Thursday, February 9, 2017

Just Start

I’ve started at least 4 different blog posts at this point and each time I stop writing – either because I am interrupted by someone calling at my veranda, I’m at a loss for words to describe it all, or get distracted by some other task as I hop from thing to thing in hopes that by some miracle it will all get done. Like right now there is a very aggressive bat that keeps running into my bed net and I am very tempted to stop writing to “deal” with this issue…but I will continue on and the bat will be grateful for you all.

Team, I have been in Guyana for almost a year now, which means that I could have had a baby by now and none of y’all would’ve known…just kidding Mom and Dad, they have Zika here, I’ll wait. Even though, I will say, I have had my fair share of offers, and pleas of some older Aunties to be their daughter-in-law (whether I know their sons or not). Also, I have had the following conversation multiple times with different people, “Have a Guyanese baby fuh me nah. Ya can leave ‘em wit me when ya gone.” Me: “[nervous laughter], no”. Guyanese: “Me serious ya know” … Awkward Silence. But, I digress.

Let me just give you the obligatory update then: It’s official, I am head over heels for this Peace Corps job in Waramuri. I will be honest with you, there are rough patches, rough days or weeks where tears seem more natural than ever before, and missing of family and friends is more than a molehill, but the second that my speedboat turns into the Moruca river from the ocean there is this deep sigh of, “gosh, it’s good to be going home” in my heart. Overall, this work has become my passion, my dream day-in and day-out, whether or not it is easy or successful.

So what have these past 8 months been? Shoot, it’s really been over half a year since I last blogged?? Whoops! Well, these months have been a roller coaster of emotions and stories, my moments of frustration and my leaps of joy alongside these wonderful Guyanese people have all gone down as the “Peace Corps experience”. Essentially, I’ve started work on a local Mini-Camp G.L.O.W. (an international effort by the Peace Corps to empower women) with one other Peace Corps Volunteer, Eneka Lamb (who quickly climbed the ranks of close friend and fellow jungle survivor), and 21 mentors in both of our communities (she lives in Santa Rosa – the district hub about 45 minutes by boat away). My supervisor and I have begun to work on a business plan for a Computer Hub with internet access (egad!) and computer classes for the community, and I’ve started doing health talks in the school and during clinic days at the health center. Outside of that (aka the fun things after work ends), I’ve started a running club with the youth (put on pause during the rainy season where the running route fills with water), and helped coach the girls football (soccer) team in Waramuri for our annual year-end Moruca Football Tournament (we’re kind of a big deal, reigning champs and all =]). Let’s just say that life got busy real quick. Outside of the “resume” things, my two best friends have come to visit - shout-out to Kobes and Hilary for being the best jungle conquistadors and soul-filling adventurers that I could’ve asked for to say that I am privileged to be your girls’ friend doesn’t say enough. I have learned the labor extensive process of baking cassava bread, making coconut oil, catching crabs (all the muddy, ocean-traveling, mosquito infested process that it is) and cooking them; I have learned that there is an art to steering a canoe that I am not inherently gifted with, and I have begun to practice the preparation of more foods than I care to admit to not knowing how to cook before. =]

Okay, now that you know what I’ve started working on, here’s what I’ve learned living wise: everything, the end, let’s all go home. Jokes. Well, they say that the Peace Corps is an experience that strips you of everything and then yells in your face the question, “WHO ARE YOU?” and “WHO ARE YOU NOT?” I would humbly agree and also give a spiritual yummy to that statement, “mmmhmmm”. I’ve taken pen to paper concerning the questions of true service, “making a difference”, being an advocate, loneliness, resilience, adversity, generosity, acceptance of generosity, and ignorance/”American syndrome”. I’ve grown angry at the world and the way that it runs - perpetuating systems of poverty, injustice, and greed. I’ve had to challenge my peacekeeping ways to learn how to yell for the things that demand attention and are just plain wrong. I’ve grown elated as I’ve carried newborns to the scale and whispered, “Welcome to the world little one – you’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to offer”. I’ve learned what I am not in the roughest kind of ways; I’ve learned what I am in the most rewarding kind of ways and I’ve learned that we as people are able to mold, fight, and adapt. I have faced the terms “American”, “privilege”, “humility”, “arrogance”, “ignorance”, “selfishness”, “poverty”, “service”, “vulnerability”, “racism” and “generosity” in a completely different light than ever before.

I was talking with one of the staff members at the Peace Corps office and I told her that I was once given the advice that evangelism and service is like one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. I lamented that in the Peace Corps sometimes you find food after you’ve been starving (for love, purpose, attention, actual food, etc.) and all you want to do is eat, you don’t want to show anyone where the food is until you are full. She listened quietly and then told me that it is when we are still hungry and yet show the next beggar where the food is that we find the most worth. I quietly accepted that statement at the time, but later took it apart. When we are lacking, when we have nothing, when we are uncertain of the future, unsure of the next paycheck, and unstable, then we will truly see the worth, the purpose, and the soul of service. What can we do? What can we do when we witness a corrupted system work its corrupted ways to pit a child against success in their own future? What can we do when we hear of struggles that we cannot begin to fathom or understand? What can we do when we hear of someone slighted in sexual, physical, mental, and emotional ways? What can we do in the face of injustice, inequity, and sheer privilege? When I asked these questions in the past, my first instinct was to shrug my shoulders, sigh in overwhelmed resignation, and then close my eyes (I’m sorry to admit).

But now, that’s not an option, and I am so damn grateful for that. What can we do? Get started; start to pay attention even if it is just to see something tragic that you cannot change. Sit to listen, even when it challenges the privilege that you’ve grown up enjoying. Pay attention to the stories, listen to the voices that are whispering for help instead of screaming and determine what type of help is truly needed. Let yourself look outside of the world that you have built for yourself and the future that you have already crafted in your head. Be willing enough to hear the stories of someone that makes you uncomfortable, someone who challenges your beliefs, someone who shows you that there are so many things that you don’t understand. Don’t be afraid to be proven ignorant, fearful, and entitled. We all are at some point. The difference between those who choose to serve and those who remain sheltered is the willingness to be humbled in the face of adversity, to be found ignorant, wanting, and uncertain. When we reach that point, we know that we are exactly where we should be.
Anyway, this Peace Corps life is wonderful and daunting in the same breath, a blessing and a blight, a great awakening and the ultimate condemnation. It is to really see the gap, the things that we as Americans close our eyes to because, who really has time to care about those outside of what they know…and who actually knows that Guyana even exists? But it doesn’t take moving to another country to begin to combat the selfishness or should I say the ignorance that we often are inclined towards. There is diversity in the US, in your state, in your neighborhood, in your home even. No two people are exactly the same. Begin the journey, my friend. Just start.

The end. Here’s some pictures: =]

Sleeping arrangements for Moruca Mini-Camp G.L.O.W.

Being sworn-in with the G.L.O.W. song

Free-time = football, swimming, and slip and slides.

Sessions during camp.

Moruca Mini-camp G.L.O.W. girls

Christmas church service with the William’s kids (aka my family away from family). 

Old Years Company. =]] 
My Auntie Norma (the woman that I live with) and I dancing on Old Years Night. An avid dancer, proper English woman, and incredibly entertaining woman. 

Making Coffee with the girls (we spent all day picking and pulping a GIANT tub of it).

Old Years Night (New Years Eve) was spent with this motley gang.
Visiting with two other Peace Corps Volunteers, Catherine & Robin, in their small Amerindian community.

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