Having traveled the world over and lived in different cultures, I learned there is a huge difference between visiting other people’s societies from the safe harbor of a decent hotel, than actually living among them and adopting their lifestyle, food and cultural habits. As a World Bank official, I usually settled down in a relatively comfortable hotel and got chauffeured or taxied to a government building or private company and returned there after work, then ate and drank in a fashionable restaurant and slept in air-conditioned comfort with a private bathroom. Or I lived as a resident in a comfortable rented house. Even in many field trips, I was relatively shielded from having to leave my comfort zone for long. All sorts of security reasons dictated these rules, but while one may get acquainted this way with the local culture, it does not lead to a true multicultural experience.
A multicultural experience occurs after having gone through the “cultural shock” (the one I experienced the first night when I entered in my wife’s home in Georgetown), something that shakes you out of your comfort zone into a new world where the familiar reference points are lost. This goes both ways, by the way. People from remote cultures coming to the “West” go through the same adjustment process and often find it hard to assimilate. Language, customs, philosophy, food, systems and climate, the things they grew up with and became their life’s trusted beacons, turn out suddenly all different. Those who receive the “displaced” person in their midst expect that person to adjust to their own kin, but that’s easier said than done. Experience shows this really happens only after one or sometimes two generations. In an interracial marriage like ours, it must go a lot faster to sustain the momentum.
As a school kid in Holland, I was told that America was “the big melting pot”. Having lived here for many years, America is full of different races and cultures, but I don’t think it’s melting all that much. Societies still huddle in their own circles along racial and cultural boundaries offering the comfort of their own familiar reference points. Multicultural institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations may be an exception, and being a “World Bank couple” surely helped, but the vast majority sticks to their own habitat, creating the frictions we see repeatedly shown on TV or being used for political posturing.
The great benefit of having crashed through that glass wall of displacement is that the new world one enters offers a wealth of new human experiences that vastly broaden one’s horizon. From little things like feeling that a “cold” shower is actually “lukewarm”, to the larger things of tasting new food and sharing the homes of people who grew up learning math and language as you did but in different settings, you set new beacons and readjust your antennas. Things seen previously as “out of the norm” become “part of the norm”. Feeling comfortable beyond your own comfort zone, and being able to communicate in it as if you had been one of them all your life, and being accepted that way, is the great benefit of a multicultural experience.
Those were the thoughts that went through my head on my way to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church where the Blessing of the Marriage would take place, accompanied by my new brother-in-law, the esteemed sir Lancelot Jaundoo from London, waiting for the bride who led me to that new world and helped me enter it, accompanied by my new father-in-law, Richard Emerson Jaundoo. (A small footnote: when we traveled through India later, the English spelling of the Hindu name in the telephone books was “Chandoo”, pronounced the same way.)
Get me to the church on time…
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
Waiting, waiting, waiting
There she comes! With the Father of the Bride
The Bride Taken!
In the newspapers
Cutting the cake with the loveliest bridesmaids ever. I wish I had a harem…
Mother and Father, sister Gwen and husband Lloyd with Renée (left), brother Lance with sister Sandra (right), before the Calypso Ball.
The next days consisted of family meals and visits with traditional inputs of curry and rum.
Uncle Enoch cooking curry and peppers the traditional way
Cramped, learning to drink from a coconut without messing up on the beach near Berbize
A glimpse of New Amsterdam, the town the Dutch exchanged for New York with the Brits. Surely less traffic.
Flying to the Interior to walk along the Potaro River in Essequibo county on the way to the Kaietur Water falls.
The Kaietur Falls are one of the highest in the World (250 meters or some 750 feet) and are a mighty presence of power and beauty.
It has an estimated flow rate of over 660 cubic meters per second. Suggestions to build a hydro power dam are bountiful, but fortunately the pristine nature has so far remained protected by the Kaietur National Park.
Back to the family, more than a year and a few months later:
Young David bites his Mom’s finger
Did we see this somewhere else? (Credit: IRIS – Paris XIVe)
Darwin’s theory proven
Next- Some more pictures of beautiful Guyana.