Thursday, May 5, 2011


Now that we have been sworn in as official PC volunteers our two years of service have officially begun. We have already spent three weeks in our permanent new home of Mabaruma, which is located in the northwest part of the country. We are so close to Venezuela that on a clear day we can see over the border, but since the border is just bush and come to think of it everything around us is bush, we really don’t know what we are looking at. However, Venezuela does have quite an influence in our area. The beer of Guyana is “Banks Beer,” but because of where we are everything that isn’t locally produced needs to be imported on a cargo boat that only comes once every two weeks, so its cheaper and more accessible to get beer from our neighbors, which is called “Polar Light” (Extra Refrescante…as it so nicely labels on the can). At the market you can buy empanadas, which are a bit different from Puerto Rico’s empanadas, I think the shell is made of corn meal, but they are still delicious and a wonderful reminder of home. Nate and I were so excited to see empanadas, that not only were fresh and hot, but were made with chicken (we don’t get to eat meat very often anymore) that we ate the empanada in front of the woman thanking her profusely, so much so that we made her blush. Needles to say, I think she just got weekly customers for the next two years. I’ll talk more about the market in a few, but first let me get back to Venezuela. There are glorious death-trap mini buses here too in Mabaruma, and the gas that fuels them is smuggled from Venezuela. There are no gas stations of course, so the buses will randomly stop in front of someone’s house and they will come out with a gallon of fuel and refill the buses and cars. It’s strange to me every time and always seems to catch me off guard. Even though we are so close to Venezuela, 10 miles to be exact, we never really hear anyone speaking Spanish. Funny thing is that when Nate and I speak in Spanish to one another, especially in the market when we are trying to discuss whether we think we are getting ripped off, people have no idea were to place us. They think we are Americans when we first walk up and then we speak Spanish and then they assume we are from Venezuela. It’s quite funny to see their expressions of total confusion, and I actually think it helps us when asking for prices.

OK so back to the market. The market, which is a cultural experience in itself, is located by the water and occurs every Tuesday and Saturday. Nate and I normally walk to the market, which takes about 20 minutes, and then take a mini bus back with our full bags. The market sells produce and dry goods, they also have “fresh” fish, but we haven’t ventured into buying fish that isn’t tuna in a can (just doesn’t seem sanitary.) Most produce is sold by the bunch and costs around 50 cents to a dollar. Produce that is grown in “Kumaka,” (that’s the name of the village the market is in) or in the surrounding areas is normally cheaper and readily available. These things are pumpkin, cucumbers, green beans, sweet potatoes, avocado, okra, green onions, onions, garlic, pineapple, bananas, bok choy, spinach, plantains and eggs. Produce that is shipped on the boat can be more expensive which ranges anywhere from two to three dollars and are available only on a limited basis. These things are carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, and CHESSE. But we definitely splurge and spend more money on these full market days. We don’t buy meat at all, due to how expensive it is and how it’s cut. Most “butchers” just take a cutlass (machete) to the chicken or beef and just hack away. So when you buy meat by the pound you have no idea what you might get. It’s a grab bag of fun; until you get chicken feet, cow face (I am not kidding, it was skin and meat off of the face of the cow), gizzards, tripe and bones galore. So we consume a mostly veggie diet and save our money to buy cheese whenever available. Half a pound of Cheddar cheese (the only cheese they have) is about $3. (As you can tell I am really missing cheese, so if anyone wants to send us grated Parmesan cheese feel free to…ohh and we will forever be in your debt). The dry goods are quite basic, like beans, noodles, rice, mac and cheese (not only is it mac and cheese, its Kraft mac and chesse), flour, sugar and condiments like mayo and mustard. Cooking is a challenge we overcome more and more everyday since we only have a limited supply of ingredients to make every meal. Some meals can be quite comical like guacamole and crackers but others are sometimes more elaborate like homemade pizza and mofungo, of course when ingredients are available. However, the produce is so fresh that even the most basic meals are delicious.

Our Kitchen

We have definitely been nesting in our new home. We have moved into a two-bedroom apartment located next to the hospital that is made of wood, concrete and aluminum. We have indoor plumbing, which means a flushing toilet and an actual shower. The water comes from the tanks outside of our house that collect rain water and has water pumped in from a reservoir every other day for an hour. Indoor plumbing is, without a doubt, a luxury. There is very limited water in the region, especially during the dry season, and it is necessary to conserve every drop. Our water situation has been quite an ordeal due to the families of frogs living in our tanks that had to be drained and cleaned and then the pipes we were counting on to refill our tanks were found to not be working properly. We spent the first week stealing water from our neighbors and doing everything with a bucket. We got down to using 5 buckets a day, including washing, cooking, showering and drinking. Pretty impressive if you ask me! I can now shower with half a bucket, well only if I am not washing my hair. Now our pipes and pumps are fixed, but most of the solutions are temporary so we will see. On the upside we get “current” (electricity…that’s what they call it here) for 20 hrs a day. We are hooked up to two different generators that split the day in half. Even though it can sometimes be quite noisy, nothing beats cold water and sleeping with a fan. We aren’t sure how long we will be living in this unit, because it is not finished. The floors still need to be puttied and shellacked to prevent the wood ants from the eating the boards, which right now they are having a feast. They have told us that the unit furthest away from the generator would be completed with the floors and eventually we can move into that one, but since we don’t know how long that will take and if it will even occur, we have made ourselves pretty at home. We have started to become accustomed to the daily creatures that visit us. Like our security system, the bull, which we have named “Bob,” who stands outside of our gate and bellows for about 30 minutes at dusk, our huge bat that we have named “Dracula” that flies through our house every night around 10pm and scares the living crap out of us, and the two roosters that start crowing a 6am and don’t stop till around 9am that I have so lovingly named “Shut the hell up.”

Our Bedroom.
(We have a guest bedroom that looks the same (*Hint Hint...come visit us! We will even give you the fan!))

Our Living/Dinning area equipped with not one, but two lavish hammocks!

We have a lot of land around our building and we are in the beginning stages of starting a garden. It was covered, I mean covered, in construction trash when we first moved in so we have spent hours picking up and burning trash. We have cleared up enough space that we have started to hoe a garden and have even planted some sunflowers (thanks Karen). We aren’t sure how successful it will be due to the amount of fowl and feral dogs running around, but we are optimistic, or at least hopeful, we can at least grow some herbs and some tomatoes.

See if you can spot yourself on our walls :)

Our nest is feeling more and more like home and we feel very lucky to be so welcomed into our community. Our front neighbor even plays pre-Johnny Cash country for our listening pleasure. ☺

Till next time.


  1. Bob, Dracula, Shut the, Hell Up. Nice nicknames.

  2. Awesome to read you two...keep it up! Does anyone have editing writes to the book yet? if not, i gots dibs...

    We need to schedule a skype time!