Saturday, October 24, 2009

Travel Diary - Photos

My final update of photos - I have lots more, but they're mostly more of the same. Enjoy.

Travel Diary - Day Fifty Two

Day Fifty Two – Homeward Stretch
Tuesday 20 Oct 09

Got up and had a shower and then went down for breakfast. This was much more of a breakfast that I had expected. There was a whole buffet of food ranging from cereals to preserved fruit, fresh fruit (nothing like Guyana), croissants, bread, cheese, ham, eggs, and a pile of other stuff that I didn’t really take great note of. I grabbed a few things and ate without a lot of enthusiasm. It was all very nice, but in my head I was already on my way home and the food was just a way station. Went back up to my room and finished packing (almost, more on that later), then went down and checked out and put my bags in storage while I went out.

The first task of the day was to find a stationery shop where I could get a container to put my portrait into so it wasn’t damaged on the trip home. I became rather good at miming what I wanted until a gentleman came and told me the name of what I wanted. Unfortunately I couldn’t understand him or catch the word, so it was back to miming. Eventually I found a place that sold what I wanted and I was a happy chappie. From there I just went for an extended walk and eventually ended up on the main drag. I found a nice spot facing the giant obelisk that commemorates Argentina’s independence and sat in the sunshine watching the people walk past and the traffic drive by, surprised at my sadness at leaving Guyana. I must have sat there for a good couple of hours before meandering my way back to the hotel where I ordered tenderloin for lunch, another good choice I have to say. It helped that my appetite had returned a little.

And then I became a giant blob, sitting in a chair in the lobby, writing and chatting with people on facebook. I just sat and chatted with one, two or three people at a time for several hours. I still can’t believe I sat still for so long, but I’m not sure I was really all there for most of the time – too tired to really care. Finally I collect my bags and asked the hotel to order me a taxi for the airport. That finally arrived, just as well I wasn’t in a hurry!! and I was off. The driver didn’t speak any English and after we had tried to communicate for a while we both lapsed into silence. The trip was uneventful and it was as I was walking into the airport that I suddenly realised that I had left my nice new Guyana shirt hanging in the wardrobe in my hotel room. I was too early to check in so I went in search of information so I could ring the hotel. After a false start giving the lady the wrong hotel name, I managed to get a phone number and set about organising to get my shirt back. It was an interesting exercise attempting to explain everything to someone who had only broken English – I am so going to learn Spanish next time I come here! Eventually I managed to get sufficient information across that he was able to email me details, and a day later they had found my shirt and were organising to mail it home to NZ. I was incredibly relieved at that little victory and felt much better as I settled in to wait for check-in time. While I was waiting I went and got changed for the trip home, cleaned my teeth and generally spruced up a little – felt much better.

The time finally rolled around and I went and waited in the queue. I was 7th in line and next to a young woman from Uruguay and her boyfriend from Brazil who were travelling to work in Queenstown. It was quite nice talking with them for a while and hearing their perspectives on NZ (they were going back after a two month holiday at home), and on South America. Finally the Aerolineas staff arrived and we shuffled our way through to check our bags. I asked for an exit seat and had no trouble getting one. In fact I had a major bonus – the seat next to me was empty and there was so much leg room I couldn’t have put my feet on anything in front if I had tried. Awesome! Went through immigration without a glitch, another stamp on my passport thank you, and found a café to while away the next hour or so. You get so used to waiting around that after a while the tedium passes into a dulled awareness of reality and you just don’t notice things any more. Especially when the trip is as long as this one. I didn’t want to go to sleep because I wanted to sleep on the plane – how else do you while away 14 hours in the air?

Then it was through to the lounge to wait for the boarding call. Didn’t have to wait long there before my row was called and I could move to board. But wait, we’re not done yet! Every single passenger was having their bag checked. This was a new one. In the end my check was cursory at best. Basically I opened the zip, the girl asked if I had any liquids or gels, I said no, and she waved me through. Good grief – I could be the ‘smiling Osama’ and get away with anything! Still, I don’t want to complain too loudly, it has worked out well for me but I do find myself wondering at the point of the exercise if you are not going to go through the process properly. Onto the plane to find my happy position and promptly fall asleep. Woke for dinner, some chicken thing, then took two sleeping pills and slept until breakfast, pretty much unbroken. Nice! Don’t even remember what breakfast was, an hour more flying time and we were touching down in Auckland.

Yet again customs was cursory. I declared my bits of wood, the lady asked if they were processed, I said yes and she sent me through. I like being trusted, but I just struggle with how much could find its way through without ever being seen. Through the gate and Mum picked me up and we were off. Spent the day at Mum and Dad’s, Michael and Pauline came for lunch, I slept for about an hour, filled in time showing off my gifts, sat around for a while and then headed back to the airport for my last flight. Oh yeah, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean it had morphed from Wednesday to Thursday – kind of weird, but there we are. The final flight with Air New Zealand was uneventful, we had a stopover in Wellington but didn’t get off the plane. We were given very nice Kapiti Cheese and crackers with the offer of wine, beer or fizzy to top it off. And we got it twice – once to Wellington and once to Dunedin – Kudos to Air New Zealand I have to say. Got off the plane in Dunedin to find no-one waiting – that was a bit of a letdown! Actually the kids had only just made it through the doors downstairs as I was coming out. Tim was waiting at the bottom of the elevator, Josh was collecting my bag, and Alisha had gone to find me via another route and was standing wondering where I had got to when we finally went back upstairs to collect her. Ruth arrived at that point and we were off to the car.

Good to be home? I think so. I need to sleep on it some more. It has been an incredible journey and some of my experiences will take a long time to come to terms with, but I know that God has been with me all the way.

To everyone who has followed along with me, thank you for your prayers, and your emails and messages of encouragement. It has meant a lot to know that so many people have travelled with me. I don’t plan to stop for long – there is too much to do and too many places to do it. But I hope that as we journey we can continue to enjoy each other all the more.

Andrew Scott
CWM Participant in ‘A New FACE Programme’, Guyana, 2009

Travel Diary - Day Fifty One

Day Fifty One – To Sleep or not to Sleep
Monday 19 Oct 09

Came through customs without a blink. I’m not sure what it is but customs haven’t taken any interest in me at all at any stage along my journey. Not that I’m complaining mind, it’s just that given all the horror stories I have been geared up to be put through the wringer every time I walk through a gate or a door. Maybe it’s my winning smile . Anyway, found my way through the taxi drivers to the Tienda Leon – basically a shuttle service that costs less than half the cost of a taxi, busses you to the centre of town and then a taxi takes you to your final destination. Works for me! Not quite as direct but perfectly sufficient for a pleb such as myself.

I confess to being a little aghast at the sight of the hotel when I arrived. Not because it was run down and tired looking – just the opposite. Far flasher than I was expecting. Lots of brass and polished woodwork, porters and all the rest. Didn’t know quite what to do with myself. Checking in was a breeze and as I went to pick up my bags I found that a porter already had them and was ready to lead me to my room – not my style at all! Been brought up to carry my own bags thank you very much. Ah well, when in Rome…or BA for that matter. I was escorted up to my room and suddenly realised that I was probably expected to give a tip. I scrambled for my wallet and asked what was appropriate – I know, just waiting to be had, and the porter shook his head, held up his hand and told me it wasn’t necessary. Works for me.

I got into the room, stripped off to have a shower and didn’t quite make it. Lay down on the bed and promptly fell asleep. Slept for a couple of hours and woke to find it was only 9:30am. Promptly fell asleep again. Woke a couple of hours later, same again. Finally came to about 12:30, got up, had a shower and went out for a walk. I caught the subway to one end of Florida St with the idea of picking up some small gifts along the way – all the street vendors set up along Florida St and it is quite a cool place to walk. Unfortunately I had picked up a case of travel diarrhoea somewhere along the line and I had only been out for about 30 minutes when I really, really needed to find a toilet. In the end I ducked into a restaurant, ordered lunch and went to the toilet. Relief!! Lunch was quite nice – a couple of pieces of pizza, and cheap too – about $4.50. And then I was off again. True to my form in Buenos Aires I promptly became disoriented, I don’t know what it is about this place, I normally don’t have any problem with finding my way around but here, not so much . Didn’t matter too much. I figured that if I kept turning right I would eventually end up where I started and it worked out that way. As I went I wandered into all the little malls along the way and eventually found some rather nice little knick knacks that were just what I was looking for.

I finally found my way to Florida St and meandered my way along until I came to a guy doing those caricatures that you sometimes see. It’s something I have always wanted to do, so I found out how much – 30 pesos, about $12, and sat down to have my picture taken. It was a curious feeling sitting there, not able to see what he was producing, and having curious onlookers stop to watch for a while, smile, nod, grin, laugh, wave and then move on. Eventually, actually it only took about 10min, he finished and held it up to show me. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but then I had no idea what to expect, but I liked it, and happily paid for it. From there I continued on, halfway planning to catch the subway back to the hotel. In the end I just kept on walking until I got back on foot. Somewhere along the line I stopped to call home at a Locutorio – lots of little phone booths lined up together, you make your call and then pay at the counter. Quite a cheap way of calling home. Eventually I found the hotel – I hadn’t lost it, it was just a fairly long walk to get there. I ducked around the corner to the laundry where I had dropped off some clothes to be cleaned. Back at the hotel I went into my room, did a little writing, and went to sleep until dinner.

I have to admit that having been able to text people to stay in contact for the last 6 weeks in Guyana was a luxury that I hadn’t realised. I felt as though my hand had been chopped off when I handed the phone back, and I felt a profound sense of isolation for a little while, sitting in that hotel room. It passed quickly enough, but it was a bit of a surprise. I dressed up a little, not too much, that would be unlike me, and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Between my ailment and not eating that much over the last few weeks I wasn’t feeling all that hungry, but I had only had a little bit for lunch, one piece of pizza and a bite of a second, and breakfast had been about 3am, so I figured I should be trying to eat something. The steak looked like a good bet and it was incredible. Not a large piece, but beautifully cooked, tender, tasty, I would come back to BA just for the steak! Oh, and it was decorated with a handful of wedges and some greenery – and who eats decorations anyway?

After dinner I went for a bit of a wander before going back upstairs, attempting to write and watch a bit of TV and doing neither particularly well. I didn’t want to go to sleep too early because there is absolutely no point in being up at the crack of dawn here – nothing opens until about 10am! And besides, I had to check out at 10 so I figured I might as well just take my time. In the end I actually managed to sleep until about 6:30am. Not bad all things considered.

Travel Diary - Day Fifty

Day Fifty – Outta Here
Sunday 18 Oct 09

And I thought all my other starts were early. Hah! I laugh in the face of…well, maybe just nod off . The taxi was due to arrive at 3:30am so I set my alarm for 2:45 to allow time for a shower and get myself sorted. The alarm went off, I got up and began my shower only to be called half-way through to be told the taxi had arrived. That’s not fair!! It was early. In the end I decided to finish my shower and the taxi could jolly well wait. As it was I managed to leave behind my razor and mirror and shampoo. Sod it! Dawn and Kaoma were waiting for me by the taxi – I think they thought maybe I had done a runner or something – after all I had been threatening. We got my bags loaded in the car, said a quick farewell to Kaoma and we were off. The distance to be covered wasn’t all that great, but we’re in Guyana. Here 10km can take half an hour allowing for holes in the road and bizarre traffic. In the end it didn’t really take all that long but it felt like it. Part of that was not wanting to be making the trip in the first place. Dawn and I were both fiddling around looking for something to take our minds off the fact that we were leaving. And then Dawn realised she had left her hat behind, a special one at that. She rang Kaoma to look for it. To the best of my knowledge it has disappeared, no-one knows where it went.

We arrived at the airport and lined up to check in. There were a few people there but we moved through quite quickly. Dawn and I went up together so we could get seats together and the story really begins to kick into gear. I thought I was a little over my weight limit – 21.7kg, but it turned out that the limit was 23kg – not sure where that one came. But I was good. Then Dawn, who had wanted to be with me in case I had too much and she could take some of my excess put her bag on the scale – 34kg. Even grabbing the little extra I could share we weren’t going to even get in the ballpark on that one. It cost $US50 to get through that one. Then came the check of the hand luggage. I was right on the spot, no problem again. Dawn’s was twice the limit. The girl looked at here, shrugged and indicated she had already paid. We got tickets next to each other and proceeded to the security checks. Stop 1: the scanner. I went first and sailed through, no issues there. Then Dawn went through and she was asked to undergo a bag check. They have these, generally randomly in all the airports I have been in. Your number comes up, someone goes through your bag. I have no idea exactly what they’re looking for, but I guess it can act as a deterrent. It sure acts as a frustration factor for those being checked! So they went through Dawn’s bag and then three of us, the inspector, Dawn and I wrestled with the bag to get it closed – no mean feat I have to say. We carried on to the lounge where Dawn made a phone call and I was ordered to collect a large cup of tea and whatever I wanted. That was no problem. I had a hot chocolate for the first time since I have been here I think. Doubt I’ll attempt to repeat the experience. I downed most of it because I was thirsty, but it wasn’t good!

Then came the call for boarding. As per usual you take out your passport and ticket for the mostly cursory scan and then, randomly some people are requested to have their bags checked. Guess who got it this time – Yep – Dawn again. So, through the whole process again, although this time the young gentleman at least appeared a little more apologetic about the process. Finally over with and onto the plane. The plane was only part full and so we had a three seater to ourselves. I was quietly becoming more distressed the further from any point of return we travelled and so was Dawn. We sat and talked about different things as we waited for the plane to do its thing. Finally there was that bump to say taxiing was beginning and I looked one way and Dawn looked the other. If there could have been any viable way off that plane at the point I’m sure I would have taken it right then. The wheels of the plane began rumbling down the runway and as the plane lifted off I wept and I repeated a promise I had made earlier and one that I intend to keep – I’ll be back!

Those of you who remember my trip to India will remember that I loved it, loved the place, it grasped my intellect and I would go back in a moment if the opportunity arrived. I still would. This has been different. Guyana has gotten under my skin and grasped my heart. There are lots of parts to that but in the best way to describe it is that a part of who I am has been returned to me in Guyana – the part that really cares about people, about who they are, what is important to them, what brings them joy and hope and fear and hatred. Not something that has ever been a strong point in my character, it has been mostly missing in action the last few years. And so I feel whole in a way that I have never felt before. That is no small gift and one I intend to make the most of. Part of that means returning and giving to these people what I can offer, not in payment, but because I can give.

Anyhow, the flight to Trinidad & Tobago was pretty uneventful. I got off the plane and Dawn stayed on it for the next leg of her flight. It was cruise through immigration because I wasn’t planning on leaving the airport and then off to collect my bags. All was going well until I saw Dawn’s bag on the belt waiting to be collected. Whoops! I went to the luggage office and told them what was going on but they made no effort to inform the plane or anything, and to the best of my knowledge Dawn took off and her luggage simply waved farewell. At least someone on the ground knew what the story was, I can only hope that makes the return process a little easier. I cruised through baggage check – they didn’t even run me through a machine, just waved me on and I settled in for my 9 hour wait for the next part. I poked around for a little while until the left luggage office opened so I could dump my big bag there and wander less encumbered around the airport. The poking around really amounted to finding a halfway decent chair, not too difficult, and then sitting down and trying not to fall asleep. Not sure why I didn’t want to fall asleep – it would have taken seconds – but there we are. After a while I found my way back to the luggage office and dumped my bag. Then I converted some $US to T&T money – YES! I’ve been wanting some of that . Bought a couple of bottles of drink and discovered that the fastfood spot had free wireless. So for the next several hours I sat, wrote, read, ate a burger, watched planeloads of people come and go, took short walks in sight of my gear and generally filled in time.

Eventually I got bored with my own company and packed up and went wandering again. It was getting close to the time I could check my bag so I went and retrieved it, found a chair close to the Copa Airlines spot and settled down to read a book. Actually I wasn’t reading it so much as glancing in its general direction and wondering what the black stuff on the page was. In fact I was so far gone that when Kelly came up and touched the back of my neck it was definitely a wakeup call. She and Brendah had not had to leave until 11am and had managed a good night’s sleep. Nice for some! They were catching a flight to Gatwick that was due to leave 2 minutes after mine. So we sat around and talked and laughed for ages before I went to get my bag checked and they went to do theirs. We agreed to meet in the flight lounge. This time around it was my turn for a bag check. The checks are random at so many levels. Random people are chosen, and as far as I could tell the checks themselves are random. The girl looking at my bag looked in less than half the possible spots. In saying that, the way my bag is packed you could get lost in there and need a search party to get you out! In the end she was happy, zipped me up and sent me on my way.

The Check-in girl from Copa was lovely. Actually, to be honest I haven’t met a check-in person I haven’t liked while I have been away. Every single one has been friendly, helpful and most pleasant. I asked for an emergency exit seat on my flights and got one, even though I don’t know Spanish. I told them I know what Salida (exit) means, and after that, how much do you really need? They laughed and agreed and I was in. Unfortunately the flight from Panama wasn’t so good – it was overbooked by twenty people and I was, apparently, lucky to get a seat at all. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. It wasn’t such a bad seat – by the window toward the front, definitely worse places to be on a plane. Once I was checked in I went on through immigration – a bit of a mickey mouse affair, but there we go, and waited for the girls just before the scanning process – that’s because there is café that does great smoothies and has free wireless access, and the seating is ultra comfortable. Recommended if you are ever waiting in the T&T airport. While I was waiting I decided to use up what was left of my T&T dollars and bought a t-shirt. It’s not that different to what you can buy anywhere else in the world, but it does have Trinidad and Tobago on it. I liked it anyway.

The girls arrived and we had a few laughs at each other’s expenses and then Brendah decided it was time to go through the gate. It was way early really, but I can understand her wanting to be there in plenty of time. I have feeling that on a not irregular basis, although for me it’s generally at the check-in stage. Once I’m through that, the airline makes a pretty good effort to ensure you’re not left behind. We did a round of farewells there – I wasn’t in any real hurry to go through to the next lounge, the waiting doesn’t go any quicker and there’s no wireless. After a while though I succumbed to the time printed on my ticket and made my way through the security check, found another seat – at least they do good seating here, and read a book. Then Kelly turned up again – it’s all about finding things to do to relieve the tedium. She was busily texting and talking to all sorts of people. Botswana has just had elections and a fairly major change in political parties and she was all excited about what was going on. She was also still trying to contact Lindsey and Dawn about the bag. Given Dawn’s experience at Georgetown I’m picking she wasn’t a happy camper when she found out what had happened to her gear!

But on with the story. I suddenly heard my name being paged and thought, OK, what have I done now. Turned out that the girl who had checked me in had forgotten to collect my departure form. I had known it needed to be handed in at some point and still had it and here was my opportunity. It just happened on be on national TV, well not really, but when you get a call like that absolutely everyone turns to see what is happening. It was just a matter of passing her the offending piece of paper and all was good. I decided that since I was already standing up I might as well make it a little dramatic in people’s minds by turning around and marching down the length of the terminal hall looking like I had somewhere to be. I did, but I wasn’t telling them I just needed to go to the toilet .

Eventually the BA flight to Gatwick boarded and we continued to wait. The flight had been held up and we ended up leaving nearly 30min late. It was a pleasant enough flight, but I was really just trying to wind myself up for the next on – just a bit longer. And all the while travelling further from where I wanted to be. Sounds awful in a way – after all, I should be excited to be coming home. I am, kind of, but…not sure how to finish that particular sentence.

The turnaround in Panama City was quick and easy. They have got a very nice terminal. Definitely a place to be if you have a long layover. Good food, good shops, good comfortable seats, powerpoints for laptops, haven’t checked for wifi. A recommended airport! Then for the less good part. Having boarded the plane we sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour waiting for someone to arrive. I can’t complain too loudly, I slept through most of it, but talk about tiresome. Finally underway and I fell asleep again, only waking when my neighbour nudged me to say dinner was served. Dinner was ok – kind of shepherds pie, but my guts were really starting to play up by now and although I ate the meal I can’t say it took any pleasure in it. Then back to sleep – I had no problem sleeping for nearly 7hours of the 8 hour flight. Probably would have slept the whole thing given half a chance.

And finally we were in Argentina. But this is another day by now, so I’ll take up the story on the next page.

Travel Diary - Day Forty Nine

Day Forty Nine – In Limbo
Saturday 17 Oct 09

Late night, early morning. I forgot to mention that after everyone else had gone we all gathered on the hotel veranda to chill out and talk together. Kateimoa was leaving early in the morning, Helen and others had been given a whole pile of food, and it was just a good opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company. In most ways we have really only been together for two weeks, but we have become old friends in that time in a way that I never really thought possible. It has been good.

This is as good a place as any to brush some quick character sketches. Kateimoa is from Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) and is a young minister with a very small church. She is really gentle and has a ready smile. It is quite easy to string her a line and when she works out what is going on she lets out a wonderful peal of laughter. She has fitted in beautifully with everyone even though her English is a bit rough and you can hear her heart for her people, and for the people she was staying and working with while she was on placement.

Pitoi is an older minister from Tuvalu – a set of islands right next to Kiribati and originally part of the same group. He has a great sense of humour and regularly calls me Aotearoa and greets me in Maori. Fortunately I know enough to give right back . He has a quite traditional perspective on the church but he is also a thinker so things that would otherwise clash can be brought together, to some extent at least. He has been amazing with Kateimoa. His English is much better than hers and he has translated her paper for her, helped her to understand things that are going on and generally been a good shepherd. He has also been really great with Zarazaka whose English is not the greatest either, although Zara’s home language is French and Malagasy with is just a touch different to Tuvalu. A great guy!

Brendah is from Zambia. She is in a different class to most of us – her church numbers over 1000 people and she is the only minister. They do things a little differently there, but some of the organisational touches are quite interesting. She is quiet but when she speaks she has thought it through and her heart is for Jesus through and through. A very gentle lady but you can sense a certain amount of steel underneath should it become necessary. I didn’t get to know her as well as the others but she seems to be someone who would be great to have around when the going gets tough, not as a warrior but as a support and encourager. Very cool.

Dawn is from Jamaica and we call her Mum. She is a really neat lady with a huge heart. Whenever we went on placement we got a call from her early in the peace to make sure we were alright, and then later to check up on us. She and I got on really well and her wry smile whenever I cracked a joke was always a laugh. Each time I did something, with or without others in tow that had possible consequences I would get the stare and the telling off. Even when it wasn’t my fault! But that was OK. One day she made me promise to behave myself for the afternoon. I duly did so and in the end everyone was protesting that I was too quiet. But Dawn was happy . An amazing minister!

Zarazaka is from Madagascar. When he arrived we wondered how he would get on because his English was very broken but as he became more comfortable with us and with Guyana he really began to break out. He has a great sense of humour and is still sensitive to how people are feeling. It was cool to see him hanging out with and supporting the girls, especially Kateimoa and Brendah who I suspect were struggling a little with the environment. He just has a way about him with people and people lighten up when he is around. On our last day we played table tennis together and he was constantly encouraging me – we were pretty closely matched and whenever I played a good shot the immediate response was, ‘Good, very good,’ along with a big grin.

Keletso is from Botswana and has sole charge of another church of over 1000 people. To be honest I think these girls are getting ground into the dust with the workload that is expected of them. I’m amazed that they make it through a week, let alone months and years of it. She has a great sense of humour and a very clear sense of right and wrong and what she likes and doesn’t like. Which makes her really easy to wind up. She is really social so she responds well to a bit of joshing and we have had lots of fun. She also has some steel, and it’s not far beneath the surface. I wouldn’t want to meet her angry, that’s for sure, but great to have around for all that.

Helen is from England and if I can be so bold, a petite redhead. She is doing some amazing things with her church in Bromley on Bow where the population has been transformed by immigration to become almost entirely Bangladeshi. Some of her stories and experiences of how they have reinvented themselves to become relevant to the changed nature of their community are amazing and challenging. Helen is very sure of what she wants to achieve and goes all out to get there and is amazingly gracious if it doesn’t work out the way she planned it. It was her agitating that got us to Kaiteur and she was the one who made the drama happen. I think if it had been left to the rest of us it would have been a pathetic flop if anything had happened at all, but Helen took the opportunity on board and really made something memorable of it. Great.

David is from Scotland and has been my sounding board on more than one occasion. He’s a big man, much bigger than I am and struggled with the heat but he was always good natured and able to summon up a smile. He’s quite retiring in some ways but more than willing and able to stand up and be counted when he needs to. He is generous to a fault and simply moves through everything that happens, taking it on board and contributing wherever he can. His willingness to listen to my ponderings and come back for more is either a sign of madness or a tribute to his caring nature. I like to think of it as the latter.

Andrew is from New Zealand and throws himself into everything with joyous abandon, often to the amazement and concern of his hosts. Whatever the opportunity he grabs it with both hands, even when he isn’t sure where it is going to take him. He’s not afraid to voice an opinion and when he gets the chance he will make sure that a little bit of teaching or amiable direction or misdirection gets thrown into every conversation. He has a wacky sense of humour and has lots of fun winding up the more staid of the party, mostly knowing when to bring everything back down to normality. He is not alone among our group in finding it very hard to leave Guyana.

So that’s us in a nutshell. Which is kind of appropriate in some ways . After all, where else would you expect to find a bunch of nuts? But I was going to talk about the last day. First up we walked into town so some people could collect a last few items of shopping. Not really the best time to do it as it is a national holiday – Divali, a Hindu festival and none of the East Indian shops are open. A problem when you consider that the vast majority of shops are East Indian owned and run. Most of the stalls are run by Africans. Anyway, we waited around for our escort into town and eventually Helen and I had had enough and decided to make our own way into town. She had some things she wanted to get, I was just on the prowl to fill in time. As we walked we talked and that was good. The streets were near on deserted compared with what they normally are and it was a kind of eerie feeling because I haven’t seen it so quiet since I have been here.

We had made our way into the centre of town and Helen was looking to buy more sandals (I’m sure she is taking about 20 pairs home with her) by the time the others caught up with us and after a little conversation Kaoma and I left them looking at sandals and trinkets while we went to look for a shop that Brendah could buy a computer from. You guessed it – none open. Disappointment for Brendah but Helen may be able to help her find something during her stopover in London on the way home. We wandered around for a little longer before heading back to the hotel. We dragged our baggage downstairs and piled it in the lobby while we checked out. Then it was into two buses to head for Splashmins, a holiday resort where we would spend our last day.

By the time we got there we were hot and tired and the day was only half done. We were given rooms and settled in briefly before heading off for lunch. I had cookup and fried fish – the cookup is a mixture of rice and peas with various spices added in. It’s mostly really good. The only problem is that the pile they put on your place is enough to feed two people! Ah well, I’ve gotten used to leaving food on my plate so it was just the same thing again. Right after lunch we took a boat ride – a whole 5 minutes worth to go to the other side of the resort and supposedly look at fauna and flora. What they didn’t tell us was that there were a small handful of birds penned up at the end of the property and the rest of the place was the remnants of an orchard, hardly what it was cracked up to be. But for all that I wandered off and had a pleasant time walking through the orchard. I think the others thought I was lost because they were inordinately pleased to see me when I turned up back at the collection point. Then we were back on the boat and back to the other side.

From there Zarazaka and I went and hired some table tennis gear and played tt until the djs setting up for the festival finally got in our way once too often. As it was Zara had wacked one of them on the head as he was chasing a ball. We had a heap of fun but by the time we were finished I was absolutely soaked. So then it was time to go back to our rooms, get changed and go for a swim. That was a let down if ever I had one. We got to the swimming area to find that it was so shallow you couldn’t even swim a decent freestyle stroke. So in the end we just paddled around in the deepest bit we could find making the most of the opportunity to cool down. I should explain that the resort is built next to what is really a large pond. An area is roped off for swimming and there are kayaks and paddleboats that people can use. There are two powered boats with lifeguards who charge around creating a wave pool effect every so often to the joy of the children and spend the rest of their time yelling at anyone who wants to have a decent swim. Killjoys! We got yelled at, but too bad.

Having cooled down we headed back to our rooms to have a rest. Rev. Hannibal came out to see us in the course of the afternoon, but everyone of us was asleep so she went home without seeing us. A pity, but there we are. We all came to around dinner time and then traipsed off for dinner. This time it was chicken and noodles, same quantities and I ate even less – I wasn’t feeling much like eating and my stomach was beginning to protest – warning signals, but I didn’t get that until later. Zara and I found a basketball and played around on the bball court for a while before Dawn called us all together for our final farewell speeches. It was nice to hear everyone say their little bit and brought a bit of closure that would have been missing otherwise. We sat around and chatted for a while and prayed for Kaoma as well. I had a little prophetic word for him which brought great humour because we had been making all sorts of fun of the school of prophets that Kelly had attended during her second placement. But it was a good time.

We headed off to our rooms without much more ado. Dawn and I were being picked up by taxi a little after 3am to head out for the airport so we were all pretty keen on getting at least a little shut-eye. I fiddled around sending some texts for a while – I had to give my phone back before I left – and then dropped off to sleep.

Travel Diary - Day Forty Eight

Day Forty Eight – Cleaning Up
Friday 16 Oct 09

Never let it be said that we managed anything on time. Enough said about that! Eventually we were on our way back to Georgetown – about an hour and half journey – split between two buses. Not the most comfortable way to travel that kind of distance, but there it is. It was kind of funny in a way. I had thought that I had begun to reconcile myself to leaving Guyana. I love this place in a way that I can’t really find words for. When I was in India I loved being there, but I was happy to come home. This is a whole different feeling. The people have got under my skin in a way that I never imagined could be possible. I can work with people for years and when it comes time to say goodbye I say it and move on, you could quite reasonably accuse me of being hard and unemotional. This time there is an emotional turmoil that if I was being macho I would be embarrassed of. I really, really don’t want to leave. And the closer we got to Georgetown the worse I got, to the point it was easier to stop talking and just look out the window.

Once we got to where we were staying the night it was a bit easier because I had a pretty full timetable. First up was to go into town and get the last of my gifts organised. That was reasonably easy, although I would have moved quite a lot faster if I had been on my own . But that is just one of the joys of being part of a team. We cruised around looking for crafts for some people, shirts for others – I found a really nice one for myself, and a variety of other bits and pieces. We had lunch at the City Mall, a small indoor mall that barely counts as a mall but is as close to what we have in NZ as you’ll get in Guyana. It even has a food court. In the end I left everyone to it and headed back to the hotel because I still had a string of things to get done before the evening and time was ticking.

First up was to organise my ‘cultural’ piece for the evening. I hummed and hahed about this one and eventually decided that given I am not Maori I would tell a Hairy MacLary story. Ruth emailed me the story and pictures and I put together a powerpoint to follow along with story. Then it was deciding what to do with my video. I had run out of time to do what I had originally planned and so I had to severely cut everything back. In the end that was actually a good exercise and I think I ended up with a much better clip as a result. I also had to iron my shirt and trousers, wash a bunch of dirty clothes because otherwise I was going naked for the next couple of days, visit Keith and a friend of his, and get back in time to have a shower and set up the projector and sound for what I was doing. You would think that by now I would have got my head around the fact that 6pm start has a different meaning in this part of the world. Anyway, I dashed around doing what I needed to do. I caught a taxi to see Keith because that was the best use of time, and given it was only $300 each way I couldn’t really moan too loudly. By the time I was ready to go it was 6:15pm. Hah! Nothing started happening until after 7 – mumble, whinge, complain. And to top it off, having been promised a projector there was none in sight and the sound system wasn’t doing what it should with my laptop. Grrrr.

I spoke to the appropriate person and someone was dispatched to get the projector. It finally arrived about 40 minutes into the evening programme – well before I needed it, but well after a couple of other presenting groups could have used it.

The evening began with some great singing and then we settled in to watch the young people from different areas give some presentations about the 6 races of Guyana. The information that they gave was quite interesting but it got good when we first had an East Indian dance, and then the African group did a series of songs and dances. That was great. The cultural presentations were followed by a snack break where there were lots of small samples of Guyanese food spread out under the headings of the different races – AmerIndian, East Indian, African, Portuguese, European and Mixed. That was quite good, although I was most interested in the juice – I hadn’t had enough to drink in the course of the day and was hanging out for something cold and wet. Sat with Keith and Felissa to eat as they were kind of out on a limb. There wasn’t anyone else from Sophia there and while someone sat down to talk to Keith, Felissa was left to her own devices. We chatted happily for the twenty minutes we had to fill.

Next up were the presentations from our group. I was first up with Hairy MacLary. It went OK, but the best laugh I got was when I explained that one of the reasons I had chosen the story was because of all the dogs in Guyana – you have no idea just how many dogs there are here! It is quite unbelievable. The best presentations came when the girls came on and started doing their cultural dances. Brendah, who has been quiet and subdued the whole time we have been here came on and did a song and then began doing that African hip thing that is just amazing and it just brought the house down. That was followed by Kateimoa doing something from Kiribati that was equally well received. Then as a whole group we were thanked, and then thanked individually. Each of us was given a tie pin for the men, and a broach for the women, made of gold and with an image of Guyana on it. Very nice. Each of us was called forward to receive our gift and as we stood there we were given an extend thanks by the person making the presentation. What was really weird was when Pastor Salter, who was thanking the women, managed to weave a quick summary of the, ‘Sexy Church,’ into thanking one of the girls. Gratifying for me, but almighty strange from every other perspective.

Next we did our play. Helen and Dawn had put together a drama based on a song that Helen had heard about from one of her hosts. We had all searched high and low for a copy of the words but no-one else had heard of it. We decided it was a figment of the imagination, but the idea was sufficient to get quite a funny drama out of it. The song is called something like (we’re not even sure of the title), ‘3 White Women on a Bus,’ and the idea is that they are complaining about all sorts of Guyanese experiences – the heat, the crowding, the starting and stopping, the loud music – all sorts of things that you just get used to. Helen and Dawn turned it into, ‘9 Foreigners on a Bus,’ with us each taking on a particular complaint and by the time we had finished the whole place was in hysterics. A great way to finish.

Well, not really finish after all…everything got a bit murky after that, different parts of the programme sort of mixing in with other parts. I was up to do the thank you and that was missed out and then put in later but eventually we got there. The video clip went down a treat and I finished it off with a prayer for the people of Guyana. It was really a rather special opportunity and I appreciated having been asked to do it. And finally we were done. It took ages to see everyone off, but there was a good feel about it all, even if it had taken absolutely forever. Bed never looked so good!

Travel Diary - Day Forty Seven

Day Forty Seven – More of the Same
Thursday 15 Oct 09

We got off to a better start today – four presentations left and a lot less mucking around, although that said there was still a lot of mucking around, it just didn’t hold us up quite the same. All the presentations have been good and the interesting thing, given how widely spread we were through the GCU, Presbyterian Church of Guyana and Guyana Presbyterian Church, is that we have all noted similar points of concern and opportunity.

I feel a bit guilty that I can’t remember particular points of everyone’s presentations, particularly when it seems that everyone I come into contact with is quoting parts of mine. Even the caretaker has come up and asked for a copy of my paper, and had some interesting comments to make about it – and he wasn’t even there for the presentation!! The whole thing has gripped people’s imaginations in a way that I never anticipated. I simply hoped that people would come away with an idea or two. What they have done is come away with a grasp of a potentially life-changing concept. It is what I set out to do, but to see it grab hold of people like it has is mind-blowing. And perhaps the most exciting thing is that it hasn’t just been one group that has ‘got it.’ The young people are excited about it, the older folk are seeing the possibilities and even the ones in-between, often the hardest to stir, are talking about it with enthusiasm. What I am wrestling with is how something I have written can possibly have such a powerful effect on so many people. And it isn’t just Guyanese. David is already talking about using the idea at home, and several others are saying similar things. I have already sold the first 20 books and I haven’t even started.GRIN

Helen, Kateimoa, Zarazaka and Keletso are our four presenters for the day. Helen’s is excellent and makes some good points about the Guyanese Church becoming truly Guyanese in nature rather than a knock-off of the missionaries’ home churches. Unfortunately the discussion about her paper was side-tracked by conversations that had little to do with her main point. The great humour, and irony of the day is that Keletso’s presentation, between her reading, and then the conversation that followed took longer than anyone else’s. She had been the one who had pressed particularly hard for keeping to time and not letting things go on. The rest of us found it quite funny, I’m not so sure that she found it all that funny.

And then we were done. The rest of the day was presumably set aside for packing and relaxing. Instead I set to with my video – this is the link to it: and having spent several hours on it I still needed quite a bit of work to get it into a viewable state. So it was a late night and all my packing had to be done in the morning. Ah well.