Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amerindian Heritage Weekend Celebrations

Last weekend, Nate and I celebrated Amerindian Heritage with three days of wild meat, pageants and music. So let’s start on Friday. A couple months back I was speaking with my supervisor and he had mentioned how difficult it is for people from the river communities to get up to the hospital, due to cost and time, and once they were at the hospital they had no idea what services were provided by the hospital. So we brainstormed on an idea of how to bring services to the people while making them aware of the services offered. Yup you guessed it, a health fair. So once we came up with the idea I began coordinating the fair through the Amerindian Heritage Committee in order to make it part of the celebrations during the month of September, which is Amerindian Month. So Friday was the fair and all in all I would say it was a success and overall a good start. We even got some media coverage on the local news station and on a night-time local TV health program, and my article about the event was published in The Guyana Times Newspaper.

It was the first-ever health fair of this magnitude in my region and I helped coordinate it with the Ministry of Health, Pan-American Health organization, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, which is Planned Parenthood’s international branch down here, (I just can’t stay away) and the Dental school. We had eight departments outfit their own benab (that’s Guyanese word for Tiki hut) with a banner to advertise their services and privacy screens to allow persons to visit the booth of their choice without pressure. Once inside the booth, screenings such as malaria smears, TB tests, diabetes screenings, HIV tests, dental exams, vaccinations, and family planning consultations were provided. Additionally, each booth educated their visitors with a brief presentation, brochures and posters and had giveaways like toothbrushes and toothpaste that I got donated. I also worked the large educational tent and provided hands-on demonstrations on hygiene and sanitation. Did I mention I got the whole event paid for by the Ministry of Health, pretty cool! Over 250 people attended the fair, and every school from my community bought multiple groups of children. It definitely brought awareness to the community; though I wish more adults would have attended to get screenings, but hey it’s a start.

Following Fridays kick-off event, we had two days of festivities I didn’t have to plan and could just enjoy ::Sigh of relief:: Saturday night was the Amerindian Pageant that lasted for 5 hours (yes the pageant), needless to say if Nate and I don’t ever see a pageant again, I think we are good. But it was cool to see some traditional dance and eat and drink Amerindian food. We ate pepper pot, which is a stew/soup like dish made with cassava water with lots of hot peppers and wild meat. You eat the pepper pot with cassava bread which taste and looks similar to Matzo bread but made of cassava instead. We had a few different types of wild meat; it was delicious yet I'm not too proud since some of the meat came from endangered animals. Ok so here it goes, we ate tapir or what they call bush cow (adorable, right?) (really endangered), turtle (kinda endangered), duck (not endangered), and wild fowl (not endangered). So of course which one was the most delicious, yup…the tapir. I can’t help it; it was just was very tender and flavorful.


Anyway moving on…we also got to drink local booze. We had fermented cane juice, fermented corn drink and a drink called Fly (not sure of spelling) but it is made of black potatoes and looks like cool-aid (no jokes please). The events on Sunday were what they call a “games day” which consist of really drunk men dancing like fools and children playing soccer or football and cricket and women selling food. It was held in this outdoor park that has the most incredible breeze, so we watched the games and laughed at the drunken men and enjoyed the afternoon by eating our wild meat and drinking our fermented, warm drink. There is still some more heritage activities this month and we are hoping we can cross the last type of wild meat of our bucket list which is Labba and a local drink called pirwahi (spelling?) which years ago it was made with human spit to ferment cassava. I don’t think they do that anymore, I think? Even though we have already had some fried labba and we hear it tastes different when cooked in a stew, we are hoping to get our hands on both items by the end of the month. I guess we will wait and see.

Till next time.

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