Ten years after their volunteering placement in South America Project Trust’s 2004/05 Guyana volunteers got together to celebrate in the only way appropriate: Carnival. Jess Ryder let us know how it went
Ten years ago I left Scotland to spend a year teaching in the Guyanese rainforest. Myself and 21 other volunteers were placed across the country, but we remained a close group. We co-ordinated a Christmas trip to Trinidad via letters which took five weeks to reach their destination, trekked two days through the forest to Brazil in order to dance forro with Brazilian cowboys at rodeo, and used the radios at our remote projects to share teaching horror stories.
Over the past ten years, the majority of our country group have met up every year or so, and we decided we’d need to do something special to celebrate our tenth anniversary. A trip back to Guyana was sadly dismissed as being too expensive, so we settled on the next best thing: Notting Hill Carnival.
On Sunday night we met up for dinner, the first time some of us had seen each other in about eight years. One of our Guyanese friends, Wayne, also joined us which was brilliant, if not slightly surreal given that we’d met Wayne at a rooftop party in Georgetown where he taught us to drive scooters along the seawall, and we were now eating burgers with him in Angel.
Monday morning saw us huddling together like penguins in the pouring rain wearing gold feathery head-dresses and sparkly blue hot pants. We might have doubted the cleverness of our plan (they do Carnival in the Caribbean pretty bloody well and it’s unlikely to be so cold) but as soon as the soca started blasting, we forgot about the rain and thanked God we had decided against the teeny tiny bikini costume option.
We spent the rest of the day dancing, drinking rum, eating rice and peas, and avoiding some of the worst Portaloos I’ve ever experienced: give me a long drop any day.
I’m trying very hard here not to be cheesy, but I always love meeting up with this group of people. Years have passed. We’ve got ‘grown up jobs’, babies, husbands, mortgages. We’re now teachers, doctors, physios and ‘something boring to do with computers’. But there’s never any awkward small talk or silences: it’s like we’re back in Georgetown after a term teaching, 18 years old and keen to get started on the next adventure. My year in Guyana influenced so much of what I’ve gone on to do. I think it’s fair to say it influenced all of us; Sarah couldn’t get enough of the Caribbean and lived in Grenada for a while; Ben is conveniently having a winter wedding so his honeymoon coincides with the Trinidad Carnival; Adam is a Primary School teacher and proudly has his Guyanese flag on the wall of his classroom, and that’s just a few examples from our country group.
I loved my year in Guyana with Project Trust; I explored a beautiful part of the world, managed to steer students through exams, learnt how to cook roti, became slightly obsessed with Sean Paul, and met some crazy, reckless, clever, inspiring people who I’m glad I’m still able to call friends ten years later.