Return to PK

16/01/2014 16:15

I’m back in Paramakatoi. We flew over the jungle and mountains in the plane, and eventually familiar things came into our sight. Kowatipu Mountain rose up from the rolling surrounding mountains. Every day I am in Paramakatoi, Kowatipu presides over us. It is the mountain, the tepui, in the distance. I love Kowatipu. It has so many different looks. Sometimes, all you can see is its base when the clouds gather and beat the jungle canopy with rain. Other days it glows with the setting sun haloed by peachy clouds. One day, the ridges on its side were highlighted by a combination of the sun and the mist. Seeing this mountain of many moods from the air made me smile. I knew that it wouldn’t be long before we saw Paramakatoi again.
Then suddenly, it was there. A clearing atop the mountain, an island in a rough jungle sea. The houses we have sat in, drinking cassiri and learning Patamuna, came into sight, then the trees we have sought shade under and the children we had amused, excitedly running down dusty paths to see the aeroplane land.
We made the final sharp turn and landed on the airstrip with a series of violent bumps and lurches. For a moment it seemed that we would crash into the feeble, wooden houses at the other end, but we slowed down in time, turned, and trundled – juddering the whole way – to the front of the village shop. People poured out to the plane to help carry bags and boxes and after a while, I found myself carrying nothing but my rucksack (which admittedly was rather heavy), whilst children and their parents heaved our few food boxes, bags and other miscellaneous belongings up the hill to our house.
They left us with our door key, our possessions, and our concrete cube atop the hill whilst the clouds spat tiny drops of rain at us, threatening a deluge. Entering the concrete cube, we relived the feelings of dread and misery when we first came here. The concrete cube is not pretty, and having been unoccupied for the last three weeks, it was even less pretty than normal. It smelled of abandonment, pictures had fallen from the walls, leaving them bare, and when we entered our rooms, our beds had gone mouldy. After a day of cleaning and putting up pictures, it began to feel more like home.
The next day we donned our teacher clothes and went to school. And then suddenly it felt as if we had never left. Our students smiled to see us, pleased we’d came back after being exposed to the seduction of the coast, the other teachers offered us seasonal greetings, and our desks were the same as we’d left them. We were home again.
Now, I’m no longer thinking how amazing it is that I’ve ended up living this life in Guyana. Instead, I’m wondering why I was ever anywhere else. How did I live a life so easily, knowing so little about living somewhere tougher? Because Guyana is difficult sometimes. Maybe you have to walk for hours to get anywhere, and half an hour into the walk you hurt your foot. Maybe you get stung by a giant wasp. Maybe you set fire to your shorts instead of your kitchen waste. Maybe you had to have a cold shower in the dark because the lights don’t work. But so what? The bad bits are the good bits, and all bad moments are is good stories to tell later, and memories to laugh about with the Amerindians who’ve experienced worse. Everything here will just be a memory in time, and the contrast of good and bad means that these memories I’m making will be richer than any I have made before.
Paramakatoi is the most incredible place I have ever seen, let alone lived in. People who live here may be isolated miles and miles from the nearest roads and restaurants and hospitals, but these things don’t make a place a home. To us, Paramakatoi is a world of its own, and all the better for it.