We flew into the country around 10 p.m. on Jan. 2. My heart was racing. The flight crew announced we would be getting off of the plane from the back. I thought, “I never realized they could hook one of those hallway things up to the end.”
I could not have been more wrong.
We walked down the airplane stairs right onto the tarmac. Everyone had their phones out preparing to snapchat the unfamiliar circumstance when most of us realized we did not have phone service. Through my phone camera lens, I saw a tattered building under construction, a structure resembling a home and a few planes stored off to the side.
We approached the home-like building only to figure out it was baggage claim and customs. What kind of airport was this?
Going into this, I knew it would be a different experience. I knew we would not have phone service unless we paid for an international plan. I knew Wi-Fi access would be limited. I knew it was a developing country. I knew people would be poor. I knew I would see things that in the states would be considered dreadful and horrific.
Yet, somehow, these people were (mostly) content with their lives.
Being from the United States, I wanted to experience a culture outside the privileged one I live here. Not only did I accomplish this, but I also began to realize the image we think of when we imagine developing countries is skewed to fit our mindset.
Most people who have not been to a developing country and are from the U.S. might think of the commercials we see on TV of starving kids in huts who have no clothes. While that perception of developing countries is not wrong, as many developing countries have these aspects, it is not all they have.
They have a community who deeply cares for one another; a community who makes use of the resources available to live the best possible life. While diversity is a huge aspect of Guyana, people there identify as Guyanese, despite their African, Amerindian, British, Chinese, Dutch, Indian or Portuguese roots. Guyana has a society that takes pride in their country, even if, by some American standards, it isn’t a place to which many people would willingly move.
Tell any Guyanese on the street where you are from, and the first thing they will greet you with is, “Welcome to the greatest place on Earth.”
To the people of Guyana, life isn’t prioritized around technology and connecting through a screen.
Life in Guyana is about living in the moment, as you are, where you are and as best as you can.
And that is an amazing perspective I will carry with me forever.