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Partir, c'est mourir un peu........

These have been eventful months. It’s been a while since we reported from the Amazonian Forest and Rupununi Savannahs; this is not because of a lack of stories. More the other way around; so many things to report and so many things happening that’s it hard to know where to start.

That's how we like it.......

In a nutshell, we got stuck again in the mud after a rainstorm during the rainy season, we lost a good friend and great colleague, we moved house, we went to Europe, via Suriname for a break to visit family and friends in Holland and France, where we both gained 10 pounds (now gone again). In France, we were impressed by the solemn-ness of the first World War cemeteries in Albertville……. As usual the food in France was great (although Christine got a bad food poisoning after some salmon) and "la service", well, what can we say, very French. Upon our return, early September, we were thrown right in the Amerindian heritage celebrations (a month long festival here in the Rupununi, celebrating local culture and customs). We then picked up where we left off, visiting and teaching communities and enterprises, interested in (further) developing tourism. We were then confronted with the very serious question of Amerindian land rights during one of our meetings, an issue many indigenous communities, not only here but in the rest of the world as well, struggle with and have to fight over.
Fishing along the river banks
It’s a bit quieter now but that’s probably the silence before the storm because the months of October and November are chock-a-block filled with trainings, meetings and visits to various sites so no rest for the restless! We, again, know what’s going on in the world because we just connected a television set with access to BBC World News and CNN…….

In random order, here are some of our experiences of the last three months (ongoing).


Creativity and recycle; Donovan's home made checker board....
One of the many interesting aspects of the volunteer experience is that you meet people with very different backgrounds and life stories. In the first place this goes for the local populations one is working with but it also is the case for co-volunteers and colleagues who come from the most different and colorful cultures and have the most interesting tales to tell.
Our former agro-colleague Donovan Walker was, what we call in development speak, a “Caribbean” volunteer. He studied agricultural sciences in Jamaica and worked in that field and country for most of his life. He opted to share his considerable and extensive experience with Cuso, CI and Guyana, a co-member of Caricom (Caribbean Community).
Teaching and learning....

When Donovan “walked” (his e-mail address started with donwalks@) into our lives, we had just arrived in Lethem and were all busy setting up our routines and work. We then lived in the same compound and slowly got to know each other on a personal level. Where we were quick with invitations and suggestions for coffee, lunch, a beer or dinner, Donovan kept his own council, he was not yet convinced…..
Before another meeting, Donovan third from the left
He was his own man and had decided, long time ago, that issues would be dealt with on his terms and his terms only. However, living abroad as foreigner-volunteer has its typical challenges and it didn’t take long before we joined forces to fight our local landlord, overflowing toilets and badly constructed drains being the deciding factor. Since, working as a team, we often found ourselves in the backseat of the CI LandCruiser (Christine wedged in between Donovan and myself) continuous conversation made us appreciate each other more and more and it wasn’t long, before we considered ourselves an unbreakable team, something akin to the three musketeers in a 4 WD, conquering the world or at least the Rupununi.
Bird watching.....
We got to know Donovan as a very thoughtful colleague, with passion for his work and the people it directly touched. With all his academic knowledge, he was also a very practical teacher. We will never forget how he, in one simple session, solved long lingering issues of water management and irrigation with some trunks of hollowed out bamboo and a nail. His knowledge of community issues combined with agricultural skills was amazing and being the person he was, he was never afraid to talk truth to power. But more important was the fact, that on a personal level we came to know Donovan as a exceptionally kind and caring individual, a pure and good person who had decided to face his own fears (he had traveled little and was no big fan of the small creepers in the forests) in search of a better understanding of himself. There was already talk of meeting each other, after our placements, in Jamaica or California.
In the forest with a machete....
Sometimes in life, you meet somebody you would have liked to have met far earlier. Donovan was one of those people, although it took all of us time to get to know him better; everybody here at the office misses him dearly, although nobody had known him more than 4 ½ months.
The last time we saw Donovan was the end of July after a meeting in Georgetown. He had decided to take a few days off to visit his family in Jamaica on a quick break.   On August 9 we were called by his family to learn that he had been taken to a local hospital with a stroke. A day later, August 10 and from now on a dark day, we were informed that he had passed away at the very young age of 47.
Two months later now; we've just had a small memorial service for Donovan here at the office. Donovan was a Quaker and it’s a Quaker tradition to not mourn, but celebrate the life of the deceased. Everybody talked, cried, laughed, remembered or just smiled. One of the remarks made was that  it’s amazing how somebody you have only known for a few months can make such a big impact on everybody he touched. A testament to the real Mensch, Donovan was.

Donovan, the sun shines less brightly here since you left, we miss you....


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