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Guyana: Memories of Paradise by Michelle Monkou

When I reflect on my childhood, I can't complain. My early years were spent in Guyana at a time when the grass was greener and there was so much pride in what the country had accomplished from its independence and where it was headed, as it took its place in the Caribbean.

I loved school. I attended a Catholic school run by Austrian nuns. I enjoyed a rich curriculum that was so darn good that I tested four grades ahead in English when I came to the U.S. I skipped a grade to be at my overall academic level.

Despite the political landscape of rivalry between the two major political parties, at my young age, I remember the animated discussions among the people. Everyone was engaged, regardless of their political leanings. And I can say that I lived to see a black leader, black cabinet, black men and women in leadership roles in government and the private sector. Some of those black role models stood strong, some were corrupt and leeches on society. However, not once, did I grow up thinking of myself as a minority.

The land of Guyana is a place of beauty, then and now. The natural landscape has mountains, savannahs, waterfalls, a rich rainforest, along with a wide variety of unique flora and fauna. The Dutch, Spanish, English conquered, waged wars, dominated, and lived on this piece of land. It's inhabitants have and still include the Amerindians, blacks, whites, Chinese and East Indians with past history as indentured servants. People from Europe, Russia, Africa, and other Caribbean nations were attracted by the easy-going inclusiveness of the people.

Now that I'm older with children in the U.S., I reflect on their lives and childhood with a certain sadness. They may have all the latest computer games, seen epic movies on the screen, visited expensive theme parks, but I have to insist that I had the richer childhood. I had Mashramani - annual Carnival -- to enjoy. I saw the African leaders, the first female prime minister of Sri Lanka, and even Fidel Castro within feet from where I stood that you can't appreciate from a TV screen.

Recently, the Discovery Channel featured a 2-hour program on Guyana's rainforest. The producers and crew wanted to show the large number of species and the unique qualities of this land. They are waging an effort to save and protect the trees. At the end of the show, the narrator stated that the Guyanese leadership had offered the land to the British (so they could protect it) in return for economic aid. The country is now the 2nd poorest in South America.

I understand what and why the leadership chose this solution. However, this land that had taken its independence from the British in the 60's now was on the verge of being a colony, once again, in a modern version. Yet I don't believe that the lessons of independence were a total failure. But I do hope that the people will keep the passion and pride that made it a beautiful place that I once called home, my childhood paradise.

Michelle Monkou
Romance Author

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