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Guyanese Children

Chapter Four Samples

John Wayne Bars and Other Treats

I found my way back to the airstrip with the help of a friendly Guyanese man who offered to accompany on my walk in the dark. When I told him I could get back by myself, he said there were snakes that come out at night and can kill you if they strike. Thinking he might be trying to set me up for a mugging or worse, I pointed to the .45 strapped on my pistol belt. He said I would not be able to tell if the snakes were there and I decided to take my chances with this seemingly friendly man rather than the alleged deadly snakes.

We arrived at the airstrip aid station without mishap and I insisted my Guyanese Good Samaritan take four c-ration meals for his trouble. When he looked at the contents of one box, he shook my hand vigorously and thanked me profusely. "This box will feed my entire family for one meal," he solemnly stated after inspecting its contents.

The next morning, when I related my experience with Pauline in front of Matthew Ridge's only hotel, to Sergeant Harper, he laughed and said she was right, I should have gone to bed with her. He told me she wasn't a virgin and I would not have been disappointed. He also said that girls in this frontier region were encouraged to have babies because there was a border dispute with Venezuela to the west and the Guyanese government felt a larger local population would lend justification to the legitimacy of their claims, even if the legitimacy of the babies was in question.

The U.S. military had journeyed to a strange country on an unreal mission; a place where adolescent girls are encouraged to make babies, beer bottles cost five times what their contents does, and the children have never eaten chocolate. Compared to some of the other events I was to experience during my extended week in Guyana, these things don't seem so strange at all.

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