My brother Krish and I decided to drive down to Toronto and take Caribbean Airline and its direct flight to Guyana. It left on time, checking and boarding was speedy, and we reached Cheddi Jagan Inernational Airport at Timheri, Guyana, at 4.45 am, a few minutes early.
We cleared Customs and Immigration very quickly, the agents were polite and courteous and I appreciated that, after the long, overnight journney. It took some time to retrieve our baggage and joined our waiting taxi, that would take us directly to Albion, where my sister, Baba and her husband, Seenauth were waitng. The journey was about 2 1/2 hrs.
It was quite a revealing, captivating journey, good roads, superb scenes...the miles of sea-wall ( built by the Dutch, when they occupied this part of Guyana, other parts were occupied by the Spanish and French, until it was ceded to England in 1713, Treaty of Utrecht, that ended the Spanish Succession War), protecting us from the Atlantic ocean, the beautiful houses with their resplendant gardens of breath-taking flowers and fruit trees. It was a veritable garden of delights, with all kinds of flowers, red, white, pink, black, blue, yellow, short, tall, round and bushy and so much more, and the fruit trees in every yard..coconuts, guavas, bananas, mangoes, genips, sapadillas, star, sugar and monkey apples, soursops catahers, jamoons, cherries, even sugar canes and many, many more.
The long, winding but smooth roads took us by thess homes and over canals and rivers. Guyana is called the "land of many water", and there are many large rivers dividing the land and enriching its soil.....we drove by the majestic Demarara, crossed the Mahaica, the Mahaicony, the Abary and finally the wide, Berbice rivers. There is a pontoon bridge across the Berbice and this has not only replaced the ferry, but has reduced the amount of time of travel by a couple of hours. We by-pass the Canje river and New Amsterdam, the second largest city in Guyana, and drove through, No. 2, Sheet Anchor, No19, Bolham, Fryish to Guava Bush, Albion, to my sisters home. There was a warm welcome and a hot meal, chased down with some Guyana-made vodka with coconut water. Oh, the delight.
It was a hot but very breezy day. We sat in the shady bottom, verandah of the house ( my sister and her husband now lives in New York, but return to their refurbished home each year for a few ennervating/ healing months). There is something about the place and the weather, the food and the fruits, the breeze and the heat, the people and their energy, that seem to work in a healing way ( I suffer from a lot of aches and pains, coughing and sneezing, eyes watering and nose clogging, but after a few days in Guyana, I feel so alive, even not taking my medications, and feeling very hale and hearty) . I will come more often.
The days and nights are equally divided ( Guyana is close to the equator, so there is equal hours of daylight and darkness). People go to bed early and rise early and we did that too. Each night, after about 6pm., neighbors would come over to my sister's, where they will sit and tell stories or converse. I was used to a different regimen....dinner, T.v. news, joepardy, some show or the other, or a movie, a bit of reading and bed at around 11pm. I found the first couple of nights to be strange and then I got into the rhythm and thoroughly enjoyed the communalism and comraderie. I, who used to read a newspaper, magazines, do my facebook, read e-mail, blog and Tweet, watch cricket or other sports, each day, went almost two weeks without these things and did not miss them. Not only was my body rested and healing, but my mind/brain had a much needed furlough and it was most enjoyable and ennervating. I must do this more often and for the past week, since my return, I have done less, read less, watch less and feel great, that I do not have the world's problems/depressions, to worry about.
There is a different pace to life in Guyana. People wake up early, some to go to their workplace, whether office or fields or factories or stores. Hot breakfast is prepared each day, children are fed and sent off to school; adults feed themselves and go off to work and housewives, the most important cog in the wheel of the family, the very soul of the family, do their chores...cooking, sweeping, dusting, washing and marketing. They go the market each day ( there are two markets, an open air one in Rose Hall and a covered on in Port Mourant, and there is an abundance of everything, the noise, the hustle an bustle,...fresh salt-water fish from the ocean and sweet-water fish from the inland canals and rivers, crabs, shrimps and so much more), to buy fresh fish , fruits and vegetables, which is then prepared into lunches ( most children come home for lunch and so too some adults ), and dinners, a family affair.( During my two weeks stay in Guyana, I tried to eat a variety of fish, fruits and vegetables, and I enjoyed them thoroughly. I had only three meals of chicken, duck and lamb and did not miss, meat. I shall try to do this, when I return to Brossard). Afterwards, there is playing time with the children, homework, a small snack and after a while, bed. We soon got into the swing of things.
Day 2 and the Visit
After a hot, delicious breakfast of fish, bhaji and roti with tea, we set off for the familial home in Miss Phoebe, a place I had not visited in twenty-five years. My mother died in November 1979 ( my father three years earlier), and even though I knew I had to return, I kept postponing it and now I am here and it was devastating. The once beautiful/ beloved/ busy and bountiful place that I grew up in, with its resplendant, colorful, abundant fruit trees and flowers was a neglected, soul-wrenching, shockingly empty shell. Here, where eight children and many grandchildren were born and where their navel-string were buried ( chooked), here where there was constant laughter and children running, here where there was so much life and happiness, where birds sang cheerily while feeding on the ripening fruits, here, where there were 16 mango trees, papayas, bananas, coconuts, sapadillas, cherries, sugar, star, monkey apples, limes, carmanga, catahars, sewmootoo, peppers, pumpkins, squashes, beans, saijan and other bhajis and so much more, now stand emptiness...there is one mango tree, one sapadilla and one star apple with a clump of banana trees. That's it. Our fertile, verdant garden of wonders is a vast neglected wasteland. I was moved to tears; tears of neglect; tears of life long gone; tears of longing; tears of joy mixed with sorrow; tears of what might have been.
I will continue this later...............