Georgetown- The Venice of South America

Sunset from the Kurupukari river crossing, Guyana.

I returned from turtle mountain feeling refreshed though I still spent most of the day catching up on rest. For once I actually looked forward to returning to the cesspool that was Georgetown. A zoologist friend of mine was joining me for the next 10 days. We had made tentative plans to visit the remote river village of Rewa. So brimming with anticipation I caught the evening bus back to Georgetown. One of the staff from Iwokrama, a kind of do-it-all fix-it man who shared my name also had some errands around Georgetown and so I actually had someone on the bus to chat with. Fortunately my companion was extremely eloquent and quite knowledgeable about domestic and foreign affairs and so the trip didn’t pass in complete boredom. Though I was still questioned and had the feeling of being emotionally raped by the Guyanan inquisition…I mean Immigration.

Exhausted, 8 hours later we arrived into Georgetown and at 2 in the morning I ring up Rima guesthouse, calling the kindly lady of the house out of her bed and waking half the household. With my loaded backpack I can barely even make it through the front door. I have to wedge myself from side to side, scraping the sides of the door until finally, all at once I fall into the guesthouse embarrassedly. My sheepish smile isn’t enough to pacify a dazed and disgruntled landlord, so I quickly, if not quietly (as I bang the sides of the staircase with my oversized backpack) run upstairs to my alloted room and fall in front of the fan. My eyes glaze over and a hint of drool runs down my chin as I log onto the internet. Not like I have any messages (I’m not THAT popular) but at least I can see what’s going on in the world and by that I mean download free movies. So watching some utterly forgettable silverscreen trash I fell asleep sweaty with my mosquito net wound about me.

Mid-afternoon I wake up absentmindedly scratching a legion of those insufferable mosquito bites. I run around taking care of some errands absentmindedly while I dread one in particular, revisiting the ministry of home affairs. At the mere thought I can already feel a knot at my carotid that threatens to hang me where I stand. I make sure that I’m as well dressed as my meagre wardrobe will allow, I shave and bathe and throw caution to the wind. I step through the wrought iron gates and am wanded by the all too familiar security guard who puts the man in woman and step up the stairs…until I see “HER” cubicle…

It’s empty…I look around like wily coyote, expecting the anvil to fall. Right, left….Before I turn around I feel a tap on the shoulder. The anvil has fallen.

Only amazingly it’s not the BB (Bureaucratic Bitch as I have affectionately come to know her) but another woman, though she still stands like she has a stick up the…”yes, hello…” I greet the new woman trying my best and failing to make a good first impression. I hand over my temporary visa “I handed in an application for an extension of stay 3 weeks ago and I was wondering whether or not it had been processed”- I finish with a smile, which is met with a sour frown. The woman doesn’t say a word but stomps off. I have grown use to this behaviour, and they think me the heathen! She returns a minute later with an envelope. I thank her kindly and proceed into the waiting room. I have learned by this time not to wait until later to open up the letter only to find that I could have averted a litany of problems if only I had questioned them immediately. So I go over the letter. “Mr. Bertner you are granted a further stay until October 23rd, no further extension of stay will be granted. Please proceed to the office of the chief of immigration and submit this letter for  renewal of your extension”. I reread the letter several times hardly believing it. Not only had they not given me the 3 months which I was entitled to from the very beginning, they wanted me to go through another bureaucratic hoop just to get that additional bloody month! I walk out the door and into the fetid air of the garbage strewn streets. It was like every day they granted me was by THEIR divine grace and I should be grateful for any and all time that THEY should deign to bestow on me. That and that when I look at the Ministry of home affairs it should be with downcast eyes, and when I speak to THEIR representative here on earth, the words should be muttered in a sub-audible whisper and always followed by “Amen”. “I’m an Atheist you bastards” I yell internally as I shake my fist at the Ministry for home affairs from a distance! Feeling more than ever before as though I really needed religion to prop up my currently suffering soul…


2 Responses to Georgetown- The Venice of South America

  1. Hi Paul,

    Thank you for sharing your amazing experience on your blog! Before I read this post, I thought how lucky you were never to bother about visas as a citizen of Canada(?did I get it right?)… I sometimes spend my days having a lifestyle similar to yours, but my cursed passport makes my travel unbearable and the stay in every country is as complicated as it was for you in Guyana… even when it comes to Europe. Now I see that no citizenship solves all the problems=) Anyway, you can consider yourself lucky! Far less problems for you.

    Best of luck!

    • pbertner says:

      Hi Daniel,
      Indeed I am quite lucky as a citizen of Canada, especially in the Americas. However many places in Asia and the Middle East have some pretty stringent criteria that is very surprising. Surprisingly Germans have some of the widest access…who knew! Glad you stopped by and best of luck avoiding more hassles in the future.


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