Wednesday, September 23, 2015

You Can't Always Judge a Book By Its Cover

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

I was debating about writing before today, but I was taught that if you have nothing good to say don't say anything at all. So I didn't write. My start in New Amsterdam started off good enough. I moved into my apartment and was taken out by my landlord and his cousin in-law for a night on the town. I arrived back that night to encounter a tarantula in my apartment! I hurriedly smashed it with my shoe and then snuck into my bed net.

I awoke the next morning in a mood that would make sour milk seem fresh. It was around 8 in the morning and I already was sweating through my clothes. No air conditioning at the apartment. I then proceeded to drink all of my remaining water before realizing that my water filter took approximately forever to extract potable water. 

My day didn't improve much as I went for a walk around town. It seemed like on every corner there was someone burning trash, little kids calling out "white boy", and a car swerving towards me as I walk on the sidewalk-less streets. After spending more of my food allowance than I wanted on bottled water(beer is cheaper than water here. And Rum is considerably cheaper), I arrived back to my apartment to find it covered with a thin layer of ash and a plethora of ants. I went for a run only to find myself thoroughly wiped after only 20 minutes. I tried to cool myself down in the shower but that was an impossibility. 

Sidebar-my apartment's shower in New Amsterdam does not have a hot and cold faucet. It only has one and its temperature depends on how much sunlight has been hitting the water container before I jump in. So cooling myself down with a cold shower like I was in the hotel in Georgetown is an impossibility.

A miserable day. I hoped it was just because I was recovering from my "welcome party".

Except the next day was more of the same. I couldn't start my stove thus making my planned breakfast of eggs an impossibility. I endured more "white boy"s on my mile walk to work as well as an "okay" to every "hello" I issued. Really? Did I have a "I hate Guyana" T-shirt on? I got to work only to find out how little I understood my counterparts. Wait. Wasn't this an English speaking country? Well.... it is except everyone speaks a creolese that is about as similar to English as English is to Elvish(I couldn't think of a better analogy-sorry). 

To complicate matters more, the doctors all speak Spanish with very little English. So here I am, unable to understand most of the nurses and staff and unable to make myself understood by the doctors. Oh and then there's the patients. On the first ten minutes of my tour of the wards, I saw more penises than a day of Snapchats at Shelton High School. 

So there you have it, I spared you what probably would have been quite a diatribe of complaints compounded by my realization that I was going to be away from everyone I love for a long time for this. 

Another good night sleep plus some serious venting to the ever-patient and awesome Kendra, allowed me to see that you cannot always judge a book by its cover(see how I snuck that in there?), and if I had written that blog on Monday I would have been misleading.  Because:

  • I looked up that "tarantula"- I guess it was actually a wolf spider. Still at nearly 6 inches in diameter, I don't know if I want them around. Luckily. If I remember to plug the drains before I got to bed, they don't come in. Supposedly. At least they haven't since.
  • That ash was actually from sugar cane burnings. They do this to clear the field before they harvest the crop. They do burn their trash but infrequently and usually in a centralized location
  • "Okay" or "Alright" is the creolese response to hello. It's considered the polite version. 
  • Creolese IS hard to understand but I think I'm getting it. Plus, I've wanted to work on my Spanish so that end is a good thing.
  • I can avoid most of the graphic nudity if I wait until after they have had their breakfasts. AND once they are ready, the patients are awesome. I am excited to see how I can help make their lives better here. 
  • Yes so there are A LOT of ants here. But I view it as a challenge as I've been know to not be the most cleanly. Already just by immediately washing my dishes and avoid spilling half my dinner on the floor, I have cut down on the number traipsing around my floor. Plus, I have tree frogs. Some of you may not be clear on how that's a plus, but tree frogs eat ants and having a couple hopping around my apartment is a bonus. 
  • So a couple days into me being here and I think the locals have realized I'm not a tourist but here to work and not only do I not get the "white boy" any more but I also am often greeted with a friendly hello. 
  • I have nothing nice to say about this heat. It is hot here. Period. Hot and humid. My only hope is that I adapt. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, but I signed myself up for the Guyana trail marathon in November. It's a fundraiser for an Amerindian school and is run through the rainforest. Now I just need to get in running shape! 

Until next time,

Bye(that's Creolese for bye)!


  1. Enjoyed the Shelton High School reference. I guess we are just a very confident bunch!

  2. Aw great visuals Dan. I so look forward to your blogs.Head and chin up is the only way to catch a breeze.Keep up the great work!

  3. I knew you wouldn't disappoint. Just channel your inner shrine and start speaking that spanglish we were all so good at. You will be speaking spanish like Jimmy Jimmy coco pop in no time.

  4. Dan I knew you wouldn't disappoint. Just channel your inner shrine and speak the spanglish we were all so good at. You will be speaking spanish like Jimmy Jimmy coco pop in no time.