Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I Want

I have to admit I've been spending some time thinking about what I want to do after Peace Corps. I know I have a little over  a year remaining but I don't think it's too soon to start thinking about this stuff. I mean, this year is going to fly by and I have to plan for this sooner or later so why not at least think about it now...

I definitely want to go to nursing school, I figured that out since I've been here.
I want to live near the beach. I'm a water girl at heart and I totally picture a beach/boating lifestyle for myself.
I want to travel. I'm planning on taking a road trip from Maine to Florida shortly after I return home. I've been wanting to see the east coast for some time now and I think when I get home will the be the perfect time for this adventure.

I can't wait to see an image like this in person

The ocean is so peaceful and
I would love to walk the beach in the mornings and evenings

Pretty exciting to think about!

Friday, January 28, 2011

What It's All About

This week has been good and busy. I’ve been so busy lately and my calendar is pretty full until I come home in April. Being this busy is really making the time fly by, I can’t believe next week is already February!
I’m feeling like my old self again, which I’m so grateful for, I haven’t had any stomach issues lately and I feel like I have a new outlook on my life and what I’m doing here. I truly believe everything happens for a reason.

With that said, my time here isn’t about building a play ground or writing a manual, or painting a mural, I really don’t have to leave anything tangible behind. It’s about the relationships I’m building with the people. My friend Paul wrote a great post called the “Relationship Project” on his blog. I think his thoughts are so true about the Peace Corps as a whole and the roll of the volunteer.

This week was the first time in over a month that I went to the hospital kitchen. I was thinking about ending my time there since I mostly just clean and cut bunches of green onions. However, I ran into 3 ladies who work there on the street the other afternoon, they gave me a hug and asked when I was coming back? I told them I’d be there Tuesday. I’m glad I went, the ladies who work there are awesome and I enjoy spending my time learning from them and gaffing. Even though it’s not “real PC community development work” it’s about the relationships I’m forming with the ladies. I spent most of the morning with Mona, the baker, as we just sat and talked and made bread. So my Tuesdays are now dedicated to the Relationship Project-Hospital Kitchen.

One of the ladies asked me, “You be home next year?” which I had to stop and think about…I will be home next year! It kind of shocked me that I will be home in about a year.

This week was also my first time back at the nursery school since they left for Christmas break. It was so good seeing the bright smiles on the kid’s faces as they ran up hugging and kissing me. They said things like, “Teacher Sara we miss you” “you lef us” “where you been?” They truly melt my heart. I love my relationship with these kiddos. I read them two stories, it was so funny because they gathered so close to me that no one had any space and they kept playing with my hair and grabbing my hands. Just spending some time with these kids is enough for me to know I am doing something important here and I’ll be returning with a heart full of love for these little ones.

Chelsea and I have been busy with our friend Trusty the Turtle and the Be Safe Program.  It's a great program from the Guyana Red Cross teaching children ages 5-9 how their bodies are there own, and how sexual abuse and domestic violence are wrong. We've been working with and training teachers and nurses for this 6 week program. We are really excited about it and hope it has a successful outcome. 
This is Trusty isn't he cute?

We've also been busy turning people into food!
We've been working with a local TV station developing a health series known as "Ready or Not?" Every month we cover a different health topic and record a 30 minute segment. For the month of February we are discussing nutrition and how it's important to eat Go foods, Grow foods, and Glow foods. With the help of local Peer Educators we did a nutrition skit showing how it's bad to have too much of a certain type of food. Their skit was all about food going to a food party and then the Nutrition Police had to come in and break up the party and kick out the "bad" food. It was hilarious!
Chelsea and I made their awesome food costumes, aren't they great?!

The Nutrition Police with the "bad" food

The Cube is crashing the food party

Us with the performers 

Monday we'll be recording the educational part of the segment, telling about Go, Grow, and Glow foods and I'll be doing a food demonstration for 3 different types of meals and how to make your food a little healthier.

We are pretty excited for this project as well!!
So we are staying busy and having fun.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thank You Jillian

It takes a certain kind of person to leave their home, their comfort and move to a developing country to help and serve others. Yes, we have similar traits of wanting to help people, to learn about another culture, to give back to our community, to gain knowledge and personal growth but some of my fellow volunteers are just so amazing and I really admire their strength and sense of self. They have so much strength, passion, determination, love, joy, happiness, and are truly optimistic about everything in life. Maybe the whole reason I’m here at this point in my life is to be surrounded and learn from the friends I’ve made while being here.

Peace Corps is not easy, yes, we have a lot of freedom when it comes to the actual work aspect but the every day stuff can be draining. I can definitely see how it can make people bitter, feel like giving up, and becoming withdrawn or depressed, as I’ve personally been struggling with some of these negative emotions. I hate that I’ve been feeling so down lately because I choose to do this and I want be happy with my decision. 

The whole reason for this post is to introduce you to my friend Jillian. She is the most bubbly, thoughtful, funny and loving person I’ve ever met and I truly mean that. She is a bright ray of sunshine and I’m so grateful to know her and have her a part of my Peace Corps experience.
She wrote something on her facebook page that really touched me and helped me change my thinking about being here.
I’ve posted it on my blog because I think it’s so true about life... 

From Jillian:
What I do, have done, and continue to work on to strengthen the joy and happiness in my life.
Here’s my advice. Take it or leave it, either way thanks for reading!!!

1. Wake up in the morning early enough to THINK about what you really want out of this day.
2. This is hard, but LET GO OF ALL EXPECTATIONS, especially for people. When you learn how to  do this you will be wonderfully surprised how amazing people and life really are. (this does not however mean lowering your own standards)
3. Really FEEL life out. Cry when you are sad, laugh when you are happy, be in the moment and don’t hold back.
4. Make MISTAKES, because only then will you really ever learn in a way that’s pertinent to your own soul.
5. Love, Love and Love more. Give, Give, and Give more.
6. Focus your life on whatever makes you happy, not anyone else, and don’t ever compare your life to others.
7. Anger for anything is only hurting yourself, Forgiveness is the only way to heal.
8. Really get to know the people in your life that matter to you, Relationships with eachother are what sustains us.
9. If you are a planner make plans, if you aren’t go with the flow, but never contemplate what you are doing, Believe you are exactly where you should be and you will get to where you want to go. View everyday as a stepping stone.
10. Get outside your comfort zone- only then will you truly grow in thought and feeling
11. Stress can build up an advocate for your own sanity and find out what you need to manage it.
12. There are moments in life that will be sad, hurtful, confusing etc, don’t try to stop yourself from living them out.
13. Be who you are: if there is something you don’t like fix it, or not, but never pretend.
14. Don’t put too much reliance on others and things to make you happy, in the end you are the only one who will always be there for you.
15. Eat good food and drink good wine.
16. Don’t let your mind stop you from what your body is capable of.
17. Turn off the lights, the TV, the music, light a candle and take a cold shower (I’m not just saying this because it’s the only thing I have access to!) it will save resources and your soul.
18. Life is not a competition, do what you want, and don’t get ahead of yourself
19. Read
20. Kids will always put a new perspective on things. Embrace them. Listen to them. Encourage them.
21. The more you ponder life’s questions, the more confusing it seems to become. That doesn’t mean to not challenge your own thoughts of why you are here and what you are living for.

You know what makes you happy, when’s the last time you sat down and gave yourself your own brilliant advice or actually thought of happiness in that sense?

This might be really silly to read for people with many more years of life experience than I, and I know that all of this will probably seem silly to me too in 5, 10, 20 years too! But if theres anything that will always be true it’s that you are what you settle for and you love how you want to be loved and are happy because of what makes you happy in the moment. Life experience teaches you that all along the way.

I just love it!
I’m working on strengthening my life in all ways.

Thank you Jillian!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Being a Sick Volunteer

Yesterday I went to Georgetown for a meeting with Becky and this guy who has started up environmental clubs in the primary schools. I was really looking forward to this meeting because I really want to get on board with this project.

Tim and I went to town together and we arrived at the office around 11am, I took care of a few things and then suddenly my stomach started hurting really bad. I lied down on the couch and felt very nauseous. I said to Becky and Tim "I have to throw up" and went to the bathroom, I threw up a lot but the pain was not subsiding. I started to feel very shaking and sweaty. Luckily the nurse's office was just around the corner so I went and told the nurse I wasn't feeling well. She took me into the examining room and gave me something to drink to help settle my stomach. The pain was just radiating, my hands and feet were throbbing with that tingling sensation and I was having a hard time catching my breath. She pressed on my stomach to see where it hurt. She then moved me into another room and said she was going to start an IV and that the doctor would be back shortly.
I was crying at this point because the pain was so bad.  When she tried to do my IV the needle was too big and she punctured my vain, which caused pain and a lot of blood. The doctor came and got the IV into my hand and gave me something for the pain. She felt around on my stomach but said it felt normal; my temperate and blood pressure were also fine. She said she wanted to do a blood test and an ultrasound and that I would be staying the night in Georgetown.

I’ve been having stomach issues since around Christmas, thinking maybe I had a parasite, seeing Chelsea had gone through a similar ordeal, only my stomach issues weren’t as consistent has hers. Two weeks ago I even traveled to Georgetown to see the doctor for my stomach issues, she concluded that it was probably just stress. I don’t think its just stress anymore. I asked her to please do a stool sample so I would know for sure if it’s a parasite, she finally agreed and handed me a kit. Then I was taken to the lab to get my blood drawn. I won’t know the results for a few days. The pain had died down and I wasn’t having anymore motions, I just felt really drained.

I called a taxi to take me to the motel, checked in, and walked to the grocery store to buy some crackers, juice, a toothbrush, and tooth paste. Then I locked myself in for the night. The only good thing about the room was it’s 5 blurry TV channels. I didn’t sleep well and I just wanted to get back to the office so the nurse could give me the okay to go back to site.
But before I could get back to the comfort of my home I had to sit, crammed between 2 large people on the stifling minibus for an hour and a half. As I was sitting on the bus a wave of emotions came over me and I couldn’t help the tears welding up in my eyes. It sucks being sick and it sucks even more when you’re sick and thousands of miles away from home.

I'm just glad I got sick while at the Peace Corps office and I had the nurse and doctor right there to look after me, now I just need to know what’s wrong with me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Girl's Weekend

I spent the weekend with Princess and Becky for our girl’s weekend and it was a lot of fun! It was good to get out of town and spend a couple nights somewhere else.

I think the best part was spending all day Saturday in our pajamas!
We made chocolate cookies with peanut butter icing, talked about and started planning our trips, made lists of places we want to go in our lifetime, made crafts, watched Lifetime movies (it was so weird watching TV commercials from the states), ate broccoli casserole, which lasted us each 3 meals (it was so good to eat broccoli), had really good white russians, and watched Wipeout and Miss America (it's pretty awesome that Princess has TV).
Becky and I had never watched a Miss America before and we were a little unsure but Princess knows Miss Kentucky so that was exciting.

It was a very American weekend and for a moment I forgot I was in Guyana, I felt right at home.

I’m so grateful for the friends I’ve made here and I can’t wait for our next girls weekend!

Striking our Miss America pose with white russians in hand

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In One Year

Right now the group before us, GUY 21 is having their Close of Service conference and it has me really excited thinking about in a year from now I'll be attending that conference, learning about how to make adjustments to life back home, resume writing, scholarships, re-adjustment money, and the list goes on.
When I first met the "older" volunteers I looked up to them so much, I loved hearing about their experiences, and they made things look so easy--like taking a minibus, which use to terrify me.
It's an amazing feeling to know how far I've comfortable I feel now.
I'm very excited to meet the new group of volunteers and see them grow as they embark their own PC journey.

Really a year is nothing...I can't believe how fast the last year went and I can't believe the month of January is half way over.  In the meantime, as Chelsea says, "We just have to keep swimming"

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lunch In Georgetown

Today I went to the Peace Corps office to see the doctor and luckily there were many PVCs in the office as well, a few who had just returned from their vacations home. It was so nice seeing and talking to everyone.
I loved hearing about home…the food, the weather and their time with friends and family. I can’t wait for my visit home!

The morning and afternoon was just what I needed…talking with friends.
I also got to meet two new Response Volunteers, who’ve already served in other countries and are now in Guyana for about 6 months with a specific job being asked of them. It was great hearing about their PC experience and realizing how every experience is kind of the same, as far as the struggles and interactions with people go.

Princess, Becky and I had lunch together. We wanted to go somewhere new and every time I’m in the office I always look at the takeout menu from Starbuds because it has a variety of foods and a salad bar, which always sounds amazing. So today we decided to try it.
Boy, you’d think by now we would know not to trust anything in print…we got there and the first thing I asked was if there was a salad bar? Immediately I was told, “NO”. Okay, so I decided I was going to have a baked sweet potato with a side of vegetable rice because it was on the menu, they didn’t have that either…errr…so the guy told us what they had and he listed off the same 5 dishes served in EVERY restaurant…curry chicken and goat, fried rice, chow mein, plantains, hamburger. Disappointing…I really wanted something different but I ordered plantains.
Princess ordered a hamburger and when he brought it out it was one of those frozen, breaded chicken patties with a slice of fake cheese, cucumbers, mustered and ketchup, oh but it did have turkey bacon. Princess was not pleased so when she told him she ordered a hamburger he said when he went to the back they told him they didn't have it, then he said to her, “I should have told you right?” On top of all this he over charged us because of course the menus were old and all the prices have gone up, which he also failed to mention. So lesson learned the next time I’m in town I need to stick with Oasis or Pizza Hut when I’m hungry.

To make up for this ridiculous dinning experience we started planning out the trips we want to take this year. This is what we are thinking….Lethem and Brazil for rodeo then to Manaus to see the Amazon hopefully the beginning of April and Trinidad and Tobago maybe in September and Monkey Mountain in November. We still have a lot to figure out but it’s fun to think about.

Have a good weekend!

11 Months

I’m so excited, only one more month until my one year mark in Guyana!

In celebration of my 11th month I’ve been baby-sitting Paul and Alyssa’s puppy, Sa’sa. She is a really cute dog and pretty well behaved…after all she is a puppy and is at that biting stage. She’s had fun eating my floors, books, hands, and pajama pants but other than that she’s been a great guest. Chelsea and I’ve taken her on our morning walks, which she does fine with once she’s taken care of her business. She’s also had fun tormenting the cats, Ziggy has been a brave little kitty getting pretty close to her while Rasta has been protective momma, it’s interesting to see other animals interact with one another.
Sa'sa translates to Grasshopper

Watching Sa’sa for a week has given me great insight into having a puppy and I must admit I’m going to have to think long and hard about getting a puppy when I get home…they are a lot of work and responsibility but they are so cute…

I don’t have any real interesting or exciting news to report…I’m getting back into the swing of things, after having a very slow work month in December. I’m looking forward to the Be Safe program Chelsea and I are taking part of at the end of the month and I’m looking forward to lots of things going on in February.

I did book my room in Vegas for my cousin’s wedding the 1st of May! I’m so excited, it’s going to be great seeing lots of family and friends!!

So after being here 11 months I can honestly say I’m so tired of taking cold showers…I’m now longing for nice warm showers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is It Worth It?

I’ve been struggling with this question for a few days now…and right now my answer is I don’t know. Is it worth all the stress, homesickness, loneliness, and thoughts of feeling like I’m not doing anything productive? Are the uncomfortable situations worth it? Is the work aspect worth it? Are the benefits once I’ve completed my service worth it? Are these 2 years of my life worth it? Is the sacrifice worth it?

Maybe in 15 months it will all be worth it but right now I’m having to reevaluate my outlook on this whole experience and remind myself constantly why I decided to join Peace Corps in the first place. Sure, a few of those reasons have gone out the window by now but two things remain the same: I want to help others and gain personal growth.

I’ve come this far and I'm hoping the hardest part is behind me now. There’s still so much I want to do with my time here and I know it will go by fast.
Although I’m not sure if it’s all worth it, this experience is like nothing else I’ll ever experience in my life, that's for sure.

I'm sorry if this post is unsettling for some but it's very true when people say Peace Corps is full of ups and downs. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I seriously can’t believe how fast 2010 flew by. It was definitely a year I’ll never forget, as it was full of new things, growing pains, new friends, adventure, and total randomness…

* I said good-bye to friends and family and packed my bags to set out on the journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and serving in Guyana, South America.
* I met my fellow GUY22 volunteers, spent 2 months in training and lived with a host family.
* I was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer and moved to my site, along with Tim, Chelsea, and Tony. We became friends and learned how to live together real quick. I’m so grateful to be on this roller-coaster of a journey knowing they are right there beside me. I love you guys!
* I started work in the health center, got to know co-workers, met other community members.
* I grew confident in walking around, shopping in the market, and taking mini buses in Linden. I’ve also conquered the overwhelming feelings when going to Georgetown.
* I accepted the fact that the health center wouldn’t keep me occupied enough and found other things to do within the community (working in the hospital kitchen and teaching 6th grade health).
* I’ve learned how much joy and happiness nursery school kids could bring.
* I’ve laughed, cried, thought “what the heck am I doing here?”, and said “I can’t believe this is my life right now” more times than I can count.
* I’ve learned how to understand Creoles better than when I first arrived in country.
* I’ve eaten new foods, some very interesting, some disgusting, and some delicious.
* I’ve learned how to deal with being a stranger in a strange land.
* I’ve loved and hated this adventure.
* But I’m glad to be here and doing this at this point in my life.

* I spent an amazing 5 days in beautiful Barbados where I swam with sea turtles.
* I went on a weeklong health outreach up the Mazaruni River, which was an unforgettable experience.
* My mom, Dan, and papa came to visit and we experienced Kaieteur and Iwokrama.

As my 11th month in Guyana is approaching I have so much to look forward to in the next 15 months of service I have remaining:

*New projects
*Meeting GUY 23 and helping out with their training
*Going home for 3 weeks!
*Visiting other volunteers
*Going to Brazil

I have a feeling time is going to continue to fly by…'s to 2011!