Life in Guyana can bring us so many traumas that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there are bright spots, as well, and indeed part of the process of dealing with the days here, as so many of my friends the likes of Ian McDonald and George Jardim are wont to tell me, is to focus on those bright spots, indeed, lean on them or turn to them in the bleak moments. Since this column has limits on length, instead of listing the various traumas (they are outlined for us anyway in the daily press with even more detailed information and video available on social media) I am choosing to tell you about a few things around us that can be an antidote to the despair. This slice of “feel good” may be small but it can be a useful response to someone like the man in Kitty last week who told me, “Buddy, dis place does gie yu nahra.”
Going in, to forestall the nahra, you will notice that my comments cover a range of areas (none of them, incidentally, having anything to do with music) which confirms what you likely know already: that good news in GT can be somewhat scarce; so, okay, you didn’t ask me but let me share some with you.
If, like most, you’re looking for a good place to dine, a bright spot in that regard for Guyanese palates is the restaurant at the Grand Coastal Hotel, up the East Coast a bit. The menu is varied, the food quality is uniformly good and consistent so that the item you enjoyed last month tastes exactly the same this month, and the prices don’t make you jump. Beyond that, however, what is equally appealing about dining at Grand Coastal is the service one gets from the staff; they are extremely cordial and helpful, and this attitude is everywhere so that they will greet you as they pass and ask if everything is all right even when they’re not serving your table, and after one or two visits they know you by name.
My wife and I were struck by the difference; it has to be the result of concentrated and continuous training by the hotel’s management because the disposition is everywhere. It is a welcome that is in the waiter or waitress, serving you or passing by. It is in those manning the barbecue at the front and those handling the poolside bar. It is even in the parking lot attendant on the western side of the building, who sees you only as you arrive and leave, but he is contributing. It is a coordinated and effective welcome.
Here’s another bright spot on my radar: for a homeowner like me, with a handyman streak, a good place to know is the Ramoogan business on Carmichael Street, opposite the Oasis café (another good food place, by the way) where you will find a wide variety of hardware items and tools. It’s a relative small place, but the owner, Ronnie, has a range of stock, he knows exactly where everything is, and if by chance he’s out of your particular item, he will tell you, “Wait a few minutes and I will go and get it for you.” And with that, Ronnie is actually off on his trusty motor bike, returning quick time with your item in his hand, and no charge for the delivery. Don’t let the Hose and Bolts sign in front of his business mislead you, Ronnie stocks loads of other stuff and knows his products. In addition, he has a brother, Sarge, who operates a similar business, with the name Hose and Bolts, in Alberttown, which may be more convenient for you. Ronnie’s phone number is 231-8225, and while I don’t know the Alberttown store’s number, you can get it from him. (One thing about life in GT – God doesn’t put everything in your lap; learn to help yourself.)
On a separate tack, for the more complex home repair projects, the man I call is Gary DeSilva, who has been my guy in that department since I moved back here to live. Gary can fix, or get someone to fix, any problem in your house – from changing the faucet in the kitchen to replacing the zinc on the roof, to tiling your floor. Whether raising the concrete fence at the front of the yard (our Rottweiler kept jumping over it in one leap), or putting in wood panelling upstairs, or building a wood deck for outdoor liming under the ackee tree I planted, Gary does it all, with no fuss, and with no work that he has to come back next month to make right. Besides that, he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t show up at your job on Monday hung-over from the weekend, and his wife makes terrific mango jam. What more can one ask?
My final bright spot alert today is one that may cause you to accuse me of patronage because it has to do with my stepson Alex Arjoon who has launched a video production business here called Reel Guyana, but it is objective. Drawing clearly on his mother’s conservationist roots, he is using cameras, including aerial drones, in a process that is showing us the beauty and power and complexity of our landscape in a way that causes many local viewers of his work to say, “This is Guyana? I never knew that.” Even for someone like me, who spent time in the Pomeroon and saw a wide span of interior Guyana in the three years I worked for B. G. Airways in Art Williams’ time, the vistas or conditions being generated by the Reel Guyana team are very impressive in both technical quality and style. The projects so far include Iwokrama, the village of Marakopa, coastline seawall overtopping, and climate change. In footage already seen on social media, and soon to appear on television, the Reel Guyana productions generate an uplift for many of us, I include myself, who can be overtaken by the traumas abiding in our cultural spaces. Without ever preaching directly to us, the images and their various topics, generate a national pride, and, I would go so far as to say, an exhilaration at the natural world with which this country is blessed. The truth is that many of us, and again I include myself, can remain isolated or insulated from this astonishing landscape. Reel Guyana opens our eyes, and consequently our minds, to who and what we are, and the format of the product is such that we can easily relay it to others.
So whether your search is for a good dinner, or a helpful hardware store, or a contractor with whom, as Guyanese say, “yuh could shut yuh eye,” or a bright window into Guyana, okay, you didn’t ask me, but I’m giving you some steerage.