Saturday, December 31, 2011


I've spent the morning lounging around my good friend's apartment in Philly, chatting with her and her boyfriend about education, philosophy, and superpowers.  Our minds work similarly and I could not be more comfortable, and the part me that recognizes these facts dreads going to the airport in 36 hours.

In the past 10 months, I have missed the ease of living within the culture I was raised, the high probability that I will find many ways in which I can instantly relate with those around me. I've missed having the option to be invisible if I want to be, missed being able to walk down the street without anyone staring at me.  I've missed not constantly worrying about whether what I'm doing is culturally appropriate.  I almost forgot what it was like to not have to judge every plan of mine in terms of its potential for sustainability.  I've missed having clean feet, missed washing machines and hot showers, missed cheese and boneless chicken breasts.  I've missed bagels and pizza and the beach, just like the Long Island girl I claim not to be.    I've missed my adventurous, pretentious, brilliant, honest and funny friends. I've missed my loud, loving, bickering, wonderful family.

Will it be hard to go back? Maybe.  But a few minutes ago I looked out the window and commented on how early it gets dark here in the higher latitudes.  I said, "Back home, it never gets dark before six." And then I caught myself--back home.  Guyana is home.  St. Cuthbert's Mission is home, Wendy and Benji's house is home.  A part of me dreads getting on that plane, but a far bigger part of me can't wait to get home and surprise the people who have taken such good care of me over the past 10 months with American gifts.  I can't wait to see how big my puppies have gotten and find them homes.  I can't wait to start a few projects on my massive list of project ideas, fail though they may.  I can't wait to lay in my hammock on my veranda and watch the sun set, can't wait to have a Banks beer or two with friends and share with them how refreshing my trip to the U.S. was, and how happy I am to be back.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Day in the Life

On any given weekday morning I wake up without an alarm at 6:45, un-tuck my mosquito net and drag myself out of bed.  I lumber down the stairs to see what’s cooking for breakfast.  If it’s bake and eggs or pancakes (“plax” as the Guyanese call them) I join my host family for breakfast, but if it’s fish or stew I make myself coffee and cereal.  For a while I was committed to my French press, but I’ve recently realized that instant coffee isn’t really all that bad.  It’s best drank with milk (powdered—no cows in St. Cuthbert’s!) and sugar (coarse brown Demarara sugar comes from sugar cane that’s grown and processed right in Guyana).

            Wendy and Benji are often already bustling around the house and yard, working on their morning chores.  Seven AM is late to get up in Guyana, even though almost no one has a job to get to.   After I finish breakfast I join them—maybe I start soaking a tub of laundry, finish up my lesson plans for the day, or wash wares (dishes).  With any luck, I’m cold-water-showered, dressed and out the door by 8:15.

            During the five minute walk to school, I am often joined by some group of my students or another, and I’m always greeted by cheerful cries of “Good morning, Miss!”  Between my summer school, remedial reading groups, my short-lived running club, and the fact that I’ve subbed for each class at least a few times over the past six months, all 178 students in the primary school know me, and I know them, easily 2/3 of them by name.  

Lately, in the mornings, students often greet me by pointing out, “Miss, I am on time today!”  (The wise guys in grades 5 and 6 say, “Miss, I’m late” with sly grins when they are clearly not.) For the past few weeks I have been enforcing consequences for lateness for the entire school.  It’s a daunting task, but it’s preferable to watching our HM lash late students.  I appreciate her willingness to allow me to experiment with an alternate consequence, which at the moment is copying the national anthem in after-school detention. 

The bell rings at 8:30, and students in identical blue uniforms—shorts for the boys, dresses for the girls—hustle to line up by grade and gender outside the school.  They say the national pledge and the Our Father and listen to any announcements that the HM and other teachers have to give. By 8:45 the kids are in their classrooms and registers are being filled out, and I’m taking the names of the last of my latecomers and preparing to collect my first reading group of the day.

Lions and Tigers and Rabbits, oh my—and all the rest of my reading groups.  The morning is frantic, since I teach five groups for 30 minutes apiece, and my schedule changes daily.  Throughout the day, I wonder how to deal with a 3rd grade Puppy who knows all the letter sounds but writes her letters backwards, a 5th grade Jaguar who can read the word “cylinder” but not “be” or “one.” One of my Lions, a fourth-grader, can’t read but is really quite bright, catching on to letter sounds quickly.  Inevitably, he will stop coming to school regularly once his father leaves the village to work, as he does for a few months out of every year.  Perhaps saddest of all are the students with severe learning disabilities that will never be diagnosed: a 3rd grader who must look back at previous pages in his book to see how to spell his name though he’s done it every day for years, a 2nd grader who rarely speaks and knows no letters.  

As I walk through the school to collect each new reading group, I see teachers struggling to make due with a lack of materials, teaching subjects that they are not confident with themselves, and sleeping on desks.  I see teachers neglecting students in order to complete the paperwork the ministry drowns them in, leading their classes in recitations and drills, and attempting to teach two classes at once to make up for a coworker’s absence.  It is difficult not to jump in and substitute when a teacher is absent, but I know that my reading lessons will make more of a difference in these students’ educations than a frazzled substitute teacher.  I only cancel my reading lessons if more than 2 of our 5 teachers are absent, which does happen once a week or so.

When the bell rings at 11:30, I straighten up my reading room, jot down a few quick notes about how the morning’s lessons went, and go home to decompress over lunch.  Living with a host family has made lunchtime less stressful—curried chicken or fish over rice is usually prepared and ready to eat by the time I get home, so I can eat and vent about my day to Wendy instead of worrying about cooking.  

My hour lunch break goes faster than I would like it to, and at 12:30 I’m back in school, filling in for whichever teacher is missing that day.  I only have one 30-minute lesson in the afternoons, so otherwise I’m free to substitute, a good compromise between addressing staffing and literacy problems at our school.  I do this at my own discretion…some days I simply put a lesson up on the board for a class missing a teacher and then retreat to my reading room to do extra work with students from my remedial groups.

It is October, and you know what that means—or, probably you don’t—school sports!  School sports is sort of a cross between field day and a track-and-field meet for elementary school students, and it means we have 1-hour practices three days a week during school hours for the entire month, all in preparation for the big day.  There will be 60- to 200-meter races for students of all ages as well as a cycle race, sack races, 3-legged races and a tug-of-war.  

At 2:30, sports practice ends, and the staff and their sweaty, sandy student-athletes trek back to the school from the ballfield (cricket, not baseball!) and head home. I don’t usually go home right away.  Between detention, staff meetings, and helping with the after-school literacy program and the community library, I am lucky if I leave by 3:30.  

After school, I have a few hours of down-time unless I have clothes to wash.  I might gaff with a neighbor or shop owner, take a walk to visit a friend or a student’s parent, or head to the landing for a swim.  Other days I stay home to play with my dog (who may or may not be pregnant!), read a book in my hammock, hang out with my host family, or get a head start on the next day’s lesson plans.  

Just before dark I go for a run with my dog and whatever 7- to 14-year-olds care to follow me on that day.  That’s the only time it’s cool enough!  I usually run barefoot down the sandy road that leads from the main highway into the mission.

After I get home I bathe and change into PJ’s—pants despite the heat, so the mosquitoes don’t eat me alive.  The lights come on at 6 and it’s dinner time, and sometimes I cook, since Guyanese often eat light for dinner.  Last week I made fried bake with fresh tomatoes, cheese and basil inside—it was delicious! I have much more fun cooking when it’s a voluntary activity.  

After dinner, I prepare lesson plans, and if I’m not too tired I might study for the GRE, write a letter, journal, or work on one of my secondary projects, like the Secondary School Entrance Exam Prep book that I want to create.  9:00 is evening tea-time, and sometimes I join my family for a movie in the living room, but more often I take my tea up to my hammock and read myself into a stupor.  Right now I’m working on Fast Food Nation, a great book but surreal to read so far away from American fast-food culture.

I try to be out of my hammock and safely in bed under my mosquito net by the time the lights go out at 10.  I click off my flashlight, snuggle with my stuffed panda and enjoy the breeze from my tiny motorized fan as the rustlings of rats that live in my room lull me to sleep.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Here I am!

I’ll get some things out of the way before I begin:  First, my apologies for the lengthy span between posts.  From now on, expect a blog post to be up the first weekend of every month.  I think I might have promised more frequent blog posts a while back, but I mean it this time, really.  If the first weekend of October comes and goes with no post, bug me on Facebook or something.

Secondly, I have decided to password protect my blog.  People in my village are becoming more internet savvy, and even though I don’t trash talk anyone in my blog, it still might be kind of awkward if any of them read it.  Plus stalkers and stuff.  I’ll send out the password to people who I know read it, but if I don’t send it to you, email or Facebook message me for it, or ask my mom.  Expect it to be locked down within the next week or so.

Now, on to the fun stuff! I’m healthy again—well, mostly.  The verdict was inner ear damage, and the ENT I saw said I could expect residual dizziness for the next year or so. I still occasionally get a bit dizzy after strenuous exercise or if I stand up too fast, but it’s nowhere near as debilitating as it was before.  

This summer has been a blast!  I designed my own summer school/camp for kids going into 6th grade, and they were a great group of kids to work with.  They loved playing Bananagrams and listening to me read them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some of them would even ask me for homework! I really hope my summer school met its goal—that is, to better prepare these kids for the Secondary School Entrance Exam so more of them can do well enough on the test to get a scholarship and attend a better secondary school out on the coast.  But even if it didn’t, my kids and I all had a lot of fun!

I was supposed to do teacher training in phonics this summer too, but that failed.  Such is life—especially Peace Corps life.

My living situation has changed since I last posted!  I was having some issues living by myself here, both emotional ones (loneliness) and practical ones (taking care of a house and cooking for myself for the first time…with no TV dinners, take-out, dishwashers or washing machines…and rats and bats and giant cockroaches!)  Long story short, I’m living with a host family now!  My new host family members are Wendy and Benji, a couple around my parents’ age, and Jade, Jason and Josh, three boys between the ages of 15 and 21.  The youngest son goes to school out of St. Cuthbert’s, and the two older ones work out of the mission as well, so the house is very rarely full.   I love my new host family, and their house is awesome!  It’s huge, and I have my own veranda upstairs with my hammock on it.  It’s probably my favorite place in Guyana!  Oh, and then there’s the newest member of the family—my dog, Lady! I gave up on her months ago when she was a puppy (see “problems living alone” above) and gave her away, but she kept finding me again at Wendy and Benji’s house…so Wendy said we should keep her!  She’s a family dog now, which makes taking care of her much less overwhelming, and she’ll stay here when I go home which will make both my life and her life easier.   

Among the best parts of the summer have been travelling and visitors!  Shout-out to Lisa and Pat, who both made last-minute plans to come visit me.  Pat and I went to Oriella, a village right on the river that divides Guyana from Surinam.  Oriella was JUNGLE, and beautiful!  My second jungle trip was a week spent in Region 1, the Northwest corner of Guyana, where some of the volunteers I trained with live now.  Kristen and Harmony and Travis were all great hosts (and great cooks!), and I loved getting to see their villages and going on hikes around a genuinely remote area of Guyana.  

Looking to the near future—school starts tomorrow!  We are not short two-and-a-half teachers, as I feared, only one-and-a-half or perhaps only a half!  Regardless, I am not playing substitute this term;  I’m teaching a remedial reading program, which I am quite excited about.  My groups are all chosen and phonics teaching guides have been pored over, but it’s anyone’s guess what will actually happen once school opens.  I’m getting used to that quality of everything Peace Corps—the feeling of flying by the seat of my pants—and it feels more comfortable than it used to.

Plans to come home for Christmas are materializing—tentatively, I will be home from December 13th to January 2nd. Between now and then…I love comments, Facebook messages, Skype dates, snail mail and packages, so stay in touch!  Miss you guys!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Mysterious Jungle Illness

Word has probably gotten around to most of the readers of my blog, but for those who don't know--I'm sick.  Not mortally ill or anything like that, but whatever illness I do have is very stubborn.  It started with a fever, weakness, headaches and dizzness over four weeks ago.  It seemed to resolve itself after about a week, but a few days later all the initial symptoms came back.  Once again, the fever only lasted a few days, but the dizziness still hasn't gone away.  I've been out of work for almost a month and have seen two doctors here, neither of whom were able to find anything conclusively wrong with me.  My bloodwork came back completely normal, my blood pressure is normal, all that jazz.  What's not normal is that I get dizzy every time I stand up, when I walk, if I look up, climb stairs, roll over in get the gist.  The prevailing theory (prevailing in my mind, at least, after some internet research) is that the virus that I initially had (when I got the fever the first time) disrupted something in my inner ear, leading to what is known as BPPV.  Supposedly this goes away on its own after two months...

So, next steps.  The second doctor I saw, when he couldn't diagnose me with anything, recommended that I be sent back to the U.S. to see a doctor there who can perhaps find something wrong with me. Peace Corps Headquarters needs to make this decision, and supposedly they met about it today.  I should know what they're going to do with me by tomorrow, although I have a feeling that if they send me out of the country they'll send me to Panama and not back home.  I'll update as soon as I find out what the deal is.

To answer the most common questions I've gotten: Yes, I've been eating well, yes, I've been hydrating, and no, I'm not feeling stressed out or depressed.  If anyone has any suggestions for how to keep myself occupied without electricity, I'm all ears, because after a month of being sick I'm kind of bored out of my mind.

Miss and love you guys!

Friday, June 3, 2011

My School

In St. Cuthbert’s Primary School, there are no walls. Grades 1 through 6 are seated in classrooms separated by chalkboards. Unsurprisingly, the school is loud. Teaching in this atmosphere takes some getting used to, and not just because of the noise level.

In theory, each grade has a teacher, but in practice this is far from true.

The grade 1 teacher is wonderful—she’s an experienced, trained teacher who is from the coastal area of Guyana. She’s volunteering in a program that sends teachers to “hinterland” areas like St. Cuthbert’s that are notoriously lacking in trained teachers. She teaches her first graders phonics and spends extra time with them after school and on Saturdays to try and get them caught up to the level where they should be. Unfortunately, she is only stationed at St. Cuthbert’s for one year.

The grade 2 teacher is currently on one month leave. In Guyana, after a teacher works for four years, she qualifies for one month leave with double pay during the school year. A nice perk, I suppose, but it causes some problems in a school system without substitute teachers. Fortunately, she will be back on Monday.

The grade 3 teacher is currently enrolled in a teacher training college. This is good for the school in the long term, since only two other teachers in the school have any formal training, but for the moment it means Ms. S’s class has no teacher three days a week.

The grade 4 teacher is also the headmistress and therefore my supervisor. The headmistress of a school is not supposed to have a class to teach as well, but the official headmaster is attending university, so Ms. B has taken his place while still teaching grade 4. As headmistress, she must travel out to town at least twice a month, sometimes as often as twice a week, to negotiate burocratic affairs with the Ministry of Education. On these days, her class has no teacher.

The grade 6 teacher has decided he will work “out in the bush” this term. This is what most men in the community do for work. It usually means prospecting, for gold or other minerals, and it pays better than a teacher’s salary. Sir O does not plan to return to the primary school for at least a few years.

The school has very few reading books and even fewer textbooks. There is no copy machine, no gym or music or art teacher, no playground, no cafeteria. (Both teachers and students go home for lunch.)

There are general guidelines as to what should be taught to each grade for each term, but it’s a bit difficult teaching, for instance, addition of fractions to a class where many students still need to count on their fingers to add 2 + 2. And, how to teach prefixes with a list of words including “uncomfortable” and “displeased” when half of the class can’t read the word “please”?

This is school. It’s a struggle, but on the bright side there is much room for me to make an impact. If when I got here everything was perfect, then there wouldn’t be much for me to do! As for what I’m doing—for a while I was floundering, trying along with whatever teachers were present to address the understaffing problem, sometimes teaching two classes at once. Staffing issues seem to have stabilized, so I am free to go on with my plan: teach the grade 3 class Tuesday through Thursday when Ms. S. is out at college, and conduct pull-out remedial reading groups on Mondays and Fridays. Currently, I am just doing diagnostic assessments to figure out what level the students are at. An analysis of the results will allow me to choose students for my reading groups and decide exactly what I will teach them.

I am really excited to start teaching phonics! I never thought that I’d be excited about phonics, but that was before I was exposed to what Guyanese teachers refer to as “guided reading” or the “see-and-say” method—that is, simply memorizing “C-A-T cat, D-O-G dog,” and so on. Most of the students in my school don’t know what sounds any letters make. I aim not only to teach some of these students phonics in my remedial reading groups, but also to teach the teachers how to teach phonics. This will be one of my first efforts at what Peace Corps calls “sustainable development”—community changes that will continue on even after I have returned to the States.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Month two of training is almost complete!

Blogging once a month is nearly impossible, because there is so much to tell.

But, here’s a moment: I finish training early and spend an afternoon lying in the hammock on my veranda, reading and napping and watching the kissadees build their nest in the corner of our roof.  My host grandmother wove the hammock.  Timmax, my host brother, is downstairs building a kite in preparation for Easter.  (They don’t dye eggs here, they fly kites.  However, I promised my neighbors an egg hunt this Easter!)  Baby Queenie crawls out onto the veranda and pulls herself up to standing using the hammock, tells me cheerfully, “Ma ma ma,” as she tries to grab the book out of my hands.

Another moment: I walk to visit another Peace Corps trainee, greeting people I know (and those I don’t) along the way.  In Guyana, neighbors are neighborly!   I gaff (Guyanese for chat) for a few minutes with a family sitting out on their porch, and they encourage me to stop by and spend more time with them in the future. A few nursery-school-aged girls follow me for a few minutes in their red-and-white-checkered blouses, holding hands and giggling.  The novelty of having white people in town is slow to wear off for them.   When I arrive at my fellow trainee’s house, she isn’t home, but her host sisters agree to take me to her grandmother’s house—her grandmother has a dog that just had puppies, and I want to adopt one!  I ogle the week-old puppies for a few minutes while Grandma tells me about the different kinds of fruits and vegetables she grows to sell.  The girls take me back to their house, where their mother hacks open a coconut for me to drink the milk.  More gaffing, then I head home.

These moments are priceless:  When baby Queenie reaches out to me for me to pick her up.  When TImmax’s eyes light up as I’m quizzing him on letter sounds and he gets one right.  When I’m walking back to training and two third-grade girls who I taught the day before run up to me and each one holds one of my hands.  When a woman who I visited just to buy vegetables invites me into her home, gives me food and drink and tells me I must visit regularly.  When I cook, Guyanese style, and the results are edible and I can tell my host parents are proud of me.  When I compliment a teacher’s shoes and she offers to take me shopping in Georgetown!  When I walk into a shop where people are liming (hanging out), and I gaff with them and they laugh at my jokes—or, better yet, when they tell me that I’m a mission girl now!

By a mission girl, they mean that I am a resident of St. Cuthbert’s Mission!  That’s right—I’m the one lucky volunteer from our group who gets to stay at our training site for my full two years in country.  One week from today is our swearing-in as full-fledged Peace Corps Volunteers, and while eight trainees will leave St. Cuthbert’s for other regions of Guyana, I’ll come right back home.  I’ll move into a house of my own, only a few minutes’ walk away from the host family I’m living with now.  One of the many perks of staying in St. Cuthbert’s is free and readily accessible internet, so there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to update this blog more frequently; say, once a week?  At any rate, anticipate another post soon!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two Weeks in St. Cuthbert's: A List

  1. I have an amazing host family! Charlene, my host mom, is 25; Timor, my host dad, is 30; Timmax is my five-year-old host brother and Shaqueena—Queenie—is almost ten months old! 
  2. I am eating chicken, fried rice, curry, plantains, LOTS of fresh pine (pineapple), fish, bellange (eggplant) and pine tarts!  I can make bake and roti, two different kinds of bread…with a little guidance at least.
  3. I have no running water in the house, but a pipe pumps it into my backyard.  That’s what I use for (cold) showers, washing dishes, and making tea—my family drinks it but I can’t be cause my body has no resistance to all the creepy crawlies living in it.
  4. We have two dogs named Blackie and Brownie.  Yesterday, Brownie peed on my leg.  Maybe that’s his way of accepting me into the community?
  5. Speaking of peeing…outhouses aren’t really that bad.  Unless you get locked inside one, which happened to me once.  Bobby pins and watches are good tools for escape.
  6. Speaking of peeing, again…I have a pee bucket called a “tinny” that resides under my bed.  It’s kinda awkward to use but preferable to braving the outhouse at 2AM.
  7. We have generator-run electricity from 6PM to 10PM every night!
  8. St. Cuthbert’s just got a computer lab a few weeks ago—incredibly good timing, no? Especially since that means wireless internet access in the youth center that we use as a training building!  My host parents are both taking computer classes three times a week, and they’re really excited to practice their typing on my computer.
  9. I have two hammocks in my house—my host grandma made them!
  10. Aforementioned house is two stories, made of wood…downstairs is a big kitchen and a small shop that mostly just functions as a bar in the evenings.  The bedrooms are upstairs--I do have my own room, but I only have a sheet for a door.
  11. Timmax, my host brother, loves playing slapjack and listening to the Beatles on my iPod.
  12. Queenie, my host sister, is crawling up a storm, and I’m fairly certain she’ll be walking before I leave.  She’s also fascinated with my glasses, or as Timmax calls them, my “specs.”
  13. Lizards hang out in my room at night.
  14. I met someone with a pet anteater yesterday.
  15. I’ve been to two birthday parties since I’ve been here!
  16. My days start early…I run with some other trainees at 6AM most mornings, then I bathe, eat breakfast, and go to class at 8.  I only have a five-minute walk to my classroom, which is a small cement building right next to the primary school (which means that the kids come and stare in the windows at us on their breaks).  Training lasts till about 4:30, when I go home and help with dinner.  By 9:00 I’m exhausted, and by the time the lights go out at 10 I’m usually asleep!
  17. Training is on several topics: safety and security, health, cultural integration, and technical training in education. 
  18. I’ve taken the 10-minute walk down to the river to swim or bathe a few times with my family.  They call the river water “blackwater”—it’s the color of strong tea.
  19. The first time we went down to the river, we saw a snake! It was bright green and it swam across the river, and then my host dad beat it to death with a stick.
  20. Next Wednesday, March 16th, I will find out my permanent placement…and then on Saturday I’ll go there to visit!!  I am really, really, really excited to see the community I’m going to be living in for the next two years.

Twenty is a nice, even number, so I’ll stop here...I have to go home and cook pumpkin and roti! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm here!

This is huge, and I don’t even know where to start.  I’M IN GUYANA.  It’s Day 3 of training, and I’m sitting in an air-conditioned hotel room in Georgetown, the capital city and home to 1/3 of the country’s 750,000 people.   We haven’t been out of the hotel at all, except for a brief trip on a minibus to a riverside park for our water safety test.  Immediately we could feel the “fishbowl effect”—though some Guyanese people paid us no mind, others were videotaping us and taking pictures.  This will take some getting used to.

I have to be up in five hours for breakfast, so I don’t have time for a long post, but good news: my training site, St. Cuthbert’s Mission, is classified as remote, but it DOES have internet access, at least during the four hours a day when the village has electricity.  It’s a small Amerindian (that is, Native South American) community of about 300 families where I’ll be learning about Guyanese culture by living with a host family.  During my eight weeks there, I will also have a 9-to-5 schedule of training activities, both in a classroom setting and through hands-on practicum experiences.  I even have homework!

There is so much more to tell about—the awesome people that I’m training with, the delicious food (and constant supply of fresh juice!), the odd exchange rate (my living stipend is 40,000 Guyanese dollars a month, any guesses on how much that is in American money?), and everything I’ve learned from my sessions thus far and my conversations with the current Volunteers who are helping with our training.  However, these are things best discussed at hours other than 2AM, especially since tomorrow is a big day!  We’re moving from the hotel in Georgetown to our training sites, where we’ll meet our host families for the first time.  Expect to hear all about St. Cuthbert’s in my next post!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Mailing Address

I promised an FAQ's post, but the last week has been crazy and I don't know if I'll have time to write it before I leave.  (TOMORROW!!)  So, here's my mailing address so you can send me letters and other fun stuff!

Kelly Cahill, PCT
Peace Corps
PO Box 101192
Georgetown, Guyana
South America

This is only my address for my first two months in the country. After that I'll move from my training site to my permanent site, and my address will change.  I will post the new one up here as soon as I can.

It takes letters about two weeks to get from the States to Guyana, and about a month for them to get from Guyana to the U.S. So be patient, I will write back! 

Make sure to write "air mail" on the envelope otherwise it will be sent even slower. Other info on mailing stuff through the US postal service is here:

Don't send me packages, it will be really, really expensive. If you must send me a package for some reason, you can send it through FedEx, DHL International, etc. instead of the post office, in which case you need to send it to the street address instead of the PO Box. The street address for the Peace Corps is 33A Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana.

That's all for now I guess, I've still got a lot to do tonight! I'm flying to Philly tomorrow for orientation and my emotions right now are all over the place. Thank you to everyone who has made time to see me these past few weeks, I will miss you all more than I can say.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The situation on the ground with 12 days to go...

I'm in the process of constructing a thorough (and time consuming) "FAQ's" post, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share a few developments.

I finally started packing!  I have 90% of my clothes already packed in one suitcase, and it weighs less than 30 pounds!  I'm glad, because the less my clothes weigh, the more my books can weigh...and the idea of going two years with only a handful of books in my possession is saddening.

Speaking of books, another Peace Corps volunteer recommended an awesome website called  Project Gutenberg.  It's full of free ebooks that you can download for a Kindle or just to read on your laptop.  The catch is, they're all books published before 1923, because the copyright has to expire for free distribution to be legal.  Personally, I'm a fan of books with pages, but I do have those luggage requirements to think this'll certainly do.  I downloaded a dozen books, and I'm especially looking forward to reading Les Misérables and The Wasteland.

Finally, I'm getting involved with a Peace Corps journal project called Snapshots of Service. Two journals will be mailed between 50 Peace Corps volunteers in all different regions, countries, and areas of work, with each volunteer contributing two journal entries over the course of their two years of service.  It'll be awesome to receive that book in the mail and have the opportunity to read about the experiences of other volunteers.  Who knows, it might even get published one day, or at least published as an ebook.  You can read more about the project here.  My bio should be up on that website in a few days!

That's all for now...keep your eyes peeled for my FAQs post, I should be publishing it by the end of the week.   (And if you have burning questions that I should answer in that post, ask 'em! I like comments. Oh, and I like being followed, too. Thank you, followers!)

P.S. I learned how to embed hyperlinks in my blog today!! Coding is fun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Look, I have a blog! I never had a Livejournal back in the olden days, so this is new to me.

I was tempted to make my first post entirely about my blog title and my indecisiveness on that front, but there are more pressing issues to discuss.  However, I will say that I almost threw in the towel and called it "naming it is the hardest thing."  If I ever write a novel I will not name it until it is finished, and if I ever have a baby I will just call it "Baby" for the first few weeks.  You have to wait for something to grow a discernible personality before you can give it a name, I think.

Anyway! Back on topic--Peace Corps! I am leaving in eighteen days (eep!) for Guyana, a small country on the northern coast of South America.  Not Guinea. Not Ghana.  And no, they don't speak Spanish--their official language is English!  Their culture has been described as more Caribbean than Latin, and the capital and only large city is Georgetown.   Temperatures range from nighttime lows of around 70 to daytime highs of around 90. Those are the basics--I will blog more specifically about the language (which I find really interesting) and other things as I go along.

Preparation for departure is not too overwhelming yet.  I bought some books, a new camera, a pair of really intense sandals, a Diva cup, a good rain jacket, and some dressy clothes suitable for teaching in 90 degree weather.  I read "Reading for Meaning," which I'd recommend to any elementary ed people out there, and I'm almost finished with "Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle" by Moritz Thomson, which I'd recommend to pretty much anyone reading this blog.  The author served in Ecuador in the '60s, right when the Peace Corps was starting up, and even if this isn't as relevant to your life as it is to mine, he's a damn good writer, and it's interesting stuff.

Still to do: some paperwork to sort out and a LOT of packing...I'm allowed to bring 80 pounds of stuff, which seems reasonable to me.  However, I'm in a facebook group with other Peace Corps Volunteers who are going to Guyana with me, and several of them are already entirely packed and over the weight limit.  Makes me think that maybe I should start packing.

High on my list of to-do's is seeing all my friends and family as much as possible.  I received a lovely surprise this weekend when six of my college friends drove all the way out to Long Island to visit me.  I had a blast, hugged and cuddled and (drank quite a bit) and talked and listened and overall basked in the warm feeling of being surrounded by good friends.  And then they left and I was exhausted from staying up all night, so I took a nap.  And when I woke up the house was dark and quiet for the first time in 24 hours...for the first time in a long time, really, since my brother had just left for college.  It was then that I first felt a loneliness creep up on me, a loneliness that I think will be a common feeling during my Peace Corps service, at least in the beginning.  Don't get me wrong...I'm excited, I'm ECSTATIC, like jumping-up-and-down excited at times, and my heart is entirely set on this.  And, I've left things before.  After high school I left the only home I ever knew, but, quite honestly, it didn't really phase me. Leaving hurts more now, not because I'm afraid of a new culture or poor living conditions or even because of the amount of time I'll be away from home, but because I value the people in my life more than I used to. Realizing that makes me appreciate the loneliness, for what a worse thing to never feel loneliness because I was never close enough with anyone to miss them.

On a lighter note, one final point of interest: I'm training myself to like bananas.  I've never ever liked bananas...once a cross country coach told me that I was probably performing badly because I didn't get enough potassium and I should eat lots of bananas, and I almost cried.  However, yesterday I read in Living Poor about how there were periods of time when the author lived on nothing but bananas for days on end because they were the only thing to eat in his village.  I'm eating a banana right now in preparation, and you know what, it isn't half bad.