One month living in Guyana and half way done with our pre-service training, we encounter things we used to take for granted every single day. Some of these realizations really make us reflect and shake our heads in disbelief while others make us laugh out loud.
Expert knowledge. In developed countries you can find expert knowledge in almost every single field imaginable. If you don’t know something, need something repaired, or need something explained to you there is someone who knows the answer and you never have to wonder if what they are telling you is accurate. Now of course you always get a second opinion and you do your own research, but 9 out of 10 times you are confident that information being relayed to you by an expert is researched, tested, peer-reviewed and accepted in that person’s field. In developing countries this is not the case. There is a lack of expert knowledge and the reason most of time is because the country suffers from “brain drain”. We have encountered this on a daily basis and have a better understanding why programs such as PC exist in developing countries, such as Guyana. However, it’s still shocking when you hear the most expert people make statements that are blatantly untrue, especially in the realm of health. Now, I think it’s important to understand that in the case of Guyana just one generation ago the majority of the people in this country were indenture servants for cash croppers. This means that there access to research-based health information, all information for that matter, is a recently new development. It is overwhelming and frustrating, to say the least, when you hear, for example, a medex or nurse tell a patient that breastfeeding is just as effective as any other method of birth control to prevent pregnancy.
On a lighter note, things we used to take for granted include: not needing ninja skills to get out of a mosquito net in the dark and then quickly apply repellent to ward of the swarm of mosquitoes while making your way to the bathroom. Needless to say, I have an internal struggle every night to decided exactly how bad I need to use the bathroom and whether it can wait till morning. Screens! Yes, Screens. I don’t really understand why none of the houses have screens because it seems like such an easy, cheap and effective solution to mosquitoes and the need for a bed net. However, every time we ask this question we get looks of bewilderment, like if we were suggesting we all live under ground to avoid the mosquitoes. Washing machines. Every volunteer I know complains about having to wash clothes by hands and that they never realized how much they took a washing machine for granted, blah, blah, blah, but with my midget clown hands it is practically impossible for me to ring out clothes without having a huge puddle of water at my feet when I am done.
Of course, the experience of living in South America is well worth realizing all the things we take have taken for granted and truly appreciating the simplicity of life.
We have already had some great cultural experiences such as eating “Seven Curry,” which is a Hindu dish that consists of seven different types of curry that you eat off of a huge leaf with your hands as a way to celebrate the life of a deceased friend. Riding on a mini bus, which is a huge cultural experience in itself. These small buses are crammed with about 30 people (the capacity is 15), blast American music, while zipping around town. If you are lucky you may even get to share the bus ride with poultry. Shopping for food strictly in an outdoor market and buying fruits that you have no idea how to eat, because they don’t exist back home. Everyday we either eat or learn how to cook something new (I am a Roti expert now) and on great days we actually get to cook something from home (this has only happened once, but it was glorious); I even learned Nate’s hidden talent of baking bread from scratch (it only took him 5 years to share this talent with me). It was incredible, and now he will have to make it every week for the rest of our life. Maybe that’s why he never shared this with me before, smart man!
Till next time