I’ve been in Guyana for 2 months. I swear into the Peace Corps on Monday; I’m currently still a Peace Corps Trainee (pct) and that’s when we officially become Peace Corps Volunteers (pcvs). So I thought today would be an apt day for reflection.
Every Pcv’s experience is different – they say that a lot, but I don’t think any of us comprehended this until being in country for a while. Even though we’ve been together for this time we’ve each had vastly different experiences, reactions, interactions etc to the others. I’m sure this will only continue to grow as we move off to our sites.
I did my best to have no expectations because we’d repeatedly heard that every volunteer’s experience is different. But some of course slipped through. A lot of what I expected to be challenges with our work aren’t here and things I never imagined being different have been. While I’d visited other countries prior to coming to Guyana, there are a lot of things I don’t think I would notice on vacation that becomes evident when you’re making an effort to integrate with the people on a more permanent basis. This has helped me to learn a lot about my own culture; things I would have never classified as cultural but human nature I’m learning is different here – and I can’t imagine in how many other places. Yet having been here for only 2 months I hesitate now to speak definitively of the differences – as I’ve only really lived in one region, one community, with one host family, etc. While I’ve visited other areas and have seen similarities, I know I still have an incomplete picture. I would say this is probably my first personal growth, watching and waiting rather than making an initial impression hard fact in my mind. Shortly I will be moving to another region, where I’m sure I’ll get a different aspect of Guyana and I’m so excited to get another piece or two to the puzzle.
With that being said, I feel as though the beautiful region 2 deserves it’s own reflection/synopsis. Although we’ve primarily been on the coast. Region 2 has several communities farther inland down the various rivers and from what I’ve heard both from Guyanese and the Peace Corps volunteer who did her site visit in one of those, it’s a different experience there. Region 2, also referred to as the Essequibo Coast, and Cinderella County was a beautiful place to begin our Guyanese adventure. Staff (primarily Guyanese employees of Peace Corps) have told us numerous times this is our honeymoon period, for various reasons but partly because it is more developed here and the communities are familiar with Peace Corps volunteers. It is a beautiful county, situated along the Atlantic, with several major lakes and rivers. The people are very friendly and it is somewhat a sleepy community. The major hubs within the county are (from North to South) Charity, Anna Regina, and Suddie. This is where the largest markets are as well as taxi lots. Outside of those villages things begin to slow down around 5, and anytime after 530 it is difficult to catch a car past Suddie. Queenstown is one of, if not the oldest, village along the coast. There are several Amerindian communities, set back from the main road, next to the lakes. Capoey and Mainstay are the two we frequented but there are others. (You can read more about them on my Road to Capoey post.)
Overall it has been a great first two months. I think we all are suffering from a little bit of Cabin Fever and are ready and eager to get started. But we’ll miss our Cinderella County,the people here, and having the support system of the other volunteers.
Random tip (that I don’t think I’ve included before) expect to use cash. Credit cards are not really a thing here, even shops that have the visa (or mastercard) logo don’t usually actually except it. Also I could not find anywhere to exchange at home. You can withdrawl Guyanese dollars from some if the banks here – but even the ones that say they take US cards don’t always. So if you can’t find an exchange at home bring US dollars. You can check the exchange rate online – but you’ll most likely never get it. Since I’ve been here the rate has hovered around 210 Guyanese dollars to $1 US, but the best rate I’ve gotten was at GBTI bank at 200 Guyanese to $1 US.