The Cast of Bartica

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If you’re wondering if I know this man, I do not.  He was one of Amber’s many admirers when she came to Bartica this past March.  We were walking down a busy central shop-lined street called the arcade when he appeared to congratulate Amber on her complexion and height.

The Nameless Admirer captured in this candid is but one of many Lil’ Wayne look-alikes in Bartica.  You might be surprised to know that, although Bartica is virtually an island nestled in the center of a vast river, 50 miles away from any major towns, and so remote that it only started broadcasting television (with 2 channels)  in the 1980’s, the inhabitants herein boast some pretty metropolitan style.

So I thought I’d introduce you – via photo – to some of the characters I see often. I like to think of them as actors in a play that is performed 365 days a year here on the streets of Bartica.  I don’t know all of their names – some are supporting cast members and others have leading roles – however,  in Guyana it’s perfectly acceptable to nickname someone based on their dominant physical trait.  Thus, you can call an older woman Granny, an overweight man Fat Man, and a man with dreadlocks and Jamaican flag insignia Rasta Man.  All of these people are content with generic pseudonyms.

So allow me to present to you…the Cast of Bartica!

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Trip To Lethem

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I love Lethem.  I’ve been there once before and was immediately attached.  It’s topography is completely unike Bartica’s, or the rest of Guyana’s for that matter. Guyana, thickly jungular and rain-forested, is lush and green until you get to Lethem, at which point you feel like you’re on the grassy plains of Africa.

Not that I’ve been to the grassy plains of Africa. Just sayin’.

To get to Lethem, you can either fly or take a bus, the latter of which is the cheaper option.  However, if you’re not interested in arriving to Lethem covered in streaks of brownish red dirt, I recommend the plane.

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On the border between Guyana and Brazil, the bus ride to Lethem is a tumultuous 14-20 hour trip, depending on the condition of the road.  The road (note: singular) is one long, corrugated stretch from Georgetown, through the interior and ’round a few mountain ranges as you get closer to the border.  Although Lethem is only about 250 miles from Georgetown,  the washboard dirt road makes the trip a long one.

Lethem is a quiet place with several Amerindian villages surrounding it.  Most of these villages are made up of Macushi Amerindian tribes that live in traditional palm-thatched homes like this one:

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The surrounding village is made up of similarly styled homes…

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…and all around these homes/shelters is broad and open savannah, flanked by the Kanuku mountains.

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We took a day long excursion to one of these villages called Moco Moco. It was about a half hour taxi ride from Lethem to Moco Moco, and when we arrived there we met our guide & spiritual brother, Alton Primus.

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How can I describe Alton?  He is like the village whisperer.  Dressed in long boots and equipped with a machete, Alton met us at the base of Moco Moco falls. Immediately after we began our tour, it became apparent that Alton was as much a part of the scenery as the trees and rocks were.  He guided us by hand across a log that led to a trail that he himself maintained, and as he led us along I realized that he was caretaker of most of the area.  He knew every plant and leaf, and cleared overgrown brush from our path with his machete.  At one point, I was steps behind Alton as we descended the mountain. It was a steep decline and I lost my footing, sliding a few feet until I  grabbed hold of a slender tree which saved me from a fall.  Hearing me skid, Alton quickly turned around.  After making sure I was secure, he motioned to the tree I was clinging to and said, “That is why I let that one remain.”

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Mountain Flora

The waterfalls are best captured with the naked eye.  They were so fresh and frigid that I got the sniffles a few days later, a sure sign that I’m fully Guyanese now (the locals always claim to get sick after being exposed to “cold” water).  Alton led us to a lagoon where the waters pooled and were so deep I couldn’t find the bottom.  Alton of course knew the lagoon and every inch of the surrounding rock formations.

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It was a touch euphoric to find footholds and climb onto the rocks and then repeatedly jump off of them into the lagoon.  But Alton had everyone beat, diving off the rocks and swimming through crevices that led to underwater caves.

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After our hike/swim/jumpfest we were thirsty, but Alton had us covered with sweet-as-ever coconuts.  Another opportunity to brandish the machete!

The adventure at Moco Moco falls was invigorating, and equally invigorating was meeting the local congregation in Lethem.  I loved talking with Paula, a local Amerindian woman who has just begun attending meetings…

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…and Zelia, a sister from Brazil who recently moved to Lethem.  Zelia was so helpful and hospitable to us throughout our stay. :)

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And it was great to meet Jared, a brother from the US who had spent the past 8 years on the Disaster Relief Committee working in New Orleans and the southern states.  He’s been in Lethem since 2013.

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We had so much fun with Jared that we decided to bring him back to Bartica with us for awhile!

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Our time in Lethem was wonderful.  We flew back to Georgetown in a little Cessna to spare ourselves the vomit-inducing, dust-in-your-nasal-passage bus ride.

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Looking forward to our next visit to Lethem! ♥

Guyanese Plait Bread

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In Guyana, weaving three strands of your hair together is not called a braid, it’s called a plait (pronounced like “flat” with a p).  The huge ropes that keep speedboats and ships from drifting away are not braided, they are plaited.  And when you bake a fresh loaf of bread that’s woven together, it’s called Plait Bread.

Plait Bread not only looks impressive, it tastes divine. Soft and fluffy, it is best served right out of the oven. Since it’s fresh, it only lasts about a day but that’s ok, because it gets devoured almost instantly.

I am not a food blogger, but sometimes, when I’m in my kitchen for 5+ hours a day, mincing garlic or chopping chicken (whole chicken, that is – bones and all!) I get this false sense self-confidence and start to feel like I could be a food blogger.  I think, “Wow, this curry turned out pretty good! I should post the recipe!”

And then, inevitably, I burn something, or overcook something, or slice a hot chilli pepper with bare hands and burn my fingers (true story).  And I then I think…

Better not.

But I have deep love for food bloggers.  The food blogs I’ve folllowed over the past few years have taught me so much when it comes to cooking, baking and stewing.  In addition to the tricks I’ve learned from the locals here (like grating garlic with a cheese grater instead of chopping it into tiny pieces – genius!), my virtual food blogger friends have given me what probably amounts to a year of free culinary school, all via their blogs.

This recipe for Plait Bread is from a food blogger I ♥ named Jehan.  She’s originally from Guyana and now lives in the states, but thankfully, she has not left her Guyo-Carribean heritage in the tropics; she has compiled some of her awesome Guyanese recipes on her blog,  jehancancook.  I love this blog and reference it frequently!  The recipe that I’m posting today is from Jehan.

 

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Publisher Profile: Rawl

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Rawl and his newborn son Joshua are the cover models for this edition of Publisher Profile!

Publisher Profile is a series on this blog whereby a member of the congregation is interviewed and photos of them “in action”  are featured – it’s basically a virtual high-five  and spotlight on them for their great work and example.  You may have read about Angie from the début installment of Publisher Profile – today Rawl takes center stage!

Rawl has been a part of our congregation since 2012 (and Joshua since birth in April 2014).  In August of 2013, both Rawl and his wife Samantha were baptized. Even before that, though, Rawl had been an integral part of the congregation.  He customarily arrived early to meetings, greeted everyone with a smile, and put his impressive height to good use by removing dust and bug carcasses from lofty and hard-to-reach corners of the hall. I sat down with Rawl recently to talk to him about the past few years.  Here’s the interview:

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Love is in the Air!

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Do you cry at weddings?  If not, you might have cried at this one.

Saturday, August 23rd Olivia & David were married!  This wedding was an honor to attend, for two reasons.  First, because Olivia is one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet, and her hubby David is a gem too.  Second, this wedding was the first of its kind in Bartica!

There are only 37 in our small congregation.  Of these, many were married in a legal civil ceremony, or married before becoming witnesses.  The rest are teenagers and babies, and therefore single (thank god). Thus, many in our congregation had never attended a witness wedding before. So to assemble in our new Kingdom Hall, hear a Bible based talk, and share in the celebration with David & Olivia was a privilege, and one I know I’ll remember for years to come!

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One of the things I love most about weddings is oooh-ing and ahh-ing over whatever bouquets and artistic floral arrangements the bride has chosen.  However, fresh flowers are woefully difficult to come by here in Bartica.  It’s nearly impossible to find anything other than artificial flowers for weddings, funerals, home decor, etc.  Since Isabella and I are unanimous in our adoration for the real thing, Olivia gave us the go-ahead to create a tropical bouquet for her.  We went to a local green house about two miles away from our place and scouted out some options.  Thanks to Isabella’s eye for floral design, this above photo is what we came up with.

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Wannabe Florists.

Wannabe Florists.

The ceremony took place at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Vows and rings were exchanged along with dozens of hugs afterward, and Roman gave the talk.

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Olivia & her Mom, Shoba

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David, Olivia and David’s mom Joy

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Christiano, dressed to impress! I love his wind-blown, hair-gelled look!

After the ceremony, we headed to Joy’s house for a reception. We dined on the traditional faves – Curry, Chow Mein, Fried Rice, and Cookup – and one of Joy’s bible student’s made a spectacular cake.

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So happy to have shared in the love and joy of this special day!

♥♥♥

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Voyage to Itabali

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I’ve often heard of a small riverside village approximately 15 minutes away – via boat – from Bartica.

We traveled here this past Wednesday, much to everyone’s delight, filling two speedboats and combing through one river to get to the next.  Destination: Itabali!

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An AtTRACTive Campaign

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Mid-way through the campaign and our congregation has been having a ball out in service!  A record-breaking TEN auxiliary pioneers and FIVE regular pioneers – an honorary 2 currently “outside” – have thus far made August a historical month for Bartica!  These stats are impressive because Bartica is just a little, tiny congregation of 37 publishers.  We are small but mighty. ♥

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Angie, Vivica, and Latoya – 3 of our auxiliary pioneers for August!

 

It’s been great to traverse the outlying areas of Bartica, where it’s very possible we’ll cross paths with a large Orangutan or Puma.

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Anything could be in these bushes.

 

Ok we have like 0% chance of seeing anything like that.  But onward we press!

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We are so not afraid of large Orangutans or Pumas! Just malaria.

 

Olivia knows how to Advertise, Advertise, Advertise!

Olivia knows how to Advertise, Advertise, Advertise!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with Shoba, a wonderful sister in our hall who has lived in Bartica for ages and knows just about everyone.  Here she places a tract with a neighbor in central Bartica…

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…which he gladly receives!

We love working shoulder to shoulder with all of you during this month-long campaign!  ♥

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