Thursday, February 4, 2016

Things I Will Miss About New Amsterdam

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

I am moving tomorrow. I will start full-time work at the University of Guyana next week and thus will be living closer to the University. After spending my first 5 months at the Psychiatric Hospital, it became apparent that the educational background wasn't in place to yet make changes that would be sustainable. Therefore we decided it would make more sense to start by helping current and future students better understand what therapy is and how it can be implemented before trying to change current practices. Bottom line: I'm leaving New Amsterdam.



And I know you have read all about how I hate the burning trash, cannot sleep because of the barking dogs and dislike running because of the constant harassment I get. But there are several things I'm going to miss about New Amsterdam.

#1: The patients and staff at the hospital. I really liked working there, even though I didn't accomplish too too much while I was there. Everyone was friendly and the patients were great. I will certainly miss that.

#2: My apartment and landlord. I have a nice spacious apartment within walking distance of everything and coupled with an awesome landlord who I'd call a friend and moving to a small studio apartment will be a challenge.

#3: The cane fields. Once I get out of town and away from the people, I love running through the canefields and among the bush motorbikes, or salipenters(which I had erroneously called iguanas previously). Where I will be living won't have any cane fields anywhere nearby.


#4: The little boys racing me. My favorite part of every run I do is this one neighborhood where apparently has no pants. Almost little boy out playing is doing so in just his underwear and when they see me coming a bunch of them challenge me to running races. Depending on how old and how many, I get in  quite a workout. But more importantly it is so cute as they run beside me giggling.

Well that's about it. I am very excited to start teaching and help developing the therapy department's curriculum. I'll be living close enough to the National Park and Seawall that I'll be able to run with other people. I won't be harassed every time I run nor will I have to travel 2+ hours if I have a Peace Corps meeting. Plus being in town will allow me to have a bigger presence with the ministry of health and hopefully can get my media health promotion project off the ground.

All in all, I'm excited about moving but there will be those things that I will miss. But you can never hold anything new if you don't let go of what is already in your hands.

Until next time,


Danny

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kenny Finally Makes it To Barbados!

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."


It's been less than a week since I have returned from Barbados when Kenny and I had spent an excellent time. I realize that it be Posh Corps if there was a position in Barbados but the transition back has been tough.   Not just because of the torquoise water, delicious fresh fish, friendly locals who don't yell at you when you run by, copious amounts of pickles(thanks Marilyn!), sidewalks, or lack of burning trash. Although all those things were nice too.

The transition has been especially tough because it's nice waking up beside someone you love and can spend the day with. Waking up in my bed-net by myself isn't quite the same ;) The funny thing is I wouldn't necessarily say I'm home sick per se. Despite all of my griping, I really do enjoy it here and I have several good projects that I'm working on. And I'm grateful for sunny days and plenty of time to read. As well as other things.  But there is something to  be said about having a good co-pilot. Someone equally willing to explore a cave and run up a hill as sit on the beach or lie in a hammock.And she brought with her things that made me wanna see the rest of my family. But it's all good it makes you appreciate every more! Okay enough already, you wanna hear about the trip!

But first, who is the real Kenny?
Image result for kenny from south park Image result for kenny from south parkor  



haha. okay sooooo about Barbados:

Barbados is great! As you already read, there are monkeys, friendly but crazy people and a UNESCO site in the downtown. But there's more. My parents were awesome and bought Kenny and me a sunset Turtle snorkling tour on a catamaran which I HIGHLY recommend. Even if we didn't see any turtles it would have been great. We were only in about 30 .feet of water so I was able to dive down and snag a sand dollar and still had enough O2 for a little sea floor exploration. It's so nice to have such good water clarity. And there was an all-you can eat buffet and bar which was pretty spectacular and had a far larger range of food(and drink) options than our trip to Aruba.

We spent a day at the beach which was so relaxing, another exploring Bridgetown, having great food and walking along the beaches. We went to Oisten's Friday Fish Fry which did not disappoint. Although I wish I had taken a picture of Kenny's face as her snapper was served head and all:).

The only thing that I would say was a disappointment was Harrison's Caves.

 If you are to do it, go all in with the exploration package because otherwise you are just traveling on man-made passageways. There are probably 50 better caves experiences in Virginia and of course had nothing on Mammoth Caves. I'd say spend the extra time at the beach or maybe exploring the Garrison tunnels. Or check out the boats in the Bridgetown harbor, or grab some fresh fish or fruits. Or anything other than the caves. The best part of the caves was the ride out with a taxi driver who warned Kenny not to fall in love with him because he's already had two women fly him to the states to get married. But it "wasn't for him" so he came back.
Kenny decided to decline taxi driver's offer and spend her time with me ;)

Overall we had a great time and I am excited to come back in April to spend some  time there with my parents. I have already warned them that I will be very disappointed if they are as fun to hang out with as Kenny was ;)
 Not how I read in Guyana


As Kenny was leaving, I was humming the John Denver song "Leaving on a Jet Plane". I had always felt bad for him thinking it was a romantic love song, but that day it just struck me as selfish. The guy is leaving to go somewhere fun and he's asking the girl to stay and wait for him. Maybe it's guilt on my end since I'm kinda doing that with my loved ones. Just stay exactly as you are now and I'll be back eventually. I think I'll be in for a rude awakening when my two nieces are considerably different than how I left them. We are always changing and adapting and I just hope I adapt with them all. 

Until next time,


Danny

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Barbados: Land of Misfit Toys

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

So the original plan was to meet Kenny on Thursday and do a long weekend in Barbados. Then I failed miserably at the Suriname marathon and sought redemption and signed myself for the Trinidad marathon the Sunday prior to when we were to meet up. This resulted in me having to find places to stay until she came on Thursday. First it was Cleve in Trinidad, the Sadiya in Tobago, and when I arrived in Barbados it was Tara.

Before I go any further into this story, I need to present to you the cast of characters(I’ve changed their names a bit to give them some privacy):

Tara V- My couchsurfing host. Who by her description in couchsurfing was a lover of books and fastidiously clean. At least we had 50% in common.
George C, of newly successful smoking cessation history and friend to Tara. Also of the long line of family member who first came Barbados in 1600’s
Joan D-George’s old family friend, currently residing in George’s beach bag since 2008. Also agent for several Hollywood actors
Elizabeth D, housekeeper, former school teacher from Guyana.
Sheryl H, Tara and George’s contrary friend.

Okay back to the story. So I arrived in Barbados to stay with Tara. Tara who required that I give references before allowing me to stay and told me I would need to provide my own food if I wanted to eat with her. Also the Tara who seemed genuinely excited when I told her I had some books that I would bring with me for her when I came.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I got to her house around 4pm and was greeted by her two barking dogs. Well actually one and then slowly the second waddled over to me to give his two cents as well. Tara soon thereafter came to the door and showed me in. For the third time of “couch surfing” I was provided with my own bedroom.

I was told that we were having people over and that she was making dinner and just needed a few more things from the grocery store. I volunteered to go get them and while the list wasn’t long, I had sticker shock with how much more expensive everything is in Barbados. I spent more on that one stop than I had during my entire Trinidad trip including the ferry ride to Tobago.

I arrived back to her house and met Sheryl and George, the two friends who were coming over for dinner and Mexican Train. George had been introduced to me by Tara earlier as my unlikely friend. We have nearly nothing in common and I dislike his world view, but somehow we get along. And right away I could tell that I was going to as well.

After finding out I was from NH, he noted that he had nephews both in NH and ME and grew up in Bridgeport CT which is where my mom grew up. Tara piped up that she too had spent some time living in NH too in a small town called Littleton. And went to college at Wheaton College in Norton MA. What? Seriously? The chances of meeting two people who have lived almost their entire adult lives in Barbados to have ties to New England are…. Well I don’t know what they are but I’d imagine not great. But Barbados is an English colony and New England may have some English living there so there could be an increased likelihood than say Wisconsin. But then to find out that Tara went to Wheaton College in Norton MA was too much. Definitely a small world. George was pretty much doing all the talking for the next hour or so and come to find out he came from a long lineage of English that first arrived in Barbados in the 1600’s but is not considered a pure Bajan because he was born in NY(but his parents are from Barbados and the rest of the family). 

George is like a character right out of Paul Theroux’s Hotel Honolulu.  Whenever he hears someone has caught a big fish, he rushes with his sharpie down to the pier and draws on the fish the cut he wants. He had tried his hand(and supposedly was quite successful) as a bed and breakfast owner; making quite a tidy profit and earning a bachelorhood. The bachelorhood came one day when his wife went on vacation and never returned which he divulged with a certain amount of gaiety that must come with bachelorhood in a tropical paradise.  And during this extended bachelorhood, he takes Jane to the beach every day.  Jane who had  died in 2008 and was cremated. His childhood friend’s mother, Jane passed away and her ashes were given to various friends to scatter at sea. But I didn’t do that. She doesn’t want to be in the ocean. She wants to go to the beach. So he carries her in his beach bag every day that he goes. When asked how his friend reacted to that, he stated that they weren’t talking anymore.

Tara, who unabashedly told me she was an excellent cook, did not let down. With the ingredients that I had purchased and Mahi Mahi that she had purchased from Oisten’s fish market, made a great dinner which was complemented by George’s Rum and Coco-nut water(the second half muttered under his breath so it sounded like Rum and Coke until you took a swig of pretty much straight rum).
Throughout dinner prep(where Tara cooked with me scrubbing the vegetables and setting the tables, and George consuming copious amounts of rum), dinner and the subsequent Mexican Train(which is a variation of dominoes), their friend Sheryl would mutter contradictions and corrections as her only manner of conversation. Interspersed with her contradictions would be Georg’s criticisms of Tara for smoking. There is nothing like a newly ex-smoker becoming the anti-smoking Nazi. While watching me cleaning the table and dishes(I was earning my keep after all), Sheryl took a moment’s break from contradicting one of them to joining in on the criticism of Tara still smoking. I was able to quit cold turkey she proudly stated, but I did catch the the first time that she had trailed off with. When asked how many times had she quit she stated oh several but this last time has been almost 6 months. And they were giving Tara advice! Good luck to them all. The rest of the time Sheryl was eating seconds and then thirds and even putting some of the brownie dessert in her purse, presumably to eat later. Maybe a result of no longer smoking? Either way, it was a very interesting night and one I couldn’t have come up with if I had tried.

Tara told me that she had to work at home the whole next day and was kind enough to give me a key so I was free to explore. I packed a light bag with water and rolls and ran the 6 miles into Bridgetown which is an UNESCO historical site. In addition to the oldest active British colony garrison, it also has the only house outside of the US that George Washington ever lived and it was during this time that he gained some of his military prowess as well as political connections. Bridgetown also as a thriving downtown and I was there during the Mount Gay Race Around Barbados which is a weeklong sailboat competition. It was pretty cool to see those huge and super expensive boats out at sea. Oh and that brings me to the ocean.

The waters were crystal clear and had a good combination of white sands and rocky areas so you can get the beach and snorkel experience really easy. I hung out in Bridgetown for a bit and then walked back to Tara’s house along the beach the whole way(well, there was one area where I had to swim across because of a jetty but otherwise I was able to walk the whole 6 ish miles back).

I arrived back to meet Elizabeth, Tara’s housekeeper. Probably the queen of the misfit toys she introduced herself to me with her headphones on and then started talking to Tara about me as if I wasn’t sitting right there. When Tara pointed this out to her that it was she that had the headphones on and that I could hear her fine, she genuinely seemed shocked. Tara still had some work to do so she left me with Elizabeth who regaled me in stories of fights she had with the monkeys on the island, jobs she quit because she felt disrespected and her thoughts of Donald Trump. During the few hours that she sat and talked with me, she repeated over and over how she had to get going so that she could catch her bus home which came only once an hour on the half hour. Watching 5:30 and 6:30 go by and finally asked her when she was leaving to which she responded in a very Guyanese way saying just now. And just like in Guyana, just now can be anytime from 5 minutes to 5 hours from now. So at around 7:30p when Tara, who also had said that we’d be grabbing food just now an hour earlier, came out and suggested that we grab a pizza, Elizabeth said she wanted to come along.

So the three of us, with Elizabeth and her four bags in the back seat, head to a pizza place. Or so I thought. Instead we go to Price Mart which is like Sam’s club but it does sell pizza so I was thinking we’d go in grab the pizza and go. Instead I am sent to order the pizza while the two go off shopping  in this big box store. They come back about 30 minute after the pizza has been cooked each with a cart full of goods. Another 15 minutes of standing in line and we are finally back to the car with Tara remarking how efficient they were and a slow realization was dawning on Elizabeth. And that was that she had just purchased another 4 bags worth of “stuff”.

Now as annoying as this was, if I were driving, I would have offered to drive Elizabeth to her home(after all the island is only 21 miles by 14 miles). However, Tara was having none of this and told her to just consolidate her bags and she’d be dropped off at the nearest bus stop. Which totally overwhelmed Elizabeth to the point that I had to get in the backseat and prioritize what things she needed and what could be picked up at Tara’s house later that week. Like maybe the 50 pack of oatmeal and 12 pack of water. How she was able to get all those things into her shopping cart and through check out without it occurring to her that she had to carry it home was beyond me.

After dropping Elizabeth off at the bus stop and eating our dinner of pizza on the way, I was ready for bed. As I am saying my good nights, Tara asked for just one more thing. And I’m thinking another chore(like the heavy door I moved, trash I put out etc) and was a bit shocked when her respond was: can I have a back massage. Oh boy. Luckily we settled for a seated at a kitchen chair back massage after which she praised my expertise and I stealthily locked my door.
I awoke early the next morning and snuck out of the house for a run in the trails with monkeys all around. I came back showered and was told by Tara that she was going to show me around the island just as soon as her contractor finished his appraisal. So by 9:30 I was packed and ready to go and by 2p so was she. Which meant that we had about an hour before I wanted to be checked into my hotel so I could get ready for when Kenny arrived later that evening.

I’m glad I was able to go on a tour, albeit brief, of the east side of the island, because I wouldn’t get back up there again. Definitely some more isolated areas which was nice. And while my week long couchsurfing experience went probably as well as it could have with some great, and some quirky, hosts,  I was happy to settle into my own hotel room and was especially excited to have Kenny finally arrive.

But I’ll save that for another post.

Until next time,


Danny

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A few Days in Tobago

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

I arrived in Tobago via the ferry less than 12 hours after starting the Trinidad marathon that morning and I must say the ferry is plush. Air conditioned with plenty of reclining seats, restaurant and separate bar and a movie playing. All for 50TT which is less than $10.

I disembarked and immediately was offered taxi rides for 80TT to where I was meeting my host for the night. I declined, instead walking 50 feet further to a shared taxi where I was driven in about the same amount of time for 7TT. And since I was the stinkiest one by far, I really cannot complain ;)

My plans originally were to take a later ferry but upon reviewing the schedule I saw that there wasn’t one running on Sundays so I quickly had shot an email to my host, Sayida, hoping she’d get it and know to pick me up at our predetermined meeting spot early. I was dropped off by the taxi and she wasn’t in site. This was my first “real” couchsurfing experience, because while Cleve and I arranged it through couchsurfing, I had already met him and knew him through the marathon. Sayida and I had never met and only briefly talked online. So after a half an hour and still no sight of her, I started getting worried.

Which I needn’t have been. She arrived with her friend thinking I had had the opportunity telling me that she’d be there at 6:30. It was 6:15. So she arrived, what she thought, to be early. I just didn’t have any opportunity to get that email. So anyway, she takes me back to her place and has dinner prepared for me! She also has a separate room with new sheets on the bed all set up for me. I took a well over-due shower and the three of us settled in for the night watching a couple movies.

I awoke the next morning to her making me breakfast and, having read that I like coffee, a FULL pot of it for me. She had to go for work but offered for her brother to show me around the island. I politely declined because, not  only did I feel badly about that, I also wanted to just hang out at the beach. So she drew up a map for me to get there as well as to see a few other sites, gave me her only set of keys and said she’d be back to make me dinner before I had to leave for my overnight ferry back.

Side-note: I am choosing to take the “slow boat” which takes about 6 hours and goes overnight. I could have taken the twice as fast boat but this way I didn’t have to find a place to stay for the night(although I’m sure both Sayida and Cleve would have offered had I mentioned it to them).

Any way after fully digesting my great breakfast, I packed a small bag and took off on a slow jog to the beach. Her place was actually close enough that I had to do an extra loop just to get thirty minutes of running in. I then just hung out. The water was beautiful, the crowds were small and the sand soft. After spending an hour in the water and another few on the sand, I headed down the road to Fort Milford which like many of the Caribbean countries have a long history of various colonial overseers. Which was apparent in the cannons as 4 of the five were marked with British emblems while the fifth was French indicating the short period of time that France held dominion over the area. It’s not a very big fort so that only took me a few minutes but then I headed to the pier. The pier was something Sayida had recommended and was definitely off the beaten path. I didn’t know what to expect as her description was “I like it”.

Well, so do I. It was down this side street past mangroves and a long enough distance that I was starting to think I had made a wrong turn. Then out pops this tiny little pier that could maybe hold 3-4 small boats at most. But behind it was crystal clear water with rocks(as opposed to sand) and even from my vantage point, thousands of brightly colored fish. Oh and did I mention the island? There was an island about a quarter mile across that looked like it did have a beach. If I had brought my snorkel gear(or at least goggles) I would have been back in the water in a heart beat. As it was, I was getting hungry so instead I went back to the house to have some late lunch that Sayida has set aside for me.
When I come back to Trinidad with Kenny in June, I am definitely going to making her come over to Tobago with me and I will be before prepared to explore that island.

That evening, I caught up on some reading and relaxing in her air conditioned (and bug free) house, had dinner with her and watched a movie and she suggested that rather than spend the night uncomfortable on the ferry to just stay the night and  then take the early ferry  the next morning. 

Which meant she had to 5am to drop me off. But another good day’s sleep and an air conditioned quick ferry ride back to Trinidad and a laid back morning before getting over to the airport made for a nice Tuesday. Then I headed over to Barbados but I’ll save that for another post. While the stay was relatively short in Trinidad and Tobago, it was spectacular and like I said, it allowed me to plan out my trip when I return.

Until next time,


Danny