There are almost two hundred thousand people living in Georgetown. Yet, I am often asked by acquaintances about places to rent in the city. While many people are native to the city and own their homes, there are many who rent. Some can afford to rent houses, some settle for small bottom flats, or, one or two-bedroom apartments and some even share houses, all just to be in Georgetown. Some people move to the city because of work. But as with other cities in the world, there are many people who simply like to be where most of the action is.
When I was a child in the country, I spent a lot of time outdoors playing in open spaces. From my experience with relatives who lived in Georgetown, children in the city mostly spent time indoors playing games or watching television. With the advent of the internet, however, one might find that more children growing up in the country are also opting to spend more time indoors.
I remember also a new consciousness about language when I started attending school in Georgetown. Although most Guyanese speak some form of Creolese, while attending school in Georgetown I found myself dropping much of the country twang to fit in with the city children who spoke more perceived Standard English. I also had other friends who were from the country who did the same thing.
Though Creolese is widely spoken in Guyana, sometimes it might be difficult to understand people from different parts of the country who may use a different form of the language. There are also those who look down on Creolese. Many people believe that those who speak perceived Standard English speak ‘properly,’ but does that mean that Creolese is not ‘proper language’? No. It is ‘proper’ language and it is one of the things that make us a unique nation. It is what most Guyanese speak on some level and it borrows from the languages our fore-parents would have spoken before slavery and indentureship.
Because of Georgetown’s large population, there are many areas where families do not have large yard spaces for children to play. Often, one would encounter children playing in the street because it is the only option in their immediate surroundings. But in the country area, there are many vast land spaces. Often, families have space that can accommodate another house or two. Last week, while traveling up to Berbice, I was reminded about this and how beautiful country life really is.
Berbice is one of those places I’ve always loved to travel to. I consider it a creative person’s paradise. It is one of those places one can escape to, in the process of conceptualising and creating. Essequibo also offers the same benefits and I’m sure others can attest to travelling to places such as the Rupunnuni and finding that kind of tranquility.
As I travelled along the East Coast, I was reminded of my love for country life. The children on their way to school, the street corners lined with people waiting for transportation, people relaxing in their homes or at a corner shop, and animals grazing; it all felt familiar and like home.
There is, however, one thing that stood out during the trip to and from Berbice. It was alarming to see the number of houses up for sale. And not only ones on sale but in many instances buildings which appeared to have not seen life in a while. Many of these seemingly abandoned buildings were not dilapidated.
A while ago, I had heard that people were migrating from Berbice in droves and some were just abandoning their homes. Why would anyone abandon a house when there are many people wishing for a place to lay their heads? While Berbice is not the only place from where many people are migrating, it is not the norm for so many houses to be on sale or to have been abandoned.
I suppose it indicates that some of the immigrants have no intentions of returning here. Only they can say what they might have ran from. Some folks might also get caught up in the idea of a ‘bed of roses’ wherever they would migrate to. Unfortunately, that is an inaccurate dream and can be a rude awakening for many.
However, though the United States has its share of problems as with everywhere else in the world, many Guyanese will not resist the call of places like the United States, Canada and England. And this appears true of many residents of Berbice.
When one passes through places like Mahaicony, the vastness of the land is amazing. I thought about all those people who have applied and have been waiting for a piece of land for years. And the many who have been renting their entire lives.
In my home village, Buxton, ancestral lands are a key part of the village experience. Our ancestors would have purchased lands and those lands pass from generation to generation. It is hardly ever a problem to find a spot to build.
As I pondered this dilema on the trip to Berbice and the reality in Georgetown, I wondered, how many Georgetown residents would be willing to move to Berbice? How many would abandon the city to enjoy the quiet of country life? How many would want to explore the possibility of planting because there is land to do so and much more? And how many would embrace Creolese, not just as a country man or woman thing, or as a way of not speaking properly, but just as a Guyanese language that is also ‘proper’ and is truly ours. Who knows?