The time certainly does fly by! It is hard to believe I have been here for a year...out of the States for a year, haven't seen my mom for a year, and haven’t had REAL cheddar cheese for a year...it's all very difficult ;-) No, really though, it is a little surreal; it feels like I just left. But the year has been so full of new experiences, challenges, and lessons they feel like they have been stretched out over much more than a year.
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!