Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ending the Year

So at the last Bookclub Meeting of the year, we digressed to the awful banking service in Guyana and sat there deciding which was the least of the evils, when one of the members informed us that Scotiabank had introduced a standing charge per month on her Savings account in August and she promptly marched in and closed the account. They had introduced a ridiculous idea of an inactive account - surely that's a good thing you idiots - that you can use the customer's money to your heart's content at a measly rate of 1% you are still well ahead... so the new charge was $500 per month  on an inactive account.
I had originally had opened the Scotiabank account to use as a primarily business one, but as I could never contact anyone by telephone I quickly nixed that idea: . I remembered seeing the $500 charge on my last statement and meant to get around to finding out about it -- as the charge was explained I resolved to close the account at the earliest opportunity.
I was taking the Staff out to Christmas lunch and decided to leave the office 40 minutes early, figuring it would be easy as I was told you just had to avoid the tellers and go straight upstairs to the business section. Ha! The young man told me that it was a teller transaction as I wanted to withdraw my cash-- I said I had a number in another bank that the amounts could be transferred to but apparently that still counts as a cash transaction and the tellers had to do it-- after waiting in the queue for 35 minutes, the teller told me it was complicated and would I mind waiting on the side as several supervisors needed to sign off the account. I said yes-- I minded very much and could she speed things up as I was taking everyone out to lunch. It took over an hour with me signing several A4 bits of paper looking like my bank statement and writing the reason three times why I was closing the accounts.  After an hour, the time we were all meeting at the restaurant came and went and I impatiently grabbed all bits of paper and left. On arriving to the office after Christmas I discovered I had the end of a thermal paper roll with the final amount-- no A4 sheet showing any interest - maybe an inactive account means that you don't get interest but have to pay them to use your money? They are so ridiculous I regret I didn't close the damm account 8 months ago!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where all the Post Boxes gone?

Made a decision to not support the commercialization of Christmas by spending silly amounts on cards then the ever-increasing cost of postage in addition to being wasteful environmentally speaking, when in fact most people are contactable online.
So was surprised to be so pleased to get a picture of a friend's child in a cute Santa's outfit and hear from a long-lost cousin. As I scrabbled around to send off late cards, my girl Friday asked for 'time-off' to visit her family in another county. Was given a letter to post also and on a rainy day felt the main Post Office was too much trouble to get to; although only a couple of blocks from my office - the Bank of Guyana greedily fenced all pedestrian spaces and the shortcut to the Post Office (can they do that??) making the short journey more cumbersome than it need to be. So I stuck the post in the car and figured I would find a letter-box somewhere - no such luck! All the Post boxes have mysteriously disappeared! It brought back a deja-vu  feeling of cycling to work in England and noticing all the Post Boxes in the City Centre removed following an IRA threat.
I figured with the increase of the 'mad people' on the street bored out of their minds - the GPO must have got fed-up with extraneous things being shoved into their letter boxes - I have that problem to a lesser extent with the one at work. I guess from a business point of view- they would be spending less on salaries to clear Letter-boxes and leave the onus on the customer to find the nearest Post Office?

Monday, December 17, 2012

South Africa and Guyana

An economist pointed out a recent article- Oct 2012 - in The Economist magazine about South Africa rife with parallels to Guyana:

The headline seemed to confirm this observation:

It has made progress since becoming a full democracy in 1994. But a failure of leadership means that in many ways, South Africa is now going backwards.

and seeing as Guyana regarded the restoration of democracy as 1992 it was eerily in the same time-frame.

Naomi Klein in her book 'The Shock Doctrine' alluded to a beaten Mandela touted as a hero worldwide, out of touch with the reality in 1994 and who tamely allowed Mbeke to promote thinly-disguised right-wing policies to basically chuck The Freedon Charter out of the window - she describes very well the heady sensation of the nouveau-economists signing away ignorantly the rights of the country's people and creating a new black elite.  Here the parallels to Guyana become frightening - a breakdown in Law and Order, a wrecked education system unable to produce graduates needed for the new economy- presumably cronyism being the order of the day, a president who ' He came to power promising to tackle unemployment and corruption, but has accomplished little. He owes so much to South Africa’s vested interests that it is difficult to imagine him embarking upon radical reform. If he is simply re-elected without promising anything new,'  (This would definitely apply to the nouveau post-Jagan PPP!)
sigh - the list can go on - maybe all unhappy countries are alike in many ways(apologies to Tolstoy)-- the Multi-nationals and other countries contributing to supporting the exploitation of the country and people, will reap the negative outcomes in nastier ways of destruction of the environment, Public Health issues and inundation by migrating peoples....

Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Edgar Mittelholzer Memorial Lecture

These Lectures were organised 2yrs after Mittelholzer's death in 1965 by AJ Seymour. They have been staged sporadically, since presumably there is a dearth of writers to maintain a good enough academic standard as a fitting tribute to the man who can be considered the first 'born-Guyanese' writer - Egbert Martin  publishing poems in 1883 being in a different category ( he wrote the last stanza of the British National Anthem).
It was mentioned that VS Naipaul said that writers are necessary to record the nation's history and experiences- the actual quote from 'An Enigma of Arrival' : 'Men need history; it helps them to have an idea of who they are.'    and I remembered that Chinua Achebe was provoked into writing his classic novel 'Things Fall Apart' after reading the derisive account of a Nigerian by an English writer and Chimamanda Adichie's  thoughts: -- so easy to stray off my subject...
Both UG lecturers who did presentations moaned that the town of new Amsterdam where Mr Mittelholzer hailed from showed no evidence of him-- not even a major street name? - but that New Amsterdam exists for perpetuity through his writings. Sadly like most Caribbean writer from that era, he was not appreciated in his lifetime and committed suicide in 1965. Interestingly he had to become a 'writer in exile' to be taken seriously-- there is a local writer who thinks ex-pat Guyanese writers writing about their Guyanese experience ought not to be considered Guyanese and be eligible for National Prizes and Awards!
So the topic of this lecture was Guyanese Literature, Magic Realism and the South American connection. Pauline Melville noted that we tend to align ourselves with the Anglophone Caribbean instead of tapping into the wealth of the South Ammerican connection. But interestingly in Mittelholzer's classic book 'My Bones and My Flute' - that tapped into one of 'the local spirits' - Dutchman and the even older pre-Columbian Amerinidan flute. She noted that the environment tends to influence writers in addition to what they have previously read. The Latin American environment and particularly Guyana where the popular 'hassar' or flat-headed armoured catfish has been known to walk at the speed of man towards a new pond for quite a distance, lends itself well to 'magic realism' but in fact could just be the realism of a different sort. She noted also that the language of the ancient/first peoples in the Americas lent itself well to explaining the Theory of Relativity as expounded by Einstein rather than the rational 'standard' languages and ended calling for more Guyanese writers and particularly women to express themselves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Open Spaces

So I was being driven home past the Parliament Buildings last night and noticed the the open space right opposite the said building fenced off with metal railings (it also registered recently that the Non-Aligned monument down the road also had metal railings to prevent people from removing the stone busts out of sheer 'worthlessness'). 
While I admire an acquaintance trying to change things that didn't seem right to her, I reflected sadly that loss of open spaces within an urban environment can affect us subtly in ways we might not be aware of. I digress to remember being in Halls of Residence in my fourth year after leaving Guyana to study and how I became aware I was grateful that I was high enough and on the 'right' side to look out directly onto a patch of open space while surrounded by the concrete jungle of the Barbican. That patch of green remained through the winter months and it was the first thing my eyes looked at and unconsciously looked for while looking out of the window. Now that I think about it Parks in England have had to fence off over the years to prevent the indigent from camping out and sadly likewise in Guyana where it seems the amount of people unable to cope with the 21st Century have increased.
I mentioned my acquaintance because having a high social awareness she was active in leading the 'camping outside' Parliament and 'deter Chris Brown from coming to Guyana' protests. Unfortunately she is also convinced that the HPV vaccine is not a good thing and her next pet project is to get Medical Terminations of pregnancies done through the Public Health system. As trained personnel don't just drop out of heaven this would realistically not be feasible until another 3-5yrs or so but there ought to be some sort of Forum where citizens can voice their concerns and direct all that energy and passion as my view is I prefer to hear them rather than the horrible apathy at seems to pervade and suck all the Life Energy out of you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Show them how it's meant to be New York!

I note in today's Stabroek News that the teenager who performed exceptionally well at High School and was rewarded with a car by his parents had the book thrown at him up in NY where the family had migrated.
A brief recap of the story - the 17yr decided to go driving in Long Island at 3am with three other friend after they had smoked marijuana. As a provisional driver he needed to have another licensed driver in the car with him. Of course a cocksure young male would speed and subsequently lost control of his vehicle at a tricky turn - the three friends died. The papers reported that last Friday he was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicle manslaughter and driving while impaired with drugs (Ha to Colorado who just passed State Laws allowing personal use quantities of marijuana!) and could face 25yrs in jail-- unlikely to have to serve the full sentence in America's overcrowded jails- AND the parents were both fined a small nominal fine with the possibility of jail-time.

Now I didn't read of any protesting, burning down buildings etc-- the people accepted their penance for their stupidity meekly. Not so in Guyana where it seems the more aggressive you are on the Roadways 'you win'. It is de rigueur for ignorant males ( usually) to be cruising along with a cell phone here on the Streets of Guyana, frequently past a Traffic Cop-- I have heard of instances where people have been charged but it's usually the ones the Police think they can bully - shame the same treatment is not meted out across the Board, in a small country-- it's usually who you know who can get you off the hook.

Ironically in the same papers - very next page in fact-- there was a photo of World Day of Remembrance of road traffic victims. With the Government being proud of the fact that they have no viable Public Transport Policy and that carownership has exploded within the last two years while no planned major improvements on roads designed for limited traffic plus the perception that the general level of intelligence seems to have dropped inversely proportional to aggressive behaviour - as exemplified by the current lot in Parliament on all sides, we are all set for a SERIOUS rise in Traffic Accidents.

It's not like we don't have sensible Laws, simply that they are not enforced and the Courts are a joke - you get the feeling that the mice are in charge, the cats gave up and migrated  leaving just the Fat indolent ones!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Trekking to the Top of Roraima -1

Strange how sometimes the most incredible things that we do, we do without thinking too much of it -- like producing a child (women), met a guy who casually said he designed a water system to move water from a stream about 70m to a house above in the interior and I trekked to the top of Roraima from the Venezuelan side with my unfit self complete with weak knees and ankles!
The top of Roraima is said to be one of the wettest places on earth due to the almost constant billowing clouds and frequent rainfall. Standing at the highest point of Guyana where the borders of Venezuela and Brazil meet, it is roughly 2700m high, being flattened on the top - called a tepui in these parts (mesa in the US, table-top in South Africa) which means temperatures often fall below freezing when the sun is not present.                
Odd Rock formations and ever-present mist

The top of Roraima on the Guyana side--  too rough for even a helicopter to land
The adventure started in Lethem where we got conned/persuaded to change money into Rials being told that it was a better rate of exchange here than in Venezuela (wasn't) but as we had the Time and now Brazilian money we eschewed a taxi directly to the Venezuelan border for the Public Transport bus from Bom Fim to Manaus where, we were told that we could get another bus to the border. Mich chatted up an Amerindian man and his family to find out how we should pay and we were blown away at the low cost! Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that we had JUST missed the Bus to the Border which apparently decided to leave early. Spirits still up we booked into a hotel near the station whose charges ate up whatever we saved on the taxi (and more!) and wandered out into the rainy night to one of the open-air eating places-- Brazilians love to eat al freso.
The next day we got the bus to the Brazil-Venezuela border and the scenery was pretty spectacular in places once we got off the savannah lands so I was glad we travelled during the day. The bus was freezingly cold! A quick snack and then we walked to catch a couple of taxis to get into Venezuela with another Brazilian/Guyanese Amerindian family. Our main thought was to not get conned so we pretended to be part of the family-- the border Guards obviously need spectacles because we obviously didn't look like the family in ANY way but I can now sleep easy knowing how secure the Borders are from the Druggies and Terrorists. The taxi dropped us off to the hotel in St Elena which was tightly locked - we tried calling at the family house opposite but the woman had apparently gone out.  Not wanting to look like the obvious tourists that we were we booked into the competition next door-- Hotel Michelle then wandered up the road to the Square, took some pictures of the inevitable Simon Bolivar, chatted with a Spanish woman selling trinkets to finance her 3yr South American tour and collapsed gratefully into a Chinese Restaurant for a meal.
Siesta time over, we made contact with our Tour Operators and found out that one of Mich's previous work colleagues was one of the Porters!   

Opting for the easy way out-- we agreed to pay Carlos to lug our main backpacks up the mountain - money well spent I may add - and then wandered around to check out the shops - walked to someone's home that was a living museum of the some of the Crystals found on top of the mountain - depend whether you believe they have mystical properties or not but we took turns to stand in the Circle and absorb some energy - nothing like making sure you have all bases covered for coming down in one piece!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Hot Country by Shiva Naipaul

This short very readable book gave a snapshot of Life in Guyana in the period just before 1980.
On reaching the end of the book I felt sorry that no modern Guyanese writer was able to capture the nuances of being Guyanese like the this author and Mr Battacharya of Sly Company fame. I thought Mr Naipaul's style reminiscent of Edgar Mittleholzer's. I liked very much how he captured the little familiar things like a mother warning her child not to let the coconut water get on the clothes and certain Guyanese phrases- 'catch as catch can'.
The story is about a well-meaning Middle-aged man realising his noble aspirations for the country and its people has all been in vain; even his marriage to an introverted secretive 'cold' woman is a far cry from the aspirations of his youth. The book struck me as a long 'short story', and while giving a good picture of what life was like in Guyana in the late '70's, the naked racism jarred with my 21st Century sensibilities - the book opens with the comment about Amerindians being expressionless, one also mentioned by Mr Battacharya but having been in contact with quite a few of the different tribes I tend to see them as having a very optimistic view of life  and generally jovial; further in the book the derogatory remarks about 'black people' also jarred but I concede that both reflected common views at the time and who knows- even now?
It was interesting that he managed to merge Georgetown and Port-of-Spain in his description of the Capital City in the book and being familiar with both I recognised the non-coincidental locations! Shame our Guyanese writers can't do something similar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Running the Gauntlet

 I've been told this Blog has a bitter angry tone.
So I want to record the fairly good job the Police did on Monday night to withstand the taunts, missiles and provocation when the disruptive crowd came out again to impede the flow of traffic on the East Bank Road.
Someone commented to me that he was surprised that the Police withstood so much abuse and it reminded him of the Police in England last July when primarily London exploded. There were minimal disruptions but several cars had their Windscreen damaged by things thrown.
Sadly I have found out since that women of a certain race were bodily picked up and and forcibly carried off and raped on the previous Thursday- I am stunned to think this is Guyana and where I pass every everyday practically!  Minibuses were discharging their hapless passengers at the edges of the troubled villages and I suppose the women made a bad judgement call to continue the journey to the other side by foot.
As usual it is not those people stirring who have to live with the dreadful consequences-- regular people had their Windscreens broken by missiles - an additional expense to the Family Budget that many would not have foreseen.
Several people are predicting a repeat of the troubles of the 60's.

Friday, October 12, 2012


With apologies to Emile Zola...
.... the traumatised dwindling remaining Middle Classes stayed off the roads early today after the blocking of the Major East Bank Road yesterday from 4-9pm.
This following the preliminary trial of the three Policemen who apparently shot a 17yr old in cold blood. They were apparently sent to take him in for questioning for planning an apparent robbery but something went wrong. Especially emotive after immediately following the deaths of three people during the closure of the Linden road-- and that in itself is controversial as the Attorney General went on the television to inform us that the bullets recovered from the three bodies did not 'match' any of the weapons issued to the Police - bullets being highly-priced and closely regulated apparently.
So apparently after the family and friends of the shot young man  protested outside the Magistrate's Court from 8am-- it apparently didn't dawn on the Powers-That-Be that the protest could possibly spread to the closure of the East Bank Road in that village which is strategically placed to inflict major disruptions falling before the division of the road into the two main branches.  Often when I pass I notice a Pick-up load of police in Riot Clothes hanging out- so very short-sighted of both the Police Force and indirectly the Government for not anticipating this move!
As an aside- sorry - the major Housing expansion seems to be in the canefields heading South on the East Bank.  It clearly never occurred to the Bright Sparks that there needs to be accompanying infrastructure such  as roads as there is also a non-existent Transport Policy - seeing as most of the decision makers live on the East Coast and have the privilege of a sirened Police Car accompanying them - they are out of touch of the reality the rest of us have to live with! Up to 20yrs ago plans were suggested to create another Highway Type road from the Airport (Timehri ) bypassing South Georgetown and connecting to the East Coast road. Those forward-planning people have clearly pegged it by now (died) and the reckless people in charge clearly are hell-bent on starting something and leaving the next set of people to grapple with the problem of poor planning!
So now to my heading--- two government spokespersons - the Attorney General and Minister on Governance - interrupted the American Vice-Presidential debates (why would Guyanese be so interested to see that I wouldn't know but it showed on at least three stations?!) to get on the air to accuse someone in an Opposition Party whom they clearly see as a threat - this went on ad nauseum while I waited for them to tell us of their strategy to deal with the problem and went back to my book when they got whiny and accusatory saying that the blocking of the East Bank Road was clearly part of a wider strategy -- mmm-- so in effect the Opposition can outsmart them and they the Government have the wisdom of Hindsight and not Foresight! Don't know if they really have my sympathy for crass stupidity. They are standing tight behind the Minister of Home Affairs who has a long line of Gaffes behind him, refused help from the British to train our Policemen and bring them up to the 21st Century. I have long thought that when chaos ensues the hustlers stand to make a big killing - sadly unlike Thomas Friedman's Golden Straitjacket - they seem oblivious to the fact that the Country makes a big step backwards or simply don't care.
The road re-opened and there was another hugh backlog of frustrated people at 10pm - I suppose most people got home at about Midnight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To what levels are we sinking?

I pulled my piece on Suicide after being advised it was libellous and since then read a hypothesis from the last Century that postulated that it was the lack of Human Connectedness/Community that was a major contributing factor to suicides. This was after a Peace Corp volunteer found disturbingly high levels of thoughts of and actual suicides in the Black Bush Community, alcohol being another factor-- whether on a self-medicating basis or people's response to alcoholism in the family.
A sad case of a drug-addicted 21 or 23yr old reached the papers last week who followed his two female relatives to the Backdam to strip coconut leaves to make the local pointer brooms. Apparently it was discovered/suspected that he had been short-changing the Principal whose house he had been staying at- 'his aunt' - and his solution to the problem was to chop her to death. The woman took along another younger woman who also subsequently got chopped to death and the young man before he died (ingested poison after the acts), claimed that he would not have chopped the Aunt's sister who was invited on the trip and who declined, as he didn't have a problem with her and he would have made her sit and watch!  THIS has got to be some stupid deranged Hollywood script superimposed on a drug-addled ill-formed brain - oh the dangers of imposing the 21st Century on a 16th Century brain!
That was in the rural environment - in the Urbanised environs of Georgetown a few days ago, two teenagers had a history of a dispute - the father was walking home with his 16yr old son when the other teenager attempted to grab his Gold Chain from his neck, the father pushed off the attacker and who knows maybe did more-- what arrogance and lack of judgement would a teen have to be attacking a 'foe' in the presence of an older male--( mind you and I digress to the the West Coast of Berbice- a 36yr old was walking with her 16yr old daughter and husband when the 32yr old man who liked to 'trouble her' decided to take offence at her statement to the effect that her husband was with her and boxed her to the ground- he was subsequently arrested). The teen with a more bruised ego than bodily harm went to his house nearby and got HIS father who lashed the first man/father with a piece of wood while the mother and brother and him pinned the first man down and gouged out his right eye -- I kid you not-- this happened for real.
I remember sitting next to a Surinamese man on a 'plane trip who was in their Government's Fishing Department and he noted that unless the Law and Order side of a country functioned there would be no progress in that country. How ironic -- the one profession the we churn out in abundance is those in the Law Field!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


So a fascinating thing has happened in Guyana the past couple of years since there was a crisis in the Car Industry - the place has simply exploded with cars!
I remember a dealer some time ago, telling me gleefully that the duty to bring in a Gas-guzzling Titan/Tundra was less then a million G dollars - I have been told recently that this is not so now. It boggles my mind that people in rented places are buying cars which depreciate in value the moment you drive off the Forecourt and represent an ongoing expense. Even more fascinating to me is that as my business in Berbice has dwindled - the man who used to use a donkey-cart to take his Corn-curls and biscuits to sell in the Market only last year now has 4 cars!!?? What and why? The small-time druggie( allegedly) near my office has a whole fleet- I was told he runs an informal Car Rental business.
As I was passing the Market early Saturday morning I saw a housewife expertly reversing into a parking-spot and was duly impressed. A Government official had proudly told 'the people' that they never 'had it so good' last elections with ready access to Cars and houses.  I wondered how pleased the international Car Industry would be with the creation of New Markets with people now empowered to drive without undertaking the basic concept of Courtesy on the Road, not seeming to practice Courtesy in their daily lives.  Consideration at an all time low as evinced by the rubbish strewn environment and loud-blaring music. Care- well, I am of the opinion the only reason there are not more deaths on the Road is because driving in Guyana involves avoiding one another at the last possible moment- something not for the faint-hearted - I came across three visiting US doctors who had access to a car but refused to drive, preferring to taxi it everywhere.
Am definitely feeling like a Dinosaur as in my day, it used to be a certain amount of maturity and respect that you were driving a potentially dangerous machine capable of causing damage, now the Standard operating 'cool' procedure is the have the Cell-phone plastered firmly to one ear while slouched in a 'cool position' holding the steering wheel with a locked elbow oblivious to drivers behind you while you are in the wrong Lane cos it's YOUR road and EVERYBODY ELSE must wait!

Purely coincendently - SN Editorial addresses this and other problems with the Roadways, including the role of the Police and Government:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Indian Science Fair

If I had a 9yr old, I would certainly spend a few hours with it in this interactive science-based exhibition -very reminiscent of the Ontario Science Museum who I think started encouraging visitors to 'touch' the exhibits and employing students to be living guides- a trend taken up by other museums later.
India rightly ought to be proud of its contributions to science and mathematics and the start of the exhibition had some very informative posters about steel developed during Emperor Ashoka's reign which did not rust. Unfortunately I rushed in 40 minutes to Closing Time and so could only do a hurried Walk-Through but the two locals near the back of the exhibition came over and showed me how to make pretty patterns with a swinging pendulum.
I liked the Brahma's puzzle but didn't think it was that hard as it involved moving 3 sets of increasing wooden circles from three pegs on the right to three pegs on the left via two middle pegs without making a smaller circle be below a larger one at any time-- unfortunately I didn't have time to work out the formulae in the descriptive board-- maybe I was doing it wrong?
Interesting was the use of harnessing the Ocean's power, shame they haven't seemed to developed Solar as much as the Chinese.
Definitely worth a second visit.
Then from the sublime to the ridiculous - decided to drop by Rahaman's Park to look for a present for a friend as a group of Indian businessmen had brought in a container of stuff to sell - they were clearly mad as something I would find on the Pave in NY for 5 bucks was selling for $20 - I wondered if they left room for haggling but wasn't in the mood to - picked up a pretty jewellery set and exited quickly!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


So growing up in the confining space of a 'small town' - you either developed a 'thick skin' and shrugged off what everyone else thought-- easier for Guys as playing the field was considered 'macho' not so good for the Girls - Clubbie was the name in my day. Although the younger more mercenary woman today seem to have this thicker skin built-in - not even stopping to care about her sister wife. Or you were super cautious to keep out of the gossipy aunts' way.
My sympathy goes out to Kate Middleton, caught on camera sunbathing topless - the European/Northern sun is delicious on your skin unlike the horrible burning-to-a frazzle-and-causing a heat-rash sun here in Guyana. Even worse, with the advent of the internet those pictures are apparently available 24/7 for those who want to see - I googled Kim Kardashian and apparently her sex tape with Ray-J is the best selling porn tape out! I hope she is getting the royalties but somehow I don't think so.
An English journalist made the point to the effect it's almost playing into the hands of the other extremists and justifying women be fully covered at all times if this is supposed to be 'Western Freedom'. Mind you that wouldn't solve the problem of men craving to 'see' women's bodies - the problem would arise when that boundary of decency is crossed and a woman's body is displayed without her consent but upheld by the Courts, as in France.  And for those couples who enjoy looking at each other's bodies -with and without action-- surely some sort of International Law should be there to prevent others and ex-spouses from using your image without your consent?

26-Sept- Consider this:

Casino at Princess Hotel - and musings about Gambling

So a pair of Regulars invited me to join them after a quick check that I could get in.
I had visions of slickly-suited men in tuxs and women in designer gear immaculately made-up like in the Bond Films. Wasted a whole fantasy as I was told I could go in jeans! In fact, just after midnight a couple of dirty-looking Brazilians came in wearing Flip-Flops! Nothing like low-life Brazilians to lower the Standards of a place!
So the place is roughly T-shaped when you walk in - the US Dollar machines on your left, the poker and 21 tables straight ahead and the lowly G dollars machines on your right, past the Roulette table just before the toilets (which by the way were woeful-- two of the five booths were open and one had not toilet paper and the one that did had a sticky floor by the actual toilet).  We headed right.  I figured the arrangement was to help the mainly 20-something dolly-birds who were waitressing figure out who to ignore as the free drinks never materialised an hour after ordering them and I wandered up myself to the Bar at the back to get a bottle of water as the Chinese guy next to us was smoking non-stop and the smoke was drying out my throat.
The machines have been updated from my memory-- there isn't a lever on the right that you have to pull any more-- instead a button you hit- thereby depriving the mainly overweight middle-aged crowd of any little exercise they could justify their presence in the Casino. I was mildly surprised to see most of the machines apparently made in England!
At about midnight there was a Balkan/Eastern European Dance Troupe, sadly no-one paid them much attention although I appreciated that they choreographed belly dance steps to a contemporary Hindi/Filmi song. I was told that the serious gamblers also don't drink too much as they want to keep a clear head to 'win'.
As I wandered around the room I remembered a passage from a very elucidating book - 'Healing Life's Hurts' by Michael Hardiman, about addiction: 'Addiction, in most cases, is the abuse of any substance or activity that leads to self-destruction. The core element of addiction, in my opinion, is the individual's use of such purposes: filling a void or sense of emptiness; quelling distressing feelings; and /or producing pleasant or euphoric feelings.'  Of course, I hasten to add this does not apply to my two regulars who justified their visits as an economic one as they would end up spending what they do at a regular evening at a Bar, and the surroundings were pleasant enough:  air-conditioned with soft rock music in the Background, the odd sandwich thrown in for free...  "So gambling addicts use thinking as a means of avoidance. - and Casinos provide a situation that can utilise their mental energy - the risks inherent in betting occupy the mind and eventually take it over completely. Allied to that is the adrenaline surge inherent in the excitement in winning or losing."
Beginner's Luck - and I was ahead by $4000 -- started losing and stopped - ended the night $2000 more than when I came in, somehow I don't think I was the sort of person these Casinos were designed for!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Who decides 'normal'? Sex

The second paragraph of this article begins thus:  'Hollywood's march to tear down -- to obliterate, really -- every boundary of sexual decency' and goes on to describe a 'new ground-breaking' film debut-ing at the Toronto Film Festival wherein I presume the director works into reality one of his fantasies using his ex-wife to play a prescription addicted woman who has prison-sex with her incarcerated brother.  It reminded me of a book written by Ben Elton, who used to be my favourite comedian when Stand-Up became popular, called Popcorn dealing with the question of violence in Hollywood and whether it influenced people's behaviour or whether it was the other way around-- Hollywood merely reflecting the new reality.
Having grown up in conservative, sheltered Guyana where the Censors were very active, I remered looking at the film 'About Last Night' in disbelief and annoyance as basically what happened - two young attractive people met at a party, had sex and woke up the next morning in the same bed and felt awkward because they didn't know each others name!  And thinking that THAT is not what happens in real Life I know it...and it was basically setting a new low standard for the non-American film-watching Public to follow.   I would have agreed with the protagonist in Popcorn that behaviour in Films don't influence Joe Public except that when I was about 16yrs or so, I 'followed' this girl to Suddie and when we were walking back from the Cinema this young boy broke off from his gang of friends and started singing a (Indian) film song and I believe even dancing around-- poor demented fool-- that was his only experience of a man letting a woman know he was interested in her!  My personal experience is that the inexperienced and socially inept DO tend to mimic behaviour in films, which leads to peer pressure and unless your child is well grounded in your particular Family Culture, they will be vulnerable to those same things you sniff at and say wouldn't happen.
As an interesting aside Borges says all men are the same at the moment of coitus.
But back to the influence of Hollywood - it is interesting that the American diplomats are presumably on High Alert over some rubbishy crap (an Egyptian Coptic person made a film on Muhamed having sex). If I was so inclined, I myself would go and demonstrate outside an Embassy that those clowns have turned a beautiful and bonding act into a dispensable commodity - I was looking at some earlier episodes of the sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother' and the protagonist and his friend complained that his Balls were turning blue because his Love Interest had not had sex with him although they had been going out for a month! In fact, his room-mates who were eavesdropping mocked when the girl said 'I want to get to know you'. No wonder the young are confused watching this sort of shit. 

Post-script 18th Nov 2016:  Clearly having too much time on my hands, I was messing about on YouTube and somehow wondered unto the Kay Griggs' interviews and while writing her off as a crank who rambled on - pulling in everybody and everything under the sun-- 9/11, the US military, Jon Benet (the missing Colorado child) _ clicked on a link where this writer who had Hollywood aspirations basically said it is a sick bunch of people out there who force/fool the young and innocent to do something perverse-- such bizarre sexual practices in order to destroy their self-image 'He told me how sex is used to control, intimidate and groom boys into this type of military service from a young age.' (both Hollywood and the US military, covert ops) - I actually felt sorry for young men having to encounter all this as I am noticing that young men seem to be more fragile emotionally -- translating to a higher suicide rate over here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When money is the bottom line...

... so the Government in 1975 hit in the bright idea of providing all schoolbooks to the under-16's. As we were the guinea-pigs I remember being thrilled to get brand-new books, not so thrilled to have Burnham's face on the front of my exercise books. OF course, even back then I had a love affair with books and tried not to dirty the pages.  The major flaw in the system was that students were not held accountable for damaged books - this inculcated the 'slave mentality' of free handouts without responsibilities. And bizarre as it seemed to me - other children managed to rip the covers off the textbooks. By the time I progressed to the higher forms the textbooks were a sorry state and you quickly learned to be the first so you could pick the books in better condition if the teacher in charge was lenient. Even then certain books were not enough and you had to buy a few. Certainly the ones for extra lessons!
So flash to the current day - the Government of the day persists in not pulling up those children who do not look after the books properly so that they can be passed on to be re-used by the pupils in the following class. This then becomes a costly exercise.  So in today's newspaper the Cabinet Secretary confesses that they sanction pirated copies -- um-- people you are the Government of the Day - you have to be seen to be doing the right thing. How can they uphold Intellectual property rights while breaking the laws themselves.  In my field, encouraging a foreign company to suck up most of the customers while lowering Standards and not paying any Taxes - what possible message are they sending?   Maybe Government is all about reinventing the wheel?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Innocents paying..

'The two-hour movie, Innocence of Muslims, cost $5 million to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it. The film claims Muhammad was a fraud. The 14-minute trailer of the movie that reportedly set off the protests, posted on the website YouTube in an original English version and another dubbed into Egyptian Arabic, shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Muhammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.
It depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.'
I was sadden to hear that the (relatively) innocent American ambassador and his colleagues had to die due to the aggressive Israeli stance of continuing the provoke the Muslims into retaliating. By all accounts Mr Chris Stevens looks WASP-ish and I wondered yet again why America kowtows to its Jewish lobbyists paying a heavy diplomatic price?
Movie sounds like the sort of propaganda crap that one would not waste time viewing and looks like a deliberate ploy to provoke therefore Mr Bacile is responsible, along with the Brainbox/es who conceived the idea, for the deaths of the American Consular staff. If I was Obama, I would hand his ass over to the Libyans, or at the very least resolve to put him on the banned persons list for endangering American lives-- an interesting comment on the NPR site was : why didn't he release this movie in his own country of Israel?

UPDATE:  So after the dust has settled the plot thickens - turns out Sam Bacile is a anagram of imbecile - yes I know- not the exact spelling but we are dealing with illiterate Americans here and is likely not a real person - in which case was the purpose for winding up the Muslims a cynical way of herding the flock to vote against the Democrats and in favour of the War-Hawks? If I was Mr Stevens' family I would be sueing a whole bunch of people in the Courts!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

It's odd how books get selected for The Bookclub. We decided to have a month for Latin American writers and Savage Detectives was suggested, to be paired with Ficciones by Jorge Lois Borge.  A month before the said month, after attempting to read Savage Detectives for over a year I was told it was too hard a read, especially paired with the Borges. Actually with so much to read I didn't get past the Introduction of the Borges myself!
Another Bookclub member vaguely remembered a book with a Mango Street in the title last year when the forthcoming Booklist was being discussed (turns out it was The Mango Season she was thinking of) and I remembered that I had found the above in my Book Exchange Program.  It is really a YA (Young Adult) book, but a quick and thoughtful read - so a good contrast to the magic realism of  Borges. The blurb at the back describes it as 'Told in a series of vibrant vignettes' and as I read it I remembered a friend's blog- Passing Perspectives. The bitter-sweet experiences of emigrants to the US trying to move up the social ladder after being on the bottom rung. There are some good observations, like the writer yearning to leave both the street and the house saying "They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out." Not unlike the Guyanese emigrant impression, except they are usually appalled at the drop in Standards on their return.
I resonated with 'I am the one nobody comes for. ... Her power is her own.She will not give it away'
Having said all the above, I am sorry that the grammar and punctuation leave a lot to be desired and while it is good to encourage the young to read, surely better editing would help their English skills without detracting anything from the stories?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Georgetowne Gem

Almost missed one of the best (in terms of informative and access to the 'old' knowledge) talks given for the year - by 'Bert' Carter on late 18th Century and early 19th Century Georgetown at Moray House. Thanks to the adminstrator's timely telephone call to remind me!

This excellent presentation took the format of a walk from the East Bank in the days slightly before the Horse-drawn trams-- yes-the East Bank had a sensible Public Transport system before the masses of people appeared -- down Water Street to the Seawall before the Pegasus Hotel was built. He told us that there were about 220 old pictures/photograghs so it was a visual treat as well.
The architectural beauty that has survived the vandalism through the ages and still available today was highlighted and I resolved to go with my camera and try to take some shots before they all disappear. An interesting Catholic symbol kept reappearing - I thought he said Tetraconch - a basic Greek Cross but when I looked it up on the Internet -it referred to a building plan. He pointed out William Russell who was a Scottish planter responsible for the concept of the Conservancy Dams and other notable people who made a lasting impression on the face of Georgetown. 
The pictures, many taken a mere three years after the invention of mass photography, were a delight and really gave a clear picture of Georgetown along with its history of development until today's sad mistakes and rampant vandalism with the theft of the iron railings-- incidentally I met a Columbian airhead whose father has a scrap-metal and mining company here in Guyana and who said gaily in response to my comment that they ought to screen the 'scrap-metal' for stolen architectural artifacts that THATwasn't their concern - it was the Government's responsibility-- rather like the Chinese attitude to the elephant tusks eh?
I learnt a lot in a short time and hope the taping/filming becomes widely available - this along with Chapter 2 of The West On Trial I would force every citizen to learn!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Changing Face of Georgetown -2

After reluctantly attending a meeting including a couple people I actively dislike I decided to indulge in some emotional eating and wandered the local Mario's for a pick-me-up pizza. I was quite surprised to see the nice seating area overlooking Camp St turned into Quiznos counters, making the place feel very cramped. Granted that the Fast-food mentality is to serve 'em up quick and leave so we can get a large turnover - it really downgraded the place and it wasn't helped by the sullen girl behind the Mario's counter, who felt it necessary to serve up drinks to a customer before punching in the order into the Computer so I could get out of there quicker.
Having less space meant that there was no space for a queue and noting my impatience she turned to serve the laid-back red guy who came after me - he kindly indicated that I was first.
I slipped into a booth by the condiments bar and exchanged a couple remarks with the lady sitting there-- apparently she, the red guy and I think she said her lawyer were having one of their regular get-togethers. They had the juices from Mario's and the subs/wraps from Quiznos. The nice lady muttered about not drinking Cherry juice after 6pm as it was too acidic for the stomach and both men grinned at her and slurped their cherry juices. She noted that the Wrap was not folded like those in the US and shared her Grilled Chicken with them-- read what Yahoo health had to say about this item:

mmm, so much for healthy eating!  However they all seemed to enjoy their subs and wrap.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why It's Exhausting to Live in Guyana - 5

Because you realise the 20-somethings and 30-somethings who will inherit the land are pretty much clueless but whining about how hard Life is in Guyana into their Blackberries and driving badly in their air-conditioned cars.

I had a couple unsatisfactory encounters with Guyana's future and had to suppress several violent fantasies.
The first being a container parked in the narrow road leading to my mother's house. I was on the other side of the road and had to stop as two cars in the blocked lane sped up, forcing me to come to a halt. As I was proceeding the young 20-something driving his family did the same thing- sped up, and we met roughly in the region of the middle of the container. He waved me to reverse and I stuck my head out of the window to inform him that I had the Right of Way, then turned off my engine! By this time two SUV's came up behind me and mercifully the drivers behind the young man kept a space for him to reverse into. The spectators viewing the situation advised him to back off as it didn't look like I was going anywhere. He grudgingly back-uped leaving very little of the road and forcing one to go off-road. The first SUV roared off around me and I pulled up to tell the erring driver that as I had the Right of Way, the correct thing to do would be to wait until there was no oncoming traffic before pulling into the other lane-- he chortled that he would go when he wanted to - to the amusement of his wife sitting next to him. The nasty racist thing jumped up and I heard mutterings about about my car from the nearby spectators.
The second incident was my break from work to get a cup of coffee- I generally enjoy a stroll down the road - two 20-somethings were 'sooring' down the cashier who was taking a long time to take their orders and batting her eyes at them, causing the next senior person to relieve her so she could wriggle her behind around the Counter-- which is all well and good if I didn't have to get back to the office. One of their colleagues- a young female, pushed ahead of me to ask the second one to buy her three items. Now I was the only other person in the queue and I made an objection muttering that in fact she didn't have long to wait-- the young man ahead of me cancelled his order, turned around and said he was 'buying  for her' and then proceeded to confuse the new cashier. There was no-one else behind me and in fact, everything would have proceeded quicker if everyone stuck to the script. On a positive note- they were all different races.
I must be getting too old for this sort of thing, where it would have amused me before, now I just see everyone trying to buck the system and causing more confusion in the long run!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Afternoon at the Races

Port Mourant Turf Club billed their 6th Guyana Cup as the biggest Horse Racing event in Guyana.
Apparently my family used to own a Racehorse when my mother was a child as she remembers dipping her fingers into the bucket of molasses for the Horse -- she looks normal so I guess they weren't into 'spiking the mix' back in de day. I have vague memories of being dragged to 'The Races' - the crowds in the Stands, the interminable waiting and the Horses thundering past in a cloud of dust.
My neighbours, rapidly gaining confidence with their new car wanted to explore a bit and decided to join me up there as I was attending a Wedding. One couple came with their 8yr and 1yr old and the other couple came by themselves. We aimed to get there for 1pm and that was good timing as there was the inevitable late start, unfortunately this year saw the largest Crowd and the Stand was filled by the time we got there - just in time for the starting of the first Race.

 We ended up standing in front of the Announcers/VIP stand by the fence.
I thought the price was a bit steep (Gy2000=US10) for a mere spectator sport, where you have to stand in the sun to get a view. In fact-- one needed to be elevated to see across the field to see the start- and if the Stand/s were filled what were you paying for?
My neighbours and I are clearly not cut out for the spectator thing - as we weren't into gambling, didn't know the Horses, weren't Local- didn't 'know' people, didn't drink to get drunk and got bored after the second Race and left!
As usual it was the charm of thr Guyanese crowd that made the day as a sweet 13yr old stood back while my neighbours pushed in front of her and her 5yr old sister. Turns out that they were waiting for the 8th Race when their first horse would run, they had a second horse running later. She worked out that we were not Locals and shared a borrowed Program to explain the finer details of Horse-Racing to me - pointing out the jockey on a beautiful grey horse was her cousin and that the top jockey had broken his foot last year when his broken bone punctured his skin and the second Race was his first Race back! There was some sort of Upset for the punters as the favourites did not win either of the first two races- both winners winning unambiguously, the first most appropriately named Saviour!

The horses were magnificent to look at though
And the official Betting booth was crowded:
though the unofficial gambling was also doing a brisk trade:
Apparently after each Race all the unofficial gamblers run onto the Track and do business:
requiring the Police to chase them off the Track
before the next Race and delaying up things considerably:
Of course, the Police themselves need to clear the Track:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Now for something different....Africa

Thanks to BBC radio, learnt of the tragic case of Samia Yusuf Omar – the Somalian female runner - who took part in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  With the rise of the Islamic fundamentalists and the general descent of Mogadishu into a warlord-run turf, woman’s sport was probably one of the last things that they would be interested in. Sadly what happened - she tried to reach London independently and travelled over-land to Libya with the support of her overseas relatives—one of whom was a sister living as a refugee in Finland - where against the advice of her mother, she took a migrant ship which ran aground in Italian waters. The Italian navy apparently using the latest European technology, being one of the main countries having to deal with illegal migration, threw them a rope and 6 women and 1 man died while crawling across – Samia one of them. I just thought how much of these stories that we never hear about—the daily struggles of the common folk to see some sort of future. 
Also, what’s sad – those Somalian women who became world-famous like the model and actress who had married the singer David Bowie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali whose books we read in the Bookclub, who seemed not prepared to help their sisters in tragedy and use their fame to start some sort of Foundation to improve the lot of women back in Somalia- I admit not an easy task to try and make sense of the mess back home.
I note the various medical ‘outreaches’ of Overseas Guyanese – something is better than nothing, but for chronic diseases, surely helping people to make better choices – the primary one as I can see is eating properly – the odd shot in the dark is just a Bandaid maybe better to support of National Policies – like giving the Gardasil vaccine to girls before becoming sexually active (Guyana has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the region/world even?).  It is very difficult to encourage people to take responsibility for themselves when the general atmosphere is ‘grab it now before it’s gone’.  There is room for both types of aid—as far as I can recall it was the Remote Area Medical team (overseas –based doctors volunteering their precious two weeks vacation to run volunteer clinics in Guyana’s interior) that highlighted the high incidence of genital warts/cervical cancer back in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s but of course the Government may want to claim credit with the improved Health facilities and training of more Medexes.
The Ethopian Prime Minister died at a relatively young age of 57 – he apparently came to Public  Notice in mid-1980’s – around the same time I met a pretty Ethopian student who surprised me with her reaction to my sympathetic mutterings about the awful famine rampant in Ethopia at the time – she informed me that in fact Ethopia was exporting their staple grain! Bob Geldof arranged Band-Aid around the same time.  So this PM takes credit for Ethopia’s impressive 11% growth rate in the last few years, the war with Eritrea back in the 1980’s and the large-scale ‘leasing’ of Ethopian land to the Asian neo-colonists (China and India) and its attendant miseries not really highlighted.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Guyana: A National Cesspool of Greed,Duplicity & Corruption I( A Remigrant's Story) by GHK Lall

The wordy title alone gives an indication of both content and style of this book. By the end of Chapter 1, after a Foreword, Preface,Author's Note and Prologue I had to put the book down for a little rest. I recall a friend who read it saying to me that it needed editing.

Purely by coincidence, if there's such a thing ordained by the Universe, I happen to be reading about Aristotle's works and was on the part about his 'Politics' and was impressed how a statement by Transparency International,Guyana mirrored his view: 'The bond which holds men together in states, says Aristotle, is justice,  "and the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society....Man when perfected is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worse of all."
Um, so while we're off-topic - 'a government formed from a middle class of moderate and sufficient property is preferable to "those who have too much of the goods of fortune,strength,wealth, friends and the like" who will establish a despotic oligarchy (PNC? nouveau PPP?) or to 'the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme," from whom will come a degenerate form of government , with power in the hands of the poor and uneducated (current PPP?)'.     He further stated that the 'principal motives for revolutions are: a universal passion for privilege and prerogative; excessive insolence or avarice on the part of the rulers; too great concentration of power in one or more individuals; attempts to conceal the misdeeds of men guilty of wrong-doing; disproportionate increases - territorial, social, economic, or otherwise  - of any part of the state at the expense of the rest; dynastic and family feuds and quarrels and the struggle for office and political power between rival classes and political parties' - mmm Guyana seems ripe for something!

So back to the book-- Ch 2 dealt with the further dealings with the GRA in getting his vehicle and personal effects released from the Wharf and obtaining a Driver's Licence. He grudgingly admits that the latter process was faster then that in NY and I have to say the British did good work in updating the archaic system in both the Driver's and Vehicle Licences obtainable at Smyth Street in a rather run-down building - sad that he ascribed the smooth/fast process to his 'help'
I felt a great deal of sympathy reading about his encounters with City Hall and greedy relatives but wondered how much he contributed to, in his words, the monster - his naivety in believing someone saying 'doan tek wurries' and handing over a Power of Attorney to an already suspect relative surprised me and I thought he was lucky that they didn't move to change the deeds of his relatively recently-purchased house when he returned to NY to sort out personal matters.  Which reminds me of what I thought was the most enjoyable aspect of the book - his capturing the local dialect, sarcastic asides and dubbing people who annoyed him with derogatory but appropriate names... hence the appearance of Lucrezia and Arnold Benedick, I was amused at his caution of avoiding Slander by even changing the characters' spelling!   By Ch 9 he acknowledges his naivety and his contribution to it, however three years later in Guyana he pragmatically pays whatever is necessary to get the rest of his personal effects cleared but ends up paying the 'commercial' not 'personal effects' price- roughly 4x the price and I wondered if it was deliberate, as by then his self-righteous tones might have reached petty, upper ears!
Ch12 I found most interesting as it dealt with the whole Education mess-- a microcosm of the mess being repeated all over and I liked his observation about the Goverment's weak stance on the matter as there was an AFC supporter writing enthusiastically about the young vibrant Minister doing good things in that field where anything is better than nothing but I didn't think over-the -top-praise for just doing what you are supposed to merited such a response.
On the whole the book reflected the Guyanese reality - he tried to end on an optimistic note, asking what can be done -- but acknowledging that what's left is the remnants of a once-moral society- the plaintive moanings of a generation looking back with sadness at what we've become. Today's parents have a lot more outside influences to counter.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cause for alarm....

The results of the Regional school-leaver exams for 15/16yr old came out this past week- this Blog was delayed as I tried to find out the pass-rate for Trinidad and Barbados in English A and Mathematics to use as a comparison-- no joy on the CXC Website and was informed by an Education Officer here that they would not release that to me - a non-person, even if I emailed them.
So the cause for alarm is: the pass-rate for Guyana has dropped in English A from 60.8% last year to 37.02% this year - that is--  passes in Grades1-3; and in Mathematics from 30.4% last year to 29.69%.

A similar drop occurred in Jamaica in these two subjects and in the absence of Data from Barbados and Trinidad where one would have expected better pass-rates, one can only surmise that there was a similar decline as the overall pass in the Region in English A was 47% achieving Grades 1-3! One also assumes the pass-rate for Mathematics is so embarrassingly low that they are skirting around the issue and not publishing...?

This does not bode well for the future if 16yr-olds cannot cope with a syllabus revision which placed more emphasis on reading and comprehension as this would impact every other 'subject' - so in fact although the overall pass-rate in Information technology improved to over 80% getting Grades 1-3, it was noted that  many students resorted to unnecessarily re-writing the question demonstrating poor examination technique! I remember failing or getting substantially poor marks because I was too embarrassed to ask what 'neonate' meant in my first-year Biology paper in university so fudged around the question: so I can totally sympathise with students being confronted with words or phrases they may not have encountered as Reading for pleasure is a declining pat-time and I have heard the younger folk say they only read if they have to - ie for school work.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Passing the time.......

So, drifting in the flotsam of Guyana, juggling my sitting on the fence act and trying not to thread on anyone's toes while trying to amuse myself... a friend thought this would be right up my Street as he thought my Blogs were veering towards the bitter side and forwarded an invite to a Book Launch titled:

Apart from the people with vested interests like the Newspaper people, Kaieteur News founder himself giving a little speech decrying the rise of the Corrupt, there were only about 25 people, not counting Mr Austin of Austin Book Services, the only Bookstore in Guyana, and now where the book can be found - the latter was praised for being non-partisan although I understand he had refused to stock 'The West on Trial' - a Guyanese Classic praised by Left-leaning University professors in other parts of the World but Guyana.  I was acutely aware that I myself was there at the invitation of a friend who had got invited, although Mr Lall was gracious in thanking me for attending.
Mr Lall gave a little summary about how he came to write the book but I was a bit disappointed that the usual practice of reading a few sections from the book was not carried out. Apparently I was sitting next to someone who had been given a copy to review and they said that they read in all in 6 hours non-stop and  that it pretty much reflected Life in Guyana today without much exaggeration.
Having said that, Mr Lall mentioned that his reputation apparently preceded him and his request for a venue was rejected so he was careful not to name people directly using Mr Austin as an example saying that it would be unethical to name him if he had - say- refused to stock the book that the correct thing to do would not mention that he had done so, as that was his right and privilege as the only Bookseller in Guyana and thus thanks to his his non-partiality we can access Mr Lall's book.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Segu by Maryse Conde

Like Roots, a novel that traces the fortunes of an aristocratic family for three generations during the turbulent period of 1797-1855-ish when traditional African customs came under threat from larger conquering forces-- Islam from the northeast and later Christianity from the West.
The novel is realistic in that the characters all become rather bitter towards the end of their lives when their unfulfilled ambitions, hopes and dreams come to nought, in fact I thought the ending was quite appropriate.  It was good to get a picture of life in Africa before/not from a White perspective ... I was fascinated by the reincarnation and psychic connections but wondered how much of that was the writer's imagination. The role of the women was also interesting - the power of the first wife, the acceptance of polygamy and the concubines and the acceptance of other children not birthed as your child. Yet the women learn to operate within this set-up, an ex-slave becomes a powerful Marriage-arranger and her daughter boldly proposes to the second son. A young captured Yoruba girl learns trade in Brazil and returns back to Africa. In fact, that latter fact surprised me as I did not realise that a sizeable number of slaves returned back to Africa. Sadly the discrimination between African people with the perception that a lighter skin and non-kinky hair was somehow better also started.
I wondered if any of the characters mentioned - several notable people who lived during that period  were worked into the novel- had their Tombs destroyed by the fundamental Muslims in Mali recently.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Evening with the GHS and trolling Stabroek Market at night

Evening with the GHS and trolling Stabroek Market at night

A very interesting couple of hours was spent with the Guyana Heritage Society under the kind patronage of a Dutch historian now resident in Guyana. He arranged for the screening of a Dutch documentary of the a letter sent by the wife of the Dutch Governor of Essequibo in the late 18th Century to her 12yr old son going to school in Holland- Friesland in Northern Netherlands. Apparently Governor Trotz’s family originated from the part of Germany now in Poland and they had about 80 slaves (African) who either took up that name and/or intermingled with the family over the course of time. Interestingly, the 12yr old son who grew up in a relatively affluent lifestyle in Holland eventually returned back to Guyana and subsequently died in 1839.

It personalized the settlement of the Dutch and brought into focus the rivalry between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th Centuries as this letter was among 4,000 or was it 40,000 recently ‘discovered’ in the archives of an English museum, apparently seized from Dutch ship returning to Holland. They traced one of Governor Trotz’s descendants whose life sort of mirrored that of the letter-writer’s in that she has been living in Brazil for the past 20yr and her son was in the Netherlands completing his education.

They also managed to trace a local who said that his family had been told that they were the descendants of the then 12yr old son—Adrian. I was amused at the part of the documentary where they interview a current Mr Trotz on his patio, his house being larger that most in Holland and very tastefully furnished and the questioner from Holland asked him how he felt to be a possible descendant of Governor Trotz who was white and he, the current Mr Trotz was obviously not – he did a double-take and tactfully replied about the interactions between the races/cultures.*The current Mr Trotz then asked for the floor after the presentation and said Guyana is/should become a big melting pot where distinctions should be irrelevant in the aspiration to become One Nation, One People, One Destiny – although that motto may have been foisted on us- or words to that effect. Two friends commented afterwards that they both wondered if the current Mr Trotz had any of the same genes as the blond descendant and I thought to myself it would have been interesting to trace the African side back to see how and when the two races intermingled,  as it was common for slaves to take the name of their masters.

We were then invited to try some Dutch Schnapps – nothing less than 30% alcohol. I tried three and while burping it reminded me of the raw Raki. A little tipsy, I agreed to follow a friend who was going to her regular Friday night market-shopping at Stabroek Market. The place was bustling at 8.45pm – it is a whole new world…. A woman from the Opposition was trying to whip up a small crowd of people by Idaho, the firemen were liming outside the Firehouse, wholesalers and small farmers had spread their wares out on the Stelling Road. Most things seemed cheaper.

* Ran into Mr Trotz and I complimented him on his house and he ruefully told me that the Producers were playing on the fact that the Trotzs were bigshots back in de day and used the Patio of a local hotel to film!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Found this on a friend's FB page -- apart from the emotive use of the word Massacre, I pretty much agree with most of what this writer has to say. Today's SN has a piece from TI about the insidious undermining of institutions also:  and this is what I took from the article : 'Because the Law is the glue that binds our society. Rather, abiding by those laws is the glue. Corruption, small and large, helps to break that glue.'

So here's Sammy Braff''s piece: He changed the country from Singapore to Botswanna at the end - as too many rules, even under a benevolent dictatorship was deemed a bad thing!

Over the past week or so, many Guyanese have raised their collective voices in condemning the murder of three protestors at Linden.   What started out as a protest against the poor socio-economic conditions of the town, turned deadly and morphed into a tense confrontation, at Linden and in the hallowed halls of Parliament.  As the chaos continues, Guyana’s institutions are being further undermined. 

To be fair, Linden is not the only community that is struggling, and its electricity subsidy is unsustainable.  Simply put, it is bad economics and disincentives must be introduced to cut down on wastage, to say the least.  However, the method of introducing tariff increases could have been applied with more thought. For example, the increases could have been phased in over a period of time.  The question is, why the rush to end this subsidy?  One cannot help but note the patience with which the Government seeks to engage in dialogue on many an issue, but then quickly seeks to reverse a subsidy to a community without consulting residents and independent analysts (local, regional or international) given the broader economic condition of the town. The shouts of victimization, given that Linden is an opposition stronghold, were certain to ring loud and clear; and there is evidence to suggest that such views are meritorious.    Electricity tariffs aside, the bauxite industry is but a shadow of its former self, and nothing has filled the void left in the wake of its demise.

So yes, the people of Linden had every right to raise their voices, and yes, what was shaping up to be a prolonged protest could have been short lived.  Indeed, the government, especially the President, missed a golden opportunity to intervene and start the much needed dialogue before the situation got out of hand.  Indeed, in the aftermath of the idiocy surrounding the condemnation of the WICB hosting cricket matches in Florida, one cannot help but question the advice the President recieves and the super salaries paid for said advice.  It should be noted, that four days before the November 28 polls, the sugar workers in Berbice protested in front of the PPP’s New Amsterdam office, and were “rewarded” with a visit by no less than the President, who flew into the ancient county.  Maybe President Ramotar should take this page, if none other, from the former president’s book.  To the President’s credit he has put the increased tariffs on hold, but at the time of writing he has ignored the elephant in the room. 

On another note, some will argue that there are many communities around the country that are arguably worse-off than Linden; however, such an argument misses the point.  Every Guyanese has the right to protest without fear of being killed, or victimized, by those who promised to rule without favor, all of Guyana.  Moreover, if some choose to not exercise said right, then so be it, but they should not vilify those who choose to agitate for a better Guyana.   I recommend Martin Niemoller’s poem for those who choose to vilify.   

Notwithstanding the martyrdom of the Linden three, Guyana’s already weakened institutions have incurred additional damage from a regime that perceives every morsel of criticism as an act of treason, an act of anti-development sentiment towards the state. The new status quo is one in which agents of the state, who are sworn to protect and serve, break the very laws that they are required to uphold. Guyana is at a point where a nasty precedent has been already set, and reinforced time and time again, so much so that trigger happy “men of the law” walk away feeling even more empowered, emboldened to repeat their unlawful acts, while mothers grieve their load of nine months past, and children dream of what life would be without dad.  Yes, from the tossing of a court paper over one’s shoulder, to the killing of the Linden three, and everything in between, our institutions are continually undermined.  So while those in the corridors of power arguably want to see Guyana develop, they should not operate in a manner which compromises our institutions, and locks out effective input from the “opposition”. To do so is dictatorial, counterproductive and anti-development.  If you are unconvinced as to the importance of institutions read the story of Botswanna . 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Events in Linden

So Linden exploded last Tuesday night after people were blocking an important bridge connecting to the Interior, in protest.  The Police who it seems were instructed to clear the Bridge met with resistance (they apparently did not use their new toy - the Water-Cannon - probably due to poor Water Pressure up there?? Just speculating).  Unlike the 2007 Tain Protest, the Lindeners got enraged to have Tear Gas released on them-- here the story gets a little unclear - whether rubber bullets mixed with Live Ammo (accident or design?)  were fired at the same time or if this was after the Police, buildings and waiting vehicles were attacked - a few of the latter two set alight.

 It turns out that the Lindeners were/are unhappy that the subsidy on the Electricity rates that they enjoyed from the days of the Burnham administration in the 1970's is earmarked to end now that the collapsed Bauxite Company has been given to the Chinese who have to make it economically viable -- as a small business owner I can say the one of the largest drains on the finances is the Payroll Expense and the Chinese have been doing just that-- implementing Cuts in the Staff. So with investors wary this could not happen at a worse time-- here is a Lindener's view of the situation-- also interesting are the comments after:

Sad that three people died on Tuesday night and as many as two dozen were injured. I understand that this is all over a 5% raise, as apparently the rates will be staggered until it reaches the 'highest in the Caribbean' - Guyana - 24cents per kWh as opposed to Barbados -8 cents per kWh. Almost immediately the whole Race issue was raised, apparently making the Chinese- the major employer in the area very nervous.
Also sad it the lack of listening to concerns from all sides due to a gut emotional response - one FB friend deleted someone's unsympathetic comments to the Protesters who countered that the Lindeners were wasteful - the average household burning 500 units as opposed to 125 in the Georgetown and that jobs were hard to get anywhere - I thought everyone's point of view is valid and the Problem with all its angles needed to be looked at if a viable solution is to be reached.

PS - Today's papers(27-Jul) report that the pathologist report says that the men were shot by a Handgun in the vicinity of their heart - very disturbing.