By Kiana Wilburg
Some First Ladies attract much attention for their sense of fashion. But, First Lady Sandra Marie Granger,
will be known for a lot more.
During her husband’s first term in office, she intends to champion several causes. The passion she shares with her husband for taking Guyana to a safer place where equality exists on every plateau, is what is most important to her.
Even with her latest title – First Lady -, life she says, will remain the essence of Simplicity.
Over a cup of chamomile tea sweetened with honey, the mother of two and I conversed on a range of issues. We spoke about her childhood, how she met and fell in love with her husband, her regrets and her plans as First Lady.
She was born in Bourda, Georgetown but shortly after, moved to Anira Street, Queenstown, with her parents and eight siblings, three of whom later passed away. But Sandra, a “daddy’s girl” was saddened when her father died shortly after she wed David Granger.
The First Lady recalled that while childhood had its ups and downs, it was a “sweet adventure.” Her biggest resentment at that time was being the third in a line of six girls. Her parents were not wealthy, but they bought the best, knowing that it had to pass down the line.
She said that her childhood was a happy one, filled with many neighbourhood guardians, and children who loved playing cricket or ‘rounders’, raiding fruit trees and doing bush cooks. She raved as well, about the “appropriate” technology she and her friends made.
“Back in those days we used to take two milo tins and make a toy out of them or connect two Carnation milk tins with a thread and speak through it with your friend next door.”
“But growing up in a big family, you learn politics quickly. My older sister always tried to impose her will, God rest her soul, but my other siblings and I would plan ways to get from under her control. In those days, parents impressed upon a good education.”
The First Lady attended a private nursery school in Albert Street – Bourne’s Propriety. She would later move on to Sacred Heart Primary School.
After successfully completing St. Joseph High School, she worked briefly at some travel agencies and then at Radio Demerara as a Script Director and Traffic Supervisor.
Mrs. Granger then resigned when her second child was born. She pursued further studies when her daughter entered nursery school.
At the University of Guyana, she did a Degree in English Literature and was encouraged to do Portuguese as her minor. It was during that time that she fell in love with the language and followed up with a Degree in Portuguese.
Mrs. Granger taught in the Department of Modern Languages and was later awarded a scholarship to do a Masters in Portuguese at the University of Pittsburgh. There, she did a Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies which dealt with politics, history and anthropology.
Kaieteur News (KN): How did you meet your husband?
First Lady (FL): (Chuckles) I was a friend of his sister’s and I warn you, I made him a promise that I would not speak about how we started to go out but at the time he was in the army. His sister and I were playing Scrabble and he said, ‘Would you like to go to the movies?’ That was the beginning of it in essence. (Chuckles) We went to see “Django” at the Plaza cinema.
KN: What was your first impression when you saw him?
FL: You want me to get into these secrets, eh? (Chuckles) Let me just say that he was a
charming young man but I was reluctant to go out with him because of the reputation these young army officers had. Let me put it that way (chuckles) and I will stop there. I wouldn’t go further than to say he prevailed (chuckles again). Indeed he did. But he has made me promise not to tell anyone about all the ramifications of our courtship.
KN: Did he have to write home to your parents?
FL: (Chuckles) No; not my David. He met my parents and frequented the home and when we got married he spoke with my father and so forth. But I think my parents knew I was a very own way child from early so they didn’t have any objections as such.
KN: We know him as Mr. Granger, now Guyana’s Eighth Executive President, but who is he as a father?
FL: Just excellent. He is very understanding given the different personalities of our children, Han and Afuwa. He is very helpful but I was the disciplinarian in the family. David would always correct them by just calling them and speaking to them. That had a greater impact than me shouting and threatening them which they became very accustomed to.
KN: Were you worried when he got into politics?
FL: Honestly, I thought he was joking when he said he would enter politics. It’s not a decision a sane man would make but I understand his commitment to Guyana. And I later realized that he was born to fulfill a greater, higher cause. Now it is a bit frightening to see the expectations people repose in him, the level of hope people have in him and his government and I hope they would be able to help people with the good life.
I know he will. It is going to be a hard road. I know he wants to see the people of Guyana being part of the progress and sharing in it and not having a few getting the spoils while the masses scrunt. I will continue to support him. First Lady or not, I am the wife of a soldier.
KN: This commitment to a greater cause meant a reduction in family time. How did and do you cope?
FL: Within one week of us getting married he was posted to the interior and I was alone in our home at Camp Ayanganna. Having grown up in a big, boisterous family, dealing with the sounds of silence was different. It took time to adjust to it. But now, I like my alone time.
Whenever he got home from his work, he would always make it special and he played with the kids. We went on family picnics in the gardens…I loved watching my husband and children bond. Those were my favourite moments. We had quality time. I worked for several years with CARICOM and it was interesting. So I kept myself busy. Now, I just enjoy my quiet time. And I have friends.
KN: What do you admire most about your husband?
FL: He is a calm person. I know he gets angry but he gets quiet when he does. I never heard him abuse anybody in vile language ever. I remember one of the officers who worked with him telling me he would prefer David to curse him when he does something wrong. He said from the time David says, “My friend…” (chuckles) you know it is very serious.
KN: Do you have any regrets?
FL: Yes. In the immediate past I regret the loss of my privacy. I feel very constrained. I know it is logical and so on but the feeling of being always watched, not flitting about as I would normally do, I regret it sometimes. I know there are security considerations which I accept but it is difficult for me, being under this microscope. I have to see how I survive that.
KN: How was the campaign trail for you?
FL: It took a lot of energy and it was very inspiring and educational. If you don’t travel you wouldn’t understand the breadth and depth of what this country needs. I enjoyed travelling throughout the country and getting to understand people and their aspirations. It was a life-changing experience.
KN: What concerns you the most about Guyana?
FL: Children and their safety and education. I want to make a difference in those areas too.
KN: What are some of your plans as First Lady?
FL: Looking at bridging the divide between seniors and younger people through certain programmes. I want to help to provide a platform to preserve the skills of the seniors and transfer it to the youth. I want to create a mechanism to support that process. Older folk would be rejuvenated by the interaction and youths can have more mentors and guardians. A lot of our folklore is just dying because we don’t have such a system. I believe it will enrich the society.
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