“Where is Guyana even?” Is a frequently asked question. However, my grandmother, Joan Anne Webster (Kersting), grew up in Guyana. She grew up with her five other siblings and her mother. She explains how her childhood in Guyana was “abnormal” but it was “pleasant”. I was extremely curious about his upbringing, as Guyana is a lesser known country in South America. Google describes Guyana as having a “relatively high crime rate”, “defined by its dense tropical forest” and one of the “poorest countries in South America”. However, for my grandmother, it is home.
Joan, 75, was born in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. She describes Georgetown as “an inclusive place full of fun.” Joan explains how “her father’s ancestors came from Germany and Austria in the 1900s” and that “the people of the time were pioneers. They traveled the world in search of riches and adventure ”. It was interesting for me because I learned how Guyana is a collection of different cultures and different countries all put together.
I was told then that she lived on a plantation and that “you have the overseers and the directors in a secure enclosure, then you have the key workers, the midwives, the engineers, who work at the sugar mill. And behind that, you had the farm workers who cut the sugar cane in the field ”. She explained that there were many Hindus and Muslims working in these fields and that there would be a festival called ‘Phagwa’ which is an Indian festival to celebrate the eternal and divine love of Radha Krishna. She points out how extremely uplifting it was and that she “used to have fun throwing all the colored dye around” even though she’s not a Hindu. It shows how multicultural Guyana is, celebrating all cultures and festivals.
Joan told me that her first childhood memory was living in “an area called Kitty, which was by the sea”. She lived in “a large detached house and the house was on stilts.”
He later told me that the reason for the stilts was that Guyana tends to get flooded during the rainy season because the coast is low, which forces houses to be built on pillars. Essentially, she explained how Guyana is filled with extremely poor conditions as well as rich conditions. The contrast in life situations, I think, is what makes Guyana eerily fascinating and interesting to study.
Finding out more about my grandmother and where she came from was extremely compelling and a pleasure to learn more. I would recommend having a long, detailed discussion about your grandparents’ lives, as you might discover some gripping facts and maybe even something that will completely surprise you!