Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Last day in Central America. It is hard to believe that we have been travelling for 6 and a half weeks already. The past couple of weeks have flown by. We spent 4 days around Lake Atitlan with a miriad of adventures planned; kayaking, volcano clumbing, horseback riding, etc., but ended up spending most of the days sick in bed! We succesfully met up with Blake´s parents a week ago and have been moving non-stop since; Overnight buses to the Maya ruins of Tikal, stolen passport and credit cards, market days and haggling, chicken buses, US embassy, volcano hike, canopy zip line tour. What an amazing week! And now our time here has come to an end. Thanks for following along and sharing our adventures with has been truly unforgetable!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hi everyone!

We had one more village to visit in Honduras. Gracias,"a small, quaint mountain village with friendly people and cobblestone streets" or so sayeth the guide book. After having read the description I was bound and determined to go out of our way to stay in this town. What we found after hours and hours of travelling instead was an incredibly dusty, fairly unintersting town. We were however shown how to make papusas (one of the national dishes and incredibly delicious cheap streetfood available in El Salvador) by two women at one of the restaraunts there. I am pretty sure that Blake is in love!With the papuasa, not the women. Papusas are small, soft stuffed tortillas filled with pretty much anything, although beans and cheese has become our fast fallback.

After a slightly disappointing adventure in Honduras it was off to El Salvador which has been amazing! We have seen waterfalls, ate more street food than anywhere else, attended a food fair and made friends with some locals. All in all a pretty successful week!
First up in El Salvador was the "small quaint, mountain village" of Suchitoto. Of course we were apprehensive after our Gracias fiasco, so you can imagine our pleasant surprise when we found one of the most wonderful villages we have ever been to. Suchitoto was everything we had been hoping for in Gracias and more! Wonderful, helpful people, gorgeous town, cobblestone streets, an amazing waterfall with hexaganal rocks formed by volcanic activity and cool weather! It was amazing!

After 2 wonderful days and a couple of questionable nights, which included a million mosquitoes, one dead bat, and eventually two beds in Suchitot we headed out for, if you can believe it, another¨"small, mountain town with cobblestone streets", called Juayua. Again amazing! We arrived just in time for their weekly food festival!
Food everywhere, including papusas, friendly people and a great hostel! We were also able to take an amazing walk to see some of the water falls that provide water power for the town. The walk was through an amazing cloud forest with ancient architecture and came complete with a local machete wielding guide and 3 armed policemen. Apparantly they had some trouble with theft along the trail years ago and are taking it very seriously!
As sad as we are to say good bye to El Salvdor, tomorrow morning we head out to Guatemala to spend some time arround Lago Atitlan and try and slow down the pace a bit.We will definately let eveyone know how we are doing soon!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nicaragua was amazing...Blake says his favorite so far. We ended up spending 9 nights in all, the first few on Omatepe Island and then the next several in the small colonial towns of Grenada and Leon, (the picture is taken from the bell tower of a cathedral in Grenada)
both sites of deep political history. Grenada was a beautiful quaint town and I have to say it was my favorite of the two. Bright buildings, friendly people, and a perfect hostile made it the perfect place to settle down for a few nights. What we didn{t know, but soon learned was that both the water and the electricity in the entire city were on a rolling blackout schedule. WHen I say schedule, it doesn{t exactly mean that there was any rhyme or reason to when the water or the electricty wouldnt work, but that sometimes during the day there would be a long period with no water or electricity (meaning no fan) at some point during the day. Being that this was the hottest place we have been so far, it was tough to get used to. After Grenada we travelled to Leon, another influential town in the political revolunionary scheme of things. Leon was a bt dirtier, not so bright and cheery, but still friendly people and an exciting Parque Central.
Adios Nicaragua and Hola Honduras! After a strenuous couple of days of travel, including a borken down bus, a grimy capital city,tortillas off the street (delicious!), a slight change of plans, and two 5:00 AM starts we have arrived in Copan Ruinas, Honduras, the site of one of the large Mayan ruin sites.
That was on the agenda for today and now we deserve another rest. Tomorrow we set of EARLY for another travel day to the small quaint Honduran village of Gracias. It is a couple of nights there and then off to El Salvador. Are you keeping up??? We are having a ball and will write again soon!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

We made it out of Costa Rica but I feel like I didn´t quite explain the torture that was our hike up Cerro Chato well enough. That was now 5 days ago and we´re just starting to feel normal again. Jesse says that her body hurt in places she didn´t know existed. I´m not sure what she means by that but it sounds pretty bad. The sick thing is I actually enjoyed it. After walking about 5 hours uphill from where we started in the center of town (which was half of the problem, we should´ve taken a taxi to the base) it was an acomplishment that left me glowing and Jessa crying. Enough about that though.

So 1 taxi, 4 buses, 10 hours, and 40 dolars later we made it through the rest of Costa Rica via Tilaran, Cañas, & Liberia, and then across the border to NIcaragua with a little help from a US expat living in Costa Rica and working as a bookie. I don´t know where Jessa finds these people but he was very helpful. We had to spend the night in a city called Rivas because it was getting late. Nothing special but you can immediately tell you are no longer in Costa Rica. Much cheaper, much rougher, less touristy, and FSLN red and black Sandinista flags all around.

The next morning we caught a ferry to Isla de Omotepe, an island in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua formed by the explosion of two volcanoes that created an isthmus connecting them into one island. It is very underdeveloped and kind of reminded me of some places in Guyana where the locals look at you like your crazy. It took a while and some pretty rough bus rides but after a final 1km hike uphill we made it to Finca Magdelana ( It´s a co-operative coffee farm set on the base of a volcano. The turned an old barn into an very unique hostel and we spend the next few days enjoying the dozens of howler monkeys and dozens of cold Toña beers. You can walk the grounds and see petroglyphs left by the indigenous depicicting shapes and humans in various forms.

Yesterday we took the fery back across and caught a chicken bus to Granada. I didn´t see any chickens but we did share the ride with over 150 other people in a standard size 1960´s school bus. Quite a ride. We´re now sitting in the park in Granada loving the laid back atmosphere and colonial architectures. We wil spend the next few days here and then off to the next adventure.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Only a week since our last blog but lots to write about. We spent 2 nights in Punto Sirain in the Bahia Azul near Bocas del Toro in Panama with our friend Mel the Peace Corps Volunteer. It was amazing. Her village is very small with only about 300 people and very isolated from any other communities. You have to take a speed boat to get to any major city or a canoe to get anywhere in the bay. We pretty much just hung, washed clothes in the creek, talked with the local children, and watched a few baseball games between nearby villages. They row over as a team to play on the field at Punto Sirain and they take baseball very seriously. It was fun to watch.

On monday we went down to the docks to head towards bocas del toro but that boat didn´t come so we took the boat back to Chiriqui Grande and made our way to Costa Rica. The border crossing was painless at Sixaola/Guabito but interesting because it was our first land crossing between foreign countries. You could just freely walk through if you wanted, no one would stop you until you reached a checkpoint. We made it to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast in a day and spent the night at a hammock hotel. The town had kind of a US Spring Break vibe but it was fun anyway and absolutely gorgeous. We spent the second night in our own room at a little quiter place. We hitched a ride from a Canadian lady and her Tico driver down to a beach called Punta Uva and it was just stunning. On the way back we saw howler monkeys before hitching another ride back to the city from a rasta man. Back in town we ran into a friend of Jessa´s from Hillcrest, Jaime, who used to live in a town about 20 minutes away called Manzanillo and she was back visiting. She invited us to dinner with her and then to stay a night in Manzanillo the next day. We got there without hithching this time and it was stunning. The road ends here and trails continue back to Panama. We took a long walk to some deserted beaches and then came back to town to join the locals for a little black sand volleyball. It was a ton a fun.

On thursday we caught the 7:00 am bus on our way to La Fortuna. It took us 9 hours but we made it in one day. La Fortuna sits next to Volan Arenal and its stunning. We did a hike yesterday up Cerro Chato and just about died of exhaustion, then we woke up this morning and had a 3 horseback trip that was free but took tips if we enjoyed it. We definitely did. It was across fields, up rivers, through mud, over hills. We ran with the horses as much as we wanted and are now exhausted.

That´s all for now though. Tomorrow we are off to Nicaragua and Isla de Ometepe. Should get more and more adventurous.



Friday, July 20, 2007

We officialy left Guyana at 2:00 AM Monday, July 16th. After a tough goodbye with our wonderful friends we set off for our Central American tour. We started off in Curacao, a Caribbean island that is a Dutch commonwealth. It is a charming town where they speak a strange mixture of Spanish and Dutch. We managed to eek by with our limited Spanish vocabulary and some strange looks. This stop was merely a layover through Columbia and then finally into Panama City. We arrived safely with no hassles and met up with our Peace Corp friend Melissa who was kind enough to take us under her wing and show us around. We saw the Panama Canal, old Panama City, the president´s house and basically unwound a bit.

We are now en route to Melissa´s site village on the Boca´s Peninsula where we will spend a few relaxing nights. After that it is off to Costa Rica. We are going to do our best to keep you updated on what we are seeing, doing and where we are headed next. Talk to you soon!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

7 days and counting! We are trying to travel around and see as much of Guyana as possible before we take our leave on the 16th. Last weekend we travelled with 4 friends to Region 1, an area of the country located in the far North of Guyana and stayed in a small Amerindian village called Santa Rosa Mission. We had a contact named Johnny, a boat driver who had taken previous VSO's out to the region. Blake gave him a call and told him we would like to make a trip out his way. He quoted his price of 5,000 Guyana dollars ($25 US) each way of the 2 hour boat journey to the mission. It may sound pretty reasonable, but when you are living on a tiny budget it's not just chump change! Blake asked if there was a special price he could give us for volunteers. Johnny said he couldn't budge on the boat price, due to the price of gas and all, but to save some money we could "stay by him" rather than paying for a guest house. So, at 6:00 AM Saturday morning, we began our journey to Region One. It begins with a 45 minute mini-bus ride to Parika (see Blake's previous description of what it is to experience a mini bus). From there it is an hour speedboat ride to Supernaam. Then an hour long taxi ride to Charity to meet up with Johnny. From there we get to the last leg of the journey, a 2 hour speedboat ride into Santa Mission. This last boat ride itself was worth the entire journey. We had never been to Region One before and we were amazed! The scenery was stunning; Simple houses could be seen intermittently on both sides of the river, People rowing their boats to get from one place to another. Then we shot out of the river out into the Atlantic Ocean! We stuck to the coastline, but it was amazing feeling to be in the middle of the ocean in a tiny speedboat. Then the boat shot through a tiny opening in the foliage and we began the most amazing high speed ride through a 12 foot canal forged through rice fields and trees.The speedboat driver steered more through memory than sight. What a wild ride!

Once we arrived in the village we hung up our hammocks underneath Johnny's house and met his wife who led us to meet the village captain. All visitors must report to the captain if they are staying in the village. After that we explored, read, napped, met some locals, and enjoyed seeing another amazing part of Guyana. We spent most of our time at a bar that looked out onto the intricate canals that the villagers use to get around the village. Everybody has small row boats that they use like we use cars.It was really amazing to take it all in.

After some very unsual nights sleep, with just us and a few of Johnny's closest friends who kept multiplying under the house, it was time to head back to Georgetown. We got our 4:00 AM wakeup call that the boat was leaving, so off we went. Just as our first boat ride began, the rain began to fall and didn't stop until we reached home. See above for how much of the trip is in boats! When we reached Supernaam for our 1 hour boat ride back to Parika it was pouring! One brave soul offered to dirve us back and we thought that was a better idea than trying to wait it out, so again, off we went! When you ride in the speed boats they give you a complimentary heavy plastic sheet to help shield yourself from the wet, which would be great except for the hundreds of holes throughout the sheet. Needlesss to say, we were far from dry. Our captain spent the ride laughing and singing various ballads at the top of his lungs; If Tomorrow never comes, I will survive, etc. We made it home safe and sounds with many more wonderful memories and stories to bring home with us when we leave this surprising and beautiful country.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Since we've been back.......

Things didn't change too much while we were gone. The rainy season kicked in full force and it's extra hot when it's not raining. Like everything else though, you get used to it. I have however had a little trouble getting used to the cold showers again, and therefore seem to keep kind of an odor most of the time. I hope Jessa gets used to that.

After about three days of being back I got really sick. It was a leftover chest infection from The States that turned into full blown pneumonia once I got back into the humidity here. I decided I would go to the hospital if it got to the point where I couldn't walk but my doctor back home was able to diagnose me via mom and some extra strong antibiotics that we keep on hand made me better after about a week. It's extra miserable being sick here. First of all you wonder if it's some kind of crazy exotic disease because it's a good possibility. Second of all you don't have the luxury of A/C and a comfortable sofa to curl up on and recover. It's 90 something outside and my temperature was up to 102 at one point. Miserable. All better now though.

We're making it a point to really enjoy our last month here before we leave for our Central America trip. Last weekend we went to Marudi creek. It's a black water creek about 1 1/2 hours out of town set in a very peaceful area with benabs (sort of lack small huts) for hanging hammocks and coca-cola colored water. I've never seen anything like black water. It's very clean, clean enough to drink but so rich with minerals that it's almost black. Supposed to be good for the skin, I'm not sure but definitely a good time.

In the coming weeks we plan on visiting some Amerindian villages, kind of what we would call Indian reservations at home but less for more choice and beautiful land. You can apparently stay the night in hammocks and kind of enjoy their way of life for a day or two. Should be a blast.

Work wise, things are going well here. I'm busy as usual at Habitat and Jessa is finishing up her project at work measuring the effectiviness of a workbook in teaching phonics throughout Guyana. I think she is getting good results so far.

A couple stories to finish off the blog. I don't know if we've ever truly explained what a minibus ride is like but we had a memorable one last weekend on the way to and from Marudi Creek. God definitely has a sense of humor because the maniac that dropped us of for the creek happened to be the first bus we found to take us home. So a minibus is a type of Toyota mini-van called a Hiace. It's a little bigger than your standard mini-van and can legally carry 15 people. 15 is crowded but they never stop there. It's usually closer to 20. I literally had a grown man sitting on my lap for 1 hour on a previuos trip. This weekend's bus was called "Lion Heart." Getting a bus at the market is half of the fun especially when your with a group of 5 "whities" (yep that's what they call us to our faces). They grab and pull you in every direction promising comortable seating and a quick departure all of which we now know is untrue. We chose quickly and poorly this time. Mr. Lion Heart drove about 90-100mph the whole way there. But that's not the exciting part. Overtaking is where it gets fun. We would call this passing at home. So it's a two lane highway with not much shoulder and there are cars pulled on the side of the road every where. To properly over take a vehicle you must first check to see if there is a car coming the other way. If there is then you start honking like a mad man and driving directly at the oncoming traffic. Mr. Lion Heart was the king of this. He weaved through the traffic like a magician to the sweet sweet sounds of the 80's. Just imagine 100 mph, windows open, an old man slighltly sitting on your lap, racing at oncoming traffic, and the music plays "Gloria, Gloria, I think they got your number”. An experience I won’t soon forget.

My next story takes place about an hour ago. We've recently had a string of robberies outside my office. Nothing major, just women having their necklaces ripped off their necks. We've had 3 in the last two weeks and one was a co-worker of mine. A young guy usually watches as the girls go across the road to get something from the corner store and when they come back he cycles up on them slowly and slaps them on the chest and rips off the necklace. He then cycles away quickly into the neighboring rough part of town. Today's guy wasn't so lucky. So we heard a scream and all ran outside to find a girl from the next door office crying with a cut on her knee. It had happened again but this time a guy saw the kid and said he knew who he was. He sped off and we thought nothing of it. About 30 minutes later we hear a mob coming down the street and go out to see what the fuss is about. We find several men pushing a young kid down the street to meet his victim. About 100 people came out from various offices and it looked like we were going to get to see some real Guyanese justice. They all crowded around the kid and the women started yelling at him while the men gave him a bit of beating with motorcycles helmets and fists. It looked like it was going to get out of hand so I decided to jump in the crowd and yell in my best Guyanese accent “don’t beat the boy, you got to call the police”. Turns out one of the guys was a cop, they did stop the beating though and my co-workers let me know he got off really easy. Finally a car came and they threw him in with the cop, hit him a few more times, and then sped off to the police station I assume. It turned out that the boy wasn’t the one that robbed my co-worker two weeks ago but Clifton (our admin, pictured on the right) still told her “me give de boy a few lashin’ for ya, but I vex wit me self cuz I nah hit he hard enough”. Endearing huh? I thought so.

Ahh Guyana. I will miss you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

There we were at the airposrt saying goodbye to our families as we headed back to Guyana. It had been a wonderful trip; a beautiful wedding, lots of time with family and friends, great food, good wine and beer, air conditioning, and relaxation. The two weeks at home had gone better than eagerly anticipated and now it was time to head back to Guyana. We bravely (albeit tearfully) waved to our family from the airport doors and walked up to the Continental counter, passports in hand. "I'm sorry, this passport is too damaged." WHAT?! That's right...we were not allowed to board the plane in Austin because of an incident my passport had run into with a dog's mouth about 5 years ago. Did I mention that I have been travelling with this same passport for the past 5 years and that it is the passport that got me home? Regardless, due to new passport regulations, we were turned away. We called Blake's parents, asked if they wouldn't mind keeping us until we got this passport thing sorted out. I am pretty sure that they didn't mind. :)

So, back home and straight to the computer and the phone we went. I am not sure if you all are aware of the new passport regulations that have been put in place? the US is now obligating every American travelling anywhere outside of the United States to carry a passport; that include Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. You can imagine how many people are frantic to get their passports before their summer trips come up. We were just one in a long line, literally. We finally got an emergency appointment at the passport agency in Houston for 10:00. So, 5:00 AM in the car and Houston here we come. We arrived about an hour early for the appointment and arrived to a line out the door and around the building. Surely this isn't the line for poeple with an appointment?! Yep...appointment and non-appointment alike. So, we waited...and waited, and waited. It took about 51/2 hours of just waiting in line for us to actually talk to someone and once we did, it took about 5 minuted for them to process us and then another 1 1/2 hours to make the passport. By 5:00, we were headed home, shiny new passport in hand.

That was just the first challenge. The second was finding a flight back to Guyana. Finally we confirmed our seats for the May 31st, which means that tomorrow morning will be take two of our journey back to Georgetown. It has been a wonderful trip home, but we are ready to get back to work and buckle down for our remaining time in Guyana. We will keep you posted on how everything is going, as long as you keep us posted on how everything is going with you!

Love, Jessa and Blake

Monday, April 23, 2007

Have no fear, it's just a new template. Same ole Jessa and Blake. I got a bit sick of looking at the old format for the blog so I took it upon myself to change it. I hope I don't get in trouble with Jessa the next time she opens this.

Things are still just moving right along. I finally found some really great volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity Guyana. I am filling in for the "Community Mobilization" department since the recent departure of the previous "Community Mobilization Officer." Sounds very official huh? It really just means lots of volunteer coordination, community outreach, event planning, a little resource devolpment, and a lot of fun. It's rewarding on a day to day basis and good experience for the future.

We are starting to say goodbye to many of our friends that we came to Guyana with. VSO does placements from 3 months to 2 years and a few friends have left with more to leave soon. It's been a little tough to say goodbye to people that you've become great friends with in the oddest of circumstances, we will miss them all.

So let's see, updates since Jessa's last posting. We'll, we went camping with about 10 friends on Good Friday at a place called Capoey Lake. It was supposed to be a secluded beach but it turned out to be an Amerindian Village. There was a peace corps volunteer there who set us up with a nearbye place to camp that was more secluded and what we had in mind. The campsite was pretty basic though: just trees, white sand beach, and black water lake. No real facilities and no shelter to cover us from the rain. It was a pretty big risk considering how much it rains here but we slung up our hammocks in the trees and crossed our fingers. It turned out to be a nice night, no rain, campfire in the sand, all that good stuff. We got back to Georgetown the next day but not after an ackward confrontation with two boat captains and an old lady who had different ideas of who would be taking us back across the lake and a very adventurous trip across the Essequibo river where everyone in the boat got soaked except for me and two locals. Jessa's mom sent down a ten year supply of easter egg decorating kits so we put them to good use on sunday and Jessa organized an "easter egg decorating party." Translation, a fridge full of colored hard boiled eggs for us to eat for the last two weeks. We also put on an easter egg hunt for the downstairs kids and they loved it once the concept was explained.

Next day was World Cup Cricket. I think some of you may have heard but the West Indies is hosting the ICC World Cup and Guyana won a bid to host part of the Super 8 matches. We saw New Zealand play Ireland and New Zealand won in a landslide, the score was:

New Zealand: 263/8 (50.0) and Ireland: 134/10 (37.4)

I bet most of you can't make sense of that. It just means Ireland is pathetic even though they were a cinderella second round team.

After that we had a week of saying good bye to our very close friends from Canada and I got very busy here at Habitat. I helped put together a volunteer day with the Miss Guyana Universe contestants that went very well. I think I left a good impression. You can see the winner represent Guyana at the Miss Universe pageant on May 29th (I think) in Cancun. Here name is MeLeesa Payne. I'm working on lots of other things but that's the only one i'll mention for obvious reasons.

We are now on a 10 day count down until we come home to visit. It has been a long 8 months since we left Austin and we can't wait for some spicy tex-mex, cold live oak beer, and familiar accents.

Miss you all - Blake

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What an amazing birthday! The best one yet, I would have to say, minus the missing friends and family. Our 5 day trek to Kaieteur Falls was more than we ever hoped for! This is a long one, so prepare yourself...

Day one: 7 other volunteers, Blake and I, and Tony, our guide for the next 5 days, met up Wednesday morning armed with hiking backpacks and banana bread (I baked!) to begin our first long day of travelling. We all piled into the minibus and set off on our adventure. The car ride began with laughter and excitement and died down slowly within the first 30 minutes, as road trips often do, as we settled in for the long haul. We would be in the minibus for about 6 hours that first day. We followed the paved road to Lethem, stopping at a rest stop for lunch along the way (at 10:30?!). After Lethem the road becomes a red dirt road ridden with potholes. It had rained that day and the night before so those potholes were huge puddles so it was rough riding for at least a couple of hours. The red road turned to gravel road that took us through the beginnings of the rainforest. We weaved our way through amazing greenery and wildlife. We crossed on a few-car ferry and continued our journey. Once we reached Madhia, a quaint mining village, we ditched the minibus for our 4X4 vehicles. The brochure mentioned open-air all-terrain transportation, so you can imagine what we had pictured. What we got was an ancient blazer that stalled every couple of minutes and a truck into which Blake squeezed next to our bags on the floor, nestled next to the fish and the gasoline. Not exactly picturesque, but an adventure nonetheless. Our "all terrain vehicles" drove us about an hour along indescribably bumpy roads until we reached the boats. Out of the cars we went and into the boats; volunteers in one and bags in the other. And we were off for the last segment of travelling for the day; an hour and 1/2 boat ride snaking through the rainforest. Finally we arrived at our accomodation for the night; a benab at Amatuk Falls. The falls were stunning! We spent the first hour exploring and then headed back to camp where we slung our hammocks and settled down for dinner. What a great close to the first day.

Day 2: Up bright and early for breakfast...Delicious! After a semi-slow start we hiked with our packs a short 15 minute walk and boarded our boat again, this time with our packs, and we were off again. We boated down the Potaro river for a few hours, stopping along the way to check out some diamond mining destruction and do some hiking through the rainforest. "To warm up our muscles for the coming days," exaplined Tony. He was an endless wealth of knowledge about the rainforest having grown up at Kaiteur Falls. We bedded down for another night underneath the rangers cabin. Not our favorite accomodation after warnings of snakes. Yikes!

Day 3: Up and at 'em again. The rain had threatened to put a damper on our plans of a 6 hour hike that day. It had rained steadily for the first couple of days and then torrentially through the night. We set off at the first break in the weather. We had to cut our hike a bit short because some of the creek crossings had turned into river crossings and were uncrossable. As we set off into the rainforest, Tony began to cut us each walking sticks. They weren't just for show! We began what was to become about a 4 and 1/2 hour hike. Our first hurdle was the first creek crossing. Due to the rain, it had swelled higher than Tony had expected. The current flowing from the waterfalll above had become very strong and a bit dangerous. Tony stripped down to his underwear and headed across the creek tying one end of a rope to a tree at each side to make the crossing easier for us. Then he walked us across one at a time. Blake crossed like a champ, I had a close call trying to keep my pants up, but our entire group made it safely across. As if in celebration, a band of spider monkeys appeared at just the moment we all crossed. Amazing! We hiked to the top of the falls and took several minutes to take it all in. As we sat and enjoyed the view the rain began to pour down. It was one of those surreal, "I am sitting in a South American rainforest in the pouring rain looking at a waterfall and I just crossed a dangerous river with just a rope and Tony for safety" moments. So, on we continued for about another 1 1/2 to camp through the pouring rain. We passed through several more rivers up to our armpits balancing on submerged logs, hidden from view. WOW! Arrived at camp soaking wet, and settled down for our long hike the next day.

Day 4: My birthday and our last leg up to kaiteur falls. This time we all carried our bags as we were heading straight up to the falls. Tony said we would be climbing 2,000 feet and then slowly decending 1,000 feet back down to the falls. Here we go! The hike was gorgeous through the rainforest, but tough as well. The walking sticks came in handy as we climbed over slippery rocks and up steep inclines. Blake drank water from a stream called "Grandmother" and we traversed 2 especially tricky areas called "Oh my God 1" and appropriatly "Oh my God 2". Finally we broke through the canopy of the rainforest and came to our first view of the falls. Breathtaking! It was huge with all of the rain which had magically stopped for this final day of hiking. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the falls, bathing at the top (you won't believe how close to the actual falls...there aren't exactly safey measures here yet) relaxing and watching the swifts (swallows) that live behind the falls roost for the night. My birthday evening was wonderful, complete with birthday cake (thank you Blake and Mr. and Mrs. Singh!) presents, and friends! Then it was off to bed again.

Day 5: Last day at the falls. Tony took us around the falls for our last hike of the trip. Then it was off to the landing strip to board our tiny 2 engine plane (yikes!) and head back to Georgetown.

It was definitely a birthday to rememeber and a trip I would recommend to anyone. Sorry about the rambling and again for the lack of pictures. Hope everyone is doing great!

Blake and Jessa

Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy spring everyone!

February and March have been a whirlwind of activity here in Guyana. It all started off with the Mash festival. A "celebration of hard work" which emerges into street parades, floats, and celebrating into the wee hours of the night. The street parade was unbelievably colorful and exciting! The on and off downpours didn't damper the spirit of the revelers and the floats became grander and more elaborate as the day wore on. The highlights of the day were the 2 competing cell phone companies on the country; Digicel and GT&T. Digicel has "taken Guyana by storm" and the country is literally dividing itself between the two companies; everyone sporting either red or blue clothing in support of their favorite provider...hysterical! The floats led to some late night socializing at a nearby rum shop, Cita's, which has become quite a favorite haunt. We apparantly are making quite a buzz around town as it is all over the neighborhood how a bunch of "whities" frequent the place. Mash night we learned a few new dance steps and taught some of the locals a few of my favorites as well. :)

Following Mash came Phagwah, a celebration of Spring. Basically this festival consists of covering complete strangers in colored powder and water...just to make sure that it stains for the next few weeks. We still have volunteers sporting green hair!

The Cricket World Cup has grabbed the complete attention of the whole of the country. The games come to Guyana starting on March 28th and the city is buzzing with preparations. We have tickets for the 9th of April and are very excited about attending and hopefully rooting for the West Indies team, which boats a few players from Guyana. It should be a fun time...did you know that Cricket matches last about 6 hours??!!

We leave tomorrow for our trip into the rainforest and our overland trek up to Kaieteur Falls. If you want to check out more info, go to and check out the 5 day overland trek. I think that Blake has had his bag packed for the last week in anticipation of leaving. We will be meeting up with 7 other volunteers to start our journey early tomorrow morning. What an adventure!

Sorry about the lack of pictures lately. Our computer is sick and we cannot seem to get past the boot up stage. Blake is working with some of our IT geniuses here in Guyana, but we might have to wait until May to get it back in shape, so until pictures! I promise to make up for the lack of as soon as possible.

In other news, Blake has been in close contact with a Peace Corp volunteer attached to Habitat for Humanity here in Guyana and she has managed to set him up with a really exciting sounding position. He doesn't have all of the details and won't begin until we get back from our travels, but it looks like it will use alot of his marketing and business skills, as well as introduce him to some new areas in development. Really exciting!

That's all for now! We hope everyone is doing well! Congratulations to some new arrivals...Cielo and Roman...Congratulations Suzi and Heather! I can't wait to meet them! Talk to you all soon,

Jessa and Blake

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Boy oh boy have we been neglectful! Lot's of information to catch you all up on. January has seemed to have flown by. It was full of work, birthdays, barbeques, and heat!

Work is still moving right along. We seem to be busy in waves at NCERD. We are either juggling a million different projects or twiddling our thimbs catching up on our most recent novel. At the moment things are slow, but we are amping up to begin a curriculum pilot in the schools here. That's right...that means I will actually be working in schools with teachers and kids to improve literacy! We are piloting a program that Ann (my British counterpart) and I have created ourselves. If all goes well with the pilot schools, there is talk of nation wide distribution. That would be wild!

Blake's countdown at the VSO office is coming to a speedy close as Friday will be his last day at the office. It has been a long awaited day and I know that he is going to love sleeping in come Monday morning. He is beginning his quest for a job and will be delivering applications and resumes to some very promising job postings; one being the British High Commision. How posh! There are also several non-profit agencies that are doing really interesting work here that he would be a great asset to, so that is in the radar as well. For a while at least though, I am hoping that he will relax, and explore, and enjoy some down time here in Guyana. One of his most favorite past-times lately has become the bi-weekly trips to the market. He is a pro at getting everything we need for under $1,000 Guyanese dollars (about $5 USD). He often gets away with an extra cucumber or bag of peppers slipped into the bag as he has made friends with every vendor in Georgetown!

There have been several birthdays here in Guyana lately and each and every one has been celebrated enthusiatically. The first was Cheryl, a wonderful British volunteer who turned 30. A big one! Blake was keen to remind me that mine was not far off and that he would always be younger than me. :) Cheryl is placed in a small town called Corriverton in Region 6, about a 4 journey away from Georgetown. To get there you take minibusses for about 3 hours and then a ferry for about 20 minutes. The time is lost waiting for the ferry to fill up and take off. All in all, it is a pretty easy journey that we made with about 25 other VSO's to celebrate with Cheryl on the beach. I am not sure if I have mentioned the beach in Corriverton before. It is not exactly the white sand, blue water, Trinidad and Tobago beach that we have experienced, more like a brown sand, brown water, deserted beach. It does have an eerie beauty all it's own though and you can look out over the water and see Suriname. There is a "back way" to travel to Suriname from Corriverton, but it is highly illegal and we decided to pass on that trip. So we spent the day on the beach with friends, playing cricket (very popular here!), and enjoying the day. What a birthday to remember!

We also celebrated with Rob, a Canadian volunteer, who will be leaving with his wife in April. They have been here for a short 6 month placement and then are off to experience the rest of South America. In commemoration of his birthday we had a barbeque on a homemade barbeque pit, (homemade veggie burgers for us...not a recipe I will use again. :)) and then it was off to the karaoke bar. Somehow I was talked into singing what I am sure was a ear- spliting rendition of Girls Just Want to Have Fun, with the rest of the gang. Blake looked on...proudly I am sure.

The December/ January rainy season was very mild this year and we only got a couple of really heavy downpours. Thank goodness, as I recently lost my rain jacket at the Venezuelan institute where we are taking free Spanish lessons. Blake and I kept hoping for rain, so that we could find whatever lucky classmate made off with it, but never tracked it down. They needed it more than I and luckily Blake's mom sent a perfect replacement. (Thank You!) Now I am set for whatever weather comes our way. We are back to the humid heat for awhile though, to await the next rainy season in May. (The big one!)

Plans for the coming months include some short weekend trips out of region 4 (Georgetown) to see some more of Guyana, a World Cup Cricket match (the semi-finals are being held in Georgetown and the whole city is in preparation mode), a 5 day overland trek to Kaiteur Falls (the longest single drop waterfall in the world), and a 2 week trip home in May that we are so looking forward to. We miss you guys!

Well, I will call that an update for now. We will try to be better at keeping you informed in the future. Thank yous to Ben and Celeste, Sarah S., Jill and Travis, Pete and Catherine, and of course all of our parents for sending packages, cards, letters, pictures, etc. They make our weeks!

Love and miss you guys!

Blake and Jessa

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christmas and New Year's Update

Well, it's 2007 here in Guyana and remarkably enough still hot, still very wet, and still pretty underdeveloped. I thought I would take a minute to give an update of our holidays here in Georgetown. No pictures for now, but I will add more later.

Christmas pretty much begins around December 15th here. People stop going to work (some on leave, some just not showing up) school closes for 3 weeks, everyone in Guyana miracuously has money and starts spending it everywhere you look, the TV channels put Home Alone on repeat, and everyone starts to talk about black cake and pepperpot (local dishes one made with rum and fruit, the other with wild meat).

Several volunteers left to go sweat it out on Mt. Roraima in Venezuela but about 12 of us stayed around Georgetown. A Canadian couple put on a Christmas Eve cocktail type party and we all brought appetizers and of course rum. Jessa and I had everyone over for Christmas morning brunch and we did a secret santa gift exchange. Lots of fun. Finally we ended it all with a Christmas Night pot luck dinner and found ourselves back at home on the couch with a movie by 8 o'clock.

We had 4 days off for Christmas and then were back to work for 2 1/2 days before being off yet again for a 3 1/2 day New Year's holiday. Once again we stuck around Georgetown but there were plenty of people here to celebrate. We've started going to a place called Butcher's every now and again for a beer. It's pretty much a dive so we love it and I think the locals there are taking to us quite nicely. There is a guy there that likes to buy Jessa and I beers and he's real nice, not pushy, just friendly and inviting but his name is Lucipher. We're not yet sure how to take that, but I'll be keeping an eye on him.

Nick and Meg from Chicago threw a small New Year's Eve party. Nothing wild just about 10 of us. We decided to ring in the new year's by having a countdown based on everyone's watch. So we had about 10 countdowns then all crossed arms and sang Auld Lang Syne and hugged and kissed to the New Year in Guyana.

After a relaxing Monday and a little cabbage and black-eyed peas for good luck we are back at work today. Not sure what the New Year will hold for us, but hopefully good things.

So a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you. Hope all is well. Keep in touch.

Blake and Jessa

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is enjoying their cold weather! We are still sweating it out here in Guyana. The rain has started and it is gray and gloomy outside which at least gives the illusion of a chilly December. The rain has been a relief from the heat and has done a really nice job of cooling things off a bit.
Blake makes sure to keep us fully stocked with water bottles to keep us nice and hydrated. For those of you who were wondering...The water here is generally brown in color. So, we don't drink it right out of the faucet. It is howevere safe to use it to brush teeth with, etc. We were given a water filter by VSO which we can use when we boil it, but most of our drinkable water we get from Jus' Water down the street where they fill up our huge water bottles for only about $1. What a deal!

The Guyanese people are obsessed with decorating for the holidays so there are fake trees and fake snow and fake holly everywhere! Fuuny story to tell about a part of any true Guyanese decorating scheme every room has at least 3 ornate fake flower arrangements. We had to clear out several when we moved into our house. My office also has its fair share of fake flora and fauna. So, one of the couples here recently celebrated a wedding anniversary here. The husband, had planned on going to one of the many florist shops to buy her some celebratory flowers. When he went into the first shop there were no real flowers to be found; only plastic bouquets. He went to several shops but was unable to find a real flower in town! So, in true Guyanese style there are plastic reminders of the holidays all over town, which helps us get into the spirit of things despite the heat.

One of the other couples had the first holiday party of the season last night and it was a lot of fun. A good chance for everyone to relax and seee everyone. We have many more plans for the holiday season as well and are looking forward to it. Coming from a teacher background I am awfully used to the long vacations that follow the school holiday schedule. Here we are only allotted 2 days off; Christmas Day and Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). So it will be yet another adjustment. Blake also gets 2 half days off for holiday shopping...My hopes are high. :)

Next weekend we are taking off from work on Friday afternoon and heading down to visit one of our volunteer friends who is placed in Region 6. About a 4 hour travel from Georgetown. She lives on a beach that you can actually swim in and says that it is truly gorgeous. We are very excited about seeing a different part of Guyana. Those of you who have gotten excited about talking to us on Sundays (which we love, by the way!) we won't be around this Sunday as we will be travelling all day. So, catch us the next weekend. I will be giving my workshop to another group of teachers in a nearby region on Monday. Here is a picture of what a classic Guyanese workshop looks like. The other "Whitey" (A totally acceptable and widely used term to descirbe anyone who is white) is Ann, the other volunteer I work with at NCERD.

We hope everything is going wonderfully at home!

Jessa and Blake

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hi friends and family!

We hope that everyone had a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving. We certainly did celebrating with our friends here in Guyana. Our meal was complete with turkey, stuffing, sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, deviled eggs, apple pie, and wine! A phrase we have come to know well here is, "It isn't wrong, just different." So, although there were some very important parts missing in our celebration (old friends and family) we had a wonderful time.

We also wanted to include some more photos in this posting to show you a little of what life is like here. Sunday has come to be one of our favorite days here. We try to start it off with some instant coffee and french toast. A wonderful routine! Then it's on to washing clothes and cleaning the house. After we have finished with the chores for the day, we relax, watch the news and head out to Oasis where we complete E-mailing and talking with our families on Skype. If any of you are interested in chatting with us some Sunday, Skype is a free download found at You simply download the free software and as long as you have a microphone and speakers on your computer you are in business. It's free talking from computer to computer and has been a great way for us to keep in touch with what is happening at home. After Oasis it's back home, perhaps for a haircut which takes place on our front porch, one of the coolest places in the house. Then perhaps a movie and then bed, by 8:30 PM of course. :)

This Friday we were excused from work to go away for a VSO volunteer forum. This meeting takes place every 3 months and is a time when the volunteers can touch base with each other and the office staff about any concerns or issues. One of the major conversation topics this time was if the volunteer allowance we are currently getting paid, (45,000 Guyanese dollars/ 225 USD per month) is enough for us to live on. Blake and I are getting by just fine because there are two of us and we are able to split some bigger costs, but the single volunteers are certainly struggling. So, cross your fingers for us! :)

I am giving my first Guyanese educational workshop on Thursday. Yet another reason to cross your fingers. We are going to essentially be teaching the first grade head teachers in Georgetown what phonics is and perhaps touch on how to teach it to their kids. The education system here is an interesting one in that as you graduate what we would know as high school, except at 16, you are given a series of tests. If you do well on those tests then you have the opportunity to go to either Guyana University or the Teacher Training college. If you don't do well on the tests then you go directly into the classroom and begin teaching. The official title of these teachers is "unqualified teachers" and the schools are filled with them. There is a severe teacher shortage in the country, so it is very hard to find a solution to the problem. Consequently, you end up with schools full of teachers not much older than their students who may not know the material they are teaching, much less how to teach it to kids. So, Ann and I are going to pick our battle and try to make sure the teachers at least know what phonics is and then move on from there.

Things are going well here. It is still hard to think about the holidays coming up considering the weather. We talked about how we would be able to get in touch with our families on Christmas Day because Oasis will be closed that day. We were thinking that maybe the wireless signal would still be working and we could "huddle up outside the building and use the signal." Then we had to remind ourselves that there would be no need to huddle as it will still be 90 degrees outside. YIKES!

Blake is knocking everybody off their feet at the VSO office with his great ideas and attention to detail. We are starting to think about the other opportunities that might be here after this short term placement ends. Habitat for Humanity is here and with all of the severe flooding of the past years, there should always be work to do.

We love the updates (even the football updates) so keep them coming! We have gotten several requests, so again, here is the address that we can receive letters,etc. at:

VSO c/o Jessa and Blake
PO Box 12199
Georgetown, Guyana South America

We also now have a telephone if anyone gets the urge: the country code is 592 and our number is 227-7241. There is no city or area code.

I think you have to get a calling card or something in the US but i'm not sure. You may even be able to just dial from your home phone but I would check the cost first.

We will keep checking in!

Jessa and Blake

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving from the developing world. Jessa and I are missing home like crazy this week but are very excited about spending Thanksgiving in Guyana. The Guyanese people don't celebrate Thanksgiving but most of them have heard of it because they all seem to have relatives living in the United States. That's actually a major problem here. There are as many Guyanese living abroad as there are living in Guyana. There is a massive "brain drain" in Guyana. Anyone with skills, training, or education leaves the country for a different(better I'm not always sure) life in the US, Canada, or the UK typically. Just a few years back Guyana led the world in percentage of highly educated persons migrating abroad at 89%. Shocking huh? Anyway not trying to be a bummer on thanksgiving just thoughts.

We've got big plans tonight. First we have to finish a day's work. No time off for Thanksgiving here. Then we are attempting to re-create our mother's dishes with another American VSO couple from Chicago tonight. We will see how the green bean casserole turns out, it's still up in the air. I don't think we will screw up the mashed potatoes or rolls from the bakery, but you never know. We also were able to purchase a few bottles of affordable (probably not very good) red wine. It should be a blast, no football though, we will just have to imagine.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving is wonderful and full of adventure just like ours.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Blake and Jessa

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Greetings from Georgetown!

Everything is going great here! We have gotten our first taste of the rainy season that doesn't officially begin until December. Although, the locals say that the weather has been unpredictable for the last few years, much like at home. The rain here starts almost as soon as it gets dark and seems to rain through the night. It rains so hard that it almost sounds like someone is continually emptying buckets of water outside the window. Apparantly it normally stops during the daylight hours as the hot sun burns the clouds away. In some respects the overcast days of the rain are a welcome relief from the heat. On Thursday night however, we woke up to the rain and our sheets were soaking wet from the humidity of the rain. We actually had to turn off our fans that are always running as we were shivering! I also ended up having to take a cab to work because the rain hadn't stopped by the time I had to leave. I am still pumping myself up for the 41/2 mile biking commute during the rainy season. I am confidant that I will be able to bike rather than catch a cab, minus the most severe storms, even if I have to leave a dry change of clothes at work to change into! It's like a personal challenge.

We have been to 2 dinner parties this week in which local Guyanese women have offerred to cook us local Guyanese cuisine. One woman is the downstairs neighbor of some of our VSO friends, Cecelia, who says that she loves taking care of VSO's when thye come and has been working with them for years and years. She does tons of laundry for 500 Guyanese dollars (about $2.50) and mends clothes practically for free. We are lucky enough to have our own washing machine, but about halfway through filling and lugging buckets of water to the washing machine, don't think I don't think about Cecelia! The other party was catered by one of the local Guyanese staff at the VSO office. These parties are great ways of getting familiar with the local foods and some vegetables that we have never heard of. There are many staples in Guyanese cooking; potatoes, cassava, yams,rice, and curry. These are often mixed into salads or casseroles. Cecelia has offered to give the VSO's cooking lessons if we are interested and we are both very keen to learn more about it. There is also alot of chicken and fish included in the meals here. We have been a little hesitant to buy and cook fish ourselves at home as we are a little wary of the freshness factor. There is a man who walks up and down our street with buckets yelling, "Fresh Fish!" We are not quite sure whether to believe him or not, although we have been told that the fish in the buckets are not only fresh but still alive!

Blake starts work at the VSO office tomorrow morning and is very excited about the new challenge. He will be working closely with the program director of VSO Guyana and will be able to use his marketing skills and business degree. He will even have his own desk. As a perk at the office the staff makes fresh fruit juice everyday; cherry, pineapple, guava, passion fruit! Delicicious! I have to admit I am a little jealous!

We keep very bsu thorughout the week with Monday night, yoga night. (or for Blake and the other boys Monday night football.) and Thursday night sign language class. In January we will sign up for free Spanish classes at the Venezuelan institue which will take up 2 nights a week. With cooking classes from Cecelia on the way we are very busy here. With all luck we will come back home, flexible, tri-linguial, and culinary geniuses!

The house is great and we are settling really nicely into our daily life here, with the definite moments of missing people, places, and AC back at home. We love all of the updates and checking in everytime you write, so please keep the E-mails coming! Our pidgeon holes are still sadly empty, so if you feel inspired to compose a letter, poem, or picture it would be most welcome! We will write again soon and post more pictures of daily life here in Georgetown.

VSO Guyana
CO/ Jessa and Blake
PO Box 12199
Georgetown, Guyana
South America

Friday, November 03, 2006

I think we've have been slipping in our committment to update this blog, but I am back on top of it with a short posting today and another very soon.

Things have been great down here in Caribbean South America. We are all settled in to our home which turned out to be surprisingly nice and I think I have even forgot what warm water feels like. Jessa started work last week at the NCERD (National Centre (yes that's how it's spelled) for Educational Resource Development) and it is going okay. Things move slowly here. We were told that 100 times but she is seeing it first hand. There have been several days that she has done literally nothing but luckily she is working side by side with another volunteer so they can share in the boredoom. As of yesterday though, things were starting to pick.

For me, I've been okay. I actually am off to a assessment/interview/meeting at the VSO office for a short term 3-month placement. I will be doing some communications and marketing type things for them to help in promoting the program, at least that's what I think I will be doing. So I've been a little bored in the meantime, but plenty of cricket on TV to keep me occupied.

Otherwise, things are good. There are lots of other volunteers here that are becoming good friends and we look forward to fun times to come. I've gotten used to shopping for fruits and vegetables at the outdoor market and I really like it. We bike every where and it's hot but I will take that over the rain. I don't look forward to the rainy season, apparently it's kind of miserable. We miss home for obvious reasons, but we are loving the experience.

We will write more soon.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Hi everyone!

We just wanted to give you some pictures so that you can get an idea of the things that we are talking about and where we have been for the past week.

We have been spending most of our days at the VSO office in Georgetown where we have been receiving and trying to process loads of information about many important topics such as the history and politics of Guyana, safety around Guyana, staying healthy, how to use a mosquito net and water filter successfully and many other equally important things. The VSO office is a very comfortable place with air conditioning (a luxery), a library of books (which is great because books weren't included in our "must have" weight limit), internet, and pidgeon hole mailboxes where our mail will be delivered. It will be easier to have all mail delivered there than to our homes, so if you are so inclined to send a note we would love to have it! There is nothing sadder than an empty mailbox. The address at the office would be:

Jessica Hoffman/ Blake Hutson
VSO office
106-7 Lamaha and Carmichael
Georgetown, Guyana

We have been spending our night at the Rima Guesthouse, a very comfortable and clean guesthouse very centrally located and around the corner from the VSO office. We have a very comfortable room with a king size bed, a mosquito net, a fan, and a sink. The bathrooms and cold shower is shared between 16 volunteers which proves to be a logistical nightmare in the mornings! We have breakfast, (normally eggs, toast, fresh squeezed juices, coffee, and fruit. You would not believe the fruit and fruit juices here!) and dinner (normally fish, chicken, rice, stir fried vegetables, and potato salad) at the guesthouse and lunch is ordered to the VSO office. We are eating incredibly well here!

This weekend was the home stay with currecntly serving volunteers. We toured the city, saw the important sights like the grocery stores and farmers market, and walked along the sea wall. the "beach" here is not much to see. The water is dark brown and so dirty that even the Guyanese don't tend to swim in it. There is also an incredible amount of trash around the city. It would be a great opportunity for a recycling project. Despite its flaws though the sea wall goes on for a long time following the coast, is a great place to run, and has a lovely breeze off the ocean.

On Sunday night, the currently serving volunteers hosted a pot luck dinner party for the new volunteers in the courtyard between a couple of VSO houses. It was wonderful! There was even a surprise birthday cake for Blake which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Tomorrow we leave for the Shankland "resort" for some more bonding time and a Creolese tutorial. Then it is back to the Rima for one more night before we meet our employers and they take us to our homes on Friday. We are "borrowing" internet from the bar across the street so our family room looks like an internet cafe every evening. We would love to hear from eveyone!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Here we are in Georgetown, Guyana. The flight was uneventful and we actually made it under the baggage limit. This is of course after several rounds of "what do we not absolutely have to take?" As we passed through customs, the guard asked us how long we would be in Guyana and what we were there for. "2 years" we replied. "We are volunteers with the VSO". The guard looked at us and smiled and said, "Thank you so much for being here." It was a really wonderful way to start our adventure into Guyana.

Roy, the longest worker at VSO Guyana having been there for 16 years, picked us up at the airport. We threw our bags into the back of the truck and headed out to Georgetown. Roy was a wealth of knowledge and told us all about the sights as we sped by them. The country is building a huge new cricket stadium for the World Cup cricket games that will take place here next year complete with an "olympic village" for the players and their families. Guyana also boasts the longest floating bridge in the world. As we drove into town the students were just getting out of school, so the streets were lined with little ones all dressed in their school uniforms. Roy, of course, showed caution as he passed by slowing at least 1 km/hr while telling us about the driving in Guyana and how if you were to actually obey the ridiculously slow speed limit then it would take you 2 hours to get anywhere. He also mentioned that he always drove more respecfully when he was first introducing people to the country. This statement was concurrent with speeding past walking children and a horse drawn cart that was moving too slow only to vere back into the correct lane (on the left side of the road) to avoid a head on collision. I would hate to see his regular driving!

We arrived at our destination, the Rima Guesthouse where we will stay for the next couple of weeks during our in country orinientation which involves seminars on safety, Guyana's history and political situation, etc. The town so far is quite charming with wooden buildings and tree lined streets. There are of course more dangerous sections and areas we have been told to avoid completely. Because we are right on the equator the sun comes up completely here at 6:00 AM every morning and goes down completely at 6:00 PM. It makes sleeping in very difficult!

There are 16 other VSO volunteers that have come in our group. We double the existing volunteers in Guyana. The people are really wonderful and from all over the world. There are 3 other couples here, 2 around our ages.

Blake had a wonderful birthday yesterday. Everyone did something a little extra to make it really special for him. There was a homemade card signed by everyone at breakfast and a chair especially decorated for him with a sign and plastic flowers at lunch and dinner. It was a really lovely gesture and bodes well for the coming years.

We will write again soon with further updates. We hope to move into our house on Friday. We haven't seen it and have no idea where it is, so cross your fingers! We miss you all and would love to hear what it going on with, please write soon!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The long wait is finally over as we are off to Guyana today. We have been anxiously waiting to leave and it's a little hard to believe we will be there in a few hours. We've gotten lots of questions about what it will be like and what we can expect but the only answer we can for sure give is that we expect someone to pick us up at the airport. I guess there is an off chance that could fall through as well. We really are in for a big adventure this time.

Well, that's all for now. We promise to keep in touch and share the good times and bad times with you all. Please keep the comments coming as we love everyone of them.

Blake and Jessa

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So here it goes. We haven't posted in quite a while so there's a lot to catch up on. We are now back in Port of Spain, Trinidad after spending three great weeks in Tobago. We have just one final week left until we leave for Guyana, very exciting.

We left off in Castara on our way to the town of Plymouth. Castara actually turned out to be probably the nicest and most relaxing place we stayed because of our proximity to the beach, the very small size of the village (less than 500 people), and just the general atmosphere.

Anyway, we actually ended up in a little town called Black Rock instead of Plymouth, they're pretty close together but Black Rock is where we layed our heads. That was really the big problem with Black Rock now that I mention it. We got a place at this very charming guest house called Auldwyn Lindsay. You can see from the picture that it looks great, kind of set into the natural scenery with cherry trees, a variety of interesting birds, and a private patio. The place had a kitchenette, two rooms, cable tv, and warm water. What it didn't have was air conditioning (or air con as some British people we met called it). Now you're probably thinking that if these two can't deal without A/C for a few nights then they are in big trouble for Guyana. You have to understand though this was a unique situation. So with no A/C you have to sleep with the windows open, not really a problem, actually sounds kind of nice, we had even done it before in our first very run down room but may a remind you this place was set in a very "natural" environment. I would guess that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 - 100,000 insects of varying sizes shapes and colors spent the night with us that night, and being stubborn or ignorant, I'm not sure which one, we opted against using the mosquito net. So your thinking one bad night with bugs, no big deal, but it goes on from there. Now I can't say for sure if it was a specific bug, several bugs, a reaction from the wild key limes we picked off a tree on the side of the road, or a combination of both, but I woke up at 6:00am with the right half of my upper lip swollen to about twice it's normal size. This was very dissapointing and to add insult to injury Jessa thought it was kind of funny. We decided to give it a day and see what happened. Luckily it went away, we both had a laugh, used the mosquito net that night, and made our way to Bon Accorde the next day.

Black Rock turned out to be a bust almost completely. We were hoping to see turtles hatch, but it was a little bit to late in the season. We did however have a pretty good time the first night as we ended up at a bar helping a local celebrate his birthday. His friends called him "Fari" like rastafari, and they were having a BBQ and we were offered some really good local food for free. A mixture of lentil beans and dumplings. It was absolutely delicious! We were also nominated to buy the birthday boy and his cousins a beer in celebration which we graciously agreed to.

We left there for Bon Accorde which is in the "lowlands" part of the island, kind of the busier more tourist oriented area. Our previous stops had been much more off the beaten path with very few, if any, other tourists in sight. We got a place for three nights at a little guest house called Merle's House. It was nice but to far of a walk from the beaches, so we moved to Crown Point where we spent 5 nights at Mike's Holiday resort. (They use the term resort loosely in Tobago. ) Mike's was great though. It was very close to Store Bay which had crystal clear waters, a little busier, certainly not the desolate beaches we had gotten used to, but still lots of fun. We met Dexter at this beach who told us about his tour company "Island Man Tours". They do these all inclusive, semi-private all day tours for $75 USD. We thought it over and decided it would be a great thing for our last weekend in Tobago and went ahead and booked a trip.

The tour turned out to be great. We took a small boat out with 3 other tourists and a two man crew. It was nice because we got to see the island from a different angle. There are so many beaches that are only accessible by water and these are truly the nicest beaches. There's white sand, yellow sand, and even black sand beaches. Just stunning. We got to do some great snorkeling at places you can only get to by boat and we saw fish and coral of every color in the rainbow. This was my first time to snorkel on a reef and I was just amazed. After snorkeling we went to a beach where the crew knew we could find a sting ray. This was a incredible. We got out of the boat and played with the ray. I am sure everyone is thinking were crazy now but the guys new all about the "crocodile hunter" and actually gave a speech about how it is perfectly safe. The first ray, Nemo, no longer had a barb as it had been broken off by someone. They said that people sometimes break off their tails for sport. Kind of sad. It was a very friendly sting ray and kept coming back for us to touch it and play with it. We took off from there to another beach you can only get to by boat for a BBQ they had set up for us. We had some great local food, rum punch, and relaxed for a while. Another sting ray showed up there and it was even friendlier than the first. We finished the day with a trip to the nylon pool. The nylon pool is in the middle of Buccoo reef off the coast of tobago out in the ocean. It's actually decomposed coral which is like coarse sand. You can stand up in it and the water is only waist high while you are way out in the ocean away from shore. It was a very unique experience.

The next day we packed up and headed back to Scarborough to catch a ferry to Trinidad. This time we opted for the quicker ferry, just under 3 hours, and it was actually pretty nice, complete with an on board movie. Very fancy!

Now were here in Trinidad, lounging our last few days away as we prep to head to Guyana. We have some idea of what to expect but really no idea. We are very excited, anxious, nervous, but nonetheless ready to jump head first in to a new adventure.

We have loved the comments from everyone so please keep them coming. Sorry if you've checked the blog over the past two weeks and have seen no new postings, we got a tad bit lazy in Tobago. Hopefully lots of interesting stories to come.

Blake and Jessa

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We are on the move again! We are en route from our little paradise of Castara for the town of Plymouth. We are hoping to spend some time on Turtle Beach and perhaps see some of the hatchling turtles make their way to the water. Again, not quite sure what to expect when we get there but are excited about seeing something new.

We spent six wonderful, relaxing days in Castara another small fishing village on the Carribbean side of the island. Life seems to move at a much slower pace here than back at home and it has taken us some adjustment time to get in to the groove of "liming" away our days. We are now quite proficient at waking up late, laying on the beach for hours, swimming carelessly, and taking it easy. We met a Swiss couple who was spending a couple of weeks in the tiny village before they head home after a year of doing volunteer work and travelling in Cusco, Peru and throughout South America. It was really encouraging and interesting to hear their stories! The man who ran the "beach resort", Ancle, had travelled to Guyana before and said that although it was severly underdeveloped it was a beautiful and had a lot of potential. Very exciting!

Once again, we have a ton of good pictures to show everyone but are unable to post them while we are on the move. We will have them up and running in a couple of weeks. Hope everyone is doing well and that those of you who attended ACL are recovering nicely!

Love you all and we will write again soon!

Jessa and Blake

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hi Everyone,

We hoped to post more at the beginning of the trip but there was no internet access in the last village we visited. So here we are now. We left Charlotteville today and are now in Castara. Charlotteville was great. It's a small fishing village on the north end of the island and is really charming. It has one main beach, Man-O-War Bay, and a secluded beach called Pirate's Bay that you have to hike to. Both are beautiful but Pirate's bay was stunning. It's real desolate except for a shack where Sun Sun rents chairs (but he's never there) and another shack/house where Jungle Man lives. We got to know him because I helped him carry a big board that he is going to make into a wood carving table up to his home. He was interesting and insisted on giving us something for our troubles, we accepted a bag of chips even though we didn't want to take his food but we were worried he may take offense to our decline.

I can go on and on about Charlotteville but the sum of it is, this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, it's better than a post card or an island movie. The people are so friendly and even anxious to offer assistance.

We plan to attach pictures at some point but the internet is to slow for now. We will write about Castara later (that's the beach I can hear out side our door right now), but it's great so far.

Keep the comments coming when you can. We love them.

Blake and Jessa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hi everyone!

We spent our first night in Port of Spain, Trinidad on Monday night at a Marriott Blake booked with his points...Thanks Smuckers! It was nice, although Port of Spain is a bustling, busy town and not very eye appealing. We left the next morning on the ferry for Tobago.

We opted for the "slow ferry" and were told 8 hours. we spent the extra 4 dollars and sprung for a cabin. It was simple and nice to have some of our own space. The ferry itself was a nice surprise with a comfortable deck, complete with a bar where we taste-tested Stag, the second best TT beer. (We prefer Carib.) After only 6 hours, we made it to Scarborough, Tobago where we knocked on the door at Jacob's Guesthouse (9:00 PM) and asked for a room. They showed us to our incredibly simple accomodations for the night. We got what we paid for at $20 a night. We learned that we are able to sleep comfortably with no AC, in super high humidity, with only a single fan for breeze. Guyana here we come! Apart from the roosters, blaring music, tropical birds, barking dogs, and torential rains the night was very peaceful.

We are now waiting on a bus to head out to Charlottesville where we are hoping to spend a week on the most beautiful beach in Tobago, Pirate's bay. We are very excited!

We love the comments and personal E-mails, so please keep them coming! We will post pictures when we get the chance. Love you guys!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Well the first phase of our trip begins tomorrow morning when we board our plane to travel to Trinidad & Tobago for a little island adventure before we get to work in Guyana. As you may or may not know we were delayed leaving to Guyana because of "issues with the upcoming general elections." This was very disappointing as our original August 5th leave date was postponed until October 10th. Many of you might wonder why you attended a going away party for us over a month ago but we didn't see a reason to cancel a good party. We have certainly found a bright side though, and will be spending a month on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. We will make sure to post good pictures and stories of this trip over the next few weeks.

But for this post were saying goodbye, to family, friends, and co-workers who we will all miss beyond words. Tomorrow morning we will close one huge chapter of our lives and open a new and exciting one. We look forward to staying in touch with everyone and sharing stories back and forth through this blog, e-mail, and if available the random phone call.

I think you should be able to post comments and replies to these postings, if not I will work out the kinks at some point.

Please help us stay in touch with your lives as we share ours. Here are a couple pics of our last night.

Miss You Already,

Jessa and Blake