It all began with a bang!

Well, technically it began with a fire. Naturally when there is a fire, a fire truck comes to put out the fire. The thing about fire trucks is that they are well known for having blaring sirens in order to warn other vehicles about their imminent presence.

Yesterday I was walking down Lamaha street when just up the road from me a driver ignored a fire truck’s sirens, ended up in a collision course with the truck causing it to smash into a hydro pole and end up in one of the larger canals.

Bang! Snap Crackle Pop! Pow! Zonk! Holy haberdashery, Batman!

The best part of the story is that no one was seriously injured. The passengers in the car, the driver and the firemen were all a little shaken but were fine (the firemen even managed to put out the little grass fire – the reason for their presence in the first place – using buckets).

The damage was significant though – resulting in this. (what you can’t see is the massive mess of wires strewn all over the road).


Picture taken from a local news website - The Kaieteur News

Power was knocked out for a whole section of the city (not an uncommon occurrence here though – I had no power in my part of the city either but for a totally unrelated reason.)

It took quite a while for the repairs to happen. In the meantime I watched for a while with a large crowd that formed to make sure that everyone was okay. After a while I went my own way, went to the sea wall for some Sunday night ‘liming’ and then went home. Finding that there was still no power at home I decided to go back and check on the truck.

That was when I met a group of friends who all live right next to where the crash happened. They were very excited because they had caught an eel and they were going to cook it for a snack. After a short while they asked me if I wanted to have any eel. Too curious to refuse, I spent some more time with them.

Sadly no eel was consumed (though that is probably for the best for a lot of reasons) because it took too long for the power lines to get fixed. I did get to know this group of guys better though, found out that they work at the market where I do all of my shopping and maybe I will run into them there sometime.

This was definitely a big news piece here. Just glad it didn’t end up being truly terrible one.

Drew Badgley is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, studying International Development Studies, currently on Co-op placement in Guyana. 

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Shock, Shorts and Steelpan

So I have made it through the first wave of culture shock. I received a lot of excellent advice before I left and have traveled before so I was pretty aware of some of the emotional transitions that I would go through. Of course there are always some surprises every time you go somewhere new. Adjusting to a different pace of life, being away from home and the familiar, adjusting to weather, culture and ways of speaking all have an impact.

I’ve realized that I miss (a lot) being able to go out walking the streets after 8pm. Of course there are people and places I miss seeing, Simple things like eating and washing clothes can be dramatically different. Moving through crowds (something I am can do easily at home) is shockingly difficult here just because people move differently.  I also miss being able to blend in and not stick out EVERYWHERE I go.

None of these things has been overwhelming… but it is necessary to recognize that life is different, take the time to adjust and then move forward (and remember that it will probably hit again when I least expect it). As I’ve been settling I’ve enjoyed taking some time to rest and read over the past week.

But today I felt more adjusted than I had all week. So I went out walking with no schedule, just waiting to see what would happen.

Saturdays are nice because I can wear shorts. Though it is very hot here almost all of the guys wear pants most of the time. At work I have to wear pants (though I am lucky enough to be able to wear jeans and a T-shirt) so I end up wearing them for the whole day. But on Saturdays I can happily walk around in short and a tank top (as long as I don’t stay out in the sun too long).

As I was wandering around (enjoying a nice breeze) I heard some steelpan music coming out of a shop. Poked my nose in and there was a Rastafarian man and some friends liming (the Guyanese term for hanging out) and making some music. I must have been in there for almost an hour and a half. This guy was AMAZING. I can’t even express to you how talented he was. He has been playing since the 60s and he could make them sing. He ended up giving me introductory lessons. I’m definitely going to go back and give it a try again sometime soon!

Who knows who I will get to meet next?

Drew Badgley is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, studying International Development Studies, currently on Co-op placement in Guyana. 

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Pork Knocker

So tonight I met a pork knocker. In case you were wondering (I certainly was the first time I heard the term), a pork knocker is a gold miner who works in the interior of the country (referred to as the regions). I guess traditionally they would carry dried pork with them to eat… and as miners, they like to knock things.

Anyways, he was a really interesting guy. He has been doing it for ten years (since he was 17) but he has decided to find something else to do because the exposure to malaria is so high. He is torn because he knows that he can make good money that way but he no longer wants to risk his health. It is frustrating for many people in this profession (and many others) that health is often the tradeoff for making a living.

The reason that he is in the city, though, is because it is Amerindian Heritage month (the native people of Guyana). The Guyanese have done a pretty decent job of legislating Amerindian rights (the implementation of these policies is always less than the ideal but they certainly have a better track record than Canada). This is partially because of international pressure of NGOs and the UN, a Guyanese awareness of the struggles that can be associated with a multi-ethnic state, a sense of goodwill and because the Amerindian population have the swing vote between the two dominant political parties.

Putting politics aside, I was able to see some interesting dances tonight, eat some good food and, of course, meet a pork knocker. Tomorrow I am going to see the traditional craft show.

Drew Badgley is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, studying International Development Studies, currently on Co-op placement in Guyana. 

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Getting Settled

A good friend told me that I should blog often, because if I don’t, too many things will happen and I won’t know what I should say.

Well A LOT has happened since my last post. I finished training, met my employer, moved into my new place, started work, bought a bicycle, started riding minibuses, shopped at the market, learned how to wash my clothes in a bucket, met neighbours and met a Guyanese man who used to live in downtown Toronto and who asked me to give him the update on what’s happened in Regent over the past two years (small world!).

A couple things have really stuck out in my mind though over the past little while:

One: there is a lot of work to do. The organization that I am working for is going through a lot of transition and there seems to be a lot of opportunity to get involved… almost too much though and I will have to really decide what priorities I can focus on. More information to come as I learn more myself 😉

Two: I miss Toronto’s cockroaches. I don’t have roaches in my apartment per se (my apartment is very clean, secure and well stocked and there are almost no insects at all – except mosquitos – most of the time) but the cockroaches here are the length of my thumb… and they can fly! One flew into my bathroom as I was brushing my teeth last night…. enough said!

Three: I am an impatient person. I have a lot of dreams of things that I would like to see happen while I am here and that I would like to be a part of. My logical brain says that of course I can’t expect certain things to fall into place in 2.5 weeks (or even in 2.5 months) but the part of me that is used to being involved in many things all at once is taking some time to adjust. The extra time has been really important as I need the rest (my body is still adjusting to the heat) and it is really valuable for me to take the time to be focused and intentional about waiting and listening. This in and of itself makes this a really good place to be in right now… but it has been an adjustment. (as if I didn’t have enough exciting things happen this week 🙂

Here are some pictures of my place. Also I have included some pictures of animals that I got to see at the local zoo.

living room

My living room










The stove












back entrance

Sink and back entrance (leads to the little courtyard)









Courtyard out the back of my place that I share with my new neighbours









Harpy eagle. These birds are big, ugly and intimitadating... yet also awe inspiring. You can't see it in the picture but they have MASSIVE talons!










I can't even begin to express how big (and cool) this anaconda is!









The ocelot. By far my favourite! She was so playful and she even let me scratch behind her ears.









Spider monkey!









Drew Badgley is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, studying International Development Studies, currently on Co-op placement in Guyana. 

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So I have found (after a few days of searching) some really useful contacts here in the city.

I have also found some information on the mystery woman that I have been asking about over the last couple of days (a VERY round trip: one church, one bishop, four convents – two of which were either destroyed or no longer existed – some conversations with people on the street and in the market, a private meeting with a local business owner and finally an email back to Canada). One really great things is that I’ve gotten to know some good people. It has been really usefully for me to get out and talk to people and it is a great conversation starter when you can ask for their help to find someone.

The end result of a couple of days walking around the city and asking questions is that I now know a couple of people who may be able to help out either in a moment of need or if I just have questions. I was really blessed to have a person from Guyana give me some advice before I left and she is going to try and connect me with the person that I have been looking for.

This is all good for the long term and I’m pretty happy with how things have worked out so far.

I am very thankful for all of the blessings that I have received and some great time just to walk through the city and to focus on what is most important. Today I got to spend some really great time in prayer as I watched the tide come in.

And now some big things are starting to happen. Tomorrow I meet the director of the youth organization that I will be working for and get handed over. I also get to move into the place where I will be living. The next big challenge will be to figure out what it is that I am supposed to do while I am here:)

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Drew’s rating system – What gets a gold star?

For those of you who don’t know, I regularly use a system to rate positive and negative things in this world. Two of the common ratings are ‘gold stars’ and ‘fail stars’.

For example – Ice cream gets a gold star. This is self evident because who doesn’t love ice cream? Industrial pollution, on the other hand, gets an EPIC fail star – once again, fairly self evident – we have done a number of really terrible things to the world.

It would be impossible for me to explain to you here all of the intricate details of this system. What I have learned is that some people are naturally in tune with it and understand almost immediately its significance. Others, I sadly have had to accept, may never understand how it works.

To try and express to you some of the things that I am finding really great (or in need of improvement) I am going to start an online star chart. As events happen throughout the year, I will probably end up adding to it.

GOLD STAR: The people – many people are really friendly and helpful and if you have a question they will genuinely want to give you a hand.

GOLD STAR: The seawall – I love being able to walk by the water in the morning.

FAIL STAR: The drainage canals – they are an immensely important part of the city’s infrastructure but they can be clogged with garbage in many places and I have nearly fallen in a few of them (therefore I guess I deserve a tool star – making this more of a personal star of dislike).

GOLD STAR: Nature – I have seen a number of really cool birds (and of course the manatee and lizard). Also there are so many beautiful trees. Even the clouds are different and interesting.

FAIL STAR: Traffic – I keep getting confused because cars drive on the left (another tool star for me) and though it is a really simple concept, it becomes much more difficult when you are relying on your intuition to get across roads and your senses are all mixed up. Traffic itself isn’t that heavy but when there are cars, some of them can drive… erratically.

GOLD STAR: The place where I am staying – top quality establishment.

GOLD STAR: The markets – Fresh food everywhere for great prices – I already have connections with someone who is going to teach me how to make roti (yum!).

GOLD STAR: Music – Such variety and great rhythms.

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On the hunt

So I’m starting to feel more settled and I am almost ready to start work. Now is the time to really start building some connections.

I have been blessed to have arrived in the country with a really diverse and skilled group of people. Over the past few days I have been able to learn about their experiences and what it is that they will be doing while they are here. Tonight I got to expand those networks even more by meeting most of the other VSO volunteers who are active in the city. The great thing is that there are a few people that I will be able to work very closely with. Either they have a job that is related to mine or they have similar passions and are willing to work to meet some common goals.

Now the next big step will be developing these types of connections with community members. This will naturally occur when I start my job but I was fortunate enough to receive a really useful tip before I left home. There is a woman who is well respected here for doing some really great work in marginalized communities and I hope that I will have a chance to meet her.

So tomorrow I am going to see if I can find out more about her. That may mean checking in with some of the local churches or organizations. Maybe even just asking around the market and see if anyone knows how to get in touch with her. This will require a delicate balance because I am still trying to stay as low key as possible for the time being. This is because I really don’t know what it is that is expected from me by the youth organization and how that will impact my relationships with the community. Still, I am going to see what information I can find out just through some casual conversations. I hope that this will lay the ground work for some future connections.

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To shoot or not to shoot?

Today we got picked up from the guesthouse, piled into a minibus and took off for a place outside of the city. It was not too far away from the airport so I recognized some major landmarks from our trip into the city when we first arrived.

I decided that this would be a great opportunity to bring my camera to get some good shots of the city and the surrounding area (because my camera is fairly low quality I am going to apologize right now for the blurry nature of many of the pictures). As I sat in a little bus just snapping shots I felt a bit like I was working for Google Street View.

The only problem was that I’m finding it more and more difficult to take pictures each time I go to a new place. For example, nature shots are almost always acceptable, but out of respect I try very hard to avoid having people I don’t know in my pictures. Of course they may not realize that I am intending to take a picture of the river when they see a van full of foreigners drive by and a camera poised at the open window.

The other issue for me is buildings. Even if I take a range of shots (affluence and poverty), it doesn’t change the fact that it is still someone’s house, office or place of worship. They never asked to be bothered by me and my camera.

I guess what I am trying to get across is that there is a power imbalance and as our friendly neighbourhood spiderman has told us, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I can at anytime hop on a plane and go somewhere (almost anywhere). Many cannot. I have access to funds so that if I need something (or within reason want something), I can get it. And I have a camera, giving me the ability to post pictures online for the world to see (though thankfully the world will not all read this blog), and therefore, the power to represent people’s lives for better or worse.

This is an issue that I have had to work through before and I am very certain that I will continue to work through in the future whether I am in Belleville, Regent, Tijuana, Georgetown….or wherever I am called to next. The reason why I am writing this is because I want this blog to be more than just a page with nice pictures but also a page that raises questions and where I can share some of the things that I have been working through. I’m not likely to have too many answers and I know that many things will be nearly impossible for me to try and share with you but if you are up to the challenge of trying to navigate through the muddled brain of Drew Badgley then I am sure to give you some challenges in the weeks ahead.

(So at the end of the day I have some pictures that I can share so here you go).

rum distillery

The rum distillery. Very famous and very... aromatic.

guyana river

The Demerara River. One of Guyana's 3 largest rivers.

houses on stilts

Common architecture - many houses are built on stilts and there are little canals everywhere!


A herd of cows overtook the other lane as we made our way back into the city.

As a bonus you also get a couple of shots of me swimming in a ‘black water creek’. Different types of water are described by colour in Guyana. They say if you drink the black water you will always come back to Guyana. I didn’t drink it today but one never quite knows what the future holds.


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Drew: Getting Excited

I am currently training with the organization that has sent me to Guyana, CUSO-VSO (the North American branch of the organization that sent me but the branch in Guyana is simply known as VSO). VSO stands for Volunteer Service Overseas. VSO has been active in Guyana for a long time and has many long term connections here. They are the ones who cover my living expenses and have found me a place to live (I move in early next week). Everything I need is provided and I even get a little stipend to cover some incidental costs. They have done an excellent job of taking care of me and have some top quality staff who are doing really great work.

I’m mostly excited because today we talked a lot about the different types of work that they do in Guyana and I started to get a better feel for what I will be doing. Now I just want to start doing it! I’m so used to dropping into places for only two weeks at a time and having to hit the ground running. Taking it slow is not my usual style but it will definitely be beneficial in the end.

So in the mean time, as I have mentioned before, I’m getting to know the city. I spend a couple of hours just walking everyday and saying hello to people here and there. I just finished walking through the last area of the city that I am encouraged to stay in. Much to my enjoyment, this corner of the city is where the Botanical Gardens are, so I wandered through there and ended up petting a manatee. YES, a manatee! They just hang out in a couple of big ponds and are quite friendly. Next time I go I will take a look at all of the interesting birds.


The manatee!!!

I am looking forward to starting some work and feeling a little less like a tourist but I am happy that at the very least I am getting a pretty good idea of the layout of the city.

All in good time… but I am getting excited!


Some more of the Botanical Gardens.

street shot

Street shots from the areas of town near the VSO office.


The seawall. It has quickly become one of my favourite places.


What a beautiful tree!

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Wotch’yup – Drew gets his bearings

I’m starting to feel like I really have my bearings now. I know all of the major streets and which directions they go. Also this morning I had another tour with some volunteers and they were able to navigate us through the markets and give us some helpful tips on how to get around.

So armed with this new knowledge and with the safety tips from yesterday’s session I decided to go out for a bit of a walk this afternoon. I was able to find a couple of places that I was looking for (the local Salvation Army and some shops) and I enjoyed the breeze that starts to cool everything off around 4:00. All of the streets have these ditches/channels along the sides of them – to help with drainage – and some of the streets have walkways in between them.

While I was walking down one of these streets, I ran into a few kids who were playing cricket. The smallest of them (probably around 6 or 7) called out to me “Wotch’yup” and I had to ask him three times before I figured out that he was asking me what’s up? I told him I was just walking. To which he replied “You from Australia?”

After that I walked up to the seawall and watched the sun start to set. The colours were unbelievable! More reds than I am used to seeing and with the cool breeze from the water, it was a great place to be. I ended up running into a few other volunteers at that point and we enjoyed the rest of the sunset as we walked back to the guest house.

Here is my 15 minute representation of some of the key places in the city. It is hard to get the best parts in (and hard to get complete accuracy because the small streets don’t make it on the map) but it’s a start.


Drew's map of some of the key places in the city

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