Congratulations! We did it!
We made it through the application, interview, invitation, medical and legal clearance, staging, training, and swearing-in. We started off as 38, which quickly turned to 37, and sadly ended with only 33 of us official gaining the title of Peace Corps Volunteer.
“. . . the question we didn’t have to ask each other is, “Why did you want to join Peace Corps?”
But regardless of the numbers, we all formed our own special bond no other cohort can replicate. At staging, we ran through the streets of downtown Philadelphia in the pouring rain, racing to see who can get back to the hotel the fastest. On the bus ride to JFK, we learned that some parents were really nervous about their kids leaving and messaged someone else on the bus if he is doing okay. Our travels consisted buses, planes, ferries and more buses and many more defining get to know you questions like,“Where are you from?” “What school did you go to?” “Do you think a hot dog is a sandwich?“
But the funny thing is, is the question we didn’t have to ask each other is, “Why did you want to join Peace Corps?” It was refreshing to be in the same space as like-minded but just as individually driven people, in which we did not feel obligated to justify this next journey in our lives. It was in those spaces that we all understood why we were here.Our continuum of getting to know each other pursued on as we spent our first couple of days at Mainstay Resort. A place of where we got our first taste of Guyana and wifi access. We bonded over the new (and some not so enticing) foods, swimming in the black water, fear of getting malaria, conquering the water safety test everyone dreaded so much, and hanging out around the only area of the resort that had a good wifi connection.
“ The only cold beverages in country . . . Stag and Banks beer
After being sheltered by secluded Mainstay, we were taken to our new training grounds, Bacchus Library, to meet our training host families. We sat there anxious and sweating awaiting to see who will be our guidance these couple of months as we navigate through the Essequibo Coast and training. We gossiped among ourselves trying to ease the nervousness. After a hectic game of “Who’s my new mommy,” we were finally on our way to our new homes along the coast for the next 2 month. Some of us had beautiful views, delicious meals and loving families, while others faced challenges either immediately or later on, but we all gained so much experience from those families. They taught us how to make roti, boulanji choka (idk if I’ll ever know how to spell it), take bucket showers, hand wash clothes, and go without simple amenities we took for granted in the states.
Training brought forth new memories among our cohort. From not being able to understand staff due to their accents or the loudness of the rain hitting the roof above us to playing a daily game of musical chairs to see who would get a spot next to the fan. When the week was up, we would enjoy one of the only cold beverages in country . . . Stag and Banks beer at our favorite [local] watering hole. Even after being told [not by staff] that we need to stop going there, we continued on because for us, it was not about drinking. It was about getting to sit down with friends, catch up on the week, and make more memories. It was places like Gus’, Suddie Beach, Capoey, and Red Bud that helped bring us together, to be weirdos, and to ask more important questions and revisit old ones like “Is ravioli a sandwich too?“
“Every moment was bittersweet. Even the ones down to the last second . . .
We danced our way through the hot days and nights to Hindi, Soca, Chutney, and Spanish music (with the occasional American artist thrown in there) at weddings, birthdays parties, wakes, nine days, and impromptu family gatherings. We learned how to screw in the light bulb and fast wine, and play local games, like dog & bone and sault, with the kids. Some of us even tried playing football [soccer] and cricket but quickly realized we could never be as good as our host siblings.
Our weekly gatherings started becoming habitual and much-needed as model school consumed our lives for 2 weeks, and we realized training was ending soon. We started to realize the importance of family and specifically that our government-chosen group could handle both the ups and the downs. We celebrated birthdays and small [large] accomplishments, but also stuck by each other’s sides when we learned that not everyone would be swearing-in. The news hit some harder more than others (aka me). But fear not! We took this new challenge and information and did what we know how to do best . . . THROW A BOMB ASS GOING AWAY PARTY FOR EVERYONE. It just goes to show that even defining moments such as that one, can only make a family stronger. Before, during and now after the departure of our “fallen comrades” (I like to say) we support them and they support us. Guy 31 forever!
After training came to a close and we said our goodbyes to our first host families, we were shipped off to the capital, Georgetown, to swear-in. We knew that these were going to be our last 24 hours together as a cohort before all have to leave for our new homes all across Guyana. We spent the night enjoying our first American cheese burgers and Pizza Hut pizza in 2 and a half months and gaffed until we couldn’t anymore. Every moment was bittersweet. Even the ones down to the last second where I was still the unofficial secretary and liaison between training staff and our cohort.
(P.S. thank you for dealing with me with that. I did not choose that job, the job chose me.)
It was sad to leave you all behind, but I know I’ll see you guys again at IST, MST and many mini-vacations in-between. I can’t wait to see the things you all will accomplish during your service! But before I end this sappy story, I’d thought I leave you with a memory I have with all of you.
Preethi – Dancing to “Lip Gloss” and you admiring my fried chicken even though you are vegetarian.
Owen – You always being broke but at the same time the first person to ask if Pamona crew wanted to get beers. The answer was always YES!
Martin – Always down for a good time and can afford it too! (*cough, cough Owen)
Morgan – Asking us ladies from health if you could refer to us as “your bitchez.”
Tam – Hearing you sing those amazing lullabies! Every time it gives me chills.
Monica – Discussions after training so we can try to navigate the challenges we were facing.
Akeesha – Helping me voice my frustrations when my training host family made comments about my acne many times a day.
Ella – Watching you and Akeesha rip on Jesse for forgetting Kelci at our Mainstay Party Day.
Jesse – You still to this day can never properly play Drive during Kings Cup!
Kelci – I am sorry they made you go to the slaughtering of a cow. I would’ve also cried!
Pearla – We were supposed to be roommates in Philly but didn’t find out until 2 days later when we were both telling our stories.
Emma – Discovering at our Mainstay Party Day that despite our differences, we actually have a lot in common!
Leah – Saving everyone’s ass during training sessions when no one wanted to answer questions (or ask hard questions).
Gina – Being frozen in our rooms at Mainstay because we didn’t know how to change the temperature to not be at 16 degree Celsius.
Connor – Every time you’re talking too much and I have to say, “Connor, shut the f*** up!”
Frances – Helping you port your phone number 2 hours before our flight out of the country. Man was that an experience! Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Christianson for waking you guys!
Kelsey – Ain’t no party if it’s not a booty-poppin dance party. Bitch, right?
Jean – Referring to your host mom as “hostess” every time you talked about her and understanding that were both facing similar challenges.
Brandon – Your acting skills during L&C sessions were phenomenal! You should pursue a career in acting.
Hana – During that first dinner in Philly, you were telling us how to scam people into giving VIP and bottle service in Las Vegas. I can’t wait to use your expertise!
Kori – We talked about yoga on one of the first nights at Mainstay. We didn’t know anything about it but knew we wanted to try it.
Rachel – You always keep a level head, even when I don’t. Thanks for balancing me out!
Liz – Every time you get the captain d**khead card for Kings Cup. . . RIP everyone playing.
Kasey – So educated on Avatar the Last Airbender that I don’t even need to watch it.
Amber – Always willing to lend a hand and positive word.
Clare – I beat you once in Spit, and I’ll never live that down. That one win I will hold onto forever.
Katie – Hearing about the different ways in which your host family shared their personal information with you!
J.T. – Always has some inappropriate joke to tell that we either hate or love.
Tristian – You were one of the first friends I made at staging. Thank you for talking Westworld with me on the bus ride the JFK!
Adam – You speak the real and provided a great version of Steve Harvey and [Host] Family Feud.
Grayson – It’s possible you still don’t know everyone’s name in the cohort or even mine.
Zack – I still don’t know where you’re from. Is it Virginia, Tennessee, Mars? Mii na know!
For my 4 who I miss dearly:
Madi & Ryan – Thank you for always sitting with me at the front table and teaching me about chickie!
Lumesh – Thank you for showing me how to connect with the students when teaching uncomfortable and difficult topics.
Lauren – Thank you for being so technologically incompetent, a hot mess 24/7, and great pal to have in my corner.
I can’t wait until all 33 (and maybe more) of us can be together again to create many more memories. GUY 31 FOREVER! #AllTheseFlavors