Although we are so far away,
And many years have gone,
You’re still remembered every day,
Dear loving Dad and Mum
Bert Harding 21st November 1921 - 18th September 1990
Rita Harding 16th March 1924 – 15th November 2002
Nuestra Senora Allende de Ezcaray
Allende, donde estas? Nuestra amiga VSO espanola!
The Hand in Hand Insurance Company Building in the background
All other bulidings were destoyed in the 1945 fire.
Ginger Beer sellers in the National Park
The beverage is still a favourite amongst many.
Guyana is a nation of 6 peoples, all with a history and, out of that history, comes a significant number of people from the Hindu tradition in East India. A few weeks ago we spent a morning in a colleague’s Mandir on the East Coast – blog to follow, but, just like Christmas, Diwali is a major event for Hindus.
Leading up to it, they must prepare which means cleaning the whole house, including curtains etc etc and be ready for the big Festival of Light. The night before, there is a big parade where cars and lorries, decorated in lights pass through the town and along the sea wall and make their way to LBI (La Bonne Intention) further down the coast. The next day is spent in the Mandir in the morning giving praise and thanks to the Goddess and then there are parties and lights on the houses. Traditionally they are lit with Dias (don’t know if that’s the right spelling) but these days electricity has taken over. We bought some of the tiny earthenware pots to put our nightlights for IKEA in – a clash of cultures.
We were given Diwali cards and traditional food – what a privilege to be here to share the customs of others so far away!
We are together for the most of the time but around Camp Street I cycle on and wait for Mary by the Sea Wall (Atlantic) whilst she navigates the new traffic lights. Here she is just making the last stretch after going through the National Park and before we cycle along the coastal road together as far as NCERD about 2 or 3 minutes away just in time for an 8am start.
It's a great start to the day, except when it is raining, although every day we look as though we have met with a torrential downpour with the sweat dripping off our noses. But the cycling is keeping us fit and it's certainly an efficient and economical way of getting around Georetown.
In the last year, when we were in England, I’d get up at 6am and arrive in a primary school of my choice by 7-30am ready to start the day. It’s a bit away from the norm here. Every day is different and a few days ago I found myself going off on my own to Region 2, Anna Regina for a day’s work. In truth I was supposed to go with others but that particular project fell through (as they often do) and I’d made arrangements to meet up with some Headteacher trainees and I like to keep my commitments no matter how inconvenient it is. Region Two is goodness knows how many miles up the North Western coast across 2 major rivers.
So, at 4-45am I got up, had my usual porridge and banana (good diabetes food) and at 6am (the same time as in England), I left home. Not on my bike, but in the Ministry vehicle (pronounced vayeekal) with Patrick the driver and Tom Jones for company. Driving through Georgetown, most people were just waking up – that is the street people in the doorways, in cardboard boxes and anywhere that would provide them with a little shelter from the sun that hits Guyana about 5-30am at this time of year. If ever I felt privileged to have what I have, it was then. Fifteen minutes and we were at the entrance to the floating bridge across the Demerara – the longest floating bridge in the world over the river that gave the sugar its name. Off the other side and a record 35 minutes to Parika, the entrance to the Essequibo River where all of the bananas, the melons, plantains and a thousand and one other local products arrive early in the morning ready for market before most people have even opened their eyes. A bit different from the Croydon Flyover!
We arranged to visit some schools and firstly went to Anna Regina Multilateral School, had a discussion with the Head who had been a trainee on the course I supervise and I asked for a look around the school. Five minutes later, a teacher came to me and told me the children are ready for me – 30 second notice of an assembly for 1,100 boys and girls! Well, I delved into my store of assemblies in the recesses of my brain and away I went. Lovely kids!
Then, off to an even larger Primary school where I met up with some HT trainees and the Head and after an hour, back to Mr Persaud’s for lunch cooked by his niece – curried chicken, dhal, salad and fresh fruit. They’re vegetarian, so they went out of their way to make me feel welcome.
Then off to Abram Zuil Secondary school, just down the road, Mr Persaud’s school, from where he retired last year, to meet with the Head, the staff and 24 Trainee Heads who had come from all over the region to listen to what I had to say about Leadership and Financial Management. Two hours later, I was whisked off back to Supernam for the return speedboat. Well, the day’s ebbing and flowing, a thousand speedboats, the tide, the sun, the banana boats and the consequences of the rain on the waves and wash had had a serious effect on the ability of the boat to stay in a straight line or even make contact with the water. It was exciting to say the least and an hour “under the tarp to keep dry” resulted in a soggy Stephen making his way through Stabroek Market searching for a minibus home.
I arrived back exactly 12 hours after I left but, oh my word, what a day and
“It’s all in a day’s work”.
I know this is a little late but better “late than never” and it really needs to be recorded. What better than to give you an extract from Mary’s diary of 29th June. “It’s the way she tells ‘em”. So here goes.
“Our Rockview adventure. What a place! We arranged for the taxi to collect us a little early so that we could be sure of getting to Ogle Airport by 9am. We should have known better. We did not start check-in until 10am and we did not take off until 10-30am. We flew in a small 12 seater plane and the journey was remarkably smooth. We were given juice and a packet of biscuits before we boarded. In proportion – look out BA. The landing strip at Rockview was exactly that – a short strip of gravel.
From the minute we landed we were made extremely welcome by the family and staff. Rockview is the brainchild of Colin Edwards, a former VSO and a very interesting person. He has been married three times and has 7 children- two Brazilian, two English and three Amerindian. He was born in the Basque region of France and had a Basque mother and an English father. After VSO he travelled to South America, lived in Brazil and finally settled in Guyana. He brought his parents to live here and they are buried in the garden where they can be seen from the original Rockview.
Everything about the place is amazing but the two things that strike you most, apart from the hospitality of the people are the cleanliness and the quietness. The rooms are pretty and we have discovered the joys of a hammock, although I managed to roll right out when I first got in.
We were also quite active. On the second day we went on the nature walk and on Sunday we went on the Iwokrama Canopy Walk in the rain forest. We also had a gentle stroll around Rockview and were very impressed by the fruit and vegetable gardens and the fruit trees. Rockview is almost self sufficient. It has a motley crew of pets as well as cows and horses. Stephen and Allende tried their skill as cowboy / girls. It was a real joy to be able to use the pool and on all three occasions we had it to ourselves apart from the children.
All the children are delightful and very comfortable with adults. We also visited the Amerindian village of Surama where the two youngest boys go to school and stay with their grandparents during the week. On Friday we had the place to ourselves which was very nice. On Saturday an American couple, Christine and Tim, joined us and late in the evening Inge and the Spanish brigade came. They were very pleasant and it was great for Allende to be able to speak Spanish. I was the only one who could not speak Spanish. Helen, an EU delegate, was also British but she could speak Spanish. Whist at Rockview we ate better than at any time in Guyana. Everything was freshly prepared and the portions were very generous. It was a good thing that we did not have to be weighed again when we got back on the plane like we did when we came.
Inside the house is like a museum with a collection of artefacts, old books, art and wooden sculpture from over 30 years of travelling. It is a fascinating experience.