La Heureuse Aventure is really small. The village has the least number of residents in Canal Number One with no more than ten houses in total, of which a couple are vacant.
Literally translated, the name of the village, which is French, would mean ‘The Happy Adventure’, however, many persons who live in and around the village refer to it as ‘La Ruse’.
While La Heureuse Aventure is quiet with not much going on it is possibly the highlight of the canal as the L’Aventure Secondary School is situated in the village. The school is the first structure in the village and caters for children from different villages on the West Bank Demerara. At the time of my visit the name of the school was being boldly painted in black by an artist on a ladder.
Amanda Arthur was born and raised in La Heureuse Aventure. She attended the L’Aventure Nursery when the building had a nursery department then Two Brothers Primary and returned to L’Aventure for her secondary education. The woman shared that the village had more residents, many of whom migrated out of the country over the years.
Arthur further explained that the L’Aventure school once housed a primary department but at the time it was her turn to go to primary school, it no longer existed, so she attended Two Brothers Primary situated eight villages away. In the mornings she went with a driver she referred to as ‘Big Two’ who drove a tattered blue car. In the afternoons, she walked the two miles back with her friends. Their afternoons, she said, were always fun. Many days she took an hour or more to get home because they would stop pick up a fallen mammee fruit or pick peaches or pineapples.
“The teachers in my days were very loving and nice… Far different than the teachers now,” Arthur said. “To me, the teachers now don’t love teaching like the ones before… they have too many young teachers now. Our teachers then were not just interested in our school life and the work we did but they were always [intuitive] about our life at home. If you miss school, they would call or come by your house; now I don’t see teachers doing that. My favourite teacher in primary school was Teacher Simone and [there was also] Teacher Marcy who taught at my secondary school.”
Arthur operates a shop alongside her husband; theirs is the only one in the village. She cooks various creole meals, channa and chips to sell at the shop. Since she is also a caterer, the Arthurs take special orders. They would travel to the city every Saturday to purchase goods to restock their shop.
Arthur insists that though her village is tiny, it still deserves just as much attention as any other village adding that La Heureuse needs streetlights. She pointed out also that Number One Canal road which runs along the village is higher than their yards and with no drains separating the road and the yards, water would run off the road into their yards whenever it rains. While there is no flooding, she noted that this can cause erosion and wishes there were drains to prevent such.
Arthur’s daughter Alicia who attends La Parfait Harmonie Primary School was listening in. She wanted to say her bit also: “I’m in Grade One – Lily. My teacher name is Miss Azeema. My friends are Shaquana, Serena, and Malachi… I like living here. When I am home, I play with my brother [Anthony] and watch ‘Tom and Jerry’ and ‘Peppa Pig’.”
Lovern George was born in Wismar, Linden. She moved with her family to live in La Heureuse when she was 14. They settled on the lot nearby the L’Aventure school which she also attended. Her children attended the school as well.
“We planted ground provisions, plantains and bananas. Linden was better for us to plant since we had more land space there. Whatever we planted was for our use. My father weaved baskets which he sold. He was doing this before we moved here. He sold to Guyana Stores and Fogarty’s. I used to work along with them on the farm here. We eat a lot of ground provisions. We prepared boil and fry, soup and my grandmother used to make Foo-Foo,” George said.
The woman noted that life in Linden was much different although she travelled by boat in both areas. However, the conditions were better there. Persons taking the boat there used a jetty, but at La Heureuse persons walked to the end of their landing to wait for a boat. They held out a red flag so the launches would know to pick them up when passing by.
La Heureuse, she said, differs much today from back when she was a child. There was no pitch road and on rainy days, people would be knee deep in mud trying to get to their destinations. Even the attitudes of the people today are different, George said; people were closely knitted then.
Though mobile vans pass along the village George would travel to Vreed-en-Hoop two or three times a month to buy groceries. Although farming still remains the main economic activity of the villagers, there are those who are drivers and shopkeepers.
Venturing through the muddy trail that leads to the backdam while hopping over broken parts filled with slush or water, I made it to La Heureuse Aventure Ground. The ground is situated directly behind the school compound. The younger boys ran along the corners of the wet field rolling tyres and kicking balls. The older boys played football in the centre of the ground. Captain of the Golden Warriors Football Team Shaquille Brisport and his friend and teammate Stanford Souvenir noted that they have been playing on the ground since they finished primary school. They both attended L’Aventure Secondary and live through Unity Street in La Grange which is separated from the nearby Bagotville by the canal.
“We come to play here every day once the sun cool until it starts to get dark. The access dam affects us a lot when we try to get to the ground,” Brisport said. The young man noted also that they have tried putting up their own floodlights but because of no electricity they have been unable to use them. He added that for many years the ground was the place where boys from various villages around came to play. The girls play cricket there also, he said.
Brisport said he would really appreciate it if the ground can be upgraded with a cricket pitch, some football nets, a pavilion and a better access road.
Gary Barrow was busy selling in his shop over at Bagotville. He lives in La Heureuse Aventure with his wife. Four years ago, they moved from Bagotville to live in La Heureuse. However, the couple would walk over to Bagotville every day where they operate their grocery shop.
Barrow who hails from Zeeburg lived also in Uitvlugt. He explained that in 1964 during the time of the riot, families living in Zeeburg traded their homes with persons in Uitvlugt for fear of their safety. This is how he and his family arrived in Uitvlugt. However, his grandmother lived at Stanleytown on the West Bank and he would often visit her. He said she always told him to marry a woman who was into farming. Her reason was that he would have a better life as well as a hard-working woman. He moved to live in Bagotville in 1976 where he met his wife.
According to Barrow, he had always wanted to work at one of the ministries, but his grandmother got him a job with the Guyana Police Force. Barrow said he never wanted to be a part of the force because of the low salary. The pay at the time was $197 a month. Nonetheless he joined the force in 1977 where he remained until his retirement. He served 35 years and retired as Chief Inspector; he was stationed at Eve Leary. Being in the force he had the opportunity of seeing most of Guyana, venturing into the interior and seeing the life and culture of the Indigenous People. He now has no regrets that he joined the force, he said.
The man also said that coming from the West Coast where the mode of transportation was car or bus, it was somewhat difficult when he moved to La Heureuse and had to travel by boat. He quickly adjusted. Barrow said he likes living at La Heureuse; the love here he said goes beyond a village to the other neighbouring villages.
Barrow said too that coming from Uitvlugt where he played on the community centre ground there he was happy to find that La Heureuse had a ground also. He has played on this ground also and sports he noted is very important to a community’s social welfare. He wishes that the ground could be upgraded and that the access dam be pitched at least up to the entrance to the ground. “I’d like to see infrastructure set up… a cricket pitch as well as floodlights, a pavilion and for the ground to be fenced,” Barrow said.