Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hello. Goodbye.

Guyana, a place where formalities are expected but casual is the culture, where racism is prolific yet religious tolerance is standard, where the people move unhurriedly yet in a bus, market or crowd they aggressively hustle each other along. In the land of many waters, where rainy season is inevitable, but the country comes to a standstill at first sight of a drizzle, where some of the poorest people live yet exude such generosity often teaching me a thing or two about southern hospitality, where I’ve met some incredibly ungrateful greedy people, and some of the most altruistic, genuine caring ones, a place where I exchanged loud city sirens for wild dogs barking and frogs croaking, where the brilliant twinkling starlight replace the neon lights of the city, where the oranges and lemons are green and the flesh limes are sometimes yellow, this is the place I called home for a year. While oftentimes I felt like I was living in a dysfunctional home, it’s still where the heart is. And now after a year of injecting DEET into my bloodstream, it’s finally time to say good bye to warm Guyana and hello again to America.

Goodbye sights of beautifully thick trees lining the highway, goodbye orange, pink, purple shades of the sun setting, goodbye line of sea-foam green uniformed students spilling out of school and walking semi- single file along the highway, goodbye Music Man wheeling a cart of burned cds for sale down the street. Goodbye endless dancing on the streets (sometimes my life seems like a musical.) Goodbye full moon brightly lighting up the dirt path. Goodbye children clothed in merely underwear fishing in the sewer trenches, goodbye boys playing cricket barefoot, goodbye horse drawn carts, goodbye clean laundry drying underneath the harsh sunrays.

Goodbye smells of sweet honey roasted nuts simmering at the bus park, goodbye putrid urine on the streets and in the sewers intensified by the sun, goodbye sour rum distillery, goodbye delicious scent of garlic, onions and curry cooking from houses at 5pm stirring up my appetite.

Goodbye sounds of reggae music pumping everywhere, goodbye rumbling of children chatting, screaming, laughing in class, goodbye wild dogs barking, roosters crowing, frogs croaking, mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, goodbye “miss”, obnoxious sucking noises, obscene comments, and cheerful greetings. Goodbye little Michelle that lives downstairs crying, laughing, screaming, singing, and constantly knocking on my door asking for candy, goodbye pitter patter of rain in the distance hearing it about 3 seconds before it hits.

Goodbye sweet mangoes, pineapple, and passion fruit, goodbye amusing conversations with the school children, goodbye hammocks, goodbye market, goodbye mini-busses. It’s been a polarizing year with extreme highs and lows. It’s been quite an adventure. Goodbye Guyana (banana).

The Ministry Exam

Every year the Ministry of Education writes a series of tests for the 4 core subjects (Math, English, Science, and Social Studies) to be administered nation wide. Students from all schools at all levels are expected to pass this exam in order to move forward. Since I teach at a Community High, the answers I got might not be as developed as students from other schools. As one student wrote on the top of her paper, “I did not do good on this test.” Here’s the last batch of Q&A for your enjoyment.

Question: List three ways of practicing good health habits
- 1/ Do not drink durty water from the ground. 2/ Do not trow grabge ont the ground 3/ Do not eat out of the grabge bin.
- The three ways of practicin good health habits is by don’t courts in frint of children, lorn them miners [learn them manners].
- by eeting eggs milk toger to have a healthty body.
- Don’t pick up dirty things from the grown.

Question: Explain one biological difference between the male and female adolescent.
- Is because the male want to have sex but the female don’t.
- When meal started going through addesent they develop pubic heairs around the faces and female develop breast.
- Male has able to run and play games and female has able to cook and keep the house clean
- The difference between the male and femal is the femal is by changes there voice and male is staring getting brist.

Question: A) List the branches of Government., B) State the function of each branch.
- A) You have the Prime monister, the monister of Finnist and the monister of Healt B) The Prime monister give out the low and rule. The monister of Finnist give his workers things to do. And the monister of Healt pay the hospetels to help us.
- A) The branches of the Government are water, light, postoffice and tellephone and tellegraph company B) water make sure everyone get water and the collect the bills Light you have get current to watch TV you can send letter around the country.

Question: List the types of electoral systems used in the Caribbean.
- 1 freezer, 2 telellision, 3 Generater

Question: Explain why geography influences a person’s economic activites.
- because geography is so hard you can get a better job
- Well I can’t Answer this one because I dont now what is the Answer.

Question: Explain the major difference between physical and human resources.
- Physical resours are thong that made by mashine and human are the ones that made by hands.
- There are not the sam resources
- physical resources is defrent from human resource because you have to form [farm] to grow your crap.

Question: Name five physical resources:
- feleing, site, tase, touse and hear.
- Skiping, running, writing, hoping, jumping

Question: Justify the position that human resources are the most valuable to a country.
- That is so truth human resource because without human they would not be a country.

Question: Name the Natural Regions of Guyana
- The Natural Regions of Guyana is Region four because Region four is the Best I live thir I would now.

Question: Explain two legitimate actions a citizen may take to support his/her Government.
- two pErson I no will be my friends and my family
- The Government go to place to see if he can help them like the GPL [Guyana Power and Light] he can help them by pay them to keep working the power.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Just Now

The phrase “just now” in Guyana doesn’t imply the immediate past as it does in the States, but refers to an indeterminate amount of time in the future. It can mean anything from one minute, one hour, a week, a few months or never. It’s an ambiguous phrase which oftentimes leaves the receiver waiting and waiting until request is fulfilled.

Here’s an illustration of its versatility:

When it means in a minute… or maybe five….
Student #1: Miss, when you sharin’ out test papers?
Me: Just now. Go sit down.
Student #2: Miss, ya sharin’ out test papers?
Student #1: Miss said, “Just now go sit down.”
Student #3: MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSSSSS, you sharin’ out test papers? How many marks I get?
Student #1: You don’t hear good? Miss said, “Sit down.”

When it means an hour or two….
Me: Sir, we have a staff meeting this afternoon (during school hours). What do you want to do with the children?
Headmaster: Just now I gonna decide Miss.

When it means in a few weeks…
Student: Miss, you leaving (the country) just now?
Me: Yup. July coming.
Student: Alright Miss. I gonna come by you just now and you gonna share your sweetie and chico with me.

When it means never…
Me: My mom sent me a package on May 5th. It’s July already, when can I expect it?
Postal Worker: Just now. Probably got sent to Africa you know.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


The mini-busses that speed around town don’t always follow the same exact route. Usually they drive accommodating the passenger’s drop-off locations. Sometimes they won’t know which route to take and yell out, “Anybody want [insert destination here]?” The passengers will holler back their stop. Other times, they will have enough foresight and interrogate passengers before they board the bus. Usually, though, this tactic is reserved to persuade someone to choose their bus.

One afternoon, a conductor approached me and I replied in my distinct American accent where my destination was. “Yeah, yeah,” he acknowledged, grabbed my shoulder and dragged me to his vehicle. As we approached my destination the conductor informed me of my arrival and I handed him my fare, $100, expecting $40 in change as usual. The conductor handed me $20, reached for another $20, then hesitated and said, “It’s $80. Fare raise up this mornin.” I contested his unfair action and informed him that I took a bus this morning and it was $60. He didn’t budge and insisted it was $80, opened the door and shuffled me out as aggressively as he had pushed me on.

I stood on the side of the road feeling inequitably treated, knowingly taken advantage of, and mistaken for an affluent vacationer. I wanted to dispute it but couldn’t think of anything to say to resolve the situation. So instead, I brattishly snapped, “I live here!” and slammed the door. I'm quite proud to say that both my intelligence and maturity level have grown since living in Guyana.

The lesson I learned? Always carry exact fare, even if that means stopping for half-melted ice cream to make correct change. Ice cream makes everything better.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Testing Exam

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the school year is coming to an end. My hope is that over the course of this year, I’ve somehow managed to teach my students something useful and perhaps a bit of Social Studies along the way.

Last week they were given their final examinations covering the year’s material. Their performance determines whether they move forward to the next grade. So, I designed the test to include 80% multiple choice and true/false, and only 20% short answer where they had to actually formulate a response. Luckily I didn’t write my exam like one of the math tests where one question comprised of parts a, b, and c, and instead of answering all three sections, a student simply circled A.

These, however, were the answers that my students provided for me…

Student’s Response: [First Name] Sexy Love

Directions: True or False (30 marks). Please indicate whether each statement is true or false by circling the correct answer.
Student circled true in the directions.

Question: Why is getting an education important for finding work?

Student's Response:
- because when you go on interviews you can answer all the quitation
- you must take your education because it is important to life because if you don’t have education you will learn bad you will become a drugy smokey or do rong things that will put you in trouble
- went you get a education you can get a good jod and not a worst jod that why education is important
- Because if any ask you a questions you can be able to answer it, and you might have to sign your name so that why its important to get you education.
- education is important for Finding word because The people has to test you to see iF you are goog For the jod.
- because if we don’t have Eauducation The country will go down.
- uou need a joB to halp our son.
- true

Question: Describe the phenomenon of “Brain Drain”

Student's Response:
- Brain Drain is when remembering or review what you lurned in class
- Brain Drain is like you forgot something next min you rember
- The two word are describe spelling but same sound.
- Drain Drain is when you are doin bisnis with another country
- Brain Drain is when someone sader with Brain pramel [problem].
- because the are alike.
- Do not no.
- Brain Drain is when you hit your head.
- Brain Drain is the part of your head that drains the blood.
- Brain Drain is when your Bran is blown
- A Phenomenon of “Brain Drain” is May 26 2007
- is when people money is go in down they drain

Question: Name a developing country.

Student's Response:
- The two developing country are Guyana and USA.
- A developing country is Nourkyark [New York].
- the Name of this country is Guyana.
- Ammrika
- The USNice Cate [United States]
- A developing country is bizle [Brazil].
- true

Question: What does the Legislative branch of the government do?

Student's Response:
- Work on time
- The Legislative make shower the rules is carred out and ponish all does how break them.
- The government of branch seit the roos [rules] for the country.
- the legislative brach of the governmet follow the precident orders
- May law a runes [Make laws and rules].
- It does a Lot of thing Like light in the night.

- It con trow [control] the world.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Insults Come Complimentary

Praise and compliments aren’t given out freely here as they are in the States. This coupled with the fact that the Guyanese speak with candor and a bit of abrasiveness often makes me wonder if this is their way of doling out compliments. Usually flattery comes coupled with an insult… or their insults might include a compliment. I’m not quite sure which it is. One thing’s for certain: it’s given out quite freely, but you always seem to be paying for it.

Here are a few examples to illustrate my point…

At the doctor’s office

Me: Hi, good morning. You look very nice today.
Doctor: Hello. And you look… the same.
At school

Student: Miss, when I have a wife one day, I don’t want her to be more fat than you.

Walking on the street

Security Guard: Hey Chinee girl. I want to make babies and fried rice with you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Life Lessons

People often say there is no better way to learn than to teach someone else. My students may have gone out of their way to ensure I’m learning as much as they are. They have definitely been trying to instill in me proper values, gumption, and common sense. Here’s how they’ve made me better understand how the world works:

On Religion…

Losing my religion

Student: Miss, what church you go to?
Me: I don’t go to church here.
Student: Why not Miss? You don’t believe in God? You want to burn in hell?

On Career Choices…

Teachers are super heroes

Student: Miss when you go back to America are you going to continue teaching?
Me: I don’t know. I didn’t teach before I came here.
Student: So you were just an ordinary person?

False advertising

Student: What did you used to do before you came to Guyana?
Me: I worked in advertising.
Student: What? For truth? So you know about cameras? And you know they take a fan and fake the breeze? It ain’t real ya know.

On Gambling…

Going for Broke

Me: Should gambling be legal in Guyana?
Student #1: No Miss, gambling bad!
Me (playing devil’s advocate): Well what if I said that the government could make money off of it and they would spend it to build new roads and provide medicine for the sick. Then would that be ok?
Student #1: No Miss, gambling makes you sell off your wife!
Student #2: And it causes killings!
Student #3: It makes you thief your mother’s fish money!

On Linguistics …

Coming in Loud and Clear

Student: Miss you can’t understand us when we talk.
Me: Well not when I first came, but now I can.
Student: No Miss, we Guyanese usually talk raw, but when we talk to you we talk more slow cuz you American.