Working and Living in the Caribbean

Pakaraima Mountains (We almost made it to the top of the middle peak.)

I have many fond memories of the two years my husband Dennis and I spent teaching in Guyana and Jamaica while under contract with CUSO (Canadian University Services Overseas). After ten months of teaching at Manchester Secondary School in the former country, a tremendously rewarding experience, our first summer vacation was spent “island hopping”–visiting Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada via air. No sooner had each flight ascended to its proper altitude, it would begin the descent, finally coming to a halt at the end of a runway that looked far too short from our limited vantage point! Being a nervous flyer to begin with, I was always afraid the plane would nosedive into the lovely, teal-blue waters of the Caribbean. Although the beauty of the islands was appealing in every way, by the end of our trip we were anxious to return to our home on the flat coast of Guyana. We knew our students were eager to resume classes, just as we were anxious to begin our second year of teaching them.

Our Home on Stilts, Manchester, Guyana

Sadly, a few months later, circumstances at the school changed, leading us to request a transfer. When it came through, we were surprised to learn that we’d be returning to Jamaica, a place we remembered well from having spent an orientation week at the University of the West Indies prior to our first assignment.

In order to get there, we flew to Port of Spain, Trinidad where we boarded a freighter whose final destination was Kingston, Jamaica. Besides being an economical way to travel, the ship sailed at night and berthed during the day, giving us the opportunity to visit several islands en route–those we’d stayed at during our summer holiday as well as others including Antigua, St. Vincent, Dominica and St. Kitts. While the vessel was being loaded at each port with produce and goods for delivery, we took the opportunity to continue our sightseeing adventures and to touch base again with CUSO friends.

After a short stay in Kingston, we arrived in Lawrence Tavern, a village located in the mountains about fifteen miles north of the city in an area quite unlike the flat coast of Guyana that we’d left behind. Luckily, we didn’t have to look for accommodation. A fellow CUSO teacher was renting a self-contained, half bungalow from a Jamaican family who lived on the other side, and he invited us to share it. Besides possessing an easy-going, fun-loving personality, Terry owned a VW Beetle in which the three of us made forays into Kingston for shopping as well as the occasional day trip. Many mornings we awoke to see clouds of mist floating in the valley below. Then they would dissipate, exposing a variety of green vegetation as the temperature rose during the day. It was a pleasure to be hand-washing clothes in a sink and hanging them outside to dry in those beautiful surroundings, although perhaps Terry would have a different memory of that, since the clothesline broke one day from the weight of his clothes. He had to start the whole process over again.

Feeling refreshed and ready to start our new teaching assignments, we were introduced to our classes at Oberlin High School. At first I found a classroom of fifty students, most without textbooks, close to unmanageable, but after spending time getting to know one another, we all settled into our allotted tasks of teaching and learning. By the time Dennis and I left Jamaica six months later, we regretted that our time there had been so short, since it had taken us that long to bond with our students and they with us. We still remember them with fondness. Ahh…memories. More to write about later.

For a brief glimpse of our time in Guyana, visit my Posts page where you’ll find an entry entitled Guyana Diaries. <>.

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