Today in Guyana, bheri ramsarran reveals another fetish

look bheri star ALL BY HIS LONESOME KYAH KYAH KYAH

mark jacobs lives!

Whim has never disappointed me
am gonna marry dat girl one of dese days
so off to the ancient county we go @ 6am
newspaper man wishes us well. no black man with string around his neck effigies left by the ppp on the road today. elections over, i think.
girl at berbice river bridge cant tell me when the toll will be reduced
seems confused and disgusted by the question
2200$ i borrowed went into the pocket of the devils
but their day coming too
the devil’s day of reckoning is coming in guyana
reach whim two and a half hours only to find bheristar nowhere around
a big gray haired negro liar with a ponytail named crawford is holding court under the benab
he drive into a lady and claiming rights.

sidebar: worthy enough for a guyana to hinglish entry
this english word lawyer is pronounced lie-ah in…

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4 months and counting: A lesson in self and agape love

I just took a shower. I saw it again. It’s still on the ledge in the bathroom, at eye level, within reach. A pink plastic razor. I don’t know why I haven’t thrown it away yet. I look at it. Nah, not today. There’s no compelling enough reason. There were plenty of times in the past tho, when- hearing from a lover that they were coming over after all- I’d race into the bathroom to shave hurriedly before they arrived. Cuz you know, body hair is for men alone; taboo and not sexy for women.

I remember the first time I saw my mother shaving her legs. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I remember feeling the bristles afterwards and being really confused. “It was nice and soft before; why did you shave it??” She just smiled and said I’d understand when I got older. Nair was like a rite of passage. I was never too much of a girly girl, or one who cared too much about what people thought, but I still religiously shaved my legs and armpits (and sometimes even my pubes). I questioned many things, came out to myself, stood up to the religious, sexist, and homophobic bigots, but I still shaved. You don’t have to be a hairy, man-hater to be a feminist, right? Surely, I could manage this one little thing even if I didn’t do the whole makeup and heels bit, right?

I kept on shaving, even when my legs broke out in rashes and ingrown hair. I’m just doing the basics, I’d tell myself. I’m not like those other women- all obsessive- waxing and electrolyzing. But when someone pointed out the hair on my upper lip, I started getting it ‘threaded’. This is what they do in India right, so in a way, I was getting more in touch with my roots. Uh huhhhh. Nevermind that I feel zero emotional connection to ‘Mother India’ (my love for curry aside). And nevermind that no lover has ever expressed repulsion by my hairy upper lip while kissing me.

There’s something called cognitive dissonance- which is basically a disconnect between the things you know to be real and true and the things you do. I finally stopped shaving 4 months ago. At first, it was mostly sheer laziness. I’d stopped shaving for periods of time before after all. But this time is different. I’m done with the bullshit. I’m 38 years old- near the midpoint of my life, if I think positively- and I’ll be damned if I waste any more of my precious time doing things that don’t add any value to anything. Now I stare down the pink razor every time I step into my shower. It’s an ongoing battle though.

I still put on long pants instead of the shorts I wanted to wear the other day, even though it was night time and I was going to be among friends. I know now how my trans friends feel when their 5 o clock shadow shows through their makeup. Funnily, I’m more ok with showing the armpit hair for some reason, even though I know that’s actually less common than leg hair. The conditioning is deep and the fucked-up ness too real. Change takes time. Self-love, like other-love, takes work. But I’m in it, til death do us part, and I have to say, it feels damn good to just be. Stare if you wanna, talk shit if you wanna; I’m not going to take you on. Like it or lump it- I’m all good.

Not so the larger society though, unfortunately. There, hate rules. There are doctors and people in the health sector of Guyana who, for decades, refused to provide legally permitted abortions to women and girls who wanted/needed them, because they refuse to let go of their patriarchal, misogynistic, oppressive religious beliefs that women must bear children, regardless of their circumstances or personal desires. There are many in the judicial and other public service posts who routinely refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals because they disapprove of their “lifestyle”. Differently abled, mentally ill, ‘junkies’, homeless people, and all others who fall outside the societal norms are still treated like aliens instead of fellow human beings worthy of dignity, love, and respect. Boys are still beaten for crying and guards still enforce dress codes at bastions of knowledge like the National Library. And oh, beauty pageants still get touted as a way of “empowering” young girls.

When I stare down the pink razor and step outside with my hairy legs and armpits, I feel like I’m wielding a (hairy) sword at the foundations of all this ignorance and hate. Some days, just existing, in my truth, is all I’m able to do. So I have to make it count. When my hand strays too close to the razor, I think of my friend L. L is short and chubby with unselfconsciously hairy legs and a bevy of male suitors to choose from. Some want her to go overseas and live with them; others want to build homes and give land to her here in Guyana. They like the way I talk to them, she confides in me. Short, chubby L with the hairy legs. My shero. There’s also M, who also doesn’t give a hoot about shaving or not shaving. She’s too busy worrying about where to find money for food, her daughter’s school fees, medicine for her sick mother, etc. You see, there are more important things to care about/work on than shaving. But it’s ALL CONNECTED. Love thyself. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

On Depression. Tips for Sufferers and Friends/Loved Ones

Depression. It’s more than just feeling/being sad. Sadness and unhappiness are a normal part of life and feelings that we all experience and deal with on a regular basis. Depression, however, is more complex. It is a pervasive feeling of negativity, a persistent bleakness and hopelessness in outlook, and an inability to experience joy in any aspect of life. Depressive episodes often last for weeks at a time and at their worst, can block all positive feelings from the individual suffering. People who suffer from depression often feel drained and lethargic, find it hard to communicate and interact with others, and often have difficulty maintaining relationship and their regular routine of work, exercise, etc. Depression affects people from all walks of life- even those who seem to “have it all” and are living “the good life”. Sometimes, people suffering from depression might not realize that’s what going on; other times they may not want to acknowledge it as depression- like many mental health concerns- often gets stigmatized and dismissed as ‘weakness’ or ‘madness’. Also, not everybody experiences depression the same way- it can be a one-time thing for some people and chronic/episodic for others. Lastly, there are many triggers and reasons for depression- usually some combination of a genetic predisposition plus environmental factors. As such, each person/episode is a unique case and must be dealt with accordingly; what works for one may not work for another. There is no magic bullet either; usually it takes a combination of things and some trial and error to figure out what helps.

In my case, even though I knew that depression ‘ran in my family’, I was so invested in being “strong” that when it hit me, I denied, denied, and denied some more. But after weeks- months of “nothing matters” as the daily refrain in my head, I could deny no more. So yea, I too suffer from depression. There’s a lot I’m still figuring out, but here are a few things that I learned that I would like to share; hopefully it helps you and yours in some way.

For the person experiencing depression:

1. Take it seriously. Denying or ignoring it will not make it go away. Depression is a real condition. Acknowledge it. Don’t worry about what other people might say. Know that it’s not your fault and you are not weak. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just focus on trying to do the best you can, one day at a time.

2. Ask for/accept help. Do not be ashamed or feel that you are being too self indulgent. Do not shut people out. You need people. You need the help. Depression can make it hard to connect with others, esp if you’re introverted to begin with. And even though most days you may not feel like leaving your bed/home, things aren’t going to magically get better. It’ll take work and you’re going to have to help yourself. Not that you have to do/know it all- outside assistance is there, you just have to reach out for it.

3. Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant, period, even though the initial consumption may foster feelings of euphoria and conviviality. Overindulgence of alcohol is problematic at the best of times; during a depressive episode it just makes everything worse. A little bit to “take the edge off” can easily slide into becoming a regular bad habit, obscuring the ability to think clearly, make healthy decisions, and affecting relationships with others. If you want to but cannot discipline yourself, you may need to involve others. Invite friends/loved ones to check in with you and help restrain you from going overboard. Tell neighborhood shopkeepers not to sell to you, or to give you water, juice, or a non-alcoholic beverage instead (yes, this means the business people must discipline themselves as well, ha.)

4. Address physical health issues. There is a real ‘mind-body’ connection and unaddressed physical health issues could trigger changes in brain chemistry leading to depression. Even if one doesn’t feel sick physically, it’s still worthwhile to get a general checkup when a depressive episode hits, to rule out any underlying biological problems.

5. Address emotional needs. Too often, people do not deal with the things that are bothering them mentally/emotionally. It can be hard to do this as it might involve confronting others, challenging relationships of intimacy, power, etc. However, this work needs to be done; left ignored it festers and just creates bigger problems. Purging negative emotions through journaling or some other medium- song, dance, art, as well as simply talking things through with a neutral third party is often therapeutic.

6. Address environmental factors. There may be things in the school, work, or living space negatively affecting your mental health and contributing to depression. Too much noise, not enough quality sleep, overwork, or experiencing racism, discrimination, bullying, as well as worrying about finances, the sociopolitical climate, family pressure etc- can all contribute to depression. While most of these are ‘normal’ issues to deal with in life, they can combine to over-stress someone with a predisposition to depression, triggering a depressive episode. While it may not b possible to resolve all environmental issues, recognizing their impact and changing those which can be changed can help profoundly with easing depression and improving mental health.

7. Exercise. Even if it’s just a little bit a daily, it helps. Push yourself to do it. It doesn’t have to mean going to a gym or anything fancy- just walking is ok. Walk the seawall, the Gardens, the National Park. Get off the bus at a further stop and walk a couple more blocks home. Or run, bike, swim, dance- work up a sweat anyway you can.

8. Find at least one or two things to do daily that bring you joy. For me it’s planting things and minding animals. Watching seeds burst out and push their way up through the dirt makes me feel like I can do something similar too, and reminds/keeps me connected to the larger forces at work around us. Animals are a source of uncomplicated, unconditional love. Plants and animals also need to be fed and watered on a daily basis; often times, we who suffer from depression need help/a reason to get out of bed in the morning. A hungry cat biting your toes is good motivation 🙂

9. Eat properly. It’s not always easy to do this, even when one is not depressed. But the impact of a healthy diet on our mental and well as physical health cannot be overstated. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of water, less sugar and fried things will keep you physically well so you can focus on getting mentally fit. Also, sometimes, preparing yourself a delicious, healthy meal can help keep you grounded, remind you to love yourself, and of the good things in life.

10. Know that it might come back/recur. Plan/prepare so you can be better able to deal with it if/when it does. Pay attention and make notes of what possible triggers might have been, as well as worked or didn’t this time (realizing that they may or may not be the same next time around..).

Some tips for dealing with a friend or loved one suffering from depression:

  1. Don’t be fooled. There is a lot of stigma around mental health issues and a great deal of pressure on people to “be strong”. Depression and other mental health issues can be viewed as “weakness” and people affected by these illnesses may feel ashamed and not willing to admit that they are suffering and in need of help. Many still paste smiles on their faces and brush off concerns. Don’t be fooled. Depression is a valid and serious mental health issue, not just a minor mood imbalance.
  2. Mind their business. If you suspect a friend/family member is suffering from depression, don’t be afraid to get involved. Keep asking after them and be persistent, even if they brush you off. If you notice changes in their behavior or personality that concern you- that seem to suggest they are more stressed than ordinary, aren’t coping well, and lack their usual interest in and zest for life- don’t just ignore them. Mind their business. Ask questions and talk about what’s going on. While depressed people tend to ‘hole up’ and avoid others, it is crucial that they not be left alone in their pit of darkness. You could be the lifeline bringing them back up.
  3. Keep expressing your love. It’s not easy dealing with people suffering from depression. Depression often envelops those affected in a spiral of negativity, affecting their ability to engage positively with others. If you love and care about them though, please let them know- in as tangible a way as possible. Helping with basic things like making sure they have food and water, as well as assisting with daily errands are concrete ways to show your love. Often, knowing that there are people who care about them is what keeps depressed people from hurting themselves. However, don’t expect them to necessarily give love back to you at the same time you’re expressing it. Remember that depressed people are usually enveloped in a fog of negativity which affects their ability to relate to others. Love is powerful medicine though; keep expressing it in tangible ways.
  4. Don’t tell/expect them to “just snap out of it”. Depression is not just a ‘bad mood’. Depressive episodes often last for weeks at a time and at their worst, can block all positive feelings from the individual suffering. People suffering from depression usually feel very drained of energy, find it hard to communicate and interact with others, and often have difficulty maintaining their regular routine of work, exercise, etc. It takes a great deal of effort to overcome a depressive episode; medication, counseling, and environmental or lifestyle changes may all be necessary. This takes time and effort. Your understanding and support is crucial. Much as you might wish your friend/loved one would just “snap out of” their depression, know that’s just not that easy.
  5. Take care of yourself. It’s not easy to be around someone suffering from depression, even if you love and care about them. They often cannot return your love; even if they do feel it, they often cannot communicate that to you effectively. So, take care of yourself. Make sure you have/get support as you try to support them. Don’t try to do or be everything to your depressed friend or loved one; involve others. Exercise patience and take care of your needs as well.

GPHC must specialize in quality care and patient satisfaction

There are some people who still want a ‘specialty hospital’ to be built in Georgetown, who believe this is necessary and that such a facility will dramatically improve health in Guyana. There are two main arguments against this idea. The first is simply that hospitals actually have very little to do with health. In reality, hospitals are dedicated to dealing with sickness. Yes, these things are connected, but they are two fundamentally different states of being as anyone who has ever been sick will tell you; the way one feels when ill is dramatically and clearly different from the feeling of wellness.

The fact is that health is largely something that happens outside of the hospital or clinical setting. The environment in which one lives and rears a family, the societal structures that offer support, maintain safety, equity, and justice- these are the things which really ensure health. The amount of money in one’s pocket, the safety and cleanliness of the environments one lives, works, and plays in, the kind of education and employment available, the systems in place to assist the vulnerable and ensure equity, the opportunities for self-expression and advancement, the access to justice in society- these are the things necessary to ensure and maintain wellness. No specialty hospital in the world can provide these things; instead this is the work of all citizens, not just doctors and nurses.

This significant, non-semantic difference aside, the fact is that Guyana already has a specialty hospital. It is called the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). ‘Public’, as the GPHC is commonly referred to, is the largest public healthcare facility in Guyana and the one that offers the largest variety of services. People are referred to the GPHC from all the ten regions of Guyana for care that ranges from physical to mental. This then, is the specialty hospital already in our midst. I remind readers of this fact to make the point that building another facility and establishing a parallel (and likely exclusive and inequitable) system of care is not at all what is needed in Guyana today, nor is it a smart way to spend already limited resources. I believe that strengthening the existing public health facilities and systems will achieve much more. Yes, there are serious failings at the GPHC and within the health sector nationwide. We must focus energy, attention, and resources into addressing those issues, not divert them into another unnecessary construction project.

It is also important to realize that, along with enough adequately trained staff and the right equipment/medicine, competent management is also key. A good manager ensures that resources are properly spent, that supplies and medicines are available in a timely manner, that staff are properly trained, that the environment is welcoming and hospitable to patients and visitors, and that everything goes as well as it possibly can. A good manager anticipates potential problems and establishes systems to prevent them from occurring if possible, or to mitigate negative effects otherwise. A good manager knows that the provision of healthcare is an essential public good and does all in their power to make sure it is always of the highest possible quality.

Much has been said about the GPHC in recent years, most of it uncomplimentary. There have been serious errors made by staff, many lives lost unnecessarily, and, in some instances, as much pain and suffering caused as alleviated. Of course, there are good things that can be said about GPHC as well. There are many caring, competent, and dedicated staff and many departments have improved significantly over time. However, one major failing is that too often, persons with concerns or complaints about the quality of care they or their family members received were not given an audience or adequate answers by those in charge. There is a perception by many, including too many GPHC staffers themselves unfortunately, that GPHC is a place for ‘poor people’- that people who have resources would access care privately elsewhere, and that what happens to poor people doesn’t really matter. As such, patient satisfaction has not been given sufficient attention. Many people are also unaware of their rights as patients, too sick to demand them, or families too traumatized.

This needs to change. It matters not if one is rich or poor- we are all human and all get sick at some point in our lives. All people are deserving of quality, respectful healthcare, no matter their tribe, skin color or hair texture, wealth, education, or connections they may have, whether they’re gay, straight, transgendered, bisexual, etc. The Guyanese public- in all our glorious diversity- must be put first and foremost by all those tasked as public servants. The recent decision to send the Chief Executive Officer of the GPHC on leave is a proper and necessary one, in this columnist’s opinion. Significant changes need to be made at the GPHC at all levels, from top down, in order to improve its functioning and the quality of care and services offered to the Guyanese public.

Staff at all levels must be formally evaluated regularly- both with regard to their technical knowledge as well as their skill in communicating and dealing effectively with patients. Evaluation is crucial to quality service delivery. It must be at the forefront of all management plans, not simply a forgettable footnote, as too often happens. Persons who truly care about providing the best quality care and services are not afraid of any evaluation process; instead they welcome it for it provides valuable information which can be used to improve one’s self as well as organizational services. Accepting constructive critiques, along with continuous learning and improvement must become a daily part of our lives and work, and public satisfaction with the public healthcare services given its due import. The GPHC must specialize in excellent management, honest and regular evaluation of staff and services, and a commitment to quality care and patient satisfaction. This would make it a truly special and useful facility for all Guyanese.

Sherlina can be contacted at ssnageer@yahoo.com

URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2015/features/09/04/gphc-must-specialize-in-quality-care-and-patient-satisfaction/