I have landed in the beautiful mountain village of Paramakatoi, a place I shall from now on call home. The flight was wonderful, although we were afraid that it would be either cancelled or delayed because there was another rainstorm. Apparently there are only 2 pilots that are skilled enough to fly to PK when the weather is anything less than perfect. We thought they were over exaggerating a little until the end of the flight, where a very sharp turn is necessary to get onto the airstrip. The plane was tiny, with only 6 seats, including the pilot’s seat. Rosie sat in the co-pilot seat, which she was very pleased with, and I sat behind the pilot. There were two other passengers, one sat behind Rosie, and the other was a very frail looking elderly lady. Not counting the amount of time I spent looking out of the window (ie, most of it) I spent the journey trying to work out where in the plane the old lady was. Occasionally, I could hear her voice coming from behind me somewhere, but all I could see behind me was our many boxes of food, and a large printer box. Eventually, a few minutes before we landed, I came to the conclusion that the tiny old lady was beneath the printer box, as it kept moving.
As we flew in, we looked out of the window and saw a large sign, made from white sandbags, reading ‘Welcome to Paramakatoi’. The village is very spread out, with houses scattered across various hills. There are no roads, just mud tracks and mud paths, although we have been informed that in the dry season (starting half way through September) there will be much less mud. Unused to slippers (aka flip-flops), I have already fallen once, and Rosie did quite a dramatic dance at one point on a hill as she slid around. Walking on the paths here reminds me of the YouTube video of a woman dancing to Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ on butter.
We were welcomed off the plane, and went to sit outside Sammy’s shop, where we met the Touchau (Village Captain), a man named Christopher Sandwell. Someone went to get the Headmistress of the Secondary School, Miss Odessa, who went to find the REdO (Regional Education Officer). The two of them went to try to find us some accommodation. We were given a cold drink from the shop, and some lunch from the dormitory kitchens. The school children here are given much healthier and tastier food than children at home. Even Jamie Oliver would be impressed! We were then led by someone to visit Sister Wall, the retired American Missionary who had lived in PK for the best part of her life, but now lived in Florida and only returned for a few months a year. Her house reminded me of a Scottish crofter’s house. She was very friendly, and made us cups of tea. Apparently she speaks Patamona very well, and as she came as a foreigner, she is a good teacher. I am using one of my notepads (thanks Lyths!) to take note of the language as I learn it. So far, I know “How are you?” (Waku bay nah may sang?) and the reply “Yes”(Awaik), as well as a few other basics.
Eventually a house was found for us. We currently live in the medic’s house (minus the medic) which is surprisingly large and comfortable. When we arrived we had no stove to cook on, so had to eat food from the dorm kitchens for the first few meals. Last night, we pestered REdO, and got a stove, so now cooking is up to us. Rosie and I each have our own rooms, although I have to share my wardrobe with bags of pasta, a sack of rice, and various tins of meat and vegetables. Talking of which, we attempted to eat the infamous ‘Chicken Vienna Sausages’ recommended to us by the volunteers of 2011/12. Whoever those volunteers are, you are very cruel recommending these to us! Chicken sausages are not delicious, they are as foul as they look! It seems that next year’s volunteers might get a lovely present of 20 or so tins of disgustingness! Rosie and Charlie, last year’s volunteers left us a box of bits and bobs with Sammy (thanks by the way!). We were delighted to find a faded Guyanese flag, which we have hung up on a blank wall in our house. There were also two cookbooks which will be very useful when the novelty of cooking for ourselves on a kerosene stove wears off.
School resumes on Monday, although classes might not be full, as many of the children come into the village to stay in the dorms from all over North Pakaraimas. I am teaching English A to Grade 11 (the last year of school) and Human & Social Biology to Grade 10. English should be really good fun, I’ve been looking through the textbook, and they’ve got some great exercises to do. Unfortunately, I have no syllabus for English yet, as Charlie didn’t hand it back to the HM, so she doesn’t know where it is. Thankfully, I do have a syllabus for Biology, and it looks ok, but I’m a little daunted by the prospect of being a science teacher. For both subjects, I am preparing my pupils for their CXC exams, which is the same as Standard Grade or GCSE. We also have to attend a Parent & Teacher meeting tomorrow, some of which is in Patamona. We will be introduced to the parents of our pupils, listen to any concerns voiced, and generally get confused at the quick Patamona they speak! Once I’ve got my teeth properly sunk into the subjects, I think it is going to be very good fun, and very rewarding.
I have had the first injury of our time here too. The night before last, whilst taking the bin bags out to the burning pit, I was stung by what felt like a very large insect on my thumb. It swelled up very quickly and was somewhat painful (comparatively, a British wasp sting was like a mere nip!). Rosie went to fetch a Jeff, a man who had helped fix our water pipes earlier. He put some gas (petrol) on a piece of cotton wool, and told me to hold it on my thumb for 15 minutes. The pain subsided steadily until I couldn’t feel my thumb at all, which was rather pleasant. Jeff was satisfied by its deflation, and left us. We worked out that the offending insect was one of the giant, burgundy wasps (by giant I mean just shorter than my pinkie!) that are nesting above our backdoor. I will upload a photo of the wasps, and one of my inflated thumb in time.
We have walked twice up to The Rocks up the mountain, overlooking a village called Mountain Foot. The views are breath-taking, especially at 6:30 in the morning … the mist settles in the valley with the sunrise beside us. The Rocks may become my favourite part of Paramakatoi.
Goodbye for now my friends, expect another blog post in the next week or two … all about my experiences as a tadpole teacher, and possibly about our walk to Kato if it goes ahead.