The second last month of my stay in Paramakatoi has been a busy one. Towards the end of the month I had quite a few people beginning to say goodbye to me, in my opinion a little prematurely but, if I'm honest, I might not see some of them before I leave.
On the 5th of June we had a potluck dinner for Fiza's birthday. This is where the guests bring different dishes and share it with everyone else, so there is always plenty to eat. I think Fiza had intended for us to bring something from our country, so Emily a Scottish dish, Candacie something Guyanese, but because of the lack of ingredients it was difficult to do this. In the end we had shrimp cook up, salted fish, deer tuma, cassava bread, garlic bread, a chicken dish from the Philippines, some Malaysian chicken and German chocolate cake for dessert. Apart from myself and Fiza, the guests were Emily, Lisa, Candacie, Leon (a teacher) and some friends from the village: Vashti, China Doll and Mr Dublin (not the Education Officer, another Mr Dublin). At the weekend we also had a party in the village so that more people could come. It was really enjoyable, there was a lot of dancing, and plenty people because Fiza had made some cake.
The Grade Eleven CXC exams finished on Monday 11th June. That evening the matron of the dormitories had organised a graduation ceremony for the students who had been staying there. Candacie, Fiza, Lisa, Emily and I were invited to attend and we decided it would be a nice opportunity to dress up a bit.
Lisa, Fiza, Antje, Emily, Candacie
When we arrived the generator wasn't working and the dining hall was lit with candles, but after ten minutes the generator was fixed and we were all ushered inside. The fifty-something graduating students were the last to enter. The boys were all dressed in smart black trousers, white shirts, smart black shoes and bow ties. The girls were wearing black skirts, white blouses, and black high heeled shoes. They all looked very smart. I won't recite the whole ceremony but there were a few main parts which stick out in my memory. There was one item which involved a group of younger students holding up the names of each of the graduating students on a sign, and reading out short descriptions of them beginning with their initials. It was very nice, though Guyanese tend to be very honest and blunt so some of the students were a little offended by what was said about them. Another item involved only the students who are an active part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, who were about half of the group. They were each given a new candle and the pastor, Father Balkarran, held a lit candle. The students sang a song as one by one the Grade Eleven students walked up to the pastor and lit their own candles, then lined up along the edge of the stage area. It was very pretty, although I fear the other students did feel excluded. At the end of the ceremony we were given some cook up, cake and drinks, while the teachers with cameras took photos of the Grade Elevens. It was a fairly well organised evening, for Guyana, but it still lacked the structure and fluidity that we would normally expect in an event like this.
Emily and I had been told that on the 17th of June (father's day) there would be a wedding, but instead there was a feast for the fathers, so the wedding was the next day. After school finished we went straight home to get changed and then to the church. The couple getting married looked very unhappy to be there, but when it came to the kiss, they got a bit carried away and started kissing each other all over the neck so they definitely wanted to get married. At the same time as the wedding there was also a games day for father's day at the playing field, so we went there for twenty minutes before going to the reception. At least half of the village was there watching the eating competition, the needle and thread race and other contests. As we left they were asking around for a bow and arrow for the shooting competition – we learnt afterwards that Leon had won it and received a large chicken as a prize. Anyway, we then walked the ten minutes to the groom's house and met the new Mrs Sandwell, who was from another village.
Antje, Emily, Hyacinth Sandwell, Fiza
They were serving cook up and chow mein out of big round pots and there was some tuma at the side, too.
I ate some cook up, not realising that there were pieces of pepper in it, and put a big piece into my mouth. I ended up feeling very sick from it, and trying to drink cassiri to cool my mouth – it wasn't until a few days later that somebody told me cassiri only makes it worse! It was very tasty though.
On Sunday 25th of June the National Grade Nine exam papers were supposed to arrive. On Friday 29th of June they finally arrived. The students in the dormitories had to stay there for a week more than they expected, despite the serious food shortages which the dormitories were facing. Both of these things were supposed to come on a plane from Mahdia. At one point the Community Teachers Association had to make donations to buy a bag of rice to feed the students. I will not begin to explain how frustrating this whole affair was.
Apart from the above we spent a lot of time visiting people. The village was muddy and wet a lot of the time but whenever the weather allowed it we went to see a lot of the friends we had made throughout the year. I have enjoyed the month a lot more than many of the others – even more! I feel like I am finally getting close to a lot of the villagers and I am beginning to feel sad about leaving so soon. Anyway, I'll leave it for this month.
All the best and thanks for reading once again,