Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I have officially moved! I moved out of the village in the middle of June and am slowly adjusting to my new lifestyle in the city working with UNICEF. I am struck daily by the little (and some not so little) differences in my Peace Corps experience first in the village, and now in the city. I thought it would be fun to do a little side by side comparison. ;-)
So, let’s look at the differences:
First, instead of wearing garish plaid sarongs (koosus) everyday to fit in, I’m wearing business casual and incorporating bright orange shirts when appropriate (GO HOLLAND!).
Instead of going to the river with my fishing pole and a handful of rice to catch my dinner, I can walk down the street and order a pizza. Instead of fried fish heads, I can eat cheese and pepperoni! Unfortunately, my budget won’t allow this all that often, but a nice treat none the less.
Instead of running down a narrow jungle path each morning (jumping over roots, and ducking under vines), I run on a paved (very flat) road while busses and DAF trucks blow exhaust in my face.
Instead of waking up to the sound of children softly calling my name, “Seeimai? Seeimai?”, and my neighbors splitting firewood, I am greeted each morning by the sound of birds outside my window and the silence that reminds that I no longer have a tight-knit group of family and friends right outside my door (literally…RIGHT outside my door ;-) ).
Instead of speaking solely Saramakan for weeks on end, I speak English with people daily (I’m talking face to face, not on the phone!) and I get called by my real name by almost everyone around me (except for Kimmy, who still insists on calling me “Seeimai”).
Instead of tucking in for bed at 8:30 every night with a book and my headlamp, I stay up past 10:00(!) and do things like write letters and watch movies. Of course I still read, but with the help of electricity I manage to get more distracted.
The obvious… I now wash my dishes in a SINK, not the river! I wash my clothes in a washing machine, I shower in a shower (though I really miss my wash house and bucket baths), and I have a flush toilet! If nothing else, I know my lower back will be happy about not bending over to wash my clothes on the rocks at the river.
My workday now consists of wearing high heels and v-necks while sitting in a swivel chair at a computer typing away about different types of toilets and water treatment. My workday USED to require me to tromp out into a field wearing a koosu and a sports bra, with another koosu tied around my head to keep the sun off my back, armed with nothing but a pocket knife to cut bundles of rice…for hours…and hours.
Finally, instead of a barrage of people stopping by daily to talk to me and check on me, I have yet to find that support network here in the city. I will need to put a lot more work into cultivating friendships, but I am determined: this will happen. :)
There are certainly more, in fact I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. :) I miss the laughter of the children running around my house, and I miss running to jump in the river after a hard day’s work in the fields, but I am really happy with my decision. There are perks and draw backs to both experiences. Being in the city working with UNICEF will allow me to further develop my thesis, and (hopefully) be a resource to other PCV’s and other communities (including mine!). I am trying to keep close contact with friends in the village and have already had one visitor from the village, and am hoping for more!
Sending nothing but love and good thoughts!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Things are going pretty well down here on the equator. I'm not sure where to start...Village life has been very interesting. The way I have started to think about it is that I live in a giant rambling house in the jungle: the house is the village. Let me explain. The way the Saramakans traditionally organize their villages, their houses are built side by side, front to back, back to front, with very little space between them. This has to do with originally being on-the-run and in hiding. Clearly, it's safer to be tightly packed if something were to happen. The houses are mostly just wood plank walls with zinc or thatch roofs. My point is that there is very little privacy. When I'm in my house at night, if someone calls my phone, all my neighbors will hear it and in the morning ask "Who called you last night? Was that your mom? Was that your man? Was that Amber?". During the day most people spend their time outdoors cooking, sewing, and working. All areas are pretty communal...the river is the giant shared bathroom/kitchen, the areas between homes are the shared living areas, and the homes are simply the bedrooms where you sleep at night. I like to think that I live in a giant 100 bedroom house, with lots of natural light and great cross breezes. ;-)
I have been able to form some very good friendships with people and have gotten really close to many of the children. My biggest struggle living out there has been dealing with isolation and not feeling very productive. Both things you would expect with the Peace Corps, right? Well, over the last several months an opportunity to work with UNICEF on a water/sanitation research project has presented itself. After thinking about it for quite awhile, I decided to take it. Which means that I will be leaving the village and moving into the capital and will be working in the UNICEF office Monday-Friday! I still have mixed feeling about this, but as a whole I am very excited and know that it will be a good decision in the long run. :)
Colin (my boyfriend) came to visit! We were able to spend 10 days in Tobago, and 10 days here in Suriname. It was an incredible trip. Being apart for this long has definitely been extremely hard. There are so many pieces of this experience that can not be conveyed by short phone conversations or emails. Being able to relax on a beach with nothing to do but share our stories with each other felt like coming up for air after being underwater for too long. Then, being able to actually show him my life here...well, it doesn’t get much better. I am going to visit him in Uganda for the month of December and will then be able to see his life there. Very much looking forward to that! But I am trying not to get too excited too far in advance...
I am hoping to run a half marathon in November, but I have along way to go...my daily 20 minute jog on a soft jungle path has done very little to prepare me. Maybe by posting my aspirations here it will hold me more accountable? We’ll see ;-)
That’s most of my updates. Things are going well here, and there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon this next year. Now that I will be in the city I hope to be more diligent about sharing them! Sending good thoughts and love!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
You know that your life has changed and that worlds are colliding when during your daily morning jog you are stopped on the trail by the sight of a man, in nothing but loose fitting shorts and flimsy sandals, with a shotgun aimed intently into the jungle at some unseen animal. Not only you do you stop with minimal concern, but also out of habit reach down to pause the timer on your watch. This is exactly what happened to me earlier this week. It wasn’t until after the shot had been fired (and missed), I had exchanged a few pleasantries with the hunter and some of his friends, and continued on my way down the path (and restarted my watch timer) that I recognized what a bizarre encounter it really was. I’m not sure if this story is a good indication of what my life is like here in Suriname, but it makes a good story regardless: getting accustomed to things, trying to “fit in”, and also holding on to pieces of myself from home.
On the day to day basis most of my time is spent is spent doing little daily chores. Cooking, eating, and washing manage to take up a fair amount of each day. As I mentioned, I do manage to go for a run most mornings, but this was only after the first couple of months. The people in the village were already trying to get used to me and understand why I was there, so I figured recreational exercise might push the limits too much initially. The day I finally decided to suck it up, and deal with the stares and questions, and laced up my running shoes also makes for a good story.