Mash Madness

The kids spent weeks preparing for the Mash competition with poetry, a dance routine and a number of songs. Mash, or Mashramani, is Guyana’s celebration of becoming a Republic in 1970. If you were to travel to town on February 23rd, you’d see tons of colourful costumes, parades, steel drum bands and so much more. Our competition was in Uigvlugt (sounds like eye-flood) on February 4th. We filled two minibuses with students and almost our entire school came out to cheer their fellow students on. They didn’t place in poetry or song but got third for their dance.

Later on in the month, we had our Mash celebration at school. There was an assembly outside where each of the grades contributed something to the program, which culminated in a cook-out. All of the items from the competition were performed here, as well as some poetry from grades two and four, a song from grade two and school-wide singing of national and folk songs.

There was just a quick get-together at Genelle’s for her birthday, in attendance were the volunteers of Region 3 and a giant spider.

At the end of the month, we took grades one through three on a tour (or field trip) to Georgetown. The first stop was the National Museum, unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures there. They have fossils, animals in jars, rocks, many different taxidermy creatures, and a giant sloth. By giant, I mean it’s about two stories tall and meant to show what the giant sloths used to look like in South America. There was a quick in bus tour of the University of Guyana, which the kids didn’t pay much attention to. At this point, the students were getting hungry so we headed to the Botanical Garden and Zoo. The kids loved seeing the big cats, monkeys, birds, alligators, sloths, otters, and snakes. I’ve been spoiled by Roger William’s Zoo, so it’s not what I am used to but it’s great that the kids do have someplace like this to go. I do wish that they allowed for more educational opportunities. The kids had been clamouring for it all day, a trip to the Princess Casino and their Fun City arcade. They even had fun “playing” the demo video that shows on the screen to entice people to play the game. That’s one way for parents to save money at an arcade. The day ended with ice cream for all the kids and one student throwing their fried rice all over the floor of the minibus.

This term ended with a teacher cooking competition that split the school into two teams. The left side of the school had the three teachers from grades three to six, as well as myself and we were the blue team. We had matching aprons, hats, and fancy name tags. The right side of the school had the two teachers from grades one and two, the Head Mistress, and the woman who cleans the school and they were the orange team. They wore matching orange t-shirts and aprons. There were two judges and even an official score sheet. Each team created a different meal, although both were heavily rice-based. It was a close competition, but the blue team won by two points!

I was invited out to a Mandir for their celebration the night before Phagwah (or Holi). Phagwah is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. It was a lovely one-and-a-half-hour ceremony with chanting and Holi songs that I, unfortunately, couldn’t understand. I’m sure they told stories of the holiday, of Holika and the king, but I don’t speak Hindi and thus it was just beautiful music. After the event, we went to an open field with a huge pyre. It was at least one hundred feet tall, but it was hard to estimate. It was quite impressive once they set it ablaze, although it only took about ten minutes to topple. A few mischievous people were out powdering people and a couple of other volunteers got hit pretty substantially. Even after they washed the neon orange powder off, they were red 0-plike lobsters for the rest of the night (and, a;t least three days afterwards). Traditionally, you would wear white on Phagwah so that your clothes are a rainbow of colours once you’re done.

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