-these are my views, not those of Project Trust-

Sunday, 17 November 2013

More Athletics, Chocolate and Horses

So, having previously explained how I was happy to be getting to the end of my time getting up for 05:30, I then proceeded to travel to Katoonarib for the Inter-Schools Athletics. As was quite clearly necessary, we got up at 04:00 each morning there for three days. At the end of the competition, Macushi Primary School came fourth (I think, don't hold me to it), although there was never really any competition - Sand Creek, the winning school, blew everyone away. Only 7 out of the 40 athletes that we took won their races, and would go onto Aishalton for the Inter-Branch Athletics.

The Inter-Branch Athletics held in Aishalton happened immediately after the Inter-Schools; so immediately that Neal (a volunteer from Sand Creek) and I got up at 03:00 the next day, to travel south down to Aishalton as we were going as staff members -  Neal as assistant coach and myself as scorer. It was a fantastic week (28th October - 2nd November) down in Aishalton, particularly because Pete, Chester and Sara were there, and Johnnie (also from Sand Creek) came down down to join us at the end. It was helped by the fact that we were able to buy a beer other than banks - Guinness. Admittedly, it was Guinness Foreign Extra, but that's not the point. Oh, and South Central (our area of the Rupununi) came second by just 10 points.

The next Monday we had the day off school, so Steven and I went into Lethem to buy some essentials. The essentials being new hammocks and Cadbury's Dairy Milk. My new hammock is voLUMINOUS (this would make more sense if you could see a picture of it, but the laptops here all have viruses, so I'm not going to plus my camera in, sorry), and you can only truly appreciate chocolate when you've been without for so long. Getting back from Lethem afterward proved to be interesting. In the morning, we had got there by hitching a ride in the back of a 4x4 that was passing through Shulinab, so had no plans for returning. After close to two hours of wondering around, trying to sort out a way back, we got a lift after telling the people at the gas station to let any vehicles know we needed a lift. Someone drove us to St. Ignatius, just outside Lethem, before his father then took us onto Shulinab.

The next weekend, we had absolutely no plans. So in true Guyanese style, we ended up having a fantastic time. Johnnie and Neal from Sand Creek came over on the Saturday, and on the Sunday we rode horses for the first time. The latter led, unsurprisingly, to rather less than comfortable backsides for the next couple of days (the saddles here are remarkably thinner and less padded than what you might find in the UK), but it was just brilliant. The horses are also a lot wilder than your average riding horse. Which made things interesting. Neither of us fell off, but the feeling you get when galloping through the savannah is unrivalled (especially because it's less painful than trotting). With any luck, we'll be getting out on horses a lot more often than we have done so far.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Athletics, Hammocks and Snakes

For the past week, we have been preparing those students who will be competing at the Inter-Schools Athletics in Katoonarib on the 25th and 26th of October. That on its own doesn't sound too much of a chore, but I'm sure it will do once you find out that every day for the past week we have been getting up at 05:20 as practice begins at 05:30. We then continue until 07:30 (in reality it's normally about 07:00 - the Amerindians have a different sense of timing than we do in the UK). Being up at this time does have a slight advantage - it's relatively cool, so we're (Steven and I) not suffering continuously for once, at least for a short period of time. From Monday to Friday we then had practice sessions for the rest of the day as follows:

09:30 - 11:30
12:15 - 14:00
16:00 - 18:00

So hopefully, our students who are competing will do well, although they will be against students from secondary schools, where they have a much bigger selection of potential athletes to choose from.

As a result of this timetable, two things have occurred. 1) Very little teaching, and 2) A lot of time has been spent lying in hammocks under our benab, or liming and gaffing as the Guyanese call it. For those of you not up to speed with the lingo, liming is lying in a hammock and not doing anything for long periods of time, whilst gaffing is the same but with talking involved. This has helped me to become better at sleeping in a hammock, so I am now having very few problems at night. They now only occur if I set my hammock too high and can't be bothered to get up to adjust it, so suffer for the whole night as a result.

Within the past month, Steven and I have both had unwelcome visitors in our shoes. The House Laboria (I think that's the correct spelling, but the internet here is so slow that it would take forever to check) is apparently venomous, but depending on who we talk to it may also very well not be. Either way, it's not particularly pleasant to find a snake in your shoe, so we're now in the habit of shaking them upside down to check BEFORE we put them on.

Two days ago, I completed the first sixth of my year here in Guyana. Given that I'm likely to be leaving before the 18th of August next year, the past two months are actually slightly more than a sixth of my total time in South America (or the Caribbean if you're being pedantic), and time has flown. At times that's a good thing, at others it's not. However, there's not much I can do about it apart from enjoy myself and have a brilliant time.

-I'll try to add some pictures in the near future-

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A bit about everything

The past three weeks of teaching have shown me that I will not be (and never had any intention of) pursuing a career as a teacher. Not that anything has gone terribly wrong (yet), but it's just not for me. However, it's not too bad. I'm teaching Grade 9, the majority of whom are aged 13 or 14, which is the oldest grade in the school. The pressure is on, as they have national exams at the end of the year in the four core subjects - English (my favourite), Science, Maths and Social Studies. 'Take each day as it comes' is some of the best advice I've ever received. As each day passes, the next one is the most important. Not the day next August when I'll return home (which has been on my mind a lot), not the last day of the current term and not the coming Friday. Unless, of course, it's Thursday. Teaching is made easier by the fact that I teach outside in the shade underneath the mango trees. The school has a zinc roof, so is intolerably hot from around 9.00 every morning. The school day begins at 8.30 and ends at 2 in the afternoon, with lunch break between 11.30 and 12.00. This is also the time when Steven and I get fed at the Hot Meals, which is wonderful - we are guaranteed one proper meal each day.

As wonderful as sleeping in hammocks may sound, it's really not. I am still getting used to it, and think I may have finally adjusted my hammock to the correct height. Sleeping in a hammock requires a certain way of lying at an angle across it on your back, and when I'm used to sleeping on my front and side, this has led to some nights with very little sleep. We're living in a traditional mud brick house with external plumbing.

The front room in our house, taken from the front door.

Our house and benab
September here is Amerindian Heritage Month. This has meant that teaching time has been partially reduced due to the celebrations. On Tuesday 10th we had the whole day off, as we were transported to Merriwau, a satellite village of Shulinab around 3-4 miles east. The vehicle takes as many as possible - there was the driver and myself, 16 grade nines, the grade eights and one grade four in and on the 4x4. As you can imagine, most people don't wear seatbelts. The celebrations consisted of a number of competitions - kari drinking, cotton spinning and cassava bread making to name but a few. This lasted the whole day. The winner from each competition was selected to represent Shulinab at the South Central Heritage (our area of the Rupununi). This took place one week later at Potarinau, a village 5 miles south. We walked after school one day, leaving at 12. on our way there, we got completely soaked by rain, but then proceeded to go swimming in the Sawariwau River in our shorts anyway. The Heritage celebrations at Potarinau were similar to those at Shulinab, but with less drunk Amerindian men. We eventually got home at 11.30, after a ride on the back of the village 4x4.
The Toushau (village captain) and myself at the Heritage celebrations in Merriwau

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Quick update...

First of all, I'd like to apologise for not posting anything since arriving in Guyana - it's been a whirlwind. The 10 days in Georgetown, then down to Shulinab and two weeks of teaching have, for the most part, passed in a flash.

I'm unsure what to post right now; I wish I had posted in Georgetown about my time there, but it never happened. Since arriving in Shulinab I've lived in two separate house, struggled to sleep in a hammock and started to get used to teaching. It's been a complete rollercoaster of emotions since leaving home. A number of times I wish that I'd never come, whilst at others I've been having the time of my life.

This post was just a quick update for so far. Next weekend I'll try to do a proper post about what I've done so far. I fear, however, that there may be a lack of photos as the internet is so slow!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Finally leaving!

So, tomorrow I am leaving the UK for Guyana to  begin my year as a teacher. It's been quite a journey as I'm sure you've been able to tell by reading my blog over the past 8 months. The times spent on Coll, writing (literally) hundreds of letters and running fundraising events have been mentally draining, and although I can't pretend to have enjoyed every minute of it, it's all been important in helping me on my way and bringing about this moment - my last night in England for a year. The next time I sleep in my bed at home again will most likely be the 17th August 2014. 

It's an odd feeling as you spend your last 24 hours at home as you realise that everything you've always taken for granted is about to fly out of the window, and that you'll no longer be a simple text message away from everyone. From the moment I leave Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, for Shulinab in around 10 days from now, the best form of contact will be letter-writing, and letters aren't guaranteed to arrive at all. So you can probably understand that I'm currently feeling fairly apprehensive, although my overwhelming emotion is one of excitement.

My journey began with a talk from a Project Trust Returned Volunteer in school last September. Since then, many people have helped me and supported me along the way. Without them, I highly doubt that I would have been able to reach this point so successfully. First and foremost are my parents, who were invaluable at my fundraising events, as well as being my primary support. A massive thank you to all my friends, and everyone who came to an event and donated in one way or another.  The trust funds that donated money have enabled me to raise all the money - £5,400 initially appears to be a mountain of money to raise, but with their help it was possible. I won't list them on here as Project Trust ask us not to, so that future volunteers can find their own!

If anyone wants to write to me during the year (which would be hugely appreciated), I have put my contact details on facebook, or you can contact my parents.

Tomorrow I leave for Guyana, and begin what will be the most incredible year of my life.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Training and Leaving Soon!

A couple of day ago I got back from training on Coll. It was absolutely knackering, but great fun. There were, in total, around 50 volunteers on training. 24 of those are going to Guyana, the other were split between Ghana and Namibia. Project Trust training is essentially a 5 day crash course in teaching, the many readily available illnesses and health problems (think along the lines of malaria, dengue, jiggers - google it - and anything else you care to imagine) and some more information on our countries and individual projects.

Due to the Isle of Coll being in the middle of nowhere I had to get up at 4.30 to catch a 7 o'clock flight up to Glasgow the day before training began so I could get the 5.45 (IN THE MORNING) ferry to Coll from Oban on the 14th. Staying in the hostel overnight beforehand with everyone else was brilliant, as it was here that I met the majority of the other Guyana volunteers.

The days spent in the Hebridean Centre (Project Trust's base) consisted of getting up at 7.30 each day before starting our sessions at 9.00, and staying up till at least 11.00 most nights planning a lesson or 'gaffing'. The ceilidh on the last night was just as much fun as it was on selection, and this time it had the advantage of both a live band and the bar being open, so everyone had a fantastic time.

Those 5 days have made me both much more excited and apprehensive of what I have let myself in for, although I have little time for either before I leave on August 18th. 

As well as meeting all the Guyana volunteers I met Steven, my partner. He's fourth from the right in the photo below. He's a lovely guy, and I can't wait to live with him for a year!

Bring on Guyana.

The 2013/14 Guyana volunteers with Desk Officer Chris (front left)
and Doug, the previous Guyana Desk Officer

Monday, 6 May 2013

My Project!

On Wednesday this week (the 1st of May) I recieved the details of my project! I've already told a few people a little bit, but here's the information.

My partner (who I meet on training in July) and I will be in a village called Shulinab, which is situated in the Upper Takutu - Upper Esequibo region of Guyana, otherwise known as Region 9. I hope that's helpful, as I'm sure everyone has a thorough knowledge of the geography of Guyana...... The village is just by the Kanuku mountains, and is the only Macushi village in the south Rupununi. 

I will be teaching in the local primary school, which is as much detail as I have about that right now.

My house, in typical Amerindian style, will be built from mud-bricks and have a roof made from leaves. Apparently the house is 'clean, airy and comfortable' - let's hope so! There isn't running water but I will have electricity (although limited, and what there is comes from a solar panel) and definitely no internet, so expect intermittent updates on here. In the compound there is a long-drop toilet and wash hut, as well as a benab (look it up) where I can hang my hammock.

I hope that 'sets the scene' as to where I'll be nicely - better than university halls anyway.

A picture I took from google of the road leading into Shulinab, or that's what it said it was anyway

Monday, 22 April 2013

Wine Tasting

On Friday evening (the 19th) I/my parents/my uncle ran a wine tasting at my old primary school, which was a huge success. A massive thank you to my uncle Tim for taking the time out of his evening to help with this (for those of you who don't know, which is probably pretty much everyone who didn't go, he's chief buyer for The Wine Society, so knew what he was talking about).

The tasting was 'Old World vs New World' - a comparison of 8 wines, done in pairs and served by my parents, Seamus (thanks for agreeing to help out) and I. No prizes for guessing who served 'New World' wines and who served 'Old World' wines. Once the wine tasting was complete there was bread and wine and cheese and more wine and more cheese.... If anyone wants any cheese then let me know, there's plenty left. 

I hope everyone who came had a fantastic time, and once again thank you very much to Tim.

Monday, 4 March 2013

More fundraising

Last Friday (1st March) I ran a murder mystery with a three course meal for 18 of my friends, raising £275 towards my total! It was great fun, even if it entailed much more planning than I had  originally presumed there would be. As the 'host', or 'events manager' I was in charge of the evening, and when you've got people trying to kill each other (rock-paper-scissors style, obviously) in three different rooms at once and a proposal then things can disintegrate slightly, but I just about managed to stay in control! In the end only one person died... I have since had requests to repeat the evening every weekend, but this (extremely) unlikely to happen.

Anyway, this, along with a £250 grant from a school fund, brings my total to nearly £2,500 - still a long way short of the total of £5,400. Although I won't meet Project Trust's deadline of £3000 by Easter, I have a wine tasting planned that will take me well past that amount some time in April.

Oh, and you might have noticed how much I like using brackets.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

You can help!

I've just set up an account at www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/thomassykes so that you can all help me raise money! Whenever you do any online shopping you can do it via this website, and the company that you buy from will donate a percentage of your payment to me. It incurs no extra cost for you, and will help me to raise the £5,400 that I need!

The cause that you enter to support is 'Voluntary teaching in Guyana with Project Trust - Thomas Sykes'. 

If you make it your homepage you'll remember whenever you go online to shop.....

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Another step along the way

Around a week ago I found out my training dates for my year away; the 10th - 15th of July. Although it was promised that this would be an intensive and demanding few days, I am hugely looking forward to going back to Coll and Project Trust's Hebridean Centre. I was also recently sent a list of inoculations that Project Trust requires all their volunteers to have:
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
I've already started on these, with hepatitis A and typhoid, as well as my first (of three!) for hepatitis B done last week.... And then I'll need three for rabies. It also transpired that (according to the doctors' records) I might have missed a couple of jabs for polio and tetanus when I was younger. Blame the parents. Oh, and according to the doctor I need yellow fever jabs. Whoopee.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Thank You!!

Thank you very much to everyone who come to my breakfast today and donated! It was great fun,and raised an outstanding total of £827, which is absolutely fantastic! I can't thank everyone enough, and I'm really pleased to make such a brilliant start.

Thank you, you're all beautiful!