The Berbice Experience

Beauty, it’s something we all appreciate and something most of us Guyanese are willing to travel 1000s of miles in search of. But beauty, it’s right here in Guyana too and it isn’t very far away from the former Garden City.

It’s some time around 6am on a Saturday and I’m sitting in one of our infamous minibuses headed to Georgetown. It’s the first leg of my journey to Berbice. But it isn’t the crude jokes and loud laughter that I notice in this bus. Instead, I look out the window at the sprawling Demerara River. The gentle ripples on her surface are just beginning to glow from the kisses of the rising sun in the east.

Just outside Parliament Building there are a pocket of protestors. They’ve been camped out there for a few days and their aim is to show solidarity to the Lindeners. At the moment Linden is struggling through a sort of internal battle. But the thing that I do notice is that even in her fallen glory the former Garden City seems almost peaceful at this early hour.

Behind me is St. Stanislaus College. Even she is a sight of beauty in the morning light. But it isn’t the trees or neatness of her grounds that catches the eye. It’s the statue of the Virgin Mother on her balcony which grabs the eyes and reminds the heart of what this place once was before it took a steep plunge. And then he arrives for us.

The farther away we move from Georgetown, the harder it becomes for me to remember where I am. At Beehive, ECD there is a stretch of coconut plantation. It started my imagination rolling. I could almost see this place as it was long before independence and even shortly after.

As we make our way along the winding road that takes us through Mahaica, Mahaicony and then into East Berbice, I’m amazed by the slow rhythm of life that’s beginning to unfold. I can see acres of rice fields and then grazing grounds at Profit, East Berbice. It makes me think of endless grassy savannahs and small town life. My eyes see but my mind is finding it hard to remember that I’m still right here in Guyana and not so far from the city fallen from glory.

In New Amsterdam, I can see traces of the town as it was during the colonial time. Many of the buildings still have those intricately carved trimmings around the windows and roofs. The streets are small but neat and surprisingly clean. Yes, clean is a surprise after venturing out of the former Garden City. If I didn’t know where I was, I’d swear I’d taken a step back in time or I was in some other old world town half way across the world.

But more than these, it was the Berbicians who had a profound impact upon my perception of the Guyanese culture. The few Berbicians who we spoke to were very polite and overly willing to help us. Being largely unaccustomed to this level of kindness in Georgetown, I was amazed to be treated as good as a tourist by these people.

Again and again, as we continued to interact with Berbicians I realised that  these people were very genuine. This is who they are, they are kind, helpful people with a unique way of speaking. It seems that the farther away we get from the capital and her fallen glory, the happier and more hospitable the people become.

So before you go flying half way across the world in search of a new experience, how about you consider a drive to Berbice, eh!

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