Monday, March 7, 2011

The Guyanese Appendicitis Diet...try it!

Our host family, Khan and Debbie.

The street we live on, New Road.

Three weeks, 10 pounds, one belly button ring hole sewn shut, and three incisions later I am finally adjusting to the Guyanese way of life. We have moved into a village called Vreed en Hoop (sp?), which apparently is Dutch for “Peace and Hope”, though we haven’t been able to confirm this. We are living with a host family that consists of a middle age East Indian couple who love, I mean LOVE, American 90’s soft rock and just blast it almost every day. Classic! We live in a modest two-story house that consists of a concrete bottom, a wood second story and an aluminum roof. We bathe with a bucket every night, but have to make sure we bathe between 5-9pm, because the water that is piped into the house shuts off between 9pm and 6am. They have a small kitchen with a gas stove that they cook a lot of Indian food on. We are becoming pretty accustomed to the diet, which is carb-heavy and lots of veggies fried in oil. We eat almost no dairy and rarely have cold drinks, but that surprisingly is easy to get used to. We eat fresh fruit in the morning and try to eat the fruit that the birds have picked at because they are sweeter (it’s true). I have no idea if birds pick the sweetest fruit or after a bird picks at a fruit is becomes sweeter, but it works every time! Any fruit with bird holes in it are noticeably sweeter than no bird-hole fruit. For lunch we eat sausage, which as you can imagine is not the same thing as it is in the states. Sausage or chicken is Hot Dogs and if you want chicken you have to ask for “pluck chicken.” Needless to say, we have eaten a lot of hot dogs thinking it would be chicken. Healthy, I know! (can you sense the sarcasm). Dinner usually consists of sautéed veggies, deep-fried fish or chicken or something curried, and rice or roti, which is a flour tortilla-looking thing. My favorite meal thus far is Dahl Puri (split pea soup) Roti (baked flour tortilla-thing) and Fried Okra!

Our host mom in front of our house entrance
(we are the last house of 4 in a row)

We sleep under a mosquito net and apply bug spray likes it cologne and live among geckos, huge beetles and tons I mean tons of small frogs. To be more exact I have about 7 to 8 small frogs join me for my daily bath. They jump out of the pipes, buckets, and my toiletry kit and scare the living crap out of me (ironically they also have giant toads called crapos). It’s like I am showering in a herpatarium fun house every night.

On the weekends we go to what in the States may be considered fast-food, but here is a special occasion restaurant in town called “Chesters” to drink beer (in which they put ice!) and eat fried chicken and french fries. This is a very special night out. Not a lot of people can afford to do this, actually on our PC salary we cant afford to do this, but our host family is very generous and has treated us to this taste of home. I am surprised at how quickly our perspective has changed in just three weeks, and how an outing such as this is such an incredible treat!

Typically village road

During the week we go to our training site all day, which sometimes can be very mundane, but its nice to get out of the house and be with other people our age. On Tuesdays and Thursday Nate works in a primary school and I work in a small health center that is comprised of an outside seating area and one exam room. The clinics here are not very sanitary, have no confidentiality or record-keeping policies in place, and have very little to no resources. The Medex here, even though they are educated at the Georgetown University, practice a lot of “bush medicine”. For example, when I started getting pains in my side the Amer-Indians believed that my “womb” had fallen and tried to massage it “back up.” Of course I quickly put a stop to this and explained to them that I understand what a womb is and that it had not fallen down. This occurs even in the more urban areas, for example a man came into the clinic because he had stepped on a nail and had infected his foot. The nurse had advised him that for future occurrences such as these, he should put hot wax in the wound to limit infections. Once again, I quickly jumped in and tried to explain to the Medex why this may be more harmful than helpful. Nate is in a school, were they literally put the kids that they think "can't learn" in a room and leave them alone, just because they didn't pass one standardized test. Most of the kids are not at an appropriate reading level, but the headmistress and headmasters are more concerned about the teachers' handwriting on the board. Nate already got in trouble for mixing capital and lowercase letters on the board, while he was teaching a lesson! Priorities are very different here but we see lots of potential for our skills to be useful.

As weird as this place seems to us, we seem even weirder to them. There are a lot of funny mistakes we make on a daily basis, which makes us feel like walking jerks. Let see, people don’t bless sneezes and stare at you like you just farted when you do, we try and use clean language like “freakin” and that is even worse than the “F” word, we never order food correctly no matter where we go (e.g. having a cashier scream at us “Use in” or “Take Away”) and we are constantly wearing shoes when we are supposed to be barefoot and vice versa. Little reminders like this every day tell us that culture is so much deeper than food, language, and music.

Till next time.


  1. Ilana, you mean your womb hasn't fallen yet?!? :)

  2. Hey, brother. I miss your musk and your voice. you can't call collect? I will pay for it. I don't know the rules man. Luv you both. Rylee is HUGE and blabbing and crawling around. Parenthood is a bunch of fun. Wish you could see her. Ilana, I am so glad you are doing well. Sorry for you pains. Well, you both know my number if not, ti is 3522461707. Call me, even if it gets you in trouble.


  3. Another thing, you both are way too damn skinny! Stop making us fat people feel bad. Jeez!