Exams, Bagpipes, Town and Anthropology
Time is, once again, flying by. I now have 5 months and 5 days left in Guyana. Not long at all, and certainly not as long as I would like.
I’ve been busy at school lately. Last week, the Grade 11s write their Mock CXC Maths and English exams, so now Rosie and I have horrific amounts of marking to do. Thankfully, other teachers have marked the multiple choice papers for me (after I checked that the marking scheme was correct – it wasn’t) but no-one has been kind enough to offer any help marking Paper 2. So I alone must tackle 113 summaries, stories, argumentative essays and 226 sets of comprehension questions. So far, I’ve done 21. One student has passed so far. Some of the answers are quite interesting. One answer to a question based on a poem was; “The suggested by poet is a child like for aim and she was grow up day.” Beautiful. The kid who wrote this is lovely, but at 16 years old, I would have hoped that her quality of English was a bit better. Out of 20 argumentative essays I’ve read, only one has actually been in paragraphs. I’m feeling a little disparaging at the moment, as it feels like I’ve been talking to myself for the past seven months.
On the bright side of things, I still love being here. The teachers in my computer classes are learning very quickly … although officially no-one is supposed to have been in the Computer Lab as it hasn’t been ‘formally handed over to the school’ yet. Miss Samantha has asked me to help her plan an opening ceremony. The teachers are slowly beginning to grasp formulas in Excel, though the looks on their faces when I do more complicated ones makes me feel like a wizard. All of the teachers now know how to turn a computer on and off, and we’ve been practicing clicking and mouse control with some of the Primary teachers and the Dorms staff by playing games like ‘Build an Insect’ on Encarta. We learnt how to do research on the computer last week. The topic was ‘Bagpipes’, and so the Computer Lab was filled with the wailing sound of Scottish, Dutch and Hungarian bagpipes.
Last week I was also summoned to Miss Odessa’s office … something which always creates a bit of fear, after all, having just escaped 13 years of being a school student, being called to the Headmistress’s office still makes me feel like I’m in trouble! However, it was good (and very unexpected). The Ministry of Education had requested that I was sent to Georgetown to attend an English CXC training course … and all my expenses for my time in Town would be paid for. This is one of the many reasons why being a volunteer in Guyana is awesome – I am technically an employee of the Guyanese Government, and so sometimes they request that you do something for them. Anyway, I’m pretty excited – I fly out on Wednesday and come back on Friday. This means that I can visit the Canadian ice-cream shop by Stabroek; go to the Chinese across the street and get a delicious, vast and cheap sweet and sour chicken; go shopping for the things we’ve ran out of, buy CHEESE (that most elusive of foods); Skype my friends from back home; and pick up the box that we couldn’t afford to fly out in January. Happy days!!!
In the past week, I’ve also had a strange thought. When we were at Kato, Xander mentioned how we were living in a 3rd World Country. I guess maybe Guyana is, but it really doesn’t feel like it. I’ve always got the impression that people from the UK, when they go to countries like Guyana, always feel sorry for the people living there, and marvel at how unfortunate they are, and how poor their quality of life is. This seems to me to be a stupidly haughty and stuck-up way of seeing things. Living here, I really don’t notice the poverty that is supposed to be here. When I think deeply about it, I know it is here, but it just doesn’t feel like it. It feels normal. When I see people washing their clothes in the creek, I don’t think ‘look at them, with no washing machine’, I think ‘I really need to wash my clothes too.’ Or when you see people coming out of their mud houses with their shingle roofs and cooking fires, I don’t marvel at their misfortune, I admire the warishi propped up against the wall, or the fruits hanging from the tree beside them. Things here are so different to back home, but it’s all normal. It’s just the way it is here. Of course, I do all I can to help people to better themselves; by teaching the best English lessons I can think of; by teaching the teachers how to use computers; by helping students with work from other classes, but the petty things like washing machines and gas stoves and fancy rucksacks just seem so materialistic when people here have proved that you can get by just fine without them. It is not the absence of these things that holds people back, it’s the absence of good education, good communications links, and employment opportunities. The rest all comes later.
And on that strangely anthropological thought, utà sàlà!