Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Dec. 6, 2006

Walking out the back door and surveying the foliage around our home, I see things springing to life. The fragrance hits my nose and it causes me to search for the source of origin. As I make the stroll around the house and the compound I see that the mango tree is still bearing what appears to be the last of its fruit. However, just as its cycle is nearly ceasing, I see the guava tree has sprung to life, the lime and (sour) cherry trees following suit and some beautiful purple flowering bushes popping with both color and fragrance along the fence line. The beginning of the rainy season is upon us and with it comes a flurry of growth and activity.

This December month can parallel that surge in activity as we prepare and celebrate the Christmas season. With that in mind and anticipating all the many things that lay ahead, we along with the intern pastor and her husband took the opportunity to get away for a few days as if ‘the calm before the storm’. After finishing what is known as Harvest Sunday (right before Thanksgiving) in the church decorated and embellished with sugar cane, palms, flowers and other eye capturing plants the weather in the tropics affords, we headed to Georgetown. We spent our lovely Thanksgiving holiday getting our papers “in order” with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Port Authority and Passport/Visa offices, among others, before spending a quiet evening together sans turkey, mashed potatoes, pies and the like. Brian and I opted for something with more of a cooling effect vs. the warm and fuzziness a traditional Thanksgiving dinner would bring. Turkey, no…but time with a loved one, yes…

We were met in the capital by our friends and the flurry of activity was now underway in our search for relaxation and the natural beauty of the land. After enduring the torrential 4 hour morning downpour we navigated around donkey carts, honking horns, stalls and vendors displaying goods and looking for patrons, reggae and soca Christmas tunes blaring on a mobile cart/store, and many more sense tickling scenes on our way to the back of Starbroek market. The first leg of our trip was on the water taxi boat across the mouth of the Demerara River on the Atlantic to the Vreed en Hoop stelling. As you move away from the market and look back you feel as if an ant with the many large ships, cargo boats and industrial barges coming into and leaving the capital port. We then made our next leg of the journey with a vehicle to the Parika Stelling which sits on the Essequibo River. After we gathered food stuffs from the stalls of vendors we pushed on to our second boat ride which would take us south on the river for the approximate hour trip to Shanklands. Here we were provided the much needed quiet, secluded (river accessible only) peacefulness and connection to the flora and fauna we desired. Our own little lodge quarters were overlooking the river on the bluff with the rooms open to the air and a porch offering the epitome of serenity. As we finished preparing our evening meal and began eating with the watercolor beauty of sunset on the horizon we were very loudly interrupted. Upon closer look we found the culprits of this noise. The toucans perched high in the trees were having a discussion about the happenings of their day, along with many other species of rainforest birds and animals the area offers. Who said it was only a Fruit Loops thing?! Before heading on to our next destination, we spent the next day hiking many miles through the dense, peaceful forests. The afternoon hike provided not only an escape from the midday heat with shielding canopy, but high up in the trees we were able to enjoy the acrobatic tree top antics of a group of monkeys checking on the growing fruits.

After cooling off with an afternoon kayak around a few of the close by islands on the river we were picked up and taken the few miles to nearby Bartica (meaning Red Earth) known as the gateway to the interior (via the rivers) as it is where the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cayuni Rivers split and go their separate routes. Bartica and its cool breezes, relaxing beachfront and warm hospitality were wonderful. One of the best things about this location is how quickly you can get out of the few blocks of “town”, up and down the hills and into the forest. Along with some Peace Corps friends in the area, we took a wonderfully adventurous hike for much of one day where our rest was a small, remote 100 yard beach. Upon completion of this day of activity we decided we needed fuel and headed to the simple, small, outside Brazilian eating establishment. Wonderful food and conversation was shared while taking in this different area of Guyana where no one knows who we are and what we are doing in the country (kind of nice to be somewhat anonymous).

We concluded our few days in Bartica and headed to the stelling to see the availability of a boat and were fortunate one left quite quickly upon arrival. We left the dock and reflected on the last few days, took in the scenery and enjoyed the cool breeze as we made our way back to the capital city. We spent the night in Georgetown and then made the journey back to our home. After 6 hours filled with driving, the barge, and then more driving we finally made it home and stepped out on our veranda and overlooked the setting sun and Suriname across the river once again.

Even as the travel can be challenging and somewhat taxing in Guyana, we were so blessed with this opportunity to get away for a few days before the flux of activity is in full swing with the Christmas season. As you go about all of your own preparations for the holiday season, just take the time to reflect on what this season is all about and the wonderful gift of time spent with family and friends. You all remain in our hearts and prayers this season.

Blessings to you and Happy Holidays!