May is the exam month for everyone - in Guyana too, though not for everybody. I know a lot of you reading this will just have been finishing your exams as I am writing it. Hope you have all done well.
Here we have CXC CSECs. These are pretty much the equivalent of SQA Intermediate 2. It's the same age of pupils as for those exams, too. I didn't teach any of them, but it does disrupt the school a lot. On days when compulsory subjects are written, namely Maths, English, Social Studies and Integrated Science, the school is closed to students. We teachers are left to attend school despite the lack of students, which doesn't appear to make sense. If you consider, however, that the school has neither a (working) computer nor a (working) printer/photocopier, you will be able to appreciate how much paperwork has to be done by hand. Needless to say, it's time well spent.
Unfortunately, the National Grade 9 Exams are also fast approaching: Maths is on the 25th June. For the last three weeks in May and the following four weeks of June this means hard work. I am having two hours worth of extra lessons three days a week to finish the syllabus. I am also planning to organize a mock exam for Friday, 15th June, just to shock the students and to encourage them to revise properly.
The exams are the main focus of May and June, but as it's coming up to the end of term, and thus to the end of the year, I have been trying to do as much as I can out of school. Emily and I have been spending a lot of weekends visiting people. In the first week in May we were invited to eat tuma with a villager called Miss Julinda.
Tuma is a type of stew, often with eddo leaf or some other sort of greens, most commonly made with meat, but sometimes with fish. A lot of people also like to put hot chili peppers into it, too. When we went to eat tuma at Julinda's, it was plain (so not hot) but it was made with meat from a deer which her nephew, Leon, a teacher at the school, had shot a few days ago. It was delicious. We were given cassava bread and some cassiri (the drink) to have with it, and we talked at lot to Julinda, her children and her nieces. After the meal we played some games with them. One game involved throwing a small hoop made of grass over a stick standing in the ground. The aim was to get the hoop around the stick and gain a sweet. Another game is called "dog and bone": players are split into two teams which then stand equal distances from the "bone" (we used a stick, but anything will do). The players are numbered and everyone has a partner with the same number as them on the opposite team. When a number is called, the two players with that number run to the middle and try to get the bone first, however once they have the bone, the other player can tag them and they have to give it up again. What usually happens if two experienced players are competing is, they run to the middle and sort of sparr until one player is quick enough to snatch the bone and escape to their team. Julinda always gave the winner a sweet, too. There were more than these two games, but I won't name them all. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.
On the 25th of May, Ryan, a volunteer from Chenapou, came to visit us. He had walked for ten hours through muddy paths and was very tired on arrival, so we let him sleep. The next day was a Saturday, so we took him to see the rest of Paramakatoi. We visited many people and drank a lot of cassiri, and in the end we spent all day out in the village. The 26th of May is Independence Day in Guyana, so there was a party in the evening at Vashti's shop. Ryan was obviously ambushed immediately by everyone, especially by some of the older women. The party went on until early in the morning and all the time music was playing and people were dancing forro and soca. It's difficult to describe the atmosphere of one of these parties, but it isn't like parties in Scotland. I want to say that the parties here are much less civilised, but this may be taken as a negative thing, which it absolutely isn't. I suppose a good description would be to say it's simpler. The host makes the tonic, sometimes cari or cassiri too, and that is what everyone drinks. Apart from that, music is played, people dance and people talk. But mainly people dance. And that is all. It is such a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere that you can't help but enjoy yourself. And it's nearly always dark, bar one small chink of light, which is great because you don't feel like everyone's watching you, and it contributes to the relaxed atmosphere. The dancing is something I'm going to miss a lot, because I am probably not going to find anywhere to dance forro back home.
Ryan left again on Tuesday morning, to walk back to Chenapou. Apart from that not much happened this month. Obviously a big part of it is the realisation that now it's June, I'm coming home really soon and that though I'm excited about returning home, I will be sad to leave Paramakatoi.
All the best to everyone. Thanks once again for taking the time to read this,