Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mash 2011

S'funny how life goes - planned nothing more strenuous than cooking and reading, but finished early and while giving a Cupcake and Brownie to the Tamil child next door it occured to me that I could take her to see the Float Parade as I feel too old and jaded to stand up waiting for ages in the Hot Sun.
She excitedly told me, in an accent of rankest creolese that I to listen carefully to understand, that she had already done it at school and I wondered what her conservative parents would have thought of their daughter whining down de place - globalisation innit!
We walked to Irving Street and the crowd seemed rather sparse at 1pm, when the PPP/C float was passing-- so that seems to be it-- turn up three hours after the advertised time to be in the thick of things!
I had an big,angry woman in Pink turn and demand - Where u going? - in reponse to pushing the little one in front. Guyanese, being the most ridiculous people on the planet, all chose to do their perambulations just when the Floats were passing annoying the Marshals and spectators alike - no action at all between the floats-- why??

I noticed the increasing sophistication of the Floats-- mainly Trinidadian-influenced with a elaborate framework on wheels.

There were quite a few Chinese, from China as opposed to the local ones, milling around and wondered whether they appreciated their influence of the Ministry of Tourism's Anaconda based in the Chinese Dragon used in the Dragon dance. That ministry also had the most scantily-clad women.

It was nice to see the kids out enjoying themselves but I may be a bit prudish to be a bit shocked to see a five yr old and seven yr old perform very suggestive 'Dancehall-type' movements- the child with me was fascinated to see her peers spread their legs, bend over to put their head on the ground and whine their batty while suggestively touching the said part, all under the approving eye of their father who basked in the gawking of passing strangers - times have certainly changed from the Nuns in my Primary School exhorting us to 'carry yourselves with decorum'!
She was quickly getting tired and I was taken by the the kindness of strict-looking strangers who were better prepared that I - complete with chairs - who let her sit for while. A very nice family let her sit on their Ice-box and ended up offering us Ice-cold beers- I opted for a piece of Ice and introduced her to what every Guyanese child knows- eating ice-

There was only one Float using the a Horse-drawn cart that I saw for the two-hour period we were there.

I enjoyed the acrobatic balancing skills of the Stiltwalker in the traditional Masquerade Band and the general joie-de-vivre of the participants- in fact when we were walking back a Big, black strong guy who was in a Berbice band furiously 'backballed' the aggressive Woman in Pink who had a HUGE smiles on her face and so All's well that ends well and a good time was had by all species!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Republic of Guyana Lecture Series

Well I might have stayed for the end if the usual Guyanese sickness of not starting on time and totally disrespecting other people's time didn't surface-- I sat bitching with Dave (of Martin fame) as I noted it was over 35 minutes from the advertised time and sourly remarked that we must be waiting for some Minister or the other to finish eating his dinner and really they ought to serve around the snacks to appease the pissed-off in the audience (like me) rather than rewarding the late-comers. Turned out to be the always-late Prime Minister and I thought that how the people advertise events one hour earlier, they should do the same with the PM or simply start without him so by the the time he gets there the snacks gun dun- sort of reverse Pavlovian training.
I used the time usefully to start deleting some of the 2256 sent messages on my cellphone- haven't figured out how to use the games yet, it's only been 4 years. Dave walked out just about when they started or maybe he didn't want to sit near to Juan Edgehill, who look like he lost weight.

The topic was Sustaining Guyanese Culture in the Era of Globalisation and while Vibert Cambridge started with a nod to 'Dis Na A Lang Time' and a mention of Chinese culture (cos Godfrey Chin was sitting in a front seat) he quickly and strangely dwelt for ages on Eddie Grant - I thought he woulda talk about how good it was the government was giving away 90,000 Netbooks cos then we would have more Guyanese Blogs expressing what people really think but no-- a full account of Eddie ensued and I took it to mean how Eddie conquered the Globe! Must be the era Vibert grew up in, as 'Guyanese culture' morphed into what the predominently Afro-Guyanese was doing in Georgetown-- however he did take time out to lash out at the way the Europeans dissed everybody else's cultural contribution in Guyana and insist that theirs was best. Vibert woulda have been glad to hear that he reminded me of CLR James in "Beyond a Boundary" who also complained that the White People didn't let the talented 'people of colour' play and/or didn't promote them but missed completely that they copied their Masters well by doing the same to the West Indians of Indian origin when they were in the driving seat. Vibert made a reference to the description of the Image of a Centipede when describing the local celebrations on the street back in de day- many legs constantly moving and emerging from the rubbish.
I gleaned that one of the earliest commentators was a Mr Deweaver in the 1920's who charted the poor working conditions, food and drink in the Colony in a very cunning song and represented one of the earliest Creole expressions in BG-- several books had been written by Englishmen about the inhumane conditions of the working people in the Colony before this time (See a good summary Chapter 2 - West on Trial) Something that our Local Education system seems to have flipped past-- contributing to the appaling ignorance of our youth about their History- actually if you think about it-- appalling ignorance of Guyanese about their history.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rain and more rain...

Didn't check the weather forecast but it's moved from a slow continuous light rain from Saturday night to absolutely bucketing down at mid-day Monday. The drains outside my house were almost full when I left home and I wondered about my neighbour 'with more money that sense' who constructed his outlet drains to flow into the drains in front the houses instead of directly into the canal behind the houses like everyone else! I mean the drains all flow around my house, situated at a corner and into the canal-- well that's the theory anyway-- the Wild Eddoes have tenaciously taken hold and the rest of the neighbours assume that it's my job to keep it clear, along with picking up the rubbish the rest of the Neighbourhood dumps on the grassy verges outside the house (what is it with Joe-Average Guyanese that he can't bear to see any green open spaces without leaving a mark that he wuz there?)-- I'm fed-up of clearing up both but feel maybe I'm cutting my nose to spoil my face as my yard will flood first! Hopefully neighbour's water will back-up and he'll go to ease the flow into the water-lily choked canal before I get home!!

To give an idea of how much water over a given time: The 5-gallon bucket I put on the fence 'to catch' water was practically empty on Sunday morning and this morning, when it eased sufficiently to feed the dogs it was almost 3/4 full-- must be overflowing by now-- poor dogs -- they hate it when it's this wet as the wind factor blows water through the ventilation slats. I put them in the garage to dry out a bit but my sister's dog I took over went and pooed so they all got turfed out when I left for work-- my dogs are better trained- they wouldn't dare do that unless they were really sick!
Two more days of this and the East Coast is screwed!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

15 Park Avenue...

...a film by Arpana Sen screened by the Indian Cultural Centre.

Not your usual Indian picture, but a haunting film about a family coping with one of the children having a mental illness-- can't spell schizophrenia -- I was very glad to see this subject tackled, however there was a very disturbing scene which has 'stuck' in my mind, where she is allowed to go to another city seemingly by herself where she gets gang-raped which puts her in a Tail-spin where previously she was just about clinging the right side of sanity. I felt that THAT was unlikely as everyone in the family was particultarly protective of her.
I thought the actress Konkona SenSharma was amazing as Meethi as she was required to play the girl in her innocent youth and in her deranged 'current' state.

The story is also about the older sister who takes on a protective role from an early age and I was sorry to see her being dismissed, by the sister's perspective groom, when she was grilling and warning him about the extra work required, with a 'who would want/put up with her anyway' in response to the fact that she had got divorced-- ouch! I rather liked the Older sister but all the reviews slammed her an being aggressively dominant- Shabana played her rather well and she didn't come over as a horrible person as the Indian reviewers seem to think!
There were quite a few nice touches like the 'madlady' living on the street outside the family's house as a contrast to Meethi's very sheltered life.
The only downside was the fact that they 'did' the film in English-- with their Indian accents, high voices and distorted sound from the speakers I missed most of the early dialogue.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Passport Office + Thomas Friedmann

So it's time to renew the old Guyanese Passport-- some improvements but lots more to go.
Turned up at 7.30am - which was a mistake as everyone else had the idea of 'quick in, quick out'. After discovering no cash on my person and that the line was not moving I guesstimated at I should be at the counter at 10am, so went back to the office and borrowed money from my receptionist!
After paying the fee at the counter, I was directed back to the end of the queue, saw the girl who was previously behind me ahead and worked out that I 'saved' twenty minutes as Older people and mothers with children were given preference and the inevitable uniformed Police 'jumping' the queue for their friend. The system might work better if 'they' just decide to apply the rules across the Board for everyone as my number 109 was actually seen after Number 139 and number 67 who 'knew' the police ran in just as I was about to enter the booth hinting that she should go ahead of me! I mused that Guyana still has a way to go when you could just 'drop off' or post your passport instead of wasting hours of your life playing musical chairs. I noted that the Government has turned off the Air Conditioners there and in the Post Office in line with 'Green Policies'

Luckily I had grabbed a book from my office on the way out - The Lexus and The Olive Tree - so settled for a random read. Topically it was Chapter 10 which dwelled on successful countries being run as successful businesses and the population getting Internet savvy and demanding more from their governments-- as countries can choose 'prosperity- depending on the policies they adopt- and their citizens will start to catch on to that and demand better management accordingly.'
Interestingly he mentioned that the Egyptians were running Saudia Arabia's computers back in 1999 implying they were then the most technologically advanced and 'wired' of the Middle East countries- the current TV pundits seemed to think this played a large part in Mubarak's recent ousting.
Also that the more computers available to the population and available Bandwidth, the more likely to have the internet readily available - the better for the country in terms of business - and I remembered reading with the arrival and distribution of 90,000 computers it would push Guyana right up to the top of the Region's accessibilty to computers/Internet for its population. I admit to having my doubts as I waste an inordinate amount of time on the Net and practically everywhere I go I usually see Guyanese on Facebook!!
So folks you have to decide whether you will be a Shaper-- one who defines the rules and interactions or an Adapter- learn to work within the system.

He ended the chapter talking about the implications for Labour, and I remembered reading in The West on Trial that the British demurred to the Americans paying the local equivalent for staff working at their Air Force bases back in the 40's and 50's, when they had more humane Labour Laws and possibly precipated the current Government's objection to local staff being paid at Overseas rates by the foreigners-- so I think 'a friend who knows' was telling me! But in this book- it's been turned with the Corporate Capitalists pursuing the cheapest Labour in whatever country.

So cutting to reality, I dropped in to a Snackette run by 'young people' on the way back to the office and was dismayed to discover the 'Internet Generation' could not cope with putting in three boxes of food in separate plastic carrier bags for the customer who telephoned in his order and turned up to collect, requiring the owner, presumabably, to come out of the Internet room to make a disgustingly strong cup of coffee, and hand over two ready-made snack items to me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Driving in Guyana- 1

At the risk of sounding elitist, the vast majority of the driving population should not be issued a licence and would pose a lesser danger on foot.
So, I was taking a shortcut through Albouystown last evening - big mistake as the bridge at the La Pentenance was under repairs so the World and His Wife was also taking the same shortcut-- rush hour in Guyana consists of brainless Learner drivers hesitantly letting every car from the side street ahead through and Minibuses creating their own lane from non-existing inner lanes. There was a bottle-neck at a junction as a lady in an old beatup minibus had stopped to buy 'dogfood' from a stand (a relatively new roadside phenomena)-- no signal or the thought of making a pretence of pulling in a bit to the side. Of course the Learner in front of me made to give her a pass but from some reason best known to herself she decided that mine was the chosen vehicle that would let her resume the slow crawl to the Mandela Avenue/DSL junction. My ire raised by the zooming minibuses and taxis to my left, I edged forward and muttered to myself-- where you going lady-- it took a while to dawn on her that I was not letting her through and she shouted at me that "you don't know bout courtesy". As my friend Sharmini says, I was left with my mouth open.
She continued the tirade about how people don't know to drive and I rued the fact that the window doesn't wind up properly without being dragged up from the top, and that in the event of someone coming around to my window I would be a goner.
Sudden silence (relatively) and I saw in my rearview mirror that she was now on her cellphone and I imagined a couple of thugs waiting to pounce at the next corner.

So on the reverse trip down this morning, I noticed that the shoulder at the Banks DIH turn has now eroded considerably with the same self-important people creating their own lane where none exists, I was thinking of writing a letter to the papers about it and got to the junction where I had to second guess what the guy on the inside lane was doing -- I fumed that no-one uses signals these days and whether I should write a letter to the papers when I heard a man on a laden bicycle shouting 'I coming though' as I was starting to turn left and had forgotten to put on my indicator!! (Seeing that I started out as a cyclist when I was an independent road-user I have always have a soft spot for them as opposed to hating motorcyclists who edge up in the corner then pull in front of your vehicle demanding to be treated as a car-- is THAT what they teach them in motorcycle school??) Aargh-- turning into a guyanese road-user!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


At the end of the tour, Ruth and I were quite impressed with the garden with its vegetable section and fruit trees. An old Amerindian woman demonstrated how Cashew Nuts are reaped from the fruit with an impressive display of 'burning' off the irritant fluid surrounding the heated nut-- did you know they had a 'skin' like regular peanuts?

We stopped for 'tea' at 4 and sampled mini-rockbuns with freshly-gathered Forest Honey, then set off for Annai Village which was a 15 minute walk away, Leon pointing out the extent of flooding of the Rupununi River during the wet season. He explained to us that the Village was training up two locals to take over Guiding around the Village and he would be handing us over to VeraLynn, a sweet 17yr old who was happy to take the Back Seat and Leon basically recounted the History of the Village. He introduced us the Powreen Wood- a beautiful orange wood- there was an intricately carved Armadillo which seemed a bit pricey in the Gifte Shoppe, carved by a Local

The Houses were made of Brick and thatched roofs, George later told us that each family undertake to make the bricks themsleves as the clay by the River is fairly good quality.
Brick Factory by the River
Annai Village's claim to Fame was supposedly the biggest benab in the Region but personally I think the Wai-Wai's must have some tucked away as the one in GT seemed larger-- this region had the Macushis.