I can’t think of a better way to be introduced into a new country! Today, marks two weeks in Guyana. I have discovered a new recipe, roti with pumpkin curry, jerk chicken with black-eyed pea beans. I watched young folk riding their bike with a HUGE boombox attached playing Dance hall, Reggae or Indian Pop. Just a few days ago, I moved into my new home, attended the first ever Deaf tea social, explored a bit in my surrounding neighborhoods, oh and of course, the long days of training with Peace Corps. A bit of safety, cross-cultural, language, and general policies. All very informative and it seems I will be working with a fantastic group of people.
My front porch
My first impression of the country is that it felt like I was on a Caribbean island but this time with a rich cocoa colored ocean and red beaches. The locals work and live on ‘island’ time. A phrase used often “Jus now” means anywhere from an hour away, or in a few days.
In Guyana, I agree that they have the best pineapple! Here everyone calls it “pine.” Since fresh pine is so easy to come by, a nice sweet treat is something called a pine tart. It is kind of like a cherry turnover or a mini pine filled with pineapple. Heavenly!
The timing of our arrival couldn’t have been better! We flew right in time for Phawgah! Its Hindu holiday “Holi” but here in Guyana they call it Phawgah. I attended the festivities with a small group of Peace Corps Volunteers. When we arrived many friendly strangers came up and gently smeared color to our cheeks, under the chin and a hug to bless and wish a ‘Happy Phawgah’. Then some came in as a surprise attack and smeared color all over our face. We learned best to keep our mouth closed.
Monday was my last day of training and I swore in as a volunteer. My week is filled with meetings for co-planning future events and workshops with DAG (Deaf Association of Guyana). Just yesterday, I accompanied another Peace Corps Response Volunteer who is focusing on Special Education. We went to visit the David Rose school, discussed various needs, and possible workshops in ASL for the teachers including the dance and drama programs. We would come in and support the teachers and the Deaf student population in their projects. DAG and I also discussed the possibility of incorporating a storytelling session for each of the grades to help build confidence for Deaf students and to help them improve their own skills in expressing themselves.
Guyanese First lady came to celebrate with us! Here she is giving a little yellow to a young lady in celebration of Phawgah!
As we toured the school, I saw many smiles and curious expressions. I am thrilled to be here and looking forward to working with the Deaf community. Institute Distant Continuing Education, which is under University of Guyana, my counterpart and I discussed with the Director my main assignment which is teaching ASL. I will be offering two 15-week courses in ASL levels 1 & 2 for the community.
This year there are many projects DAG wants to accomplish this year. First ever Deaf camp is coming up, Annual Finger-Spelling Bee with other special needs schools. This year will be a new and improved elections to help create a board with both hearing and Deaf working together in each position. This will give the Deaf more responsibilities and power in DAG! Another exciting goal is DAG and myself want to begin a few outreach programs in the other areas of Guyana where there is very little if any support for the Deaf. I will also apply for a grants to co-facilitate HIV awareness workshops and assist in a possible location for DAG to call home. DAG say they think there will be plenty for me to do as this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many come up and ask do you love our country? What do you think so far? I immediately say YES! I think it is a beautiful country with so much to offer. I look forward to getting acquainted with the people, culture, and the Deaf communities here.
Erin loves to intergrate herself in cultures of the world, loves to dance, and go on exciting adventures. Erin enjoys teaching ASL/sign language to anyone who is willing to learn! You can follow Erin via Tumblr and Twitter @esmichele. You can read her first post here!