Monday, July 18, 2016


When you are thrown from one culture into another, you are offered these incredibly unique scenarios. You have your American upbringing, wherever and whatever that may be, in one hand and are being handed an image of an entirely different Guyanese upbringing in the other. I think, for me, I am capable of compartmentalizing well. So I put my American upbringing behind my back as this Guyanese outlook was falling into my hand. I pretended like my American life never existed as living in a village of about 360 Indigenous people, regularly seeing monkeys/macaws/parrots/baboons, watching grannies canoe boats to their farms or walk with straw baskets on their backs, witnessing small children run across the white sand playing sports with whatever materials they can find, listening to the incessant pounding of rain on my zinc roof, and gaffing with people using terms like, “me nah no” or “how much years yo de?” and hearing names like, “Mnemosyne” and “Kamuwell” became my new normal. I pretended like bucket showers with cold water and walking down to the landing to buy my vegetables from the greens boat was just everyday life; I let it all be a part of this adventure that I was on and as a result I didn’t have to compare my life back home to where I was. But recently, the realization has been sinking in, I live here. This is my home and I am not only on an adventure, but I am here for a job, for a deeper purpose, for the hearts that I would encounter. But with this realization of my new home, the hand holding my American life has come from behind my back and is now idling up to this other hand that has quickly been holding more and more of the Guyanese traditions, (it only took 5 months of actually living here). The labor intensive process of making cassava bread and roti, farming all fruits/vegetables, washing laundry by hand, and making brooms from old palm trees. Here I see, the, well, the ways in which I have been blessed and handicapped to grow up in a developed country. We all knew this post was coming eventually hahaha, well here it is.
I think the real motive in writing this post was not to make others feel the guilt that goes hand-in-hand with service in a developing country or even to express a guilt that I was feeling serving here; it wasn’t to drive people to go donate all their money, sell their possessions, or feel laden with guilt for buying an extra latte in the week; it wasn’t so that people would think, “wow, what an experience SHE’S having” either. My motive in writing this was…well…gratitude. People here have so many things to be grateful for: amazing communities of family-based villages, generosity of the land and the people, a slower pace to appreciate the small details in life, gorgeous rain forest scenes every day, and a more environmental/economically sound way of living off of the land. They have these things in the midst of their struggles of lack of resources, inconsistent project plans, and limited opportunities towards diverse career paths; in the States the gratitude and struggle is no different, but it becomes so convoluted in the noise of wealth and the “American dream”. We have things we ought to be grateful for oozing out of our ears, and so often we let those things become our expectation, our demand even.
Let me say something cheesy for a Peace Corps Volunteer’s blog: there will ALWAYS be a reason to be grateful. If you woke up breathing today you have something to be grateful for and that’s anywhere you live. Gratitude, true gratitude, doesn’t take the form of superiority or pity. It doesn’t have to be contingent on other’s living conditions or life trajectory’s. Gratitude is a choice that when truly experienced fills a void, an emptiness, leaving no more room to complain; it is this response, this demeanor towards the things and the people and the purpose and the hope that we have in life. It’s a response that allows us to appreciate life instead of anticipate or expect things in life; it is a response that allows us to feel touched, instead of entitled, to be present instead of searching, and to become encouraged instead of drained.
Gratitude can be found in the details that you may have never seen before in your daily life. Like your refrigerator, or all-day electricity, or warm showers, or running water, or a fully-resourced health facility or school. There will always be a reason to be grateful; we have the option to choose just how hard we are willing to seek it out. And I’m not talking about the “sweeping the issues under the rug” kind of gratitude. I am talking about the heartfelt, hope-inducing, inspirational form of gratitude that allows us to have resilience in the face of our struggles.
For me, as the adventure of living in this beautiful, slower-paced life wears into the hard, tough, and sometimes frustrating work of living in a developing country that is the thing that hits home. As my hands, carrying these two cultures are measured side-by-side, these are the things that I see. And as I live here, I will be grateful for the world that I get to witness and I will be resilient in the face of the hurdles placed in front of me.


that American living in Guyana.

Dear Coffee Snobs, I Have Arrived

Today, I am chronicling the start of a process that I have only dreamed of in the past…harvesting my own coffee beans!

For those of you who know my level of coffee snobbery and addiction, you would understand the gravity of this proclamation! I stopped by my neighbor, Auntie Pearl's, house to ask if I could pick some coffee berries off of her tree that day and she decides to take me to her cousin’s house at the back end of the village so as to get MORE coffee berries. We get to the end and she points to the top of the tree showing the bright red and ripe berries on the branches and starts to ask for a ladder. But, this is my dream right folks, so I turned down the ladder and jumped into the tree. Now I’m pulling branches of ripe berries towards me and dropping them on the floor for the local kids (they follow me everywhere) to pick up and put in my bucket. With a full bucket of berries:

I walked back to my house and:

Sat underneath the raised foundation at my newly constructed work station of a board and an old glass bottle. 

At this point there were about 5 kids who showed up to see what I was doing and started to help. Sooner rather than later I was the manager of a child’s sweat shop … 

First we “panged” or pounded the berry, just enough to burst it open:

and then we pulled the cream colored slimy bean from inside:

and put it in a bucket full of water to soak. 

The kids had a full assembly line going and we finished in no time! Then the kids got bored and off they ran to play cricket or catch a monkey or something.  

Next, I soaked the beans until the slimy coating on the outside began to dissolve (about 3 days). Then I washed them out and put them in a pan to begin the most tedious, watching-paint-dry process of drying the beans. 

They have to be dried for about 2 weeks and cannot be rained on, which means when it starts to drizzle you are dashing out the door to bring in your beans (and washing if you can remember them/have enough hands for them, priorities people). As the beans dry there is a thin shell that cracks and this is where my child sweat shop managerial skills are impeccable. The kids magically reappeared of course and together we peeled the shell off of each and every single bean for hours. After that, there is a parchment that must be rubbed off or sifted off of the bean to result in the green, non-roasted product that you’ve seen in the real coffee snob’s coffeehouse as they prepare to roast the beans. 

I then walked with a container full of beans to a house across the village where we roasted the beans in a Cahari (type of pot) over an outdoor fire until they were browned aka roasted. 

We immediately pulled them off of the fire, sifted them one more time, and then we put them in a hand mill that was passed down through generations for over 200 years. 

I walked back across that village with a FINE smelling container of freshly ground/roasted beans with a smile and spring in my step, that truly marked an addict in anticipation of their next fix. =]. On my first morning enjoying the coffee, I used my travel French press to brew these celebrated Guyanese beans. 

Breakfast completely brought to you by the land of Waramuri.

I tell you I will never be the same and my snobbery will be 500% worse when I return to the states, of that I can guarantee. 

Voila, coffee made from start to finish!

Birthday, Take 24, Jungle Book Edition

My first birthday in Guyana. I didn't take too many pictures team, so sorry on that factoid, but the reasoning is because I had moved to my new community, Waramuri, 4 days prior to this celebration and truthfully, I felt a leetle awkward about taking any pictures. BUT I woke up and Auntie Norma (the 69-year-old, semi-British woman I live with) had made a big breakfast and coffee and we sat out on the porch to enjoy our coffee and took in the scenic jungle background with the sound of monkeys and macaws chattering about. 

WARNING: Pictures on my phone have very poor quality, but they get the job done and they look a bit like paintings, so it's super artsy. 

The neighbors at this point started up their generator and blasted Happy Birthday music for 20 minutes. And of course, “Go shawty, it’s your birthday” started playing and Auntie (69 remember) started danced to the whole song, dragging me in to dance as well. The neighbor kids made me the sweetest birthday card and we had a wonderful roast chicken lunch with some family members of Auntie Norma’s as well….and remember, I moved in 4 DAYS AGO, this community is positively wonderful.

That night, I hopped on a crowded bus to travel through the jungle to a town about 40 minutes away called Kumaka where a Pentecostal revival was going on. I got there and it was a huge field FILLED with Guyanese. They started to play worship music and all the youth went to the front to dance and celebrate. Just like that I was a part of a worship mosh pit of Guyanese jumping up and down in the middle of the jungle singing at the top of my lungs, steam rising from our heads, and sweat POURING. That went on for about an hour and then the pastor gave a talk and off we were. On the bus ride back, we were jostled every which way by the rough road through the jungle, but I couldn’t stop smiling as I thought, with sweat drying in my hair and my seat neighbor practically in my lap, “WHAT A BIRTHDAY!!” And just like that I turned 24 in Guyana, stay tuned for 25, I’m planning on hosting a jaguar-wrestling party. 

Site Pictures

This is the landing from the Moruca river into the mission. Across the river is all savannah and jungle, not another village to be seen.

More landing views from later down at the mission.

My calves will be legit after playing football in the sand for the next couple of years…hopefully. =]

This is the savannah view from the far side of the mission.

This is my Auntie Norma who I will be staying with in the village and her little niece Michelle. We took walks around the community after work and this was our little path across the village.

This is a group of the village kids including all my neighbor girls: Michella, Danielle, and Kavita on the left, Adena and Mary in front of me and Michelle, Eron, Lilliana, and Shakeel to the right. They are all adorable and frequently visit the house. We are at a bathing pool in the jungle that the community uses.