Laura Pennycook: First report from Guyana

After being in Kwakwani for over 2 weeks, it’s easy to forget exactly where I am because the jungle is kept so well at bay. But I got some context last night when Bryher and I climbed the hill behind our house in time for sunset – we are completely surrounded by seemingly impenetrable rainforest, the only way in or out is via a minibus on the bumpiest road ever and the sounds of insects/birds/cockerels wafting around provides a permanent soundtrack.
September is supposed to be the hottest month here so really we should be feeling a little cooler now, but the only time we can really do any form of strenuous activity eg washing clothes/running/anything apart from eating ice lollies is before 0630 or after 2000. There is stormless lightening most nights and because of the lack of light pollution, we can see the Milky Way.
I am teaching English and Intergrated Science to Grade 7, and helping out with the lower Grade 7 class. This is pretty hard as even though they’re all 11 or 12, most of them struggle writing without copying from the board and reading even basic sounds such as ‘sh’ or ‘th’ are a challenge for them. As for the other Grade 7s, it’s really frustrating as the method they seem to respond best to is sitting copying from the board – I want to make my lessons fun!!! I’ve started taking them outside for English to sit in the shade of a tree as the rooms inside are really noisy with the activity of other classes. Bryher and I are hoping to set up a couple of after school clubs in the next few weeks to try and improve different skills.
On Thursday it was a holiday and so we went to the village of Aoroima, around an hours drive away. September is Amerindian heritage month, a time to celebrate the culture of Guyana’s native people, and they were having a celebration for that. It was quite an eventful journey with a tyre bursting leaving us stranded in the bush but was worth it in the end as some of our students were there and showed us around their village, which is basically a long row of houses stretched along the water front – we rowed the canoe taxi, got taken out on someone’s speedboat and ate takuma, a traditional Amerindian snack found in old tree stumps… Laura and Bryher, the worm-eating vegetarians. Yum.

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