These words were so daunting each time I heard them in the states, but hearing them yesterday morning was a whole different story.
I woke up at 6 am to (literally) roosters croaking out their cock-a-doodle-doo’s and to the sun already hot in my window. Knowing my first day of work was before me, and knowing so little about what that day was going to look like, I was both nervous and anxious. I left before 7 on my first independent venture: my commute to work. This involves two buses, and a few short walks. As I locked our gate behind me and turned to the left to head toward bus stop number 1, I had a weird independent feeling. This was the first time, I was realizing, that I had left the house by myself, or had done anything without a partner (or three) in a week. I walked down the street feeling both confident and safe, and for one of the first times in Guyana, comfortable.
I got onto the first bus with no problem–I should mention that a bus here is just a 15-passenger van with about 23 people stuffed into it. The second bus was equally as easy and before I knew it I was walking on the dirt road toward.s my school. I felt so accomplished getting off the second bus because I HAD MADE IT TO WORK! My first adventure on my own went well, and I finally felt as though I was living in Georgetown, not just being defeated by it.
Walking down the dirt road was also awesome. I’ve always enjoyed saying “good morning” to strangers in the mornings, and apparently so did each person walking opposite of me yesterday. As it was the first day of school for everyone, moms and dads were leading their children to their schools and each offered a sincere “morning” with a smile. I don’t know what it is about wishing someone a good start to their day, but these people really did it for me. These kind smiles and words along with my conquering of the buses and my commute had me in a great mood. Which was good, because I got to work 45 minutes early and had nothing to do but sit in the heat and wait for others to arrive.
The school day began with an orientation for the students (and also for me). There were only twelve students for the day, but they expect closer to thirty by the end of the week. None of the students knew each other; this school offers a one-year training program for five different skills (masonry, child care, catering, welding and cosmetology), so this was the first time students were meeting each other. Some were chatty, but most were just trying to make it through the day.
While the students became more comfortable, so did I. The first day of school is so familiar to me (obviously) and it offered me even more comfort. I was starting my year on a different side than the students, but it was still a day that I had experienced 16 times before. The encouragement spoken to the students worked for me too: “This is new, but it won’t be new forever”, “you’ve got to work towards growth, you can’t just expect it to happen”, “challenge yourself to better yourself”.
My role became more clear to me, too. I’ll be teaching an Adolescent Development Program which focuses on self-awareness and self-care, spirituality and parenting skills. Each of the five skills will take the class together, some combined. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s my day will be full of three different periods of ADP classes; each student will have ADP those days. Tuesday and Thursdays will be open for counseling–this is a little bit up to me, if I see students in ADP who may benefit from individual counseling I am welcomed to invite them to meet with me. Friday is a half day at school, and I’ll use it to prepare lesson plans for the next week. I’m excited for both aspects of this job, I can’t wait to get to know the students better and to facilitate in them knowing themselves better.
When the day ended and I got home, Matt and I went out for an evening walk. Its much cooler in the evening as the sun goes down, so it the walk wasn’t as sweaty as during the day. We just strolled around, ending at a supermarket where we got candy bars and gatorade to help our week-long dehydration (we’re always drinking water, but are still dehydrated). And again, we felt free finally. We weren’t afraid to walk around, we knew our way home and we knew how to accurately convert the Guyana Dollar price into US Dollars. I know its going to take longer to feel totally comfortable here, but yesterday was a great reminder that it is happening. And it will continue to happen; this city doesn’t own us anymore! But we did come home to a cockroach (the second so far) in our house which rattled us back into reality again.
(After dinner, we all sat down to watch Breaking Dawn (don’t judge) and had our first power outage. These happen often, but we were especially upset it interfered with our movie night. Luckily it came back on before we went to sleep, so we had fans to cool us off overnight. And I can only hope we find time to squeeze in BD some other time this week.)