Georgetown: Stabroek Market
Georgetown (pop 235,000)
Co-operative Republic of Guyana (pop 773,000)
January 20, 2018
“Let’s take a photo with the white guy!”
Just outside the Stabroek Market, a group of taxi drivers are curious about me. I approach them with my usual big smile, and one of them hollers, “Hey, let’s take a photo with the white guy.” We all have a good laugh as we pose together.
The guidebooks caution against visiting the large and complex Stabroek Market. Dodgy characters, beggars, pickpockets, unpleasant sights and treacherous walkways, etc. White guys are a rarity. Naturally it is my first stop. Is there a market anywhere in the world sans dodgy characters?
With my driver’s help combined with my own well-practiced techniques in this type of location, I manage to stay out of trouble and enjoy my visit. We white guys and white gals almost never wander through this market, yet we are welcomed just the same, or simply ignored.
Aside from the lively market, there’s not a whole-hell-of-a-lot to see in Georgetown. I found several churches, some quite elaborate, gated communities with fine homes, a few scattered monuments and several Dutch and British style government offices. Busy business districts dotted with multi-story bank buildings. Nothing very “special.”
From my comfortable hotel I wander through the Bourda neighborhood. I know I am in South America. I know I am on the Atlantic-Caribbean coast. And while I have never been to sub-Saharan Africa, my first thought is, “I am in Africa.” Or what I perceive a small city in Africa must look like. Ramshackle, yet colorful market stalls, canals choked with refuse, ever-flowing traffic, cheerful-curious people.
The people are made up of (at least) three distinct groups: “Africans” as they are called here, the descendants of plantation slaves; South Asian Indians, descendants of indentured servants or immigrants during British colonial times; “Amerindians,” the original indigenous tribes. Also, Chinese and Europeans.
Guyana is the only country in South America where English is the official language. That doesn’t mean I can understand anyone. A local Creole dialect is widely spoken.
I drive through the parks but since I am neither birder nor botanist, I cannot count the plethora of species that are endemic to this riverside, narrow strip of a coastal city that lies not far from the nearby jungle and distant savannah of South America.
But the jungle is my next stop.
I am headed for “the interior.”
See you there.
I knew nothing at all about Guyana before I decided to travel there. Can I assume you also are unfamiliar with this country?