Pooph! Some kids mix the powder in a water gun and spray the crowd and some evil, evil kids use real paint, to me and my fair skins dismay. I had a pink face for 3 days after and died pink bangs for a couple weeks.



Rodeo

The next big thing was going to a Guyanese Rodeo in the Rupinunni or Region 9, located in the southern part of Guyana near Brazil. I have heard many times that Region 9, is the most “South American” Guyana (a country heavily influenced by the Caribbean) gets. My favorite thing about Lethem, the city which the rodeo is in, is meat on a stick combined with a Parbo beer. You can can chicken, beef or pork on a stick for $1 and somewhere between a 30-40 ounce Parbo for around $5. The rodeo was exciting and it was crazy to watch the Vaqueros ride barefoot. At one point on bull branded HIV (Guyanese humor, because the bull like the disease kills anything in its way and can’t be stopped), charged the re-barb fence that separated the rodeo from the spectators and actually bent the hell out of the fence. The rodeo paused to fix the fence but there wasn’t much they could do and the rest of the rodeo the fence remained bent.


Randoms

Nothing too exciting went on in the months of May-July. For me it was saying good bye to most of Guy20. I myself was surrounded by 5 Guy20 volunteers. I spent much of the time watching World Cup games with my friend Eyal meanwhile annoying his wife Beth (who in 2 years became an amazing cook!) Because I was surrounded by Guy20, most of my PC social gatherings were with many other Guy20 volunteers. I made some good friends and joked around at the end that I wasn’t so much Guy21 but Guy20.1 or Guy20+1. Guy20 was a great group of people and will be missed (w/the exception of those who extended of course.) Now I am surrounded by Guy22 volunteers and I have been slow to make an effort to bond but I can already tell I am still in good hands. This has also given me the opportunity to make new and even more Guyanese friends in my area and 2-3 weeks since my PC family left, which is good because integration is one of the major PC keys. Alright, well hopefully most people who decided to take time to read this could actually get to the end of this blog entry and I didn’t bore anyone too much! I will try to make sure I don’t go 8 months until my next post so that my constant blog subscribers (my mother and old buddy Don McCoy!) aren’t left wanting.









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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wow! Is has been a few of months since I have last written on my blog and I feel kind of guilty but it was a busy past few months. The last time I wrote I was just returning from Alaska and since then I have celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

October was interesting enough with its own twist and turns but to keep this post from going on to long I will condense. Halloween in Guyana, at least the part that I live in, is not celebrated as it is back in the ole’USofA. I was okay I couldn’t trick or treat but I felt that I had to do something! I hung out with some fellow PCVs and played a game called Apples to Apples while wearing my cookie monster shirt.

Somewhere near the end of October I had decided to go to in Barbados and run in a marathon. I spent most November mornings waking up at 4-5 to run anywhere from 5-20 miles. Where I live in Guyana is a curious place an hour or so before the sun comes up. No lights, the place is only lit by the stars and moon. Where I run there are a lot of rice fields. November is a time when much of the rice fields are flooded and at night time they look like big ponds. Sometimes if the rice field goes on for many acres, they can look like giant lakes. I was able to catch a couple of pretty amazing shooting stars as well. I swear I saw two that had a inch tail of star dust!

I had no one to train with but myself but that does not mean I trained alone. People’s dogs played I great role in my training. I run with my IPOD in and when it is that dark, people’s little mutt guard dogs like to pop out of know where and remind you that you can probably pick up your pace. I know some people who say that they have been bitten but so far I have stayed off the menu.

I also run with a lot of cows…I always thought cows sleep mostly standing up and maybe they do in the US but here they have no problem cozying down on the ground. Most open their eyes and take a peak at me and go back to sleep. I can see them thinking, “What an ass!” And I can tell you with almost complete certainty they aren’t thinking about the group of sleeping donkeys I am about to run past. Sometimes I would give chase to the cows or their calves on my way back down the sandy dirty road. If the cow was smart it just had to scoot to the side of the road and I would keep going and they would be out of my way. Yet sometimes, if I got lucky, they just keep running straight and would let me give chase a ways down the sandy road. Road-Kill ranges from possums to cats, dogs, and If it rained that night or early in the morning you will see many toads, (or as the Guyanese call them Crappos) that you think something biblical might be happening. The strangest road kill I saw during a rainy morning was a Caiman Gator about a yard long head to tail with tread marks around his back and stomach. I am sorry to admit that why I was running by it I was searching for a stick because I really wanted to grab a stick and poke at it!

Thanksgiving was great. Around 10 PCVs came together and we had all the fixings! The only thing that was lacking was NFL football!

I started the first part of December in Barbados! I successfully ran and finished the marathon. I ran the marathon the 2nd day I was there and had no problem recuperating on the beaches of Barbados! The white sands and blue water are a treat to the eye. It was a nice change of pace and I didn’t want to leave but you must carry on.

For Christmas a bunch of us PCVs got together in a place in Bartica. We had 3 great dinners and tons of free time to spend it on making each other laugh. Throw in some Scrabble, UNO, lots of IPOD music and yes, even some sumo wrestling then you have a good idea of our 3 days…almost.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

One Hell of a Crazy Month

Before I get started on my usual light hearted sarcasms I would like to take a moment and discuss something serious. This past month I had a good college friend seriously hospitalized. Justin Gabriel has been in a coma for close to a month and is fighting serious odds to ever wakeup. If you know JJ, you know it would be just like him to be the type to overcome these heavy odds just so he can have a crazy story to laugh about years from now. I am not a religious person but my thoughts are with you Justin and I hope and have faith in whatever higher being that maybe out there that will allow you to wakeup. And after you wakeup, and I come back from Guyana, I can’t wait for the many more nights we will jam out in a car with the music and our voices blaring too loud. Whether you know Justin are not, you should say a prayer for him, please check out his site to that explains his situation and how he is recovering. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/justingabriel/guestbook/sign

I should have known September was going to be a crazy, crazy month when I sitting on my toilet and saw something that looked like snow coming in through my bathroom window. No, no, it was not snow but ashes from a huge brush fire that had broken out across the street. August was very hot and the dry season has been extra long but that didn’t stop one of my neighbors from burning their excess wedding trash in the thick, thick dry brush. The fire spread quickly and grew very tall and wasn’t too far from over taking some houses when the fire department showed up and put it out. With the fire out, I figured the craziness was done but what arose from the ashes was my very first Guyanese female admirer or in American culture what we would more commonly refer to as a phone stalker. This person, whom I barely knew, and didn’t give my phone number too, managed to call my cell phone over 50 times and send over 30 texts in the period of 2 days! I guess it is entertaining now that it is all said and done but at the time geeeeeeeeesssssssh!

Shortly after the fire and during the phone stalker fiasco, I was hanging out at a friends house out of site. During the visit, they’re site got something that my location had been very short of—rain! My friend’s place has a aluminum roof which, can be relaxing and therapeutic during a down pour. However, I learned a tin roof can also be electrically stimulating during a thunder storm. As we were watching a movie, we witnessed a bright flash of light simultaneously paired with a loud, gun shot like BANG! That’s right, their tin roof had just been struck by lightening!

With all that excitement underway I took off to Georgetown to sadly say goodbye to one of my closest friends in Guy21. Yes, Guy21 has lost another member. This makes it 6 total now that have left. Hopefully Krystal will be the last to leave, because as the days go on you get closer and closer with the PCV’s you are surrounded by as they become your crutches of sanity while living in a different culture.

While I was in Georgetown, saying my goodbyes to Krystal, I happened to check my blog to see if I had any new comments on my last blog post. I had a few, but the one that caught my eye the most was the one left by the Anchorage District Attorney requesting that I contact him.

2 years ago, I was working the door at the bar F Street Station when I witnessed an altercation in the alley. I have to give the condensed version, but I saw two males beating another male with a baseball bat, plastic broom stick and some other instrument, whose purpose is not to whack living things with. I quickly called the police while I was witnessing the attack. I stood frozen in my tracks with fear and indecision as people (the attackers and those chasing them away from the victim) started to stampede my way. I was able to tackle one of the attackers before he entered the bar. As interesting of a story as it might be, I would trade the ability to tell the story for the victim’s life in a heart beat. The victim would die a few days later from hemorrhaging and swelling of the brain. Shortly after this night I testified in front of a grand jury and helped make sure the attacker, I apprehended, would be indicted and tried in a court of law. The DA told me then that murder trials often take 2-3 years to go to trial and that I could be living as far away as Florida when this goes to trial and they will still have to fly me up to testify in this trial. Little did he know, I would be living in Guyana, South America.

As the DA and I discussed when I would fly up to testify, it was clear there might be a scheduling conflict. Since before I had joined the Peace Corps, my good friend from high school had asked me to be one of his groomsmen. Every time I passed another step, in the many that come with joining the Peace Corps, I always asked if I would be able to attend the wedding. Well now my trip home for Bret’s wedding was being cut short, but thankfully not missed. It was arranged for me to be flown up to Anchorage the Sunday after the wedding. What was going to be a quick, busy 8 day trip home , just got a lot busier!

In the mean time, I had about a two weeks to get ready to go home and Anchorage. During that time, several of my closest, “Crutches of Sanity,” had left for the States and wouldn’t be back till the day I left! About the only thing I had to keep me company in the mean time was the phone stalker! However, I stayed strong and pushed on until the day I got to return to hot showers, washing machines, fast food, TV and fast internet!

The wedding was a blast! The church, bride and bridesmaids all looked beautiful. Even us ugly groomsmen and the groom found a way to, “Church It Up,” and look respectable for a about 12 hours. I enjoyed all the festivities immensely! The church was impressively lavish and had tall ceilings, which were beautifully decorated and kept me entertained during the wedding rehearsal when I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to be paying attention or not. After the vows were exchanged and the I do’s done and the kisses kissed we (the wedding party) took off in our limo to Comerica park (where the Detroit Tigers play) and got to go inside the stadium for pictures! After that we arrived at the reception which had great, great food, good fun and free drinks! When you make a grand $200 a month as a Peace Corps volunteer, you can’t really ask for a better night! Way to go Bret and Mandy!

Oh yea, although it isn’t really conventional, when Mandy threw the bouquet to all the single ladies, she severely overthrow them! The bouquet went flying over their heads and crashing on to the wedding party table. As it rolled and knocked over glasses and what not, I was the closest and grabbed it to keep it from knocking over anymore glasses. I walked up to Mandy, thinking she would re-throw the it, but the Boss DJ/Wedding host would have none of it. It’s a couple weeks later and I still don’t really know whether to be excited or really, really scared about the whole catching the bouquet thing.

The next morning, which was a very early morning after a very long night, I was off to the airport and to testify in the murder trial. Being back in Anchorage was great minus the circumstances, because I didn’t think I would make it back until I was done serving my 2 years. I made sure I ate at all of my favorite restaurants and visited as many friends as I possibly could without having a car or cell phone. People kept asking me if I was nervous for the trial and I never really was. While I was waiting outside the courtroom, I still wasn’t nervous, I was busy listening to music and playing solitaire on my IPOD. However, when I was called into the court room and sat waiting, while the jury came back from recess I made eye contact with the defendant. I hadn’t seen him for two years, two years to the day to be exact. And although I only sat a minute before I was called to the stand, I felt my nerves jump a little. Once on the stand I was fine. My only wish is that I could have remembered more details from the incident two years ago. It was almost like taking a test because once I left the stand, more details started to come to me and I really wanted a redo! Well hopefully this was a interesting enough blog.

Now that September is done I want to confess, I am really hoping for a very uneventful October! I have had enough fun and excitement for a year, let alone 1 month! Finishing this months update I want to thank all those who took the time to read. Keep leaving comments on my blog, I love to read them. And congrats to the people who have recently found out they will be coming to Guyana in February 2010. I hope my blog in some ways helps prepare you for your next two years! Can’t wait to meet you!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pics and Pics

So everyone has been bitching that I don't have any pics but they take forever to load when I am in Guyana so I have tried to find time to load some while I am up in the states. The monkeys are the howler monkeys I wrote about.







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Wednesday, September 23, 2009