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.
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.
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.
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.