Guyana Memories
...oh yes , I memba it well


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Guyana Remembered

Special Thanks to all of the contributors for sharing their memories. If anyone has pictures, feel free to send them to me.

Dove: The GNI Poet
I remember cool clear red water creek sparkling in the hot sunlight like a million pieces of amber transported from Aladdin's cave and flung against glittering white sand.

I remember the earthy smell of the steaming roads drying in the blazing heat after a short pounding burst of rain.

I remember the sweet stolen taste of a ripe mango picked right off Mr. Singh's tree; and the feel of the sticky juice as it ran down your chin and joined, drop by golden drop, the patchwork of other stains on your shirt.
[from the memory of Moira Croy]


I remember eating green psidium with salt and pepper until my teeth got brown. I remember eating green mangoes with salt and pepper and green tamarind (yam tamarind) with salt and pepper that I bought from Ms Steffie at St Ambrose. [from the memory of Karen Skeete]

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Eating jamoon until I was "gainst" it. Crossing the river at Mackenzie using "Dutchie" boats.

I remember especially crossing when the bauxite ships were coming in. "Swank" and buns on Sunday afternoon. [from the memory of Allison Stephenson Rock]

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Unfortunately, Guyana, for me, is a mythical land which may not really exist. I have vivid memories of the country I left twenty six years ago when I was ten years old, but they are not enough to give Guyana any solid reality to me. Oh, sure,

I remember growing up in a house at 38 Cummings Street, and going to Mrs. Spooner's school and then when I was older, my father driving me and my three sisters in one of a string of Volkswagen bugs he owned (first PD 241, then PJ something or other and then PO 374) to Sacred Heart Roman Catholic School on Main Street where the sadistic nuns and teachers casually brutalized me and the other students with the wild cane.

Yes, I remember Sister Brian and Mrs. Holder and Mr. Mitchell (a bona fide sadist) and Mrs. Hunter.

I remember going after school to Mr. Ferage's shop to sip Coca Colas from waxy paper straws while I waited for an eternity for my father to come and pick us up and drive us home.

I remember when '7-Up' was something new the whole country was talking about.

I remember the contest where I dug the cork out of every Coke bottle cap I could find to find the silhouette of a country that I would then stick to the contest board, knowing that someday I would collect the whole set and send it in and win the prize, whatever it was.

I remember Puma Power;

I remember the cool taste of it on my tongue.

I remember the school trip (or were there two) to the sea wall where the other kids were sitting on the sea wall dangling their legs over the water, and me being terrified to even sit for fear of falling in.

I remember singing 'O Beautiful Guyana, Oh my lovely native land. More dear to me than all the world, thy sea-washed sun-kissed strand.'

I remember tracing the coat of arms.

I remember drawing the red black yellow white and green and getting the black and white nice and thin.

I remember when my father would bring home some cow gut, cow blood and rice, and get the whole family involved in making the black pudding while my aunt was making the souree. Then we would go and visit my parent's friends and offer them the newly made black pudding.

I remember tamarind balls, and fluties and guavas and five-fingers and monkey apples and Christmas time my aunt would go to the market and buy apples and grapes late at night when the vendors at the market had their candles burning.

I remember mauby and sorrel and guinips and downs(?) and yellow and green mangoes and breadfruit and pears (avocados).

I remember my father visiting his friend Kahn who owned a small grocery store, and while they were chatting, my father's friend would put some sour sauce on a dahl purie and offer it to me. I don't think I have ever since in my life tasted anything so delicious.

I remember when my family moved to a new house in TUC-ville.

I remember the bridge we had to build to get the car across the gutter that surrounded the block to park it under the house. Yes, I even have pictures of that house.

I remember catching tadpoles in the gutter, and I remember my father killing a gutter snake with his cutlass. Then my mother applied for a job as a nurse in New York, and in 1970 we became the emigrants you talked about. These memories are of a mythical childhood land which doesn't really exist anymore except in my memory.
[from the memory of Dennis Rahaman]

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As a small child growing up in the tropical country of Guyana, one of my favorite times of the year was Easter. This was not because of any religious significance but just because there were so many different fun things to do. Easter is a four day holiday in Guyana starting with Good Friday and finishing with Easter Monday and two very important events took place on three of the four days.

One was kite flying and the other was the two day Easter race meeting that was held on Easter Saturday and Monday in Berbice.

I also liked Easter because this was the time of year that we got our two new dresses. Dresses that were all our own. Not hand-me-downs from older siblings or friends of our mothers' daughters, but dresses that were actually made for you and you only.

If we were in Georgetown we wore last years Sunday dress on Easter Saturday, saving the two new ones for Easter Sunday and Monday.

If we were in Berbice, we saved the new dresses for the horse races on Saturday and Monday, wearing last years Sunday dress one more time. My most vivid memory of kite flying was in Georgetown,. We lived here for a time at 5 Hatfield Street with my grandmother who we called Nanny. She was my mother's mother and the undisputed head of the family.

I also remembered flying my kite in the cow pasture at Albion Estate, in Berbice, but that was a more solitary pastime and not as much fun.

The kites that were flown on Easter Sunday were not ordinary store bought kites like the kids in the US fly. Oh no! These kites were lovingly designed and made by adults and children alike in the weeks preceding the holiday.

They were hand crafted out of wood, tissue paper of every hue, string and glamour cherries. Glamour cherries were a local berry that looked somewhat like a green blueberry. However the substance inside was not edible, instead it was a gooey sticky mess that was just perfect for gluing the thin tissue paper on the string that picked out the intricate kite designs.

For weeks before we raided the rag bag for old cloths to make the kite tails. Not everybody could make a good kite loop and the most admired person in the family was one who could make a good loop. The length of the kite tail and the way the loop was tied determined how the kite would fly.

In reality, if you did not have a good loop the kite would not fly at all. So you bargained with loop expert family member. You promised them everything and anything from eating all the food on their breakfast plate that they disliked (in exchange of course for anything on your plate that they liked) to your Sunday penny that was meant to go in the church collection.

They could borrow your best blouse for a week or you wrote their homework essay for them . You could make box kites, Chinese dragon kites, fighter kites and singing engine kites. I liked the singing engines best. These were made by gluing heavy brown paper "singers" to the side of the kite so that when they danced at the end of your string they sounded like five hundred bees on the trail of a single drop of nectar.

By four o'clock on Saturday afternoon in Georgetown, everybody who was anybody was headed in the direction of the sea wall. By four thirty the seawall was crowded with people and the blue sky was almost blotted out by kites.

All around you were people either taking a piece off their kite tail or adding a piece on. Last year's party dresses, housecoats and dress pants danced in the sky, a wonderful patchwork of the life of the populace doing final duty as kite tails.

The bad boys with their fighter kites had razor blades hidden in their kite tails. Their loops were tied in such away that a small jerk on the kite string sent the destroyers swooping down to cut the string of the unsuspecting paper birds of paradise that bobbed and weaved in the fresh sea breeze. The wail of the owner of the downed kite accompanied its death throes as it tumbled head over tail and disappeared below the horizon. We stayed flying our kites to the last possible moment, and only reeled them in as the sun started to sink slowly into the sea. Now they lay on the ground their bright paper torn by the wind and their tails tangled. Their brief moment of flying free was over for another year for some.

Others were taken home and patched up to fly the next day. In the trees and telephone wires near the sea wall some kites were snared forever. The wind caught and tugged briefly at first one and then another before rushing off to tease still another captured kite. They looked as if, like brilliant butterflies caught in a spider wed, they were struggling to get away. In some cases on the same branch where this year's kite struggled for its' freedom, the bleached bones of last years victims gleamed in the fading sunlight.

It would only take one good rain fall and a few days of hot midday sun to reduce this year's crop to the same state. We children ,chattering and laughing, like a flock of parrots dressed in our bright last year's Sunday best, raced away home with our kite bouncing on our back and the street lights chasing us down the road as they came on one by one. My Nanny's most important rule was, `to be home before the lights came on,' and it had to be obeyed even on Easter Saturday.

Once home we talked over each other to tell Nanny about our afternoon.

"You should of seen how high Peter's kite went."

"A fighter kite nearly got mine but I jerked away in time."

"Petal's kite got caught in a tree but Ramsammy climbed up and got it down"

"My shoes and socks are all wet from walking on the beach"

"Jean couldn't get her kite up because the loop was lop-sided but a nice man fixed for her."

"Mine went the highest."

"Yah lie."

"Can we go again to-morrow Nanny?"

Tired and dirty it was time for a bowl of soup, a mug of cocoa with a sweet biscuit, a bath and bed.

Then to dream about graceful, swooping, brilliant paper birds of paradise.

[from the memory of Moira Croy]


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Things that I remember about Georgetown:

The heady fragrance of the Cannonball flowers on Brickdam after a warm evening's rainfall.

When a bus ride was a penny, and the turnstiles on the buses worked.

The childish fun when the cotton trees on Durban Street bore and when, for days, the cotton fibers would be blown all over the area by the wind. Seeing Ben Hur, Cleopatra, and South Pacific at the 'newly renovated' Empire Cinema on Middle Street (not all at the same time).

The nut seller at the corner of Camp and Croal streets on a Saturday night with her kerosene lit nut cart, and her hand held scales,. Another nut seller outside the Empire Cinema. Christmas in Georgetown. Old Year's Night parties in Georgetown,

Local entertainers: Bing Sarong & The Ramblers; Sam Chase & Jack Mello; Madam O'Lindy; Sonny Thomas; Sarah Lou Carter;

The Combo Seven Cecile Nobrega's production of Stabroek Fantasy with Helen and Clairmont Taitt The LCP fairs A young and beautiful Princess Margaret, when she visited Georgetown. The glamour of the girls in Georgetown The short lived Guyana Festival.

The bizarre and funny conversations overheard on the T&H yellow buses.

Bizarre personalities e.g. Bam Bam Sally;

Fogaty bun down;

Honey Bee In De Bottle; Blue Beef; Barney; Sutton Stick; Ten Cents Walking up the stairs of the Lighthouse to the observation deck. The satisfaction of eating a hot fat roti and chicken curry at night, while it rained cats and dogs outside. How wide some of the city's major roads appeared to my childish eyes.

I also remember when as a child, it seemed as if neighboring Venezuela had a revolution every minute. The riots of 1962, and the fantastic but sad destruction of the Camp Street and Water Street shopping strips.

Hearing the terrible blast of the bombing of Gimpex from as far away as the Queen's College auditorium. When, in the mid 60's, non-whites were first employed by the banks in Georgetown.

[from the memory of Clyde Harris]

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Thank you! We enjoyed the letters of 'I Remember.'

As two Guyanese leaving Guyana at a young age and living in Canada for thirty two years, having met and married here in Toronto-we can remember some of the things mentioned in 'I Remember.' What we remember: My husband remembers Mother Sally at Christmas time and the pounding of drums and the barking of dogs as the parade came down the streets.

Floods when the rains came and playing with the tadpoles in the gutters.

The radios playing Aunt Mary and the Reverend Matthews so loud everyone riding by could listen to the story.

Christmas lights on the store signs while parked across the street.

Brown Betty's ice-cream and a run on the sea wall.

I remember living at LBI estate and the great times we had playing as kids in the fifties.

I remember going to the convent with the abusive, uncompassionate nuns-who hopefully have all left the convent and all small children are saved. Though they did influence me with being unselfish and being on time for the rest of my life-small but somewhat important.

I remember shave-ice on Sunday afternoons and I must thank that vendor for making my immune system totally indestructible to any type of colds, flus and disease-as I lived through him handling food with dirty hand and who knows what else.

I remember the Abrams family dying in the fire... we went to school with those kids.....so sad.

I remember confession every Saturday at brickdam and making up sins so that I would have something to confess.

I remember a lot of things but the best years of my life was a little girl living on the estate running wild. The thing we miss most is rain on the roof. Rain on the roof does not sound the same Here in Canada. We have lots of memories...too much to write.

Thank you [from the memory of 'User']

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My memory of Guyanese people is seen through the eyes of a very lonely child of a missionary father who over-protected his daughter and was in Guyana to provide medical services at a hospital and clinic in Georgetown. I was not allowed to go to the schools there so had no friends my age.

So, after studying, in the afternoon, I sat up on the branches of a Memosa tree to catch the cooling breezes of the tradewinds off the Caribbean.

This is where I watched and experienced a cacophony of people walking past my house carrying various bundles wrapped in newspapers or pulling carts or carts pulled by various draft animals. These people were speaking the most melodious English I ever heard and before I left the country, I began to understand that special blend of English and other languages, making it Guyanese English.

The people were the muted colors of the rainbow--mostly East Indian and shades of Black. The only people who looked like me drove cars, on the "wrong" side of the road. The people in cars never stopped to talk to me. But the people walking, well, after a while, when I started seeing some of the same people passing by every day, they would smile, then later greet me--shyly and respectfully. I didn't understand that because I was very talkative. Back then, I didn't understand the history of the country, and I didn't understand the perceived class differences at the time. So, I talked to anyone who looked up in the Memosa tree.

Sometimes in the evening when people were walking back from wherever they spent their day, they would give me some fruit or sugar cane. An East Indian taught me how to chew on it to get the sweet juice.

In the evening they said "good night" when they greeted me, not "hello" or "good-evening". And, near Christmas we talked about "Father Christmas" not "Santa Claus". A boy took me across the street to the drainage ditch that flowed through the middle of the street where he showed me the prettiest fish I ever saw. So then I spent a lot more time on the ground by the ditch--which made my father very nervous because he was afraid that I would get some awful disease from the drainage ditch--because there was raw sewage flowing in there, I'm told. But, I thought it was beautiful.

I also liked to go on the train to New Amsterdam and I liked to ride in the country and see the sugar cane growing and the rice.

The Seawall. The palm trees. The waterfalls. The rivers. The fruit. The market.

Oh, so much. My father's work took us to the "hinterlands" where Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela meet at a mountain called Roriama. That is where I met Amerindian people of the Arecuna and Akiawo tribes and I heard languages that I never began to understand. The Amerindian kids were great fun. Mostly we swam in the tea-colored water of the Kamarang, Kako, and Mazaruni rivers and we told stories.

The stories they told me mostly were about the Kaniman. We played in little corials and I learned to make cassava bread. One night a panther got under the house and killed chickens.

I learned so many things in what was British Guiana at the time. I learned what it is like to be a minority in a country where almost everyone looks different from me.

Every White person should experience this. It would change them forever. I learned that I know nothing about poverty. And I learned that Guyanese people are the most caring, sharing, kind people that I have ever met. Supposedly it was a dangerous country at the time. But I never saw that. Supposedly people would rob us. But people seemed to go out of their way to see that we were safe.

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I remember the mix of people who lived in the Werk-en-Rust area, Lowe's Garage at 52 Bent St. where the one daughter called 'S' lived in a locked room because she'd gone stark crazy and it was how the family dealt with her mental illness. Man she codda cuss proppa bad... ah tink deh devil used fuh tell she when it was Sunday cause she'd cuss up a storm when people posed fuh be tekkin a nap afta church pon Sunday....

I remember we had a big Starapple tree right in the middle of the yard and I used to lean out the window and pick them... man did I love those sticky, sweet purple fruit... on the other a side in Mrs. Merriman yard we used to pick the breadfruits from a tree in her yard that leaned into my parents bedroom area... we know she knew but everybody felt she was a stingy Christian lady... heheheheee...

I remember Mr. Cromwell shop at John & Bent Street, he had the best fudge balls fuh my money...

On Sunday we used fuh tek collection and go to Chan's Supermarket and spend it..now yuh kno dem Chinee kno whu we was up to but they neva stop we... guess they liked the profit... an imagine that was croos the road from Brickdam Cathedral at Camp and Hadfield Streets... ah wonda if Sis. Coreen, Father Metcalf and Bishop Singh ever thought to stop us...

I remember having to washing my school yachting and whiten them and my sisters on Saturday and then press every pleat flat in that St. Mary's uniform skirt or get a cut tail fuh not doing it right come Sunday afternoon.

I was also always the first one called inside to make tea and prepare for the next day of school... sometimes it was a drag being the oldest...

I remember being in Mr. MacRae's class and hoping never to find myself onthe receivign end of his wild cane... alas, I did when I got one sum wrong in his common entranace preparation lessons and took two lasahes for it... glad I braved it though and didn't cry... now on the other hand I bawled like a baby when a marabunta flew up under my skirt and sting meh backside while saying afternoon prayers... worse yet this was when my class was Ms. Narine's on the stage at St. Mary's... but now ah think is cause people were gonna laff meh mek ah holla so bad.. heheheheheeee...

I remember flying my MILO kite but we didn't go to the seawall that year, we all went to the Botanic Gardens instead. I remember spending August month in Berbice, where my cousins used to reek havoc with us making us do things jsut to show us they were smarter and not dumb country bumpkins... Claudette I love you today but I hated you then... hahahahhaaaa...

I remember spending one August in Parika and riding the train to go there... I was amazed at the grass and people along the way, everybody waved at the train... another time we spent it in Cane Grove in and 11 room mansion to our young selves... this was the Postmaster's official residence and our lanlord was the postmaster for Cane Grove at the time, Mr. Edmund Adams... he would bring us a gallon of milk fresh every time he came home to Georgetown.

I remember late night, surprise and unexpected rappings at the side bedroom window that always meant an overseas treat from my dad who worked as an overseas engineer for Transport & Harbors... those knocks meant, Ice-apples, Cadbury chocolate, and other little goodies he managed to get a ship to shore colleague to drop off for us when he knew a ship would be in port... oh to love the land of my birth and it's stoic stability that's made me the woman I am today... why can we remeber those times and things to make it well today...


More of my memories...

I remember learnignt o cook with my best friend; every Saturday we were given the run of the kitchen after lunch either at her house or mine, we made some delightful messes but learned to make fudge, sugarcake, buns, tamarind balls, cakes etc... 'til we had to do it for everybody on Saturday, we'd eat all the stuff we made that evening into night after we took a walk ususally to the seawall and back ans then sit and play dominoes, snakes & ladders or Monopoly to finish up the day.

I remember swearing off of Brown Betty ice cream when I was 7 because I'd eaten so much at a party that I threw it all up that night... to this day I don't eat ice cream even though I know that it wasn't the cause of my upset stomach...

I remember learning to ride on a 'preggy' bike with no saddle... thanks Cousin Norma

I remember 'Channa Man' at the corner of Camp and Durban Streets, I could still smell that popocorn, nuts and channa they used to sell...

I remember the carnival and fair at the North Road grounds, that's the first place I rode ona merry-go-round...

I remember learning to plait maypole for the May Day celebrations... how amazing it was to see how our movements would result in that colourful entertwining of flowing ribbons.... I last saw that in Atlanta, GA when the hold Atlanta's Memorial/Guyana Independence Day Carnival at the end of May each year... and yes, I'm going back again.

[from the memory of Allison S.]


The_Phoenix

I remember the vendors - women- coming from East Coast Dem - balancing big baskets on their heads filled with mangoes - Buxton Spice, Long Mangoes, belly full manogeos. My mother would buy the whole basket full from them. Gosh after dinner we would sit on the pllatform and eat mangoes, shining the seed until it is white.
During crab season - it was crab catching, them carb boiled in coconut milk. Oh what a crab fest we used to have.

I remember this woman name Renne who used to squeal on all the children when they get into trouble on the street.


Nuff
I remember the spray of coca cola water from the Essequibo river striking me in the speedboat as I travelled from Parika to Bartica and thinking ... what would happen if we hit a get-away log.
I remember tree trunks so wide that five men could stand in front of it and saying ... one slice of that tree would make a beautiful dining room table.

I remember learning to ride in the Botanic Gardens and saying hit the brakes David, just before I wound up in the manatee pond.


Charisma

I remember going to Bourda and Big markets with my grandmother. She had bought me this cute little basket and every little thing she bought, like cherries and guava, she'd put a few in my basket and boy oh boy I felt like I was shopping too.
I remember buying 'chicken in de ruff' and I remember sitting on the steps and eating roasted peanuts on a saturday night. I also used to go around the corner to Fat Boy's to get my coconut rolls.

I remember the priest giving his housekeeper money to buy me ice cream and round ball chewing gum or cigarette sweetie. I was about 4 or 5. [Then he went away to Georgetown but by the time I was ready to take first communion, he was the priest back at Linden again. I was so thrilled.]

I remember eating mango to the point where if I leaned forward, I felt the juices would simply flow out of my body because I eaten so many.

And going fishing with my dad all day. And I remember having fights for the window when we got in the car to go for a drive. And playing gam and rounders and hopscotch and cricket.

I remember going to Ms. Boxhill's school on Russell street and buying cent mango and cent mango jam from Ms. Beaton in the school yard and running across the street to buy fish sweetie (shaped like fish).

I remember pulling out my grandma's grey hair and she would give me 5 cents and I would run through the yard to Mr. Kegglun on Bent street to buy salara (which I ate so much of I still can't stand the sight of it to this day).

At Christmas time, going for a drive down water street at night to see all the stores decorated -- oh they looked beautiful. And my granny taking me to see Father Christmas at Bookers, Bettencourts AND Fogarty's. And her returning a gift to Santa Clause at Fogarty's cause she had seen him give better ones to some other kids -- that lady was charming but serious (and I got a better gift).


Iceman

I remember monkey-apple with milk and sugar. And the Corentyne sun baking the the dirt streets till they were too hot to play cricket or taga. I remember stealing more water coconuts that a yawari and eating awara till me face tun orange and me teeth hurt. I can still smell the ripe sapodillas on the trees and hear the blue saki and yellow plantain singing at 5 in the morning.
Well I really don't miss having to fetch water for 3 miles or standing in line for kerosene but who would I be without such memories.

Running around in the savannah chasing somebody's donkey to get a free ride and flying me kite on the seashore. Going to the Koker to set bait for crabs or stealing sugar cane and hiding when we see the Guysuco foreman coming down the dam.

But some of my best fun came the week I spent in Wakeanaam. Getting up early in the morning and running to the sea wall to swim and the girls were there too. I could go on, like the smell of the Berbice River at 6 in the morning while standing on the deck of the Torani

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