Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tough Love

In reference to my prior journal entry - you know the one about the toilet, the gravel, and the flush problem? That experience made me stronger. I am more confident about adjusting to this new place because of how sick I got the other weekend and how early I got sick in my travel here. I now understand more about how faith is cultivated in the aftermath of a life test. Had I not gotten sick and successfully passed, would I still be here? Can I assume that I am more comfortable with the humidity today because I was so sick of it while I was in bed, sick? Maybe.

In pondering, I thought it appropriate to list some of my personal frustrations and some of the loves of my new home.

Here are my frustrations:

1. I sleep a lot. I go to bed at 8:30pm and don’t get up until 6:45am. I haven’t slept those hours since I was a baby. The problem is that they are not solid hours of sleep. I am constantly waking up.

2. At night, I go to sleep after taking a shower and wake up the next morning swimming in my own sweat. It makes me feel unclean.

3. I can’t focus. No, seriously people, I focus less than I normally do, and y’all know how hard it is for Chris Olin to focus. Well, triple that and will get an idea of how hard it is for me. It is actually giving me anxiety and it depresses me.

4. My legs are covered in mosquito bites. The itching keeps me up at night and the anti-itch cream doesn’t work. Those blood suckers get me after I take a shower, like moths to a flame. Today I counted 24 from the bottom of my shins to my toes, on my right leg only.

5. The roosters start crowing at 3:30am. I am not kidding because I look at my watch every morning at this time and think of the blog f$ as I groan in anger at those egotistical birds. They crow from 3:30am until 9am. There are twelve of them. Other than that, we are all friends.

6. There are cats in heat that cry at night. They start crying at 9pm and will go sometimes until midnight. They sound like malnourished babies begging for milk. Those of you who have lived in Isla Vista, CA: you know what I’m talking about.

7. Goats and sheep bleat at night when the dogs start barking. The dogs start barking whenever a car or minibus drives by. This can happen at any time in the middle of the night.

8. One day after I had diarrhea from my stomach flu I became constipated (Guyanese cook a lot of starchy foods). It's been three weeks and I'm still constipated. It’s a battle of epic proportions in my bowls.

9. If the animals don't keep me up at, the Larium I am taking as a Malaria prophylaxis does. I have strange dreams sometimes.

10. This past weekend I bleached my hands with chlorinated water while doing my laundry. The concentration of chlorine was extremely high and my hands were sticky all weekend long. It was like I had altered the genetic structure of my skin on the palms of my hands because they glisten and don't retain moisture or hand moisturizer. Kids, DO NOT DO THIS, IT IS SO UNCOMFORTABLE!

Now let's talk about the things I LOVE about being in Guyana:

1. First and foremost, the most enjoyable thing about Guyana for me is the breeze. I cannot put into words the extent to which I LOVE the breeze and wind here in Guyana. When it is hot and humid out and I am sitting in training with my clothes stuck to my skin and the breeze comes up, a smile will form on my face and my mood will pick up instantaneously. It is amazing.

2. The light: The light in Guyana astounds me. It is different than any place I've been to. Sometimes I will be on my way home from training and the sun will be setting behind some clouds and groves of palm trees and it will make me stop in my tracks. I have taken many digital pictures of this, and I will most definitely have to take some photos with my film camera.

3. The food: despite my bowel conditions, the food that I have been eating is really, really good. I've learned how to make some dishes already and I can't wait to write more about it as it should get its own journal entry.

4. The Reggae music, Sako music, and Chatney music that is played in the minibuses and taxis. Unfortunately indigenous music is not common in this part of Guyana. Much is borrowed from Jamaica and India and is re-mixed. I will do more research, however.

5. The eggs my host father's hens lay. They make the best scrambles I've ever had in my life.

6. My host parents, their kindness, and the way they interact with each other.

7. The availability of three religious worlds and the fact that they students are taught to appreciate and learn from all three: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity.

8. Fried plantain chips. Trader Joes, you should get in on this... people would buy them.

9. The frogs that hang out on the walls in my shower. They are always so paranoid of me. I am paranoid of accidentally squashing them when I stumble into the washroom in the middle of the night.

10. The rain for many reasons, but mainly because it cools things down and makes so much noise. It rains HARD here, and in quick 30 second to 5 minute bursts. I only worry when I have to go to school and I'm wearing my really nice shoes.

11. The extreme availability of fruit. I can eat watermelon, guava, passion fruit, star fruit, mango, papaya and others any day of the week. In addition to this (and Darrick, Sasha, Maya, Laura, Olivia will appreciate this one), I have learned how to make juice from all of them. I AM IN HEAVEN!

12. The warmth of the Guyanese hospitality and their personalities. I could talk endlessly about the Indo and Afro Guyanese and their behavior, styles, and characteristics. I haven't had a chance to spend much time with Amerindians, but this will change eventually.

13. Hampton Court Cricket Stadium. You can play soccer, football, cricket, squash, volleyball, you name it!

14. The Seawall. There is always a breeze and you can have personal space to reflect.

15. The American television shows that are on at random, unscheduled times: Oprah, Jeopardy, American Idol, The Young and the Restless, 60 Minutes... it makes me feel at home. They love Oprah and American Idol here.

As you can see, there are more things I love about Guyana than frustrate me. I purposely look at my life in Guyana in this way because of how much more difficult adjusting to life here is than what I anticipated it to be. For me, it is VERY important to always look for the silver lining. This and CARE PACKAGES are what will keep me sane. To be quite honest, I have never been this far off in calculating a challenge that I actively sought to overcome - in all my difficult life choices. Because of this very realization, 25 has just become a young age in my eyes.

In addition to this, my understanding of affluence is constantly changing here. You have no idea how much I respect the amenities and luxuries America has to offer. I'm not even in the bush, yet and I am realizing this. I am living with electricity and running water and in a home that is considered "middle class" in Guyana, but would be classified as "poor" in the states. Some of my fellow trainees are living in less luxurious homes than I am.

So, in closing I should say that my eyes are constantly being opened. They are being opened in the same fashion as when I went to college, learned how to race a sailboat, drove across the US, studied abroad, kissed a girl for the first time, worked with low income families, or any other life changing experience. However, here in Guyana my eyes are opening to things I have never seen before and it is both fascinating and overwhelming. The hardest challenge trying to focus on what is right in front of me without losing site of everything that is going on around me. I only have two years.


Jules said...

Wow Chris! You're writing makes me both thankful for the many luxuries I have and jealous of those special experiences which one can only find in Guyana. You sound like you are getting a lot out of this experience and I'm so happy to hear that you are enjoying yourself, despite the mosquitos and noisy animal neighbors :)

Her Imperial Highness said...

Thanks for sharing all these strange and wonderful experiences. I am now desperately afraid to visit Guyana as I am usually the one person in the room that the mosquitoes are attracted to. I can only imagine the food fest I would be for them!!

Christina said...

Chris, your writing is AMAZING! Keep the posting going. It's like reading a book that you can't put down. I love the detailed descriptions too. lol. You should post a list of things you may need/want for people to send you. You sound like you're really enjoying your experience. I hope all goes well :)

Sarah said...

Chris!!! I can SO relate to MANY of your experiences: the noise of animals at night, the exhaustion, the difficulty of focus and wanting to absorb every detail...even bleaching my hands doing laundry! It sounds like you are adjusting beautifully and really being present to as many of your experiences as you can. And you have 2 years to "explore"...I imagine after training you'll get into a more regular routine up in the North! :) I'm excited to hear more about your placement and what you are learning from the people...I know you are up there this week! woot! I hope you've been enjoying the snail mail and that it makes it to you quickly! You are missed here but we will be living vicariously through your adventures in Guyana! :) Keep writing when you can! Thanks for the detailed updates!

Laura said...

I love you little juicer!