Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Kaieteur Falls and its Impact on the Patamona Race


This report investigates the ways in which the existence of Kaieteur Falls, Guyana’s most treasured natural wonder, has shaped the history, the beliefs, and the lifestyle of the people who found it first. It is based on discussions and observations in the village of Chenapou, where I lived from September 2013 to August 2014. As my primary school teaching project in the village progressed, it became apparent that the most strongly debated issues in the community were in some way linked to Kaieteur.

The fates of the people and the waterfall are inexorably entwined in a story of survival: of the old against the new; the powerful against the poor; and the ancestral, spiritual bond that links person to place.

As part of their commitment to project trust, every volunteer is asked to write a 'community study' on a topic of their choice. If you are interested in reading my full report, click the link below.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Home Again

Chenapou is a place without seconds or minutes, a place without appointments or deadlines. In Chenapou each day on the calendar is identical to the one before it- a question mark, a dawn bringing along any piece of work that happens to crop up, any trip that comes to mind.

The seasons pass and silently dictate the patterns of cutting, burning, planting and reaping out at the farms. The rains come and go, playing with the river, trying to catch the people out, but they’re always ready to go, when the time is right for fishing. Around them, the forest creeps up, wrapping itself around the village, but they’re always ready to cut it back and defend their land. When food runs short, they’re always ready to bake cassava bread and boil fresh buckets of cassiri. When they need a little money, they’re always ready to head into the mines and find some gold or diamond. And when everything is just fine, when food is plentiful, crafts are finished and farms are growing… they are ready to do absolutely nothing. Once their work is done, the days can drift by casually and contentedly.

Life in Chenapou has a purpose- survival.

I am now back in a world of distractions. I am back in a world where survival is no longer the goal, and we have to make up artificial aims in life, create problems for ourselves where there were none to begin with. Here, excess is more of a problem than shortage, and choosing what to do is more of a challenge than finding something to do.

Every second of our lives, if we are not working or asleep, we must be occupied somehow, watching this, listening to that, browsing those or chatting to them. There is no down-time, no empty space.
We are so busy being productive, but what are we producing? It all seems ridiculous to me now, the things we find to worry about and fill our time with, simply because surviving is far too easy a target. But I know this is my world, I couldn’t escape it forever.

After feeling the nip of a cold Scottish breeze on my face, closing the front door and finding myself back at home, it almost seemed like I had never left. Chenapou felt very, very far away.