I can’t believe I’ve finally made it to Guyana. Over 14 month’s preparation has gone into this year, and when you wait that long for something it begins to feel fictional, as if it’ll never actually arrive.
But it (finally) did arrive, and before I knew it I found myself saying farewell to my family and friends, boarding a flight from Glasgow airport, and beginning my year volunteering with Project Trust.
Saying goodbye to everyone was actually much easier than I thought, and when looking back I think this is due to my lack of trying understand what a year is, what 12 months feels like. Had I stopped and tried to process the longevity of the period as a unit of time I might have experienced different emotions, but the excitement leading up to the departure date overwhelmed my thoughts, leaving little room to actually process what I was about to commit to. Now that I’m here everything does feel much more real, but I don’t think I’ll fully understand what I’ve got myself in for before waiting until more time has elapsed.
The flight from Glasgow to Gatwick was fine, and after a fun night with a few of other volunteers staying in the same hotel, I woke up ready to fly to Guyana.
All 14 of the Guyanese volunteers met at Gatwick airport the next morning, ready to embark on the adventure. We boarded the flight bound for Trinidad and Tobago, and 10 hours later, touched down. It was dark when we arrived, but the heat still hit us as soon as we left the plane. It seemed exiting at the time, but little did I know how I’d come to seek cold temperatures.
It was here that I first experienced the laid-back attitude shared by many Carribeans, when the man at airport security let me take a full litre-bottle of water through in hand luggage, exclaiming something along the lines of ‘I’ll let you have it, everything’ll be alright’.
After a few hours in Trinidad, we boarded the final plane of our journey to Guyana and after a short flight, arrived.
Once our bags were collected at the notably flag-laden, room that was both immigration and bag pick-up, we met with Kala (our country coordinator) and Rishon (her daughter), and were driven to our accommodation. 14 mattresses awaited us on the floor of the otherwise bare apartment which I’d call home for the next week, and we all fell straight asleep after our exhausting day.
Waking up the next day in Guyana felt great. Hot, but great. Over the next few days we did different things such as going swimming in a creek near Georgetown, seeing some of the capital’s sights, and attending a pool party at the British High Commissioner’s home. We also received additional teacher training from the Guyanese Ministry of Education.
These were all fun, but just simply walking around in Georgetown is great. This is my first time in the Americas, and despite the fact that English is the first language here, I can definitely tell I’m not in Britain. Everything just feels different, from the dodgy roads and interesting graphic design, to the amazing accents and colourful houses. As mentioned before, it definitely feels like the people here are friendlier, and more chill. Maybe it’s just because we’re potentially the only white people they’ve seen have seen all day, but everyone seems to be really smiley and open.
And the heat. It’s pretty relentlessly around 30° during the day, not much colder at night, and always humid. My newfound affinity to the cold has surprised me though – it’s interesting how quickly I’ve gone from being someone who’s always freezing to someone who craves a cold shower.
On our third night in here, we learned the compound of apartments which we’re staying in hosts weekly rehearsals for a local hard rock band. Scremo isn’t normally my thing, but our host said they were friendly so we went so listen to them rehearse. They were great to watch, and basically provided us with a free concert. When they came out of their room during a break, me and the 50 year-old lead singer started chatting. We had a great conversation, and despite the fact he was definitely high and likely drunk, he was pretty inspiring, and definitely made me realise the benefit of speaking a foreign strangers.
After the rehearsal, the band shared their rum with us. They claim El Dorado is the ‘best in the world’ but let me tell you the stuff really doesn’t go down easy; I’ll have to learn to love it I guess. The beer tastes so much better here though, maybe just because anything cold is appreciated more.
Moving from alcohol to food, there’s a clear Indian influence here: almost of our meals have been curries. They’ve been great though, and I’ve already picked up a few recipes. Rotis are also commonplace here, which are these amazing flatbreads. There’s also lots of street food, and walking vendors selling peanuts and dried fruit. It’s been great to note how unobtrusive they are, and how they seem to be much more respected by the locals than some other places I’ve visited. The picture shows chana daal in a roti that I picked up from a woman with a small stand outside the mall. I do get the impression that food at our project may not be the same though, due to the different ingredients available.
Mark and I are due to head to Matthew’s Ridge on Sunday morning and start teaching on Monday, but nothing’s ever certain here so we can’t be 100%. We both just can’t wait to get there and get into the swing of things. I’m nervous of course, but can’t wait for the year to really start – for the challenge to begin.
To finish, I’d like to outline my goals for the year:
- Speaking to as many people as possible, and being open to their views.
- Maintaining a less technology-orientated lifestyle. We’ve had lots of time with nothing really to do in our accommodation, I’ve found myself reading, playing many, many games of chess and draughts, refraining from social media, and hand-washing my clothes. Even using the dodgy outdoor shower has been refreshing (literally).
- Adopting the relaxed attitudes I’ve observed – stress can’t be good.
- Learning to cook local food, so much of what we’ve eaten has been incredible, and I’d love to come home with this skill.
- Being open to new experiences.
- Trying to be the best teacher I can be, not only for the students who’ll rely on me, but for myself – I believe the skills learned from teaching will help beyond the classroom.
- Being independent and using initiative. Don’t think I’ll have the choice really.
I plan to post on this blog monthly, and will announce on my Facebook when I do so.