Jess Roberts is currently volunteering as a teacher in Guyana. She wrote about the differences between life at her project and life in the UK:
Orealla village is on the eastern border of Guyana overlooking the Corentyne River. Orealla itself consists of wooden houses on stilts, sandy or muddy paths, fruit trees, rainforest, savannah, beaches and chalk hills. The village stretches for several miles but the main mode of transport is on foot. I am lucky to have been placed in such a beautiful area and make the most of it. In our spare time my volunteering partner and I, with friends we have made, take regular trips to the beach or spend hours collecting mangoes out of the trees.
The community itself has been very friendly. In the first week we had people coming round to the door to introduce themselves. The ‘aunties’ (older ladies) of the village invite us round for dinner and love to look after us, which has made us feel extremely welcome. Community members regularly play cricket, volleyball and football and invite us to join in.
Living in a remote place does have its challenges, but they can be overcome. For example, we were fortunate enough to be provided with a house by the Ministry of Education, but the water rarely runs and often when it does it smells and comes out very discoloured! So we collect our drinking water from a tank across the road, an encouragement not to be lazy. We bathe in the river, having initially been wary after hearing about the presence of piranhas and stingrays.
As for electricity, the supply is sporadic. In theory power is on from 6 – 11 pm daily but having electricity for the full five hours is rare. We have learned the value of lighting and it has put into perspective the amount of electricity we waste in the UK. These things may sound hard to live with but the transition wasn’t too drastic; I see my day-to-day life here as simply different, not worse.
As for food, it’s also very different. The diet is mainly carbohydrate-based: rice roti, chowmein or bake. We normally have some form of meat with those, the most common being chicken, various forms of fish or labba (a bush meat). Fish and labba are always freshly caught so they are particularly delicious to eat. Many of these meals are Indian-influenced so the meat is often curried. Vegetables are scarce but there is plenty of fruit. Now that we are well into the rainy season, the ground is littered with delicious mangoes. All the food is extremely tasty and the usual attitude to food is that it is for sharing. The idea that in the UK we only make enough food for our families perplexes people here.
The weather here is simply amazing. When the sun is not blazing at 40C the rain is pouring so hard you can’t hear yourself think. The thunderstorms are so loud they shake the house and the lightning is like a nightclub in the sky. There are more stars than I have ever seen and Venus shines brightly, like a torch, onto our veranda.
My time here has been one amazing adventure so far. It’s been wonderful to be in the position of a teacher and to see how much difference I can make to a student’s education. To live such a different life for a year is an incredible privilege. I have learned so much already, and can’t wait to see what else Guyana has in store.