News

Liming in Guyana with Ingrid

By Ingrid Ermanovics, Feb 6, 2010 I spent the morning "liming" (that’s ‘Guyanese’ for hanging out) but spent the afternoon in the next region to the west across the massive Demerara River.  The General Manager of the Guyana Book Foundation (GBF), Leila Jagdeo, graciously gave up her Sunday afternoon to take me out of Georgetown and into its rural surroundings. Once again, reminders of the English, Dutch and even French heritage were everywhere – from the architecture of houses and churches to the physical features of dykes. The quaint and colourful  town names, such as D’oratoire, L’Heureuse Aventure, and Bon Voisin also pay hommage to the country's past. The idea was to see more of the country but for me it was a useful acquaintance with the context in which GBF operates.  How else can I work together with them without knowing the lay of the land? Crops of rice and sugar cane abounded as did controlled irrigation canals cut far into the land from the massive Demerara that pours out from the interior for hundreds of kilometres.  We made it as far as the Berbice River, another powerful force flowing toward the ocean – and wandering around the market I realized that there seems to be nothing that does not grow in Guyana (Mrs. Jagdeo would tell you there is no tea ... but I think that is only because no one chooses to grow it!).  There are sapodillas, star fruit, star apples, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, mangos of several types, pineapple (on a stick even), tangerines, avocado, bananas of several types, plantain and more. There  is an abundance of readily available and very fresh local vegetables  including  bunches of callaloo and shallots, piles of eggplant, edo, chilli peppers, ginger, tomatoes, avocadoes, cashews and walnuts .  Don’t ask me where the rice and sugar cane were ... I should mention here the many beautiful crafts and products that are also available in Guyana.  The nine Amerindian tribes produce the blow dart chambers, hair ornaments, combs from different combinations of bone, wood, pine needs, and feathers; massive cassava squeezers (matapi) that help to create edible cassava; pottery, carved melon shells, seed necklaces, tree sap ‘leather’, bowls and jewellery of purple heart wood;  straw products such as baskets, earrings, ducks, boxes of all shapes, coasters and more.  There are also beautiful leather products including sandals and bags.  There is wonderful gold jewellery and paintings of many Guyanese scenes,  The agricultural products are also worth noting – in no particular order - rum, coffee, cocoa, sugar, cashews to name a few. The day ended with a drive by the teacher training college and the University of Guyana.  Both are still functioning but they face the same challenges as other Guyanese institutions – insufficient human resources, students with lower levels of literacy and the need for more materials and operating funds.   We stopped by a pond on campus with the other-worldly national lily pad and flower covering it (who knew the lily pads are covered in thorns on the back?) and to our surprise we were told to beware the caimans within!