In Guyana a dried stick driven into the ground will sprout leaves and grow roots. In Guyana the rivers flow clear and cool over gravel bottoms, and the water is the shade of strong tea. In Georgetown, the capital, where the ground is three feet below sea level and canals line every road and are 10 feet deep and six feet wide, the ditches are full of guppies, males with electric green and neon orange coloured tails fanning as they hunt for mud-brown females. In Georgetown the deep, wide canals are criss-crossed with pipes that 12-pound rats use as passageways to and from the city.

In Georgetown I was a student at St. Rose’s High School, run by headmistress Sister Hazel who never caned me because I was white. At St. Rose’s nuns taught me how to write with a fountain pen, and I showed them because, although I started my two years there with a Canadian education that they said would bring down the school average, I ended the first year as top girl in my form. At St. Rose’s High School the girls liked classics because it was taught in the library, a room high up in the ancient wooden school with shuttered windows facing out on Church Street where the wide boulevard was filled with fountains and market boys splashed naked in the water.

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In a Garden