Chapter 6 – Canada: Immigrants in Toronto – FRIENDS – By Geoff Burrowes 

– FRIENDS – By Geoff Burrowes 

If I found myself on a desert island alone I would be extremely unhappy! I would keenly miss my family and friends.

One of the problems on arriving in a new country is that unless you have family and friends there already it will be very lonely. Fortunately we came to Canada after a lot of other Guyanese. My aunt Doreen and my cousin Mike were there to greet us, put us up and help us get started with the changes in culture and practices. Norma’s Mum and Dad had recently emigrated and were settling in. All of Norma’s Ramphal cousins had settled in Canada some years before as had other friends from Guyana.           

Understand that Guyana is a small country with a population of only three quarters of a million people. It’s not like England with millions of people shoe-horned into a small island! With a small population you tend to know a number of people very well! So the new Canadians we knew from Guyana were close friends.

Guyanese are also very social people who enjoy getting together over a rum or beer and gyaffin’.

Once we had moved into our new apartment we started getting invitations! Carol and Barrie Chung invited us to a Grey Cup party, that year the Cup was being fought over by the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. It was a back and forth tusssle with long, rangy Tony Gabriel catching the winning touchdown.

Coming from Georgetown which used to be a fairly small city I found the distances in Toronto daunting! The drive out to Mississauga seemed to take forever and since we went on Finch Avenue I hadn’t ever seen so many traffic lights (Texans call them red lights.)

Good food, no shortage of drinks, the time passed quickly and pleasantly.

In the early days we had no living room furniture, so we furnished our living room with large, comfortable, brightly coloured cushions. Our friends and neighbors Mike and Jackie sat on them without complaint. Nowadays my knees ache just at the thought of them but we were young and agile then!

Julian and Pansy Cole, Bajans who had worked at the bank in Georgetown and who were friends  through our friend Brian Paireadeau came to visit and like the good sports they were, they sat on our living room cushion furniture and they made our lives rich with reminiscing for the evening and for days after.

When we arrived in Canada we agreed that Norma would stay at home and provide a firm base for the kids, a rich, warm, safe home environment with a mother’s care. We have never regretted it, although there were times when a second income would have been welcome!

My wife Norma had never cooked or cleaned as in Guyana we had had servants. No more! If she didn’t cook we would go hungry. If we didn’t clean we would be living like the prodigal son, among the pigs!

So, in matinee time she became an accomplished cook and housekeeper. When our children Brian, David and Ian came home from school or play she would have a plate of cookies or some other delicacy waiting for them, along with whatever love, advice or correction they needed.

She corrected gently unless it was in the “Wait until your father gets home.” range.

Since we both believed that if we ‘spared the rod we would spoil the child’ physical correction or ‘a good cut-arse’ was sometimes necessary. That’s not considered good parenting today, but in spite of that the boys turned out all right!

Emigrating is hard! But as difficult as I found it the real heroine in our story is my sweetheart who learnt all of the skills required to live in a new country, with a different culture, far better and faster than I could. I imagine it is the same with all immigrant families. God bless our women!

In the early days we did a lot of things together. We were delighted with the groceries; such an abundance at relatively low prices. We, and especially our kids, were delighted to eat at McDonalds, Big Macs and fries, Coke in huge paper cups.

We visited a store called Ushers on King St. West. where they sold dented cans and broken cereal boxes at low prices. We saved a bunch but it was pretty grungy and a long drive so we didn’t repeat the adventure!

The local parks were terrific with every kind of slide and jungle gym, all brightly coloured and new. Toronto was so clean! No discarded paper cups in the gutters or blowing onto the sidewalks!

I was thrilled to find John Small, with whom I had gone to school, living in the apartment building adjoining ours.

Then just when it seemed we had settled in and had our lives pretty well organized life threw us a curve!

But more about that later!



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  • Kman  On 03/19/2021 at 1:55 pm

    Geoff, you left Guyana too long ago. It cut ass and not cut arse, lol

  • Francis Quamina Farrier  On 03/20/2021 at 10:53 am

    When I attended a Theatre/Journalism summer course at the Banff School of Fine arts – University of Alberta – in Canada in 1969, one of my professors who was on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), offered me a position at ANY of the CBC studios across the country. I requested a one month attachment to gain practical experience, then returned to Guyana. That was my choice. An angry Guyanese who had issues in his homeland, and migrated, recently wrote that “The wise ones left” implying that those living in Guyana are idiots. So WHY am I continuously bombarded with queries and favours by so many of my (WISE) fellow Guyanese in the diaspora? God Bless Guyana, warts and all.

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