Friday, July 6, 2012

The Magical, Secret Club Called Being Guyanese.

If you don't follow my personal twitter, which I wouldn't recommend you doing because I am quite the opinionated teenager, you probably have no idea where the idea from this blog post even came from. Well, I was reading "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)" by Mindy Kaling, who I am completely enthralled with because of this book. Some other blogger posted about this book and I was like "OH MY GOD, WHY DIDN'T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?!" and immediately logged on to my library's website, putting it on hold (yeah, my library is hip like that). Anyway, I now am reading this book and am 178 pages in, but I came across a part where she was talking about how people would ask her what her heritage was and they asked if she was from Guyana...

Okay, as my first tweet states, my entire childhood I lived my life thinking that being Guyanese was like being a part of this super exclusive club that no one else was really interested in being a part of. It is probably super important to note that where I grew up as the epitome of "predominantly white society" where being exotic was being Filipino. If you weren't Irish or Italian, you were an honorary member of one of those groups (honorary Italian, whoot!). Moving on, coming from a Caribbean country that couldn't be visited by a Disney cruise or didn't have a strong tourist lure was literally meaningless to my peers. Plus, slap on the fact that I have this super long Dutch last name that I don't even know what it means (not even joking, to this day... still don't know) and I was living the misunderstood child struggle.

Another thing I should mention, my family is super Guyanese. I mean, my parents are Guyanese, both sets of grandparents and so forth. If there is a member of my family who has no direct Guyanese heritage, all of their friends are Guyanese and they are so immersed into the culture that they would have to be considered honorary Guyanese. So I am as Guyanese as a first generation American can get and I wanted to share this magical culture with my friends growing up.

Pholourie (nom nom nom)
You were probably like, "Magical culture.. what?". Well, Guyanese culture is a mixture of like four other prominent, more familiar cultures: Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and African and sprinklings of Arawak Indian and some European cultures like the Dutch and the Scots. Oh and let's not forget the fun fact that until 1965 or so, Guyana was a British colony. So I may be biased, but Guyanese food is like the best food in the world. You get awesome spicy Indian food like curry and vindaloo; you can appreciate fine Chinese cuisine but like real Chinese food. You grow to love Portuguese food and develop an attachment to their soccer team; Fish and chips becomes your favourite snack with a side of shandy like the fine British child you should have been. So on and so forth, plus we have our own traditions like bakes and saltfish or Guyanese Pholourie. (Notice how almost everything I have mentioned is food related...we have awesome food).

So now that I have either made you hungry or question my size, either way you are thinking about "Why wouldn't people want to love this culture?" Okay, well first when you say you are from Guyana, the first reaction is "Oh is that in Africa?" So, I know geography is a dying subject but GHANA is a pretty well known African country. GUYANA should have an sensible person thinking about accents and questioning my sanity. People, don't show your ignorance and just say "I don't know where that is." I will probably respect you a little bit more. Okay, once we are past the initial not knowing where it is, I often talk about my experiences going there and the classic responses are:

  • "Oh, you guys have electricity?"
  • "You guys have cable television?"
  • "Wait you guys have smartphones, wow!"
and my personal favourite comes from when I was a middle school and I had just come back from a long hot summer in Guyana. I was telling a classmate about it and she was like "Wait, what? Wow, no offense, but I thought people down there lived in huts."



Even though that moment happened in fifth grade or something, I have found a place with God. No, but seriously, if I had not found my place in God, I would be a criminal by now. Moving on. Nowadays, if people I know say they don't know where Guyana is, I raise an eyebrow and move on, because I don't know if I wanna talk to college students with geographical deficiencies beyond not knowing all of those random countries in Eastern Europe. 

But let me talk about my college. Seton Hall University, thank you for introducing me to the refreshing multiculturalism that is your student body. I have met other West Indian people and even other Guyanese people who understand me and my struggle is currently only temporary when I come home. I no longer attend a school where I have to be adopted into another culture to be even remotely understood. Being in the magical secret club called being guyanese, is still pretty exclusive but at least now, people are in with me... and I know there are people who want to be in it.

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