LIFE anywhere by anyone can be described as guaranteed to have ups, downs and inexplicable occurrences. But very few people lead a life that takes turns as unexpected as Rudolph Simon’s.
Rudolph has lived in Rockstone now for more than 30 years. Rudolph has struggled over the years within the realms of family, health, drug abuse and acceptance. Today, at 59 and a father of four, he is forging a way for himself and his fellow villagers in the beautiful village of Rockstone.
Rudolph grew up in a village similar to Rockstone in the Pomeroon. He, however came to learn that he was not born in the village he knew as home. And the people who he believed to be his parents were rather a family who sought to give him a better life.
“I grew up without my parents. And I grew up with strange people. My parents really belong to the Rupununi. And what I got to understand, my mother was always in the hospital and she was never around to grow us up. Some people from Pomeroon saw how we used to live and they decided to take me away,” Rudolph explained.
At a tender age, Rudolph began to notice the other ways in which he was different from his peers. His adopted family could not afford many of the things his friends at the time could. This impacted a young Rudolph and ultimately helped him move away from his family.
He stated, “I used to see the other children I grew up with going to school with socks, boots and uniform. And I wanted to know why I didn’t go to school like that, barefoot.” Rudolph went on to express, “When I was 14, I realised that my parents didn’t have money for me to write common entrance; and I started working at14 at a sawmill for 20 dollars a week.”
Rudolph left his Pomeroon home and began a life away from the only family he had. It was around this time that Rudolph’s battle with substance abuse began. As he expressed that, “At the age of 17 I left the Pomeroon and started living on the East Bank and found myself working in the interior. From the tender age of 14 I started using marijuana and drinking alcohol.”
Things got worse for the next few years as he found himself using harder drugs and them having a bigger impact on his life. As Rudolph explained, “From the age of 17 I started using cocaine. And I thank God that today I wasn’t left in that situation.” The reason Rudolph believes he got caught up in drugs in the first place was because of the lack of moral support he had. “I didn’t have parents or anybody to tell me what is right or what is wrong,” he said.
After quitting the alcohol, he quit drugs and smoking in the years that followed. Rudolph says that all it took for him to stop was sheer willpower and commitment. Even in the year that he was battling drug addiction, Rudolph still remained a hard worker. One of his most interesting endeavours was that of ‘diving for gold’.
Rudolph explained the process as, “It is a pontoon floating in the water and this pontoon has an engine with suction. And then there is a flex going down into the river bed, and when it pulls the stuff from the river bed it is going into a sluice and filters it out.”
The work of diver requires putting one’s body through a lot of physical pressure and concentration. As Rudolph stated, “Sometimes I would go eight, 100 or even 120 feet below the water surface. I would have a heavy suit to keep me down. At certain times, like at 40 feet, the air, when it is blown out, doesn’t really move far from your body. So, if you do deeper, the air goes into your skin.”
This constant strain on the body affected Rudolph after years of going into the depths of Guyana’s waters. “After 15 to 20 years of diving, I got a stroke, and I couldn’t walk for six months. My foot couldn’t move and you couldn’t put a spoon in my mouth. And I always tell people it was a miracle,” he explained.
Rudolph, after his recovery, turned over a leaf and is now the village’s deputy Toshao after having been Toshao for six years. He stated that the community is currently facing an unemployment problem. “Most of the men in the community gone out to work. All the men are out if the community and the women are taking on the responsibility with the children and working,” Rudolph said.
Rudolph is a major part of Rockstone today, though his acceptance in the community did not come immediately. Yet, he is happy to see the unity within the community and among its people.
“We have five different tribes in the community and also we have the East Indians and the Africans. We have the Machusis, the Arawaks the Caribs the Akawaio and the Patamonas,” he said. The village of Rockstone is the true definition of diversity which, in many ways, amplifies what it means to be a community.