CARIFESTA: Report from Georgetown

Well, here we are in Georgetown.After our late (LATE) arrival on Sunday night Monday morning, when we were met at the hotel by our liaison officer, we slept through a lot of the morning and didn't get started until midday.  First things first:  we changed US dollars into Guyanese currency (exchange rate yesterday - Bank of Guyana buying at $195:$1), and then moved on out to the CARIFESTA Secretariat.  There we touched base with the people who've been working hard for the past several months, and tried to finalize our accreditation and the like.  ASIDE:  It's a very frustrating job, hosting this event, especially in a situation where people are worried about security and stuff like that, and at the same time dealing with Caribbean governments, all of which appear to operate in a similar inefficient fashion, providing final approvals at the nth hour, or (worse, as happened with Turks and Caicos) denying approvals at the very last minute.  It's especially frustrating when, appreciating all the above, one tries to assist host country by sending them the information they need in advance, only to find out that the people in one's department who were charged with the task took their sweet time in sending the package to the couriers, so that one arrives in person before the information has been received and opened.  And so Guyana had to prepare our accreditation at the last minute anyway.So anyway, on we went to the Secretariat to register and to get our information into the computer so that our participants can be accredited.  The army has taken a key role in the hosting of CARIFESTA, access to the venues is to be tightly controlled, and anyone who doesn't possess a ticket or an accreditation will not gain access.  We assisted in the accreditation process, too, and then we came on home. By tomorrow, we are told, we will have our passes in hand.Monday wasn't as productive as we'd hoped, thanks to the time we arrived.  But today was much better.  We dealt with our accommodation -- our contingent is 140 strong and we're spread out over three locations -- today.  Once again, we've got an issue with long-distance payments and our accountants' performance takes on a centrality that it might not otherwise.  Let's just say that some things don't have to be done at the very last minute, but that invariably when we deal with our governments, they are.  Nevertheless, Caribbean people are very good at dealing in good faith, and so we were warmly received by the people at the DDL Estate, where we've booked 6 houses for our contingent, and we were shown around the houses and the complex.  We were similarly warmly received by the people at Buddy's International Hotel as well; and tomorrow we'll go and deal with the apartment block that will house the rest of our people.We have also been dealing with scheduling and transportation issues.  Tomorrow we hope to lock those down and be ready to receive our contingent when they begin to arrive on Thursday.But fellow bureaucrats, take note:  the world's a whole lot bigger than the desk before us and the papers we slide across it.  There's no really good reason for us to make the big world suffer any more than it already does.  Let's try to see whether, just once, we can do things efficiently and well all by ourselves.


In one week's time, the Opening Ceremony of CARIFESTA X will be over.  We'll be in Guyana, the place CARIFESTA originated, celebrating the festival's return to its birthplace.  Guyana stepped in when we in The Bahamas relinquished our commitment to host, and, despite having had only one year to plan the festival in, took the plunge anyway.There's a lot of discussion in cyberspace about whether or not it'll be a success.  There's debate, particularly in the Guyanese global community, about whether it's even a good idea to "invite people to Guyana", given all the social and economic difficulties in the country.  There's criticism of the CARIFESTA Secretariat in Guyana, there's criticism of the organizers, and it's true that on some levels and in some ways the way in which CARIFESTA has always been conducted continues -- in particular the way in which the festival is promoted globally.  On the other hand, though, there's a current of excitement out there that indicates that there's a change in the way this festival is held and perceived.  The very fact that there's independent discussion about CARIFESTA, whether the discussion is critical or supportive, indicates that it's no longer the best-kept secret in the Caribbean -- last time, when I began to blog from Trinidad and Tobago, people I knew in the artistic cyber-world had never heard of the festival, which has been in existence since 1972.  This time, Guyanese from the diaspora all over the world are at least contemplating attending the festival!  This in itself is a step in the right direction.  And this time, too, the Bahamian delegation is going to CARIFESTA accompanied by observers, well-wishers and people who are paying their own way to get a chance to see what's happening on the ground, or just to have a slightly different kind of vacation.  We're going to be accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Tourism so they can get an idea of what the whole thing is about, and also by some other advisors who can get a sense of what it is we've committed to hosting in 2010.I have no idea what the Festival's going to be like, but the buzz is growing.  We'll need to ride it if we want CARIFESTA XI Bahamas 2010 to be a success.  I'll blog from there and keep people posted.