If someone tells you that Georgetown’s quiet – they’re probably right. On the other hand, if they tell you Georgetown’s boring – they’re definitely hanging out with the wrong people. Be warned; most of activities listed below require the participation of your entire herd.
Liming refers to the art of doing nothing. This term expresses the true essence of the Caribbean way of life – slow down and breathe! Nowhere is this more evident than on the Seawall on a Sunday evening. With half of Georgetown under sea level, the biggest gift the Dutch gave the Guyanese was a tiny 4 feet high wall along the coast to keep sea water out. This is the perfect place to catch the sunset from. Easter being the biggest festival in Guyana, sees the sky at the seawall dotted with hundreds of kites. If you’re not adverse to a small walk, head over to the 19th century lighthouse for a panoramic view of Georgetown.
The black water I’m talking about isn’t a euphemism. It’s real. And one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Water saturated with minerals causes it to look black and creeks of eerie looking black water can be found at numerous spots away from the coast towards the interior. If the heat gets unbearable, a refreshing dip and a sip of some black water might be the cure. Don’t let the frogs bother you. They’re just interested in the insect buffet.
My Guyanese friends might not agree with me on this one but one of the most entertaining ways to explore the city is to hop onto a mini-van. With their ever-changing routes, you could see a fair amount of the city riding the same bus everyday. Once you’ve gotten past panicking at ever near death experience (around 2 per ride), this is where you’ll get a first hand view of the idiosyncrasies of the Guyanese culture. 3 out of 4 times you’ll have a drunk on board before noon and the rest of the crowd are quick to pounce on any inappropriate behavior (such as passing out on the only door or on a fellow passenger).
There’s always something going on at the National Cultural Centre. Their strictly enforced formal dress code doesn’t keep away the fun loving crowd (or the hooligans). Serious performances are boring and pop music is the only way to keep the crowd happy. An eclectic mix of Jamaican Dancehall, Trinidadian Soca, American R&B and a token Bollywood song (to calm Indian nerves) is to be expected – be it a contemporary dance concert or a fashion show. If you’re lucky enough to have a comedian show up, there’s not going to be a free seat in the house. Are the comedians funny? No idea. Can’t understand a word.
Manatees, commonly referred to as the sea cow are huge grass eating mammals. Given their huge appetite, I’m not sure the zoo keepers are up to the task (see image to the right). If feeding the manatees were something your grandma would do and you need more excitement, then just line up with the school kids and throw rocks at the cougars and lions at the zoo next door. If you don’t want to get too hands-on, you could join the school teachers and observe how the animals react to stones raining down on them (they hide in the corner and pray for real rain). Guyana is a birdwatchers paradise and the bird-watching tour at the Botanical gardens definitely goes onto the list. How do I find and book this tour? That’s still a mystery to me.
Guyanese love their rum and they love their cricket. Most cricket matches are sold out and all Government offices allow people to skip work if they produce tickets to the match. The drums, the cheerleaders and the crowd will make the experience unforgettable. Take along a cooler with rum or beer and you’re set. Don’t forget to grab some ‘cow face’ during the drinks break. Oh and if you don’t understand cricket, its not a problem. This isn’t about the cricket.
Rum was invented in the Caribbean. The world’s best rum is brewed in Guyana. Seems fitting that rum shops should be the Country’s most popular pastime. The common philosophy is that no man should have to walk more than a block to get to a rum shop. If you’re looking for a local rum shop, loud music in a residential neighborhood is your first clue. Don’t be fooled by its mom-pop grocery store appearance. That’s just a daytime disguise to help the alcoholics deal with their guilt. Beer being cheaper than coke is the second dead giveaway. 3$ will buy you 250mL of rum and a 500mL of coke.
If drinking in a corner’s not your thing and you’d like to shake your booty a bit, you need to learn to wine. I’m talking about the dance. Women are required to bend forward and place both palms on the floor (ideally) and shake their booty, while the guys stand behind their woman and groove to the beat. Most countries would consider this more than a bit suggestive, but not so in Guyana. If you drop by at the Edge or any other club, you’ll soon realize that any other dance moves are definitely out of place.
All mini-buses go to Stabroek market, which is the epitome of chaos. Conductors physically trying to load you into their mini-van, musicians on the road, barbers on the footpath, vendors everywhere – that’s Stabroek market for you. Things get taken up a notch on Saturdays – shopping day for locals. Hidden away behind the market is a little jetty with boats ferrying people across the Demerara River, silently feeding the chaos. You either love it or you hate it. I’m lovin it.