Mar. 9, 2012: Part 2
Yesterday was a national holiday called Phagwah, or the ‘Festival of Colours,’ which is the Hindu celebration of Spring. People celebrate it by throwing water and coloured powders or dyes on each other! And that’s exactly what they did here in St. Cuthbert’s! The celebrations started a day early, though! After lunch on Wednesday, I was greeted by a huge pack of primary school students waiting outside our door with water bottles and handfuls of coloured powder! As soon as we came outside, they attacked! I got soaked with buckets of water and spray bottles, and completely covered in many different bright colours! The kids had a blast covering their teachers in dyes and powders and dumping baby powder on our heads!!! I pretty much let them go nuts and do whatever they wanted, and they loved it! I had kids painting my face, neck, ears, arms, and legs in as many colours as they could possibly find places for!! By the time they were finished, I looked pretty scary! The schools were all closed yesterday for the actual holiday, and the festivities began early!! As soon as I stepped outside yesterday morning, two different people poured huge buckets of water on my head! It was a lot of fun! Later in the afternoon, we had a cook-out by one of our friend’s houses and just spent the day relaxing and hanging out with the locals.
We also got to participate in another national holiday a couple of weeks ago on Feb. 23, called Mashramani (Republic Day), which is the day Guyana received independence from Britain. There are celebrations all throughout the country, but Georgetown’s is the largest, and many people from surrounding villages make their way to town to take part (us included!) It was quite the experience, and I’m so glad I got the chance to be there! Mash is basically just one HUGE party, where the whole country comes together to sing, dance, and drink! Thousands of people line the streets to watch the main parade of people dancing along wearing very colourful costumes, some of which represent the different Amerindian tribes of Guyana, as well as the different regions. There are also floats that are decorated up, and a competition to judge the winner is held in the main grandstand at the National Park. Many of the floats held towering stacks of loud speakers, and music was blasting out of them constantly, all playing different songs and different types of music! There were vendors set up all over the National Park selling snacks and drinks as well. The amount of people alone was incredible, especially at night! We had to push our way through the crowds and make a chain to avoid getting separated when trying to walk through! We also had to avoid getting run over by cars that were trying to make their way through the masses, too (and weren’t having much luck!) It was quite the adventure! We drove through the downtown area the next day, and the amount of garbage and beer bottles scattered EVERYWHERE was disgusting! The pollution is certainly one of the downsides of a national celebration like this, but it was definitely a great cultural experience!
I can finally say that I got to see some wildlife actually in the wild as well!!! Kendra and I took a tour one day that left from Georgetown, and was about a 12-hour day in all. We got to explore an old Dutch fort from the 1700s, wander around a mining town called Bartica, take a boat ride down Guyana’s largest river, the Essequibo (South America’s third-largest!) and do a rainforest hike to a waterfall called Marshall Falls. Probably the best part of the day was actually getting in the water and sitting underneath the waterfall though!! It was amazing! It was only about 30 feet high, but the current was still extremely strong! I was holding on tight to the rocks to avoid being swept away as the water pounded my head and back and almost pulled my shorts off! One of the tour company’s staff got some pretty funny pictures of me struggling! On the boat ride back to the minibus, we saw about 10 Red Howler monkeys and some Toucans in the trees lining the edge of the riverbank! Unfortunately, my camera died earlier during the day, but I think Kendra managed to get some good pictures of them, so I will have to steal some from her when we get home! That was the perfect ending to the day!! We had been hoping to see some monkeys since we arrived in Guyana, and now I can finally say I have!!