Digital Guyana

Posts Tagged ‘Inebriation

Black water. Also note the mosquito bites on Chriss feet

I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about water.

Guyana is known as ‘the land of many waters’, indeed water out here is slightly more prevalent than back in the UK. It is also more of a national resource. For a start the tap water is not safe to drink. In fact we’ve been highly advised against using it for brushing our teeth. This means that there are a huge amount of water butts constantly moving around Georgetown. You only need to glance into one of the many roadside ditches or get close enough to smell one to comprehend why. They appear to be a breeding ground for mosquitos and I’ve heard the some people have even seen the odd dead dog in them.

A few days a go we saw a dead dog on the beach, mercifully a photo was not taken. It was lying on its side, peacefully looking out to sea. ‘How cute’ I thought, ‘the dog’s enjoying the sunset.’ Then I noticed it wasn’t breathing. As some consolation it died peacefully. Looking out to sea is an odd phenomenon here. When you think of the Caribbean, crystal clear blue water inevitably follows, which makes cresting the summit of the sea wall a slightly disappointing experience.

Not my photo, will take an alternative one soon.

Not my photo, will take an alternative one soon.

First impressions might lead you to think that the photo was taken through a brown filter, but I assure you that this is its true pigment. Brown sea water could easily be a factor in why the tourism trade is underdeveloped here. Going for a paddle doesn’t feel like the most appealing thing I’ve ever considered, though we may well have to try it some day before leaving. I’m going to have to try very hard to not think about standing on that poor dog’s skull.

The sea and river water out here is brown due to the muddy sediment it contains and is nowhere near as dirty as it looks. As Hugh mentioned before we went out to arrow point which rests on the bank of one of Guyana’s many ‘black water’ creeks. Having been used to seeing the rolling brown sea stretch for miles into the distance, the idea of black water sounded even less enticing. Black water, it turns out, really is black.

The reason for this (so I’m told) is because of a large amount of tannin in the water from the surrounding forest. The upshot of all this is an experience akin to swimming around in a giant cup of cold black tea.

The water is drinkable and feels fantastic to swim in, if you can get over the slightly disconcerting fact that you can’t see anything. This becomes a more prominent disadvantage when you realize that caiman crocodiles take residence in that same water. It also undulates between startlingly cold to pleasantly warm over traveling a couple of feet. It’s an incredible experience and if you ever have the opportunity I highly advise the reader to give it a try.

At a slight tangent, I believe the local alcohol deserves a quick mention… Well, it is a sort of liquid so it kind of works. Beer here is generally under a pound ($300) in the local shops, and around or just over in a club. Wine is about six pounds a bottle ($2,000), but for stuff that is surprisingly good. Rum, however, is about two pounds ($600) a litre which is absolutely incredible, especially since it tastes fantastic as well. For nearly three pounds and a death wish you can also get hold of a litre of high wine. At 69% alcohol it’s about the strongest bottled spirit I’ve ever encountered and tastes like it too.

The Gaffen cocktail of choice out here would be a ‘Pirate’s Bloody Revenge’, which is easy to remember; one measure of rum to one measure of cranberry juice. Enjoy.

Hugh will include a longer post about the guitar we have bought out here. However, whilst we’re on the subject of water I thought it’d be appropriate to say that at a couple of the VSO gatherings we’ve been to I’ve been feeling increasingly like I’m turning into this guy.

We sadly had to say goodbye to one our team members on Friday. Pontus, who was only able to participate in the project for two weeks, is now back in London and his job with Futurebuilders.

Before he caught a bit of a kip on Friday night (his taxi pickup to the airport was at 2.30am) we had a few drinks and an unfeasibly large amount of food at a Brazilian restaurant in downtown Georgetown. At said eaterie (we’re not sure if the Brazilian restaurant is its actual name but that’s what everyone calls it) you can either pay 2,500 Guyanese Dollars (about £7.50) for an all you can eat barbeque buffet or pay by the weight. Unsurprisingly, the place is a hit with local volunteers looking to stock up on cheap (and light) veg. The caipirinhas ain’t bad either.

On Saturday, Chris, Matt and me and a dozen or so VSO volunteers travelled to the frontier town of Bartica on the Essequibo River for VSO-er Derek’s 60th birthday party. Derek and his wife Trudie, who also works for the charity in Bartica, had rented out a huge house owned by a logging company on the banks of the river. We shared the building with a nice mix of friendly local volunteers, colourful Barticans and eccentric ex pats, and, all greased by Carib lager and Five Year Eldorado rum, lazed by the pool and the river before dancing into the wee hours.

Swimming pool at large house in Bartica

A memorably fun time was had by all – even if it did feel slightly wrong partying in a former slave house on Emancipation Day with a group of mostly white people. And on the speedboat leg of the journey there and back we passed Eddy Grant’s pallacial residence on his private island – a highlight of the whole trip so far for me!

Teaching as a threesome on Monday felt a little bit strange. But with two of us leading and one of us floating between the two school groups things went really well. Sadly, the local IT technician we’d lined up to help support the last two weeks of workshops now has other work commitments, but if today is anything to go by we should be absolutely fine.

Expect to see this week’s course outlines (Further Blogging and Content and Design Skills) posted in the coming days by Chris and me.

Greetings, I’m Matt Gaffen and here’s my introduction.

I’m afraid a picture isn’t available at this juncture, but I’m sure you’ll catch sight of me at some point soon. Here’s the face of some kind of frog person I drew before coming out here instead;

Ribbit

I caught wind of this project through Resonance FM (London’s first art radio station, don’tcha know?) at which I volunteer doing a variety of small jobs to help keep the station running. An e-mail from the station mentioned this fantastic opportunity teaching web design and animation in Guyana. I had experience in both fields and thus replied to it right away.

I am the animation specialist of this course and have come out a week early with Hugh (the our teams’ fourth member) in order to teach a concentrated four-day ‘slab’ course in Adobe Flash (animation software). More details to follow

As for who I am and what I do; I’m an art student studying at Chelsea College of Art and Design. My degree is in Graphic Design Communication. I’ve been using flash for about five or six years and have a fair amount of experience animating exclusively on personal projects.

I’ve been out in Guyana now for nearly a week with Hugh and am having a great time, having got over the mosquito bites and spouting blood from my nose at every opportunity. Most of the locals are friendly and one of my students has just introduced me to Ultimate Frizbee, which in case you didn’t know is just about the best team sport. Ever.

After being worried a little about course expectations on Monday at Merundoi, the first day went swimmingly well. The students are all engaging with the material, being creative with it and learning the concepts at a fairly impressive pace. Above all they seem happy and some students are actively showing a lot of excitement, so I believe that they will take what they’ve learned further. It has been a really exciting week with a group who could not have been more of a pleasure to teach in any way. To summarize, I feel very satisfied with the work today and with any luck the course will proceed at a similar speed and level of quality.

It’s quite odd being an art student and suddenly being in my tutors’ position. By no means is it not enjoyable though, in fact it sells teaching to me a bit.

I have brought two types of malaria medication; Lariam and Doxy. I was asked to bring Doxy in addition to Lariam, which I’d already started at the time, because of it’s incredible side effects which could possibly include hallucinations and a desire to kill oneself! I am still on Lariam, but apart from some enjoyable, vaguely psychedelic dreams I am experiencing no side affects.

One day left of the course now, I shall provide some more details some time tomorrow when it’s all over.

Going to the sidewalk café tonight to listen to live jazz. Hopefully will get at least slightly drunk for the second night running. Am starting to grow a real appreciation for the local rum.

You can check out my personal blog at http://www.mattsdeadcat.blogspot.com. Expect to see most of this copy-pasted there soon.

G