Life at the Lodge: 7) Christmas

The countdown to Christmas was well underway at the Lodge. Presents had been wrapped, guest visits rescheduled, party invitations sent, and the main house was decorated with colourful paper chains and a savannah Christmas tree in the corner.

The elves had done a good job. And that evening we sat together and ate a Christmas meal of curried chicken and rice.

Using our quiet periods productively, the guys on site were busy re-roofing one of our guest lodges – a process that needs doing every few years as the leaves rot and deteriorate due to exposure.

Despite my stellar management of our data on the internet – just 50% used after three weeks of the month – the controls were turned back on and the open access was closed. It needed doing at some point, but it was annoying that I would have to return to my 4am alarms in order go online. Especially over Christmas and at a time where we had no guests.

The relatively uneventful days, and the knowledge that this would continue for about a week longer, was making Football Manager look more and more tempting. This feeling only intensified when I saw that there was a free demo available to download.

With minimal personal expenditure at the Lodge, and not being home to spend money on friends, family, and social events, I gave Manny and Anita – Manita, as I have dubbed them – some money as a present. It was a little something for their kids and would go some way to compensating the money that the police stole when they provided Manny with a driving license.

The dog that had adopted him a few days previously had disappeared, and Manny believes that it had been eaten by a caiman. If so, it is the third dog that he has lost in such a manner.

Not one to dwell on the past, Manny didn’t seem too downhearted. With help from my electric shaver, he had a new haircut, and along with everyone else at the Lodge, set his alarm for 22:30 on Christmas Eve so that he could attend midnight mass.

Dressed to impress, they drove off to Yupukari at around 23:00, just as I was waking up to use the internet, send some festive video messages via WhatsApp, and cave in to my desire to take the reins at Anfield.

Our differing priorities giving clear reminders of the worlds that we each inhabit.

Christmas Day was mercifully a low-key event. It came and went just like any other day and aside from my cheap vodka-induced headache at bedtime, and my failure to get Liverpool into the Champions League group stages, there was nothing of note. Just like Christmas back home, heavy rain made an appearance, but I was perfectly content in my virtual football bubble.

Boxing Day was a case of business as usual. Christmas was done. No stress, no fuss, no excessive spending, no shopping, no drama, no hangover. It was just like any other 12-hour period and its minimal impact here really reminded me of just how much marketing and promotion goes into it back home. Months of build-up, hundreds of pounds spent, so much stress caused, and for what?

A long time ago, I decided that what people got from Christmas wasn’t always equal to what they were putting into it.

Vehicle issues in Georgetown meant that Mel, Ed, Cassie, and co, would have to delay their arrival. But on Boxing Day I learned that they would be coming down on the 28th. The news that Cassie would soon be visiting, alongside Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Swansea, and the unveiling of Virgil van Dijk as a world record signing gave me all the Christmas cheer I needed. Not even a painful ingrowing toenail could dampen my mood.

Whilst the internet was open, and we had no guests, I had fallen into a habit of waking up at around 7am – a substantial lie-in in these parts. Days had returned to finding entertainment and occupation, and I was beginning to wonder if I was treading water a little. Is it time to move on to the next project?

Whilst the other residents of the Lodge were out celebrating Anita’s birthday, I received a visit from the real-life Nigel Thornberry. Pierre was from Suriname, and his khaki attire, thin moustache, large nose, toothy grin, manner of speech, and eccentric mannerisms immediately fascinated me. He had spent the day driving from Boa Vista with his wife. And by following a hand draw map on a scrap of paper, and picking up locals to act as tour guides, he had arrived back at Karanambu almost 15-years since he last paid the Lodge a visit.

Put off by our prices and our lack of staff on-site, Pierre took a few photos, used our toilets, and then jumped back into his vehicle and headed back out on to the road, waving as his beaten-up 4×4 rumbled off into the distance. It was one of the most colourful interactions I have had in years.

As well as being able to see the world, experience new cultures, and help those that are less fortunate than myself, my nomadic lifestyle has always had an undercurrent of guilt. Perhaps because of the years of reading left-wing and radical publications, I have developed a slight bitterness at my own lifestyle. I saw what I had, my privilege, as being too good for me almost, and in order to rectify this, I needed to cleanse, purify, and live worse off.

I have realised that this form of self-sacrifice isn’t logical. It isn’t a solution to either the problem of my privilege or the situation of the people I then choose to live alongside. Solidarity is a far greater emotion than pity, and raising living standards is a far greater solution to simply lowering your own.

A drive to collect water from Kwaimata’s solar-water pump introduced me to the phrase, “bird with no feather”. I am told that this was a way of describing a good woman. A woman who will do everything for you and look after you properly.

Manny believes that these are hard to find now. Local villages such as Annai and Masara see their girls leave to work in Brazil, Georgetown, or the interior, and whilst there they fall prey to traffickers and pimps. It is a major problem in Amerindian villages, and with limited job prospects in the region and an abundance of lonely men working in mining communities, it is unlikely to get solved anytime soon.

These “wild girls”, as Manny calls them, may be seen as coming back to the villages and flaunting their new-found wealth, but what they have been through is often a painful ordeal and can cause severe damage to the girls involved, some of whom are little older than 14.

Company will arrive shortly. 2018 here we come.

49 down. 35 to go.

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