Travelling South: my first field trip

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Betsy Alvin, an intern on the Darwin Initiative Traditional Knowledge in Conservation in Guyana project, reflects on her visit community visit.

Well! This was my first experience on a field trip going anywhere to do project work. Mr Bernie couldn’t go because his mom was ill and Ms. Rebecca couldn’t go by herself so they called me and said to pack because you are heading south. Going along with us would be Mr Neville Adolph, the new project community liaison office for the Kanuku Mountains Community Representative Group and Ms Jay Mistry the project coordinator. The trip was to visit the communities of Maruranau and Parikwarunawa to see how the community researchers were progressing on making their videos and to help them make corrections, complete the videos so that they could be screened with the community members and finally to plan the community owned solutions videos.

Rebecca and I travel to Lethem on the 19th February to shop for our ration and meet Ms Jay, who was arriving from Georgetown, and Neville. The bus met us at the Annai bus stop, Aunty Betty, loaded us up and drove over to the Airstrip to meet the plane. It had arrived while we were packing so it was just time for a quick introduction to Ms Jay then we were on the road to where we were heading.

Well for myself, I was not too well because I had a stomach problem and we took a long time to reach our final stop. We stopped at Shulinab to stretch our legs because we still had a long way to go. Then we were on the road again. Jay and Neville chat a lot on the way. It was a long way, but I did enjoy watching the savanna as we were going, no matter I was feeling bad in the bus, I had to bear with it until we reached to our destination. We crossed on a bridge where the Rupununi River runs. The water was dry and there were rocks everywhere. It was wonderful sight to see. After the long ride we finally reached Maruranau, it was almost evening when we arrived in the village. We were welcome and guide to where we would spend the nights for the next four days.

The mornings were beautiful but cold. Most of our days were spent doing routine work like reviewing the videos that were in progress, figuring out what other overlay materials were needed (these are other video clips that support what is being said in the film), transcribing interviews to help with the editing process. Many of our adventures had little to do with our work, well some did. For example: While we were still doing some work people start arriving for a meeting they were having with the Presidential Candidate for the People Progressive Party. Trying to make ourselves not noticeable he made a beeline for us to introduce himself. We stayed and listen for a while and then we went for an afternoon walk on the road. It was a good one. We came back, had dinner and then prepared for bed. It was time for bed but I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about my family, anyway I still had to go to bed with that same thinking. Well the night was peaceful.

Another adventure was to help fetch firewood for the campfire that was planned for Republic Day. We all did a great job for the afternoon. At night we all went out underneath the sky to see the campfire. It was wonderful but the place were so cold. During the campfire villagers told traditional stories in Wapishana and others sang songs that they knew.

Our next adventure was moving from Maruranau to Parikwarunawa.  While we were packing the bus arrived but were not in good condition. They explained that the engine was leaking oil and the only person who could help fix it and may have the part was in Aishalton. It meant a long wait not to mention the driver and the porter were on the higher side of life after celebrating the Republic Holiday. It meant another night’s stay in Maruranau. With a promise to pick us up at 5:00 am they took off to look at the bus. They never returned until 7:00 am. The drive to Parikwaranawa was nice. We passed through Shea and I got to see The Shea Rock, it looks so beautiful. We stopped at a ranch to collect beef, passed through a little village called Rupunau to drop off one of the passengers, stopped to admire the Rupununi River near Sand Creek, stretched our legs in Shulinab again and finally arrived in Parikwaranawa.

We informed Toshao of our arrival and while he continued his village meeting we settled in for our stay. We had a discussion with Toshao and the community researchers about the progress of their work and what the schedule would be for the trip. We then it was lunch. It was fried beef with Sheba. It was a wonderful lunch and I really enjoyed it.

Parikwaranawa was hot and it was very breezy but we got the work done. While some of the team members were in the field collecting footage some of us were working on putting final touches to the videos to be screened. The equipment were dying and we needed to charge them. But we had a problem with our gas mixture, it went back on the bus and we couldn’t find any in the village. Anyway we wait for a bus that went to Lethem brings the oil for us. When it arrived we mixed the gas and then start the generator to put our stuff to charge because all the computers and tablets were down and we couldn’t do anything.

We had a meeting with the villagers about working on a community owned solution video. After a long discussion they all came up with a solution that they thought they did very well and that was traditional farming. We helped them plan the video and screened the ones that were completed. Since the last visit one of the community researcher had left to do other one so the village decided to choose another of the trained community members. As we completed the workplan our bus arrived and it was time to head home. We all board the bus and were on the road again to Lethem. I really had enjoyed the trip and beside that it was nice meeting new people. It was a trip that would never be forgotten. I really did have fun with Rebecca and the crew.

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Grace Albert has 5 years’ experience in community development and visual methodologies. She speaks fluent Makushi and English, and has strong skills in community facilitation and engagement, visual methods, and her local Makushi traditions. Following a strong grounding in further education courses of natural resource management, wildlife management, agriculture , information technology, leadership and culture, she has worked for the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), a local Indigenous community-based organization, in several roles. This includes as a radio broadcaster, a community film maker and most recently as a Community Research Assistant. With these experiences, Grace hopes to remain as a resource person for her community and is committed towards development of her homeland.