October 15, 2003 - The Pilot: Nancy O'Connell says Peace Corps Living in Suriname is a Lot Like College Life

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Suriname: Peace Corps Suriname: The Peace Corps in Suriname: October 15, 2003 - The Pilot: Nancy O'Connell says Peace Corps Living in Suriname is a Lot Like College Life

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Nancy O'Connell says Peace Corps Living in Suriname is a Lot Like College Life

Nancy O'Connell says Peace Corps Living in Suriname is a Lot Like College Life

NANCY O'CONNELL: Peace Corps Living Is a Lot Like College Life

Greetings from Suriname, South America.

It is hard to believe that I have already been a Peace Corps trainee since May 31, 2003, when I arrived at the staging area in Miami, the time has gone so quickly. It seems I just left Whispering Pines yesterday.

This year, I will be serving with a National Foundation for HIV and AIDS prevention. It looks like I will be helping to put together programs pertaining to prevention, as well as counseling patients and gathering data for statistical analysis. I will be going to visit my work site next week and will meet the people I will be working with.

Next week we begin our home stays. I will be living with a family just outside our training center here at NAKS. It will be for three weeks, and only Dutch will be spoken while I am in the home. Each day I will return to the classes here at NAKS to continue my language lessons and cultural training.

I will say that learning Dutch is not easy. It does not come trippingly off my tongue. I am working hard and the Peace Corps does expect each of us to have a general knowledge of the language. English is widely spoken in the capital city, a bonus for me.

The couples that are heading to the hinterlands will be away from NAKS for three weeks, living with a host family in their village. They have been studying the languages needed for going to a Maroon Village or an Amerindian Village. They will be traveling by boat and truck and one couple will fly into their site.

My work site, thankfully, is about 30 miles down the one paved road to Paramaribo. Gay Pfister I also an older volunteer like me, and she will be with another National Foundation in Paramaribo.

We are very happy that we enjoy each other so much and we are looking forward to sharing a house in Paramaribo. Everyone thinks we have known each other for years. The Peace Corps director suggested the house sharing, and we jumped at the chance.

The Peace Corps has a listing of houses that we can look at that have been approved for volunteers. Safety is a big issue and availability to buses and to the local Winkle (that is the corner store or even a supermarket, Surinamese-style), that we can get to easily.

We have received a bunch of shots for Hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, rabies, and tetanus. I will not have to take medicine for malaria because I will be stationed in the city. However, if I should venture into the hinterlands, not on my agenda any time soon, the doctor will issue the necessary malaria medicine.

He is a very dedicated doctor and knows all of our medical history. I was impressed with my first visit with him. He had read about each and every one of us and that made all of us feel good.

We are busy with classes from 8:15 to 4:30 each day. Then there is a mad dash to the Internet Café just 10 minutes from our training center. The cost is very little, the service is slow, but it does work.

The phone is another matter. There is only one phone at the center, so I have used it sparingly because I always seem to get an answering machine and hate to waste my phone card minutes talking to a machine.

Once I get settled in the city, things should get better. The phone here is always busy as the young kids are calling their parents and or significant others.

Terrific Speakers

Our classes are well prepared, and we have had some terrific speakers on several of the evenings. We have listened to the history of Suriname from a woman who teaches the course at the local University. She was outstanding. Then a gentleman came and talked about the economy and the political situation here in Suriname. He described everything just as it is, flaws and all.

There are several political parties here in Suriname, and a coalition government is now running the country. The Bug Man, as we called him, gave a straightforward talk about bugs, snakes, birds, etc.

Thankfully he used a lot of humor. Otherwise, half of us would be back in the States. Between the killer bees, the kamikaze flying ants, the mosquitoes, and many, many, more equally as scary insects, I am sure to look where I am walking and make sure my mosquito netting is tucked in each evening.

The kids, as we lovingly call them, are just terrific ó fun, generous, kind, and each of them anxious to get started with their Peace Corps assignments. They take very good care of us older PCVs (Peace Corps volunteers).

All in all, it had been a most busy and satisfying time my only concern is learning Dutch. I trust that will come together soon at least enough to pass the test. The Paramaribo Golf Club is just down the road. This is the rainy season, so it is currently under water. However, the Peace Corps director, Charlie Childress, is setting up a day for me as soon as the dry season begins in September. I can hardly wait. I hope they have clubs to rent, because I didnít bring mine with me.

Contact Nancy OíConnell via e-mail at


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Story Source: The Pilot

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Suriname; Older Volunteers



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