53 things I love about Guyana


#guyanaisnotarealplace is a hashtag that’s going around of late, used by people sharing stories of corruption, ineptitude and comic situations. Others paint the country as a mythical El Dorado, an “undiscovered” land, a English-speaking blip in South America. For me, Guyana is a place of small, sweet pleasures. The big stuff may get you down, but the small stuff – what’s real – that’s what keeps you smiling.

  1. Seeing people giving a ride to a loved one, friend or family member on the crossbar of their bicycle.
  2. A cool Banks on a hot day. (This was not sponsored).
  3. Moringa, tulsi, senna, eddo, soursop, caraila… are all just regular fruits, vegetables and leaves in your yard, not expensive ‘superfoods’
  4. Tearing off fluffy, hot roti or puri to eat pumpkin curry or baigan choka.
  5. A packet of long, crispy plantain chips (with sour).
  6. Being able to say ‘I ain’t able’ when you just ain’t.
  7. Those steps to nowhere outside rum shops where people sit and gyaff over “two beer”.
  8. People bringing fruits from their garden to share.
  9. Taking your shoes off before you go in someone’s house.
  10. Quick witticisms and creative cusses. Especially at the big market.
  11. When your neighbour plays soul classics on a Sunday afternoon and you don’t even need to switch on your own music.
  12. Horse carts (with light loads).
  13. “Water!” “Papers” “Broom!” “Bread!” Neighbourhood vendors saving you from ever needing to leave the house.
  14. Flamboyant trees down a peaceful avenue.
  15. You always know someone (or someone knows you) wherever you go.
  16. The Golden Arrow flag.
  17. “Just now” (the flexibility of time to allow for unexpected crises or happy delays).
  18. Men out in the early morning, picking seed for their racing bird in its cage.
  19. The ‘ahh’ feeling when emerging from the forest into the Rupununi savannah along the Linden-Lethem trail.
  20. Matching ribbons in schoolgirls’ hair.
  21. Flying homemade kites on the seawall at Easter.
  22. An audience singing along to Guyana’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Is We Own’.
  23. Awara rings, coconut shell earrings and other natural jewellery.
  24. Banana species do not end at ‘Cayenne’.
  25. The almost constant sound of birdsong – even in the city.
  26. Hammocks. Fullstop.
  27. Hilarious hecklers at a show.
  28. Masquerade dancers and drummers in full flow.
  29. Taking the no. 44 bus along the seawall, scoring the front seat, and catching a breeze.
  30. The pronunciation of ‘mattraas’ and ‘vi-hear-cle’.
  31. Sitting in the co-pilot seat on one of the small planes that serve Guyana’s interior and seeing all the amazing green below.
  32. Seeing people gleefully or nonchalantly riding on the back of a pickup truck.
  33. Gun oil soup, complete with cob of corn and double entendres.
  34. A seawall lime.
  35. Watching a blanket of stars in the savannahs of the Rupununi.
  36. That there are 11 living languages.
  37. Eating seven curry with your fingers from a lotus leaf.
  38. The sound of a tropical rainstorm on the roof
  39. The ‘What’s in your pot?’ radio phone-in.
  40. Welcoming in a new year with cook-up on Old Year’s Night.
  41. Drinking a coconut water at the roadside, then scraping out the flesh with the coconut shell ‘spoon’.
  42. The continued existence of petroglyphs (rock carvings) in the interior – and stories of people’s connection to them.
  43. Going to a family gathering and seeing relatives from every one of Guyana’s ‘six races’ – and many mixtures of the same.
  44. That something like 85% of the country is covered in forest.
  45. Drinking cashew wine and fly during Heritage Month (or any time really).
  46. Sopping up homemade pepperpot at Christmas with soft aniseed bread or cassava bread.
  47. Hearing poetry, stories or just a gyaff in Guyanese Creole.
  48. The magical hills of Mabaruma.
  49. Random wandering livestock.
  50. Floating in a cool, quiet black-water creek on a hot day.
  51. “Good morning everybody!” – when someone greets the whole bus/shop/waiting room
  52. That sweet (then not so sweet) smell as you drive past the DDL factory, which makes El Dorado rum.
  53. Telling it like it is.

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