Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding + Tornados

While I wish the young couple well and my sympathies for living the rest of their lives in the Public Eye (only hope to not see a Kate interview years later--'there were three people in the marriage-- me, him and his mother') I wondered that their wedding dominated the News while a real tragedy was playing itself out in the American South. It seems that an unknown number of Tornados, as with Katrina, made more potent with existing weather conditions has totally obliterated entire towns! Maybe we do prefer to read about bad things?
We should be glad that after the Japan tsunami, most sensible people reviewed their Nuclear Facilities and apparently the one that was affected by one of the Tornados didn't reach a Meltdown situation like in Japan-- BTW-- no further news on what's leaking from there!!
Bizarrely I couldn't find information on the number of tornados on CNN and found a number of 300 on the BBC page! It boggles the mind that 150 tornados could occur on one day! (Wednesday). Oh those poor people-- imagine just saving your house from foreclosure to have it flattened by a Tornado!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Changes in Guyana's unique Indigenous Population

Well, the Miss Bartica Regatta 2011 Beauty pageant opened a right can of Worms.
The new 19yr old queen- sister of last year's queen, was reported in the Papers as saying quite ungraciously : “I don’t think I had any competition”  This most probably after the rest of the competitors walked off the stage and didn't pose for the obligatory fake congratulatory picture around the New Queen-- including Miss Congeniality!  I can't help thinking it reflects the individualistic attitude prevelant in Guyana  today and maybe a bit surprising to those well-meaning foreigners with naive views of our Native Peoples.
My aussie friend was telling us how tribal loyalty is so strong, an Aboriginal would discharge him/herself from a sickbed in hospital just to go back to attend a funeral of another tribal member, not necessarily a family member - that loyalty has fallen by the wayside over here and would just be reserved for immediate family members-- if that, as rivalry between siblings and their children has probably crept like in the rest of the society.
Of course, this is just my limited observation-- would be glad to hear differently!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bartica Regatta 2011, Gasoline + Pollution

An idle realisation that neither of us had 'been' to the Bartica Regatta led Mich and me to wake up early on Sunday to make our way to Parika. Of course we needn't have bothered as the Boatguy wasn't there and as we were debating an hour later whether to catch the regular river Transport, the rest of the crowd for the boat turned up. Mainly women with children, one of whom had her husband in some sort of competition at Bartica.  We also took up four drinking guys, one was very loud and insisted on stopping the boat at Scott's, roughly 2/3rd of the way, to restock the beers. I was sitting just in front of them and I couldn't understand most of the dialect and I think it was Guyanese they were speaking-- my hearing must be going!
Although we got there for 10am, the actual event was poorly co-ordinated. It took about an hour for the first event to get started and even then, only three boats started and two finished-- to the despair of the announcer. They had an insipid David Granger address the crowd with a sound system that kept cutting off- he tried to make a point that Region 2 had a riverine connection with Region 7 and maybe it would be a good idea to involve the Native Peoples-- like a paddling canoe race with/by the Amerinidians. I looked around and saw a few Amerindian families who came early to sit in the stands get bullied by fat/larger people (including the Head of the EU Delegation) coming late and wedging themselves in and squashing the children - a couple of little boys electing to get up and stand up somewhere.  They were also well represented in the Miss Bartica Contest-- the current queen appearing to be a teenaged Amerinidian girl and over half the current contestants having Amerindian blood!

Check out guy in red T-Shirt!
The boats themselves were not the locally-made ones based on an extended dinghy design but imported covered-Katamarang-designed ones, the different races in different 'power' categories seemed to require changing the outboard motor, as I thought the boats very similar. After three hours of eating and waiting for the contestants to get to the starting line, the girl sitting next to Mich confirmed that it was the same people in the same boats racing with different motors- roughly 3-6 people including those from the Pomeroon! So it really boiled down to the nouveau-riche miners ( the vieux-riche like Ming having pulled out a couple years earlier) and a Boating family in the area showing off their new toys--in fact it was the middle-aged Jet-skiers who kept zooming up and down to the annoyance of the announcer as he felt it contributed to delaying the races. This reached its natural conclusion whereby Scott's (he of the gasoline station mentioned earlier) son went out of the country and imported a Yellow racing boat of unknown but suspected higher-than-everybody-else's-horsepower and entered one of the Races without permission and led for all of the way before he pulled out just before the end-- needless to say that was the most exciting race of the morning!

We then wandered to buy some coconut water and I was mildly surprised to find out we have better in 'Town'-- past all the music boxes which were now gearing up to deafen everybody-- sadly this passes for entertainment in Guyana - Loud Music, people standing about aimlessly shovelling the repetitive unhealthy food down their throats and drinking more that's good for them! But the lovely ladies we travelled up with refused to leave at 3.30pm although the Boat Captain was relieved that we wanted to return to Parika; I was puzzled why as they were just clustered up in groups by themselves-- not even like in my younger days when you would chalk-up having 'pulled' someone thereby making it a successful outing, worth the killing off a few senses for a few hours! He had hopefully got most of us into the boat where we got soaked by the swells from racing boats/jet-skies when the ladies refused point-blank.
Then the BIG MISTAKE occured-- feeling too lazy to walk down to the regular stelling to catch the regular passenger boats, we got the captain to 'find' a boat going back to Parika-- he stuck us in the boat of a large jovial Afro-guyanese family from Pomeroon ranging from Granny to the three-yr old. So Mich and I stood in the second row looking for space between the 4 children innocently sitting there. I wedged in my butt and was told by one of the mothers at theback that I should sit at the end as the chubby 5yr old who was there would more easily be thrown overboard. I felt a bit bad squashing up the children but made a note to self to try and avoid being the most vunerable in society as you would certainly have your Rights stomped on and end up being squashed.
The boat had just turned around when the two brothers renting the boat realised that the Captain did not spend the time gainfully at Bartica refuelling and we only had five gallons of gasoline! Amid the abusive shouts at the Captain, Mich (who has been to many interesting spots around the World)'s self-preservation instincts kicked in, shouted that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to get in this boat and we should get out-- that was exactly my thoughts but seeing that we were in very choppy waters just off Bartica it didn't seem like there was much we could do. I nudged the 5yr old to wedge in the bulky lifejacket that didn't close and the poor thing had to sit leaning forward uncomplainingly over the Large IceBox his uncle and father had wedged into the space in front of our feet. The two brothers who were strong over-sixfooters, the teenaged and adult boathands crammed into the smallest row in front  - the backseat bar of which breaking unsurprisingly half-way through the trip and as Mich said that alone would have exposed the inexperience of the Captain as putting the heaviest weight on the front of the boat would cause it slow down.
We were gunning down to Scott's when the lead brother did something I didn't see and the women asked the Captain to stop so Brother 1 could pee off the side of the front of the Boat! Never in all my travels in Guyana had this happened but we were approaching a new Low; Brother 2 who was quite gentlemanly, sat up to preserve my Victorian sensibility but actually I was more worried about the wind blowing urine in my face so I was grateful for the shield. Then them boyz had to crack open a New Bottle of Vodka and I learnt about why they call it Chasers, cos real drinkers swig the Hard stuff straight from the Bottle and while that bottle is being passed around the bottle of Cranberry Juice is taken out and 'chases' the Hard stuff-- oh I didn't know that-- we usually mix the two.
With all these delays--- the inevitable happened -- we ran out of petrol in the middle of the Cuyuni River about five miles from Scott's. I was amazed that Brother 2 could recognise boats speeding towards Parika from a distance and he flagged down a few-- to their credit they all stopped-- this must be what makes Guyana run without Emergency Services as the Coastguard and River Police were gainfully employed keeping drunken middle-aged Jet-skiers out of the the path of the racers!  The first was a boy and his granny heading to Karia Kaira, then the second was a Captain who had a feud with our Captain and drove off, then Brother 2 saw a boat he 'knew' and the guy handed over his reserve tank of petrol to get us to Scott's. At that point MYself-preservation instinct told me to change boats mid-river but I was concerned Mich might not be up for it - she later told me the same thing occured to her but as we were sitting at opposite ends of the row, communication was limited to being Public.
To celebrate the acquisition of petrol, the food was brought out and there was a round of Fried Fish and Channa being shared around. I noticed the giant Brother 1 had washed his hands in the Cooler unknowingly after his bladder evacuation so the impromptu picnic posed no problem! After we got to Scott's, who had run out of petrol but spared three gallons, the soft drinks and juices were shared around to the women and children. At that point I stopped the 5yr old and 9yr old from copying their father and throwing the plastic cups the river by telling them that Mich works with the Sea animals who see the plastic things in the ocean, eat them and die and we didn't want to kill the animals did we? I would have got them to throw everything into a plastic bag but Mich, having just come back from a Conservation thing in California where the engineers carried their own cutlery everywhere to cut down disposable waste, had us buying things without the inevitable plastic bag, so I told the 5 yr old to throw it in the boat and when we get to shore we would put it in the bin-- the sweetie actually remembered when he had his juice later-- there is a glimmer of Hope for the Future. I caught the 9yr old trying to sneak the cup into the river behind my head and made him throw it into the bottom of the Boat.. I'm sure the rest of the adults must have thought that I was demented!
Further down the river, the 9yr sitting next to me, indicated to the women in the back that he wanted to have a shit! I have no idea of how this family communicated its bodily desires so secretly but he made his way to the back of the boat, did his business and mercifully was told to stay there. I would be dismissive about their manners but now that I think about it, I don't recall seeing any Public Toilets in the Golden Beach area where the Regatta was being held-- Mich and I went to a hotel I knew and to her parents' friend. But surely the 9yr old could have gone when we went to Scott's?
Anyway we were running short of petrol again and came to another riverside dwelling selling petrol at 1+1/2 times the regular roadside price-- I felt sorry for the family to be skinned in this way and the adult boathand moaned to the Captain how could he not have Petrol, that petrol was transport and without that you were lost?  And I got thinking about how all these River people will punish when the World Fuel Prices rise yet again at the behest of the Oil Companies and the rising World Market demand, and what will happen with them?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Hopping mad that a friend who was so concerned about the poor 'Common Entrance' ( or whatever name it is that they're giving the Primary to Secondary school exam) results that she wrote a letter to the minister of Education and had a cozy chat with him wherein it was mutually agreed that the He and the Ministry needs support. This from the man who was going to take Science and Social Studies off the exam list, leaving just maths and English!!

I am annoyed because it's not like we didn't know the Education system was being eroded since the 1970's and with the high rate of Migration most of the Good Teachers found Greener pastures overseas, leaving the poorer ones behind, struggling to get their Education Diploma while leaving Classrooms and students unattended. However that's not to blame the teachers as parents need to shoulder at least 70% of problem as it seems to me schools are regarded as repositories for 'their little darlings' when they (the parents) have had enough; but getting quite abusive and aggressive when discipline is being enforced. It's hard to instill that in children whose parents are in dire need of it themsleves!
It all contributes to a 'dumbing down' of the society where Education is not valued and the objective is a Piece of Paper which will soon be rendered useless as it would not reflect the ability of the person. Come on People-- it's been almost 40 years since we discovered the problem and it ain't getting better!
An interesting point of view was stated that we need to teach our children to be good citizens and persons and not just concentrate on the academic subjects-- in fact harkening back to Plato, that first ethics need to be taught and then select those promising students for further training for Leadership. Nice thought but wholly inpractical in today's rushed world.
The majority of people in Georgetown seem to be having just one or two children but alarmingly the most incapable parents are heading into double figures, at what point does Society stomp a heavy foot down on them? The Berbice neighbour, she of the 15 yr old illiterate who toyed with prostitution and had a baby at 16yrs and the son sent to the New Opportunity Corps for stealing,  took the 13yr old out of school to look after the younger ones as she seems hellbent on producing a child each year-- a good case study on how the system fails the average jane. I told her that I would contact Social Service with a view to preventing the eldest from getting pregnant and/or HIV ( all the neighbours could see it coming) but after six months of Ms Green going on numerous 'courses' ( what the hell are 'they' teaching these people??) the two social workers who turned up merely threatened her that they would put her in jail if the children were not sent to school and never bothered to follow-up.  To quote Benjamin Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Forced Ripe

Modernity is seeping into Guyanese society but I don't think the people have the right tools to handle it.
Sad letter in Stabroek News today from an Overseas Guyanese no doubt remembering nostalgically the relative innocence of growing up in Guyana (for my part although the term Anti-man was bandied about and my mom's dressmaker was flamboyantly open I don't think it dawned into my consciousness what they actually did until I was well into university and my brother and a cousin, who I think was one, were laughing over a newspaper story).
But I digress from the sad account of a group of teenagers 14-17yrs in No.78 Village on the Corentyne who are crack users and have a local prostitution ring-- the parents sound in need of help themselves-- sounding unable to cope with the realities of life and sunk into Hopelessness. So much for empowering people! Good to hear there are people around to try to help, albeit without resources, seeing as it's not Georgetown and apparently those whose mandate this would fall under, notorious for just talking the talk and horribly incompetent to deal with this problem, not having any Moral Backbone themselves!
Sometimes you feel this society is just going down the drain rapidly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The New Look Maggies

So while it was a good thing to expand sideways, I wasn't so sure the most effective use of space was to move the snacks counter back a few feet.
I thought the Lime Green and orange colours copied Oasis a bit but seeing as this is Guyana, probably the same designer. I thought that the design of using the new wall with open slats was a good one and even though they broke the City Council's rule of 10 foot from the boundary ( who doesn't these days?) there was a good air flow and with the four ceiling fans, the place was not unpleasantly hot at 11am. In fact just as cool as the backroom in Oasis, but I'm sure with less running costs.
The food was the usual standard, I thought the Custard smooth and flavoured with Almond Essence but my girl Friday preferred the one from Beacon. The Guava juice tasted authentic but as with most juices in Guyana, a bit too sweet for me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

All Lemons gone!

Well, the mis-named (not) grafted tree NARI sold my mother 13 years ago finally started bearing. The Handyman noted it was the only lemon tree in the Housing Scheme to bear fruit!  So after weeks of waiting for them to be ready ( tried picking one before its time and little or no juice) THE time finally arrived.  One of the dogs developed a problem which required treating twice daily so planned to pick this weekend.
No such luck-- bastards came on the Government reserve today, climbed on the back fence and stole all of them!! Considering it is just opposite the neighbour's back gate across the road AND on the main road the bare-faceness of it all galls. I suppose as compensation the person throwing bags of rubbish on the grass verge by the canal deposited a bag outside the house which got duely ripped on the grass outside the house. Again amazing that no-one sees these things!
So-- dogs not paying atttention to the back-- to test their alertness have managed to drive the car in the garage before they realised, neighbours not bothered, and these damm people too lazy to plant their own tree, which is sad because the land here is very fertile!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Awed by technology!

Totally impressed by online banking and kudos to the FBI for picking up a suspected Russian ring of crooks who were using tracking technology to fake people's ID and get their Login info. Isn't crime getting sophisticated?  Imagine waking up one morning and finding your bank account emptied?  Mind you, the Madoff posse, Enron and that ilk fall right into that category of stealing from people who've worked hard for their money.
Even here in little Guyana, the crooks are now driving up in cars to effect their 'choke and rob' on pedestrians-- sadly a 23yr old girl died fighting back for her cell phone and was run over by the said car-- three months later someone still has to be charged although the crime happened at the busy time of 5pm-ish when there were  lots of people on Camp St going home. I'm pretty sure the bandits would have a more sophisticated cell phone than the 2007 one I have whose features I have yet to figure out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Global Fund and corporate inefficiency

Global Fund is a fund set up by private rich people and some countries to tackle the three biggies in Health-- AIDS, TB and Malaria.  Really if the US hadn't 'buss up' the UN then there would have already been a big bureaucracy in place to deal with these three diseases on a large/global scale, which, with the increased mobility of the population, makes a lot of sense. Interesting to be reading The West on Trial in this decade to observe how the hegemonic policies of the US back in the '50's have turned out -- today's papers reported Donald Trump whinging about how South Korea and Saudia Arabia benefit from the US military but don't pay the US anything!!! Stups! Didn't the US 'make' Iraq 'pay' dem back for the first Gulf War?? And wasn't the whole second World War because the 'allies' basically screwed Germany into the ground with impossible reparation payments for the first World War?
But I digress, Germany, Spain and Denmark recently stopped paying their dues to Global Fund as presumabably they noticed how inefficient it was (HAH- sounds like the boot is on the other foot as that's the US's complaint about the current toothless UN)-- and that too, considering they are basically a creation of the private Sector - from my personal experience they seemed top-heavy with management making bad decisions and bascially doing squat while sitting on the fence being paid-- but then again that could be my jaundiced idea of most corporations (watch your back on the way up and pass the burning match on as soon as you can!).
The Guyana situation had some Brain approving the chief representative of the Principal Recipient being the Chairman of the Central Co-ordinating Mechanism-- fancy-speak for main person in the watch-dog body to see that the country was spending the funds wisely was the same person who is in chagre of spending said funds (HAH- shoulda been to see how bloody wasteful the damm Global Fund was!!). When questioned about Conflict of Interest, the American rep said she didn't 'think so' and the question was never minuted, even after being corrected in the following meeting. So after wasting several hours of my life (on one occasion five hours looking at Projects, being over-riden by a callow youth passing ridiculous and wasteful ones) and realising my purpose was to rubber-stamp bad and secret decisions I left. Eventually Head Office sends someone down to investigate why there's no Civil Society participation a few years later, who, pushed for time never bothered to ask the previous people on the Committee what they thought was the problem. There's a lot to be said for Exit Interviews! So the question is - how does one get around gerry-mandering?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wants and Needs - 2

Almost fell off the couch when I was half-asleep while Russia Today TV did a quick, short interview with Peter Joseph, a guy who has founded the Zeitgeist movement-- turns out it may just be a non-de-plume as he says on U-Tube - "it's a fucked up society we live in, " and that he'd got threats from the religious right-wingers.

His assertion that when people's wants are not met it leads to crime is an interesting one and he actually used my phrase of 'needs and wants'. He also asserts that the dependence on Oil will lead to a collapse of society and that economics is not a science but a contrivance! And that academia is a detriment to advancing social progress and that one has to break one's own indoctrination to evolve Human Thought. Funny how the ideas of Guns,Germs and Steel keeps popping up- good suggestion to the bookclub Will.

For Coloured Girls

Was trying to get my regular Film Buddy to watch and discuss the film with but too busy on Saturdays with a Masters!
It had the unmistakable Stamp of  a Tyler Perry movie/dialog. The story consisted of the interwoven lives of stereotyped Women but I was disappointed that even the 'Strong, independent' one played by Janet Jackson was dysfunctional and unhappy-- women really ought to write their own movies as other reviewers had commented that we don't hear about the Michelle Obamas and they seem to forget that The Cosby Show was record-breaking for not harping on about the negatives!
So you have the sexually abused, promiscious attractive one whose sixteen year old sister gets knocked up and has to have a backroom abortion with predictable consequences (I thought that problem has been addressed by free clinics??), the nuthead deluded Christian giving all christians a bad name, the single mother of two adorable kids with an abusive war vet man, the taken-advantage-of, good-natured but desperate-for-a-man independent woman, the naive Dance teacher who gets horribly raped and the social worker unable to have kids.
The most interesting part for me was the story of thedominated, attractive, married to the rich-independent-bully woman whose man denies that he had slept with any other woman but prevaricated when the wife asks if he's been with a man as that topic had been discussed in one of Vidya's FB pages. The character vehemently denies that he is gay and says that he is a man who enjoys having sex with another man-- the wife discovers this when she finds out that she is HIV positive-- very topical.
It ended a bit unlikely with dialog over my head but on the whole I thought there could have been a better way to put the message across and for such a cast of strong beautiful Black women it was a shame that the dialog/screenplay was so poor. Must be the modern thing to portray everything so graphically leaving nothing to the imagination.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

UG + Architecture

Had the occasion to go to UG (University of Guyana) twice and both times was mildly surprised to be in  Air-conditioned rooms. So while this is nice, I wondered whether it reflected the lives of the average student (no) and with the raised expectations-- as a small business owner-- whether they would be prepared to pay more for that facility (no). GPL, the only power company has recently stated that the public can expect Blackouts during periods of Peak usage??!! Even our neighbour - Venezuela is having problems supplying power to all, in spite of having an Oil Industry.
So the better designed buildings in the Colonial Era tried to make use of natural Air Flow. The foolishness of the previous Government and spinelessness of the current one, allowed 'Vendors' to block the air Flow outside the Main Post Office, no doubt creating a Fire Hazard but that is a whole different story.  They have now reduced the use of the unefficient air-conditioners and resorted to Fans in some booths but they seem too scared to rock the apple cart and clear the pavement dwellers.  I was recently at the National Insurance Building near the jail and the staff on the top floor were well placed to take advantage of the breeze-- incidentally all staff seemed efficient and polite.
Had visited one of  the Royal Palaces in Jaipur,India and the Guide pointed out how in the 13th century they had constructed a series of steps on the side where the wind met the building, creating an air vent to make a natural air conditioning system and wondered why some bright engineering spark didn't go back and investigate more sensible ways of constructing houses and buildings?
And at some point the Government would have to step in and insist that certain things are mandatory in New Houses, like the Barbadian government did by insisting that all new Hot Water systems be Solar Powered ones. Mind you, with the blatant disregard of rules in the current constructions in Bel Air Park-- so the people with money have no sense-- it makes a joke that the Government would insist that the Canadians follow the rules ( the City Council broke down the security construction the Canadian High Commission had constructed outside their premises, apparently blind to all the illegal construction going on in the space-hungry city).
Addition - BBC article on creating learning spaces - I think 2 is applicable for Guyana!:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poor Sod

So... we have a New American ambassador nominated... the last few didn't manage to complete their tour of the last one, this one seems overly-qualified for bumbling-along Guyana, Barbados being the nearest to a third-world country he's served. At least he'll not have to put up with tantrums and cussin' out when he has to tell the Guyana Government that aid is being cut back in these hard economic times-- lots of one man/woman NGO's  will suffer. Sad to say more jobs will be dependant on Government largesse as they seem to be the only ones wid the money (forward spending their budgets well into the following year!).

Interestingly, tourism according to the Princess Hotel Casino statistics seem to be up-- logging in 4,500 players per month... and as 'locals' are banned that must mean the Government strategy of encouraging tourism in that sector must be working.... yaay!
Sad to say that an 11yr old was caught house-breaking-- like the neighbour in Berbice whose son was destined for the New Opportunity Corp in Essequibo-- there seems to be a burgeoning problem of high expectations and little opportunity to achieve it-- I mean there is limited amount of Cakes Decorated one can buy, though no limit on the amount women will spend on Beauty Treatments/Cosmotology. It's the dead end for the young men with little or no education, fustration for those in Middle Management who don't 'know someone' and hard times for the self-employed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Opium of the Masses and Hypocrisy

Silly season in full force-- Raphael invited a Gospel Singer to Guyana and Bharat weaseled in on the man's parade and out-manouvered him! Apparently the crowd went wild according to Stabroek News (SN) in response to Bharat's 'I can't sing but I can say praise the Lord'-- very cunning Bharat-- he said he can say it but didn't actually say it! Such a very seasoned politician- inviting Raphael to his own Stage smiles- SN reporter did a good job reporting quoting Bharat, which was a bit nauseating over this morning's cup of tea but apparently the Crowd lapped it all up-- this is what some segments of the population do for entertainment?
The preacher himself sounds a bit ridiculous - giving a blessing in Hebrew-- stups- we paying for this shit?? Who and why?
If I can think of a way of working in SEX then I can hit all three off-limits topics at once- Religion, politics and sex.