I have heard and read many things about Guyana. Many conflicted with what I know, having lived here all my life. I have read about Georgetown being a quaint town because of the wooden structures described as beautiful architecture; I have read about the tree-lined streets and the canals that drain the city.
But I never read about the country having only three paved highways. I racked my brains to find the other unpaved highways and could find none. I am familiar with the roadway linking the city to Berbice; the other linking the city to Timehri; one linking the city to Parika; the one linking New Amsterdam to Crabwood Creek; the roadway linking Timehri to Linden; and the others that run through the city.
The only unpaved roadways are those leading to the farms aback of the villages. I live in Tucville and I drive all the way on paved surfaces to get home. Even if I try I cannot find an unpaved surface.
I drive in Sophia; I drive in many communities and the only unpaved surfaces are those tracks made by people taking shortcuts to their neighbours.
Perhaps the writer of an article about Guyana in the New York Times, can tell us about our vehicles that are ubiquitous; about the way our children look as they go to school. I am certain that he never saw a barefooted school child in this “impoverished” country.
Earlier, I spoke about choosing to remain in Guyana. In 1994 my family migrated because of the pull factor. My wife’s mother had moved to the United States and she sponsored her children. I left, spent six weeks and returned, because I was comfortable in that country.
Over the years, many of my colleagues migrated as Guyanese were wont to do. I taught and trained many and some have migrated, again because of the pull factor.
Yesterday I read a piece by a man named Clifford Strauss, who says, “A vast majority of college-educated youths emigrate to the United States or Canada, while those who stay behind experience high rates of H.I.V. infection, crime and suicide.”
If what he says is true, then I am experiencing a high rate of HIV infection, crime and suicide. Mr. Strauss has condemned all resident Guyanese to being HIV infected, a criminal or a victim of crime and a potential suicide.
I suppose he saw our sick people all over the place. He saw many people walking around with vials of poison or a length of rope. He saw many gunmen or other criminals robbing people.
When last I checked, Guyana had a lower HIV infection rate than many developed countries and the figure was declining. Guyana’s crime rate is lower than many big cities in the United States and it is no longer the suicide capital of the world.
It would be interesting to note how many of Exxon’s employees have been victims of crime.
But people who read Mr. Strauss and who never heard of Guyana would now see my beautiful country through darkened lenses. They are going to believe him. They are going to look at Guyanese in their neighbourhoods and say to them that they have escaped HIV infections.
If that is not bad enough, Mr. Strauss talks about villages sitting along rivers that snake through rainforests. Indeed, there are Amerindian communities that sit alongside rivers but this writer, in his ignorance, contends that the drainage canals in most of Guyana are in fact rivers.
I am willing to bet that most Guyanese live in homes that are better than many people in the country in which Mr. Strauss lives. Not only are they living more comfortably, but they are also more intelligent than the people around him. This could be put to the test.
He knows that Guyanese who leave to reside in his country are so much better than his kinfolk that his country is now being goaded by these Americans to keep out immigrants. My sisters, my brother, my children after just a few years not only own their homes. They have other homes which they rent to Mr. Strauss’s fellow Americans.
There are Guyanese shooting laser beams into space with NASA; some being among the best surgeons in his country; they teach his irascible and rude children, fashioning them to be better citizens.
It is common knowledge that our riverine Amerindians use canoes, but what does he expect people to use if the waterways are the only link with other communities? I am certain that much of what he writes are embellished anecdotes.
Then he says that most of the country is without electricity. What year is he talking about? We were challenged, given our landscape, but we have taken electricity to every community where the population is concentrated. Even the United States has communities that do not have electricity and that is a filthy rich country.
If that is not bad enough, this pompous man from his pedestal decides that we Guyanese would be drowned in money. We do not know about money so the few dollars that we would get from Exxon would make us giddy.
This is a country that is firmly rooted in agriculture. It has been this way for some two centuries. Why he believes that will change is anybody’s guess.
We do not have the sports facilities that the United States has, but that does not mean that we are backward. Our athletes are making waves in his country.
We do not play football in muddy patches. Two boys may kick a ball on any plot of land that is convenient, but so do Americans with a baseball or a basketball.
He has exposed me to what Donald Trump calls fake news. I expect him to return and I would like to meet with him to give him a tour of my country at my expense. And I expect him to write the truth if he ever returns.
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