Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reasons to be Grateful; or A follow-up on last post

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

Earlier this week, I wrote a rather generic and esoteric blog about the importance of finding opportunities to be grateful in your life. Part of that is recognizing the aspects of life you can control and not stressing over those that you cannot. It's also about management of expectations. If you go into a situation with high expectations and it falls short, you may not see the silver lining. However if you go in with an open heart and mind you may be pleasantly surprised. For example, when I came to Guyana I did not expect to have consistent electricity, no less internet access. This seemingly little thing has been huge and I am so grateful for it. Beyond being able to access all the online content and social media, it has allowed me to keep in touch with my loved ones. In fact, I probably talk with many of them more than when i lived within a few hours of them. And I definitely blog more frequently. While every long-distance relationship has strain in it, being able to video chat with Kenny has definitely reduced it significantly.

Beyond internet, here are some of the others things that I am grateful for while in Guyana:

  • Life: You always have to be grateful to be alive. There is no other state of being, I'd rather be. Just the simple acts of breathing and moving freely is truly a blessing. For this I am grateful.
  • Sun and Rain: Guyana is the land of extremes. I can wake up 20 days in a row to beautiful sunny days with a constant breeze to keep things comfortable(at least until you try running). That 21st day the heavens open and it pours. And I mean pours. Roads flood, people call in because they cannot get to work. A perfect day to snuggle up under my bug net and read, read, read:) I love heavy rainfall-it is so soothing.  For this I am grateful.
  • Fresh and inexpensive fruits and vegetables: Guyana also is the land of plenty at least in regard to fruits in vegetables. While I still don't trust that I won't get sick if I get raw veggies, most of the best fruits have a skin or peel that always them to be eaten fresh without concern of ever getting sick. Pineapple, papaya, mango. Things are good. And Cheap! Probably one of the few places I've been where I'll spend more on unhealthy food than fresh food. For this I am grateful.
  • Increased professional opportunities:In addition to my main task of helping to develop a therapy department at the National Psychiatric Hospital, I am spearheading a mass media campaign to address healthy behaviors and beliefs. I will also be guest lecturing at the University of Guyana for their musculoskeletal classes as well as on mental illness. Opportunities like this would be much harder to come by in the states. For this, I am grateful. 
  • Increased access to exotic places: I realize that exotic is in the eye of the beholder, but I behold the Caribbean and South America as exotic. Therefore trips to Ameri-Indian villages, Suriname, Brazil and upcoming trips to the Caribbean, Peru and maybe another is wonderful. And once I can get myself into Brazil via the bus, travel becomes very cheap. As does flying to Trinidad and/or Barbados. In fact, it is cheaper for me to fly to Barbados to meet Kenny next week than it is to register for the Boston Marathon. For the ability to experience all that this area has to offer is amazing. For this I am grateful. 
  • Increased leisure time: I am used to working 10+ hour work days(then coming home and having nothing work related to do). Now I work shorter days but I do have work-related things to do at home. But it is amazing how being able to work at my own pace without a set schedule and with a cup of coffee in hand, can really feel very leisurely. Here's a sample of an evening:
    • Start the stove for coffee while listening to Khan Academy
    • Leisurely have first coffee while watching lectures on Coursera(currently taking a leadership class and one on teaching English as a second language).
    • Now on my second cup, work on PC related projects like: grant proposals, powerpoints for my upcoming lectures, develop content for media campaign or contacting/setting up meetings for potential collaborators to make project sustainable.
    • Do a couple of Duolingo lessons on Portuguese. After my experience I realize I should be doing more-leave me alone!
    • Run for 45-1:30. I have been running more than I ever have. I am averaging over 40 miles per week which is more than I was when training for Leadville. I even had a 75 mile week. Now let's see if that translates to a faster marathon...
    • Prepare dinner while listening to another Khan Academy lecture
    • Eat dinner while video chatting loved ones(apparently they like watching me eat as they always call when I'm eating... or I'm always eating)
    • Watch another Coursera lecture, finish up any project loose ends and do one more Duolingo lesson.
    • Read(under bug net).
    • Sleep
Following a schedule like Tolstoy's, without the creativity or epic novels, really is a great way to spend an evening. I am never have leisure time like this again. For this I am grateful. 
  • Plans: My family has been great about trying to meet up with me while I'm in Guyana. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to Peru to meet my brother and sister, my parents in Barbados, and two trips with Kenny to the Caribbean. Having these intermittent trips definitely makes it easier with (less) homesickness. I also have plans to travel to the eastern portion of Guyana to help out with the Training of the Trainers program where I, with other volunteers, teach content to the incoming Peace Corps volunteers. Should be fun and a great way to see another part of the country. And I am excited about lecturing in Georgetown. Having plans and a schedule can make even the bleakest days better. It is darkest right before dawn and having a plan and schedule makes everything better. For this I am grateful. 
  • What I have when I return: Just like the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran being able to capture the joys of a ham and cheese sandwich under the oppression of the government. I am able to enjoy the small things like findings a place that sells non-instant coffee. But it also allows me to contrast Guyana with all the things I took for granted back in the US> By living here, I can go home and hopefully have an even greater appreciation for all the beauty of the US in general, and NH in particular. While I do miss them now, I know this time away will make me love them even more when I return. And for this I am grateful.
Hope you all can come up with your own lists.

Until next time,


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