Life with my grandparents. Part 36

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Still Sunday. This place of right-leaning coconut place is entirely too hot for my liking.  Post her Methodist church service, my grandmother has settled into her favourite, albeit, hideous, red chair. She is reading the newspaper, which of course, my grandfather has read, first. My grandfather is at his desk writing a letter. Both of my grandparents seem otherwise occupied and not at all interested in entertaining me. At all. I am not impressed. I make a mental note to go visit my other grandmother-and soon.

I then make a series of oral declarations to both of my grandparents. However, to them, it might sound as though I am complaining. I tell them that I am bored silly, hot and hungry. My grandmother looks up from her newspaper and says, ‘but you just eat. You got tapeworm?’ My grandmother knows that I most certainly do not have a tapeworm, but this is her way of asking ‘why-having just had lunch, are you still hungry?’ I cast my eyes on my grandmother, raise my eyebrows and purse my lips. My grandmother responds with her own non-verbal cue which, if translatable would say: ‘Don’t look at me like that. If you are hungry-then go and eat something.’ Of course my grandmother does not utter these words, but rather, the sentiment is conveyed in her own non-verbal cue of raised eyebrows and pursed lips. My grandfather ignores our exchange and continues to write his letter, while at his desk.

A few moments later, I head to my room and change my clothes. Essentially, I have changed out of my ‘house clothes’ and into some ‘decent’ clothes. I need to look well groomed and generally taken care of, if I am to go and visit my other grandmother. There are entirely too many rules in this house. I should be able to wear what I want, where I want and how I want. But, no.

Shortly after, I tell my grandmother that I am going to visit my other grandmother. My grandmother nods her understanding and approval. My grandfather puts his pen down, lifts his head up and says the following to me: “Must walk good. Yuh hear?” This is followed by, “Don’t let car knock you down” and then he ends with: “Must send my regards to your Grandmother.” Sheesh! so much to remember, but I nod my understanding and quickly trundle down the 14 wooden stairs leading to the door. But before leaving, I give my grandparents each a quick kiss on their cheeks and shout, “Ok, bye. I’m off. See you!”

When I reach my grandmother’s house on Graham Street, there are of course, boys on her bridge, which spans the trench, in front of her house- leading to the front of her house- which is decorated by a plethora of fruit trees…but no apple trees. The boys are fishing for fish that they will probably not catch.

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I run up the wooden stairs leading to my grandmother’s front French doors, but before I knock, she opens the door both slowly and deliberately. She must have seen me coming down the road. I hope she didn’t see me talking to that brown and white cow on the road (or I shall be gently scolded for doing so). As our eyes meet, I say: ‘Hi Granny-how are you?-Grandma says hi-it is so hot-I am hungry-I am also thirsty-do you have any salara?’ Everything I want to say, and should probably say in separate sentences, comes out instead, in one jumbled run on sentence.  My grandmother smiles gently and says, ‘Come and eat. And res’ yuh mouth.’ My grandmother has essentially told me that she will feed me on the condition that I stop talking. I am not impressed with my grandmother’s response to me, but I am hungry so I do not protest.

As it is Sunday. It means that soup is on the menu. As my grandmother makes her way into the kitchen I take my usual place at the table and wait in eager anticipation to see what is on the menu. My grandmother probably knows that I have already eaten. My other grandparents are not exactly going to send me over to my other grandmother’s house, hungry. No way.  My grandmother knows that I like to eat. I am pleased she does not question me regarding what I have eaten earlier in the day. Anyway, I ate that bora, mince, boiled potatoes and rice ages ago. Ok, maybe 2 hours before, but nonetheless-I am starving right now!

My grandmother has made crab soup! It smells amazing. I am ready to eat more than my stomach can hold. I sure am.

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The crab soup my grandmother has made is delicious. She watches me eat in her usual silence. Most likely, she has eaten earlier. After soup, there is dessert. There is always dessert. My grandmother takes my bowl away, there is not a trace of crab soup left. She then brings me some salara. Salara is one of my favourite things to eat. It is a doughy, sweet, coconut bread. The coconut is dyed red. I have no idea why-but I do know that the red is from red food colouring.  I am not sure if my grandmother has made the salara or not-as I am so busy eating it, I forget to ask if she has indeed made it. The salara is so good that I eat two pieces.

 

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Am feeling full now and full up with crab soup and salara. I make my way into the veranda to catch some breeze as my grandmother washes up my dishes. She later joins me in the veranda. As usual, I do all the talking and my grandmother does all the listening.

***

Life with my grandparents. Part 35

 

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Saint Anthony RC Church, Bartica, Guyana

 

It is Sunday. And everything has gone according to plan. I have just returned from the Church with my grandfather. The house is hotter than an oven, as all of the windows have been closed while we were at church. My grandfather is Catholic but my grandmother is Methodist. She attends her own and separate church service on Sundays. I have no idea what goes on in a Methodist Church service, but I know it lasts all day-and not the one hour, like the Catholic church service. I am so grateful that I am Catholic and not Methodist. I could not handle sitting in a hot Methodist church for 7 hours. Yes. 7 hours. I am not even joking. That is plenty praying, praising and proselytizing. It sure is. Luckily, Father Metcalfe at the Catholic Church, which my Grandfather and I attend (not the picture, pictured) respects the Lord and time in equal measure and his services are approximately 46 minutes long.

Several hours later, my Grandmother returns from her Methodist church service. She is softly humming  Here I am Lord, under her breath. She is sweating profusely. Of course she is, this place of right-leaning coconut trees is so hot that I am pretty sure we are near the earth’s core.

I watch my grandmother as she pulls a handkerchief from inside her dress, in order to dab perspiration from her face. My grandmother is actually sweating. I am amazed. She is sweating but not complaining about the heat. This makes me doubt that we are even related.

My grandfather is sleeping in his favourite Berbice chair with the newspaper, folded neatly across his lap. My grandmother glances over at him. She then puts her eyes on me and says, ”You and your grandfather, eat? I left food in the flask.’ I reply, ‘yes’ and tell her that the lunch of bora, boiled potatoes, mince and rice, in which she dutifully prepared before going to her Methodist Church service- was very nice. It was really good. My grandmother is a good cook. Actually, both of my grandmothers are good cooks. My grandmother nods her understanding and receives my compliment silently, while nodding her head, as she continues to hum Here I am Lord.

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                                                                                                            Image: The Inner Gourmet

Bora is essentially a green bean-it is the Chinese word for long bean. Yes, there are actually Chinese in Guyana. They came a long time ago and worked tirelessly under the hot Guyanese sun and arrived in Guyana way back in 1853-initially only 643 Chinese immigrants arrived to the then, British Guiana. Later, more followed…and with their wives in tow. But initially, only Chinese men arrived, I am told.

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Bora

My belly is full of bora, boiled potatoes along with mince and rice, and this has made me sleepy. But of course, it is too hot to sleep. I wander into the veranda where the tiles are cool beneath my feet. My boredom in this hot place is almost painful. As I sit on the veranda, taking in air, I decide that I will go visit my other grandmother, who only lives 10 minutes away. I have not told her I am coming but she probably knows I am, anyway.

***

Life with my grandparents. Part 34

Image result for image of plaisance in guyana

 

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Oh my goodness. It is so hot. The heat in this hot place is unbearable. My grandparents seem largely unaffected by the heat. I find this mildly annoying.  I am sitting in a rocking chair that is adjacent to an open window. Magic, my cat, is purring softly and sitting on my lap. The breeze is my only respite from the incessant heat of this hot place with right-leaning coconut trees.

I cast my eyes on my grandmother, who is reading the newspaper.  Of course, she only reads the newspaper after my grandfather has read it first-no doubt he has read every article. Why must my grandmother read the paper last? I find this mildly irritating.  I make a mental note to speak to my grandmother about this-and I will tell her, that in this house, we have equal rights and that she does not have to defer to my grandfather on this issue of reading the newspaper (or any other issue, for that matter). I know that my grandmother will largely ignore my concerns. Instead, she will say something like: ‘gyall-why don’t yuh rest yuh mouth, nuh?’ This is my grandmother’s way of saying: ‘stop talking.’ I even know what my grandmother is going to say before she says it. I decide to abandon this proposed conversation with my grandmother. My grandmother is old and old fashioned. She has no time to hear about equal rights in this house or any other house for that matter.

I decide to get up from my coveted spot near the open window to wander over to my grandfather who is sitting comfortably in his favourite Berbice chair and he is only minutes away from falling asleep for his midday nap.  This is probably not the best moment to speak to my grandfather, as my window of opportunity will soon be replaced by his heavy snoring. I decide to speak to him anyway, am sure he wont mind.

 

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Berbice Chair

 

My grandfather meets my gaze as I approach him. His eyelids are gently fluttering-he will soon be asleep. I have some questions ready for him though. No sleep for him-at least, not now. I know this and I think he knows this too. My grandfather strikes a match and lights a cigarette. The sulphur from the red matchstick has a weird scent to it. My grandfather lights the cigarette and inhales deeply. He exhales white tendrils of smoke through his nose and his mouth, making him look like a dragon.

I pull up a chair next to my grandfather’s Berbice chair. My grandmother raises her eyes from her newspaper and says in a loud voice directed at us and says: ‘y’all over dere talkin nonsense?’ Me and my grandfather haven’t even started talking yet. And besides-we never speak ‘nonsense.’  Sometimes my grandmother is too much to handle. Honestly.

I ask my grandfather to tell me about his mother. My grandfather’s eyes soften at the mention of his own mother.  He goes on to say what a good Mum, his mum- Marie was. How she was firm yet fair. How she ruled mightily over her mighty brood-and did so single-handedly, as a widow. Then my grandfather tells me the following in a solemn voice: ‘Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy giveth thee.’  My grandfather tells me that it is the only Commandment (out of the 10) with a promise. I listen in solemn silence to absorb what my grandfather has just said to me. Soon after, he finishes his cigarette, stubs it out and falls asleep in his Berbice chair.

I walk over to my grandmother who is still reading the paper. She is sitting in her favourite chair, which to me, is quite hideous with its weird mixture of red fake leather and red velvet combination. I can’t believe that my grandmother likes that chair-but she does. I place my hand gingerly on my grandmother’s shoulder-to alert her of my presence. I tell my grandmother how hot I am and how unbearable the heat is. I say this several times in several different ways. My grandmother then puts the paper down and gets up to go to the kitchen. I follow her. While in the kitchen, she removes ice from a deep metal tray and she then proceeds to break the ice with a metal ice pick in a frenzied, yet controlled fashion. She then puts the ice in a glass along with some homemade pine drink. ‘ere…drink dis’ she says to me as she hands me the glass of homemade pine drink drink. The homemade pine drink made by my grandmother’s industrious hands tastes nice. My grandmother has somehow managed to stop me from complaining about the heat. For now.

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***

 

Life with my grandparents. Part 33

Image result for map of guyana and the equatorIt is the following day, early afternoon- and this place of right-leaning coconut trees is scorching hot. I know the equator runs seamlessly below this South American country with its Caribbean heritage, but I am convinced that the equator runs right through my grandmother’s house, as it is always hot like fire. I often complain about the weather. Often… if not always. The climate is tropical and the temperatures vary infrequently. To me, it is always hotter than hot.

Also we have 2 wet seasons from December to early February and from late April to mid-August. The temperature never really gets dangerously high (although I disagree with this strongly) but it seems so hot all the time because the humidity is extremely oppressive. And humidity makes me sweat buckets and it makes the hair stick to the back of my neck-which I hate. In addition (and thankfully) the northeast trade winds that occur during midday, along with afternoon sea breezes bring much needed relief to the coast. The breeze is so nice-which is exactly why I spend so much time on the veranda, this allows me to ‘catch’ some breeze. Plus the veranda is good for people watching too. But the best place to catch breeze is by the seawall.

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So, it is hot here in this hot place. It rains plenty too. Veranda’s and seawalls are nice places to catch breeze. But I am told that this hot place, lies south of the path of Caribbean hurricanes, but none have been known to have ever hit this place (well, none that I know of).

Once again, I find myself in the veranda where the tiles are cool beneath my feet. I watch people and dray carts pass by. Usually a donkey or a horse will pull a dray cart-and while those poor animals should be in a field munching on grass, they are instead-carrying loads of stuff to faraway destinations then return, only to do the same again the following day. Pictured below are some dray carts.

 

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A few people smile and nod to me as I survey the road below from the veranda. I know them all-although not by name but rather by their faces. They live local and of course, they know my grandparents. An older woman (as old as my grandmother-who is old at 64) with a tight fitting skirt and a non-matching top, walks quickly past our house, but then turns her head upwards to me as I am still on the veranda and says in Creolese, ‘guud aftuhnoon. How yuh granny keepin’? Yuh mus tell she hello from me.’ I smile at the old woman and nod an affirmative ‘ok’. I have no idea who this woman is but I will describe her appearance along with her non-matching outfit and deliver the message to my grandmother.  I am not my grandmother’s errand girl, but I will deliver this message to my grandmother as I am expected to do so. I also will not mention my non-errand girl status to my grandmother, but I would like to.

A few more people pass by my grandparents house-I am still on the veranda. This place seems to be getting hotter. I believe my grandmother’s house to be near the earth’s core as I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. Next, I see Victor Dias. Victor Dias is well known in the village and well liked. He is friendly, bubbly and talkative. He is Portuguese and wears no shoes-although most people here wear shoes. I have no idea why Victor Dias does not wear shoes. My grandmother always says that Victor Dias’ foot bottom must be tough like leather. I find it mildly annoying that my grandmother says ‘foot bottom’ when she really means-and ought to say is: ‘sole of his foot’ I will not correct my grandmother-this is not an argument I will win with my grandmother, so I keep quiet.

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Victor Dias’ once fair Portuguese skin is now a golden brown. The sun in this hot place plays havoc with people’s skin but no one seems to wear sunscreen. No one has time for sunscreen here in this hot place. Victor Dias is married to Auntie Baby. I don’t know what Auntie Baby’s Christian name is-everyone calls her Auntie Baby and she does not seem to mind too much.

Many years from now, the niece of Victor Dias will marry my uncle- my mother’s brother. So our families will be linked by marriage and later, progeny (offspring/family members). Victor Dias waves mightily up at me and shouts out ‘Yuh granddad home?’ I nod an affirmative ‘yes’ and Victor Dias smiles broadly showing all his teeth and continues on in his desired direction, in his bare feet as his foot bottom is somehow not scorched by the hot road beneath him.

***

 

 

Life with my grandparents. Part 32

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The sun is slowly making her descent behind the right-leaning coconut trees, as my grandmother and I, are now both in the front of the house. She is crocheting something or the other with her industrious hands and I am reading my book. It is quiet in the house. Suddenly a flash of black fur whizzes in front of me. It is my grandmother’s cat. That cat is not friendly at all. That cat’s main purpose is to catch rats and avoid any interaction with me at all costs. Silly cat-that’s ok. Magic, my other grandmother’s cat, seems to have close ties of love and affection for me.

 

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My grandmother tells me that I should gather my things and leave before ‘night catches me’ -this is my grandmother’s way of saying that: I better go back to my other grandparent’s house before it gets dark. I dutifully pack up my things and quickly brush my hair. My grandmother is waiting for me at the door. She has both hands perched on her hips. Uh oh. I feel a lecture coming on. I am right. My grandmother proceeds to tell me to be good, and that I should listen to my other grandparents and that I must do everything they say and don’t talk back. I must obey them. I am not to complain and I am to study my schoolbooks and I am to help my other grandmother if she needs help…even when she does not ask. ‘Good grief. Is there anything else?’ I think to myself. Must I too look after my grandmother? She is supposed to look after me-not the other way around. Of course, these are my inside thoughts. I smile and nod accordingly. I give my grandmother a tight hug and quick peck on her cinnamon-coloured cheek.

I trundle down the wooden stairs that are on the opposite side of her painted white French doors that lead to the small courtyard surrounded by a plethora of fruit trees- and when I reach the latticed gate fashioned by my grandfather, long dead-I wave goodbye mightily and shout out: ‘bye granny-see you next time!’ She waves slowly and does not close the door-but instead, watches me as I walk away and in the direction of my other grandparent’s house.

Along the way, I see a few stray dogs and plenty goats. I say a quick hello to them but remember that I am not to touch these animals, as instructed. But I really do want to just give them a quick stroke. I do not. There are some boys running past me-I am surprised to see boys running and not perched on a bridge, fishing. But these are different boys. But to me, all boys look the same.

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After 10 minutes or so, I am back at my other grandparent’s house on Victoria Road. I open the gate and run up the highly polished wooden stairs. I shout loudly and announce my presence. My grandfather is in his Berbice chair reading. He puts the paper down and smiles gently at me and says, ‘yuh reach home already?’ My grandmother is sitting in her hideous red velvet chair and is sewing something-surprisingly, she is not mending my mosquito net. I am not sure what she is sewing, I make a mental note to investigate later. My grandmother looks up upon my arrival and says, ‘alrite, alrite, not suh loud-yuh gun wake de dead.’  My grandmother is simply telling me that while she is happy I am back, there is no need to shout…I just might wake the dead. Which is impossible, I am hoping she knows this.

My grandparent’s house is impossibly hot. The heat is intense and I feel as though I am near the earth’s core. Good grief. I don’t know how they can even live like this. I walk into the kitchen and grab a cream soda from the fridge and I make sure to grab a glass, to appease my grandmother. I make my way to the veranda where the tile is cool beneath my feet. It is nearly dusk now and the mosquitoes have come out in force. Crickets are chirping loudly as they rub their back legs together and crappos (frogs) are belching out and calling to the opposite sex in a deep baritone sound, in the trench, down below.  Bob Marley is making his presence known once again. Bob Marley, my grandfather’s only cockerel, crows from morning to night. It is too hot to be thinking about cockerels. I sit in the veranda and drink my cream soda as the night air falls thick and hot around me. I am glad to be back home after spending the day and night at my other grandmother’s house. I think my grandparents missed me. In fact, I am sure of it.

 

***

Life with my grandparents. Part 31

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It is nearly noon and hunger is tearing a hole in my stomach. I am hungry. Starving. I can smell something good coming from my grandmother’s kitchen. Am not sure what it is, but I will not be disappointed and will soon find out. Am still in the veranda in my usual spot  when my grandmother calls me to come and eat. Oh thank goodness, I was practically wasting away from the hunger pains ripping through my stomach. On the table is a plate of steaming white rice. To the right of my plate of rice, there is an enamel cup filled with dhal. Deliciousness indeed.

The rice is perfectly perfect. A few hours before, my grandmother sat in her kitchen picking rice. By ‘picking rice’ I mean, she actually sat with a bowl of uncooked rice and picked out all the bad bits to include bad rice grains which might be discoloured as well as bits of grit or even small stones. This is a time consuming task that most women, in this hot place of right-leaning coconut trees, often do. My other grandmother picks rice too. I certainly hope no one in this family is actually expecting me to pick rice when I transition from a young miss to an adult miss. I wont do it. I will refuse. I would rather not eat rice if I have to sit and pick rice.

Anyway, lunch is dhal and rice. I pour the dhal liberally and generously over my rice. It looks like this…before and after cooking.

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Image result for image of dhal and rice

 

Dhal, I am told, is a term in the Indian subcontinent for dried, split pulses (lentils, peas and beans). It forms an important part of Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cuisines. And is also eaten here, in this hot place. My other grandmother makes dhal too. Also, dhal is sometimes eaten with flatbreads such as roti or chapatis. There is no roti today. What on earth? What is my grandmother playing at? I am not impressed. The dhal and rice are both delicious, despite the absence of roti. I make a mental note to request roti the next time. Whether or not my request is filled-I will have to wait and see.

 

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Roti

 

I clean my plate as my grandmother watches me eat, in her usual silence. All done now. I thank my grandmother and tell her that I don’t want dessert right now, as I am too full. My grandmother nods her understanding and takes my plate into the kitchen to wash up. I am so glad my grandmother does not make me wash my own dishes-that would be a bridge too far.

My grandmother and I are both sitting in the veranda. The silence between us is shattered by my next question. ‘Grandma, when dad was a little boy-was he naughty?’ My grandmother looks at me and says ‘No. He was good and he did his schoolwork and he did not ask so many questions.’  Wait. What? My grandmother has answered my question but somehow she has turned it around and is now indicating that I should follow suit, and be just like my father. I am not impressed. Not at all. I then ask about my 3 aunts, my dad’s younger sisters. I ask my grandmother if they were good and if they gave her much trouble growing up. I can see my grandmother thinking about her daughters and searching her memory bank in regards to their behaviour growing up. She does not answer my question but instead says, ‘Gyall, rest yuh mouth.’ Essentially, my grandmother has told me to ‘rest my mouth’ or rather, ‘stop talking.’ Hmph! I am not impressed. Strike 2 for my grandmother.

I decide to stop talking for 10 whole minutes. My grandmother seems pleased and I watch her eyes scan her bridge that spans the trench, where some village boys are fishing from. Those silly boys will probably be there all day, not catching any fish. I wonder why they even bother. Later, I hear a joyful noise-those boys have caught some fish. About time.

 

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***

Life with my grandparents. Part 30

It is now the following day. My grandmother and I had an ordinary evening and went to bed early-she in one bed and me in the other. It is morning now, I can hear a very persistent kiskadee chirping outside. Somewhere a cockerel is announcing its presence. I can also hear the wind rustling gently through my grandmother’s guinep tree which makes a swishing sound. Pictured below: kiskadee and guinep tree.

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Of course my grandmother is in the kitchen-I can hear her noisily clanging pots and pans. Annoying. Maybe she is trying to get me out of bed. Nobody in this family understands or appreciates the art of sleeping in. Good grief.

I roll out of bed and practically sleep walk to the kitchen where my grandmother is. I say morning and give her a quick peck on her cinnamon-coloured cheek. She replies ‘Marnin.’ Then she says something about my hair and says something about taking a bath and how she has just brought up some water. I mean, I just woke up. Give me a break.

After my bath with bucket and water, I have a normal breakfast of bread, cheese and tea. My grandmother is now plaiting my hair as I sit on the ground with her sitting behind me on the orange chair of hers. I instruct my grandmother to give me only one braid instead of 2 braids on each side of my head. My grandmother tells me to stop fidgeting and proceeds to give me the 2 braids, which I specifically did NOT ask for. Honestly. These 2 braids of mine are the bane of my existence. I thank my grandmother for her efforts and head towards the veranda, where I take my usual spot.

Those silly boys are on the bridge which spans the trench in front of my grandmother’s house-fishing. Again. I make sure I get a front row seat of their fruitless attempts to catch finger-sized fish.

***

Life with my grandparents. Part 29

 

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My grandmother’s room is dark and cool and perfect for a midday nap. There are two beds which lay parallel to one another. To the right of the entrance and in the corner of the room, lies her wardrobe. It is probably as old as her fridge, if not older. Across the room and in the far upper right hand corner is my grandmother’s dresser, with a mirror attached.

Am feeling sleepy but being inside my grandmother’s room with her not in it, gives me the perfect opportunity to go snooping around. So, I do. As I gently open the dresser door, it gives an almighty creaking sound. I know what is coming next. I wait for it. ‘Young Miss…don’t go searching me up-I thought you were meant to be sleeping.‘ I reply with a lie. ‘I AM sleeping, grandma.’ I have been rumbled. I continue to ‘search up’ my grandmother. I open the wardrobe door and am amazed at how many frocks my grandmother has. My other grandmother has a lot of frocks too. I hope no one in this family expects me to wear a dress when I transition from a Young Miss to a Young Lady. I will refuse. I simply wont do it. I close the wardrobe door and have trouble doing so, as there are so many pretty frocks in it.

I wander over to my grandmother’s dresser. She has some old costume jewellery-earrings, lying around along with some old bottles of perfume and some black hair grips. I do not see any gold earrings on her dresser. Although I know she has them, they are simply not on display. Most women here in this hot place, have their ears pierced. In fact, if you are a girl and your ears are NOT pierced-then something is very wrong. My grandmother actually pierced my ears when I was a baby. I think she must have forgotten to tell my mom she was going to do it-pierce my ears, before she actually did it. My Mom, was a bit surprised, as she did not get the opportunity to discuss at length, with her mother in law if it was ok for her to pierce my ears- but there was nothing my mother could do-my ears were pierced-and remain so. I do not even know where those earrings are now.

Image result for image Guyanese   gold earrings

The search party (me) is feeling tired. I climb onto my grandmother’s bed and notice there is no mosquito net. Well, during the day one does not need a net anyway. But later tonight, there will also be no net-but one will be needed by me but shall go without tonight. Neither set of my grandparents sleep under a mosquito net. I don’t even know how they can live like this.  I of course, when at my other grandmother’s house sleep under a 26 year old mosquito net. If not, surely my American blood will be sampled and feasted upon by every mosquito within a 5 mile radius. I am quite sure of it.

Am falling asleep now, I suspect my grandmother is sitting and crocheting somewhere in the house. I am quite positive she is.

***

 

Life with my grandparents. Part 28

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I take my seat at my grandmother’s table. I can hear her in the kitchen fixing me a plate of food. She probably cooked up a storm earlier in the day and has kept the food warm in expectation of me coming. The smells coming from the kitchen are intoxicating and my stomach rumbles in recognition of the food which is coming shortly. I take a quick look around the room I am sitting in, the room with the dining room table, which is covered in a thick plastic film to prevent spills. I spy an old, white fridge. The fridge is old. Very old. Did I mention that the fridge was old? It has a metal lever used to open the door. It is probably the same fridge that was around when my dad lived here with his 5 brothers and sisters. Am not sure if it is the same fridge or not but will be sure to ask.

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My grandmother brings a plate of steaming food and my eyes open wide. I ask, ‘Grandma, is this the same fridge when dad was a little boy?’ My grandmother looks at me with one eyebrow raised and says ,‘Gyal, eat yuh food, nah?’ My grandmother has not answered my question regarding the life history of the fridge, but that is ok. I am hungry, so I eat.

My grandmother has presented before me a big plate of cook-up rice with big chunks of beef. She has sliced some cucumbers and they too, are on the plate. The cucumbers have serrated edges. My grandmother, has peeled the cucumber then run a fork down the sides of the cucumber to make serrated edges. When she cuts the cucumber, it looks like this:

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And here is the cook-up rice. It is delicious!

Image result for image of guyanese cook up rice with beef

 

My grandmother does not eat with me, instead, she watches me in her usual silence. I eat everything on the plate. I eat with a fork and knife-although, some people eat with a spoon-but not me. Nope. Food finished along with the homemade pine drink my grandmother has made. There is no ‘sweet drink’ or cream soda in this house, but at my other grandmother’s house there is plenty of sweet drink- although my consumption of sweet drink is closely monitored, which I find annoying-but say nothing.  Of course there is dessert. My grandmother always has dessert. This house is always brimming with food. Thank goodness. Mind you, I never seem to go hungry in either of my grandparents houses and that is a good thing.

I have now finished eating and my grandmother and I retire to the veranda as we take our usual seats. We don’t speak much but rather take in the air that is rolling off of the seawall. My grandmother keeps a watchful eye on the boys fishing from her trench who still have not caught any fish. I wonder why they even bother fishing. Anyway, perhaps if they used bits of meat rather than balled up pieces of bread, they might catch some fish. I make a mental note to tell the boys this. Of course I don’t. The less I have to do with those silly boys, the better for me.

Am feeling sleepy after my big meal and my grandmother somehow knows this. She tells me to go and lie down in her room. So, I do.

***

 

Life with my grandparents. Part 27

As I wander into my grandmother’s bedroom, I notice that it is dark and cool. I wonder why I do not spend more time  in here. There is a nice breeze and the curtain at her window is dancing, courtesy of the breeze. My grandmother is mending a hole in a mosquito net. Not hers of course, she nor my grandfather sleep under mosquito nets. So, this must be my mosquito net-the one that is 26 years old. Also, in lieu of a net, my grandmother will burn a mosquito coil. The smoke from the coil is meant to chase those blood sucking mosquitoes away, which it mostly does. But I am quite positive, that inhaling all that smoke is not good for humans. Especially kid humans.

Image result for image of mosquito coil Guyana

 

Image result for image of mosquito coil Guyana

 

My grandmother does not look up at me when I enter the room but says, ‘Alright Miss?’ I sit myself on her bed next to her and tell her that I will be going to my other grandmother’s house and I will be spending the night. My grandmother, still not looking at me, says: ‘are you asking me or are you telling me?’ My grandmother is asking a valid question, but she is also hinting that my approach was completely wrong. I should have asked permission first. So, I reply, ‘oh sorry, is it ok if I go to Grandma’s house and spend the night too?’ My grandmother replies, ‘Yes. Fine. Does she know you are coming? Please comb your hair before you go. Also, make sure yuh yachting tie good. And yuh mus go before night fall. And walk on de side of de road and watch fuh cars.’ I smile, nod and try to remember everything my grandmother has just said to me. Good grief. In this house, there is never just one sentence. With every sentence there is a sub sentence and a sub sentence after that. How on earth am I supposed to respond when I can’t even remember all that she said? Honestly.

I exit my granmother’s dark, cool room- having received my instructions. She continues mending her 26 year old mosquito net with perfect precision. I quickly brush my hair-2 braids as usual, which I do not undo, but rather run the brush over the top of my head. Looks tidy-to me, anyway. I pack a t-shirt, shorts, underwear and a toothbrush. I throw in the book I am reading. I am ready to go and my sneakers, which my grandmother calls ‘yachting’s’ are tied. I am ready to go.

My grandfather is smoking in his Berbice chair. The ash on the end of his cigarette grows long like the nail on his pinkie finger. He sees me and smiles gently. He says,‘ yuh mus walk good. And yuh mus give yuh grandmudda my regards. An watch fuh cars before you cross de road.’  I reply with a smile and trundle down my grandmother’s highly polished wooden stairs. Once out the house, I head for the latticed metal gate, as I open and close it behind me. There are no boys fishing from the bridge which spans the trench. A stray dog growls at me and I shake my fist at it in mock anger. And I am off!

Image result for image of a dog in Guyana

 

I walk to my grandmother’s house. I make sure I walk on the side of the road to avoid being ‘licked down’ by a car. I arrive at my grandmother’s house-you can’t really see the house from the street as there are plenty fruit trees partially obscuring the house. But once inside the gate, fashioned by my grandfather-who died many moons ago and left my grandmother with 6 young children to raise on her own-you can see the house just fine. Anyway, there are 3 boys fishing on her bridge, which spans the trench. They completely ignore me and I do the same. I think to myself that they will never catch any fish using small bits of bread as bait. But somehow, they do.

I walk up the 8 wooden stairs which takes me to my grandmother’s white painted doors with red trim. There are 2 doors and they open outwards. However, only one side is only ever opened as its twin remains permanently locked.  I knock twice and my grandmother opens the door. She probably heard me at the gate when I arrived. I say hello, give her a quick kiss on her cinnamon coloured skin, which is as soft as water, and ask her if it is ok if I spend the night. She nods her approval. I fling myself onto the orange leather chair once inside. This orange leather-like chair with wooden arm handles-it is not quite a Berbice chair but it is far more attractive than my other grandmother’s hideous red, velvet chair.

I use my left foot to take my  right shoe off at the heel. My grandmother tells me that I should not do that and that I should untie the laces. My grandparents are always telling me what to do-who tells them what to do? I will tell you. Nobody. They just love to boss me around. I then untie my laces as instructed.

Image result for image of kicking off shoe

I am feeling hungry even though I had hassar curry not too long ago. Somehow, my grandmother knows I am hungry and says to me, ‘Come gyal. Come an’ eat.’ Music to my ears. I wonder what she has cooked today? There is only one way to find out.

***