Bread making has become a routine activity on a Sunday morning – preparation before church, rising during church (8am Mass) and baking after church. Allende (nuestra amiga VSO espanola) was very keen to have a go but 6am on a Sunday was a little early, so we made an arrangement for later and had bread making master class. It was the same day we were due to go to the British High Commissioner’s home and Marie (Canadian VSO from Region 9) and Tulsi (South Indian VSO from across the street) had turned up to talk to us at 7am that morning. They were present for the master class!
Allende threw herself into the task as with everything she does. Sticky fingers and whole body kneading were the order of the day. But the bread turned out fine as you can see from the photos.
She had another private lesson three days later but, at the point of writing, she has not yet ventured into doing it on her own. Perhaps a little more encouragement will be necessary.
We have been plagued with these evil little ...... since we arrived. This morning I counted 100 new and old bites on the fleshy parts of my body. They are particularly bad at dawn and dusk and during the rainy season they are everywhere. They love to get human blood and then make their getaway. If they get the chance they will bite 5 or 6 times in one region. You rarely see them land but just floating around the air. Fortunately, although the number of bites has not reduced, our reaction to them is getting better.
There are two types of bites – the one which hurts and makes you scratch, lasts a few days and then disappears leaving its mark – and the mosquitoes that attack, leave a blister which can be quite big, drive you insane for one hour exactly and then the blister disappears leaving no mark at all. But the worst of all are those that get you when you are least expecting it, after one or two rums when you are sitting quietly, perhaps reading. These are the commandoes of the mosquito world. They attack the bare feet, bite half a dozen times and before you know it you are driven insane and they have left with a fair proportion of your blood to feast upon whilst you hop around trying not to scratch.
Good bless the little critters. They have to get their food from somewhere. And some people are veggies because of cruelty to animals. What about cruelty to humans by dogs and mozzies?
This weekend, we decided that it was time to have some real food. On Friday evening we went to a Brazilian Restaurant called Peppers on Regent Street. It’s more of a café really but the food was very good. The main meat we have here, and let’s face it Mary and I are carnivores (apologies to all those veggies amongst you), is chicken, hotdogs and bacon. Peppers had a supply of excellent barbecued rare beef, chicken and pork. We were a little taken aback when we discovered we had to pay for it by weighing our plate and paying GY$2,000 per kilo. It was quite efficient but strange. We are not prepared to divulge how much we ate but next time we will get filleted chicken rather than on the bone because who wants to pay for bones?
We were going to have a light Saturday evening but Meg and Allende decided to go to JRs (an alcohol free burger bar). This is the place we go when we are seeing someone off. This time it was our friend Meg’s turn who is returning to England for three months due to what the Guyanese call UFA (unexpected family affairs). She’ll be back in September but we will really miss her and we wish her and Bill well during their unexpected time together. She should be in Barbados at this moment waiting for her Virgin flight to Manchester.
Today is 17th June, the day Daniel, our eldest was due (birthday 3 days later). We always celebrate that day so we will be going to the Palm Court for a meal and Karaoke with Jeffery the compere – a mixture of beautiful singing and awful dire caterwauling, but it’s great fun.
Meg's last evening at JR's spent with Stephen, Mary and Allende before she travels back to Manchester for three months. Bon Voyage!
Well, this is the real reason why we are here. We have both been very busy with lots of varied work. Last week we moved office – just across the corridor. They needed our room for a Head of Department and the one we moved into was much bigger overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There are 6 of us in the office - Mary and I and Meg who came with us, Nicholas a young Guyanese man who is working on Physical Education and Jess and Ann from Texas and Chester respectively who are VSOs working on a Literacy Project. They will be leaving in July and the office will be very big for 4 of us. There are no plans yet for any other VSOs to come to NCERD.
I have been working in a number of schools with all of the challenges that that entails. I can’t go into detail here but it keeps me well occupied and allows me to experience what is going on at the chalk face – literally chalk here, not even dustproof and whiteboards and interactive whiteboards and unimaginable dream. Alongside this the Education management Programme is keeping me occupied. I have started NCERD’s first website – slow going because of the speed of the internet but you will be able to see it develop – http://www.ncerdleaders.com/.
Mary has been working on three projects. The first is the evaluation of another project with which she wasn’t involved which entails travelling to all the regions and asking questions about the success of a set of materials. The second is an Educare Project, a charity run by an ex VSO which has been setting up after school clubs linked to a feeding programme. Mary and Meg will be training the teachers in all of the regions – a lot of travelling. The third is a series of 3 day workshops about a whole school approach to teaching reading through phonics. That starts in the end of July so she has time to prepare.
I have been travelling the regions meeting groups of teacher trainees on the Education management programme and giving my take on leadership (a concept that has not really taken off here – they are more into administration). They will understand it though by the time I leave!!!
All in all it is very satisfying and varied work. It may take a while for it to filter through to the children (the only thing that is important) but, sure enough, it will do and those will be the outcomes VSO requires to justify our stay here.
We were just lamenting the fact that our social calendar seemed to be drying up when we invited to the VSO Director’s Home to meet up with some new VSOs and the Regional Director for the area – Matt. Guyana is the most westerly VSO country and there are others in scattered places which do not fit into a category such as Asia or Africa. These are all lumped together including the Pacific, China, and Guyana and so on. Matt is in charge and spends most of his time travelling. It was great to meet him and all the other VSOs again. Many of them will be leaving in July and August and we will be left with just a small number, from about 25 when we arrived to 7 or so. But there will be another batch in August.
Yes, it’s the rainy season and sure enough, it knows how to rain in Guyana. There has been 2.4 times the normal rainfall for the May / June rains as they call them. This is the main rainy season. However, we have only had one day of floods and I think our Wellington Boots, or Long Boots as they call them here are warding it off. I thought it rained in Lancashire in the rainy season there from September to July but nothing like this. It will appear from nowhere, the only sign being a black cloud which suddenly appears and, oh yes, the sight of people running.
If you are not prepared, for example, on your bike and on the way to a school and your cape (ours donated by Peter and Angela) is in your basket, you have about 2 nana seconds to put it on. I’m quite good at it now but the first time was a scream. It was a good job that everyone else was so concerned about themselves that no-one saw me. Raindrops the size of water bombs shoot down straight ten thousand a time in a square foot. I pulled the cape out of its bag and struggled to pull it over my head – the helmet got in the way and it wouldn’t go up or down. The neck zip was closed and I only extricated myself by taking off the helmet. By that stage my head was as wet as if I had jumped in Darwen baths – all this whilst sitting on the bike trying to hold it upright between my then sodden legs and socks. I tried again and succeeded but where was the neck zip – oh, at the back!
Never mind, thinks I, but realize that I can’t put the hood up because I would be blinded. Took it off again and this time did it right. My boxers were beginning to feel decidedly soaked and I set off for the VSO office 200 yards away. I had to stop and walk the last fifty yards because the water mixed with the sun screen I had put on ten minutes earlier and cascaded over my eyebrows and into my eyes causing them to sting – sun screen, I ask you!!!! Arriving at the VSO office and undercover but not wanting to go in because I don’t think they would have enough mops to clear up after me; I waited until the rain eased. I set off for my school but, because it was still a little wet put the hood up having abandoned my helmet. It had about two pints of water in it and I showered myself again. C’est la vie! I arrived at my school soaking wet only to find that only 40 of the 260 children had turned up for the day – “BECAUSE OF DE RAIN”.
The weather here didn’t quite live up to the expectations of the Guyana Tourist Board Website. It was supposed to be wall to wall sunshie and blue skies all day long with intermittent very heavy rain,usually in the early evening, which clears up very rapidly. Well, the heat is certainly there all of the time. The skies are blue just about as much As in England and it is very frequently cloudy. The website that said there was no name for overcast is certainly wrong – it’s overcast for much of the time but still hot at the same time.
We are about to enter the hot season. It may go from 32C ish to 35 / 36C. We cope well with the latter and we’re sure a few more degrees will not make a lot of difference.
Georgetown is not only home to 400,000 people but also to what seems like the same number of dogs (I exaggerate but it seems like that as you see as many on the road as people). NONE HAVE COLLARS, NONE ARE ON A LEAD, NONE SEEMED TO BE WALKED BUT THEY JUST WANDER AROUND THE STREETS GUARDING THEIR OWN TERRITORY. I’m sure that many of them are owned but certainly the majority seem to live a life independent of their owners.
Nighttime can be very noisy with the birds (yes, they sing all night), the croaking frogs and the dogs. We live in Queenstown and we have our own dogs here. Then there are the Kitty dogs, the Campbelville dogs, the Albertown dogs, the Bourda dogs and dogs from every district in the city. One lonely little creature may begin to howl followed, in sympathy by others from the same area. Within a few moments, there is sufficient howling and barking for dogs from another area to be woken up and take up the challenge to bark louder and howl more insanely. The theory of the full moon is definitely true because the howling lasts for most of the night. (Incidentally, the new moon lies on its back here rather than on its side). I digress. Before you know it dogs from three or four regions are in competition and the noise is horrendous. But fortunately, the leader of the pack lives next door to us – a guard dog from a high up government official. He’s big and mean and definitely in charge. A few distinctive barks from him, having been rudely awaken, frightens the rest (they know who’s in charge) and the whole process dies down in reverse until Government Dog out barks the last of the little wimps!
But that’s not I wanted to write about. Three weeks ago I was visiting someone in Kitty on my bike and, as I left, I mounted and swiftly pulled away. Within 2 seconds, four mangy dogs, three brown and one black were chasing me and yelping at my heals – two on either side. Not wanting to be bitten 4 times, I cycled faster and they ran with greater haste. The front runner on the left snapped at my bare ankle (wearing no socks and a pair of shorts) and the blood spurted out!!! They had achieved their goal, seen me off their territory and disappeared under an abandoned car.
It was shock. I didn’t even stop to examine the damage but cycled the mile or so home at great speed with the cries from passers by stating the obvious “you’ve got blood pouring down your leg”. There were five punctures on my left upper ankle, three small and two large. Mary ministered to me and we then had to go through the routine of getting the booster rabies jabs – one that night and another 3 days later. We don’t think the dogs here have rabies but it’s VSO procedure. Thanks to Marco, another VSO, for administering them.
What came after was worse because I was encouraged to go to the police, not a pleasant experience. It was a bit like a Victorian Gaol – rickety wooden gun cupboard marked “rifles”, violence aggression, shouting and generally not a place to be. They were quite pleasant and helpful to me but a suggestion of possibly “putting the dogs out” caused some worries about relationships with neighbours from others. So now, I walk in their territory and have my bicycle lock and chain handy to put them out myself if they come anywhere near me! So far so good.
The next highlight on the social calendar was when the British High Commissioner and his wife invited all VSOs to his private residence for an afternoon barbecue and swimming party. They have a lovely home – befitting the position – with a tempting swimming pool, a large friendly dog and a beautiful patio. We were given an excellent meal with all the trimmings (and wine – only the second glass since we came here). Thanks to Mr and Mrs Wheeler for their hospitality.
After about three months VSO arranged a Forum for all of the volunteers in a conference centre in region 3 – The Toucan Inn and Guyana Heritage Museum. We had the Friday off and went by a private hire bus (clean, comfortable, spacious and no music!). It was a really good weekend in that all the VSOs were able to meet up, it was well prepared (thanks to Ann and Hannah) and offered a varied programme. We were given a breakdown of everything that was going on, a question and answer session (which I led) and spent the afternoon discussing issues in our various groups – Education and Disability. At the end we had a wind down session when everyone was asked to write down something from their past – perhaps a secret, controversial or downright shocking. In teams we had to match the item with the person – quite a difficult task as VSOs on the whole are sensible and law-abiding. Secrets included being locked in the slammer for stealing Christmas trees, throwing a puppy over a wall, being jailed for being a political activist and meeting Nelson Mandela. It was great fun!
But, the social bit was the best. The food was delicious and varied including individual omelettes at breakfast. In the evening, much rum and coke was consumed and late at night we all went up to the parapet in the pitch black and observed the stars and the satellites as they passed above us. The VSO group is great, sociable and from varied backgrounds and countries. It makes the experience so much the richer.
The accommodation was excellent – unusual, quirky with masses of interesting bits of Guyanese history all over the place. It doubled as a museum and the owner, a Portuguese Guyanese was a bit of a historian. He was very proud of his achievements and wanted to show us around. The room had its own facilities – a luxury here!
We went home the next day after a hearty breakfast and a relaxing morning reading the paper. Mary and Meg were desperate to get the Cup Final on TV but were unsuccessful. They later discovered that they had the wrong week. Others swam in the pool – quite a luxury.