Sunday, September 3, 2017

Unusual Early Edition - Thoughts on Arrival.

I usually wait a whole week to post my first blog but it seemed that many memorable events happened on the way getting here.

And the Journey begins...   Airways Transit was stuck on the 401, so they sent a cab to pick me up and it got stuck on the 401 too...  Anne and I said our farewells... with the same corny lines, like "Don't do anything I wouldn't do." and she still laughs.

Missionary?  Yes, of course.

Caribbean Air - the good and the bad.  I had a second bag this year you filled with stuff for Mercy and St Ann's.  I hadn't remembered to ask early enough for a "special dispensation" from their headquarters in Trinidad.  So I copied their letter from two years ago and presented that when I got to the check-in.  After a few people had looked at it, they gave it to someone in a duller coloured uniform.. "...if the boss said okay..."   If I didn't mention the date on the letter, is that a sin?  As long as it is a venial, no problem I don't mind it hot... So that is the good.

The bad is that when we got to Trinidad we had to wait an hour and a half for the second leg to Guyana.  After an hour Caribbean Air decided there were "mechanical problems" and we needed to change planes.  I think they were delaying our small number of passengers to combine with a later flight..  oh well.  The change was reminiscent of the old Brooklyn "Chinese fire drill" but it wasn't fun...  We had to leave the plane and were not allowed through the immediately adjacent door into the departure lounge.  No, we had to exit to the main area of the terminal and the re-enter.. This is 5 am... And I am always in my best pastoral mood after not sleeping.

We all lined up at a special  "In Transit" desk where there were three Caribbean Air people...who organized us in single file and then did nothing for a half hour ..... Chanting did not help my mood.  Next, a young woman with a very nice clipboard came to take our names because they needed to issue new boarding passes for the same seat ....  We were then escorted to "Security" again...  Wtf! My mood had moved to the demonic .....  They were very efficient.. They seemed only to have read the first few pages of the TSA manual... We could leave our shoes and belts on though our wallets had to be put in a basket, but not our computers ..... My paper notes in my shirt pocket had to get a basket, but not my watch .....  Anyhow the screener didn't go off..😕.  

Maybe because of my pleasant attitude, I got selected for a bag search.  As my ex-immigration officer brother says "They are always right ..... and never give them any attitude".  But a guy has to keep some integrity.  I had to wait for the woman in front.  She had six small cans of chicken in water... The officer decided that could be dangerous...other than the fact they were already screened in Toronto.  He shook them and smelled them and had a conference with the other officer, who was worried they were packed in oil though the can said water.   If she wanted to keep the chicken, she had to go back to the Caribbean Air desk - of course it wouldn't open for several hours.  She was making me look pastoral again .....  She left to go back to the transit desk.

When the officer got to my bag, I figured he saw both computers.   But he was only interested in one side pocket with my camera which he looked at briefly and put it back and I was on my way.   I'd get a coffee, but nothing is open .....

Arrival in Guyana

When we arrived at Cheddi Jagan Airport, I was thrilled to see we had docked right in front of the Arrivals Gate as usually they seem to park the furthest away.  Unfortunately, the terminal is under construction and the arrival area was ..... take  a guess.  Hell and gone at the other end.   I am pretty sure that they do this to space out the line as the old people now wish they had checked those bags. At 7 in the morning, it was cloudy and a cool 83.     The distance also gives the more time to get the baggage there, so it seems a shorter wait.

Immigration was efficient and there was even an orderly queue.   I was through in no time ..... way ahead of my bags.   I got my two huge bags and proceeded through the "Nothing to Declare" Desk.   The Customs officer had a bemused look on his face like "You must be Guyanese to pull a stunt like this."   He did ask what I had in the bags.  I said, "Donations to Mercy Hospital, the little girls at St. Ann's Home and some supplies for my teaching.    I was told that I could do this many years ago by the Head Customs Officer."  Now I had him.... We had to go speak to someone in charge.  He looked at my customs slip and me.  "Missionary"???   I think my cute pony tail made him stop for a moment. Then, "Sure, go ahead."   And my story was true.  I could probably fit my clothes in an overnight bag without the stuff I leave in Guyana.

And Bhiro was there waiting for me.   I am sure he likes picking me up as it is a real chance to visit with everyone he hasn't seen in some time.  Either they shout out his name or he does to them.  I am sure that my kids had the same experience when I was a real human being with a job and I would need to take them shopping with me.   It would take "forever" according to them just to get milk.   "Do you have to talk to everyone?"   

Kaieteur or Bust!

Berte was an excellent driver, so Bhiro and I chatted like old friends who seem to pick up a conversation from yesterday.   It always scares and amuses me that we have the same attitude to many things.   Somewhere on the trip, he said, "How would you like to go upriver by canoe to Kaieteur Falls; it is a 4 day trip."  This is one of the items on my Bucket List; how did he know.   I had wanted to do that since Anne and I flew into Kaieteur in 2003 or so...   Into the Amazon Jungle in a canoe battling rapids, long portages over land... just like the explorers of old...  Speaking of old --"Shit! that's me now."   Let me describe my last canoe adventure with Anne's sister from England, Caroline.  I wrote an old friend earlier this summer:

I thought you might enjoy a revenge laugh after my making fun of your disabilities.  Yesterday, I took Caroline canoeing as she thought it was quintessentially Canadian. I booked a 90 minute route, calm water...   She loved it.... I even remembered my boy scout merit badge strokes

About an hour into the trip… I started getting a bad cramp in both my thighs.   I had to stand up and stretch.  No problem; we’ll just pull over to the shore and I’ll walk around…  Well, Caroline didn’t exactly pull hard enough so we weren’t actually on the shore.  

No matter, I had to stand up… Stood up; one foot reached for the shore; however, the rest of my body stayed in the canoe – at least for a little while.  My left leg sent a message to my brain… Lean back… So I did; right into the river… Ass over tea-kettle.   Then. I had a lot of difficulty trying to stand up… I have so little strength in my knees…

Finally, I got on my two feet –of course, still in the river; I grabbed the canoe and gracefully put my first foot inside…However,  my left foot remembered the trouble earlier and refused to move ..… so straight backwards into the river again ..… at least it was the other side of the canoe.

Finally, I got back in the canoe and in the right place ..…  and we were off ..…

However, my sister in law was too concerned:
“Are you hurt?”
“Are you sure you're okay?”
“Do you think you can continue?”

I wanted to yell at her, “Shut up!... The only thing in pain is my EGO!”
But I was a good host… and thanked her for her concern.

Caroline does remember me saying, 
"My mind... ( gasp) younger..( gasp)..than my...(gasp) body."

Looks safe to me!

Planning Ahead... Neither me not Guyana

I had left on Thursday night so I would have a Friday when everyone was working and I could better arrange for Monday's first class.   However, I failed to notice that i is a National Holiday, Eid-al-Adha, and everything and everybody is closed.  Hmmm...

Oh well.. it is Guyana -- improvise.   I got some printer paper from an old student at the hospital. I called my friend, Taju, who collects all my mailings - including tablets and printer - and he came with his son Tommy to deliver them.   Even they had closed their restaurant on Friday.  

Then, I discovered two of the faculty who do the small groups were not going to be there for the first day of school... It did boggle my mind, but it does make sense when you are here.   They had to use Monday as a holiday day or lose it...   Another bright rule by someone who has never taught.   Improvise again... We will have the First day of school on the Second day and the Second Day on the First Day.  Got to stay flexible...  And as I say, "In a hundred years, who will give a "darn".

And my flat also flabbergasted me...  Everything was done by Helen - glass windows had replaced the open ones, so now no rain inside, a new mattress so I couldn't feel the wooden slats below,  My boxes that I leave were thoughtfully brought from the school by Candy.. and most important of all I had my own dedicated internet and the passwords and it worked immediately ..... a pleasure worth savouring.   Now I will just need to work around the daily blackouts by GPL.   

Saturday I did my usual running around .....   but this time the tablets for the students came with European A/C adapters... PISSSS...  So I had to roam the streets of GT looking for an adapter to the adapter... a really nice guy at NT Computeac told me all I need was a cheap adapter for the adapter at an electronics store on Robb... and sure enough there they were, and 30 of them too ..... good day as without them them the tablets would have been as useless as a third xxx.

Stopped and got my Guyana reading materials, from a history of Linden, to raunchy tales of Guyana Vol 2.,  Indian indentured servants in the l800's, and two novels to show I have culture .....

Then, got my Guyana "clean up"; I forgot again -- it is the first day of school for all the kids on Monday... So I had a long wait.  When I arrived Royston told me he would get right to me.  I said being the true liberal that I am "No; I can wait my turn".   Over an hour and half later I got my turn...  There really is a difference between disavowing "white privilege"  in theory and in practice.   Met lots of people on my travels including my "adopted" son, Rashleigh, who ran out of his flat when he saw me with nothing but a towel.   I thought he had some women over, but he said he was showering.

This is me with my Guyana haircut and Rashleigh after he dressed.

I got my essential groceries - ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, mango achar, jam [the kitchen had already given me some peanut butter] cookies, crackers, peanuts, butter.   I was going across the street to the beer distributor and ..... horror of horrors ..... it had closed!  I tried a few other places, but no cases ..... I had to walk across town to a known beer distributor but they didn't have any Banks in cans ..... [Carlton, what's happening?]   It was a long walk in the by-now heat of the day, To think of myself not as an addict, I remembered how far I had walked for my students adapters, so I deserved a few beers.   I did get  a taxi back to Mercy and a long nap.

Enough... I am here now and slowly getting set for Monday's new students..   Thanks for reading... John


  1. Some things never change John. You write as you speak and you are never boring. The mundane, while mundane to you becomes quite interesting to us. We see the place through your eyes and that is about perfect because it is true. You never white wash anything. I look forward to reading more as you go along. Take good care.

  2. Sounds like an almost uneventful beginning, relatively speaking!! Welcome back and I look forward to getting together!

  3. John, good idea to start early. You had such an eventful trip and you would have forgotten the fun parts in a week. It all sounds normal.. but you never said "just now"
    You are truly part of the people you know in Georgetown.. they are lucky. And i know you are too.

  4. And LOOK! 3 comments already. That's a first. Hope you get the canoe trip. Hire a paddler. Don't know why it's so hard to have adventures during theze golden days

  5. Love hearing about your adventures John! Andrea W.

  6. Loved it all. Thanks again for all that you do for the people of Guyana. God bless. Will remember to say a prayer for you EVERY DAY! EA

  7. Great writing! No wonder the students love you - crazy old man.

  8. Always a treat..lmao kids never ,Ike's shopping with me either..for the same reason. The mini meagher's are having mini,mini meaghers joh ! Sarah is having a boy in late February and Kate is having ?? In early march. Stay well. Xo marilyn

  9. Glad to here you're safe, sound and sarcastic...anything else and I'd worry! Hope you had a great first few days of school!


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