November 9, 2010

Guyana, South America

As my airplane glided into Cheddi Jagan Airport, I saw nothing but uninhabited jungle through my window. I thought for a moment that the pilot was going to bring the jet down among the trees until a tiny airstrip finally appeared from the greenery. Guyana is made up of mostly wilderness except for its coastline. The interior is the home of Kaieteur Falls, said to be one of the most exquisite and breathtaking waterfalls in all the world.

Guyana is a tropical paradise. While there, I stayed in a room like a cabana with glassless windows, beneath a mosquito net. I made the mistake one night of allowing my arm to rest against the net and I woke the next morning covered in bites. The climate is beautiful; being just south of the Equator, the sun was stronger than I’ve ever felt it. The temperature was in the high 80s with no humidity; cooler at night with a sweet breeze coming off of the Atlantic. The land is magnificent. Amazing flora and trees (coconut, papaya, mango, banana, almond, etc.) grow wildly on every street. Cows, goats, and horses run freely through the neighborhoods.

The sun rises there at 4:30 AM and life immediately begins to stir. At that time, trucks have already begun to carry workers to the sugar cane factory--one of the major sources of employment. Guyana has mostly dirt roads, except for the two major highways. The most wonderful markets line the road sides--stalls of fresh meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits. The flavors of the country are fabulous. I love to try the local food whenever I go to a new place; it is true that one can taste the history and traditions of a culture in its cuisine. I got to try a duck curry that had been cooking on an open fire pit all day and it was absolutely delectable!

Guyana is a very poor country. The currency exchange is ridiculous: $100 US is equivalent to $20,000 Guyanese. I brought $800 US with me and I was a wealthy man! I spent only about $300 on myself for food and supplies and the rest I gave away. It felt really good to do that. My leftover travel funds made a really big difference in the lives of these people.

I was lucky to be there during the Diwali Festival. I got to experience a motorcade of elaborately decorated vehicles parading down the main road. It is a major event and crowds of people were everywhere, dressed up in their finest clothes: colorful saris and salwar kameezes. It was so beautiful to see.

I was able to visit their biggest city, Georgetown. It reminds me a lot of New York City—fast-paced and active, only without the skyscrapers. The people are so gracious and hospitable; I was very sad to leave. A great experience! I've been to Guyana twice already and I plan to go again in the future. Next time, I would love to take the eco-tour of the interior.

May your day be a beautiful adventure!

"For where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also."

~Matthew 6:21