Saturday, 31 August 2013

Goodbye Georgetown

Sidestepping a puddle that covers half the street, you are suddenly reminded that earlier in the day it was raining so hard, that you were soaked to the skin just crossing the road to get into a taxi. You wouldn't know otherwise, from the clear blue sky, the burning sun overhead. Sidestepping the puddle is easier said than done- the lack of any pavement pushes you into the path of minibuses that fly around the road, overtaking the rusted trucks, the horse drawn carts, the mopeds and the cyclists balancing huge tanks of water on their bike frames. 

Looking up past the iconic clock tower of Starbroek market, you notice the funnel of a ship, which reminds you that you are just metres away from the Atlantic Ocean. Another thing it is easy to forget. Georgetown does not thin out towards the sea, it doesn't even register its existence until it abruptly meets the narrow stone  wall that separates road from water, and just stops there. You could wander around the town for hours and not catch the slightest glimpse of the coast.

Ben and I walked back to the flat yesterday: past Giftland for soap; past the hardware store to pick up long boots; through the bustling, noisy market; coming out by the famous cathedral (highest wooden building in the world); then on to the post office and Umana Yana, the huge Amerindian hut; and finally to the sea wall which we walked almost the entire length of on our way to Cambellville, our district of Georgetown. The sun beat down on us the whole way, and we felt we deserved a cold coke from OMG (the cafe next to the flat) and a lie down in a hammock after that. 

We had been working at "School of the Nations", across the other side of town, helping to set up the library by filling up the shelves with box-fulls of books that had been donated from Canada. We were slightly jealous of the fact that they had more books than they could ever fit in their library, whilst we will be lucky to have just a handful of books in Chenapou, where we hope to be tomorrow.

Georgetown has been a fascinating experience, but as much as I have loved the places and people I've met here, I can't wait to get on that little plane tomorrow and fly over the rainforest, end up somewhere more remote than I've ever been before. I can guarantee there will not be an internet cafe like this one in Chenapou, so this is probably the last blog post for a while! I'll leave you with a couple of pictures. Remember you can see more photos if you click on the photo gallery link at the side of this page.
Breadfruit; fried on the left, boiled in the middle + sauces on the right

Umana Yana
The Seawall

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

First Glimpse of the Rainforest

Beyond the murky waters of the creek the trees begin to rise. The forest wall is thick with impenetrable vegetation, every leaf and shoot clawing for the precious sunlight, plants scrambling over each other, digging into each other with long, sharp thorns. The effect is a barrier, hiding the rainforest within, a forest that is one of the most pristine of its kind in the world. It stretches for hundreds of miles from where I stand. Behind that barrier, somewhere in that world of ants and vines, is my new home.

The forest allows just a few exciting glimpses- including a long trail of leaf cutter ants, scurrying with their loads up a tree in one direction and out of sight into the undergrowth in the other direction.

This creek is where we spent last Sunday, taking some time to swim and relax together before we all packed up and headed out to our projects.

Apart from us. Ben and I waved off the last two volunteers this morning, who set off across the wide waters of the Essequibo in a small boat, their cardboard box wobbling precariously at the front. Then back to the flat it was for us, to be greeted with the task of clearing up and cleaning the mess of 24 people. We found the largest frog I have ever seen in one of the bedrooms.

The last two days have brought rain. And nothing like the Scottish drizzle I'm used to. Proper rain in which you find yourself soaked to the skin after a few seconds, that pours of the roof in waterfalls and turns the driveway into a small lake. And puts a stop to the game of cricket we were playing.

Before the Rain
After the Rain

Friday, 23 August 2013


It was a strange feeling, watching the houses of Edinburgh shrink beneath me, disappear behind the clouds, knowing that it was the last time I'd see Scotland for a year. Three flights later, many hours later, many plastic cups and trays of plane food later, it was dark, save for the occasional flashes of a distant thunderstorm, and a few pinpricks of light. These pinpricks of light were the only trace of a whole country beneath me. Guyana, almost invisible by night.

Stepping off the plane felt like stepping into a bath. The warmth and humidity, even in the middle of the night, caught us all by surprise. We bundled into stuffy minibuses, winding open the windows and relishing in the breeze as we zoomed through the streets towards Georgetown. New, indescribable smells wafted in that breeze, whilst our eyes were glued to the houses flashing past. Amazing houses, all wooden, on stilts, and every one unique in design, decorated with elaborate patterns and colours.

I’ve been in the flat with thirteen other Project Trust volunteers since Sunday night, battling the cockroaches, the holes in the mosquito nets, the relentless heat and the heavy tropical rain. It’s not really so hard, we are cooked for by Rishon every day, fresh pineapples for breakfast and home-made rotis with dahl for dinner.

Our time here, when we are not shopping for our projects or attending training at the Ministry of Education, has been spent visiting the zoo, meeting the British High Commissioner and relaxing around the flat.

Most volunteers are heading off to the interior on Wednesday of next week, however the limited flights to Chenapou mean that Ben and I cannot leave Georgetown until a week on Sunday. This is slightly scary as the school term is supposed to begin the day after! Even so I’m looking forward greatly to getting out there, leaving the noises of the city for the peace and remoteness of the rainforest.