Digital Guyana

Posts Tagged ‘Manatees

Now I’m back in England (and in an office with an incredible broadband connection) I’m able to upload some of the video that I took while out in Guyana.

I’ve got interviews with some of the other guys to come. In the meantime, here’s some footage of us (mainly Pontus here) feeding the manatees in the Georgetown National Park:

For more info read Pontus’s earlier post about the manatees.

The West Indian Manatee, is the largest surviving member of the Sirenia mammal order which also includes Dugongs and Sea Cows. They live in the West Indies, normally in shallow coastal areas, but sometimes in rivers and estuaries.

Manatees grow up to 3 metres in length and weigh between 400 and 600kg. Full grown ones eat up to 30kg of sea grasses and plants every day.

The West Indian Manatee is surprisingly agile in water, and individuals have been seen doing rolls, somersaults, and even swimming upside-down. Manatees are not territorial and do not have complex predator avoidance behavior, as they have evolved in areas without natural predators.

You might be wondering where I am going with all this?

Well, a couple of days ago we went to the manatee pond in Georgetown’s central park. We’d heard that people sometimes fed the manatees, so I threw some grass into the pond. Soon we had about 10 manatees eating out of our hands!

Here are some pictures:

Apparently, the ‘mermaid myth’ originally comes from ancient Greece, where sailors saw manatees and thought that they were beautiful women. This is something that keeps cropping up through history. Sailors get pretty desperate after months at sea, I guess.

Christopher Columbus seems to have had better sense. He mentioned that ‘mermaids’ had been sighted several times on his trip to the new world, but noted in his log that these mermaids were not quite as beautiful as the sailors had told him.

I guess he didn’t like bald, fat girls with wrinkly skin and large moustaches.

Yesterday was the first day on the ‘Web Skills’ part of the ‘Web Skills Guyana’ programme. The flash course has now ended at Merundoi, sadly, though fortunately I will be seeing the Merundoi team today as Hugh and I have been assigned their group. With these guys I could not have asked for a better group of students. Their enthusiasm to learn has been great and they really impressed me with all the progress they made. Course materials will be uploaded to a wiki in good time.

Teaching

Me teaching

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Ayana and Shaheed at work

Teaching out here is a great experience. The night we finished the course Wayne, one of staff at Merundoi, mentioned that this is probably the first time that animation has ever been taught in Guyana. The enormity of that statement is still sinking in. I suddenly realise that this is more than just a free holiday and it feels as if I might be affecting at least the start of making a real difference out here. I also understand why when people come out here they stay for years; the minimum amount of time I’ve heard of a ‘true’ volunteer out here has been twelve months. So much has been achieved by us out here all ready, but it’s only a taster of what can be done if the programme were to be extended. Especially since the animation course has been so short it feels like such a shame to leave it there. Although I was teaching the representative from the local university too, Denise, I think without having some kind of follow up for my course it’s assimilation into the curriculum may be quite difficult.

Kojo, Kiki and Richard at work

Kojo, Kiki and Richard at work

Having information that I have prepared and taught entering the national curriculum of Guyana is incredible. Sustainability as I have mentioned may be a slight issue, but nothing more could have been expected from a four day animation course and a lot of people out here are treating it as a pilot scheme.

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Everybody at Merundoi

In other news Hugh and I went to a local club in a secondary school where they played a mixture of cheesy 70’s and 80’s music like Madonna – touched for the very first time, an inordinate amount of Michael Jackson and a whole lot of soca music. The age range was about 15-50 and was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced out here. I also patted a manitee on the snout and had a Lariam-induced dream about astral projection.