Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Hospitality: –noun
1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

In the Bible, offering hospitality is a moral imperative. God's people remember that they were once strangers and refugees who were taken in by God (Deuteronomy 10:19). The Greek word xenos means "stranger", but also "guest" and "host". From xenos comes the New Testament word for hospitality: philoxenia means a love of the guest/stranger or enjoyment of hosting guests. Recall a time when you experienced the enjoyment of being a host... when you were the guest of a gracious host. "Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers."
— Romans 12:13

Offering hospitality is fundamental to Hindu culture and providing food and shelter to a needy stranger was a traditional duty of the householder. The unexpected guest is called the atithi, literally meaning "without a set time." Scripture enjoins that the atithi be treated as God. It was especially important to extend hospitality towards brahmanas, sannyasis and other holy people. There are many stories regarding the benefits of offering a suitable reception and the sins that accrue from neglecting one's guests. Tradition teaches that, no matter how poor one is, one should always offer three items: sweet words, a sitting place, and refreshments (at least a glass of water). The flower garland is offered to special guests and dignitaries, as a symbol of loving exchange. "Even an enemy must be offered appropriate hospitality if he comes to your home. A tree does not deny its shade even to the one who comes to cut it down."
- Mahabharata 12.374

In Islamic tradition (muslim culture) it is the same as well: The Messenger of Allah [s] further guides us by saying: "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be hospitable with his or her guests." Our great Prophet [s] teaches us to be generous and how to entertain guests. He wants a Muslim to show gratitude and be kind and happy when receiving guests. One should respect and welcome his guests, in particular when they are strangers, or have no family or friends in that country. Shaikh Abbas Qummi, Safinat al-Bihar, Bab Dhaif, Sunan ibn Maja, vol. 2, Haq al Jiwar (The rights of neighbours), Ikram al-Dhaif (Respecting the Guest).

The three main faiths of Guyana, Chrisitianity, Hinduism and Islam mirror each other. They may differ in certain beliefs, traditions, rituals and words, but overall, these three faiths are synonomous with each other. It is because of this and because Guyana is a faith-based society, deep into their religions, that hospitality is valued here.
From the moment I have stepped off the plane, until now, I have been treated with utmost respect and been shown the most generous of hospitality from most everyone I have known. Of course, some people would disagree with me, but for me, this experience has been one of awe to the people that live in this beautiful and extraordinary country.
Although Guyana is a third-world country, the people of this country exude better hospitality manners than most that I've seen in the states. Oh, now don't grumble! I'm saying that of the experiences that I've had with dropping in on a person, meeting strangers, showing up unannounced, and the like in the states, I would be deemed an ill-mannered person. "I mean, she doesn't even have the manners to call before hand? Sheesh!" But here, that's not even an issue.

My fellow PCVs and RPCVs will, I'm sure, giggle at the following reference, but for those of you who have never experienced it, let me paint a picture for you...
It's Saturday. It's a day off for you (from your work site, not from being a PCV). You've decided to get up early and do your laundry before the sun rises and you start sweating more than you are now. You also thought you might lay in your hammock and read a little or watch a movie (if you happen to have electricity), and maybe a little later you might call a fellow PCV and get something to eat or cook together for a fun meal. It's 6:15 and you've just rolled out of bed, eyeing the laundry and telling it, "jus' now". Suddenly, you hear someone yelling "INSIDE!... INSIDE!... INSIDE!..." You don't THINK it's for you, but when you peep out the window, you see someone standing at the gate of your house. Oh! It IS for you! It's your boyfriend's late father's sister's daughter and her kids (that's Guyanese for your boyfriend's cousin). She doesn't notice that you've peeped through the window and continues to yell INSIDE! until you open the door and go to the gate. Suddenly, your plans for your lazy Saturday are out the window and you're cooking for 5 instead of 1, entertaining with silly stories, gossiping until you're sure your ears are going to fall off, and before you know it, it's 5:00 and they're leaving to go home.

As you watch them catch a car and wave goodbye you think, "well....guess I'll have to do my laundry in the dark and hope mosquitoes don't eat me alive". You are not upset at all that people dropped in on you so early in the morning (here, that's not early, that's running late) or that you used your lazy Saturday doing things other than what it was intended for, but you know if you were back in the states, those people would have been rude. For me, I look forward to the unintential visits and the guests that drop in on me at any and all hours. It's the unexpected moments that take my breath away and make me stop, thank God, Krishna, Allah for the gift of hospitality. My time here in Guyana has made me realize that hospitality is not a talent or a good deed but a privilege. Old or young, Indo or Afro, poor or rich, it doesn't matter to the Guyanese. Feel like you're imposing? Not at all! It's an honor to host. Worried they won't have time for you?Don't take worries my friend, they're happy to have you and would give up all they're plans to have you as their guest. No wonder Guyanese are known as the most hospitable people in the Caribbean.

Want to come? :-)

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