OPINION: Chapter 2: The Departure from Guyana (continued from The Decision) – By Geoff Burrowes

By Geoff Burrowes

You know the argument about tearing a plaster (my beloved wife Norma still chastises me for not saying Band-Aid) off bit by bit , or one fast rip. I favour the fast rip but emigration is not like that – it takes time and you have to wait while the Canadian bureaucracy takes its time making each decision.

I know there were lots of parties – we born in Guyana love parties, don’t we? We had to say goodbye to friends and family and what better way!.   

We had to stay in Norma’s dad’s house after our own lease expired – he was in Canada. The house was sold and we went to live with my parents for the last two months. God bless both sets of our parents!

My dad warned us that we had to get ourselves and our sons ready to live in Canada without servants. Norma decided to have  the boys get used to looking after themselves and get them used to putting  their clothes away after they showered. Dave my second son liked to do things his own way and the first evening when he took off his clothes and shoes decided to deal with them by flushing them down the toilet. It’s not easy to get a plumber on a Sunday night. Dad was not impressed but to his credit never let it affect his relationship with Dave.

I can’t remember  all the details of our preparations for leaving or of our departure from the land of our birth (trauma causes memory loss) . My dad took a snapshot of Norma and me and our sons, Brian, David and Ian dressed up for the flight out of Guyana, remember in those days (1975) we used to dress up to go on a flight! It remains as my sole memory of that difficult day.

At that time there were no direct flights from Guyana to Canada. We had to take a Guyana Airways jet to Trinidad and then next day board an Air Canada flight to Toronto.

I know our plane out of Atkinson Field must have flown over the wide, brown Demerara river, the light green rice and cane fields and the darker green jungles of the upper Essequibo, the Pomeroon and the North West district, which I believe is known today as Region 1.! The light pink strip of Shell Beach and the brown ocean changing into green and then blue.

I always got a kick of dropping over the boundary road at Piarco airport with the Northern mountain range on the left and down the smooth runway.

The airport hotel had one story rooms surrounding a full sized swimming pool.

There were three highlights of our stay: The first was after we changed we went out to the pool and met a family from Guyana who now lived in Canada. The dad, Arthur Outridge, had lived next door to us when I was a small boy and his wife Maggie was sister to my classmate J.C. Seymour. They had two sons with whom our boys quickly bonded.

My dad had taught me to swim, after paddling in a tire, by throwing me into pool where I discovered natural buoyancy. I figured that what had worked for me would work for my eldest son, Brian, 6 years old, but when he hit the water and went under Norma screamed loud enough to wake the dead and by then I had learnt that “happy wife, happy life” and quickly fished him out. I was not popular after that.

After our swim my good friend David King picked us up and drove us to a friend Richard Harper, who now lived in Trinidad, for dinner. Richard had left Guyana some time before and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up.

Next morning  our son Dave got to the restaurant ahead of us and when we got to our table found that he had ordered a plate full of bacon and was eating it with relish. Norma quickly ordered him a decent breakfast. We ate with the Outridge family and they promised to get in touch with us after we were settled.

Air Canada was very good and because we had a 6  month old in a carry-cot they placed us in seats next to the bulkhead. Ian our youngest son, lay contentedly in his carry-cot  for the entire flight.

I was looking forward eagerly to seeing our new country from the air but to my disappointment the clouds never parted until we were landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto.

My cousin Mike met us at Pearson in an enormous shiny car and drove  us on marvellously  winding roads that ran over and under other roads and along a highway that ran over the huge city of Toronto, with its tall glass-fronted buildings reflecting the now setting sun alternating with rows of squat red-brick houses. I had lived in London, UK and was impressed by the many trees and grassy spaces in Toronto.

To be continued…

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