Tuesday, September 1, 2009

July and August updates

I have been in Guyana now for almost exactly 6 months, this is roughly ¼ of my total time served. For 6 months I have encountered many new things but more importantly I have been without one particular thing. This one thing, can be found almost anywhere in the States and somehow managed to sneak its way into this beautiful country and now poses it a sneaking danger. No, I am not talking about racism, prejudices, greed, or even those annoying pyramid schemes. No, the evil I speak of is far greater, so great that I usually choose not to mention it. But yes, to end the suspense, Country Music has managed to sneak its way down to Guyana. I was riding in a taxi on a Sunday and there was some kind of billboard top 20 on the radio and although the show had a British announcer and considering my circumstances had no reason to suspect what was coming next but it didn’t take long for that twang to grab my ears and twist. Now, I might be a harsh critic of country music but I have to say, since I heard that song, I have experienced my hottest month in Guyana. It has been soooo hot here since the end of July, and so far all of August. How hot is it? I don’t know because I have never see a thermometer here but I would guess with humidity included, 95* F everyday from about 10:00AM to about 4:00PM, give or take 5 degrees. It has been so hot this past 30 or so days that a few Guyanese have mentioned to myself that this is the hottest August that they have ever experienced or the hottest that they can remember in years. I am not saying that country music is to blame for global warming but I wonder if it is not a contributing factor seeing how modern country music (at least the past 20 years or so) has been produced and forged by music CEO’s high on the devils wine. Again, I am not saying that country music is directly related to global warming or this latest heat wave, but I am saying that President Obama should look into it.
A few sentences ago I mentioned taxis and I find them to be an interesting subject here in Guyana. If you catch a cab in Georgetown, you probably won’t find the experience to be all that different. Once you get used to the lack of stop signs and driving on the left side of the road, you realize that these drivers are as aggressive as taxi drivers in any major city. However, where I live there are some nuances that can throw you off. First of all, cabs where I live charge by the person because they drive up and down a main road picking up and dropping people off. Secondly, there really isn’t a standard cab fee. A short drop is generally $60 (Guyanese, roughly 30 cents American), but who decides what constitutes a short drop is up to each individual driver. Essentially, you could take a cab to the same place 5 days in a row and receive 5 different quotes from 5 different drivers. Sometimes they quote you really high because they think you are a tourist and don’t know better, sometimes it’s because (at least in my case) you are white and they think you have money, sometimes it’s because of both and sometimes it’s simply because they need money and will try to get the most out of you that they can no matter who you are. The idea is to have the correct change and without much argument they will always take what you offer. Also, the price of the taxis might seem like a waste of haggling but you must remember I only get paid $200 American a month and half of that goes to food and drink so that leaves you with pretty much $100 for 30 days of travel and most rides are not 30 cent (American) rides. Guyana is a former English colony, and like most former English colonies, drive on the left side of the road. Where I live, the drivers often drive on whatever side of the road they choose to. Often the yellow line in the middle of the road has no real purpose. Also, the most unique thing about the taxis where I live is that in most cars, pressing on the gas is the only way to activate the brakes. For example, usually you tell your driver where you want to be dropped off when you get within 20-40 ft of your destination. What I would be used to, is a driver who prepared himself to stop by letting off the gas and slowly applying the brakes. Here however, the driver will quickly accelerate to your POD even if this includes passing the next car, only to stop in front of that same driver within thirty seconds. Also, if a curve is coming up that would require the driver to slow down, I have frequently experienced a driver who will quickly accelerate to get around the next driver before the bend and of course quickly slam on his brakes so that he doesn’t go flying off the road. From almost daily experiences like this I have come to two conclusions. The first is that brake pads grow on trees here and the other deduction I made is the one I have previously mentioned, pressing on the accelerator is the only way activate the brakes.
In other news, the month of August is almost over and the past week or so has been very, very busy. About a week ago I had my birthday and had fajita night at my house and of course made the best Guacamole ever made by a white bai in Guyana. The next night I went to my neighbor’s Hindu wedding. Hindu weddings here often last many days and in most cases, that means many days of drinking and being a white person at these weddings means all of the men will at one point offer you a drink of Rum or Vodka. Someone told me their really isn’t supposed to be drinking at the weddings but I have yet to see or hear of one where anyone bothers to follow that rule.
The following day a lot of PCV’s from all over got together to go to Regatta at Lake Mainstay. Regatta is a boat race and an estimated 2 thousand people come out to watch it. The boat races are fun but in most cases it is just people walking around drinking or as they would say here, “Sporting.” Some people drink more than others and unfortunately some people who drink more then others decide to drive. Around 8PM, when we were getting ready to leave we noticed a car driving on the beach take a right turn and crash into a banob (it’s like a Gazebo with Palm trees.) To further prove one of my early points, right before the driver crashed into the banob, he hit the accelerator, causing him to run into it about 5-10 mph faster or so. Clearly having to accelerate in order to activate the brakes has its drawbacks! Thankfully no one was hurt. The driver quickly stumbled out of the totaled car after realizing that he couldn’t drive any further through the banob. Most surprisingly, although his car was totaled, the banob stood strong and only lost a little bit of paint. Two days later the paper had no mention of the car accident but it did have a picture of my pretty face in it as well as 3 other volunteers with a caption that read, “These tourists are having a rollicking good time at Regatta.”
A couple days later, myself and many of the PCV’s who came around for Regatta had a peer education conference at the same lake resort. The conference was as exciting as a conference/workshop can be but the 3 days in AC and visiting with friends made it very much worth it. During these few days we celebrated my friend Tyler’s birthday and played lots of trivial pursuit. So much so, that it was decided we would have a Trivial Pursuit challenge to help pass the time of conference. 10 people played and another PCV picked at random 12 questions, two from each TP subject. We also had everyone throw in $100 Guyanese. When it was all said and done, it never felt so good to be a dumb jock amongst soooo many smart people. That’s right, yours truly one the competition and the prize money!
One wedding and yet another PCV birthday party and my eventful yet tiring week had come to an end. Summer’s can be very slow in Guyana until they find reasons to put PCV’s together, then we stay pretty occupied. I would say that minus the birthdays, the same thing happened in July when Guy20 and my group, Guy21, had to meet up in Georgetown for a semi joint session. During that conference the coolest thing that happened was probably that we got to have a BBQ at the Ambassadors house. What made it so memorable was all the American food! I made my self a double cheeseburger and enjoyed a real salad and chicken wings!
Oh and before I forget, my mother wants me to mention how you buy chicken when you are on the coast. You go to any house that has a sign, fresh plucked chickens and you tell them you need a chicken and how much. The guy tells you to come back the next day or in a few hours and you have a freshly killed, plucked and gutted chicken. I was at a friend’s host parents the other day and they were clearing the hen house. They had a total of 63 chickens and were sending them all to market the following Monday. I sat and gaffed for about an hour or so and watched over 20 chickens without heads jump around, sometimes 3 feet off the ground. Is it bad that I was so entertained by headless chickens frolicking around? Maybe but more importantly it sure was fun to watch!


Anonymous said...

Great blog Dave... good to see an update.

One comment though... as far as being the smartest "jock" in Guyana... you spell won for a win... not one!! :o) Miss you buddy.

Anonymous said...

thanks Dave. Very entertaining. We miss you.

love Mom

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hey there, my name is Jason Rosen. I read your blog, I was the smartest jock there...lol In any case, I was in GuyIII, and everything you wrote about is what most volunteers have experienced. Remember some things while you're there... You will never see the true results of your accomplishments until well after you leave...Your highs are high and your lows are low, and they could both happen in an hour apart of one another...Money will never change Guyana, and neither will Americans with good intentions, Guyanese will change Guyana when they are ready...Learn all you can about Guyana,learn to appreciate good rum because Mt. Gaye and Capt. Morgan suck once you have had Banks or El Dorado.

WhewNotSaved said...

I think it's great what you are doing. The trauma of waking up and trying to adjust to your new environment isn't that much different from prison, not that I would know of course LOL

You were just a little diddle taking some kind of karate the last time I saw you, was in Denver.
I've been friends with your pop since jr high school: LeConte.

I missed you grow up because you moved way too far away. I still live in L.A.

Lots of luck with your adventure there, it must be gorgeous.


Debbie Hyatt Ulrich DeStefano