Day 1- We arrived in Guyana late this morning, and already I love the weather. All of the buildings are open to air and there is a constant breeze. The first thing that I learned is that there are no rules for driving in Guyana. First, they drive on the opposite side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the left. I sat up front (on the right side) leaving the airport, and at points I just had to close my eyes in fear that we were going to hit someone.
We got to sleep in a bit today and explore the retreat center. Compared to many of the houses we have passed on our drive here, we are staying at a luxury resort. I am sharing a room with Trista, who is getting her Master’s in counseling at the Mount. We each have a small bed, which is actually very comfortable, with a bug net (which is crucial). We also have our own bathroom, and although we use a rain water collection system here, the showers are usually warm. This is definitely a lot nicer than what I was expecting.
A few of us went for a walk down the road in the early afternoon, and stopped at a small convenient store. Here, instead of walking into the store, there are metal bars with the worker behind and you tell her what you would like. We didn’t get to exchange our money yet (a lot of places do not accept American money) but the cashier gave us some local made bubble gum. I could never see this happening back home. After lunch, the group (there are 11 of us total) started to walk to the orphanage and where stopped by our bus driver, Veno. He invited us back to see his son’s tire shop and then to their home. We went upstairs and met Teresa (Veno’s wife), Jenny (his daughter), and Jenny’s husband. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Veno got us all chairs to sit and a glass of ginger beer with ice. Ginger beer is kind of like gingerale, but with a much stronger ginger taste, I really liked it. It was also amazing to have a cold drink! Teresa made us plantain chips, and a full Indian meal! I could not believe how these strangers would open their home to me and make such an amazing meal right on the spot. I can’t wait for tomorrow.
Day 2- I had the opportunity to go to the hospital today. St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital is a private hospital in Guyana that is run by the Sister’s of Mercy. Half of the hospital is made of wood, and the other half is currently under construction and is being remodeled. I could not believe what I saw when we got there. I have never been to a hospital outside of the U.S. and really didn’t expect things to be as bad as they were. Most of the equipment didn’t work correctly (including the machine used by anesthesia during surgery), the suction was run by a motor. You would need to experience this hospital in person to fully understand my feelings.
Day 3- I went back to the hospital today. We had the chance to meet a medical team from the U.S. that was coming to perform surgeries, one of whom let us sit in on a plastic surgery they performed that afternoon. After the surgery, we met some of the St. Joseph’s nursing students, and I realized that the stress I have from nursing school is understood in all countries. It was nice having something in common with someone who lives such a different life than I do.
We also went to the John Basco orphanage today. I immediately fell in love with all of the boys. It is hard to believe that boys who have been abandoned by their families, and some severely abused, could be filled with such joy. A few of the boys were attached to me and started calling themselves “the fan club”, they were all so funny. I cannot wait to return back on Thursday.
Day 4- Today we went to the Palms, which is a public nursing home. I was literally in shock. The government has not passed the budget yet, so the facility is short of many crucial items, including food for the patients. Many of the women on the ward that I visited were not able to walk, and they were on the top floor with no elevator. There were also many residents laying in bed with no sheets, just laying on the thin plastic mattress. These people are in much need of donations.
We also went shopping in town and visited the largest wooden cathedral in the world, which is in the center of Georgetown. It was so beautiful! After, we went to a park where they protect manatees. Veno pulled this certain grass for us that they love to eat. It was a really neat experience.
Day 5- Today I was originally supposed to go to the orphanage during the day and help with school, it ended up that a teacher was sick, so I taught 1st grade. I knew many of the boys in the class from visiting earlier in the week, and they were very well behaved. Unfortunately, today was our last day doing service. It was so, so hard leaving all of the boys. One in particular, Alex, became very close to me. He was always beside me holding my hand. He started to cry when I was, which immediately caused me to cry as well. It was a very difficult day.