Email from Ben 25th October 2004

"I was in an accident involving a motorcycle and a donkey"

Actually I personally wasn't, but apparently itís a pretty common occurrence on the roads of the North Rupununi.

Before I start I apologize for some of the poor grammar and spelling, I got so tired after writing this I just clicked yes to all the changes in the spell check, so hopefully it makes sense. I could read it through but it took me long enough to write it as it is! Hi everyone, welcome to update on Bens adventure part 2. It is exactly 2 months since I left sunny Britain and I canít believe the time is flying by so fast, Iím one sixth of the way through my year. Iíve been up to loads and have lot of stories to tell, most of which I will only remember after I have sent this email, but the rest of which will appear below.

End of last month, weekend of the 25th September, was Amerindian Heritage Celebrations, and there was a big party going on in Lethem. Lethem is the border town on the River Takutu that separates Guyana and Brazil, and where 2 other Project Trust volunteers are living. So we were told we could have a lift Saturday morning to Lethem. Then just before a PTFA meeting at the school on Friday we were told if we could get 12 people they would take us Friday afternoon. Ok no problem so we sit through a very boring PTFA meeting, until halfway through we are told that if we want to go, we have to go now. So we get up out of the PTFA meeting and 15 minutes later are cruising through the savannah on our way to Lethem. Lethem was fun, but not great, prefer Annai by far. The only advantage the guys there have over us is running water. Lethem itself is more like civilization that Annai, but still pretty basic, but was nice to be able to buy things we couldnít get in Annai. We had some fun at the celebrations, danced the night away with a bottle of rum, had some ice cream and even ran into a few students too. Sunday was time to go home and the bus was packed, so at midnight, after around 4 hours sleep the night before we faced a 2-3hour bus ride where we either stood up or laid down in the aisle. Even if I wanted to I couldnít fit in the aisle and so had to fall asleep standing up! We were very glad to be back in Annai on the Sunday night/Monday Morning.

Next weekend we went camping up on a hill. The local Tourist Resort, Rockview Lodge, has a little camp set up on the hill which although isnít that high, has some fantastic views over the savannah. So the three of us set off to spend the night up there. It was pretty fun, looking out over the savannah, sunset was cool and sunrise was really awesome. We got scared quite a bit though. Firstly while eating dinner a random tree fell down and almost crashed into the camp where our hammocks where slung. Secondly while out on the rocks we could see lights flickering in our camp, creeping back slowly, we realized it wasnít an intruder, just the fire still alight. Then, while playing cards Duncanís water bottle (one thatís like a bag) kept falling over and scaring us. And to top it all off after crashing in our hammocks, we awoke to Bryan saying "Who's there? Whoís there?." Of course this scared us some what as well until we realized he thought the moonlight pouring through the trees was torch light. Was fun all in all though.

More recently we have noticed that there isnít much for the kid's living in the hostel to do at the weekends so we are going to start planning trips for them every few weeks. Well we decided to do one a week ago either to Camuti Bosh or Kwatamang Landing. Camuti (Macushi word for Anaconda) Bosh is a little water hole about 45 minutes up the road, quite good for fishing and swimming but water is a little dirty. Kwatamang is a village next to a river and the landing is (as the name suggests) a place where boats can land, also a good place to swim. We had to go and check Kwatamang Landing out as you arenít supposed to bathe there if the water is too high. Friday after school we went out and checked it out on the bikes. Got there easy, swam a bit, but the water was a little too high so we would have to go to Camuti Bosh the next day. On the way back, the chain fell off my bike 11 times before I got a puncture so bad I had to get off or ride on the rims. Duncan's chain snapped and Brian almost ate dirt a few times. So Saturday morning we headed down to Camuti Bosh with about 40 kids, had a really good time, the kids enjoyed themselves and I felt like a real teacher, one of those moments you get every now and again which makes you realize what it is that makes people want to become teachers.

The Sunday after Camuti Bosh, a guy we made friends with, Mark James, was holding a 5-a-side football tournament in the village of Kwatamang. We entered a side from our school, team A.S.S (Annai Secondary School) and actually did pretty well. The game was difficult as the goals were about 1m by 1m at a maximum and the pitch was not much bigger than an 18-yard box (not that big for those of you who don't follow football). We got to the Semi-Finals and lost to the eventual winners but we had a good laugh. Some of the kids played for one of the other teams and my name round the school is Sir Beckham. Those of you who have seen me play football wont believe it, as Iím really not that good, but compared to the people round here Iím very good, in fact good enough to be called Sir Beckham!

Now lots of other things I should mention that you will all find interesting. Firstly Animals. I mentioned about Donkeys before but Miss Ford, our Headmistress and host said a very funny thing. "They are destructive pests, so naturally when the kids asked me if they could ride them I said yes". And before you wonder, you can fit three 3rd form kids on the back of a donkey, and one holding the makeshift reigns. We have encountered some dangerous animals too. Saw a tropical rattlesnake (just a baby) when we went camping up the mountain. We also found an hourglass spider (same family as the black widow) under one of our chairs. Funnily enough thought, like cockroaches, they donít stand up to much when it comes to stamping. Speaking of cockroaches there are mostly all gone, seen about 5 in the past month, which is somewhat a shame as its kind of fun chasing them round the house. Especially with a shinty stick and a can of fish (brand of bug spray, not aquatic animal) to dispatch them with. We also have 2 pet frogs and a pet mouse/marsupial. One frog lives in the shower and the other lives in our kitchen, we could remove them but they eat all the bugs, so why bother? The mouse was found making a nest in Brianís bedroom and has since made 2 appearances after we chased him out the house (another use for a shinty stick). We are thinking of catching him and keeping him as a proper pet instead of waiting for him to come back every few weeks.

I suppose I better mention teaching, as itís the reason Iím here. Itís really fun actually, a lot more fun than I expected. Sure its hard work and some of the kids can be right little wotsits, but on the whole the kids are cool. Most of them are fun to hang around with and are really friendly now they have got over their shy stage. Unfortunately on a mathís level they are pretty bad; I had to teach 2 classes of 13-10 year olds the difference between even and odd numbers. We didnít realize but in last years national 3rd form exams (Equivalent of Year9 SATS at home) not one pupil passed maths. Even with the pass mark at 45%. So itís down to me and Duncan to change it. I'm probably the second most over worked teacher at the school in terms of number of lessons (the other guy is actually the only trained teacher). This isn't a problem though as I teach lower school mathís, so its all very basic and lessons require little planning compared to some of the upper school mathís Duncan teaches. The kids take the mickey out of my 'Essex accent' and the way I pronounce certain things. The number eight, I pronounce like the word ate, they pronounce it more like ehight. The letter 'a' too. I pronounce it 'ay' as in 'say' where as they say more like 'eh'. Makes algebra fun as I have to change all of the examples that say "Find the value of a" to "Find the value of x."

We did have 3 fully working bikes although problems arose, like Duncanís chain snapped and we are borrowing a one until we get a new one. Mine has been out of commission since a 5th Former borrowed the pump and didnít return it. But soon we should have 3 fully working bikes. (Although I believe I said that in my last update).

Hoping to get paid either this week or next week, although not too optimistic. Money is running low and going to have to start getting credit. We have been eating very cheaply recently though since we discovered the ultimate dish. Pumpkin Curry. Itís legendary, fantastic, amazing even! We have had it about 10 nights out of the last 20 and with 3/4 of a pumpkin sitting at home we will probably have pumpkin curry for another 2 nights. We either make it with Roti or Rice, either way itís amazing. We just donít get bored of it. The last one we purchased cost $100, which is about 30p. This pumpkin will make 3, if not 4 meals for 3 people. So thatís about a cost of $6 per person per night, which in English money is around 2p. Can you imagine having a very very nice curry, with either rice or naan (the nearest you get back home to roti) and only paying 2p for it? I can as I am about to do that tonight! Other food wise we make some killer meals, other curries like chicken and beef as well as pizza, spaghetti bolognaise and a range of other dishes. Plus in the mornings we often make killer pancakes.

Unfortunately we have been cooking in the dark as the generator has run out of fuel for the time being. The fuel is supposed to be arriving soon. We donít expect it anytime soon.

I and Duncan have been placed in Jaguar House (thatís Jag-u-ar not Jag-war I tell all the kids) at school. We had an inter house spelling competition and we came second. Now I and Duncan are working on making Jaguar house number one in Annai Secondary.

Ok thatís just about all I can think of right now, just going to say Iím missing a lot of things being here. Although I miss people a lot (like my family, friends, e.t.c.) its other things I find myself missing most. The first person who can get me a cold pint of Carlsberg and a full English breakfast can have exactly $2000 (which sounds a lot more than it is, in fact it would cost you more than $2000 in Britain for a cold pint and a full English as it is). But anyway, bonus points if the pint is extra cold and the eggs are runny.

Anyway tune in same time next month for another update, going to take the kids to Kwatamang Landing, week after next (weekend of my birthday). May take them the week after instead and go to Surama for the weekend of my birthday, they have a nice little guest house there where you are fed and well looked after for cheap amounts. Plus Surama is supposed to be a fantastic village.

Until next time

Sir Ben


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