Sitting on the flight to Guyana, I looked in my handbag for a pen, and noticed that its contents are a microcosm of our life just now:
· Wallet containing credit card, debit card, US & Barbados & Guyanese dollars, Brazilian reals, sterling and my engagement ring (I’d be likely to get mugged for it in Georgetown)
· 10 safety pins
· E-tickets, passports, boarding passes and receipts for the excess baggage slapped on B’s bike without warning
· 20 undone crosswords, ripped out of a book to save space
· Wetwipes husbanded from the Virgin flight to Barbados, and tissues
· B’s cardboard Guyanese driving licence (handwritten, with a big staple through his forehead)
· Guyanese phone top-up card and a UK SIM card
· Stick of mosiguard
· B’s contact lens pot in a clear plastic bag, and his glasses (in case our luggage goes missing)
We landed and took a taxi to Brickdam, passing my favourite roadsign, from the traffic police-
“STOP THE CARNAGE- ARRIVE ALIVE”
On the way I tried to text Father Anil to say we were on the way, but I’d forgotten his service provider, GT&T, is huffing with mine, Digicel, so you can’t send texts.
Being back in Georgetown feels like putting on old smelly boots- familiar, sweaty, with a pungency you can ignore but not without effort. Somehow they do feel like my boots, though. Some things have changed. The rastaman I told you about in February has gone, murdered in another part of the city; the Jesuit regional superior announced this to all in the region, because he mattered to us. Last week the whole northern part of the city was under knee-deep water because the rain was held in by all the rubbish choking the drainage canals. Streets were awash with festering garbage, apparently. Even at the best of times, much of Georgetown’s beauty is unrealised- floods are not the best of times.
We are not going straight to Aishalton, because our house is not ready. Sound familiar?! Last night, we spent a couple of hours helping Amar, Edwin and Britto to load up the Aishalton pickup truck for its return south- without us, but with most of our luggage. 10 crates of bibles, 2 industrial sized clamps, B’s bike, donated second-hand board games, a 35-cell battery for Aishalton primary school, emergency pickup-mending toolkit, a new solar panel for our house, and various unsalubrious squishy boxes and bags to be handed out to the designated owner at villages Amar passes through on the journey. It would be difficult to enumerate the public services a soft-hearted South Rupununi jeep owner performs in the course of a year.
The déjà vu isn’t just the unspecified wait in Georgetown. It’s the discombobulatingly complete unacclimatisation from the heat, stickiness and insects, which makes it feel like starting again. (I won’t say ‘afresh’ and nor would you if you smelt the armpits of my shirt!). It’s the loss that underwrites days and soaks a little sadness into waking up, as the brain registers who it is that’s missing. But perhaps we’re the lucky ones, who have the culture shock and the melodramatic absurdity of changing places and paces and faces to accompany the slow realignments in the heart’s geography.