Growing up in the multi-cultural, urban jungle that is Toronto is already confusing enough - add being Guyanese on top of that and things get even more complicated. Here are a list of things that you have probably experienced if your nationality or background just happens to be Guyanese… and if you’ve experienced any of these without being the slightest bit Guyanese, well, you can consider yourself to be the honorary kind.
1. Oh, you’re Guyanese?
Wait, what? You’re from Africa? There’s a difference between “Ghana” and “Guyana” and, unfortunately, this difference is something that many individuals have difficulty comprehending. You’d think in a diverse place, like Toronto, it would be a no brainer but you’d be surprised at the number of people who’ve never even heard of a place, let alone entire country, called Guyana. Go figure.
2. Cricket is literally the most important sport ever and you don’t understand why.
Yes, it’s like baseball but - let’s face it - you’d rather be cheering behind the Blue Jays than the West Indies cricket team.
3. Broken English can be confusing even when you’ve lived your entire life with it.
There are names and words for things that you grew up with, only to find out that there are actual “proper English” names for them. Finding out “Baigan” is actually called eggplant is mind-blowing. Then there are the things that are actually proper English but sound completely strange and foreign when spoken as such. Someone being “vexed” sounds completely archaic in proper English than it does in broken English. It gets easier with time, thankfully.
4. Food places that serve food you actually find spicy are few and far between.
There are only a few places that actually make you pause mid-meal to wonder if your mother or one of your pepper-loving aunties had a hand in the preparation. Also related - because nothing is too spicy... you've probably brought your own hot sauce (ahem, pepper sauce) somewhere at least once in your life. Don't deny it.
5. While we’re on the topic of food, we might as well admit that nothing is ever as good as mom’s cooking.
A night out usually doesn’t cut it food-wise. If there was one thing your mom did right when it came to raising you, spoiling you with good-tasting food was probably it. Sure, she may have tried to throw some strangely cooked veggies in there every now and then, but that’s all in the past, right? And, to be fair, even though you might be all over flavours at many Toronto events (like the upcoming Christmas Market), you know that your favourite dishes will always be waiting for you back at your house.
6. Speaking of night outs, Being Guyanese might as well be a direct translation for “ready to party” because we will find any and all reasons to host a party.
There is no limit to the kind of parties we can and will through - seriously, don’t even try to test this theory out because we will find a way. It’s like this magical ability we have - sensing when there is even the slightest possibility of getting a large amount of people together to drink and be merry. Oh, your kid is turning two years old? That sounds like a perfect time to break out the bottles and invite all your friends over, even though your two-year-old probably won’t remember any of it. What’s that? You just managed to survive another week at work? Let me show you how to celebrate that, but with rum and a lot of loud music and loud people. The possibilities are endless.
7. Reasons #6, #9 and #10 are probably also the reason why your friends and acquaintances usually view you as party-central.
8. However, even though you’re always up for a good night out, going out is a nightmare because your clothes options are severely limited.
The old, “I have nothing to wear” dilemma is nothing in compared to dealing with a wardrobe that has suffered through all the strong, spicy aromas that have circulated throughout home sweet home. You’ve learned to keep all movie premiere, TIFF party and wedding worthy outfits in a safe, secure place, but everyday clothing articles are harder to protect. You’ve at least suffered through the embarrassing “Do you know you smell like curry” moments at least once in your life. But - let's be real - it only takes one moment like that to actually consider committing to the idea of vacuum sealing all of your clothes.
9. Your social calendar is usually too full.
Why? Well this ties in to the spontaneous party and throwing that inevitably occurs when you grow up Guyanese. Throw a huge family on top of all of those random parties and you’re probably going to three weddings minimum per month - or at least it always feels like that. It’s always someone’s birthday at some spot downtown or someone’s graduation or something. Wrapping your mind around all the places you have to be every month is always dizzying.
10. “Where has all the rum gone?” is something we rarely have to deal with.
Now that it’s been mentioned… it’s hard to remember if those “rare” moments when the liquor has run short are actually just myths. House-parties are generally well stocked because, let’s face it, Guyanese people are generous with their rum. A shot for you, and you, and you! Shots for everybody!
11. Caribana is the single most stressful and fun time of the year, only second to Christmas.
Anyone who has ever celebrated Caribana knows exactly what "stressful" means. Organizing your friends and family is a feat in itself and then there's also the costume preparation, as well as dealing with a full event calendar designed to combat the dreaded #FOMO. And yeah, we know that it’s called "The Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival" but we’re never going to call it that, like ever.
12. And just to drive this point home even further - CHRISTMAS IS THE MOST STRESSFUL TIME OF THE YEAR.
You think buying goodies and finding the most perfect, jaw-dropping gifts for your loved ones is already hard enough? Try having to keep that sentiment alive when you’re doing it for, like, a hundred individual people. Your family is huge and by the time you’re finished walking around Yorkdale Mall, nearing the end of your Christmas list, you’re exhausted beyond comprehension. To make matters worse, you have that huge social family of yours and even when you’ve conquered Christmas shopping like a champ, there’s still ten or so odd Christmas parties to get through… for the week. And then there’s the struggle of figuring out who’s hanging out where on Christmas and New Years Eves and Days. Yeah, let’s not talk about that.
13. You used to think your mom was crazy for being aware of every sale and deal out there, but now you know better.
Your mother has been like the Yoda of all things sale-related and, although you were reluctant to abide by her discount do’s and dont’s, you ended up completely embracing her ways like any other young grasshopper. Chances are you probably know about a sale before your friends tell you about it. While this may be considered a great gift or power to have, you seriously question it because spending money - any kind of money - is ridiculously hard to do when you have mom’s voice reminding you that somewhere else - Dr. Flea’s, Downsview Flea Market or even Honest Ed’s (don’t even try to tell your mom no one goes there anymore) - has a better deal. This is a skill that comes in handy, like when you have a million family parties to attend and Christmas shopping for the population of what you feel could probably be a small country.
14. You’re probably closer with your cousins than with the actual friends you’ve made in your lifetime.
Your friends don’t understand this weird relationship you have with your family - considering all of the stress and the parties - but you know that those weirdos you share some DNA with are the reason you still deal with all the chaos that comes with being a part of a big Guyanese family. Every now and then you probably end up skipping a Toronto food-festival outing or night even that makes your friends wonder where your priorities are. Obviously they are in the right place.