COVID-19 journeys of the mind
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Farrier with four Maori children in front of a Maori church in New Zealand
Farrier with four Maori children in front of a Maori church in New Zealand

By Francis Quamina Farrier

THE very first thing which I would advise anyone about living in a world with a pandemic as we’re all experiencing now is to observe all the instructions which are laid out by the medical experts. With fingers crossed and doing all the right things, I continue to hope that I will remain coronavirus-free until this pandemic becomes a thing of the past. My hope, too, is that others in Guyana will be disciplined and keep themselves healthy. As we are aware, some deviants are causing problems due to their indiscipline. That is resulting in the continuing increase in people testing positive and dying. Fortunately, a high percentage of Guyanese are doing the right things and remaining coronavirus-free.

In the present situation, the main instructions are to wear a mask, wash hands regularly and keep a distance of at least six feet from others. How difficult is that? But the deviants observe none of those simple instructions. If one is residing in a cottage or hut deep in a rain forest of our beautiful Guyana, or on an unoccupied island in the Essequibo river miles away from other people, then they are probably safe in their COVID-19 free bubble. However, if they live in a community, they are obliged to play by the rules. Lives depend on discipline.

A portion of the trail from Kimbia to New Amsterdam (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

On a personal level, this lockdown of weeks and months is a big challenge. As many people know, I am a travelling person. I commenced travelling here, there and everywhere from the age of two; that means that I have been a regular traveller for eighty years. So, obviously, 2020 is proving to be an extremely challenging year for me. That is also true for millions of others around the world. It is obvious that our lockdown living will not end anytime soon. Well, except for those fortunate to be residing Down Under in the twin-island country of New Zealand, since that country is now almost coronavirus-free. The citizens obeyed all the instructions and COVID-19 protocol from day one, and their discipline proved successful. With a population of over five million, that sister Commonwealth country has had only 25 coronavirus deaths; a figure which has remained static for over six months. Having visited New Zealand and seen how disciplined the citizens are, I can well understand their success against the coronavirus.

In Guyana, it is a different ball-game. However, am I going bonkers in this unusual and difficult situation? Absolutely not. Am I deeply depressed? Not in the least. Am I trying to make a point of trying to inspire you? Yes, I am certainly trying and hoping for success with that objective. One recommendation is that you travel back in your mind to one of your great adventures; a journey which was a challenge for you and with which you were successful. Shut out depression by reliving a brighter period of your life.

Many years ago before the Soesdyke/Linden highway was constructed, two friends and I planned a 65-mile hike from Georgetown to McKenzie. At the very last moment, both of those friends opted out of what I considered a great adventure. I decided to make it a solo event. Day one was from Georgetown to Timehri. Day Two was from Timehri to Long Creek. The third and final leg was from Long Creek to McKenzie. During the second and third days of the jungle legs of the hike, about nine vehicles went by. The two going south to McKenzie stopped and offered me a ride, which I politely refused, informing them that I was on a hike. In both cases, I was given best wishes and congratulations. On the third and final day, my legs were questioning, “Why?” especially the final mile which was going due west through what is now Amelia’s Ward. I was then facing the hot afternoon sun. Underfoot is what is known as “loose sand” which makes walking much more difficult than walking on firm soil. What I never expected was the ‘greeting’ which awaited me on my arrival at Arvida Road (Now Republic Avenue) at McKenzie.

Five heavily armed members of the army surrounded me. Their questioning was not in any way welcoming or friendly. They half believed me when I told them that I had just completed a hike from Georgetown. The reason for their questioning and personal search of my ‘Georgie bundle’ was for top security reasons. The Demerara River Georgetown to McKenzie ferry boat, “The MV R.H. Carr” had sustained some damage due to a terrorist bombing onboard in which some passengers were injured and a few killed. The military probably considered me a suspect. I responded to all their questions politely and finding nothing in my bag to link me to anything suspicious of a terrorist act, I was allowed to go my law-abiding way.

There was certainly no pandemic raging at that time. So why have I related that true story? Because it has returned to me during my lockdown since mid-March. In my mind, I continue to relive another hike. That one being from Kimbia on the upper Berbice River to New Amsterdam. I was involved in that adventure as a journalist attached to the VCT Evening News, covering “THE GREAT MARCH” as it was called. My involvement was in my capacity as a television journalist. The marchers were a contingent of the Guyana National Service; young people with a zest for adventure. The trail from Kimbia to New Amsterdam was somewhat tedious with uneven topography covered with grass and shrubs. It was tough going but everyone made it. On arrival in New Amsterdam, hundreds lined the street cheering us on. It was so patriotic of them and extremely emotional for the marchers and myself. All so memorable.

You may never have been on any such adventure. Then again, you might have gone on a much greater adventure. Take the one which was undertaken by Guyanese Stanley Ming and Joey King in Australia.  As young adventurers, the two Guyanese rode motorcycles from Sydney to Perth across Australia – a distance of 2,445 miles. Calvin Ming, the son of Stanley Ming is now racing after his father’s adventurous records. There are also those Guyanese who have climbed some of the country’s highest mountains in some cases, taking the Golden Arrowhead with them. One’s mind can take one on journeys real or imagined, and during this seemingly un-ending coronavirus lockdown, it is helpful to let your mind take you on adventures.

Such need not necessarily be physical – it could be an adventure of a journey in obtaining a truly earned PhD or a National Award. It could also be a journey from being an enemy of someone to becoming friends. If you live on the coastlands and have never seen one of Guyana’s lofty mountains – the Pakaraimas, and the Kanuku ranges, for example – then get a photograph of them and feast your imagination of being there – right on the summit. We are living in strange times and need to be occupied with strange activities. But make sure that whatever you do is lawful and uplifting. Yes, COVID-19 will one day be gone. It has already gone from New Zealand because the people are disciplined and did all the right things from day one.

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