If you’ve ever lived abroad, you know that there comes a point where you wonder if you’re naturalized. Your passport is stamped, your palate has matured, you cease referring to the country of your birth as “home.” You’ve adapted to a new climate, you understand local colloquialisms, you’ve seen babies grow into children. You have to wonder at this point, “Have I fully adapted? Am I now a card-carrying citizen of this country? Have the locals finally embraced me as one of their own? Are papayas really 500 GYD or am I still being charged foreigner prices?
I’ve pondered these questions for some time now, and I have decided that yes, I am bona-fide Guyanese. I’m fully acclimatized, fully Caribbean and this is why I say “I barn here” when people ask me where I’m from. Guyana is my home. However, others might still be wondering, “Am I Guyanese? Have I fully adapted?” And so I’ve put together this 6 part post so that you can see if you, like me, are a naturalized Guyanese citizen. I invite you, read along…
You know you’re Guyanese if:
1. You get sick in the rain
Everyone said it when I first arrived in Guyana. “Don’t walk in the rain. The rain gonna make you SICK!” Mothers chided their children for walking in the rain, sniffling friends would tell me they acquired their runny nose from walking in the rain. At first I couldn’t understand this. It rains every day here, and the temperature is never below 75. So how on earth would you a) avoid walking in the rain and b) catch a cold in the tropics? I thought everyone must mean don’t walk in the rain without your umbrella, but no. Even when I walked amidst droplets with my umbrella shielding me completely, total strangers would tell me I shouldn’t be walking in the rain. I was amused by this. I didn’t think I could ever actually get sick from rain that was the temperature of bath water. The rain was refreshing! The rain was a hiatus from the heat! And then, the rain made me sick.
The tsk tsk from everyone I knew resonated in my head. They shook their head at me and said, “You shoulna been walkin in da rain.” So now I believe it. The rain gave me a cold and stuffed up my nose, something that never happened when I was still an American. This is the first reason I know I’m Guyanese.
2. You have a thirst for Coke like all the time
When I first came to Guyana, Coke tasted amazing. It was offered frequently, and I accepted it, because sweating all day meant I lost precious sugars and needed to replenish. But still, I was cautious. I’ve read the bad press about Coke, and I believe it all. High in sugar, corrosive to teeth, bad bad bad. So I monitored my intake and tried to avoid Coke. Soon, I was back at the bottle shamelessly drinking it like it was water, while marveling at how in some places it actually is cheaper than water. Most of us Guyanese drink coke at meals and in the afternoon, and just about any time we feel like it. I don’t even think about the nutrition facts anymore and that’s another reason I know I am Guyanese.
3. You switch “I” and “me”
Me know when me supposed to use the word “I.” But me don’t always talk like me know me should. Whenever I and me Guyanese friends is talking, they make it so difficult for I to phrase things correctly. So me just give up and as long everyone understand I, me don’ got no problem.
4. You’re overcome with fatigue at 12:30 in the afternoon
In other parts of the world, 12:30 is a time to finish lunch or power walk or make dentist appointments. But if you’re Guyanese, like I am, 12:30 is the hottest part of the day and your body knows it. It begins to shut down like an overheated hard drive, and you’re powerless against it. All you can really do is head for a hammock or another soft place in the shade and succumb to the refreshing, needed afternoon siesta that overtakes you.
5. You are impelled to call your friend’s name every time you pass their house
I know it seems strange. In my former country, I wouldn’t think of passing my friend’s home – at any part of the day – and yelling their name. Even if they were home, they might be busy. Or sleeping. Or in their pajamas, wishing to remain undisturbed. Well you Americans have it your way, but we Guyanese just have to announce our presence when we pass a friend or an auntie’s house. It’s impolite to just walk by without saying anything. Besides, maybe they have a cold glass of coke just waiting to be shared with whoever passes by.
6. You are completely repelled by 4-legged animals you used to find adorable
Dogs used to be cute. They used to exude love and friendship. I’ve seen the You Tube videos of dogs dialing 911 or alerting fireman to a trapped child in a burning building. However, now that I am Guyanese, I have an entirely different perspective on dogs.
Dogs, I’m afraid, are a problem. Flea infested and covered in sores, they are not only a sorry sight to behold but also a definite obstacle to sleeping at night, since they howl and bark from dusk till dawn. When they’re not threatening you with rabies or defecating on your front steps, they are sizing up others of their canine kind, barking and gnashing their teeth to see who the alpha-male is while you try to call your Grandmother 3000 miles away. Dogs know better than to bark when you’re blasting music or cleaning your house, they wait until you sit down with a good book or throw down in the hammock for some sleep before they start the Barkfest. I used to think dogs were pretty cool, but now that I’m Guyanese, I daily think about exterminating them.
So there you have it, 6 reasons I know I’m Guyanese. Not that only 6 reasons exist. I’m sure there are many many other hints and awakenings that indicate naturalization and status as an ex-expat. I’d love to list more but I have to go out and get a coke, and yell outside my friend’s house on the way. ♥