Saturday, 31 May 2008

Having a great time

Just a quick one to say we are having a great time on our holiday to England. All is well. Visiting friends and family as you might expect and making us really welcome.

Perhaps the photo will explain all!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Homeward Bound

For all those who are interested we will be in England on a well deserved break from Sunday 25th May until Thursday 12th June when we will fly off to Trinidad for a few days and then back to work in Guyana. Hope to see some of you soon.

Stephen and Mary

Saturday, 17 May 2008

From Barbados to England

As you will read on the left, the last few weeks have been amongst the busiest we have had in Guyana. And they have included some of the greatest frustrations but we will gloss over them. We always knew there would be frustrations but they're not nice when they all come at once. But we survived and are looking forward to three weeks home, coming via Trinidad and staying there for a couple of nights on the way back.

Here are a few pictures of what we have been up to.

Firstly, the workshops.......

Mary at the national Literacy Workshop in NCERD

Meg working at the other side of the Auditorium

Making phonic sounds to repeat!
Meg's the teacher

and then Barbados......

Thursday, 1 May 2008

March and April 2008

We are still in full bloom. Here is some of the older news from March and April 2008

It's 30th April and yet another month has gone. So what's my excuse this time for taking so long to write.

1. Too Much work

2. Very sick computer

3. Too much enjoying ourselves

Well, it's true, all three

I'll say more in the post on the left

It's 16th April and it's less than 2 days this time. Is the writer's block easing? Sometimes I think all of this stuff must be pretty boring for the average reader. But please remember, that we are doing this for ourselves as well and we will want something to look back on.

Mary keeps an excellent diary using the old fashioned method which she prefers (pen and paper). She keeps it up to date and writes an entry for every day. Since we past the year mark, she reads the entry for that day last year. It's unbelievable how fast this is all going and things that happened last year are coming round again. It makes really interesting reading.

It has been great in the last few days to hear the enthusiasm of the new volunteers. It reminds us of our first arrival. Not that any of our enthusiasm for what we are doing has lessened but, like the first flushes of any relationship, it has settled into a pattern. Trouble is, a lot of this is seriously out of the comfort zone!

Have finally managed to book our trip home. Should arrive on Sunday 25th May 2008 and return on Thursday 13th June, travelling via Trinidad for three days on the way back. So as we will be homeless, anyone who would like to put up a couple of weary travellers, it would be much appreciated?

It's such a thrill doing all this Caribbean island hopping. The downside is that it is seriously draining our resources but who cares? Hopefully, the Prudential and the Teachers' Pensions will look after us when we get back. We worked hard enough for it.

Just had a 20% increase in stipend. That's due to VAT at 16% being added in one go in Januaty 2007 and an amazing rise in some food prices. But I believe that is world wide.

We are both well. Until the next time.

It's 14th April and another 11 days have passed since I last wrote. The Library work went well and it's a big improvement. The staff are continuing to make it better.

On Sunday, we all went to Hans' house to meet the new volunteers for a Pot Luck Lunch - as always a great group and a lovely lunch - thankyou Hans!

Hans also took Steve and I for a drink as his birthday present to us and the same day we did some training on Living and Working in Guyana for the new volunteers. Some of them came to NCERD on the next day. But Friday was the big drama - a fire at NCERD. The electrics are old and we are frequently told to unplug everything. On that day there was obviously one plug too many and sparks started flying, people ran around with extinguisters and the fire brigade, complete with police chief and braid, attended the scene. It was over in no time but it was a little excitement. People then seem to have drifted home but nobody told us (as usual) but eventually we got away about an hour early. That was a treat!

More good food on Saturday when 12 of us went to the Windjammer Restaurant for a few individual celebrations including our 14 months. We have celebrated every month so far and it seems to be going so fast!

So, it's back to work today and whatever that will hold. Mary is really busy with the Mass Literacy Fast Track Initiative. Lots of planning seems to be taking place with workshops to come.

The highlight of the day though will be when we book our holiday to England. We hope to return for 3 weeks in late May followed by 3 days in Trinidad on the way back. Might as well take advantage of the Caribbean whilst we are here because we may never return. 3rd April and April Fools' Day (yes, they have it in Guyana) passed uneventfully and now it is already 2 days later. I have been involved in a lot of physical work in the last 2 days. Dulce (a newish VSO now working in our office) has been working on the NCERD library. Should we just say, without being too unkind, it needed a little makeover. 8 of us have spent the last two days doing just that. It now looks much brighter and organised. I won't be doing any more because I have too many other things to do, so I am sure Dulce will complete the job.

Another group of VSOs have arrived in Georgetown and we will meet them on Sunday and will be part of their in-country orientation next week. This is the third group since we arrived as well as all those who have been and gone in dribs and drabs. We're beginning to feel like real old stagers. But, it's always great to have some new blood as they say.

Have now booked our trip to Barbados for 1st May for 5 days to celebrate 35 years of marriage. Hope to be coming home at the end of May, early June. It's been really difficult sorting out the days around the work.

Wow, it's Friday again tomorrow - what happened to yet another week?

It's 31st March 2008 and we have just spent a lovely day celebrating Mary's birthday by going to the Brazillian restaurant - a meat fix and that will be it for some time. We must start being sensible. It's back to cook-up rice and chicken wings for a while.

It's 30th March and I have been really bad at writing blogs but hopefully I will have come out of the "blog doldrums" and start to write! Yes, it really is over 3 weeks since I last tapped this keyboard and a lot has happened in that time (as it always does). So what I'll do it to give you a brief outline of our comings and goings and put a few pictures over the other side.

So here's my excuse for not writing. Just after the last entry, Mary and I went to the North West of the country (by speedboats and minibus) to the Pomeroon Region in the North of Region 2. Not too many Ministry officials go there, so we really wanted to keep our commitment. Mary did a workshop for Nursery teachers on SEN and the next day I did a training session with wannabe heads in Charity. They were so enthusiastic, it was a joy to be with them.

The following week, I went to Bartica and did a similar session at the Resource Centre. All this travelling by speedboat must be good for the lungs and the nerves!

On the Friday of that week, we had the traditional St Patrick's Day Party at Michelle's place (new volunteer from Ireland) As last year it was a magnificent affair with lots of Irish dancing and impromptu singing. It is good that no-one was living below because the sound on the wooden floors really carries.

The following week, our friend Meg had her family to stay and she hired our own personal plane to take them and us to Kaieteur followed by Orinduik Falls. It was a perfect day as the weather had started to improve by then. See over on the left for more information and pictures (when I get round to doing it). This day was Youman Nabi - a national holiday and the Birthday of the Prophet (Islam).

Good Friday was spent as Good Friday should - a quiet day at home. Didn't go to church as I don't like that sort of thing anymore. Meg's family came round in the evening. Easter and Phagwah (Hindu Spring Feast) was spent in Corriverton near to Suriname with our friend Cheryl who has lots of friends working at the new sugar factory in Skeldon - so a great time was had by all, including the river beach on Easter Sunday with the traditional Easter kite flying.

In fact, when we returned on Easter Monday, after I had been bitten by a Scorpion (extremely painful but I'm still alive), we saw lots of kite flying all along the East Coast. Interesting that in the countryside, they were nearly all home made with special Brazillian tissue and the nearer you got to Georgetown, they were plastic. Clearing up the next day after the Guyanese had partied was a major event.

When we had our birthday party (with other volunteers) at the beginning of the month, we had a present of a "Meal Out in the place of our choice. We decided that Afternoon Tea at the Pegasus Hotel was a good way of celebrating. So 10 of us went there and had a little luxury. The buffet looked as though there had been a plague of locusts when we had finished. But everyone enjoyed it.

And finally, yesterday, Mary went to the Easter Hat Parade - went to it last year - very oldy worldy, 1950s with yet another afternoon tea.

It all sounds as though we are living it up to much. But you have to get a balance with the work. It is extremely challenging at the moment but we are surviving. I still have a bit of writer's block but after this long missive, I think I may be cured.

It's 6th March and I've just realised that it is almost two weeks since I have made an entry. Well, we are now into our second year and, with almost a month of that gone I am beginning to panic a little. I have a whole course to re-write (9 modules with around 7-10 units in each). That's a VSO placement in itself, so I will have to start working differently. Less training and working in schools and more writing. I won't say I have writer's block at the moment but it is not flowing and I thought it would but never mind.

The day after the last entry was Mashramani - big celebration and parade for Republic Day. We were advised by the British High Commission to stay away as a precaution because of the troubles. We did stay away as we had seen it before but we certainly heard it. Different noise coming through every window. It all went well with no trouble but it was a lot less energetic than last year.

We had visitors last week - Helen from Mabaruma and her mother (Christine) stayed with us and "did GT" as well as going to Kaiteur. We went out with them to the New Thriving restaurant with a group of 10 volunteers. They left on Friday to go to Mabaruma and Christine returned for the night on Monday and we went out to the Brazillian restaurant for my birthday - All that eating and all that meat! The weight is beginning to return. Bad news!

Had a great birthday because we had a joint birthday party for 4 volunteers on Saturday, Roti Hut on Monday and we went out with Mira on Tuesday and to Michelle's (new volunteer) yesterday. All very good!

I came off my bike on my birthday as someone tried to squeeze through a narrow gap and forced me into the side. Only a few minor bruises but not a bad record for over 30 years of cycling - first time to hit the deck!

Tomorrow, Mary and I will go to Pomeroon, setting off at 5-30am, using 2 minibuses and two speedboats to do a workshop for Nursery Teachers in a river school. On Saturday, we will do a workshop for management trainees and we will stay the two nights with two of the Master Trainers. Pomeroon is a far out river in Region 2 so we decided to go because they don't have too many visitors. It should be a great experience.

The following week I will go to Bartica where some of the troubles were recently.

It's just started to rain and it's not the rainy season! We get serious rain here and I have definately decided that the weather in England is better! Must get going as it's 6-28am and got to get to work.

Thanks to all my readers for being so patient. Pictures to follow.

It's 22nd February and we've just had the last day of our annual leave so we pretending that Friday was a Saturday and did all of the Saturday things that you do on Friday, so that Saturday will feel like Sunday and we'll have a free day and it'll still be Sunday the next day and there'll be another day 'til Monday!!! Well, there is some logic there somewhere if you can find it!!

The last week we have had awfuuuuuuuulll weather. This time last year when we arrived it was bright, sunny and a lovely temperature (hadn't quite hit 30), but this year la nina has kicked in and left us with the tail end which has meant rain for the last 5 days - almost continuous and a temperature of 24C at night (bed socks weather). But today, there was a break and hopefully it will be clear for Mash tomorrow (it means celebration after hard work). It's a big parade right across the country and especially big in Georgetown. We saw it last year and oh my! What noise! but it was very colourful and interesting. There's a cloud over it this year because of what has been going on in the country but perhaps it is what they need.

It's 17th February and all of the volunteers are coming to our house for a Pot Luck Lunch - see below, so have to get cooking.

It's 16th February Saturday was a little different because Nicolette and I were asked to take the new volunteers to see the shops. Three hours later we arrived at Roti Hut, tired and hungry, but it was a good experience for all (I hope). We're watching on DVD November's Celebrity Come Dancing - one a week.

It's 15th February and four new volunteers arrived safe and sound in the early hours of this morning - Lucia, Derek, Trudy and Michelle. Already they have been thrown into In Country Training and Meg did a session on Security this afternoon. Tomorrow I will give them a tour of the places to shop with another volunteer (not Mary's cup of tea - shopping) and on Sunday all of the volunters will come to our house for a 'Pot Luck' lunch. On Tuesday we will be doing a session with them on living and working in Guyana.

It's Friday and the weekend has come. Mary has been out in schools this week looking at the practice of the literacy hour and I've been preparing management exams and model answers.

It's 14th February and the new volunteers should be arriving early in the morning in about 4 hours. The first day of our second year passed like most normal days except for the fact that about 2-30pm, whilst I was preparing an exam, in walked Dr Ken Hunte - we had worked together for 5 years as DHs in St Michael's, Bermondsey in the mid 80s. He returned to his native land in 1993 and has had quite a number of high profile jobs here in Guyana working in education - the most notable of which is the SSRP (Secondary Schools Reform Project of which he was Director for a number of years seeing the project through.

It was great to meet him and to see an old picture of us in St M's in 1985 along with 600 or so students.

It's 13th February 2008 and this time last year we were waiting in Barbados Airport, sitting next to Allende who we didn't yet know, waiting for the plane to Guyana. One year later, we're ready to start the second year. How time flies!

It's 12th February and all of you who have been logging on in the last 10 days have been seeing nothing new - that's because we've been travelling. over a week ago I went by speedboat to Bartica in the middle of Guyana with Peter and Bharat - the two Diaspora Volunteers from Canada. We visited schools and the Education Office on the Monday, delivered a workshop to Headteachers on the Tuesday and visited more schools on the Wednesday. At 5am on Thursday morning I got the speedboat, in the dark, to Parika and then a minibus to Georgetown to return home for work.

Unfortunately, I left my bag on the minibus and didn't realise until I was nearly home. Got it back though, even though there are about 17 million minibuses in Georgetown, thanks to an enterprising taxi driver who was prepared to get very wet for the sake of it. He was, of course, rewarded handsomely.

The next day Mary and I were off to Mabaruma across the rainforest by 12 seater plane to visit our friends Celia and Helen. They are working there and it is one of the remotest places any volunteers go to. We worked on the Friday after arriving at 9am - visited the Education Office and schools and had a wonderful and peaceful weekend with them, flying back on Monday morning.

Tonight we will be going out to celebrate our one year in Guyana along with Meg and some others who are celebrating 6 months.

More details about all of this later.