Tuesday, March 4th – My BFF Amber and the Mothership made landfall at approx. 1800 hours. Here are a few photos of their first hours in Guyana!
When visiting a friend in Bangladesh, it is a common practice to bring pastries, sweets or good quality chocolates. In Colombia, once a friendship has developed, men will embrace and pat each other on the shoulder, and women kiss once on the right cheek. In Japan, men and women bow as a sign of respect.
An easy web search will furnish detailed facts and etiquette norms from just about any country you can think of. However, finding a unique and comprehensive list of Guyana’s Culture & Customs takes a little more digging! Do not despair; allow me to share with you my own list of unique and acceptable social customs in Guyana.
Just tried one of these for the first time the other day. It’s called Star Apple. Want to see what it looks like inside?
Saturday, February 8th marks a sad day for us here in Bartica. It was today, in the early morning hours, before the sun was blazing, while the river was still and glassy and my coffee had not yet been brewed, that our beloved friends, Paulo and Gloria Oliveira, puttered off of Bartica in a little speedboat. They are bound for their new assignment in São Paulo, Brazil.
Paulo and Gloria came to Bartica in October 2011 to assist the Bartica congregation – and assist it they did! When they first arrived, the congregation was in sore straits, meeting under a black tarpaulin for lack of a better facility. With the help of local friends, they set to work building a temporary Hall, and were instrumental in the completion of our brand new hall this past December.
But it wasn’t just brick and mortar construction that made Paulo and Gloria so impactful; it was their way of building individuals up spiritually. During their 2+ years in Bartica, many in the community marveled at Paulo and Gloria’s positive energy and zealous example. And even those who might consider themselves to be in reasonably good shape had to applaud their super-endurance!
Roman and I have enjoyed the Oliveiras immensely, from our first meeting them in 2012, to our time with them in Brazil, and throughout this blessed overlap we’ve had together in Guyana.
Last night, our congregation threw a surprise going-away party for Paulo and Gloria – and though it was held with a bit of sadness, we managed to put aside melancholy and have a blast.
Happily, we can say that the time Paulo and Gloria spent with us here in Bartica has been fortifying, refining, and overall good. It has been a privilege to walk side-by-side with them through this unpaved terrain.
A small huddle of us gathered by the river this dawn-breaking morning, and as we watched the speedboat carry away our friends, I thought:
“Tomorrow is new moon, and you will certainly be missed, because your seat will be vacant.” (1 Samuel 20:18)
Tchau, Paulo é Gloria – sentiremos saudades!
Not too long ago, Patrina, my student and good friend, qualified to become a publisher. This has definitely been a long-standing goal of hers. Our first day out in service was last month, and being the outgoing person that she is, Patrina talked at almost every door. She started a Bible Study on her 3rd door with a very interested woman named Pamela.
Patrina is conversational and not at all shy, so she had a great time out in service! She especially loved the disposition of many in the community: their kindness, their hospitality, their eagerness to converse freely and talk at length about God and the Bible. So many here love reading our literature, especially the material geared toward families and kids. One woman told us that she teaches a Sunday school using My Book of Bible Stories.
Patrina has two small kids at home, so it’s difficult for her to come out in service during the week, but she’s already talking about expanding her service when her kids are in school. Looking forward to working with her again soon!
For the complete (touching and very encouraging) back-story on Patrina, you can click here.
This is Roman’s good friend Deon. Deon is 5 years old and sometimes comes over to our house to play. Due to a mutual love for cartoons and cheesy snacks, Roman & Deon have managed to forge quite a bond.
Since his Dad died 1 year-and-a-half ago, Deon has been living with his Grandmother and Roman has been studying with him. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, since after about 10 minutes of reading from My Book of Bible Stories, the boys indulge in about 15 minutes of Spongebob Squarepants. And if Deon is especially good, he gets HAMMOCK TIME!
Deon comes to the Kingdom Hall with his Granny every Sunday. Usually, he checks in with Roman for some 1-on-1 mentoring and to get the latest scoop on what’s happening.
Sometimes Deon helps with chores around the house, like sweeping the steps or helping Roman organize his tools. And since Deon’s Grandmother is older and has various health problems, Roman occasionally picks Deon up after school to come and play, or get his haircut.
We love Deon and have so much fun with him every time he comes to play!
So you’re coming to Guyana and are really stoked, because even though it is a country cradled by Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch speaking lands, Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America! “Nice!” you say, because international travel is always best when you know how to say, “I’m not a terrorist” in a completely understandable way. So although you are a foreigner that will be easily detected by your Panama Jack hat and moisture-wicking nylon shorts, you will not have to rely on a translator or Pocket dictionary. Score! Unlike backpackers from Europe or tourists from Brazil, you will order food at restaurants in perfect English and converse with locals like you’ve known them for years! Neat! And getting around town? Easy! All you’ll have to do is ask for some directions! Isn’t it so great that effectively communicating will be NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER??!?!
Yes, yes it is! Theoretically. However, in practice…
Yes, technically Guyana and the US are both English-speaking. However – however – there is a definite learning curve when it comes to Guyana’s lingo, and first-time visitors might feel a bit overwhelmed. But don’t despair! I’ve put together a little glossary of commonly used terms designed to aid you throughout your stay in Guyana. If you study them carefully and focus especially on pronunciation, you will be leap years ahead of the average American landing on Guyanese soil. If you master these terms, the locals will be so impressed they might just ask you what part of Guyana you’re from! Read below for 5 words/phrases you must know in order to speak bona-fide Guyanese.
In the states, “just now” means you’ve already done something. In Guyana, just now means you are yet to do something.
Swap “wait a minute” or “just a second” for “just now”, and you will practically be fluent in Guyanese. It’s a great way of putting someone off for an extended period since “just now” does not actually refer to a measure of time. Parents frequently silence children with a hissed “just now” and store clerks who are preoccupied with Blackberries use it as a euphemism for “I GON” DO IT WHEN I FEEL LIKE IT!!” This common phrase is so handy, you’ll want to wrap it up and bring it back home with you as a prized souvenir. Why purchase a key chain when you can acquire – at no cost – a phrase that buys you endless time to dawdle while others wait indefinitely for your response?
Abandon everything you know about ‘his’ and ‘hers’ because they are virtually never used in everyday speech. Yes indeed, the pronouns ‘He’ and ‘She’ take center stage for every reference to the third person.
Sure, remembering to use ‘he/she’ can be a little tough at first, but you’ll get used to it! In fact, you’ll come to appreciate how it flows, and just how authentically Guyanese you’ll sound. I have a good friend who explained the he/she trend to me plainly. She said she know she need to improve she vocabulary, but ’nuff people speak this way, and that’s why she do to.
“Na” should really be classified more as punctuation than as speech, since it is the preferred conclusion to any sentence. Said with a heightened pitch, it’s a means of softening a command; a micro-condensed way of saying, “Would you please?” In Guyana, it’s rare to hear, “Do you mind?” or “If it’s ok with you…” or “Could you?” – but then, why would you bother when “na” will suffice? It’s expedient and only one syllable.
“Nuff” = enough. It’s used in all the same contexts, with the exception that “nuff” is often times the most stressed word in any sentence it resides in.
It’s also used as a superlative, the same way you’d express something in terms of degree. It’s not too much food on your plate, it’s ’nuff food. You haven’t taken the speedboat many times, you’ve taken it ‘nuff times. It’s not most store clerks ignoring you to text message their friends, it’s ‘nuff of them.
“Me ‘o know”
In order to understand all that is “Me o know” (or “I don’t know”) you must try your best to imagine the tone with which it is said. Much like ‘na’, it’s always uttered with a heightened pitch, but with a tonal equivalent of “What are you asking me for?” Dismissive yet humble, “Me o’ know” is both an admission of ignorance and a plea of innocence. Frequent users of this phrase do not care how relevent the information you’re seeking might be; to them it’s the ultimate conversational easy button, their reply to an inquiry that they just don’t care to answer. Consequently, this term can be abused, and you might often have reason to believe that the person actually does know.
I advise using this term liberally during your stay in Guyana, and heck, bring this one back home with you too! It’s a great way to bypass questions you really prefer not to answer, like “How much do you weigh these days?” or “Do you think this is a bug bite or an an aggressive, contagious rash?”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glossary, provided 100% free of charge. If you’d like, you can print it out and bind it for easy reference though I suggest memorizing it. The visual aids will help with this. Try practicing the terms at home before coming to Guyana. No one will understand you, but this is what’s required to learn a new language. While results may vary, I believe you can master Guyanese in less than a week, if you start today!