GUYANA: One year since COVID-19 struck – By Francis Quamina Farrier

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  • Ron Saywack.  On 03/09/2021 at 2:21 pm

    Francis Quamina Farrier writes:

    “At this time last year — early March 2020 — none of us quite knew that our lives, as we knew it, would be turned up-side-down.” True dat!

    It certainly has been a shock to us all, the suddenness of it, and the colossal global disruption of regular life. It torpedoed the world like a rumbling, creaking tsunami, leaving in its wake historic economic devastations and, thankfully, a minimal loss of lives.

    The 1918 pandemic (known as the Spanish flu) killed an indeterminate number of people — estimates range from 20 to 100 million deaths – they didn’t keep good tabulations of death tolls those days.

    There was no vaccine available then to treat the vicious virus The situation was gravely exacerbated because of the War which meant that there was a dire shortage of medical personnel and medical facilities.

    In contrast to COVID-19, the Spanish flu killed mostly young, healthy people. In fact, more soldiers died of the pandemic than were killed in combat. COVID-19 takes mainly the old, the immuno-compromised, and a few in all age groups.

    Fortunately, medicine has made giant advances since 1918. The Spanish flu lasted about three years, and we can hope that this one doesn’t go beyond two years.

    Last year, I had planned to visit Guyana (from western Canada) with my two children (who turned 15 and 22 that year) but decided against it due to the uncertainties surrounding the Guyana general election. My children have never been to the land of the birth of their father and were excited about the opportunity.

    They were disappointed to learn that the trip to Guyana was off. As a consolation, I decided to take them to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica for a week at an all-inclusive, upscale resort.

    We arrived at the Riu Hotel in the northwestern province of Guanacaste on Sunday, March 8, and scheduled to return the following Sunday (March 15). At the same time, the world was on the brink of a major, multi-generational disruption.

    We were having such a great time, going for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and taking in the nightly, dazzling shows in the auditorium. The kids were enjoying the beach and the swimming pool and the 38-degree Celcius and the clear, blue skies each day, the starry nights, and the general ambience.

    I would go down to the edge of the ocean most days to enjoy the view and the tranquility of the deep, blue waters, mingling with the locals and the street hucksters, enjoying a cold Margarita or Pina Colada under the shade. It is such a beautiful resort that we had decided to extend our stay by a week.

    Back in Canada, the government was discussing the possibility of closing down the border to and from all international destinations. I cautioned the children that “we may have to abort our plan” to stay an extra week or risk being stranded indefinitely.

    On March 11, a few days into or vacation, the WHO declared a global pandemic. We then opted to fly back on schedule. On March 13, my daughter and I decided to take a day trip north to neighboring Nicaragua. My son decided to hang out by the poolside for the day. It would be a long day.

    We were up about 3:30 a.m. (a Friday) and went down to wait for our ride at the front lobby at around 4:30. It was dark out and only a handful of night staff on duty and looking sleepy. We sat on comfortable chairs, sipping coffee, waiting. The streetlamps flickered dimly through the tall branches, the warm tropical air felt pleasant against the skin, a major contrast to bone-chilling Canadian mornings.

    At a little before 5, a white minibus arrived and we took our seats and buckled up. A few minutes later, the bus stopped for gas and after a half-hour after that, we reached the border. By now, the sun was up and the dark of night had evaporated.

    After a 45-minute drive on the narrow undivided highway, the bus pulled off into a large, sun-drenched parking lot. The landscape all around is littered with blackened, charred matter from past volcanic eruptions. We advanced closer to the deep, circular, ferocious pit of Massaya Volcano where the temperature is more than 2000 degrees centigrade. It’s so hot that human flesh will melt in seconds.

    Massaya Volcano is one of seven live volcanic lakes on Earth.

    The bus pulled out and back onto the narrow, windy highway. In thirty minutes or so, it pulled off for the second time where we got out and hopped into a boat for an excursion on Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America, which drains east into the Caribbean Sea. There are 365 small islands on the lake and you could own one for $80,000 US.

    There are mansions on many of the islands owned by rich people. The boat operator speaks monkey talk. He said something in monkey parlance and the next thing you know three large monkeys came springing down the tall branches to take pieces of watermelons off our hands.

    After we got off the lake, we had lunch. There was a young couple (in their mid-thirties) from Indiana traveling in our group. The four of us had lunch at the same open-air table and then hopped aboard a horse-drawn carriage where we visited the center of the town of Granada a short distance away from the restaurant.

    Many of the buildings in Granada are around three to for hundred years old, built during colonial times. There are numerous young panhandlers on the streets trying to lighten your wallet. They are persistent and don’t like to take ‘no’ for an answer.

    We also visited the quaint small town of Catarina before heading back to the hotel. It was precisely 8:00 P.M when we made it back, tired.

    It was a memorable trip and, now, we are not sure when we will be able to travel again as a family or if the children will ever get the opportunity to visit Guyana. Indeed, much has changed in the last year.

    Ron Saywack.

    P.S.: As it turned out, our decision to fly home, as originally scheduled, was the right one. The border was shuttered the day after we came home.

  • Brother Man  On 03/11/2021 at 4:42 pm

    In a year 202 Guyanese dead from coronavirus. How many dead from car accidents, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer, etc, etc. I think governments around de world have blown dis ting out of proportions.

    I guess it’s de age we live in – information travelling at lighting speed and people buy it at face value.

    Brother Man

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