24-hour day as a Peace Corps Volunteer in training

We have just completed our second full week of training, although we have been here nearly three weeks. We have about eight more weeks of training left, so I thought I’d take the time to give you an average walk through of a 24-hour day as a Peace Corps Volunteer in training.

I should note that while all stories and experiences are true, they do not all necessarily happen in the same day. While many of these events have happened to me, I’ve mixed in a few stories from other volunteers.

Sound asleep, yet sweating profusely

1:30 a.m.
Wake to the roar of the hardest rain imaginable. It makes me thankful that my house is on 12 foot tall stilts.

1:35 a.m.
The downpour make me want to pee. Hesitating as long as possible, I find I must remove myself from my bug-free cocoon.

1:36 a.m.
Attempt to simultaneously pee in the dark, fight off mosquitoes, and still hit the bowl.

1:37 a.m.
Flush the toilet and realize there’s no water.

1:38 a.m.
Back in bed, tucked in the mosquito net, and attempt to go back to sleep.

1:40 a.m.
Can’t sleep, because I’m paranoid that I’ve trapped a mosquito inside the net with me. After five minutes of searching the inside of my net via flashlight, I find the intruder, kill it, and eventually fall back to sleep.

6:00 a.m.
Much like a crowded campground in the middle of a city, you wake to noise. Whether it’s your neighbor’s nasty cough, a boom boom bus min-bus driving by, or dogs fighting; you awake to noise.

6:12 a.m.
Because all of the walls in the house do not reach the ceiling, you hear everything. My room is right next to the bathroom, so I feel like I’m sleeping in the next stall.

6:31 a.m.
I give up and open my eyes. To my disappointment, I find a very fat and bloated mosquito contently perched inside my net. I made sure I was the last meal she ever had.

6:45 a.m.
Get in the shower and hope there is water. There is, and it’s red–as usual. Not only that, it’s cold–as usual.

6:46 a.m.
I’ve had enough of that and I’m out of the shower.

6:47 a.m.
I try to find an available window to walk through the kitchen in my bath towel to get to my room. I usually fail and end up greeting my host mom (Gale) or dad (Anthony) in my towel, still dripping with water.

7:00 a.m.
Gale has breakfast ready for me. I’m always surprised. Sometimes, its eggs and toast. But other days, breakfast will be sloppy joes or beef stew. You never know.

7:08 a.m.
Four-year-old Zowie greets me at the breakfast table. She’s about 90 pounds and isn’t wearing any clothes.

7:09 a.m.
Breakfast is finished.

7:10 to 8:30 a.m.
I finish getting ready and spend the rest of the morning watching TV. Usually, I watch football (soccer) or cricket, for that’s what Gale enjoys watching.

8:30 a.m.
I begin my walk to our training facility, which is about a mile away. I usually stop about half way to visit our local Starbucks and wait for my friend Patrick. It’s not really a Starbucks, but we like to think of it as one. Instead, it’s an upscale rum shop that is run out of someone’s garage. You’ll find one of these about every third house.

8:45 a.m.
Patrick and I complete our walk while dodging obstacles like cows, dogs, horses, manure, potholes, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars.

8:55 a.m.
We safely arrive to St. Cuthberth’s Church, our training facility, where we greet other volunteers. It’s then that we hear how lucky we are for we learn that others have been peed on by stray dogs, gone deaf from riding 45 minutes in a 15-passenger mini-bus that is holding 29 people and playing the loudest music possible, and escaped an occasional cow stampede.

9:00 a.m.
I head upstairs and take a seat in a very uncomfortable plastic chair, which seems to be the universal form of furniture throughout Guyana. Every now and then, one of the legs will give out on a chair and send one of us to the floor.

9:01 a.m.
Begin sweating, for there is no air-conditioning and only one fan.

9:02 to 10:30 a.m.
On this particular morning, we learn about crime in Georgetown (the capitol) and how to avoid getting robbed. With a curfew at dusk and a host of warnings, we all feel a little bit nervous and frustrated at a loss of freedom.

10:31 a.m.
Peal my sweaty butt and back off the plastic chair for a brief water break.

10:45 to Noon
Learn more about safety. This workshop is more for the women, for they learn how to cope with their catcalls and sexual aggression.

Noon to 1:00 p.m.
Lunchtime. Gale usually does a good job preparing lunch for me, for most of the volunteers are usually jealous. Patrick’s host mom sometimes packs a little something for me as well. One thing is for sure, I won’t go hungry during training.

1:00 p.m.
Return to my plastic chair and begin sweating profusely again.

1:01 to 2:30 p.m.
The Peace Corps Medical Officer educates us on sexually transmitted diseases. After her scary presentation, I think most of us feel like taking an oath of celibacy.

2:31 p.m.
Still sweating. Break time.

2:45 to 4:00 p.m.
Here we learn about Guyanese customs and culture. We get a lot of this in hopes that we’ll be well prepared to adapt to a new culture.

4:05 p.m.
Patrick and I walk Emily home, who also lives near our training facility.

4:25 p.m.
We arrive to our Starbucks and enjoy a cold beer or soda. Again, we are sweating and sitting on plastic chairs.

5:05 p.m.
Perhaps I stop by an Internet cafe on my way home after I drop off Patrick. Russell runs the place. It has two computers with 56kps dial up connection. He’s a nice guy and has become a comfort to know someone on my way home.

5:15 p.m.
I arrive home and am greeted by Zowie, who will continue to greet me and ask me questions well into the night. The Energizer bunny has nothing against her. I try to relax by watching some TV or studying a computer book.

6:30 p.m.
Gale serves me dinner. Sometimes it’s a normal dinner meal. Other times, it’s cheese and crackers.

6:45 p.m.
By now it’s getting dark and the mosquitoes begin to come out. And since the house is completely open, they seem to all gather inside where it is less windy and much darker.

6:55 p.m.
Blackout. Both power and water seem to cut on and off throughout the day. You never know what to expect. I imagine this will cause many frustrations once I begin working in a computer lab.

7:00 p.m.
I decide to take a shower to cool off and wash off all of my sweat before going to bed. Unfortunately, the water is also off and will likely remain off the rest of the night.

7:05 p.m.
Climb into bed to seek the shelter of my bug net. I spend the next five to fifteen minutes tucking the edges of the net, securing my defenses, and killing all mosquitoes that I inadvertently trapped inside.

7:06 to 9:00 p.m.
I spend the rest of the evening sweating in bed, reading, and playing card games on my Palm Pilot. The noise from our TV, our neighbor’s stereo, and the countless stray dogs is overwhelming, but someone I manage to fall asleep. It’s been a long day, and the rest is well needed.

10:37 p.m.
I wake from a nightmare. Nightmares are an unfortunate side effect of Lairum, a drug we have to take weekly to combat Malaria. Eventually, I fall back asleep.

All in all, it’s been a good day. It takes a special breed to be a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I’m glad that I’m one of them.