Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmastime in Bartica, pt.2

Christmastime is over.  Happy New Year!  Here’s a summary:

There were sixteen volunteers who rented Willem’s place for the holiday weekend.  Thursday to Sunday at $250 US a night plus food and the cost of party supplies turned our Christmas into a $100 getaway.  It was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever enjoyed.

My roommate and I had been to Willem’s a few times before and we decided it would be the perfect place for volunteers to unwind and enjoy Christmas in paradise.  Willem’s, as I have mentioned before, is a three story, five bedroom Dutch house on the edge of Bartica.  Situated on a stretch of land that juts out onto the Essequibo River, its L-shaped design and two balconies face north to receive the constant breeze that comes from the passing river. And since our rainy season has been slow to start, the temps were mild all weekend long and the rain amounted to only a few showers during our stay.  Suffice it to say, everyone was pleased with the lodging and accommodations (see pictures here).

Our activities included: lots of swimming in the pool, Taboo, Scrabble, various card games, Frisbee, football, soccer, movies on a projector, drinking and eating wonderful food, and of course the regular banter that comes with a group of Peace Corps volunteers eager to get rid of their stress.

It was relaxing to say the least.

Aside from a few trips out to town for beer, rum, and various other things in short supply, we all stayed at the house for the entire weekend.  There was a gift exchange, lots of dancing, and even a few competitions including games in the pool and a sumo wrestling ring drawn out by the garden hose.  Much was caught on camera.

The view is spectacular there and so is the design of the house.  So, I think we were really able to let go of a lot of stress and enjoy something familiar: the atmosphere a bunch of Americans bring to an event like this and a house that resembles something you’d see at home. 
All and all, we made it a Christmas to remember as well as a Christmas done the way we wanted it to be done.  We sat down together for all three dinners and, albeit minimal by my standards, speeches were short and sweet.

By the time the weekend was over, everyone was exhausted.  We had played hard, and cooked for an army.  Sleep may have been in abundance, but that never really seems to do the trick when volunteers are on vacation.  After settling in the boat returning to Georgetown, everyone slumped collectively in the boat.  Like a giant lacklustre boat of white people with glazed eyes, sunglasses on, iPods playing, and some preparing to sleep the whole way back.  I was so tired I didn’t even stay to see them off: another sign of a great holiday.

I took the remainder of 2009 to recover and prepare for what Guyanese call, “Old Year’s Night.”  A phrase I don’t think I’ll ever inherit.  Try saying it as fast as, “New Year’s Eve” and tell me you don’t prefer the latter.

Well, New Year’s Eve began with a nap at 6pm.  At 10, Tyler and I watched the news feed from Atlanta as they covered the party in Manhattan.  By midnight we were watching people set off fireworks in the streets and in their yards.  Then, we went out and celebrated until 4:30 in the morning.  Some parts are hazy, but we danced a lot and laughed a lot.  I made like the dead at 5 and didn’t wake up until 1pm.  Then it was the good old nurse the hangover routine.  This, by the way, is a procedure that should be documented worldwide.  Think of this: Much of the world likes to drink and there are so many people out there who have their own secrets to curing hangovers, like things they do, stuff they eat and drink, etc.  And so, the hangover becomes quintessential morning greeting for the world of partiers – and what is a world without party and drink?  A boring one, I should say.  In this way, the hangover becomes a reoccurring ordeal that you both resent and respect whilst constantly hoping will never again be there in the morning to greet you – kind of like having to spend time with that family member you absolutely find repulsive, although we hope there’s no greeting in the morning at your bedside like our dear friend the hangover.

But I digress, on New Year’s my routine went like this: I willed my body from my bed to the bathroom and staggered a path full of zigs, zags, wobbles, lists, and the obligatory butt cheek scratch/yawn combination.  In the cool tiled surface of my bathroom, I stood for a long while staring at the cold floor wondering if this would be my final afternoon destination.  But, I laughed because it wasn’t – “silly Chris, that floor is dirty!”  After soup, coffee, and four Advil, I drank as much water as I could without losing my lunch.  Then I sat on the couch and didn’t move for the rest of the day.  Reading magnified my headache, so I watched a lot of TV.
Now, I can’t condone the kind of drinking that will result in a visit from brother jackhammer because it simply is irresponsible.  But what I can say is this:  knowing the path is different than walking the path.  Good path or bad, an experience paid close attention to is an education in and of itself.  So I close with the thought that has gone through my head every morning that I have ever awakened with a 10-out-of-10-points hangover:

“Never again...”

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