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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Briefed, Trained and Extremely Excited

Hello everyone!

So I've just come back from training on Monday and I am getting really eager to be off. I have found out a whole lot more information about my project, but most importantly....


I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me reach this point. It would be a tragic thing for me not to have managed to get this far after all the effort everyone has put in, so my sincerest appreciation to every single one of you.

On training I was told a lot about my project - too much to put on this page without it getting tedious, but I will try to sum it up as best I can.

My partner is called Emily and is in some ways my double (personality-wise anyway), and in some ways my exact opposite. I really think project trust have done an amazing job in pairing up the volunteers and I really couldn't have asked for anyone better. I say this now, goodness knows what I'll say after living with her for a year, but I know we will work it out, whatever happens.

Our house is, yes, on stilts, and it has a lovely red zinc roof and is supposedly one of the nicest houses in the village. It is right next door to the school and literally a 50m - if that - walk from the air strip. The toilet is "erratic" and the shower doesn't work, but there are rivers everywhere and the locals bathe as often as three times a day, so it won't be a problem. There is a rain butt for water, but this has to be boiled. We have two gas rings for cooking, and there is an oven in the school in case we want to bake. There are beds in our rooms but when we arrive in Georgetown, Kala Seegopaul, our representative and a very accomplished woman, will take us hammock shopping, so I suspect we will end up sleeping in these instead, as there are apparently bed bugs.

There are 16 Project Trust volunteers in total in Guyana, and just over the five days of training we have already bonded a lot. About a two days' walk from Paramakatoi (PK) there is a village called Chenapou, home to one of the fifty-odd primary schools which send pupils to board and go to school in PK. Here there are two more Project Trust volunteers, Ryan and Mike, who are then only a further few hours from Kaieteur Falls, the world's largest single drop waterfall - meaning the combination of height and water volume falling here is greater than anywhere else on earth. It is said to be a really breathtaking and awesome place, so watch this space, as we will definitely be going there.

I have found out an awful lot about the culture but I will try to keep this brief. PK is inhabited by Amerindians: subsistence farmers who live off what they can grow from the land (apparently anything, but they tend to grow mainly cassava and fruit). Any food they do need to buy is flown in from Georgetown on a small eight-seat plane - which is also how we get to the village. There is a small shop for other everyday things but it is expensive. Their two main past times are "liming" - lazing about, also "gaffing", which is basically the same but also incorporates some talking/ gossiping - and dancing - which is supposedly quite intimate and very sexual.

In the villages in the Potaro-Siparuni Region (or Region 8 - containing PK) of Guyana the Amerindians still speak in their native tongue - a language called Patamona - a lot of the time, and I am delighted to be exposed to and get the chance to learn a little of a language which is spoken by only a few thousand people. For example, the word "Paramakatoi" comes from the name of the creek it is based on and from the Patamona word for savannah: "katoi" or "ktoi" - so the Savannah on the Parama Creek.

The main mode of transport is, not surprisingly, walking, however it is possible to hire ATVs (quad bikes) and guides for journeys between villages. I must admit this is one of the most exciting parts for me so far! The next nearest town, Kato, is a three hour walk away, a walk which some of the pupils unfortunately have to undertake on a daily basis.

We will be staying in Georgetown for at least five days before going out to our project. During this time we are to buy any extra things we need and a term's worth of food. This will cost us approximately 50,000 guyanese dollars, a pound being about G$300. We will be paid monthly wages of G$60,000 plus G$7,000 "rural area incentive". This is because we will actually be working for the Ministry of Education in Guyana as, having Highers (and Advanced Highers), we are more qualified than some of the other teachers, who only have the equivalent of GCSEs in the form of an end of year exam by the Caribbean Examinations Council, or CXC.
I will obviously find out an awful lot more while I am out there and I imagine it will be different in many ways to what I have entailed so far. I will put up another post shortly before I leave, but for now, I leave you with my address.

They say that every volunteer responds differently to different things and there are other pieces of information or realizations which really hit home, and for me, it was receiving this address on the front of my post report which made me appreciate what I am doing, and what lies ahead of me. It seems strange but it gave me a bit of a jolt into reality:

Miss Antje Kremer
Paramakatoi Secondary School
North Pakaraimas
Region 8
South America
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch,
All my love,