Thursday, April 2, 2009


In case you’ve never heard about this little word, I’m about to school you in what’s becoming a slight epidemic across the coast in Guyana. Having not really heard about this virus, I didn’t really make it my duty to read up about it until it was too late. For the past week, I’ve been sitting in a private hospital room. Of course, while writing this note, I’m not in the hospital anymore, but from Monday to Friday, I was a Dengue-filled “happy camper”. Dengue is a virus that you can catch from mosquitoes. It causes high fevers, constant headache, a slight rash or extreme flushing of the skin, weakness in the entire body, nausea, loss of appetite, aversion to anything to eat unless is juice, water, or fruit, and extreme exhaustion. Well, I woke up on Wednesday of last week (the 18th to be exact) and felt crummy, but not totally incapacitated. Then Thursday rolled around. The PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) came to see me. It was all downhill from there. I took a boat immediately that afternoon to Georgetown and proceeded to stay in a hotel for the next 4 nights. By the time Monday rolled around, I hadn’t felt any better and in fact was getting worse. That’s the day the PCMO said, “That’s it, Lindsay, we’re taking you to the hospital.” Well, I can tell you that even though I felt like dying, the nurses, PC staff, and all the other visitors and people who came to take care of me made me feel so special and ultimately helped me get better.
I arrived back at my host family’s house (finally) on Friday late afternoon and rejoiced that I was back in a bed I wanted to sleep in, around the people who made me laugh at least 15 times a day, with clean clothes and a place I’ve come to call home for the time being. Last night, more people came and visited me, having thought for sure I was dying too, but it’s funny how rumors like that get around. They were all so worried about me, but at the end of our visit were all reassured that I’m almost 100% better and I’ll be spending the next week catching up. Oh, and I missed my host volunteer visit but will probably report this week about staying in Region H, Hotel and Hospital. Hahahaha… Yay for Dengue!

Pagwah, Poularie, and Prayers

Pagwah- the celebration of Good over Evil, also the celebration of spring.
Poularie- round, hush-puppy-like bites of goodness. Made with ground split peas, flour, yeast, pepper, garlic, thyme, orange coloring; squeezed out into little balls and deep fried. Served with “sour” also a salsa-like dip. OH THE GOODNESS!
Prayers- each family’s prayers are different. Muslims pray 5 times a day, Hindus pray every morning, and Christians, well we all know when they pray J!
The amount of holidays, food, and family traditions are so diverse here there’s a different experience at every corner. This past week was the celebration of two holidays, one right after the other. (Technically, one is being celebrated for a week, but that’s beside the point.) On Tuesday, Youman Nabi was celebrated by the Muslim population here on the Essequibo Coast. Although my family is not Muslim, we had the day off from training, school, and work, as did everyone else on the coast. Our day was spent at the local “ball field”, or sports ground, watching cricket being played in a tournament. My host mom and I made Poularie to sell, and boy did it sell out. She’s one of the best cooks in town, sound familiar mom?? Not much celebration is done for Youman Nabi, as it is a solemn holiday, so Muslims in our community usually spent the day at church or cooking food.
The next day was Pagwah. I can only describe the exciting and crazy events through one word sentences, so here goes…
Powder! Colors! Food! Food! Food! Drenched! Joyful! Community! Music! Food! Food! Food! Drinks! Friends! Family! Laughter! Food! Food! Food!
Get the picture? All of Guyana celebrates this amazing holiday by waking up extra early to start cooking food. My host sister and I started celebrating at around 8:30 when a good friend of the family’s came over with a bucket of water and proceeded to dump one bucket each on my host mom, sister, and then me. We then dumped water on here… sound a little weird? Well then we ran to 3 or 4 houses and did the same thing to our neighbors. After we were finished with what the Hindus call “wetting of the skin”, we went to community houses and proceeded to get more wet, but this time were also smacked with different colors of powder (think baby powder but different colors). All in our hair, all on our face, on our neck, and on our clothes. My mom would have freaked at the mess… just kidding! J
All morning was a parade of colors up and down the streets and the music and dancing was everywhere. The smiles on people’s faces as we drenched them with water and powder and screamed “Happy Pagwah!” was a memory I cannot and do not want to forget. Although this is a religious holiday celebrated by the Hindu population, all of Guyana takes on this festive holiday.
Pagwah is continuously celebrated for the rest of the week and ends today, Tuesday March 17, 2009. Any persons with remaining powder will be looking to get rid of it and there will be final church ceremonies as well as an all out free-for-all. For my first three weeks here these holidays took the cake and I’ve not stopped having fun! What a perfect introduction to Guyana-it makes me not want to leave.