In moving to a radically different environment, adjusting to a new culture is no small hurdle. Such an experience, as our volunteer Jose explains, is unforgettable. Learn all about Jose’s WorldTeach experience and his adjustment to life in Guyana below.
After a long day of flying, we finally arrived in Georgetown under the cover of night. Once our bags were collected, we loaded them onto a cargo truck, and loaded ourselves into the minibuses that would take us to Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), our home sweet home for the next two and a half weeks. It was while looking outside the window while on this long trek from the airport that reality finally set in. Observing the driving on the opposite side of the road, rum shops after rum shops, and what seemed like all of Guyana at the National Stadium, sparked my curiosity. I couldn’t wait to settle in and eventually roam around all that was foreign to me.
Awaking the next morning from a bed new to me, surrounded by the safety of a mosquito net, with the 5:30 am sunshine beaming through the window, was oddly comforting. I took my time to feel out my new personal space and made small efforts to make the bare-bones accommodations as much of a home as possible. While unpacking my toiletries, a towel, and some clothes to change into after a shower, I enjoyed the cool ocean breeze pouring in through the window slits, reminding me that the Atlantic Coast was located a short two block distance away. In fact, after a morning introduction session by our Field Director, Lorine, all 15 of us WorldTeach volunteers made our way out to the seawall where we sat in disbelief of the life and loved ones we left behind. While this was indeed a somber moment for me, being surrounded by 14 other people who were undergoing similar thoughts of what was left, brought about an unspoken bond that served to initiate the new friendships and deep connections we were soon to discover. That evening, while “lyming” on that same seawall bordering the brown Atlantic waters of Guyana, we popped open a few bottles of Banks and rejoiced in the communal excitement of the unique opportunity we have been given.
The next few days were filled with interesting training sessions on a variety of topics. Our group was introduced to Kitty, a security professional in Guyana who has been working with NGO groups such as WorldTeach and the Peace Corps for over 20 years. Kitty informed us of certain security hazards to look out for while roaming the streets of Georgetown and when at our sites during the school year. The sessions culminated in introducing all of us to many of the markets located in downtown Georgetown. Here we roamed the streets and small shops looking for the best deals on fruits, school supplies, cell phones, and anything else we needed in preparation for our year. The first few interactions I had in the market were interesting. Many times I noticed that the accents of certain merchants were hard to understand, which made the price negotiation process all the more difficult. After a few successful exchanges, the markets quickly became my favorite environment in all of Georgetown. In these markets you saw it all, Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese, and other foreigners interacting, each bringing their own little bit of culture, language and customs to the table. After exchanging currency, and making a few small purchases, a few of us made our way to a Digicel store to purchase cell phones in order to reconnect with many of our loved ones back home. While I enjoyed my short break from all technology, having a phone to call my girlfriend and my parents back in the states is an absolute necessity. Even though I have yet to feel the effects of home sickness, I know that once away from all of my WorldTeach friends, and the fun of experiencing the nightlife of the city, those ever so often calls home are going to get my through the rollercoaster of emotions I am sure to face in the weeks and months to come.
Over these last two weeks, I have had the great fortune of making a tight knit group of friends. Through our efforts to bond over Karaoke, Catch Phrase, and frosty beverages we have given each other much to laugh about. This kind of support network that we were able to form in such a short period of time, I believe has much to do with our common struggle of learning how to make due in a place we know very little about. I hope that when we part ways and head to our site placements we continue to further develop our friendships and rely on one another when things become difficult and we start to deal with the deeper levels of assimilation into Guyanese culture.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Georgetown, I am just about ready to move on out to New Amsterdam. Mahindra, my site partner, and I can’t wait to have a place to call a home and settle in once and for all. With the school year starting in about a week, I am looking forward to meeting my students for the very first time, and put a start to the reason that brought all of us here… to teach the youth of Guyana and to make a positive impact on the communities we will soon become a part of.