Guyana Revisited a travelogue
Since emigrating to the United States over 15 years ago, I have traveled to my country, Guyana, five times on holidays.* Always there was a presentiment and a sense of uneasiness mixed with anticipation and excitement. I migrated from Guyana when the political and economic climate left a lot to be desired. Usually upon arrival at Timehri Airport there was a fear, indefinable, as to what forebodes at the Immigration and Customs, and also who might be looking at you. Would it be the police, ostensibly or in plain clothes? They seemed or at least were perceived to have unlimited power that they could wield arbitrarily. Is it the con men, listening and watching you, posing as legitimate taxi and helpers? Horrible stories of 'taxi' highjacking have been told. In 1993, this semi-paranoid condition was dispelled. Things were definitely different, although I still kept my guard. This time, during my recent trip in November/December 1995, there was no foreboding and trepidation.
Throughout 1995, I was anxious to visit Guyana. I was receiving quite a lot of written and anecdotal information about developments since the new government took office. I wanted to have first-hand information, but personal matters were keeping me back. Without much planning, I seized an opportunity when BWIA advertised a good travel bargain. After forty minutes delay, BWIA 425 left JFK International at 10:40 am on a nice and pleasant day. The liftoff was excellent; the flight attendants were helpful, trying their best to organize their routines in the full-to-capacity trip. Flight attendants generally appear to be busy doing many chores mandatory ones but not especially compliant with certain passenger requests. For example, I had requested an aisle seat so that I would have been able to stretch, massage and exercise my injured and painful left knee. When I was buying my ticket, I was advised that I should put my request to BWIA personnel at the airport. The check-in clerk advised that I should ask the flight attendant, which I did upon entering the aircraft; but only to be told that some one would take care of me after I was seated. After a few reminders, I am still waiting.... On my return flight, I made a similar request at Timehri. Guess what? The same responses, but worse, making this flight my most pain and distressful. Also, the attendants were noticeably keen and particular about having upright seats and seat belts as per regulation. This is good. At the same time, however, I observed two babies held in their mothers' laps with no seat belts or other forms of protection. I wonder if this were true for other airlines. If this is the case, remedial action should be prompt.
The flight was uneventful. There was a three-hour waiting period at Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados. Suddenly, you realize that you are in the Caribbean. You are hit with high humidity and high temperature, and you perspire profusely. The airport is small, but very nice. The people are helpful and courteous. As I sat in the waiting area to pass the time, I took out my new book Ageless Body Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra MD, lay it on a table, and comforted myself for a good read. Picking up the book, I found it extensively saturated with water the table had a pool of water that I could not detect. Needless to say, this changed my mood for reading. I looked around and realized that other tables were also unkempt. This must have been a bad day since everything elsewhere was up to the highest standard. BWIA 435 departed Barbados at 5:40 p.m. for the final leg to Guyana via Trinidad. After a lengthy and tiring wait in Barbados, one would expect some form of appropriate action to refresh the spirit. Instead, passengers were treated to a small, cold, horrible sandwich with hard bread. This was not in good taste (pun not intended).
At Timehri Airport, Immigration and Customs were efficient and quick. I had nothing to declare, and I was out of the building in a short time, only to find that my contact person was no where to be seen. The taxi men started to approach me, slyly and whispering, yet hawk-like, trying to disarm me, thus wooing me to use their taxi. The old foreboding returned. Minutes seemed like hours, and after about half an hour, the taxi men approached again. I started to feel uneasy and intimidated. Unwarranted fear, maybe, but real, at night especially. There was no police, no security and no one in authority in the arriving lounge area. The only prominent people were several taxi men. There were no public phones, and so your options were very limited indeed.
The car ride to Georgetown was quiet. Small talk was interrupted by sudden jolts caused by potholes and accompanied by mild expletives. The East Bank road is narrow, and work was being done to repair and widen it. But it will take more than stopgap measures to solve its heavy traffic problem. Possibly, an additional road behind the cane fields will ease the problem and at the same time augment development in the overall region. The night was quite silent except for the monotonous hum of our car. Villages were asleep with dim security lights or none at all. Drivers appeared not to care about certain considerations. Most of the oncoming traffic had high beam, blinding us, and no one seemed bothered about this. Arriving in Georgetown, our first stop was one of my old haunts. The very cold Banks beer was excellent, and did wonders for a hot, sweaty and tired person. Later that night, sleep came fast. I was awakened by the incessant coughing of a dog, only to find myself drenched in my perspiration. But by this time, I had enjoyed a good, restful sleep. My host looked fresh and cool.
The next day I traveled to the city to do basic business, namely, to purchase Guyana dollars, which was the only thing I could do because the heat and humidity drained my energy. I returned home, and fell asleep. My physiology would adapt in due course. That evening I telephoned friends, and decided to spend the night quietly.
The Basic Needs Trust Fund
The following day, I was invited by a friend to a dedication ceremony at Enmore Primary School. My friend, Khemraj Rai, heads the Basic Needs Trust Fund, whose objective is to inspect schools that got into a state of disrepair over the years, and rehabilitate them according to needs. This dedication was a completion of one such project. The Hon. Minister of Education, Dr. Dale Bisnauth, Dr. Innis, and Contractor Mangal were some of key persons at the function. The children recited poems, sang and danced, and the Headmistress was very thankful. Schools are being rehabilitated countrywide on the coastland, in the remote interior and riverain districts. The Basic Needs Trust Fund shows that under good leadership and management, things can be done with tangible results in a short period of time. Often, and more usually, these outcomes are the results of acute necessity, hard work and dedication rather than the application of any special genius or altruistic open-handedness. Later that evening, there was an impromptu socializing, meeting old friends and acquaintances, and discussing topical issues.
Sunday, the day for rest, was not meant to be. My old buddy coerced me to accompany him to the Abary. In the past, I loved this trip, but at 5:00 a.m., this was a little too much on my holiday. Along the East Coast road, I was looking both left and right, trying to renew familiarity with villages and things that used to be part of my day-to-day routine. It was a bit difficult to fathom how once I was quite able to drive on the two-lane road, jostling with vehicles of every type, bicycles, pedestrians of all ages, horse carts, cows, sheep, and other animals.
Driving was possible from the main road into the Abary, sometimes rough, but pleasant. Rice cultivation was flourishing; some fields were already reaped. After learning about the profitability of rice cultivation, I inquired about the possibility of buying or leasing land for this purpose, only to be advised that there were virtually no vacant land available in the area. The weather was dry, and a brief shower had a welcome cooling effect for me, but was horrible for the driver on the dirt road. I enjoyed the natural beauties, recognizing plants, and birds especially. There were many birds, flying, chirping and soaring. I recognized the kiskadee, robin, old witch, white egret (crane), gray and white long-neck (gaulding), hawks, snail hawks, water hen, dove, spur wing, scissors tail, wren, cotton strainer, shine cock or oatsy, chow, yellow plantain, and a few others, the names of which I could not remember. Duty bound, my host decided to return the same day. Nights in the Abary are fantastic. It is quiet, serene and magical. The air is fresh, clean and sweet, not yet polluted. And the sky, starry, is always brighter, with individual stars wanting to pop out towards you. Night or day, the Abary is beautiful as a resort, to spend a day or weekend with friends and family. Undoubtedly, your mind becomes clear, and your body invigorated. It is highly recommended.
Essequibo, the Coast
It was a sunny, bright and hot Tuesday morning when we left Georgetown in the company of my friend and a few other people whose acquaintance I made later in the day. We drove across the floating bridge, and then along the West Coast public road to Parika. As usual, I kept an inquisitive alertness, poking questions, but got very little answers. There was nothing special. The drive was quiet, probably because the other members were not fully astir. Children were on their way to school, and the few individuals seen were going about their business in a casual manner. The road was good except for small sections at Leonora and Uitvlugt.
PARIKA, at the stelling vicinity, was quite different. There was a cacophony of activity. People of almost all walks of life attended to their tasks passengers, truckers, taxi drivers, hucksters, peddlers, dawdling onlookers, in all shapes and conditions, contributed to an incessant, brisk and seemingly chaotic state of affairs. Men, shirtless and barefooted, plied the concrete roads and hard wooden bridge, fetching bags of produce, beads of perspiration dripping noticeably from their bare bodies. These men, young and older, were skinny, but with compact and taut musculature. The taxi men were doing the usual, menacingly badgering passengers. Hucksters and peddlers teasingly solicited with well-practiced effusiveness. This kind of behavior and commotion will be seen again and again, day after day, as though rehearsed. There is a pattern and sense to this apparent madness all the activities are unwittingly fine-tuned to coincide with the arrival and/or departure of the steamers to Leguan, Adventure and Bartica.
Parika is a very important harbor and stelling. In previous years, this stelling, like all the others, became dilapidated, and was a hazard to the public safety. Now, expeditious reparatory measures removed most of the fears, and major reconstruction was being undertaken, overseen by Mr. Balkaran, MP of Thierens, Leguan.
After partaking of some nice, ripe bananas, and refreshing ourselves with water coconuts, we boarded the MV Malali, and prepared for the long, 3-hour journey to Adventure. I looked down from the upper mezzanine, and I was impressed by the diversity of activity as the steamer was slowly being occupied to full capacity. This vessel caters for passengers, cars, trucks, produce, cattle, and sundry goods for personal use or trade. I observed, with some degree of disquiet, the many speedboats idle on their moorings. These small boats once did a lucrative business, filling a void when the Transport and Harbours steamers became dysfunctional due to committed dereliction. Now that the government had quickly rehabilitated the vessels, competition became stronger.
The Crew worked feverishly to avoid a delay and keep to the schedule. And so we departed Parika stelling near on time. For some, this journey is a tedium; for others, it is relaxing and could even be romantic; for me it was a jaunt. As we settled down for the journey, the stelling slowly faded away. Being a native of Leguan, I stared across to the island to figure out if I could identify any landmark. A sense of nostalgia crept over me, an inexpressible good feeling. Reading soon absorbed my attention. I have an abiding interest in alternative technology, especially alternative energy. Only about half an hour into my solar energy magazine, I resolved that it was more fun to enjoy the trip in other ways. Leaning against the rail, I listened to the uninterrupted and monotonous lapping of the waves against the hull. Soon, this became background sound, and my attention was directed to my fellow passengers.
People were generally well attired. Some women with their children were especially well presented in their best clothes and shoes which were, for the most part, uncomfortable. They shared foods and drinks that were either prepared beforehand for the trip, or they otherwise obtained their delicacies from the cafeteria on the middle level. People were in high spirits as they tried to make themselves comfortable on the hard wooden seats for the long journey ahead. Personally, I found this markedly hurting on the gluteus, but no one else seem to bother. About an hour after departure, the excitement and activities subsided somewhat. The cool, refreshing, untainted breeze had a calming effect on most of the passengers. Others entertained themselves in lively conversations, with or without the aid of intoxicating beverages available from the tavern. Candid camera takes would be very embarrassing to those who slept unashamedly and recklessly. I remained alert throughout, observant of little details as the boat circumnavigated Leguan, Hogg Island, Liberty, Troolie and Wakenaam. Occasionally, speedboats hurried past, and birds soared aimlessly. Human presence could be detected in large clearings interspersed in virgin forests, either engaged in crop cultivation or cattle rearing.
I had done this trip several times in years gone by, and have never failed to enjoy the pleasantness. It is wishful thinking of course to be able to bottle the clean, salubrious air for future use. Many years ago, excursions were organized, and this was good for fun and business. But before this can be contemplated again the boat must be properly maintained by Transport and Harbours Department and its crew. For several years, the boat was permanently moored due to disrepair, negligence and lack of maintenance. Upon assumption of power, the present government, recognizing the need for good transportation, quickly rehabilitated it, and placed it again into service. However, simple routine maintenance, like having working toilets, and keeping the seating areas regularly clean and sanitary would sustain a more acceptable ambiance.
We arrived at Adventure, a surprisingly sleepy stelling; since it catered for the entire Essequibo Coast you would expect more activity. Without hesitation, we drove to Anna Regina. It was early in the night, and our host, owing to miscommunication, did not seem fully prepared for our arrival. We were all tired by now, and we quietly waited for the hurriedly prepared dinner. That night, as I lay in bed, I mumbled things inconsequential to my roommate, reflected on events of the day, and imagined with anticipation the next day's sojourn. The quiet, cool night, accompanied by the background lapping of the Atlantic waters on the sea walls, must have raised my endorphin level. My breathing became deeper and heavier; sleep came at last, and drowned my fancies into forgetfulness.
DAYLIGHT certainly brought some degree of rationality and focus in our responsibilities. Everyone exhibited convincing signs of a restful night. We consumed a sumptuous breakfast, and began the ride to Charity. The smooth ride was interrupted by occasional bumps, resulting from potholes; but the road was being repaired. All along, rice was cultivated on a grand scale. Generally, private homes were in rather decent shapes. However, most of the government buildings, notably schools, still remained eyesores. Sources close to the government pointed out that the authorities must prioritize their spending and target those structures that warranted more immediate attention. This Wednesday at Charity was not busy. Nevertheless, I shopped for what is presumed to be the best quality 'casareep', and enjoyed the energy-producing, ice cold sugar cane juice. We boarded a speedboat, barely large enough to carry five adults. It was powered by a Yamaha 40 outboard engine, and developed a speed of about 20 m.p.h.
The Pomeroon River is not very wide, but probably the deepest river in Guyana, allowing ocean-going vessels easy passage. The water was placid, reflecting the mostly cumulus clouds and hawks soaring high above. Its very dark brown color is due to plant tannin constantly leaching from the decaying vegetative matter on and in the soils. Riding in the boat can be fun if you are not too scared of this kind of activity. Except for the monotonous droning of the engine, the place was exquisitely quiet. Although simple and in the main basic, the environment is very healthy, unalloyed, and not yet ruined by 'progress'. On both banks of the river, vegetation virgin as well as cultivated swayed in the wind in all their verdant and luxuriant growth. Coconut plantations and lumbering were the mainstay of the local economy, although people were self sufficient in cash crops, poultry and fishing. Many years ago, the Pomeroon yielded a surfeit of coffee, citrus, and fruits of all kinds in places like Pickersgill. Mangrove trees were easily identifiable from afar by their aerial roots buttressing into the mud flats.
The inhabitants of the region are predominantly Amerindian or of Amerindian stock. The primary mode of transportation is the ubiquitous small 'ballahoo' and 'dugouts' or 'corials'. Children of all ages paddled to their schools, rowing in unison and maintaining accomplished balance. Our first stop was at Jacklow, and then we moved in the opposite direction to Hackney. The children attending the schools possessed remarkably impressive qualities from my casual observation. They upheld attributes that tend to be diminishing in our society they were well dressed in their uniform, tidy, courteous, polite, respectable and smiling.
We retraced our journey homewards on the same day. Everyone bore degrees of weariness from exertion; it was indeed non-stop traveling, mostly in seating arrangements not designed for the unprotected rear end.
To Leguan Place of My Youth
Despite a rather aching body, I aroused myself to visit the island of Leguan the next day. I was determined not to waste any of my holiday days. Today would be my first encounter with the mini bus on this holiday. I dreaded the prospect, but my options were limited. Concerns about the mini bus and public transportation must be addressed by the relevant authorities. The services rendered leave much to be desired.
At Parika, MV Malali, scheduled to ferry us to Leguan was delayed. Moored alongside was the MV Lady Northcote being loaded to capacity for the Bartica route. Passengers, vehicles, poultry, cattle, cargo of all description produce, groceries, eggs, salt, sodas, gas cylinders, and vegetables. Young men loaded, doing piecework, puny men sweating, smelly, and busy toiled diligently with the primary purpose of meeting the departure deadline. The entire process appeared chaotic at first. Getting the trucks and cars on the boats requires skill and appropriate guidance. Deck hands directed the drivers without adequate care and precaution. Any one of a number of the crew gave directions, sometimes contrary to the other. This was surreal. A serious incident is waiting to happen then, who would be liable, and is there liability insurance?
The Malali carried a full complement of crew; yet the boat was filthy beyond what would be expected on a general-purpose vessel. Even the upper decks revealed that little attention was given to wholesome conditions. Two days before, on my trip to the Essequibo coast, a cow lay dead at Parika stelling. Two days later, the dead cow was not removed. A few senior (?) crew men stood on the lower deck forming a group, doing nothing but frivolous chatting all well dressed and sporting dark glasses. Is it apathy or depraved work ethic? In the meantime, hard-working peasants and jobbers continued to collide with one another, and dodge moving vehicles. There was too much dirt. There was flagrant disregard and neglect. And nobody seemed to care. These penetrating observations do not suggest indignity from the working crew and other staff. They merely draw attention to the status quo and to existing patterns of behavior. Certainly, the paying public deserves better, even though they are simple, country folks.
A MEETING with a school friend was mutually gratifying and warm. Mr. Tularam and I engaged in nostalgia. He filled me in with recent developments, and was most gracious in affording me his personal transport. By any standard, Mr. Tularam is well-to-do, and a very successful businessman. After visiting my childhood hometown, Louisiana, and walking around the yard and house where I spent my boyhood years, I met a few relatives and acquaintances who still remained in my village. Later, Tularam shared his lunch with me in his home at Maryville, a huge, well-kept, modern house by any measure. He proudly escorted me around his property, and displayed his resplendent jacuzzis. Lunch was simple (or complex), consisting of rice, 'daal', pumpkin, 'bhagi', 'katahar' and 'achar'. Today, being Thursday, no meat or hard drink was approved in the house as per their Hindu custom.
Later, through the courtesy of Tularam's transport, I renewed friendship with an old buddy living at Enterprise. Robert Li is a singularly exceptional personality. He is currently retired, having been a schoolteacher and headmaster for many, many years. Now, he dons worn-out trousers and slippers which had seen better days. His jute bag hammock with holes is guardedly protected. On the mundane side, his routine is milking his cows and managing his rice fields which he cultivates for joy and money. Robert is an expert mandolinist, a talent that he never, but should have exploited. His pet birds, numbering over ten, are his special preserve they are worth more than just money. Robert treated me to a rarity, a homemade brew of 'jamoon' wine: Both of these gentlemen were missing from my life for over thirty years, and it was really a pleasurable emotional connection.
During the PNC regime no impetus was directed to rice cultivation. In fact, the government of the day ruined the rice industry in their practiced and wanton manner. Thus, the economy of Leguan dropped to a bottomless pit. Rice cultivation eventually ceased, and with very little or no job locally, people, mostly young, migrated to the sugar estates and the city of Georgetown, and when possible to neighboring Suriname and Venezuela, or to Toronto and New York. There was abject disregard and inattention by the powers that reigned. The inhabitants are simple country people. All they desired was the opportunity to make a living, albeit, paltry, and this was denied them. Leguan became rundown in all aspects. Quality of life in education, health, nutrition, clothing, shelter and entertainment dropped below anything in living memory. There was a time when Jagan was Premier that brought prosperity on account of increased rice production. I began a career in teaching at Maryville Government School then. Then, all government buildings blazed in excellent condition. The Cottage Hospital boasted a full-time doctor and a complement of nurses and ancillary staff. The stelling used to be painted in bright colors, and never could it be said that it did not provide secure storage in its bond, unlike recent times. The present government, in an attempt to boost the local and general economy, is offering the basics to encourage rice production again. And so, rice production has been heightened once more. The stelling is partially repaired. For the first time, there is all-weather road up to a point. It is envisaged that completion throughout the island will be accomplished this year, and probably also the inhabitants may enjoy the civilized benefits of electrification.
THE NEXT WEEK or so found me centered in Georgetown, East Bank and East Coast. I attended to a few personal mandates. I engaged in brief informal contacts with Walter Matadial and Charles Kennard CCH, at their Kingston office of MARDS, and learned of their good work for the rice industry. I luxuriated in two baby boomer's coming of age at their 50th celebration the inimitable K. Rai and the well-known and popular Roopa. These two events were resplendent. These occasions allowed for embraces with pals, acquaintances who were missing from one's immediate locale. My most undisturbed sleep was a night I spent with Walter and Jean at their Soesdyke residence, mainly because of the coolness and the relative lack of mosquitoes. At a Fund Raising lunch held at the Pegasus and organized by the National Sports Council for outstanding but semi-indigent athletes, were several former colleagues, my invitation through the kind courtesy of the affable and frisky Shaik Baksh MP. I chatted with Patrick Mootoo, economist and once stalwart teacher in Leguan, and Dr. Kamrool Bacchus, a noted eye specialist. The one-day cricket match at Bourda only brought nostalgia. 'Xanda', who shared many a drink while at UG, seemed (or pretended) not to know me. I did not particularly enjoy this day, being alone for the most part, except for the couple of hours spent in the nearby botanical gardens, photographing the scenery. St. Stanislaus College was the meeting-place for a discussion on the Iwokrama International Rain Forest Programme, important but poorly attended. Why? On two occasions, the University of Guyana attracted me to its campus at Turkeyen. I always entertain good and fond memories of this campus; and I am saddened when I observed the sad state of affairs, meager (or lack of) supply of basic materials, such as books, journals, laboratory equipment and supplies, especially in the Faculties of Natural Sciences, Agriculture, Health Sciences and Medicine. It is a crying shame to see this once bastion of higher learning transformed to a substandard 'empty' institution. Much has to be done to elevate it anew to acceptable international standards. The premium on education is always high, but the payoffs warrant it.
On a planned trip, Bobby, Shaik and I left Georgetown for the Corentyne early November. It was about 6 a.m. when we commenced with the hope of avoiding heavy traffic and boarding an early boat. The drive was prepossessing, the day still cool, but with the morning sun stealthily approaching the meridian. As usual, traffic manifested the same patterns of hazards apparent to an individual not yet accustomed to Guyana roadway routines. The driver was always on the alert for pedestrians, bicyclists, cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and horse-drawn carts. In some areas, rice farmers and coconut growers were occupying large sections of the road, drying their padi and copra. With the oncoming minibuses racing at excessive speeds, there was always the potential for dangerous outcomes.
For many days now, I have been traveling and, by now, I was becoming tired in body, but not in spirit. Because of the prolonged semi-stationary posture in the car, I yearned for Rosignol. The Mahaica market area was busy as always. Because of my tired condition, the remaining drive appeared not as interesting except until we arrived at West Coast Bush Lot where enlivened activities met our gaze. We barely missed our anticipated scheduled boat. Being on a holiday, I did not care much about this. Relief came to my aching body as I satiated my appetite with fish-and-bread and cold drinks amply vended at the stelling.
Water, and particularly the river, has a modifying and palliative effect on my cerebral faculties. I roamed the decks of the MV Torani, looking in all directions. Towards the mouth of the Berbice River, there was vast openness with a huge structure unknown to me. Crab Island showed its dark greenery. The stelling at New Amsterdam looked old and insignificant from a far distance. The tide was out, and the mudflats on the Rosignol side exposed a backdrop, colored brownish-green, this being the thriving inter-tidal algae coating the surface of the mud. As was my wont, my camera was at work, capturing essential details of the trip. The passengers minded their business, engaged in polite conversations, some times renewing acquaintances. A car carried a wedding group, Hindu by mode of dress; the young groom sweltering in his traditional wedding robe, displayed a demeanor of impassive composure and equanimity.
Time and neglect showed no mercy on the town of New Amsterdam. Rundown occupancies and unpainted buildings projected an overbearing dismal picture, made more pronounced on this quiet Sunday. As I passed Berbice High School, the premier secondary school in Berbice, I remembered my friend and the Principal, Mr. Nankisoore, and felt sure that he would welcome a few gallons of paint. But, it must be more than just paint; it must also be the will of the people to find simple solutions for simple problems, and not to depend wholly on government or external agencies. I lament on the decrepit condition of this illustrious school.
While we passed through the Corentyne coast, we stopped at various districts. My fellow traveler and ever-working and tireless friend, Shaik Baksh, attended to his chores in his usual business-like manner, which was the central objective of the trip. His duties took us as far as Crabwood Creek. He inspected the seed padi smuggled from Suriname, and discussed issues informally with Custom Officials at Springlands. I observed, quietly and without comment, his modus operandi, efficiently attaining his objectives, even on a Sunday! I noticed also the poor working conditions of the Customs Officers, performing their duties under severe adverse settings. My overall impression of the Corentyne was that, compared to other places, the sub-county is very clean, healthy and prosperous.
Our trip was rather hurried; we had to "make the boat". Late lunch at Skeldon slowed the pace of our movement. We were joined by Minister Michael Shree Chand and Dr. Ramroop who were, it seemed to me, tangentially part of the trip. Both men espoused traits of modesty and affability, and I was pleased to engage their company. Kadir (and Lita) and I met only briefly because he was on his way to a concert at the Line Path School. Despite the brief encounter, I expected at least a spark of sort, meeting after more than twenty years. His expression was blank, his countenance weary, and his bearing that of someone broken in spirit. Kadir is a gentleman of great stature and impeccable character. I hope my impressions were improperly interpreted. We later paused at a 'watering hole' at Rosehall, meeting with people of rather outgoing characteristics. Among the company of Sony Ramjohn and Dr. Lakeram Tulsie, and partaking of beverages, salutary to reviving the body as well as enabling the central nervous system to higher planes, I was transmogrified from a state of partial indolence to one of physical wellness. These individuals engaged in very little trivia. Discussions on politics, economics and people's welfare gave me further understanding of the complexities of local issues.
WE MADE the boat; but, by this time, the strain of hectic travel opened my yearning for home, rest and relaxation . However, my fellow traveler, Bobby arrested further exertion to our exhausted bodies and spirits, thanks to his very accommodating wife, Margie who surprised us with welcome refreshing drinks and a lavish dinner. It is indeed wonderful to realize how suitable time and place can modify physical and mental states.
My vacation time was coming to a close. The remaining few days would be spent tidying my belongings and ticking off from my list of "things to do". I searched the book stores in vain for a copy of The West on Trial by Cheddi B. Jagan, a request of my daughter, Shanti. My disappointment was assuaged after two friends sacrificed their copies. Last minute shopping is never good. It did not leave enough time to buy a few select pieces of jewelry. The best T-shirts were obtained from the Regent Street Mana T store. Visits to relatives and friends occupied my remaining days, and late night socializing deprived me of pre-travel rest. Towards the end, you always wish that there were more time!
My experiences on this trip have sculpted indelible memories on my mind. On my return from previous trips, I usually sink into a depressed state, but not this time. Now, the country is on the move forward. People are free to operate businesses, to be open, and be able to be critical of issues. Industries are developing. Production in agriculture is rising. The mood of the people is on the ascent. Yet, there is so much to remedy in all facets of life.
Schools and institutions of higher learning must be rebuilt. Transportation, with proper sanitary facilities, must be brought to par with what is required for basic decency. Garbage disposal in the big cities remains an eyesore; and here, it should also become mandatory for business to do their share or pay deserving and appropriate penalties. Adequate water supply and electricity are perennial problems. Excuses cannot continue to allay one's disgust. Industries depend on these. How does one conduct laboratory science classes without water and electricity? You do not yet you give a passing grade? How do you attract tourists with hard currency if there are disincentives to basic personal accommodations?
Having said this, however, I venture to say that I will spend my future holidays in Guyana. My plans will be slightly different. The greater beauties of Guyana lie not so much on the populated coasts, but rather in the hinterland regions. A short vacation is really not enough. Guyana is blessed with a rich diversity of natural vacation spots. However, the numerous waterways and impassable mountainous interior make travel, not impossible, but time-consuming. Therefore, it is necessary to prioritize planned routes. My memory goes back to Bartica and neighboring Kaow Island, Fort Island, the Bartica-Potaro road to Issano and Madhia, the Rupununi Savannah, the Essequibo Lakes of Capoey, Mainstay, Tapacoma and Ituribisci, North West District and Shell Beach, and the indomitable Kaieteur Falls. These are but a few natural regions where eco-tourism can be experienced at its best, and second to none.
For new visitors and tourists, travel precautions are obviously necessary. Make some initial contact locally, and if possible have some one meet you at the airport. Discuss tropical and geographical conditions with experienced people prior to booking flights. Overnight bag must contain ample supplies of analgesics, Band-Aid, insect repellent, anti-diarrhea tablets, etc., although almost anything is obtained in Georgetown. For Guyanese visiting, you need to venture with an open mind, rediscover different settings, and appreciate that you were...
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