Embark on an extraordinary journey as I share the details of a once-in-a-lifetime odyssey that not only deepened my understanding as a state representative but also etched everlasting memories in my heart. Accompanied by a vibrant Schenectady delegation, including esteemed companions like Schenectady County Legislator Philip Fields and City Council Member John Mootooveren, we delved into a voyage that surpassed the ordinary, immersing us in the vibrant tapestry of Guyanese culture. Join me on this wonderful ride where each twist and turn reveals a new facet of our shared adventure. The delegation, featuring Rita Mootooveren, Dharam “Junior” Hitlall, Deryck Singh, George and Yasmin Ramson, Ravi, Betty, and Raj Ishmael, infused their unique energy into our exploration.
Our adventure kicked off with a thrilling late-night arrival in Georgetown, a city tempting us with tantalizing street feasts. Picture a midnight culinary extravaganza with a plate of fish and cook-up rice, followed by fresh fruit from an enchanting street market, setting the stage for the spectacular experiences that awaited us.
The following morning, our rendezvous with “Visit Guyana,” a tourism company with an incredible Instagram page, opened the gateway to Guyana’s tourism treasures and a newfound connection to Schenectady. Subsequently, we journeyed to Berbice, warmly welcomed into the Ishmael family’s home—a haven of authentic Guyanese hospitality. Here, I immersed myself in the rich flavors of Guyanese cuisine, savoring local delicacies and the sweetness of tropical fruits like pomegranates, rambutan, and guava. I even learned the art of cracking open coconuts with a machete to enjoy the refreshing coconut water and scraping the delectable coconut “jelly” within. We later took a walk through the neighborhood, exploring banana trees and lotus growing wild. Later that night, vibrant hotspots in Georgetown, like Tribe, and bustling open-air marketplaces became our true immersion into the heart of Guyana.
Our journey seamlessly blended political insights with cultural exchanges—a diplomatic dance resonating with the beats of unshakeable ties. It commenced with a meeting with Prime Minister Brigadier Retired Mark Phillips, where we presented a special friendship pin depicting both the flags of the United States of America and New York State. An insightful tour of the Parliament followed, including meaningful discussions with its elected members. A private meeting with President Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali underscored the significance of our diplomatic mission. In a symbolic exchange to commemorate our visit, we proudly presented President Ali with special commemorative drinking glasses from Proctors Theatre, noting the significance of the theatre back home in Schenectady, now proudly adorning President Ali’s desk. This led to a presidential luncheon that not only honored our delegation but furthered our discussions on various subjects.
A visit to the United States Embassy, meeting Ambassador Nicole Theriot, shed light on diplomatic relations. This was followed by a business meeting and a reception hosted by Schenectady City Council Member John Mootooveren and his family, featuring culinary delights, including fresh lamb curry, and black cake (Caribbean rum-soaked fruit cake) – on of my favorites of the trip!
The next morning, we explored a local mall and visited several sites, including the University of Guyana. As a civil engineer, my excitement soared as we delved into Guyana’s burgeoning tourism industry. Our journey extended to Guyana’s family homes, including relatives of John and Rita Mootooveren, where we indulged in a lunch of labba (a type of wild boar) and gilbaka (a type of catfish) served with rice, a new fruit to savor, granadilla, visited a development site showcasing a new hotel and water park, and engaged with local entrepreneurs like Dave Narine of Dave West Indian Imports Corp—an essential supplier for many Guyanese markets and shops in Schenectady.
The pinnacle of our adventure led us to the awe-inspiring Kaieteur Falls, where the world’s tallest single-drop waterfall left us breathless. A thrilling speedboat ride down the river to Arrow Point Nature Resort in Bartica provided a serene escape, and that evening walk along the Sea Wall in Georgetown unveiled the city’s vibrant nightlife—a spectacle etching lasting memories in our hearts.
Our final day crescendoed with enthusiasm at the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum 2023. The palpable eagerness of Guyana for economic collaboration set the tone. Meetings with Exxon Mobil delved into Guyana’s emerging oil industry, and visits to Starbroek Market showcased the economic and cultural facets of the country. Handmade
crafts, local shops, a visit to St. George’s Cathedral (the largest wooden structure in the world), and a memorable dinner at Fireside Grill & Chill culminated our journey in a grand celebration of local flavors and the warmth of community bonds.
Growing up in Schenectady as a first-generation American in an immigrant family, I developed a profound connection to the diverse communities that contribute to the vibrancy of our city. Representing the largest Guyanese population outside of New York City is both an honor and a responsibility that I hold with great reverence. Beyond being a job, it is a passion, and this experience has been incredibly meaningful. It goes beyond making decisions in Albany; it’s about understanding the heartbeat of the community I serve, resonating strongly with the spirit of my Guyanese neighbors here in Schenectady.
This journey wasn’t a mere sightseeing tour; it was a transformative experience that enriched my understanding of the country and its people. As the representative for the 111th Assembly District of New York State, the trip strengthened my bond with the warm and welcoming Schenectady community. The resonance of the name “Schenectady” in a completely different country underscores the diversity and vibrancy of our city. The Guyanese people’s warmth, the richness of their traditions, and the natural beauty of the country have left an enduring memory that will continue to inspire me for years to come. Thank you for taking an inside look into my unforgettable journey—an adventure that transcends borders and embodies the spirit of Schenectady!