Thursday, February 24, 2005

An RPCV Writes About Guyana

I have already made contacts with a couple of Peace Corps Guyana folks. One of them, a current volunteer nearing COS, I quoted from in an earlier post below. The other has returned and is living on the West Coast. His assignment had him living far inland in a savannah area, teaching at a local school. He actually lived on the school grounds, as did all his students, because they came from very far away for school. Here are some interesting things I learned from him:

• About 4 - 5 sites out of approximately 50 in PC Guyana serve AmerIndian populations, mostly those deep in the interior.
• This RPCV's site evidently had no electricity, and so he had no appliances. Prep time for meals ran him 1-2 hours per meal, a good portion of the day!!!
• A number of foods I know from the Caribbean (rice and peas, ginnips, saltfish, breadfruit, plantains, dasheen, escovich fish, ackee) are available in Guyana, although he didn't recognize gungo peas or bulla, which might be present but referred to by another name. Regional terms for foods is very common throughout the Caribbean.
• Beef and chicken were the staple meats, and fish was only available on certain days. (Probably because he lived so far from the coast and from the IndoGuyanese population, which I think would not eat beef at the very least).
• Caribbean delis, Indian delis with curry and such, and even "Rasta veggie places" are present in most towns. Excellent! I'm really looking forward to the foods, from Caribbean stuff I'm familar with to the Indian dishes. Lately I've been on a curry kick so I'm looking forward to some great curry dishes. Oh, and naan bread! mmmmm...
• Government tends to be run by IndoGuyanese, but he said the police are more likely to be AfroGuyanese. From what I've heard, IndoGuyanese (Guyanese citizens who can trace their ancestry to India) are more successful and of higher income generally than black or Native Amerindian Guyanese, who are more likely to be blue-collar type workers. IndoGuyanese are more likely to be business owners, and AfroGuyanese their employees. It will be interesting to see this social stratification in action.
• Reggae and dancehall are rare, but out there and usually confined to really really popular stuff like Sean Paul. One major local radio station has an online presence at megajams.com and much of what they play over the air can be sampled there. Soca and calypso are much more common. I really enjoy some good soca (especially Mighty Sparrow!) so I'm looking forward to that. Also lots of Indian-inspired music called "chutney."
• No Ting soda (I'm sad about that) but lots of fruit juices. Also Banks beer is a local favorite.

It's so great to run into these helpful volunteers. I know that a lot of this information is relative and subject to interpretation, so I'm taking this only as a sort of rough guide. Nothing any PCV, returned or active, can tell me will prepare me for the profusion of new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences that await me in three months. I guess I'm pocketing away this information as a rough estimate, much like I might get from a Lonely Planet travel reference. Nevertheless, to my very helpful Guyana fellows, I extend a hearty thank you -- this kind of advice performs a valuable service to us newbies eagerly anticipating the adventure to come.

-Bri

2 comments:

Jason said...

Brian,

I've enjoyed visiting your site from time to time. Thanks for mentioning me and my Peace Corps experience (or lack thereof) every so often.

Just wanted to let you know I launched a blogging site for volunteers called Third Goal. Check it out and tell me what you think. Or, create an account and just post your comment there.

Cheers,
Jason Pearce of Third Goal

Brian Reeves said...

Hey thanks, Jason. I'll check out your site. A little late for me, but I'll encourage people who ask me about it to check your site out.

I'm glad to have you come by. I learned a lot from the wonderful, detailed site you put together about your unfortunate experience with Peace Corps Guyana. Apparently the CD who raised all the fuss is no longer there -- thank goodness for that. Since blogging is so popular, and personal web sites are practically common now, many people think to blog their PC experience, these days. But your circumstance has sort of become a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of doing that; if you we are going to, be damn careful what we include. Sucks from your end, but at least people have learned from it and some good has come out of it.

-Bri