There’s no place like home

“Oh, but anyway Toto, we’re home! Home! And this is my room – and you’re all here! And I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all! And – Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!” – Dorothy, “The Wizard of Oz”

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been wishing I had Dorothy’s red slippers so I could just click my heels and wake up in my own room. Since reading about Dorothy’s adventures in “The Wizard of Oz” I’ve gone through Tom Wolfe’s supposed more profound on the theme in his book which summarises his conclusion: “You can’t go home again”. And for what it’s worth, I still agree with Dorothy!
So now I’m finally home after three of the most gruelling weeks of my life. Heading into the final stretch towards my final MBBS exams in May, it seems that I’m being propelled forward by some mysterious force as things increasing get more hectic and fast-paced.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now I’m home. And I’ll be home for the next two weeks. Two 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.
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 that link, we’re going to get along just famously. 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 and unbounded 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 reflexively assume that the patient had to be Guyanese! So she asked the patient if she was Guyanese. The patient was Trinidadian, born, bred 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 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.
Interestingly, during the past couple of months, I’ve noticed a shift in the way people in Trinidad talk about Guyana. There aren’t the usual snide comments about the Guyanese accent and questions about whether or not we have to use a wheelbarrow when we’re doing transactions at the bank. Now, it’s, “Guyana will be thriving. Guyana really has a bright future ahead. Guyana will really develop with all of that oil money.” Of course, the assumption is that they, the Trinis, will be “helping” us develop!
But anyway, I digress. I’m just so happy to be home, even if it’s just for a little while. There really is no place like home!