The Upper Mazaruni Workshops in Kamarang

It is with excitment and joy and  that we took our 4th trip up to Kamarang to conduct the last of the workshops on Writing and Spelling to a group of committed Amerindian teachers who have travelled days to get there. The workshop was full, they arrived a day early and so I was able to help the schools update their School Improvement Plans before the start of the Literacy training.Over the last 9 months we have noticed the increase in daily flights to Kamarang , bringing goods for the community and for the gold miners who come into Kamarang to stock up. 

Apart from the enthusiasm and laughter of the teachers and their hard work we are staying in the heart of the most unexplored rainforest in the world. The photos  bear testimony to the remoteness and beauty of the forest and its rivers and waterfalls near to the Pakaraima Mountains and the Guiana Shield. 
It is true of course that gold mining does cause deforestation in areas but considering serious goldmining has been practiced since 1849 only 4% of theis rainforest ( the size of England) has been destroyed. Nevertheless with the price of gold now at over $1100 US per troy ounce there are more unregistered small and medium mining operations going on all over region 7 and region 8  than ever before. (hence the increase in flights to supply Kamarang). It is why the Day of Action in Bartica on 1st February was so effective because the miners did acknowledged that they do have to be regulated more to increase the government revenue that is needed to improve the infrastructure in the back dam BUT not at the xpense of a 6 months shut down as they wait for their new licences to mine. Wonder at the beauty of this extraordinary country and know why we are going to miss this place dearly.


This is is the sharp end of the hot air abour climate change and Low Carbon Development Strategy

On 12th December 2007 the Honorable Robert Persaud , the Guyanese Minister of Agriculture sat down with  Junior Minister Pat Woolgas ( Department  for International Development ) in Bali to discuss the handing over of the Guyanese rainforest ( the size of England ) to the British government for preservation in return for 'carbon credits'.He was acting on behalf of the President of Guyana Bharat Jagdeo. It was headline news in Britiain just before we left for Bartica and I became excited by the Reduction In Deforesrtation and Degredation of forests REDD) policy.
Two years and one month later the Honourable Robert Paersaud ( still Minister of Agriculture and now acting Prime Minister when the PM is out of the country) and the Honourable Robeson Benn Minister responsible for Mining came to Bartica to one of our schools on Saturday 30th January to meet with gold miners to try to cancel a proposed day of action. The Day of Action ( or inaction ...the call was to shut down Bartica for Monday 1st February) was called by a group of gold miners in Bartica becaus of impending new regulations which appeared to suspend mining operations for small and medium sized mining operations for up to 6 monhs as they applied for new mining permits. The Saturday meeting came as a result of a meeting the previous  Wednesday 27th January which  was attended by about 500 persons. Non political in flavour it outlined the government's intention to impose new mining regulations and indicated the strong feelings that Barticians had ..No wonder...The bulk of activity in the town depends on the money coming in from gold mining and on Monday the town shut down.
The protest march on Monday was trouble free, well organised , non political and bright yellow...the colour of support.Support came from the riverain communities as well as Linden and Mahdia, towns that depend on mining of one sort or another. Amazingly the 6 o'clock news on the government controlled channel showed no footage of the action and tried to portray the day as politically inspired by the opposition party. I saw no one shred of evidence for this view.The schools had few pupils attend and everyone in the town either joined the march around the town or stood by the side and gave their support. l

Christmas In Mississauga, Near Toronto

From the global warmth of the tropics we decided in our infinite wisdom to fly North to spend Christmas with Trudy's brother and his family. They live just outside Torornto and told us casually as we arrived at the airport that it wasn't as cold as usual for the time of year. The temperature at the time was - 4C. They had brought warm clothes for us,so we clambered into a heated Lexus cruiser and made for the triple glazed draft proof splendour of their spacious house bedecked with Christmas cheer outside.It even had a bar in the basement which was nice.. and a jolly time was had by all throughout the festive season...

Baganara Just Before Christmas

 Just before Christmas we took a trip across the river to the island of Baganara which is the most expensive resort in the country. We went for the day with some friends. Just to say that the soothing feel of luxury oozed gently across the island all day. The weather was perfect, the swimming excellent, the beach as good as the beaches in Barbados and the company convivial. Not what you might expect a volunteer to be able to afford or contemplate doing, but for £15 it was worth it. We even played cricked and my back foot play needs brushing up even though the hands were high and well placed!!! (my judgement!)
. My friend Asim and I enjoy a restful moment on the beach whilst Trudy has her photo taken with her new friend Brad,  an American volunteer teacher from Dallas Texas , who is a great guy doing good work in the local secondary school.
The island is alive with over 160 species of birds and on our visit we saw a number of these species including 3 species of hummingbirds.All this and we were the only tourists on the island that day. There has to be some way of developing the eco-tourism in Guyana 

Kartabo's Place In Guyanese History.

Kyk Over-Al is  the oldest remaining ruins (c 1617) of colonial occupation in Guyana. A Dutch fort it was built on an island where the Mazaruni joins the Essequibo just South of Bartica and is in sight of the Cuyuni River. Apparently the Dutch the coastland area at that time as unfertile and preferred to trade with the Amerinidain tribes in the area ( mainly Arawaks and Caribs) . Nevertheless they established sugar plantations in Kartabo, where the Cuyuni joins the Mazaruni and used the local Indians as slaves.

There are few reamins of the houses and jetty in Kartabo but you can collect 17th century Dutch tiles on the beach and view the overgrown grave of a Dutch soldier in the grounds of the Primary school.Sugar growing quickly transferred to the coast later on but this tiny settlement of Kartabo was pivotal in the early cololnisation of the country.
It still has something to shout about...It has a 20 kilometres crater on Mars named after it. This was done in 1976 and is the only place in Guyana to have that honour...I wonder how many residents know about this....                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Diaspora Projects and Relaxing on the Mazaruni and Essequibo Rivers

A significant part of our work over the last couple of years is developing the links with short term Guyanese volunteers who now live in Canada and want to use their skills in a worthwhile manner. Bharat Mathoo ( see below) has been a school principal and head of Science in Torornto schools and he brings both teaching and administrative experience and because this is the third time we have met and worked with each other we were able to use his skills in a most effective way...For the first time in many moons primary school pupils visited their secondary school to be taught science in the brand new science lab at Three Miles Secondary School...

We set up the lesson as a ferensic laborartory with the pupils as ferensic scientists solving a crime using chemical indicatos to detect sugar and starch...simple enough you may say but it enables Bharat to embed the scientific method into the minds of the teachers who came with the group or took part in the workshop. Bharat buit strong links with the chairman of the region and in this way he gathered together some important chemicals.He also made contact with the National Centre for Educational Research and Development (NCERD) and trained up a handful of primary school teachers.

Meanwhile his colleague Pete Jailall a primary school teacher and writer/poet worked with teachers on our literacy professional development course and their pupils at the Learning Resources centre. These sessions also involved trudy and they worked very well. Here the teachers saw the literacy hour in action with plenty of interactive teaching and pace and fun.

Peter also lauched a new book o 17 poems for children called 'Our World' at the national Cultural Centre no less and I was very touched to be asked to introduce Peter. There were other writers there including Ian McDonald whose volume of poetry 'Essequibo' written back in 1992 is of particular note.Here is the mighty Essequibo at sunset at the Sharima crossing ...a marvellous site...We have not made much fuss about the rivers here but they are something else Indeed we discovered a sea shanty called 'Essequibo' sung by Martyn Simpson and the lyrics are here below..

The Essequibo River

Oh the Essequibo River
is the king of rivers all
Oh the Essequibo River
is the king of rivers all

Somebody oh Johnny Somebody oh
Buddy ta na na we are somebody oh
Somebody oh Johnny, somebody oh
Buddy ta na na we are somebody oh

The Essequibo bo'sun
is the king of bo'suns all
Buddy ta na na we are somebody oh

The Essequibo sailor
is the king of sailors all
Buddy ta na na we are somebody oh

The Essequibo captain
is the king of captains all
Buddy ta na na we are somebody oh

The Essequibo Judy
is the queen of Judies all
Buddy ta na na we are somebody oh

The Essequibo River
is the king of rivers all
The Essequibo River
is the king of rivers all

The othe photo is of the Mazaruni River just before it joins up with the Essequibo and it too is a a marvellous stretch of water that has its source in the Guiana Shield highlands close to the Venezuelan and Brazillian border.
I shall miss these rivers badly when I leave.

Kaiteur Overland

All you computer geeks out there should check out the Kaiteur Falls on Google...the single biggest single drop falls that runs all year in the world (the Angel Falls in Venezuela is bigger but dries up for some time in the year)..Geologists reckon that the Falls has been like this for 250,000 years , that the rocks below are deadly slippery and that only a handful of people have abseiled to the bottom. It took us from Monday to Thursday afternoon to travel by minibus, a 4 x4, a river ferry journey three boat journeys three treks through the rainforest and a 1300 foot climb in 100% humidy at 34 Centigrade carrying rucksacs to get to the top.This was a trip and a half with 10 of our collegues and an Amerindian family who accompanied us throughout. It is rare these days to go somewhere so remote where very few people live and there are fewer tourists.It is even rarer for OAPs to get there like this.

The forest is undisturbed and although all rainforests hold within themselves all manner of flora and fauna ( the pictures are only a small sample) the place is a curiously friendly one to explore. Others more experienced than I have commented on this characteristic of the Guyanese Rainforest in comparison with the hostile flora of the Borneo, Indonesian and Madagascan forests, despite the Guyanese one being the least explored!
Trudy proved to herself that she is fitter than most people whatever age by getting to the top but I have never sweated so much in doing so...It was like being put in a bath before the climb and then climbingbut it was not as arduous as the Roirima trip last year. The Amerindian family especially the youngsters Roo ( a delightful 15 year old girl)David and George and their cousin Reuben made light work of it...bmy goodness they are fit and strong people...epitomised by the granny of the family who climbed with her babay grandson on her back in a homemade sling. We slept in hammocks and ate well if a little monotonously but the company was good and we had many laughs along the way. Abi's brother Matt had only been in the country a week and he was great, Jason typically made light of a troublesome toe and Chris our Peace Corp buddy from Bartica coped well with a nastly cut on the elbow..Well done Michelle for geting the whole thing organised..