Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend and Guyana Story

Rather than staying at home doing laundry and resetting my body clock this weekend, I went to the long-planned surprise birthday party for my friend Nags. Diva had arranged it with us all about 6 weeks ago. Amy and I arrived in quite a panic, as the trains were running late, she had come down to London late from Norwich without the cake, so I left the house early and ran up to the Marble Arch M&S and then over to Paddington. Nags and Diva ended up arriving at the restaurant an hour after, with Diva all out of excuses. Nags was truly surprised, as we had all let on that we had other plans or were broke. The waitress looked like she was leading them to another table, but we were there with our menus hiding our faces, and then we all shouted "Surprise!"

There were about 9 of us plus one empty seat, as Adie had to take a trip to Hong Kong a day early. And she didn't after all, as it took them two days on standby to get a flight!

It was a nice restaurant on the Reading riverside called Santa Fe, with some delicious southwestern/Mexican fare. I ate a chile relleno (filled with seasoned mushrooms, jalapenos and Monterey Jack cheese, breaded with corn meal, and covered in a delicious spicy Asado sauce). With turmeric and coriander rice, and black beans (which I don't like). Along with some of the Pimms in the pitchers at our table, I drank two cocktails: a Metropolitan, which is the same as the Cosmopolitan but with Absolut Kurrant instead of Absolut Citron; and an Apple Bison (apple schnapps, vodka, lime sugar, apple juice, and a mint leaf). It all gave me a good buzz, I just get sparkly eyes and laugh a bit more. None of us were tipsy at all when we left. Anyway, Diva has to steer clear of the drinks now, as she is a few weeks pregnant!

Before dessert, the kitchen sent up the birthday cake with some candles Diva had brought, and then a few of us ordered banana flautas with vanilla ice cream. Flautas (flutes) are just deep fried tortillas with various fillings. In Texas, I used to like beef flautas.


*yawn* more pictures - I know, y'all have seen ever so many lately!

As we do at every night out, we all turned on our phones' Bluetooth to see the names of the other devices in the restaurant. At first Diva, Amy and I got excited that the same guy (nicknamed Manwell Hung) who was at the restaurant during our Christmas dinner was also at Santa Fe, but it turns out that Nags did it this time just to wind us up!

Diva is quite likely going to put together another of her award-winning photostories, so I will link to it when she does.

She did have us take some scary closeups. My phone's flash is absolutely blinding, and it took a few tries not to squint...but, you don't need to see my lifesize eyes!


Now for the story about how so many of my relatives ended up in Texas. Don't read this if you don't like long international stories, you have been warned!

When the former British Guiana (the only English-speaking country in South America) gained independence from Britain in 1964, my family was against it. They lost half their friends when the European companies and their employees were kicked out, and soon after the old society began to disintegrate. Over the next few years, they emigrated to England, Canada and the USA. Coming from a more privileged background with private schooling, it was only logical since they were more Europeanised and had been Christian for generations. My mother preferred to date English guys as she never understood the men of her own culture. Where the Guyanese once intermarried and mixed with friends outside of their own religion or nationality, today the various racial groups have grown closer to their ethnic roots. Guyana was eventually closed to outside influences, and for a short time in the 70s, under the communist government, they received rations from the Soviet Union! Today, however, free trade is returning. Still, government legislation has banned development of the resource-rich interior of Guyana, making it one of the poorest countries in South America.

My uncles Charles and Allan went to Boston, Massachussetts in the late 60s. In the early 80s, uncle Charlie's company transferred him, his wife Rose and 3 kids (Eddie, Evadney and Charlene) to a Dallas suburb. Soon after, when my grandfather had passed away, he sponsored my Gran to join them there. My parents and I spent many holidays with her, and as my Dad already worked in the oil business (and I begged him) he figured it would be a good idea to move out to Texas too. Incidentally, he worked for a financial branch of the US Government for the first four years, but pretty soon his contacts in Houston started to come through, and that is why we spent the last 10 years down there and enjoyed it immensely.

In the early 90s, not long after we arrived, Uncle Allan and his 3 kids (Charlie, Nerissa and Amber) also moved to Dallas. None of the Boston-born cousins have retained any of the northeastern accent - they all sound really, really Texan!

In the mid 90s, my aunt who lives in the south of England also applied for residency. She sponsored her teenage son Nick, who lived in the north of England with his father, but she opted to remain in the UK. He lived with us for the first year or so, and nearly joined us when we moved to the Houston area too. Nick has now developed half a Texas drawl which I find quite funny!

Who else? In the mid 80s, the only aunt, Rohoni, who remained in Guyana through the hard times, came over with her husband. Their six kids (Neil, Marlon, Ryan, Mandy, Andrea, and Fiona) dispersed themselves between Canada and NYC, but one of them (Andrea) moved back to Guyana some years later because of her husband's shipping business, after Guyana was reopened to Western redevelopment. She is now the only remaining relative in the home country. After my uncle died, Aunty Roh moved to Fiona's house in Canada.

In the late 90s, the only uncle remaining in Guyana came over with his wife and their son and two adopted children.

At one point, Gran, Aunty Roh, Uncle Arvo, Uncle Allan and their families all lived on the same block! When we moved there, though, it drove us crazy. It took us a couple of weeks to get out and find our own place in a fantastic town (for Dallas). As I had been in a private school in London, my mother was going to send me to boarding school in town, but when we found out that we were in the best school district in Texas, she decided to send me to middle school down the road. I am so glad she did. I had better schooling there for free than I did for a lot of money in England! When we moved to The Woodlands, we were in the second best school district. I count my American education, including a degree at Houston's most expensive university, as some of the best years of my life. Dad now has thousands of oil and gas contacts in his directory, and for a short time even worked with his old British boss who had also moved to Houston with his family!

Our family is a regular United Nations. Gran's 10 children have married Chinese-, Portuguese-, Muslim-, Hindu-, and Amerindian- Guyanese; two Puerto Rican Americans (the Bostonians) and then a remarriage with a Filipina; two Brits, and one Canadian. I have noticed that of Gran's 24 grandchildren, only four (of Aunty Roh's kids, with a Guyanese father) have married fellow Guyanese. Most second generation Guyanese all over the world intermarry with their new culture. This is why so many of my cousins and their kids are even more mixed than their parents or grandparents.

I am the only cousin to have met everyone in the family because we travelled the most, and I am also the only one to have figured out everyone's relation to each other. I can draw a family tree from scratch, and have done so numerous times for those cousins who have asked, but they still can't remember everything!

Is this all very confusing? Yes, it was heck to write and I hope you're not cross-eyed.


AmitL said...

Hi,Olivia...grin grin at the weekend plans going awry,courtesy a birthday party. I guess such breaks also serve to reset the body clock.:)Whew at the family history...I had a quick look,but,will read it at ease's a wonder you know so much about the how,why,when your family moved to Texas.:)

The Moody Minstrel said...

Thanks for telling us about your fascinating family background, m'lady. I think we all understand you a bit better now...and perhaps even envy you a bit more.

I wasn't aware Guyana had a communist government in the '70s. Then again, that's not something most Americans learn about. To be honest, I didn't know much about Guyana except its name and location till I "met" you! That's rough... Still, I think your wonderful family is living proof that "internationalization" is possible without corporate globalism!

...Manwell Hung...?

Olivia said...

Amit - ah friends serve to keep us on our toes, sometimes, don't they?

I think because I am an only child that I was able to look to my extended family for the support and companionship that I did not have at home (although my parents have always been myt best friends).


Minstrel - hehe, can't believe you're still "m'lady"-ing me :P shan't complain...

Oh don't envy me, please. As with any family, it is just as frustrating, only on a larger scale!

I suppose after my art history blog, I should start talking about the history of Guyana...? Though if I get anything wrong, as I am sure I already have since I wrote from memory, one of my readers is more than qualified to correct me (Guyana Gyal).

On that latter topic, someone at our table joined the fray with the name "bustagonad". :)

ML said...

Sounds like a great birthday party you had for your friend.

I liked the family run down. I can relate somewhat because my family is from Guyana and they're all spread all over the world.

Olivia said...

ML - we are a mixed bag, aren't we? Or as Forrest Gump would say, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

On the way home the other day, the taxi driver was Pakistani and he said that his sister in law was Guyanese, and he figured that since they had grown up amongst such a mix of nationalities, they found it easier to integrate anywhere.

Beenzzz said...

Sounds like an interesting group of people! Like ML said, our family is spread out all over the U.S., Canada, and Britain. Of course, some of our family still remains in Guyana and there are some in other parts of Europe as well. I haven't met them all yet, and I figure I never will. There are too many of them!

Anonymous said...

You had a good time at that Party..I moved into a new hse with my Freind Gwyn, making a new website because I getting more paying clients and need an online portfolio...

I will keep in touch

Guyana-Gyal said...

I'm not sure what positives achieving independence has done for us here. I dared to say this once, and a group of so-called liberated folks glared at me. In my mother's time [pre-independence] primary school education was so much more rounded.

As for the men here...I don't have much in common with them. Boyfriend is from faaar away.

Hey, my family's like yours. United Nations.

Tot said...

Very Nice, Toops