Well, so here we are again, at the tail end of the CARIFESTA adventure, and I’m writing this post on the date I’d originally planned to be my last day working as a civil servant. (Circumstances, as my paternal grandmother used to say, alter cases — a testament to flexibility from a woman whose circumstances certainly altered hers.) Philip and I are still sharing the hotel room Buddy’s assigned us from the beginning — a huge cavern of a thing, with generous proportions, lots of glass, and a heap of wasted space. This update is unlikely to make it to the web anytime soon — the connection is unreliable at best, not entirely awful but unpredictable — I haven’t been able to download mail for three days now, though it’s coming in as I type.
My feelings are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, I’m elated not only that we pulled it off again (the travelling of a pretty huge contingent from one end of the Caribbean to another) but that Guyana has succeeded in making CARIFESTA national, regional and international, laying the ground for the development of a world festival that people will plan to attend. We have an IFD (Interim Festival Directorate — the regional governing body for CARIFESTA) meeting today, the traditional end-of-festival meeting, where we will discuss the way forward for CARIFESTA; it is likely to by my last such meeting, unless something else takes place between now and December. It’s a shame, but there it is.
There’s so much to share! There’s the finishing of the recounting of the Anna Regina trip, which was in every way the highlight of the trip, from its organization to the reception of the play and the players in Essequibo, to the experience of staying at Lake Mainstay and swimming in black water, to the return journey, which was more exciting and efficient than the outward bound one.
There’s the summarizing of the Bahamian activities, the bungle of the container and its remaining in Freeport, my disappointment that we were not able to see many other presentations, the mastery of the activities in the Grand Market, the glitches we had and the mistakes that we made (by “we” I mean the Bahamian contingent), the hospitality of the ordinary Guyanese, the incomprehensibility of the closing ceremony preparations, the ending of the Fineman reign of terror, the success (at last!) of our literary artists in finding a way onto the programme, the disappointment of the choir (who never sang anywhere they were sent as the places were unsuitable for a choir — choirs, my people, are HARD to mike, and good ones will not take kindly to being placed before two little unidirectionals which will mess up the balance and distort their sound. Let’s get that right in the end), the triumph of that same choir at the final Bahamian country presentation, my disappointment in the second Junkanoo rush-out, the major SNAFU with the Berbice performance, and finally being able to attend someone else’s show — Jamaica’s offering of Love Games at the Theatre Guild.
And there’s the serious discussion of what we need to do, and how, if we want this festival to move forward. But all of that will wait. I fly home on Monday, on the charter (! YIPPEE — no braving that stop in Trinidad with Caribbean Air!) and on Tuesday I’m back at work, climbing on the hamster wheel one last time to wind down, I hope, my responsibility to the Government. My plan now is to serve out the fall, wrap up the CARIFESTA activities, collect the revenue as well as clean up the container mess, submit a report, wrap up the more long-term projects, like the National Cultural Policy and the numerous draft pieces of legislation prepared since 2003, and move on to more productive activities at the College of The Bahamas.
And finally, there’s the experience of staying at Buddy’s International Hotel, a most interesting establishment. It’s always an education for me to travel in the Caribbean as a Bahamian and to experience other (potentially competing) arms of the Caribbean tourism enterprise. More often than not, it highlights what we have done well, what we have mastered. We have our challenges, most certainly, but more than a century in the hotel and resort industry does have its value, let me tell you, and often our experience shows when we travel elsewhere.
Unfortunately, our experience isn’t the only thing that shows; our arrogance also shows. We are often considered the Americans of the Caribbean — rich, brash, unlettered, scornful, and ignorant — and even when we do not entirely live up to that reputation, we behave in manners that are open to that interpretation. If we are to host CARIFESTA well, we will have to address that fact in a serious way.
But first things first: finish the reports on CARIFESTA, and then move on.