I have been here a little over a month and decided it was time for a brief reflection. (As this is a reflective post there may be some repetition from previous postings.)
One of the first things I said, if not the first, about Guyana, after stepping out of the airport was “Guyana is beautiful, a tropical paradise.” This still seems like the most apt description I can come up with for my new (temporary) home. Everywhere we go there is so much beauty it is breathtaking. Someone said I will get used to it soon, but I doubt that I will. I lived in Fl for roughly ten years and I was still periodically stunned by the beauty of the place I lived – and I feel like Guyana is magnified as so much of it is left untouched. Even on the coast, where the vast majority of the population is, the villages are surrounded by and filled with green – tropical plants and trees.
Guyana is the land of many waters, which adds to its beauty exponentially. The waters I have seen on the coast being brown threw me off at first – after all coming from Florida I was used to the water being clear enough to see the bottom. But the more I have learned about the water the more I appreciate it and am beginning to see it as beautiful in a whole new way. There is so much cultural significance tied to “black water,” that every time I see it now, with the limited understanding I have, I feel inexplicitly linked to the people of Guyana. It also helps understanding why the water is different colors. From what I have been told the color comes from various things, tannin in the waters and sedimentation of the mud, sand bars, and all of the leaves the fall to the bottom of the water seem to be primary factors. This does not mean I have lost a healthy respect for the waters of Guyana. While I am a fairly good swimmer, that would not help me against an anaconda, caiman, crocodile, piranha, or any of the other animals living in the waters of Guyana. (In Fl the salt water had sharks and the fresh water – which I don’t think I ever swam in – had alligators. But they typically leave people alone. Maybe they do here too – but there are just so many more animals to remember to be careful concerning.) There is an island in one of the hinterland regions, that I have been told has an expression related to the piranha’s that swim in the waters of the river that surrounds them, “come with ten (toes or fingers) and leave with eight.” In an effort to keep my toes (and any other body part I came with) I will keep my healthy respect for the creatures that live here.
Speaking of creatures, thus far the only animals I have seen consist of dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, bats, fish, and birds. Now while ornithologists (people who study birds) would probably be in bliss with all the different birds I have seen, I know next to nothing about birds, and living in Florida we had some crazy (what my family jokingly refer to as Jurassic Park birds) large species of birds so I don’t feel like I have truly seen the wildlife of Guyana yet. There are so many various species living here – one of the many benefits of living in the rainforest (or in my case just outside the rainforest) that I am excited to see as many (especially of the mammal variety) as I can. They have a different species of manatee here than we do in Fl, lots of different monkeys, sloths, wild Brazilian guinea pigs, capybaras, tapirs, river otters or as they are known in Guyana “water dogs,” and so many more. Of course, because I am a slightly crazy person when it comes to my love of animals, I am most excited to try to see jaguars (the national animal of Guyana), pumas (at home we typically refer to them as mountain lions, cougars, or panthers) and ocelots. I have commonly heard the jaguars here referred to as “tigers” though I think it is used to describe any of the big cat family here in Guyana. Living somewhere where so many creatures still roam free, in essentially untouched natural habitats, is somehow exhilarating. It is the wonderful balance of Guyana – civilized but with a beautiful wild streak that we don’t see at home too often. Not just the wild animals roam free either, you often see goats, cows, bulls, etc roaming around. We were warned that animals are not seen in the same way in Guyana as we see them in the US – and while this is
Not just the wild animals roam free either, you often see goats, cows, bulls, etc roaming around. We were warned that animals are not seen in the same way in Guyana as we see them in the US – and while this is definitely true, it is not the affront to animal rights one might expect. I have not yet seen any instance of animal abuse – although there is a fair share of animal neglect ( a lot of stray dogs and cats) – but the chattel seems to be treated far better on a whole than at home. There is no mass production really, so it is still individual families raising cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, etc. So most of the animals still have plenty of room to roam and natural food to eat. While the stereotypical American affection for animals (I did not realize that was an American stereotype until I started traveling lol) may not always be there, don’t mistake that for a lack of appreciation for animals. In fact, I think I have gained a new appreciation, through my limited time in Guyana, for the animals we use as food. There seems to be some deeper sense of connection with the animals that become food or produce food (eggs, milk, etc) when all around you they are being raised. At home, I don’t think I really think about the glass of milk I might drink and where it came from, but here it is almost impossible not to.
The people of Guyana are so friendly and welcoming. People greet one another (even when they are strangers) any time they cross paths with someone. Anyone older than you are often referred to as “auntie” or “uncle” in a sign of respect. People have the innate ability here to make you feel at home.
Well, that’s all for now – I have talked myself out. 🙂 Hope you all have a wonderful day wherever you are reading this from – I am about to go grab mine by the horns, just now. 🙂