By Kylie Purdy
( Earlier this year Trussville native Kylie Purdy spent several days in Guyana and Brazil as part of an immersion program through Spring Hill College in Mobile. Kylie, who also is a team member in our Mobile store, shared some of her experiences in a three-part blog series.)
I was recently blessed with the amazing opportunity to not only visit the beautiful country of Guyana but also be truly immersed in their rich culture and lush environment.
I was blown away by the diversity within the country. I was able to visit both the capital city of Georgetown, which lies on the coast of the country facing the Atlantic Ocean, as well as Lethem, which rests in the interior of the country bordering Brazil. Both cities are vastly different. Georgetown is very fast-paced and crowded while Lethem is very calm and open. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and what was only a week felt like months. I learned so much in my short amount of time in this South American country. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my cherished memories!
Morning in Georgetown
The first morning waking up in Georgetown was surreal. I woke up inside a mosquito net hanging from the ceiling and with the sound of the whirling fan next to me. We were staying in a small guest house in the city. The owner cooked us breakfast which consisted of eggs and fresh fruit, such as mangos and papaya.
Following our shared meal, we explored the city of Georgetown. It was very busy, and our group was crammed into a small van. We traveled the streets listening to some of the modern music and taking in all the surroundings. Georgetown reminded me a lot of a Caribbean city with many colorful homes and palm trees.
The coastal area of Guyana is home to 90 percent of the country’s population. But it only makes up 5 percent of the country’s total land mass. The streets were full of cars and people.
But it also was not uncommon to see horses pulling wagons of people traveling with goods. Modern and antiquated seemed mixed all over. Guyana is often described as a melting pot with a diverse population, including East Indian and African descendants as well as indigenous Amerindians, Europeans, and Chinese.
Again, this diversity was very apparent in our drive. We saw mosques, temples, and churches only blocks apart.
Coconut water at a market
We made a few pit stops during our drive including one for coconut water at the Stabroek market. Men used machetes to open coconuts in front of us and then pour the water in them into empty plastic bottles to sell.
Another pit stop included the Promenade Gardens, which was full of lush flowers and trees that I had never seen before. The colors of the flowers were so vibrant, and many of the trees had wide leaves and budding fruit or flowers. As a fan of bright colors and the outdoors, I fell in love with this quaint garden.
The tragic surprise on the coast
The scenery changed drastically as we approached our next stop on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Walking up I was super excited to see the beauty of the coastline.
Then I actually saw the coast. As we descended the steps onto the golden-brown sand, we saw clusters of trash that washed up on shore from the ocean. Everything from toothbrushes to food waste wrappers dotted the shoreline.
I have heard about how waste that travels through the oceans washes up onshore somewhere else, but I don’t think you really think about that and the impact it has until it is literally right under your feet.
Reality didn’t match my expectations of a beautiful untouched beach. It really made me think about the amount of waste we produce and how we dispose of it.
The residents of Georgetown
After our stop at the coastline, we traveled to a youth center and interacted with some of the volunteer staff. This was our first real interaction with Georgetown residents. We played dominos and Jeopardy, and spent some time learning about their everyday lives.
One of the ladies I talked with said she works in human resources and has a law background. Their day-to-day work schedules actually resemble ours. I am not sure what I was expecting to get from this interaction, but I felt very welcomed and appreciated for visiting and spending time with them.
Later, we headed back to the guest house for dinner. Following dinner, we had some downtime to relax before flying to Lethem the next morning. I curled up in my little mosquito net-covered bed and fell fast asleep after a long and tiring day.
Next stop, Lethem
I woke up the following morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day! We traveled to the airport where we waited for our small plane to take us to our ultimate destination- Lethem, Guyana.
I have not been on a plane quite this small before, so my nerves surfaced as we piled into the15-person seater. Once we were finally in the air and I felt better, we were able to see all the colored roofs of Georgetown. You got a sense of the density of the city from the plane. So many people.
As we got further along, the view of houses and cities transitioned to greenery and rivers. A lack of interior development within the country allowed for the preservation of the beautiful savannas and tropical rainforests. The majority of these ecosystems remain untouched as a result. I started to realize on this flight how rare this is in the United States.
When we landed in Lethem, the airport consisted of one paved landing strip surrounded by dirt. The landscape was already noticeably different.
St. Ignatius Village
We traveled mostly on dirt roads and wooden bridges to St. Ignatius Village, where we would stay all week. We explored the area where we were staying, and the natural beauty of the land compelled me. The land was very open with little civilization around. I had a much easier time adjusting to this slow-paced environment as opposed to the busy city of Georgetown. I could sit and think and really take in all the surroundings. There were roaming goats, roosters, and birds.
That evening some of the youth in the area performed for us. Their cultural presentation included traditional dances as well as songs and poems. It’s moments like these that truly make me realize how small we are in this big world. There is so much culture and diversity out there that is worth experiencing.
We ate dinner with the young performers, and it was amazing to be able to interact with them on a personal level. They were shy at first but opened up by the end of our evening. The night concluded with the endless stars above us. I have never experienced such a clear view of the stars. The longer you stood out there, the more stars would begin to appear. It was such an amazing experience, and I still do not think I will ever get over the pure beauty of the night sky at this exact moment.
We retreated to our small little guesthouse for the night and prepared for the main portion of our trip: Traveling to the nearby village and learning from the indigenous people. The journey had only just begun, and the beauty I had found over the past two days inspired me and gave me the passion to navigate the next few days that were ahead.
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