First day in Mabaruma by meeks
September 18, 2009, 11:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Working my way around the rear of the single engine plane I saw three Ameri-indian children staring straight at me. They were lingering on the side of the runway in incomplete collections of over-sized American clothes, bright strong florescent colors with over-sized lettering, a fashion so long removed from respectability in the states, that in recent years hipsters in their ever defiant irony have taken to reviving the style. I was jolted out of my trance by a cacophony of mumblings that I realized were directed at me. Since my arrival in Georgetown I have become accustomed to not immediately understanding the local street chatter. It has almost become a reflexive to curl one eye, lean in and ask, what? in response to anything a local might say to me. A moment after hearing a taxi driver, or a hustler, or a waitress say something to me my mind has basically learned to stop processing information during that first go knowing I will have another opportunity where perhaps the comprehension gaps – an unfortunate result of the rapidly smooth slurring of words favored here – won’t be as wide.

Transportation, transportation the three cabs drivers independently chirp. I hesitate and realize in that moment how alone I am, in a strange land, with no idea where I am going, how I am getting there, who I can trust, and who I am looking for.

In the moments between getting off the plane and seeing the Amer-indian children I had a short conversation with the pilot. He asked if I was with Zoey (the field director for our program). I said yes surprised he both knew the name and was aware of my association. He explained that he was related to her and proceeded to construct a link through the family tree from her to him, before stopping midway and leaving it at, “it’s complicated.” I have met so many people around Georgetown in my two weeks related to Zoey, that I guess this chance encounter is no so surprising after-all. Either Zoey has a very large family or Guyana (with just around 750,000 inhabitants) is a very small country. And to think I used to think Denmark with its mere 5 million inhabitants was comically small (the population statistics are tempered by the fact that Guyanese is a country of emigration while Denmark is a country of immigration).

My momentary crisis ends the same manner in which it began – quickly and without warning – when a short Amer-indian man who I later learned to be the Regional Education Director (REDO), snakes through the wall of cabbies, shakes my hand and says directing his gaze at goofy smile at me (despite the fact that the cabbies are positioned at his back), “he is with me.”

Not many words are exchange from that point on. I am dropped off at my housing no knowing the name or title of the person who picked me up, or where or how long I am staying at this building. The driver and myself lug my bags up the stairs and into my room, which I clearly recognize as some type of temporary residence. It could double for a cute bed and breakfast room in Vermont where yuppies might go to get away from city life, forgo TVs, blackberries, and subway stresses for rustic the pleasures of homemade peppermint soap, antique shops, and goat cheese. Alarmed at my lack of knowledge and control over my immediate circumstances (school is supposed to start tomorrow). I hurried back down the stairs to try to catch the Regional Educational Officer before he left. I ask him how long I am staying here.

“tonight” A response that while it does answer the immediate question does not satisfy the totality of my questions about my situation.

“how will I get to the next place….the place where I will be permanently staying.”

“I will pick you up tomorrow”

“What time?” I ask starting to become exasperated at this tedious process of information extraction.

“8, 8:15, 8:30” He lists the time as if it a train schedule and will be here at all of the times and I can choose at my convenience. Having been in Guyana for two weeks, I know better.


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