It was the winter of 1993 and my mother, sister and I were joining our cousins on a trip back to the motherland — Guyana. We’d be spending the holidays in the South American country, travelling from the capital of Georgetown down south to the savannah of the Rupununi and Lethem. I was nine years old and had no clue what to expect.
I tend to not remember a lot of my childhood, but there are a few memories that stick out for me from this trip. In no specific order they are:
- Swimming in the pool of a waterfall in the rainforest as blue butterflies fluttered overhead.
- Riding in the back of an old Land Cruiser through the savannah and seeing nothing but red sand, massive ant hills and twisted trees for miles.
- Seeing what a cashew looks like in its natural state on a tree — which to my eight-year-old mind resembled an upside down red pepper with the cashew nut forming the knob of the stem.
- Toasting cashews over an open fire with an Amerindian family. We also made cassava farine. I’ll never forget that.
- Sleeping on a veranda in a bed covered by a mosquito net. I left my arm up against the net overnight and woke up with a grid pattern of mosquito bites.
- Being nipped at by birds twice: once by a small parrot — named Nene — on my finger, and then by a TOUCAN on the back of my ankle. I wasn’t a brat of a kid so I’d like to think I didn’t provoke them.
- The smell of Guyanese bakes being made in the morning while we were staying at my aunt’s sister’s ranch in Lethem. Every now and then the memory of that smell invades my brain.
- Crossing into Brazil to visit Bonfim by driving over a dirt road that intersected the Takutu River. The realization my eight-year-old brain had that on one side of the river was one country, and on the other side of the river another country, blew me away. I can still picture the descent into the river valley. Just to note, there’s a proper bridge spanning the river now.
- Standing beneath a giant mango tree as my new friend, Veronica, dropped ripe fruit from high up above.