Guyana has had an inspiration for me ever since I came to know about it in 1959 as a teenager. It was then called British Guiana, a name which is regrettably used, even now, by many folks, educated but ignorant of the world-wide explosion of freedom from colonialism in the last sixty odd years.
Missionaries were zealous travelers. It was a Scottish Jesuit missionary, Bishop Richard Lester Guilly, who spoke to us in our College in Kodaikanal, India, about the adventurous life of British missionaries in Guyana. It took me 50 long years to find my way to my dreamland of Guyana. That long wait itself was reason enough for me to enjoy my time there wisely enough.
Though obviously foreign, Guyana was very much like India especially because of its Indian descendants forming the largest ethnic group. If, therefore, I felt at home there, I also missed India far away. Thus living abroad among Indian-looking people proved to be a sort of healthy tension of broadening the horizon and also discovering the old, distant home in the new, and vice versa; it was a longing for homeland fulfilled but not abated and so kept alive for further enrichment even as I enjoyed exploring the new land. That experience was a sort of having the cake and eating it, now and then at least, if not always!
In India because of its enormity of population almost every face is unfamiliar, but in Guyana it is pleasantly opposite; because of its population numbering a little more than three quarters of a million, almost every face becomes familiar in the long run. So, in course of time, as I kept moving around and going to market or bank or hospital or beach or bus station or church, etc., I found myself on close terms with very many, and became almost all things to all people. Such pleasant fellowship and neighborhood proved to be for me a fertile breeding space for sharing and growing in wisdom.
Given the smallness of Guyana, extending 800 odd km N–S and 430 km E–W, people like me, without much money but desirous to travel, can manage to travel around the country and rejoice in the sheer pleasure of traveling. In doing so I am only inheriting the traits of the Guyanese made up of 6 peoples; for all of them—Africans, Amerindians, Chinese, East Indians, Europeans and Portuguese—had migrated from their country of birth. As their ancestors, recent or ancient, made their move, by choice or force of circumstances, to their undreamt-of land for better pastures so I now find myself providentially led, despite all human odds, to a prolonged tryst with a certain divine destiny.
And the destiny is of adventure of traveling by road or by water or by air (most of which being more bumpy than smooth) and reaching your destination of the rest house in a town such as Lethem (bordering Brazil) or the comfortable lodge in the Iwocrama rain forest or one of the 300 odd amazing waterfalls, only to be as pleased as Punch that you made it against all the odds, natural or human!
Along with such adventure goes the discovery of yourself thanks to people who make you feel welcome, and give you space to develop your interests, and encourage you to find fulfillment in living, and, at the same time, humbly open themselves to the good you can do to them, for example, in promoting their schooling or native crafts or new-found vocation. A dream of mine for the native Amerindians is to help them: 1) enjoy their natural resources that often go wasted, 2) prevent their environment from the encroaching dangers of the sick, modern society’s use of non-biodegradable plastic goods, and 3) cherish their natural paradise, shunning all foreign incursion that diminishes their pristine glory .
Such life in the hinterland of Guyana may be forbidding for those who are unwittingly seduced and encumbered by modern amenities available through electric power or gas. But with the old generation that lived by the rhythm of day and night, I have particularly learned to enjoy the dark, quiet nights made so beautiful by pearls of stars that you can never imagine in a city. It is a priceless experience, no less than an experience of God who saw all that God had made and found them very good!
When I share this lasting experience with my Guyanese friends, their envy takes a different twist. If they have been envious of my good fortune in having seen more of their country than they themselves, they begin to sense there is more to travel than they have been used to thinking!
About the author: With a Master’s degree in Mathematics (in Madras University, India) and later in Spirituality (in Holy Names College, Oakland, US) Paul Dominic has devoted himself mostly to directing interested folks spiritually and psychologically in personal conversations and also through writing in Indian and foreign journals, including American.
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