Guyana Nostalgia: Yu tink it easy? – By Geoff Burrowes

Guyana Nostalgia: Yu tink it easy?

 – By Geoff Burrowes

  The hilarious chronicler of all things Guyanese, Godfrey Chin, frequently asked this question. If I may borrow it, with acknowledgement to the author, I would like to apply it to the difficulties of emigration to another country. You may say with good reason “Who told you to go?”.

        My aunt Doreen had invited us to stay with her and her son Mike  if we ever moved to Canada. My mother and father-in-law had recently moved to Canada and Norma’s cousins the Ramphals and Kawalls had lived there for a while. I had a family of three fine boys, Brian, David and Ian and one of the things I hoped for them was that they would one day experience the joys of scouting, as I had!     

        One morning I went into work early and was enjoying my coffee and reading the newspaper. There was an article about the National Service which had recently been introduced, quoting the Kabaka,  Mr Burnham. He said that the National Service would take the place of the current youth organizations such as the boy scouts and girl guides and the children would be taught the values of the Cooperative Republic. This put me in mind of the Hitler Youth of the 1930’s where the children in Germany were taught the values of the Wehrmacht, such as hatred of Jews and other non-Aryans. I wanted to teach my children the values that I hold dear and not have them indoctrinated by the Government.

        That night, after talking it over with my wife Norma, I wrote my aunt and asked her to apply to the Canadian Government for our family to emigrate.

        “Who told you to go?”.

        “Well that’s who!”

        So from that night we started to prepare for the big move. Not without regrets -for we were leaving behind all we knew and held dear! But there was also excitement at the prospect of adventure and the excitement of facing unknown challenges and delights!

        When I look back I’m not sure if we were brave or stupid! Left to myself I might well have changed my mind but my wife Norma is made of sterner stuff than I am and she looked forward and not back!

        We had many bittersweet moments saying goodbye to friends whom we didn’t know if we’d ever see again and my family, who had no plans of leaving the green land of Guyana. At one of our Bon Voyage parties we met a guy called Ernie Fernandes, a pilot who had visited Montreal and who told me graphically about hockey and about the innate beauty and savagery of the game I couldn’t wait to see it in person!!

        We cut down the possessions we were going to keep and where possible sold the rest – my dad, who kept reminding us that in a new country we’d have to cook, clean and look after ourselves in ways that we weren’t accustomed to, built us a crate to take the things we were taking, with a greenheart wood frame that we could easily convert to a bed! It was a great bed but moving it in Toronto was no fun!

        We decided to get a head-start on training for life in Canada and told our boys to put away their clothes each night before showering. Our middle son Dave had never met a system he couldn’t beat and after being left in the bathroom with his pile of clothes, he flushed them all down the toilet, including his new Buster Brown shoes. Needless to say Dave got a warm bottom and Grandpa had to find a plumber on a Saturday night – no easy task!

        At last the day of the big move came. In those days, or as the young people would say, back in the day, there was no direct flight from Guyana to Canada. We flew to Trinidad by Bee Wee (BWIA) and took a connecting flight from there so, as our flight was the following evening, we stayed at the Piarco Hotel.

        Our boys were excited as we had never stayed in a hotel and this one had a pool just outside our room!

        Now I say Brian learnt to swim in that pool and Norma says that I did my best to drown him! I did, as my father had done with me, threw him in at the deep end! When he came up sputtering Norma gave a piercing scream and I dove in and fished him out. But they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and Brian never had a problem with deep water after that, so what do you think?

        To be continued

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