The Highlight of My Day

3 11 2010

Guyanese television is an experience. First of all I need to explain about my television situation. When I first moved into my house there were two televisions stacked on the veranda and I was told that one TV has sound but no picture and the other has picture but no sound. For the first few months I ignored them, but once the extreme boredom sunk in I was desperate and plugged them in. Only one of the TVs actually worked and it was the one with sound, but to my surprise the bottom quarter of the screen had picture and so I could “watch”, but mainly listen, to TV. Now, one great thing about this country is that they repair any all electronics, so I just took my TV to the repair guy and $2,000 later ($10 USD) I had a working television! One other thing about my TV that I haven’t mentioned yet is that it’s older than me. Yep it’s a Sharp circa 1976 with dials for both UHF and VHF. That’s right dials, no buttons, no remote. The dial handles have broken off and there is only the On/Off-Volume knob left. I use a pair of pliers to change the channel. That also means that the only way to get channels is through a long wire that acts like bunny ears and that I have nailed to the wall where we have determined gets the best reception. Old school, I know, but it works.

Now let me explain about television programming. It’s a hodge podge of US, Guyanese, and Indian movies, shows, and news. We get CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera along with local Guyanese news programming, which is an experience all on its own. Lifetime movies are a weekend highlight and they show ALL day Saturday and Sunday. We also get random History Channel and NatGeo (National Geographic) shows. We also get whatever prime time reality competition show is playing on the major networks, currently it is Dancing with the Stars, but I have watched So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent (Nick Cannon really gets on my nerves), and American Idol. We also get Oprah at 8:00 every night, and Guyanese LOVE her! The highlight of my day is 6:30 when reruns of The Cosby Show come on. It’s like reliving my childhood and I’ve gotten to watch some of my all time favorite episodes, like when they send Theo into the real world, the 49th anniversary episode when they lip sync to Ray Charles, the Stevie Wonder episode, and the episode when Rudy plays football and does her touchdown dance that Theo taught her.  I used to enjoy the 6:00 time slot, but lately it’s been some Indian soap opera melo-drama that is just WAY too intense for me, but prior to that I had the pleasure of enjoying Three’s Company. Before Three’s Company was Martin, and before Martin was Diff’rent Strokes (also another favorite from childhood).

Not bad for the most part, but then you have the Birthday and Death Announcements. You did not misread that last sentence. In a country with only 3/4 of a million people, it is possible to do that. In the US we put those kinds of things in the newspaper in Guyana they put them on TV. They are usually shown on the local channel and run during commercial breaks and for about 30 minutes to an hour in the evenings. They can be super simple with just a picture of the person being celebrated or remembered and then a list of names of every relative of the person scrolls across the screen set to some song. Depending on how rich the family is or how important the person is/was there may be several songs (the more songs the more prestigious the person) with different pictures and sometimes even the music video is playing in the background. I am not making this up. This is real and for many Guyanese it is the easiest way for them to keep track of people they haven’t seen in a long while, as I’ve been told more than once: either they have migrated or they have passed.

Surprisingly it has been easy to adjust to no cable, and only getting to watch cricket and soccer for sports, but I’m still able to keep up with American pop culture and politics, and I don’t really miss the fancy technology. We’ll see if I’m singing the same song in 6 months.





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