“Where even is Guyana?” is a frequent question asked. However, my grandma, Joan Anne Webster (Kersting), was raised in the country of Guyana. She grew up with her five other siblings and her mother. She explains how her childhood in Guyana was “abnormal” however, it was “enjoyable”. I was extremely curious about her upbringing, as Guyana is a less known country in South America. Google describes Guyana as having a “relatively high crime rate”, “defined by its dense rainforest” and one of the “poorest countries in South America”. However, for my grandmother, it is home.


Joan,75, was born in the capital of Guyana, Georgetown. She describes Georgetown as “an inclusive place filled with fun”. Joan explains how her “father’s ancestors came from Germany and Austria in the 1900s” and the “people in those days were pioneers. They were traveling the world in search of riches and adventure”. This was interesting to me because I came to learn about how Guyana is a collection of different cultures and different countries all joined together.


I was told, as she lived on a plantation that “you have the overseers and the managers in one secure compound, then you have the key workers, midwives, engineers, who work at the sugar factory. And behind that, you had the field workers who cut the sugar cane in the field”. She explained that there were many Hindus and Muslims who worked in these fields and there would be a festival called ‘Phagwa’ which is an Indian festival to celebrate the eternal and divine love of Radha Krishna. She emphasises how it was extremely exhilarating and that she “used to have fun throwing all the coloured dye around”, even though she is not Hindu. This just shows how multicultural of a place Guyana really is, celebrating all different cultures and festivals.


Joan told me that her earliest childhood memory was living in “an area called Kitty, which was by the sea”. She lived in “a big, detached house and the house was on stilts”. 

Later telling me that the reason for the stilts was because Guyana tends to flood in the rainy seasons as the coast is low lying, resulting in the houses needing to be built on pillars. Essentially, she broke down how Guyana is filled with extremely poor conditions as well as rich conditions. The contrast in the living situations, I think, is what makes Guyana strangely fascinating and interesting to study.


Finding more out about my grandmother and where she is from was extremely compelling and a pleasure to find out more about. I would recommend having a long-detailed chat about your grandparents' life, as you could find out some captivating facts and maybe even something that surprises you entirely!