Growing Up Guyanese
Updated: Feb 10, 2018
As I become increasingly caught up in my life as an attorney, I find that parts of my childhood are becoming erased from my memory. My life in Guyana and my experiences growing up has given me a unique perspective on the world and I would like to share these experiences with you!
Respect for All Things- Growing up in Guyana, one of the first lessons I was taught, is to respect my elders. I remember walking to Novar Primary School in Good Faith Mahaicony and greeting every passerby with "good morning Auntie" and "morning Uncle." These were strangers with no relation to me. The idea behind calling someone "auntie" or "uncle" is showing of respect. As a young child, I was aware that respect did not end with my family members but extended to everyone I came into contact with. Therefore I treated everyone as if they were my aunties or uncles.
This idea of "respect" extended to all living things. My grandmother (my "Nani"), bowed in a show of respect, to the cows that came to her yard. She taught us to treat the animals with kindness as we would expect in return.
Humility- Guyana is a third world country. While there has been progression, our country still lags behind the rest of the world. I remember when I was a child when it rained, the water would seep its way through the cracks in the wall. My mother found a clever and cheap fix by stuffing the cracks with old newspapers. The electricity infrequently visited our home. Most nights we were in darkness with a kerosene lamp providing the only light in our home. We had a water tank that collected rain water that we drank and used throughout the year. There were times when the tank would run out of water, leaving us without water. Another favorite memory of mine, are the times spent away from school because of the floods. Guyana is below sea-level so floods are not uncommon.
But these memories and stories instilled in me a sense of humility. I am not sad or burdened by my memories of hard times but proud of them. I am the proud survivor of newspaper walls and rain water. I can withstand anything!
Hope- I know it may sound cliche, but I'll say it anyway. Even when there were floods or we ran out of water, there was still this sense of hope. I can't tell you where it came from or why it has survived all of these years, but everyday I wake up hopeful for the next. I have this unshaken desire to be great, that is fueled by hope. During the hardest times of my life, it was hope that kept my family afloat. It was folktales from my mother that entertained us when the electricity went out and her dreams for her children.
Be Better!- The goal growing up was to get your family out of poverty at all cost. There was no whining of the long hours of work or no complaining of how unfortunate we are. Guyanese desire to be better and provide better for their children. It is this desire that brought my family across the ocean to the United States- my father wanted his children to be better than him. Whenever I feel as if I am overworked, I call my father who is able to put things into perspective. According to my father, working is not optional. This man has held two jobs my entire life! He taught me that if you want to be better for yourself and your children, you need to work. Do not sit of the sidelines and do not complain of hard work. It is only through hard work will you get your family out of poverty. I can tell you that my over zealous father was right and today I reap the fruits of his labor.
aSo the next time you see a Guyanese know of their struggle and desire to succeed. We are displaced people, longing to know the place of our forefathers. But our sense of hope and desire to be better has propelled us to be successful. To the Guyanese scattered around the world, know that we are connected through our common struggle. Out the many titles I hold, being Guyanese is my favorite. Sweet sweet Guyana.