Here it is, folks: my site assignment.
We all found out today, after having been interviewed yesterday, and having the staff pore over our qualifications, interests, and other requirements in what must have been a grueling session this morning. The CD, APCD, and some volunteer representatives came to our Training class, where we had spent the day studying HIV/AIDS, to tell us right around 3:00.
It had been a very emotional day already -- for one, a beloved member of GUY16 had decided to ET just yesterday, and as any RPCV or PCV will tell you, when that first person ETs it can affect the whole group. The chain is broken, so to speak. So we were all feeling down about that. But then the HIV/AIDS training today was very tough. In the morning, we did a roleplaying exercise where some of us randomly were determined to have been "exposed" to HIV, and the man running the exercise (our Health APCD) was so good at what he was doing that two people started crying. He was really trying to get us mentally into the frame of mind we might be in if we found out were had possibly acquired HIV, and let me tell you, it worked very well.
After that exhausting exercise, we had lunch and then watched a locally-produced video about Sexually Transmitted Infections. And it was a very graphic video, with long, loving shots of the diseased and pustulous genetalia of a number of men and women. These were no descriptions or illustrations, these were the real thing, and it was very disgusting. Some members of the group had trouble watching (although some I suspect it was more because of the graphic genetalia display than the pus-dripping sores).
So anyway, after that one-two-three emotional punch, we were held in suspense as the staff came out to the training site to tell us about our assignments, to give us the scoop about where we'd be for the next two years. I have to say it was a positive relief for me to finally learn. And so I'll stop keeping you in suspense (I wanted to give a little of what I've been under for the last few weeks :) ) and give you the low-down:
I've been assigned to the city of New Amsterdam, the second largest city in Guyana. Those who have been there, locals and volunteers alike, say it is about half as large as Georgetown, and has all the amenities but far fewer of the problems, like pollution and overcrowding. So I should have power and water, and with power of course possibly comes internet! It's about 1.5 hours east of Georgetown at the mouth of the Berbice river, and one has to take a ferry across the river to get to it. I'll be right across the river from one of the other volunteers I'm closest to, the same 50-something black man I roomed with during Staging.
I'll be working with an organization called the Adult Education Association, presumably teaching remedial reading or something. Exactly whatremains to be seen; starting this weekend and all through next week I'll be out there with my counterpart getting a sense for the place and nailing down just what I'll be doing. So as far as this goes, some specifics will have to wait. Some specifics, like exactly where I live, will have to remain vague for Peace Corps reasons (I think it's okay to say I live in New Amsterdam, since it's such a large place).
The one drawback is that, to get back to Georgetown where the Peace Corps office is, I'll have to pass through Buxton. Buxton is the seat of crime in Guyana. It's a really long story, but a few years ago there was a jail break where 5 hardened crime lords escaped and promptly took up residence in Buxton (a village that is something of a suburb of eastern Georgetown) and began to reestablish their crime legacy. Four have since been gunned down, but the one remaining has done such a bang-up job at setting up a crime network that he is almost single-handedly responsible for Guyana's upswing in murders, kidnappings, robberies, and all manner of unpleasantness. In fact, the reason PC Guyana has to have us on so tight a leash is that, just in the last few years, Guyana has gone from being a very safe place to being one of the most dangerous in the Caribbean. PC volunteers who live east of Buxton must be driven through there by Peace Corps staff members and cannot take a bus. Which really puts a damper on our ability to go to Georgetown any time we want. Good news is, they're reviewing the policy, so maybe I'll luck out.
Overall, I'm very happy about the site placement. I'm going into my site visit, and meeting my counterpart, with an open mind and with a positive attitude.
At least the suspense is over!