BY RALPH SEERAM
She Googled her hometown in Colombia and was very excited that she can show me her home, the school she attended and even some homes that she said were owned by big drug lords in Colombia.
I was travelling to Guyana shortly so I was attempting to show Susana, the Legal Assistant where I was going and of course where my old home was located in New Amsterdam.
I was having some difficulty locating the landmarks and my home in New Amsterdam, when I noticed a sky blue spot on my screen. Yes, I had found my landmark; it is the old Catholic Men’s Club swimming pool, CMC as it was commonly referred to.
With some nationalistic pride I proudly drew her attention the pool I used to swim in many, many, years ago. She examined the screen looked carefully and exclaimed “but Ralph that is only one pool in the whole town”.
I was deflated and speechless; I tried to recover by pointing out that according to my friend, Gregory, a second pool is nearly completed but I can tell that she was not impressed.
Highlighting the CMC pool was a mistake in the sense that in Florida where I live, there is a swimming pool around every corner. In some Sub Divisions almost every house has a swimming pool. I have no doubt that my street has more swimming pools than the entire Guyana.
I reflected on this contrast while I sat by my pool which is literally eight steps from my kitchen. I have not swum in that pool for the entire year and only once last year. One would think that for a person who grew up in a town with no swimming pool, I would be in that water every day. It caused me to reflect on my boyhood days. How did I ever learn to swim? I consider myself a strong swimmer.
I did not realize it at the time, but I grew up in a town that had the largest if not longest swimming pool in Guyana. It wasn’t in the traditional sense, but it was our swimming pool. Where is this pool in New Amsterdam? It is along Republic Road (known as Back Dam road in my day) stretching from Essex Street to Vryheid Road.
Now don’t go looking for it now because what you will find is a dirty canal so stuffed with weeds, that anybody can perform a miracle like Christ and walk across water. But it was not so in my youth.
Back in the day “ back dam canal” was a pure clean canal with healthy black water from the Canje Creek. It was the town’s reservoir and a back up for the fire department when the hydrants ran out of water. It did not matter to us that the next day we were going to drink the water we were swimming in.
It was not without its excitement, one had to look out for the police as well as the truant officer. In my case I was not afraid of either. I was mortally afraid getting caught by my grandmother.
There were some unspoken rules for swimming in “backdam”. You had to graduate from swimming in the muddy ponds in Vryman’s Erven before joining the “big boys”, and to graduate as a swimmer, you had to do the” mile” that is swimming from one end to the other end of the canal, a distance of one mile.
Now there were swimming pools in Berbice in my youthful years, these were the “whites only” pools on the sugar estates, and guess what, I was one of the few “locals” to swim in the Blairmont Estate swimming pool.
My late brother, Gordon, was very politically conscious for his age, He decided to show those “white people” that we can swim in it, so we will scale the fence get a running start, plunge in the pool, clothes and all, emerging from the other side and continue running. By the time the guard realized what was going on we were gone.
This modus operandi was quite successful. however the fun went out of that. The Berbice River and the Canje Creek were beckoning; they were more adventurous
As I came out of this nostalgic moment, it dawned on me why I swam only once in two years in my pool. It was no fun. Swimming was fun; swimming was an adventure for me. So if you feel deprived from swimming in a pool in Guyana, go to Number 63 Beach, find a river, find a lake, find a canal (if you can find a clean one without plastic and foam containers) and have fun.
For me I am going to bring excitement back to my swimming. I will ask my neighbour to host a pool party with topless bikini clad women, I am sure you know why I can’t have it in my pool.
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