|Memories go back to Tajikistan; here an Afghan trader at one of the border markets|
Our memories drift back to October 2010, Dushanbe, the Prospekt Medical Clinic at Rudaki Avenue, the boulevard that dissects the capital of Tajikistan.........
.................As part of the VSO-CUSO in-country training programs, new arriving volunteers have to meet with the staff of an always private local hospital to understand, what living in a new environment means and what bacteria, viruses and rabid dogs are on the loose and will visit the ignorant new-comers (unfortunately with alarming frequency).
In Dushanbe we meet with the (German) Herr Dr. Andreas Hencko, an interesting, quirky and fascinating character. The older volunteers, quite unceremoniously, refer to him as Dr. Death.
In a mere 20 minutes he manages to scare the bejeezus out of us hardy volunteers, with stories about the use of un-boiled or untreated water (filter first, boil twice), meat bought at the local markets (immer a definite nein) and food stalls in Dushanbe (stay away from them as far as you can, the apocalypse is near).
There is a tale floating around, that Dr. Death survives on a diet of home grown carrots and salads and nuts, imported from Germany although that story never really gets confirmed. He is pretty thin though and his message is crystal clear; you have to be careful out there.........
|Bourda market scene, Georgetown|
Three and a half years later now, and this time we are facing Dr. Death’s colleague in Georgetown Guyana.
His name is Validum (no kidding, guess what we call him) a specialist in tropical diseases and what a specialist he is! It seems that malaria and dengue will be the least of our worries out in the Jungle.
In high tempo, the kind and (clearly, very accomplished) doctor rattles off an extensive list of diseases, worms, parasites, flies and other critters, most of which we have never heard, dangerous to our health. Lymphatic filariasis (infection caused by a threadlike worm and no cure), leishmaniasis (parasitic disease caused by the ubiquitous sand fly) and the dreaded Kaboura, a small nasty bugger, so small you can’t see to take evasive action, which takes big bites out of you and leaves crater like marks on your arms and legs. Add to the mix poisonous snakes, jaguars, giant ant-eaters, giant otters, black caimans, stingrays, piranhas, (many of the Amerindian kids walk around with three or four toes says the Dr.) and the picture is complete. Glad we packed some insect repellent - haha. Careful is the message.
|The fish-monger called these 'shellfish', we prefer 'armourfish'|
|Giant fish-roe, the size and colour of grapes at the Bourda market|
So, we have finally arrived in Georgetown, Guyana. The first impressions are positive.
Interesting city, architecture which reflects its varied history. Dutch, French and English have fought some battles over plantations and settlers' rights here and left their respective marks. Beautiful colonial wooden buildings and homes, a very Dutch, straight street grid and many cricket grounds. You might be familiar with Demerara sugar. We have discovered the continued existence and use of stunningly beautiful Demerara windows and jalousies in this equatorial climate. We are told that what has disappeared from this unique window is the slatted box that used to sit under the jalousies, to hold ice, imported all the way from Canada.... and this activity goes back quite a few decades!! One of the first commercial air coolers in use, maybe? Georgetown is a small city (just about 300,000 inhabitants) and easy to navigate, although we are warned, that some areas are definitely ‘no-go’.
|Historic property, now the Cara Lodge. Note the Demerara windows and jalousies|
|close-up of a Demerara window|
It used to be called the Garden City (although that was a long time ago) and can claim to have the highest count of bird varieties of any capital in the world. In the morning, we are woken by noisy Amazonian parrots, a welcome change from the booming sounds, that come from the well frequented local watering holes during the night. “The Hibiscus” and the “Palm Court” are two popular night spots close to our guest house and their amplifiers with booming boxes work pretty well we notice. Our guest-house neighbor, Anika, who’s spending a month in the public hospital A & E unit, warns us that back home she has had to pry ear-plugs out of fellow Canadians’ ears in the past. So we use ours with a tiny bit more discretion now.
|There's also very ugly, modern architecture|
Guyana is officially part of the Caribbean and the only English speaking country in South America. After Haiti, it’s the poorest country of the region. It is about the size of Britain, with a total population of around 750,000 inhabitants. Most live on the coast. The hinterland, as they call it, where we will be working with mainly Amerindian tribes, is sparsely populated and, if we are to believe the stories and pictures, stunningly beautiful.
The last two weeks, we have followed the (traditional) volunteer introductory training (ICT). First, again get accustomed to all abbreviations and NGO and consultant ‘speak’ (transfer skills, capacity building, value chain analysis, baseline assessments), a language of its own. Then, meetings, introductions, administrative and safety procedures; we have to open bank accounts and get our working visa (even as volunteers). This, during the first few days, mostly gets organized by Cuso’s local staff; nice people with a great sense of humor and easy laughs and demeanors. For the second week, it’s off to the offices of Conservation International (our formal employer for the next 18 months; very nice colleagues and a nice office). We have already met with an Advisor to the President and some other high ranking officials. This is a small country and it’s easy to meet people on short notice.
|Cuso office Georgetown. Breadfruit, mango, papaya trees are ubiquitous here|
The two weeks of training are over now and we are preparing to travel south to Lethem. The road is deemed un-passable for the two of us; our luggage (mainly mosquito repellent) has been put on the bus which still runs the 350 miles daily (takes 15-18 hours); and we’ll follow by air without luggage (max carry on 10 pounds, please note future travelers). Some last minute shopping after advice from the doctor and new-found friends (long sleeved shirts, moisturizer, anti-bacterial soap, sheets and (good) pillows and we are on our way. Stay tuned for the first biting insect (and other critters) report !!!