Landing in Guyana

After a tourn in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, communications officer Sara Fajardo is traveling in Guyana, reporting on CRS programs and sharing her experiences with us.

I left the Dominican Republic with a heavy heart. Watched the beaches whip by me as the sun rose over the island. A 15-hour trip awaited me. There are no direct flights from the D.R. to Guyana, I’d have to fly to Miami and make my way south again.

As CRS driver Adames maneuvered the streets, the silence of the morning overtook me. I thought about all I’d seen during my brief stay, and reflected on the joy of the Dominican people. I never felt like a stranger. Everyone I met had an old familiarity, an ease of being, and an infectious laughter. I’d spent time crossing borders, in thriving marketplaces, with street children, refugees, labor lawyers, and a man who defined himself not as other might define him, for being HIV+, but by the dignity with which he choose to live his life.

CRS programming is so vast, we touch so many, who in turn touch us with their resiliency and willingness to work for change. I slept my way to Guyana, touched down at almost 11 p.m.

The line at the customs counter for Guyanese residents was at least four times longer than for non-residents, and even in our line most were Guyanese who had been nationalized elsewhere. Unlike other South American countries Guyana is not a top tourist destination. Slightly smaller than Idaho, Guyana is sandwiched in between Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil. Home to less than 800,000, its main revenue generators are bauxite (used for tinfoil), sugar, rice, shrimp, gold, and timber.

When the customs officials asked for my documents I had to strain to understand. After 10 days immersed in Spanish it felt strange to hear English again, stranger still to hear it in the lyrical drawn out Guyanese pronunciation. I had a hard time forming the vowels. It always surprises me how the muscles in my mouth adapt to the language I’m speaking. After awhile in one language it literally hurts and makes my jaws ache to make the transition back into the other.

I got my passport stamped, collected my things, and went out to find the CRS driver, Cesar. I was exhausted. I immediately made a beeline for what I thought was the passenger door. Cesar stopped me with a soft laugh, “in this country the steering wheel is on the other side,” he told me gently. It’s a carry over from former British colonial days.

It is dark. The moon is just a sliver. Still, even at this late hour I can feel how Guyana pulses with life. A symphony of frog croaks and birdcalls serenade me. I feel the cool tropical breeze through the open window. I marvel at the architecture, a mixture of colonial and Victorian. Many houses are on stilts, a preventive measure against flooding, and all seem to host sweet little gardens, trellises and decorative touches. I try to soak it all in.

The next morning I’m shocked by how green this country is. There are so many shades. I’d need an entirely new language to describe the lushness that surrounds me. I start to think about how the geography of each country defines much of our programming and wonder how the tropical nature of Guyana will define what I see in the coming days. I’ll be visiting AIDS hospices, repatriated Guyanese, and Amerindians deep in the interior. I think about this and am humbled by all that I have yet to capture through my lens.

– Sara Fajardo

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2 Responses to “Landing in Guyana”

  1. Lloyda Says:

    OH I miss CRS….maybe one day I will work for them again…ok back to work

  2. sheila mack Says:

    We lived over two and a half years in Guyana. We called it ‘green gold” because of it’s natural lushness. I am so glad that CRS is working there as it is a “forgotten” country in terms of international support and aid. And there is great need. So it was a good feeling to know that we are supporting an organization (CRS)that is working where we know help is needed.

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