In 2018, we started planning to get together for my father’s 70th birthday. As a family, we had not been together in years and we were all excited. We had lots of plans for the big event, but my dad did not want a big fuss. In fact, he told us not to bother coming home. He just wanted to have a quiet birthday. Well we were not going to let that happen, so we all bought our tickets and continued with our plans. On the day of our journey to Guyana, Brent had to run to office and then we would meet at the airport, oh well, you know we ended missing our flight. We had used a third-party ticketing office to buy our ticket (major mistake) and they indicated that our entire trip would be cancelled since we missed the first leg of our flight. They clearly did not know me. When my mind is made up, that is it. We ended up having to purchase a new set of tickets for the leg from Toronto to Guyana, but all the other tickets remained intact. We were at the airport since from about noon to midnight with all four of the children. It was a tiring experience to say the least, but the little Archers were well behaved. A little bit of panic gripped me when I thought of missing the trip altogether but thank God for answering prayers, we made it home safely. We made a pit stop in Trinidad and ran up to the Maracas Bay, before finally landing on our home soil.
I had not been home in about 6 years and everything looked different. I was a little overwhelmed trying to move around with the kids, so I mainly stayed home and spent time with my parents. I had a fun time navigating traffic and readjusting to the culture. My kids fit right in, they were surrounded by their cousins (they have none in Canada) and all was well with their world. We visited the Botanical Gardens; they had the experience of feeding manatees. This is something I took for granted growing up in Guyana but the way they lit up, I appreciated the experience through them. They had their first snow cone, complete with condensed milk and boy was that a treat. We visited the seawalls with one of my friends, Ariane, and then we had dinner. The kids enjoyed playing with her daughter Malia and they still talk about that to this day. I really wanted to take one of the day trips to Essequibo and see Sloth Island and Kyk-Over-al. The kids would have loved that, but Brent could not make the trip with us since he was still working remotely and going alone was not an option for me. We did not get to visit Bartica either, this is where Brent is from, but next time for sure. The kids were looking forward to the speed boat ride.
The kids got to pet a monkey. My parents’ neighbour has what we call a saki-winkie (no idea how to spell it) but I think it is a Squirrel Monkey. They got their eyes full of cows, horses, ducks. They saw frog’s eggs and were so mesmerized. I know, I know these are common things that we are accustomed to while growing up but where we live now, we only see them at petting zoos and frog’s eggs are hardly ever seen. They got the experience of drinking coconut water straight from the shell, which was a much-welcomed taste compared to the rancid can options that are available otherwise.
We took the kids to spend the day at La Bonne Intention (LBI) sugar estate, one of the many estates that we grew up on. The pool was still intact. We had the whole place to ourselves; that was a highlight. Visiting the estate brought back so many memories. I could hear our childhood screams echoing through the streets. The house that we lived in had been broken down and rebuilt but I still had flashbacks of climbing the mango tree, picking cherries to make juice, the mother dog that dropped a litter in our yard and our kitten princess that walked on our window sill at night.
Eli had the experience of being trained by one of Guyana’s finest football (soccer) players, Vurlon Mills. I wanted to keep his skills sharp even though we were on vacation. My friend from forever, Jonelle and her husband Eon connected us to Vurlon. Eon graciously gifted Eli a Golden Jaguars jersey. The Golden Jaguars are the Guyana National Football Team. He tried the jersey on like once and put it away as a keepsake. He was so grateful for that kind gesture. Thank you so much Eon and Jonelle.
We arrived in Guyana first, my sister Melanie who lives in Trinidad, sent her children ahead with us. My other siblings started arriving days apart. My parents’ three-bedroom home was teeming with 10 adults and 9 children. Yea you get the picture, we were all on top of one another but that was part of the fun. Anyone reading this script who came from a certain part of the world, will have an appreciation for holidays spent with grandparents. It is a lot of people and a whole lot of fun. My parents kept our tummies filled with all the delicious Guyanese dishes, homemade bread, buns, black cake, pholourie, dhal, cookup rice, soup, metem and the list continues. I have no idea how I did not gain weight. My parents have a lemon tree in the back yard and everyday my dad made us swank. Best swank ever. Swank is Guyanese for lemonade. Call me silly but I enjoyed hand washing clothes in the yard with rainwater. My mom kept trying to persuade me to use the washing machine, but I just wanted to have the authentic experience.
On the actual birthday, we had a family BBQ. It was the best. My dad did not want a formal dinner and we obliged, after all, it was his day. We sang happy birthday, my dad gave a speech that was heartwarming, and, in that moment, I realized how much I missed my entire family.
Brent had to return to Canada ahead of us, so I was left to travel with the four children and boy oh boy, safe to say, never again. The twins did not want to stay in their seats, so they wailed during departure and on arrival in Toronto. On arrival in Canada, the immigration officer questioned the snacks that I had brought back with me and he thought chicken foot (fried flour and spices) meant actual chicken feet. Thank God the other officer was of a Caribbean background and let me go because he understood what I was talking about. Despite the hiccups and the extra cost of getting home, I would do it all over again and it warms my heart to hear the kids say best trip ever. I got to see Guyana through their eyes, and it was such a great experience.
This year my mom turns 70 but we are unable to travel for obvious reasons but next year, God willing, the world will be COVID free and we will be able to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. This time the celebration will be held in Canada because I am still exhausted from last years’ experience of travelling with the children. I am so happy that we did not listen to my dad and we made the journey home. To this day, he speaks about that time we travelled to Guyana to spend his birthday with him. Our time on earth is finite and, in that time, it is our duty to make memories. August 2019 will be forever etched in our memories.