Email from Ben 12th April 2005

Hey folks, welcome to another fantastic update!

We've been doing some touristy type stuff in Wowetta, a village about 3 miles up the road. We went up to their "Cock-of-the-Rock" trail. Bryan, Duncan, and Myself went up along with 2 of our students who live in Wowetta. The trip started badly, I was carrying the 2 students on one bike and Bryan and Duncan were doubling up on the other. Halfway there the combined weight of those 2 caused the back wheel to literally fold in half! So we had to walk the rest of the way there, plus the 2 hours up to the cabin, arriving in the dark. We slung our hammocks and crashed. We got up early and trekked up to their nesting site. We saw quite a lot of birds as well as some nests, which had chicks in. We also got to see the "dancehall" where the birds do their mating dance, although it was wrong time of year for any love to be in the air. A very amusing thing is that the trek is advertised to tourists as "Cock observation". Naturally, being 19-25 year old males, we made plenty of rather dodgy and slightly rude jokes. Actually they were very rude!

One morning we were awoken to the shouting of a couple of our students. We leaped up and opened the door to find a Giant Anteater running across the compound! That was really cool. About half hour later we see some of the kids running around with an Anteater, holding it by its tail. We tell them to put it down and stop pestering it. When they do, we realise itís a lot smaller than the other, probably a baby. They tell us that Miss Ford is calling for it. Turned out the boys knocked it off the Mothers back (the Anteater we saw earlier) and now Miss Ford wanted it. Even worse, Miss Ford declared it the new school pet! Now these are endangered species so obviously their keeping in captivity needs all kind of licences and legal mumbo jumbo. So obviously keeping it would be breaking the law, we told Miss Ford (HM) this and she replied "International Laws may apply in your country, but they don't apply here in Guyana". Hmmm, anyone else see the stupidity behind that? Then she goes and has a meeting to decide its future, excluding Bryan, Duncan and myself, the only ones opposed to it. So anyway a pen is built and I think up a name for it. I call it Dead, because it will end up that way if we keep it. That night Bryan and myself decided on a secret commando operation to release dead. The plan was perfect, we knew a weak spot in the pen, and the moon was away so we had the pitch black on our side. Only problem was we discussed the whole plan out the front of the house. Now sound travels on the compound, so everyone heard us, including the watchman. We decided to wait until the PTFA meeting, so they could decide its fate. Fortunately/Unfortunately it was released just after the meeting, someone left the pen open. No idea who did it, but the 3 of us were at the Cock of the Rock trail, so had a cast iron alibi!

That Sunday I made my footballing debut in the Rupununi. One of the students I get on really well with, Kenny, asked me to play for his village, Yakarinta against Aranaputa. I think I should qualify to play for them anyway, at least half the village has the surname Benjamin, and Iím a Benjamin, makes sense. I didn't play the first half, and despite taking the lead, Aranaputa lead 3-1 at half time. I came on for the second half playing centre back. I played pretty well, got a chance to kick one of the annoying guys on their team, and even did it harder when he started calling me a tourist. Of course it was all legal tackling, I wasn't jus going round kicking him! I made one major impact on the game, keeper got lobbed and I managed to get back and stop Aranaputa making it 4-1. We pulled one back to make it 3-2, but that was how it finished. They have football tournaments coming up this month, so hopefully I will play in that.

We got our bikes back! Unbelievable! The two guys in Lethem; Hugh and Martin and one of their teachers; Stefan, cycled them back to us. They took a lot longer than us, but that was supposedly down to them taking all kind of crazy shortcuts. They didnít have any problem with the bikes. Lucky for them! Anyway I was very very pleased to get it back.

On the Monday of the Easter holidays some Peace Corps volunteers and a Project trust guy, Bob, visited. We took a hike up to Aranaputa nature trail. That was really good fun and we saw some cool wildlife. Capuchin and Spider Monkeys, all kinds of Birds. A couple of Macaws did a really cool fly past and sat on a tree near by, which was awesome. We also saw a poison arrow frog, which was really cool. We camped out at the base camp on the mountain and were warned that they have a large quantity of Labaria (Pit Vipers) so we had to watch our step. They also have some Bushmaster; we were not to wander off into the bushes. No one got bitten and we returned down the mountain the next morning. We stopped off at the old coupleís house, our District Education Supervisors' Parents; they let us have a huge bag of mangos. We are talking around 150-200. Now that was split between about 8 people. Absolutely gorged ourselves, they were so ripe and sweet.

Easter weekend was Rupununi Rodeo 2005, and all the Project Trust guys met up in Lethem for the weekendís activities. We were given St Ignatius nursery school to ourselves to stay in, which was pretty fun although the toilets were tiny, and we had to walk 10 mins to hit the river to bathe. Although the River was the River Takutu, which meant when you swam across, you were technically in Brazil. The Rodeo itself was pretty cool, watching the wild cow milking, bucking broncos, horse racing, calf roping and a load of other events. Although unfortunately the sun was hot and most of the places with shade sold beer, so we gave up watching the Rodeo and started drinking. This more or less continued on through the night, broken up by occasionally moments of dancing. The second day started where the first left off, we got their about 12 and just hit the bar! What do you expect of 20 19-year olds and beer at 50p a bottle? We stopped to do tug of war. It was Project Trust against the Vaquerios (Cowboys), although the commentator called in Georgetown against Region 9. We lost, pretty badly, although it was all good fun.

Tuesday after Easter, we set off for Brazil, with the aim of making it down to Manaus. Arrived in Boa Vista midday and spent most the day lazing around, waiting for our Bus at 7:30. Now we remembered a very good money saving tactic used in Trinidad. The Ham and Cheese Sandwich Production Line. You buy a loaf of bread, butter, cheese, ham, plastic knives and any sauces. You then sit in a line at a park/bus station/random wall, and make ham and cheese sandwiches. Naturally you then eat the sandwiches. Itís a very inexpensive, but tasty way to save money. Anyway we left Boa Vista for Manaus at around 7:30. The bus was sooooo nice. Air conditioned, reclining seats, the lot. Only problem was the Air Conditioning was freezing cold! Couldn't sleep at all! Arrived Manaus around 7am and managed to get a nice cheap hotel, near the town centre. Cost around 4 pounds each per night. As we arrived at the hotel so early, we managed to score a free breakfast at the hotel. Now breakfast in Brazil seems to consist of all things cheese and ham related. So apart from a bit of fruit and yoghurt, it was pretty much Cheese and Ham Sandwiches for breakfast. We spent the day walking around the town, doing a bit of shopping. Managed to find a nice little bar, where we got chatting to a nice waitress. Now this was very impressive, seeing as none of us can speak Portuguese! Among other things, she recommended a club called "Club Bora Bora". We decided to give that a try, certainly helped when she told us she was going to be there. So we get 2 taxis, which drive like nutters to this club. And to be honest I thought that the taxis had crashed, that I had died and gone to heaven. We go into this club, 7 reais entry, about 1.40. It was FREE beer ON TAP. Not only had I succeeded in finding draught beer, but it was FREE. There was also a huge TV showing a Brazil vs. Uruguay football match, a live Samba band warming up, and plenty of Brazilian girls around! We had a very fun night and certainly took advantage of the free beer.

Second day in Manaus we did a tour. Not before Ham and Cheese Sandwiches for breakfast though. They took us to the meeting or the waters, where the white waters of the Rio Branco and black waters of the Rio Negro meet, and run side by side for 6km before actually mixing. That was really cool to see. They then took us to some hut in the swamps where we had lunch, and then we wanted to have a swim. But they wouldnít let us and took us Piranha fishing instead. That was fun although they wouldnít let us use our feet as bait, and had raw meat instead. Which didnít work and we caught nothing. One of the other tourists on the trip did, and the guide threw it back! Anyway we returned to the hotel, after taking a detour past the Super Market for some Ham and Cheese Sandwiches. We didnít know any other good clubs to go to, so we decided to return to the bar where we met the waitress who recommended that great club the previous night. We turn up and it was a different place, there were a lot of very loose looking women around, and the waitress was no where to be seen. Anyway we stayed a bit and had a beer. This girl comes up and flirts with one of the other guys, Hugh. She then goes off and begins to flirt with some 40 year old German tourist, who is with his wife! That starts our minds thinking. Then some big looking Brazilian guy comes up and tries to talk Portuguese to us, pointing at her. Now our mind was racing, we thought she was whatís the term, a lady of the night? We were about to leave, but Steven was asking someone else for a recommendation about somewhere else to go, when the girl comes up and speaks to us. Not such a lady of the night, but a man of the night. Put simply, I have never run down 4 flights of stairs so quickly in my life. We wander around a bit and find another bar. Now at this one there are loads of youngsters (16-18ish) in uniform, probably college students. Anyway we manage to find their English teacher, and start chatting to him about places to go. He tells us of some club, and then 4 of his students offer to take us, so off we go. Nice responsible teacher letting four female students go off with 5 white guys he just met. Anyway we ended up at a ForrÚ concert, which was good fun. We ditched the school girls and had ourselves a fun night, dancing away. We left Manaus for Boa Vista and planned to spend Saturday in Boa Vista. We stayed at the Hotel Eusebio, arriving early again, and therefore scoring another free breakfast of Ham and Cheese Sandwiches. Boa Vista was a mistake, due to the passing of the Pope. Brazil is mainly Roman Catholic, so therefore despite being a Saturday night, it was dead. We just ate our Ham and Cheese Sandwiches for dinner and spent the night catching up on some missed sleep. Sunday we returned to Lethem, lazed around a bit. I arrived back in Annai late Sunday night. After so long in Brazil Iím picking up some Portuguese. The Portuguese word for a drink is ďDRINK!Ē and must be accompanied by wild hand gesture, like your taking a drink! In fact, many of the other Portuguese words are the same as English providing they are shouted slightly loudly and accompanied by a wild hand gesture.

This week we met the Prime Minister of Guyana, didn't even know it was him until afterwards. We knew he was going to be visiting, just didn't know when. Met him, said the usual "Iím Ben, from England, blah blah" and went back to my work.

Well thatís about all from my update this time. Stay tuned for another exciting adventure next time

Ben


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