12/1/11

Growing Accustomed to Guyana

Your term of service with WorldTeach will certainly be an adventure full of new and exciting experiences, but if you are really lucky, you'll also get into the routines of your new home and accept it as your daily life. Corin, a WorldTeach Guyana volunteer, did just that and found that she was as comfortable in the routines of Guyana as she had ever been in the states. 


I realize now that the reason that I don’t blog frequently while here is because my daily life has become just that, daily life. It is a good thing that life here has become routine, and I have developed habits and practices that are just like life anywhere else. This I take as a sign of integration and acclimation to the culture in Guyana.

Of course, lets not get ahead of ourselves, I still long for many things that were part of my routine life back home like coffee shops, hiking, and ice cream, but for the most part life is just life here. I guess I don’t write because I have stopped becoming surprised by many of the cultural and social idioms that were once new but now I have even adapted myself. I have even started to think in Creolese. I don’t always speak it, well actually I rarely speak it because it sounds sort of ridiculous coming out of my Pacific Northwest mouth, but I still have thoughts that are phrased in Creolese. For example, I was packing for the Easter Break trip I recently went on, and thought “should I carry me own shampoo?”

There are additional things that I have grown to love or simply become accustom to that I thought I should take time to reflect on. Phone conversations, greetings are never “Hello” it is usually “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” Conversation are short and curt, not intended to be rude or indifferent just to the point, and usually consist of much “a-huh”-ing. And NEVER do Guyanese people say “good-bye” on the phone, usually at the end of a conversation they may say “alright” or “good” but usually once the point has been gathered and received they just hang-up. This is very different from the way people address themselves in person however. Whenever you run into someone you know, or are greeting an acquaintance or friend there is a lengthy “good-morning,” a hug and usually kiss on the cheek, then an inquiry into how you are. I know I posted some time back about turning Guyanese but recently reflecting on the transition that will happen in a few months time when my year of service is up, I realized that I have a life here, and leaving it will be a harder than I think.

As life has become more routine here, I realise how different and difficult it will be to transition back into the culture of home. There are so many things that I miss about home, mostly friends and family, but I know that there will be many things here from Guyana that I will long for once I reach back to the states. Life is slower here, people are not in a rush, and time is something that isn’t used up or wasted, gaffing with others is a serious and necessary pass time and there is never an excuse for not being willing to have a good time and celebrate.

People work, but it is not their lives. I know that as I resume my life at home, the rush and push of the American culture will give me some anxiety at first. I will have to readjust to “right now” instead of the Guyanese “just now”-which could mean anytime in the next month. I will have to re-realize that people revolve their lives around what they do, their careers and all things that are tied to working, making money and adequately cushioning their lives with material possessions that declare their “wealth” to all those around them.

Please, don’t take me the wrong way, there are many challenges to development in this country that are tied to that very social attitude that I was just fondly describing, and there are of course benefits to the American work ethic and mentality that I often miss when attempting to make something happen at my job here in Guyana. But I think that moderation is the key to life. As American’s we push ourselves so hard to succeed and gain and make all our dreams come true. Hats off to making those dreams a reality, but as we push ourselves to do so we fail to experience the life that we are living in that moment. We push and we run and we move forward so hard that when we get to where it is we dream of being we have aged 35 years and forgotten to recognize what each of those days has meant to us. Here I often find myself just sitting, gaffing or hanging in my hammock. There isn’t a TV to zone out to, an internet to aimlessly surf or a damn place I have to be; no appointments to be kept, meetings to attend or papers to be shuffled. Work is left to be done at work (not that I follow that rule at all because the work ethic that my parents instilled in me gets the upper-hand when it comes to completing assignments and proactively planning ahead) but home is where life is lived, and uncompleted work gets done on the next workday.

All I am saying is that the next time you get a free moment in your lives, turn off the TV, hibernate the computer, switch your cell phone to silent and just sit. It may feel like torture at first, you may even develop a slight twitch as your body adjusts to the unaccustomed “off” mode, but with time you will come to love the feeling of freedom from the push and pressure of the American grind.

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