Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Site Visit Report

I haven't blogged in a couple weeks because I've been very busy. Even though I have free internet access from where I work, I didn't have either the time or energy to write anything of any significance.

Last week I was in New Amsterdam on a "site visit," where volunteers get to head out to where they'll be spending the next two years and see the place for themselves. I stayed with the person I'll spend the first three months with, a sort of extended homestay. Normally I would dread this, but this particular match is excellent -- he is a guy in his twenties and he shares a three-building compound with two of his good friends. So it turns out I'm hanging with three dudes close to my age. And they're a lot of fun, too; on Saturday we went to a local nightclub called "Lenny's" and had a blast, drinking some rum and dancing to some reggae and dancehall. Two of the three have police department connections, so I feel very safe here. On Sunday night we went to a basketball tournament nearby and they sort of watched over me. They've also been giving me excellent advice; for example, while we were at the nightclub I saw an attractive woman walk by, and noticing my interest in her, one of them advised me, "she's not for you -- H.I.V. positive." It's nice having ex-police who know community members running interference for me since I'm so new to Guyana and to New Amsterdam in particular.

During the site visit I also went to where I'll be working over the next two years. Peace Corps restrictions don't allow me to talk about it with too much specificity, so I'll just try to give some general highlights. It's an organization that teaches members of the community, adults and children alike, but mostly adults. They give classes in a number of different and varied subjects from computers to cooking. Of course, I'm going to be teaching "language" to adults, which means literacy -- many are scared away by the term "literacy" since it has such connotations about their value to say they aren't literate. Anyhow, I might also be teaching a class in how to compose formal communications, like cover letters, thank-you letters, resumes, and any other kind of correspondence. My supervisor indicated that as a need for the community, and I could easily and gladly teach that. Might even be fun.

To top it off, they are going to introduce me to the Dean of the University of Guyana Extension, a branch of the main campus which is in Georgetown. The drive out along the Corentyne coast to the UG Extension is a little long, coming in at about $200 Guyanese dollars one-way, but it would be very nice to also be out there. That would be my secondary project, if I do that.

The town of New Amsterdam itself is quite nice. Someone told me it was half the size of Georgetown, which is not true, but it is nice anyway (It's closer to 1/16th the size of Georgetown). As people foretold me, everything I need is there -- a market, clothing stores, internet access (which I get free from work, by the way), and anything else. It even has a very nice supermarket stocked with a lot of American items, so I can get some nice soy milk and cereal to replace the horrendous mustard and cheese-spread sandwiches people like to eat for breakfast here. New Amsterdam even has night life, as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Nothing like Georgetown, and it's massive four-story dance club Buddies, but at least there's something to do.

One thing New Am doesn't have, though, is a Peace Corps office. As it stands, I have to travel about 2 hours by both ferry and bus to get to Georgetown. That in itself might not be so bad, but there's a wrinkle: just east of G'Town is a town called Buxton, which is the seat of crime in this area. Everything was peaceful until a few years ago, when five criminals escaped the jail and set themselves up in Buxton as crime lords. Even though only one now remains, the others gunned down in various altercations, crime has skyrocketed in Guyana under his tutelage, and things are hottest in Buxton. The problem is that there is no way around Buxton without going so far into the interior as to make it a two-day trip to Georgetown. So the Peace Corps will not permit PCVs to pass through Buxton on a bus; rather, we must be in a Peace Corps van. We tell them we are coming to Georgetown, or leaving it, and they will drive us through Buxton. The rest of the journey is up to us, as we take a bus all the way to Mahaica, a nearby town, calling on Peace Corps for the final leg of the journey. It's a pain in the ass, but more than that, this means the Peace Corps will always know whenever you are coming to Georgetown for anything, whether it be to visit another volunteer, to party at Buddy's, you name it. So no sneaking out for out-of-site visits off the books!

Overall, though, I'm very happy with my placement. I'll be back there in two weeks' time. Until then, it's back to training and the grind. Blah.

No comments: