Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Tale of Three Parties

You may recall from an earlier post, I went on a trip to the Essequibo Coast on a "Volunteer Visit," the idea of which was to let us see first-hand the life of a Guyana PCV. We had several days of parties, which was followed up by two more. Here is what happened:

On July 2nd, we were invited to the Ambassador's mansion for an American Independence Day celebration. Yes, we knew the 4th was really Independence Day, but July 4th also happens to mark Caricom Day, which is a Guyanese holiday, so the Embassy decided to hold it on that Saturday instead. We went out to the Ambassador's residence in our Peace Corps vans and were stunned: the Ambassador is put up in a gorgeous apricot-colored mansion along the highway leading out of town, on a sprawling acreage surrounded by razor-wire fencing. The grass is edged and cut, there are no cows wandering around, and there's a gorgeous turquoise pool alongside near the tennis courts.

The party was already in full swing when we arrived. Though there wasn't anything to eat for a vegetarian, there was plenty of food in general, including barbecue for the meat-consumers. Attending the party was pretty much anyone in Guyana associated with the United States, whether that meant through the Embassy or through the local branch of the CDC, which is down here for AIDS relief. And the Peace Corps, natch. Also attending, though, were a group of find folks from Loma Linda University, a private school in northern California. They were on a short two-week trip to Guyana as part of their studies in medicine, coming down here to do sort of a "case study" of the health care situation. They had been going from hospital to clinic. Since us Trainees were so green and knew so few PCVs, there was a lot of confusion as to just who was with Peace Corps, with Loma Linda, or with any of the other U.S. institutions in country.

Most of what I did during this party was to swim. Yes, I availed myself of the sparkling pool, the bluest water any of us had seen in a good long while. It was the perfect temperature, and even though it was a little crowded with kids and other people, it was practically perfect. I floated and looked up at a blue sky and palm trees and just enjoyed life.

That party ended, sadly, way too early, so we were driven home. The next day was party #6 for some of us. The Peace Corps took us out on a nice Sunday morning to a place called "Splashmin's," which is sort of like a water park on a black water lake about 30 miles or so south of Georgetown. While there were no water slides, like for some reason we were led to believe, there was a nice lake and lots of thatch-covered huts in a great big grassy lawn to stretch out in. A loudspeaker system was playing music (ranging from soca and dancehall to, at one point, Madonna's greatest hits). We splashed around in the water and drank at the bar and just generally enjoyed each other's company. There were all kinds of water toys to rent, like jet-skis or rafts or paddleboats, but all of them were a little to pricy, and we had already spent $500 Guyanese to get into the park, so most of us just stuck with the free stuff -- the lake itself.

The seventh and final party came on Monday, July 4th. This was Caricom Day throughout the Caribbean. Caricom is a political organization of most of the countries of the Caribbean, something like the European Union. While they haven't united enough to have a common currency (the Eastern Caribbean has that, but nowhere else), nor have they figured out just how much they want to unify politically, the burgeoning economic entity of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) celebrates its existence on this day.

So for Caricom Day we went to the house of our Country Director. Like all CDs, the Peace Corps puts him up in pretty good digs. He has a two-story, air-conditioned house with reliable water, a gorgeous clean kitchen, the works. It was big enough to house most of the PCVs, and our Loma Linda friends, who returned for yet another party. I met several of the people and ended up talking with two of the ladies from L.L. for an hour or so.

Most of my time was taken up, though, talking to a gorgeous woman from Guyana. She knows our Safety and Security Officer and a lot of the PCVs from Georgetown, and so is always invited to their parties. I spent most of my time enjoying a conversation with her, and now we are friends. One interesting irony: she works at a mine here in Guyana where one of my dad's long-time friends used to work, at least before his company sold the mine to hers.

Arguably, the highlight of the party were the two veggie burgers I had, complete with lettuce and ketchup. Ahhh.... It was nearly the only lettuce I've had since arriving in Guyana! (At one point I bought some from a local supermarket that caters to expats, and it was this really expensive imported romaine -- it hit both "the spot" and "the wallet!")

And this brought our marathon of parties to an end. Lest anyone reading this blog thinks to himself or herself, "Jeez, these dang Peace Corps Guyana people do nothing but freaking party!" I can assure you we do not. What you saw there was a bizarre concordance of parties, a sort of planets-aligning kind of thing. It's as if almost all the parties we would ever have during training were coincidentally thrown all in the same week. The downside is that all the other weekends have been slow. :)

There was one other party, which came a couple weeks later, held at the house of a financial officer from the Embassy. But that's another story...


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