After an entire day being held up in my house due to extreme flooding, in the late afternoon, I managed to find a dry path to the road and walked down the street. I overheard one of my neighbors glancing at the damage from the flooding and saying to her relative, “This is Guyana, the land of many waters.” I thought that seemed a fitting title for this blog post.
Indeed, Georgetown experienced some intense flooding on Thursday. Two of my roommates and I were unable to leave our home because the flooding was so bad. We had to wait out the day indoors, as if it were a snow day in Alaska or the Northeast. I heard it raining all night. There was thunder. I thought nothing of it, I knew I had an umbrella to use to get me to work in the morning. That wasn’t enough though. When I pulled myself out of bed, two if my roommates were sitting home drinking tea. “Go look outside,” they said to me. I opened the front door and quickly realized I would not be going to work that day. It had rained so hard, for so long, that our house was only a few inches away from being flooded. Our driveway had become a swamp, our yard was gone, our garage was covered by a layer of water, our gate was covered in a few inches of water. Even the road outside of our house was almost gone–the strip in the middle was all that remained. I called into work to say I would not be able to make it in. Unfortunately, Georgetown floods more easily than the village my school is in, so school was still in session. I would later find our that my boys were absorbed into the grade 6 class for the day, so I was relieved to know they were still being educated. No freebies for my kids!
As the day progressed, the water rose. Soon, the water was up over our front step and only a little lip on our doorstep about a centimeter high held the water off from coming in our house. Over the course of the morning, my two stranded roommates and I fought off the encroaching river, leaks from the ceiling, and all of the cockroaches who were coming into our house to escape the rising water. In total, we had 12 leaks, killed 10 cockroaches, and dodged the BIGGEST bullet–the water never came in our house. By the afternoon the water began to recede. That doesn’t mean that the day wasn’t filled with a little anxiety though. We knew, for the most part, that we would not be harmed from the water, but it sucks not knowing whether your home is going to become filled with filthy water from out of the gutters.
The gutters! And the canals! When the Dutch came to Guyana way back in the day, they knew what they were doing. Since Georgetown sits six to nine feet below sea level, they built a series of canals along most of the major streets. These canals help to stave off flooding. The problem we have today, in 2014, is two things. First, there is so much garbage in the gutters that it clogs them and doesn’t allow water to move through. Second, many of the canals are being filled in to create more parking in the city. Considering what happened on Thursday, I hope someone decided to reconsider getting rid of canals and instead opts to build a few more.
The major issue is the state of the water–it’s the nastiest water I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine what our home would have looked and smelled like had it entered through the front door like an uninvited guest. When the water receded, I was able to get out and see the damage. We were lucky–very lucky. The homes and businesses that had water enter were hit hard. It was still difficult to navigate the streets, and some of them were impassable, but it was so nice to be out of the house. Today, I bought long boots. No one should have to be exposed to the water, and with December approaching, I know we’re in for more rain, more water, and more flooding.
My roommates and I always joke about how we’re the opposite of “Upper East Siders”, we’re “Lower GT-ers”. Today, this indeed rang true. We live in one of the lower areas of the city, a poor area. We are at risk of flooding in our home. We live in poverty. We live in the thick of all the troubles that come with being poor and living in the third world. More on this later, but first, here is a handful of photos I managed to get throughout the very wet day. Also, at the bottom of the page, there is a video someone took of what the city looked like: