“Born in the land of the mighty Roraima,
Land of great rivers and far stretching sea;
So like the mountain, the sea and the river
Great, wide and deep in our lives would we be”
–“The Song of Guyana’s Children”, W. Hawley-Bryant
During my psychiatry rotation these past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a number of patients who have a variety of mental illnesses. And it was an eye-opening experience for sure; it was another facet of medicine that I was allowed to explore.
This was also my last fourth-year rotation before my elective rotation. It’s finally starting to sink in that year 5, my final year, is lurking right around the corner.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I’ve begun the process of packing my bags to come home. I’ve chosen to do my elective rotation right here at home, so I’ll be home for the next six weeks – six glorious weeks of being home. I’ll be using that time to consume copious amounts of dhall, pickled mango, cook-up, and all of the other things I’ve been missing out on while I’ve been away.
For me, the past couple of months were really stretched out, and it feels like I haven’t been home in forever. And with each passing month my homesick feelings rose exponentially. But being away has also given me a greater appreciation of home. I used to sigh exasperatedly when we had to sing national songs in school, but I’ve caught myself on more than a few occasions randomly belting out “Born in the land of the mighty Roraima…” in my apartment. That’s a catchy one, that.
And I relish the moments when I encounter someone with some link to Guyana; no matter how tenuous the link, we’re going to get along. And then there are the even better moments when I meet someone actually from Guyana. It’s all I can do to maintain my composure.
For me, one of those times ended up being something that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life. I was still in paediatrics and I was interviewing this mother about why her son had to be brought to the hospital. We got to the part of the interview where we were discussing her pregnancy and the birth of her son, when she mentioned that her son was actually born in Guyana. And then she went on to say that she was actually from Guyana, and that she had emigrated some years ago. I’m sure at that point my expression was one of unbridled joy. Another Guyanese? We ended up spending a long time talking. As another Guyanese living in Trinidad, she also had to deal with all of the stereotypes Trinidadians have of Guyanese. They have so many negative stereotypes about us: about the way we’re supposed to speak, or how they expect us to behave. I remember quite vividly we were on the wards one day and this patient was speaking in such broken English that she was almost incoherent. And somehow that seemed to make my house officer assume that the patient was Guyanese. So she asked the patient if she was Guyanese. The patient was Trinidadian, born and raised. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel the tiniest bit vindicated. So when I met this Guyanese mother, it was so nice talking to someone else who has to deal with the same things on a day-to-day basis, and learning how she copes with it and with being away from home. The conversation ended up being exactly what I needed to hear at the time. So I’m going to get back to backing now, because I’m really looking forward to coming back home. I know Guyana isn’t some utopia, but it’s my home; I’m a daughter of Guyana, and I’ll say it loud and I’ll say it proud wherever I go.