Sunday, October 30, 2011

We've actually almost started for real! Almost. Take 2.

Hey everyone!

We are soooooo sorry that it has been so long, so we're going to try to make excuses for not being able to post in so long:
-Since our last post we have only had an iPod touch to work with, so it's kind of hard to write a blog post
-Internet wasn't widely available in Cayenne and we had to go to a bar to get wifi
-When we had to move out of the hotel we were staying in because we still weren't able to get housing in Maripa-soula, we moved into the program director's house.  We tried to write a post there, but something happened where...well it just didn't work
-THEN, we got housing and moved to Maripa-soula :-)  If you thought wifi was scarce in Cayenne, let me tell you something...
-We were finally able to use the school computers, but they had a security setting that wouldn't let us get on our blog.  Not to be discouraged, we wrote our blog and emailed it to ourselves, so that the next time we got internet without the security settings, we could just copy, paste, and share it with you all.
-Apparently blogger doesn't like it when you copy and paste into it, so we're typing the whole things over again

So all in all, don't feel like we've neglected you and only you.  It took us about a week from the time we got to Maripa-soula for us to let our parents know that we got here safely.

Anyway, we spent about two and a half weeks in Cayenne.  We were supposed to start working on October 1st, but our program director insisted that someone find us a place to stay, at least temporarily, in Maripa-soula before we got there.  Apparently the assistant from last year ended up sleeping in their version of a hostel in a hammock for a long time (months?).  It was great to get to know Cayenne, not really have any responsibilities, and on top of it, get paid for it!  We spent our nights going to jazz and traditional music concerts, eating from the food trucks that are all around the city, walking on the beach or attempting to body surf but really only succeeding in getting tossed around by the really rough sea.  Our mornings were usually filled with a walk, fruit collection from one of the many fruit trees, or sometimes, very rarely, taking care of some obligation like opening a bank account.  In the middle of the day, we mostly spent our time hiding from the intense heat.  It's so hot, in fact, we've made up a list of "you know it's hot when..."

You know it's hot when...
...a house only has cold water faucets.  After all, why would you want to add to the heat? turn on the cold water faucet and think for the first 10 seconds that you turned on the "please burn me" faucet because the water has been heated by the sun.'re as wet getting in the shower as you are getting out.
...bugs seek refuge in your house from the heat, not the cold.
...80 degree air conditioning gives you goose bumps.  Any colder feels like winter in Antarctica.
...all schools and businesses are closed from 1-4.
...chocolate is sold exclusively from fridges.
...their version of a hostel has no walls.
...a good number of the buildings have an opening between the roof and the top of the walls, so they are open all year round.
...hammocks are the preferred napping place. doesn't matter what color your skin is, you carry an umbrella everywhere to protect yourself from the sun. arrive dripping with sweat no mater where you go. see someone on tv wearing pants or long sleeves and think, "what is wrong with them????"
...acceptable work attire is as little clothing as possible.
...bathing suits, or just plain old naked, is acceptable street wear.

please feel free to comment and add to the list :-)

Then we got the news that we would in fact be going to Maripa-soula.  They found us a place to stay and we got on the plane two days after we got the news- arriving on the 13th of October.  Not bad, only two weeks after we were supposed to have started work.  And, to show you exactly where we are, we turn once again to  Put in these coordinates: 3.643238,-54.033088

As you can see, the College Gran Man Difou is really close by.  That is the middle school that we both work at and it takes about 5 minutes to walk there, and that isn't even the closest one to our house.  One of Becca's schools is a one minute walk from our house.  Yep.  One minute.  And that's taking into account the fact that we walk slowly here to avoid overheating.  You may have noticed a sort of field right to the north of our house.  That is where all the neighborhood kids play soccer whenever they have a spare second.  (EDIT: we realized that in fact, it's not all the neighborhood kids.  Rather, they are the kids of one family that lives next door that has enough kids to form their own soccer team.  Literally.  There are 12 of them.  And almost every family is relatively close in size).  Oh that's another thing- the concept of a lawn as your property doesn't really exist.  People just walk through your lawn if it's the shortest way to where you're going.  And it really does cut down on walking time, and when it's so hot out, the less amount of time you are outside the better.  We live on the first floor of that house, and it's got a really big kitchen, a living/dining room, a bedroom, and a toilet and shower.

Here everything is good but very different.  If you just appeared here you would never know that you were in South America.  Most of the people that live here are descendants of slaves that revolted soon after they were brought to Guiana from all over in Africa.  Everyone that doesn't fit this description (except for us) is French as was assigned to a position here (teachers or nurses mostly).  They had time to pick up some of the English language before they revolted, so their language called "aluku" sometimes closely resembles English.  However, much of what they do and eat more closely resembles their traditional cultures in Africa,  There are also pockets of Brasilians and other pockets of native peoples, so it's a pretty interesting cultural mix.  To add to that mix, directly across the river (which you can take a pirogue ride across for free) there are a bunch of Chinese people that have built shops specifically for the people from Maripa-soula.  They do this because they can't build stores here in French Guiana but they can attract customers to come across to Suriname because their prices are much cheaper.

Cody has also gone to the village of Papaichton, which takes about an hour in a pirogue (which is at its origin a dug-out canoe).  It was really awesome because it is the dry season, meaning that the driver had to do some pretty awesome manoeuvres with his 15 foot pirogue to get around the rocks in the river.  As for animals seen so far, sadly no monkeys (yet).  Many, many lizards and bugs, a beautiful frog that secretes a milky substance that burns you and blinds you and will jump on you if it feels threatened, a beautiful snake that looked exactly like a green vine, so many beautiful butterflies and moths we can't even count (or photograph most of the time), a fairly large spider (the size of your average mouse, although no tarantulas yet), someone we know saw a sloth, a rhino beetle the size of Cody's fist, and one of the most absolutely strangest bugs we or anyone here that we asked about has ever seen.  Pictures to come.

So far we haven't been doing much.  We worked for approximately a week.  Cody worked for three and a half days.  And now there is Toussaint vacation, which will end November 3rd.  To fill up the rest of the time here we have been figuring out how to feed ourselves with the strange and sometimes questionable foods.  We've also been reading, watching the kids play soccer, walking, collecting more fruit...basically the same stuff we did in Cayenne.  We have been trying to find that churches that speak French here (there are some in Portugese, some in Aluku, and some in French, so it's not always easy).  Speaking of church, we have also volunteered with an organization called Gospel for Asia, which is mainly focused on sending native missionaries to evangelize in their own countries, rather than having Americans go and have the added expenses of plane tickets, language and culture courses, and in general a higher cost of living.  They are currently trying to open up their sponsoring market in French speaking Canada, so about once a week we are getting a letter or some sort of text that we translate and then send it back to them.  In other language news, we have started learning aluku :-)

Another favorite past time of ours is getting inondated with household appliances and other items from teh people here.  So far we have been given: A t.v. with antannae (but that only gets on channel- but it has news, Friends, 30 Rock, the world championship of rugby, and some movies, so we're happy), a fan, pillows and bed sheets, utensils and pots, papayas and plantanes, strawberry wafers, coca-cola, sponges and dishwashing soap, meals, roach spray, housing in Papaichton, and probably some other stuff that we are forgetting.

So all in all, things are going well.  We got an email a few days ago saying that we needed to return to Cayenne for two days of training for the assistants working in the elementary schools, so after a long day at the aerodrome in Maripa-soula yesterday, and a rather turbulent flight, we got back to Cayenne yesterday night.  We will be staying here for a week, so we will try to get another post with some pictures up before we leave again for Maripa-soula.  Miss you all, and hope to hear what is going on with you guys too!


(aka Teeny and Tall, as we have also been dubbed.  Cody would like to clarify- he is Tall, and Becca is Teeny)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

One week in and still going strong

Salut tout le monde!  We've been in FG for about a week now, and it's still really really hot.  Definitely getting more used to it, but still- really really hot.  We thought you might like to see some pictures of what we've been seeing every day, so here ya go!

During our stay in Cayenne, we have been living at la maison de l'education.  This is the view from on of the windows in our room.  It's really great that they've been housing us for free, but the place itself is kind of far from the center of town, the kitchen is rather basic (read: none of the appliances, the stove, oven, microwave, absolutely nothing works), and our room is kind of dark (again, read: our one light doesn't work)

Here's a view from the front of the building we're staying in with the other assistants


Really beautiful beach is about a five minute walk from the house. Feels like bathwater!

Don't know if you can see it or not, but there's a really tiny, almost see-through, creepy looking crab in this photo.

Place des Palmistes

So as I mentioned, it's really really hot.  Luckily, we do have air condition in our room at la maison de l'education.  It has been so hot though, that we have been keeping our air conditioning between 26 and 28 degrees celsius.  I'll wait for those of you who are mathematically inclined to do the conversion to fahrenheit youselves....(or you could keep reading)

Yeah.  So our air conditioning stays within a few degrees of 80.  All the time.  And it feels like heaven on Earth it's so much colder than outside.  We actually have woken up shivering because 80 has started feeling cold.

Speaking of planes...

We will hopefully be traveling to Maripasoula (our placement for the 7 months) sometime in the near future.   Actually, we thought we were supposed to be there today, because today is when our contract officially starts.  However, the plane tickets are reserved a few days in advance, so we can't just go to the airport the day of and buy our tickets.  Also, our director doesn't want to send us until he's secured us a place to stay, at least temporarily, which hasn't happened yet.  He also doesn't want to send us on a weekend.  That being said, we might be in Cayenne for another week or so at this rate!

We also find out that Cody's second placement- Papa├»chton- is currently about 2 hours away from Maripasoula by pirogue on the river, because it's the dry season and the river is quite low.  It also costs 40 euros round trip, so between the money and the time, we are hoping his hours work our so that he doesn't have to make the trip too often.

Alright everyone, sorry there's nothing too exciting.  We've just been hanging out in Cayenne and enjoying it while we can :)