So here I am . . . finally writing a new blog post after almost 6 months of radio silence. I guess maybe I should apologize for that leave of absence huh? . . . Nahh. You guys are fine. My family and immediate friends have heard from me in the last couple of months, so that counts! lol
Honestly, I’ve been wanting to update my blog, but I find myself not doing it because (1) I am still not confident in my writing abilities (I hate proofreading and have grammar skills of 2nd grader); (2) I don’t really know what to share (I need inspiration from you guys, my readers, for what to write about); and (3) I am usually too tired after school to use my brain for blog writing (the heat in Guyana really wears on me).
But from this point forward I am going to try to post more. I know people are curious about what I am doing, and I know if I was in your shoes, I would be too. So here is a life update!
As I write this post I am sitting on a plane. Or maybe I’ll be on a ferry by the time I post this? Haha. You might be thinking, “Where are you going?”. Well actually, I am returning back to Guyana from a 2-week vacation where I made a surprise trip home!
Seven months ago I got a hold of a select few family members to see if a surprise trip could be possible and asked for help to buy plane tickets – you know because I live on a Peace Corps stipend which is about $250 a month. To say I am broke would be an understatement. But hey! That’s what I signed up for and my family also understands that.
In Guyana, schools break for 2 weeks around Easter time – the week prior to Easter and the week following. This year, that 2-week break fell over my birthday, my brother’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday, so I took advantage of this to surprise them, the rest of my family and my friends. After plane tickets were purchased last October I slowly started to withdrawal in conversations with friends and family so I wouldn’t accidently let this surprise slip.
I gotta say, this trip was easy to keep secret up until Christmas. Although I was surrounded by my amazing host family and Peace Corps friends for the holidays, I still felt very lonely during that time. Christmas in Guyana is just not the same as it is at home. It was a time of firsts – first time I had every spent Christmas away from my family, the first time I had felt homesick while in Guyana and the first time I cried during my service. Meredith crying? I know! What a weird concept! But it happened and I want to be honest about it because I don’t want people to think I don’t miss home or that I am so incapable of expressing emotions that my tear ducts have dried up. (that was a joke if you didn’t laugh)
Anyways, it wasn’t until the last couple of months before my trip home that I started to include others on my plans so they could help me surprise various people. Honestly that was easy part! It was the traveling from my site to Illinois that was the most tiring and time consuming. From when I left my house to when I finally touched down in Chicago, I had been traveling for 36 hours – partly due to flight times – but still! That is a crazy amount of traveling. Just to get to the airport, which is located south of Georgetown (the capital), I had to take a car (1.5 hours), speed boat (45mins ), bus (1 hour), speed boat again (10 mins), and another car (1.5 hrs). At 1:30am I had a 4.5 hour flight to Miami, then a second flight to Houston, and then a third flight to Chicago. By the time my brother and sister-in-law picked me up, I was just a shell of person running on fumes. I was pretty much like your phone having 5% left on low battery mode.
That wouldn’t be the last of my travels, but that’s boring to talk about. Aside from traveling, my trip home pretty much went like this. I spent the next 2 weeks going around Chicago and central Illinois saying, “Surprise, I’m home!” Some cried happy tears, some were mad I had kept the secret so long, some became frozen when they saw me, some nearly tackled me with excitement. Overall, I would say I did a pretty good job with this trip! Haha I tried to see as many people I possibly could, without making what is supposed to be my vacation, too overwhelming. I also want to give a huge shout out to everyone who help make this trip possible at any stage of it – you know who you are!
While home I got to see so many people and eat so much food! I’m surprised I didn’t gain a lot of weight from all the food I ate! But really though, coming home was just what I needed as a little break from my service. I got to celebrate my birthday, my dad’s birthday, my brother’s birthday and Easter. I also presented a few Third Goal activities to different student groups/classes on Bradley University’s campus. The third goal of Peace Corps is to share the experiences you have in your country of service to other Americans. This blog is a Third Goal!
I am very happy I had the opportunity to come home. I didn’t know whether I would be able to during my service, and clearly my friends and family didn’t know either! I don’t know if I will have the chance to come home again, but you never know what the future holds. After this big trip, I really want to focus on traveling around Guyana. Plus, once my service is done, I’ll have the rest of my life to visit or be home. I want to experience things in Guyana while I can and while I am here.
So what else has been going on? Well, lets see . . .
I am still teaching health classes to grades 7 & 8. It’s still challenging, but I am trying to work with the obstacles I am presented with in my school. In August, myself, the two other health volunteers in my region, and three local secondary teachers are conducting a teachers’ workshop to increase the capacity and development of Health & Family Life Education (HFLE) courses throughout our region’s secondary schools. I am also hoping to finally get smaller projects started that my community has approached me about earlier on. Details to follow!
Thanksgiving, as Americans know it, is not a holiday in Guyana. Peace Corps volunteers don’t even get the day off, so my Peace Corps friends and I decided we would all get together the weekend following so we could (1) spend time together to combat homesickness, (2) take a break from our host family and school responsibilities, and (3) try to recreate traditional American holiday food with Guyanese ingredients. With minimal setbacks, the weekend was a success! We ate a fresh turkey (bought, killed, plucked and gutted the night before), had stuffing, apple pie, mash potatoes, biscuits, and so much more!
I have been celebrating new holidays, such as Diwali (Hindu festival of lights), Youman Nabi (Muslim celebration of the Prophet’s birth), Mashramani (Guyana’s Republic Day), and Phagwah (or Holi – Hindu festival of colors). Each celebration has its own history, traditions, teachings and festivities. Every holiday we had our incredibly welcoming Peace Corps host families were there to help guide us, explain to us and celebrate with us.
In January, I moved out of my host family’s house and into independent housing near my school and within my community. I loved living with my host family, but the opportunity presented itself and I didn’t know if it would be available again if I turned it down. I have two roommates – Violet and Onyx (aka my cats I acquired from my host family’s house). They are indoor and outdoor cats, so they come and go as they please and do as they please, but really they keep me company. Without my siblings to entertain me now that I am on my own, these two kitties fill that gap.
I have lost 40 pounds in the 10 months I have been in Guyana. No big deal. I’m happy and staying aware of it. I came into Peace Corps with an unhealthy weight that put me into the obese category of BMI. After the constant food issues I had with training host family, my appetite greatly decreased and I became a pickier eater. Couple those two things with walking more and sweating more from living in a hot climate, and I am expending more calories than I am taking in.
I am sure more things have been going on in my life, but like I said earlier in this post, I need your help for inspiration. Comment below what you’re interested in hearing about or if you have questions about Guyana or Peace Corps or my Peace Corps service in Guyana! I would honestly appreciate it!
‘Til next time!