Hello everyone! So here it is, half way through the year. Six months have probably gone by much quicker for me than for you. I am beginning to struggle to think of events which are interesting, so apologies in advance.
The first two weeks of the month (February) were reasonably uneventful. Emily got a haircut from one of the locals. She had to have it on the week of the full moon and she was given rules to abide for her hair to grow faster. The Amerindians do something called blowing, where they whisper in Patamona under their breath, and then blow you, then whisper again, then blow you again. Emily was getting a haircut so the elderly woman whispered charms to encourage healthy hair growth, and then blew her hair. She was also told not to let any boys touch her hair and that she wasn’t allowed to share a comb. Her hair is healthy, but it’s always been healthy, so what difference it made I’m not sure.
Mashramani is Guyana’s republic day, and is 23rd February. It is a national holiday, so the Guyanese celebrate by having pretty much a week’s holiday. On Monday 20th February, we had lessons in school as normal, though the students protested. Tuesday was supposed to be the start of celebrations with a rally and a talk from someone important, but nobody organised it so it didn’t happen. Emily and I then asked Mrs Toney if anybody had organised the rest of the week’s activities, which they hadn’t. We therefore took it upon ourselves to organise Wednesday’s sports day and concert. You can imagine that this was a difficult task, it being Tuesday. The sports day went well. We allocated a different event to each teacher, so everyone had as little as possible to do. It was a beautifully sunny day - the nicest we’ve had for weeks. I’m still recovering from the sunburn.
We went to school to register and then took all the children to the school field. Here we split them into their houses. House A – Hummingbird; House B – Cock of the Rock; House C – Harpy Eagle. Each house leader took names of participants and teams and then the races began. We had a sack race, a three-legged race, a duck race and an egg-and-spoon race (with guavas instead of eggs, because eggs cost GU$80 – about 25p). There was then an eating competition where participants had to eat three packets of salty crackers, drink a cup of water and the run 100 metres. There was then a tug of war between the students, and then one for the teachers. My side won once and lost once. There was then a small five-a-side football tournament – everyone took this more seriously than all of the other events, the teams even using football strips. There was also a short game of cricket and a few volleyball games. All in all it was very successful.
In the evening was the concert. This concert had over twenty acts and over two thirds were forro dances. Because of the poor organisation (due to lack of time) the electric equipment kept malfunctioning, the music was constantly muddled up and few people came. At the Christmas concert we managed to raise GU$68,000; the Mash concert raised only GU$18,000 (about £60). It was a pity to waste such an opportunity.
On Thursday 23rd (Mash) we had the day off. There was supposed to be a parade on the airstrip, but once again this wasn’t organised so it didn’t happen. We were told in the afternoon that there had been a football game – had we known before we would have gone, but instead we spent the day liming.
Friday was a clean-up day in school, so obviously, few children turned up. But all the classrooms were cleaned – the desks were scrubbed and the windows cleaned. Emily and I tidied the tiny staff room, which was overflowing with textbooks and paperwork. We were finished by lunchtime, so we got the afternoon off.
At the beginning of that week, we had been told that there was a scabies outbreak in the dorms. The exterminator and the regional education officer were supposed to arrive that Wednesday to sort it out. They eventually arrived on the Sunday, when all the dorm kids were sent home. This means that this whole week, there are only village children in school, and, of them, some don’t bother to turn up. This sets the school one week behind work, which is extremely frustrating, given we already missed and entire week for Mash. So because so few students are in school, all the year groups have been merged, so there are only about seven classes in total. This also means that teachers have a lot of extra time, and often there are two teachers sitting in a classroom whilst another takes the lesson. This is great for me because I have a problem with discipline in one of my classes, and this has helped a lot. Often the children speak Patamona, which I can’t understand, but the other teachers sitting in the classroom hear what they say and translate.
Monday was one of the world teach volunteers’, Lisa’s, birthday. In the evening, Emily and I went to Candacie’s with Lisa and Fiza for dinner. We had shark and balle, which was very tasty. After this, we went out onto the airstrip and one of Lisa’s friends distracted her while the four of us went to a woman called Vashti’s house. We had organised a surprise party, so there was music, wine and people were waiting there for us. We all hid in the shadows and surprised Lisa when she arrived five minutes later. It was a great party. There was plenty of wine and plenty of dancing, which is a recipe for a successful night.
Yesterday (29th February) I met two French journalists who are sutck here because of the lack of planes. They were filming for a programme called “La Rue d’Impossible” (The Impossible Road), so they travelled from Georgetown to Lethem by truck. Naturally, they faced some transportation difficulties, and arrived in Paramakatoi later than expected. But anyway, they have said they will be returning to France in 10-12 days, so any letters we want to send we can give to them to post on their return to Paris. So I’m going to run and give them this now.
All my love to all of you. Once again, thank you for reading,
[Again, sorry about the lack of pictures. No new ones yet, hopefully we shall be seeing some soon!]