Email from Ben 27th January 2005

Good afternoon anyone, itís about that time for another email update from the land of six peoples (Guyana for those of you who donít know the national anthem).

Well Iíve been busy over Christmas relaxing and other things which I will get to later, and I am now back in Annai and almost 1/3 of the way through the new term.

We left Annai on the 18th of December, a day late because the Ministry messed up booking our bus tickets. We went from being told they would book our tickets for us, to booking AND paying for them ourselves. We arrived in town on the 19th and stayed with the Girl's whose project is in Georgetown.

On Monday the 20th we flew to Trinidad for Christmas, although we had trouble leaving Guyana. Bwee (British West Indian Airlines) were having problems all x-mas with baggage strikes and being generally rubbish. We got delayed for about 5 hours, so instead of arriving in Trinidad at about 1:30pm, we didnít leave Guyana until 6. Although the one good thing was the free food, actually very good.

Trinidad was wicked, we were staying in a bit of a dump, but it cost around £20 for 7days so we couldn't complain. Only really problem was the door didnít lock too well and a few things went missing (none of mine thankfully). The accommodation was basically two rooms. The first was covered in foam mattresses and the second had hammock space, so we were happy.

We spent our first day in Trinidad shopping. It is very westernised there with posh shopping malls. I bought a few things for myself for x-mas (Mum, the credit card bill should be coming through soon) and enjoyed myself being back in a big city. The next day of course, we hit the beach, sunning ourselves up and just having fun doing absolutely nothing. It was strange in Trinidad though, itís not as warm as Guyana (and as i'm always telling you, itís very warm here), but was still nice spending x-mas holiday on the beach. Christmas day was really good, we cooked ourselves a huge fried breakfast in the morning and then lazed around all afternoon while the girls cooked everyone a Roast Dinner. (Just how it should be, no?) The girlís apartment was actually very nice so the kitchen was good to cook in. The rest of the time in Trinidad was spent drinking large amounts of alcohol and playing lots of pool. Managed to find a pint of draught lager! Well it wasnít exactly a pint, and it ran out after my third because they never sell any but was worth it! We even visited a club called club Coconuts (not a strip joint as the name sounds) and had a really good time with an "all you can drink" bar and lots of nice girls to dance with. The night of Christmas Eve was quite funny. After spending the night at the local pool bar, we were trying to find a club to go to when some gangster tells us of this club. We thought it sounded cool and there was a large group of us so we went outside. Some of the guys decided to crash for the night so it was just three of us, we didnít want to go off with some gangster we just met so we try and be polite and say "Oh we donít have any money so we couldnít afford it". Then the gangster offers to take us to a bank, dodgy, no? So we left him and walked home. When we got home we found one of the guys asleep on the toilet after losing the contents of his stomach, so in true supportive fashion, we put a sign on his back saying "Drink Responsibly" and took a photo!

We flew back from Trinidad a week later and were only delayed for about 3 hours going back unfortunately not long enough to qualify for free food.

We spent our week in town catching up where we left off in Trinidad, drinking large amounts and lazing around.

I had a bit of sad news just before new years when my Granddad passed away suddenly. This was very sad news and even sadder that I couldnít be home for the funeral. He was a good man and I will miss him a lot.

I spent New Years Eve at Georgetown cricket club and spent most the night and early hours of the morning drinking (as you do).

I arrived back from town a day late as I had to go and visit a doctor in town about an infection on my left foot. This meant I got a note that excused me from school for three days and I had to pay for some drugs to cure it. Annoyingly it cost a bit but not enough to be larger than the excess on my insurance. After missing the first three days of the term with a dodgy foot, we then had Inter-house sports. I was in Jaguar house and was really looking forward to watching us win. Unfortunately from about the second race, we were last and the order never changed. We won a few events though, mainly with the older forms. We did win the banner and marching competitions which I was glad of and we now have the Jaguar house banner hanging in our house with the motto "Victory to the bold". Itís just a shame we werenít the bold ones! I didnít do too well in the teachers events either, 5th out of 6 in the 100m, although the top 5 finished very close. Also 3rd out of 3 in the long jump, I was ahead until the last jump and fouled my last one, and the other two guys pipped me to it.

Do any of you remember our little opossum I mentioned about? We've seen her a few times around and Iím sure I mentioned her in previous updates. If not then we have a little Opossum (like a mouse, only a marsupial) who lives in our house, unfortunately, living in a place where your roof and walls donít meet, itís very hard to keep these kinds of animals out. Well she had babies. I woke up one morning to see 2 of the babies running around my room. We've also found them in the pans in the kitchen, buckets, washing up water and I even found one in my bed, although after I got out. They are very cute, but a nuisance, havenít started chewing clothes so far, which is good but we are trying to introduce them to the wild as far from our house as possible. Hopefully they will end up as snake food.

We took the kids on a picnic to Kwataman landing (where the Rupununi River meets the village Kwatamang) and had a really wicked time. We took around 100 kids down and spent the day swimming, splashing, playing football, catch, Frisbee, messing around in boats and getting burnt by the sun (well at least I did!). The only bad part of the day was when two of the girl's, Evangelista and Delphina, were stung by stingray. But other than that it went smoothly.

Last weekend we went crazy. We decided that the next time we got a 3 day weekend we were going to cycle to Lethem. So Friday was Eid-ul-Ahza (I apologies but I cant remember if its a Hindu or Muslim festival, all I know is no one round here celebrates it and it gave us a day off). We set off on the 90 miles ride at 8:00pm with the kids telling us we wouldnít make it and black out. It was Duncan, Bryan, Choyee and Me. We left at night as itís a lot cooler and with full moon itís very easy to see. We got 2 and a half hours down the road, about to the Massara turn off without a hitch, but it went downhill from there. Crossing a bridge, my front wheel wedges in-between two planks of wood and I was lucky not to fall off my bike. We stopped other side of the bridge for some water, only for Bryan to discover that his handle bars were about to snap off. About 15 minutes down the road they did. Now we prepared for punctures, chains snapping, nuts loosening, screws un-screwing, bearings falling out, tires going flat and a whole host of other problems. Every problem except, you guessed it, handle bars snapping. So me and Choyee set off for the next village along the way, Toka, while Bryan and Duncan walked. We get to Toka and end up waking up about 3 people before one of my student's mums agreed to lend us her handle bars. So we cycled back to meet the guys walking and replaced the handle bars. So we were off again. Luck wasn't on our side and it began to rain. Now it hasn't rained for ages in the savannah, so long in fact I removed my mud guards a long time ago. Bad move. We made it to the tanks (a group of storage tanks used for oil during the building of the road) by about 4am covered in mud, soaked through by rain, and very tired after having been cycling for a good 8 hours. We rested here before cracking on; we needed to get going as the tanks are only the halfway point. Thankfully the rain began to clear up, but the clouds didnít shift and by around 4:45 it became too dark to see, so we crashed by the side of the road and slept on our bikes between a termite mound and some snake holes. We aimed to wake about 45mins later, when the sun begins to rise, but we slept until 6am. We picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off and got on our way. We made it to the next checkpoint, Piarra Ranch by 7am, very good time and stopped for a breakfast of Chocolate Brownies (cooked by my fair hands), Cashew nuts and Trail Mix. We thought our problems were over, but then again, we thought wrong. Just after we left Piarra Ranch, Choyee began to develop a slow puncture. It wasn't too bad to begin with, we had to stop about every 15 minutes to pump it up, but about an hour later it was no good. Were going to stop and repair it when my front tire went too. So for some reason iím still not sure of, instead of repairing the bikes we put both the flats on Choyee's bike. Choyee and Brian then doubled up, holding the bike alongside them. This worked fine as it was very up and downhill, mostly getting enough speed downhill to get up the next uphill. We reached the Lethem bridge around 10:30, confident we would make Lethem by 11 and then my handle bars snapped. Same problem as we suffered in Toka and this time we were still a good 7km from Lethem. So with one bike having two flats and another with no handle bars we began what was to be a slow trek into Lethem. Thankfully being 11 in the morning, there were passing vehicles and it wasn't long before a truck picked us up and carried us the last few Km. We did it though, we motored into Lethem just before Midday, 16 hours and 90 miles later. I felt so happy and proud of our achievement that I climbed into a hammock and slept for about 16 hours. (One for every hour cycling, makes sense, no?). We spent the weekend chilling out in Lethem, repairing our broken bikes.

On the Sunday, whilst in Lethem we went over to Bonfim, the town on the other side of the border between Guyana and Lethem. Now there are two ways to enter Bonfim from Lethem. Legally and Illegally. If you go legally you go through passport control and show your yellow fever certificate. If you enter illegally you just follow another route into Bonfim easy. No one ever gets their passport checked in Bonfim, when we went to Boa Vista no one even checked it (although that was legal) The funniest thing about entering Bonfim this way was that the boats they had crossing the river werenít big enough to carry four bikes. So we had to push them across the river. Now there is something about entering a country illegally whilst pushing your bike across a river thatís kind of fun! Anyway we did some shopping, had a meal and crossed back to Guyana.

Now Georgetown has had a lot of flooding recently, a lot as in they are in a state of emergency. We arenít affected down here but its pretty bad up there. Rubbish is floating down the streets, Cholera and Typhoid is breaking out, not really too good. This meant the buses werenít running properly, the night we wanted to go back to Annai it was cancelled so we missed Monday at school and then the next night it was so full we had to sit in the aisle and leave our bikes in Lethem. Hopefully they will arrive on a Bedford or the Bus sometime soon.

I canít believe that Tuesday was 5 months since I arrived here in Guyana and means I am halfway through my teaching section of my year, only 5 months more teaching before 2 months travelling.

Well thatís all for me this month, look out for the next update sometime soon. You can see some pictures of my Christmas holiday at my website as well as read any of my past updates.

Have a good one everyone


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