Beautiful Guyana – By Geoff Burrowes + 3 Videos

By Geoff Burrowes

Recently, my old friend Jai Naipaul made a very profound remark. He does from time to time – though not as often as he thinks!

        We became friends on the hatch of the MV Mabiri while we were waiting for the Demerara tide to turn so we could dock. We were 15 years old at the time and were returning from the Jubilee Jamboree in England, and Georgetown was so near and yet so far, until the tide came in! Jai and a scout called Edwin Moses and I had a good gaff and we found kindred spirits in one another! Hence our friendship, thousands of miles north in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 63 years later!        

       Yes!,  Jai was talking about a trip that he led to Orealla Mission on the Courantyne River with a group of student teachers from Berbice High School and he told his students that one could only love Guyana if they knew Guyana. At the time people on the coast of Guyana mostly knew part of the coastal strip we lived and thrived in. They did not know the world of mountains, jungles and savannahs that lay behind that fertile coastal strip and the tough, resilient Guianese who lived there. Jai not only encouraged hi students to enjoy the great interior of the country but organized trips to show them first hand!

Video} Residents of Orealla happy with development of community

        Bartica,  Pomeroon, Mabaruma, Morawhanna, Waini, Matthews Ridge, Port Kaituma, Leguan, Waakenam, Linden, Christianberg, Annai, Pirara, Lethem  and were all waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

        Some of us were luckier than others. We had access to the riches of El Dorado. I had two uncles in the District Service. Theirs tended to be a lonely life and they often invited our family to share it with them. The result was by the age of ten I had already spent time in Suddie on the Essequibo Coast, New Amsterdam in Berbice, Morawhanna in the North West, amid the hills, jungles,  coffee and citrus plantations and dark lazy rivers that bisect the region.

 Video: Mabaruma Sojourn

TOUGH DENIZENS OF THE INTERIOR

I had met the tough denizens of the interior and come to respect them and the hard working way of life they considered normal. I met Patch, Uncle Angus’ driver who drove his Land Rover at breakneck speeds over broken red road and told salacious stories as he drove. He provided both transportation and entertainment! And Andrew a stoic Patamona boatman who reacted to emergencies with calm and resourcefulness. And Mildred who was from Georgetown and who had adapted so well to life in the jungle that she replied to my horrified whisper that there was a tarantula hanging by a thread over her bed “he don’t trouble nobody.”

        And the indigenous people of the Rupununi District: They quickly became expert at whatever opportunities came their way: they were expert vacqeros, expert auto mechanics or carpenters, accomplished store keepers or cooks. And they quit their vacquero duties every year to go back home and plant or harvest. I don’t know for sure but I assume that they were just as expert at planting and harvesting. As you can imagine that was not popular with the ranchers who often had more than half their workforce disappear abruptly at planting or harvest time.

The ranchers, after a couple of generations of living with the Macushis and Wapishanas had become accustomed to this and catered for it. The Macushis and Wapishanas were cheerful, pleasant and fun to work with!  Problems arose however over differences in the differring views of ownership. As a rule people from the coast and from abroad believed, quite reasonably, that if something belonged to you it was yours. The Amerindians felt that everything has been provided by the Great Spirit for everybody’s use. So when a family was hungry and a fat cow providentially appeared they would slaughter it and eat the beef, so providentially provided. Since the rancher didn’t see it that way the slaughterer would often be sent to Georgetown for 6 months at Her Majesty’s expense. He would dress in his best clothes and be cheered on his way by family and friends!

        The jungles, part of Guiana is in the Amazon basin, the spectacular mountain ranges and the far-stretching grasslands of the savannahs make it difficult not to love Guyana. As Jai encouraged his  students to see  Guyana and marvel at her  splendours and diverse people, when you did it was difficult not to fall in love with her!

GUYANA DESTINATION VIDEO

Discover Guyana. A land of diverse landscapes, enticing wildlife, exciting people, rich culture and heritage, delicious cuisine, the Majestic Kaieteur and a once in a lifetime experience. Every adventure you have in this amazing country will be a memory you carry with you forever.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GuyanaUndisc… Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/discoverguy… Twitter: https://twitter.com/discoverguyana?la… Website: http://www.guyana-tourism.com/ Hashtag: #discoverguyana

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Comments

  • Art Stanley  On June 11, 2020 at 3:54 am

    Great piece. Nostalgic and surprisingly accurate given it was written from memories of more than half a century ago.

  • George Jardim  On June 14, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Geoff, Enjoyed that story. It’s a story of Guyanese belonging and love for Guyana’s warm and good people, that one hears little of now, mired as Guyana has become in negativity. We seem to have become intent on finding only fault with one another, and ignoring the things you speak about, the many instances of friendship, goodness and humanity. I’m my life, I did many of the same travels, and spent many decades in the Essequibo river. I came to the same conclusions, and still feel a great love of country and people. Keep the stories coming!

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