Photos by Joanna Dhanraj
Block 22 is situated in Wismar, Linden and although the village has approximately 1,500 residents, not many Guyanese have heard of it. Block 22, if not famous for anything else, is surely famous for its blue water lake that attracts locals and foreigners alike.
To get to the village, one crosses the Wismar Bridge and takes a winding road that seems to run on for a long time. The World Beyond Georgetown got there after receiving three different directions from three different men, to hear ind oldies belting from one house to the next.
Dark clouds hung overhead but this didn’t diminish the jollity. Almost everyone was out; some persons at work, some still mellowing in their time off and the children up and down the hills on bicycles.
Judy Deputron has spent the last 30 years of her life in Block 22; she moved from Wakenaam. “My mom and us came here to live when I was 12 years old. The place was more lively; I believe it had more people then. Here’s brighter than Wakenaam,” she said.
The area was bushy when her family arrived, but there were hardly any mosquitoes; she slept without a net but today sleeping without one would be far from a good idea.
Another thing that changed as the years went by was that the people intermingled less though reserved would be the wrong word to describe the friendly people here.
Judy works along with the Community Infrastructure Improvement Project, weeding the grass at the roadside; she works 16 days a month. It is difficult, the woman said, especially with a disabled son and another who attends the Wisburg Secondary School.
Having noticed a drain-like concrete structure in the streets around, I inquired about this. Judy explained that it’s called a “soak-way”. The soak-way collects water when it rains to avoid the water from running into the yards and prevents it from flooding the roads. However, there were still streets that were flooded.
Most of her shopping is done at Figgy’s Shop or Arlene which are both situated in the village.
Judy is a member of the Miracle Times Full Gospel Church and goes every Sunday.
She wishes for better roads and for streetlights.
In a yard surrounded with what looks like lemongrass lives 71-year-old Enid Thom fondly referred to as Miss Enid, Granny or Mommy. A visit inside her beautiful, tiny home showed that she loves artificial flowers as they took up all the space on the table and covered the walls; she pointed out the new bouquets she recently added to her collection. Enid, a mother of six and grandmother of over 20, was one of the earliest people to settle here.
At the time we met, she was glued to the television watching a movie. She gets channels 8 and 13; some people would be able to catch channel 10, she said, but not her.
“I used to live in One Mile and used to see the place when I on my way to the shop and every time I pass here I used to tell myself ‘I can’t live in that bush’. It hardly had houses and I had a nephew used to come in here to cut wood as he was building his house, so I used to come along with he to help he. Is then I see this place and fall in love with it. A gentleman gave it to me to live on; it was his sister’s place. When you walk through here, it ain’t had a pathway, your feet used to got to part the grass,” she said.
“Before they call here Block 22, they used to call it Vietnam… the people used to deh arguing, arguing, they just call it Vietnam. Since I come here and live, I am quite happy. Yes, teeth and tongue does bite but we don’t keep enemy.”
When she first arrived, she bought her groceries from a shop in Wisroc. Today she prefers to shop “across the river”.
Back then with no water, she took her laundry to wash at the creek then waited for it to dry before returning home. The waiting afforded her the time to relax and chat with others who would have gone to bathe or do their laundry. Enid shared that she could never drink the creek water and so she walked with a bottle every day to work then and took a little bit home every day.
At present, the pensioner volunteers at the One Mile Health Centre.
Reflecting on Christmas and Old Year’s in her young years, Enid said her mother would go all out for Christmas with the baking, cooking and cleaning and not have much interest in Old Year’s but not her she noted, even if it meant not getting it done for Christmas she welcomes the New Year with a spanking clean house, black-eyed peas cook-up and pepperpot, ginger beer and at least “a small change” in her hand.
Enid, a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA), joined her congregation at the One Mile SDA Church where they welcomed the New Year at sunset. Once they were finished at 9 or 10 o’clock, she headed back home to celebrate with her neighbours in Block 22.
Barbara George arrived from Victory Valley some 13 years ago and met about nine families already living through her street called Blinking Street. Some of the other streets she became familiar are Friggy Corner after the Friggy Shop, where people get their groceries and Icee Road.
Block 22 has always been lively for Barbara as well as a peaceful abode. Barbara, who works at the Upper Demerara Magistrate’s Court said that in this part of Wismar, you would find teachers, nurses, hairdressers, drivers, masons and persons who work at BOSAI.
Barbara noted that persons can access the village either by hire cars for the cost of $100, from the car park in the town centre or take a taxi.
When asked what she would like to see improved on in her community, it was no surprise that Barbara said the roads needed to be redone or fixed; almost all the streets were riddled with potholes and many were eroded in some parts. Streetlights, she added, would certainly boost the look and would be beneficial to prevent persons stepping into potholes at night.