Vegas Guest House

Paul works as security in the some of condo buildings on Barrow Street and has his office in our building. He is very friendly and is one of the few black people I’ve seen, let alone met, in Ireland. He is originally from Guyana in West Africa and he had always wanted to go to America but he’s afraid to now because of the terrorists. “I think that if there is a crowd of people, like on a train or bus, then there might be a bomb under it. Also there are probably terrorists on the planes to America.” I tried to explain that this really was not the case at all and that we, in America, are not afraid like that. We might associate those types of fears in going to the Middle East ourselves.

Paul’s mother wanted to bring him to the US after she got there. (We are outside the apartment building talking about all this on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.) She sent money with a man who was to bring Paul and his brother to America. The man took them to Holland and then took off with the money. So Paul has never actually made it to America. “I would go to Chicago, I think.” If he weren’t so scared.

He ended up in Holland in his early 20s (I’d say he’s in his late 20s/early 30s now). Besides Holland, he has been to the UK and Ireland. He bought land and a hotel in Guyana and he intends to save money while he’s here in Ireland and buy up the interior supplies for his hotel (towels, microwaves, etc.) and ship them back to Guyana. Then he will go to college in London to become a general nurse. “In America they would laugh. Did you see Meet the Parents? When Ben Stiller said he was a nurse everyone laughed and said ‘male nurse.’” I assured him I harbored no prejudice toward his becoming a nurse as I have two cousins who are nurses.

When Paul finally goes back to Guyana he doesn’t want to have to buy anything for his hotel. He will take care of the things for the hotel first so that any money in his pocket will be for him. He will need it in case he ever has to call the police for an incident at his hotel. He has to be able to pay for the policemen’s petrol (gasoline) and to bribe them, if there is a thief in the hotel, to take care of it. He told me that you have to have money to bribe everyone in Africa. If you are poor you are nothing. He told how he was interested in a girl who was from the “wrong side”, the poor side. He can not date or marry her because then he will have to support all of her relatives too. Everyone will come to his house to brush their teeth with his toothbrush! So he was beaten up (his family was okay with this) and told not to see the girl anymore. This is normal and just the way things are done.

He said the former president of Guyana used to have all the criminals lined up and shot and this was good because they were probably killers. If you don’t kill them they will just bribe the police at the jail and be on the streets again. The new president is trying democracy and courts, Paul says, and it doesn’t work in a country where everyone can be bribed.

All this is what I understood from the conversation. Sometimes his accent was strong and I think English is not his native language, so that may have gotten in the way of my fully understanding what he was telling me about all this.

It seems so hard to imagine life that way and to think that it is normal. I think I would be afraid all the time of being on the short end of justice there. And it also seems ironic that he would be afraid to come to America after growing up as he did in Guyana.

After that, we talked about what he was going to name his hotel. He wasn’t sure so he asked what the hotels in America were called. I told him that I could only think of franchise names, like the Hilton, which he couldn’t use. I asked what were the names of other hotels in the area where he bought his hotel. “There’s the Florida and the Tokyo.” I mentioned that the hotels in Las Vegas had some good names like the MGM Grand. “The Grand might be a good name,” I suggested. “How about the Las Vegas Hotel,” Paul wondered aloud. “How about just Vegas?” I countered. “Hmm, Vegas Guest House. That’ll be it. Calling it a guest house is better than hotel because of taxes.” And so it is named. Next time you’re in Guyana look for the Vegas Guest House. I practically named the place!

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