Easter Email

Posted by on March 31, 2013

Easter is here everyone – chocolate time! Except it’s not, as chocolate is quite expensive in Guyana, and it’s far too hot to enjoy properly 😛

At the end of the Christmas term I sent out a long email about everything that had happened over the last 15 weeks, so I’ve done the same this term. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll already have seen this. If not…

Happy Easter Break, everyone!

When I broke up from school for Christmas I wrote a very long email (read it here) summing up everything that I’d been up to over my first term in Guyana. That email received a much more positive response than I had expected, so on the back of that good feedback I’ve decided to do roughly the same again and sum up my experience of the middle term, here at Sand Creek Secondary School.

(This is another big email but not as long as the first one, so you’ll probably want to get yourself another cuppa, but can probably leave the sleeping bag in the cupboard.)

So, starting right back at the start of 2013… term began on Monday the 7th of January, but all staff were required to be present at 9am on Friday the 4th to clean the school and get it ready for opening. At 9am on the Friday in question I was still in Georgetown, 423 miles away from Sand Creek… not a good start! Worry not, I had a good excuse – I’d been talking to the MoE’s Director of PE and Sport, and had persuaded him to give me a box of sports equipment to take back to the school – and I did make it back to Sand Creek in time for lessons on Monday.

[Blog post: the journey from Georgetown to Sand Creek]

Significant work was scheduled to take place over the Christmas holiday, and I had been told by various people from various engineering companies and MoE departments that by the time I got back to Sand Creek we WILL have running water, we WILL have cooking equipment, we SHOULD have Internet access and we MIGHT have electricity.

Erm… no.

When I left Sand Creek progress was being made (albeit slowly) on all of those aspects. However over the Christmas holidays the high-tech water well was abandoned, cooking equipment failed to appear, the Internet project took two steps backward, and the plans for us to have power were essentially scrapped. Happy New Year.

But this was 3 months ago now, and much has changed! Harry and I got bored of waiting for cooking equipment (the MoE were actually meant to provide it way back in September) so we borrowed a stove from someone in the village and spent the first weekend of the term in Lethem buying a load of food, along with all the other things the Ministry were supposed to provide several months ago (pots, pans, plates, etc.). We’ve been cooking for ourselves since late-January and amazingly are still alive; our repertoire now includes bakes, floats, chow mein, curries, cook-up, sugar cake and fried fish! Solar panels have been installed, and we have had light and power in our quarters since 3rd February. The old-fashioned hand-dug well was completed mid-term and now that a solar pump has been installed we have had running water since 16th February, which means we can now cook food, have showers and flush our toilet without having to carry buckets of water from the well – this is a luxury! Sadly there is still no Internet access, but as a great band once said, Three Out of Four Ain’t Bad. (It was something like that, right?)

[Blog posts: cooking; electricity]

(Amenities sit-rep over, onto school life…)

School has been going very well, and as the shortest stretch (11 weeks) I feel as if the Easter Term has gone by in the blink of an eye. In the first term I taught maths to Grade 8 and reading to Grade 7. We had a bit of a shuffle of the timetable this term, so instead of reading I now teach PE to Grade 7 (I kept my Grade 8 maths periods). The students continue to be an excellent bunch and I genuinely look forward to teaching more or less every day. (There are rare days when I would much rather stay in my hammock than get up for school, but if you knew how comfy my hammock was then you’d understand why!)

Over the Christmas holiday I blogged a photo of the aforementioned newly-shuffled timetable that I’ve been working to this term (you can see it here), and many people pointed out to me that I have “far too many” free periods, and that I have almost every afternoon free. Fear not – I have not been lazing about and squandering this free time (well, not too much anyway). This term I began one-on-one tutoring sessions with one of our differently-able students, and I’ve been using a lot of my other free afternoons to work on a couple of secondary projects in the school.

[Blog post: secondary projects]

First, I refreshed and improved the Project Trust information board. Students can now read about the charity, where it’s based, what it does, etc. There are mini-profiles on myself and Harry, labelled maps of the UK, Guyana and the world, and more than enough colourful photos to make the board a real interest to the students. This was a small project and took barely an afternoon.

A second project was the map painting I produced for the school (the initial idea for which I credit to fellow PTV Adam Renwick). Over the course of several weeks I turned a large, blank patch of wall into a detailed map of the world. There are photos of the map on the link above – email me, let me know what you think of it! I plan to do the same again next term with a map of Guyana, and I’ve also been asked to paint the school’s full name (“Sand Creek Secondary School”) on a 75-foot wide stretch of wall in 2-foot high letters.

On the way back to Sand Creek at the start of term I stopped in Shulinab and visited the benab that was recently built for their PTVs, Ben and Cillian. I really liked the look of it, and on the first Monday of term I pitched an idea to the other teachers at Sand Creek: “we should build a staff benab”. By Friday of the same week we had discussed the idea with the PTFA and formed plans for all of the staff (along with what seemed like half of the village!) to travel into the rainforest in mid-January and cut down the materials we’d need. That expedition was a seriously tough day (read the blog post here), but we managed to get the work done. Sadly it took over a month to get the materials from the edge of the rainforest and into the village, so we currently have a stack of benab wood, and hopefully we’ll be building it early next term – look out for photos of it on the blog!

So, now we’re up to the end of the second term and the start of the Easter holidays. As I write I’m in Lethem, where I will be enjoying the annual rodeo – hopefully I’ll be blogging a ton of photos and stories about the event. Harry and I have recently returned from a trip to Manaus in Brazil where we spent 3 days in the Amazonian jungle – you can read the blog post here, and I’ll be adding photos as soon as possible.

School starts again in Sand Creek on the 8th of April – we have a 13-week term, then 5-and-a-bit weeks of holiday, and then that’s it: my gap year will be officially over! Academically speaking, next term is planned already – I’ve been writing my scheme of work over the last few weeks and will be taking my Grade 8s through Geometry (Unit 2), Relationships and Functions, Graphs of Functions, Statistics, and Consumer Arithmetic… exciting stuff! Outside of school there are few plans at the moment for next term, but I’m sure Harry and I will manage to fill it with plenty of things to do, if only because we’re suddenly starting to realise how close the end is.

The final 5-and-a-bit weeks of my time abroad are more-or-less planned and will be finalised before the end of term. Our current outline is to travel from Sand Creek to Manaus via Lethem, Bonfim and Boa Vista. We overnight in Manaus, get a bus to Porto Velho and catch a 4-day boat to Bolivia and end up in La Paz (in Bolivia). We get a week in La Paz, during which time we hope to mountain bike along WMDR (Google it). After La Paz we travel to Copacabana (still in Bolivia) and spend a weekend checking out Copacabana, Lake Titicaca and Isla Del Sol. After Copacabana we travel to Cuzco (in Peru) and hike the Inca Trail (a 4-day hike) to visit Machu Pichu. From Cuzco it’s back to Georgetown (Guyana), most likely via Boa Vista, Bonfim and Lethem. As you can tell, we have a brilliant adventure planned, and I honestly can’t wait to get started on it! Most places we’re stopping at have Internet access, so you lucky people can expect to see plenty of stories and photos on the blog towards the end of the year.

That’s about all the news and plans I have to tell you about at the moment – like I said, this email was long, but no way near as bad as the Christmas one!

I hope everyone has a fantastic Easter, and I look forward to seeing everyone again in the summer!

Take care, and keep smiling!


P.S. There’s still only one person outside of my family who has written to me (thank you Nick!), so I’ll assume the rest of my friends have been waiting for the final term to put pen to paper. If you plan to send me a letter (or a card with a turtle catching a Frisbee) in the third term then please try to send it before the end of May – post takes at least a month to get to me, and I’ll be leaving Sand Creek in the first week of July, so anything sent after the start of June probably won’t reach me. You can find my address on the blog, or if you want it to be even easier, here it is: Mark Ormesher, Sand Creek Secondary School, Sand Creek Village, Rupununi, Region 9, Guyana (South America)

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