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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Blog Update 2# - October 29th 2011

I apologise for the lateness of this update.  I had hoped to send another before the end of October, but time flies and you lose track quite easily here.

The last month has been incredible.  Teaching has become easier, we’ve managed to get some beef, we’ve made our first friend, and we’re really getting used to the way of life here.  The only let-downs have been the lack of a house (still) and the fact that there hasn’t been a mailbag since we’ve arrived.  But these are in my opinion minor problems, and only make me worry a little.

The other week, we heard that someone had slaughtered a cow.  So straight after school, Lisa and I went down to one of the market places.  We were faced with the sight of sides and legs of a cow strung up and some pieces lying on a table.  It was exactly how I imagined it would be.  We asked for two pounds each, and received them in two big chunks of meat and bone.  G$1,000 for 2 pounds.  That’s about £1.60 for a pound of beef.  It was incredible.  We made a beef and potato curry, and chili con carne.  This was dinner and lunch for three days, I think.  Our other meals often involve balle, which we have with scrambled eggs for breakfast or lunch, or with soup for dinner; porridge or pancakes for breakfast; mainly some sort of curry for dinner; and a lot of fruit in between – it’s currently banana and orange season, and we’re still getting some tangerines, though they are now out of season.

There are a few teachers who we don’t talk to much, but the majority of them we get on really well with.  We often play Scrabble with La Cruiz and Fiza.  Obviously Liza and Fiza (World Teach) are friends of ours, and sometimes it’s really nice to stay up talking to them, and Candy, who is also becoming a good friend.  The other teachers we get on well with in school, but few of them really talk to us outwith school, apart from Val-ann, Marcie and Monroe.  Val-ann gave us some tangerines from one of her many tangerine-trees, and is a very lovely person through and through.  Her mother is also incredibly warm-hearted and kind.  Monroe is a funny guy.  We’ve recently discovered that basically everything he says is a joke, and since then we understand him a lot better.

Last weekend, he took us down to Jahwong topside, which is a waterfall; the topside means we were at the 
top of the falls, as opposed to the bottom side which is where Mr Simon takes us.  It was really cool, especially since it had rained a lot so the river was full and roaring.  It also rained on our way back up the mountain.  I’m not talking about rain like it is at home though – this was torrential rainforest rain.  It took half of the road with it and soaked us to the bone.  It was amazing.  Monroe has also offered to get rid of the mouse that has taken residence in our house, which has chewed some of our flour-bags.  So we’ve managed to make some friends, which is great.

Washing cooking and keeping track of water/fetching water are part of our life now.  It’s funny how quickly necessities become regularities.  I don’t even notice anymore when something needs to be done, I just get on with it.  So it is the last week of October, and we are unfortunately still in the guesthouse.

Since Ms Lewis arrived, she has managed to get very little done.  The REDO visited the village for an hour (!) one Sunday and took a look at a Ministry of Education house which the DEO was hoping to let us stay in.  She made a list of everything which needs to be done to the building to make it habitable, and it was a long one; then she asked the REXO whether the Ministry could fund it.  What Ms Lewis has not managed to gather up the courage to tell us yet is that he didn’t say they would.  The REXO is apparently coming to check it out himself, but even Ms Lewis doesn’t know when that will be, so it could easily be next year before he comes.  So in the meantime, a woman from the Guyana Elections Committee in PK has said she will try to phone the REXO herself to see if he can approve of her son renovating it already.  It has reminded us once more of the immense kindness and generosity of the people here.  We couldn’t believe it when she offered us this.  So for now we are in the guesthouse.  Still.

Last night was the first night we’ve been alone in the guesthouse for about a month.  It was really nice to be able to cook our dinner in peace, and not get told we were doing it wrong.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the guests – they’ve corrected our cooking a great deal, be it with or without our appreciation at the time.  I’ve been able to perfect my balle, a type of deep-fried bread roll – believe me, it’s delicious – and my chicken curry.  Emily has taught me how to make delicious rice, and we are getting better at roti, an Indian bread you eat with curry.  Needless to say feeding ourselves hasn’t been as big an issue as we first anticipated, and I actually quite enjoy the regularity of cooking every night, though Emily seems to have taken over cooking dinner for the time being.

So, living with somebody new in a new country has been quite challenging.  So far we haven’t fallen out, but we obviously have disagreements.  I’ve never before realised how pernickety I am about the way I live and how I like things done.  I have been brought up to hate wastefulness, and therefore have become extremely efficient.  I make only as much water as is needed for tea, use only as many candles as will let me see what I am writing, put only as much food on my plate as I know I will eat, etcetera, etcetera.

I didn’t know though just how much it really bothers me when people aren’t the same.  Needless to say I have become somewhat more tolerant.  I am also very, very British in that I accept things as they are instead of fighting for something for fear of causing a fuss.  I believe I can fight for things when they mean a lot to me, but it seems I am also very apathetic when it comes to things which don’t bother me, but bother people around me – an example being the housing situation.  I’m not really as bothered about it as I maybe should be, and definitely not as much as Emily.  A few other home truths have been made apparent to me too, but I won’t bore you with the details.

Since my last blog update, there have been few other developments.  Shortly after I sent it, I went to Kato – a three-hour walk away – for the inter-schools sports competition.  This was a lot of fun; though it was cold at night – we stayed for three nights – it’s strange how quickly you can get used to something.  On our return, we had to finally get used to teaching properly – without interruptions from sports practise.  I was still struggling with one of my classes, until recently.  I told Mr Simon about their lack of respect, because I literally managed to teach them about one lesson’s worth of work in one week, and instead of confronting the problem, he told me that he would teach them instead!  This was not what I expected or wanted, but he insisted.  It turns out that now he’s given the class, along with another of my classes, to a volunteer teacher.  I did ask him about this, but he then told me that they would soon be changing the timetable because it was badly done, so we’ll see what happens.  I do like Mr Simon, so I’m not angry with him.  I just think his disciplinary actions leave a lot to be desired.  So now teaching is a lot easier – I teach the top three classes in grade 9, so I basically teach the same lesson three times.  I only have 15 out of 40 lessons a week though, so I don’t think it’s very good use of my time or the Ministry’s money.  As I say, we’ll see what happens when they change the timetable.

I’m sorry for not replying to any letters – I have not received anything.  Sammy is in town now so he might bring back a mailbag, or go to the post office, to tell them to send one out.  I can’t wait for the mailbag to finally arrive, and hopefully with some letters for me.  The only contact I have had with home apart from my sending letters was October 13th, when we managed to get to Kurukabaru, a village two hours away on a quad, and use the priest’s internet to start university applications.  I sent an email to my parents and my brother.  I didn’t have enough time to update my blog as well, otherwise I would have done.  I think we are going back soon to complete our applications so I’ll try to find the time to write an update then, although I might get there before this has reached my parents.

I hope you are all well and that uni, school and work are still good and exciting.  Please don’t let my lack of mail deter you from writing to me; I will appreciate a letter no matter how late it arrives.

Thank you for reading and much love to everyone,

Antje xxx

P.S. Merry Christmas everyone!! And best of luck for the New Year!