Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Through the Eyes of a Volunteer: First Time Traveler to Guyana

Guasto with teammate, Sid McGregor, visiting the
PWAPA plant.
Michelle Guasto traveled to Guyana on a video production team assignment in February 2012. She and teammate, Sid McGregor, filmed footage for a video demonstrating the requirements of a successful agro-processing plant. The video featured the Pomeroon Women's Agro-Processors Association (PWAPA), highlighting the women's success thus far as they move toward production for export as well as best practices in sanitation and food safety. The completed video will be shared with local fruit and vegetable processors for training and promotion purposes.

This was Guasto's first trip outside of the United States, with the exception of a 4-hour road trip to Vancouver, Canada.  Farmer to Farmer asked Michelle a series of questions regarding her experience as a first-time traveler. Below are her answers.

When you were first contacted about traveling to Guyana, what was your initial reaction? 

MG: My mind was rushing. I wondered, "Is this something I can do?".  As a freelancer, I didn't know if I could afford to take 2 weeks off of work; it had to be timed right. But I wanted to make it work and was really excited.  I did some research on the country before I gave an answer.

What were your expectations of Guyana prior to traveling?

MG: I didn't have a whole lot of expectations. I tried to keep an open mind, which ultimately helped me.  I didn't know what it was like to travel outside of the U.S. I knew it was a poor country, so I expected it to be lower-income and very different from the established neighborhoods that I'm used to in Denver. I also expected it to be hot and humid. As far as the people, I had no idea what to expect.

What was your first impression when you arrived in the capital city of Georgetown?

MG: I wasn't expecting to be on an airplane that let me off on the tarmac. The airport was different, there was no AC, only fans. It hit me, "Ok, I'm not in the US anymore"- a "Wizard of Oz"-type moment. We landed at night, so it was dark outside of the airport- I couldn't see the city at all.

What was your most memorable experience while in-country?

MG: What I really enjoyed / remember well is driving aroung the city....Just driving around and looking at everything. It was all so different from what I am used to. I took it all in.  Taking a speed boat to cross the Essiquibo River was also quite an experience.  I was a little nervous because we had all of our equipment, but it turned out to be fun.

Tell us about a funny experience you had while on trip?

MG: Every morning at 6 AM, they'd start blasting Hindu prayer music at our hotel; it was so ridiculous. For an hour, the walls would shake and things would fall off of shelves. It's funny now, but it took a while to get used to. They wake up much earlier than I do!

Please tell us one way in which this experience impacted you personally or professionally?

MG: It widened my eyes on what else is out there. It's a totally different culture. It showed me what other people are like.

Please give us 3 words you would use to describe Guyana to people who have never been?

MG: 1. Kind 2. Hustle-and-bustle / fast-paced atmosphere 3. Party-goers

What advice would you give to the future first time Farmer to Farmer travelers?

MG: Keep an open mind; they are so, so kind. If you embrace their culture you'll fit right in.  At first I felt uncomfortable because I am Caucasian and stood out. But after a few days, I stopped drawing attention to myself and just went about doing what I needed to do. Secondly, learn about the culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment