Today I rode my bicycle around town and tried to say goodbye to Guyana. I guess I was really saying goodbye to Georgetown, as this is where most of my time has been spent. It is expensive and time consuming to travel outside the capital, and most of my travel while here has been to the Eastern Caribbean as I wished to make sense of how Guyana might be (or might not be) part of the larger Caribbean.
Most often, I am not struck by what I will miss until I leave a place, but this is what I figure I will miss: the sounds of frogs and crickets at night (though Georgetown is a city, I have lived outside of the town in an area called Kitty, and it often feels like the country, especially at night); the birds (Guyana has amazing birds, and, today, as usual, I saw a myriad of birds as I was biking around the national park (egrets, hawks, bright blue birds, and so many more); horses and donkeys (they appear in the most unexpected of places—beside the streets in the grass and in parks; today I even saw a horse crossing a main intersection; the lilies (the pink ones which grow high and wild along the roadsides and the white water lilies which grow in canals); the music on buses and streets (Guyana, like many places in the nearby region, is addicted to Jamaican dancehall, and I find the consistent playing of music both soothing and an exciting alternative to Canada’s sterility); the pleasantries of exchange as people pass each other by on the road (in particular, the response to “how are you?,” which is “I’m trying”).
Above all, though, I will miss the people. Guyana is such a hospitable place with old-time manners (despite economic challenges and disorganized or missing infrastructure). Several weeks ago, when my chain came off my bike, something happened that typified Guyana for me. I was outside the post office fighting to get my chain back on my bike, and a man stopped to help me. I hadn’t cleaned my bike for months, and we were both covered in grease. Walking back to my place with my bike, my elbows balancing on the bars so I wouldn’t get the handles dirty, another man then crossed the street and rushed up to me exclaiming he had seen the whole thing. He was carrying a bit of coarse soap powder in a little bag and said I was dirty and needed to wash. He then pointed me to a man selling pineapples and told me to ask him for water. The pineapple seller was equally astounded at the amount of grease on me (I must admit, I felt silly for not maintaining my bike properly), and he instructed me to leave my bike with his friend and to follow him. He brought me to someone else’s yard and pointed me to the pipe water and told me to scrub. By the time the neighbourhood was done with me, I was spit polished and could ride my bike home–no fear of getting the handles dirty any more.
For all people do not have, they are incredibly generous, and they are especially generous with their time. While the concept of time can be frustrating here (time is often a metaphor, and most events start late with people arriving on their own time for things), people have time for people and conversations.