Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Chim Chim Cher-ee!

This morning I awoke to the sound of a vigorous bangarang coming from the roof of my host's house. Unfortunately, he had already gone to work... if he hadn't, things might have gone much better. So I rip aside the sheet and dash outside to see who is trying to peel back the roof and gain entry to our house, only to discover a carpenter beginning the work of reroofing the place. Like most houses in Guyana, the house has a zinc roof, alike in all ways to corrugated tin. And like tin roofs all over the world, this one was rusty and starting to develop holes. Whenever there's a downpour two or three spots emit a spattering stream of water all over the furniture. So my host has needed to have his roof re-zinced for some time now -- no argument there.

The problem, though, became quickly evident. As the carpenter began to rip back sections of the zinc roof, exposing the boards that serve as the underside of the roof, a rain of fine soot began to fall inside the house. At first it was a light dusting, but soon became a veritable snowfall of black ash. This was the accumulation from years of burning cane fields dropping their black snow all over New Amsterdam, a regular occurrance. Several times during the week the sky will be filled with stands of drifting black ash and burned bits of sugar cane rushes. It seems the cane workers burn the cane so the razor-sharp leaves don't cut them; the result is this occasional snow of ash.

As the first bright beams of sunlight began to pierce the inside of the house, illuminating the ash-filled air, I saw my freshly-washed bedsheets become coated with black dust. My pillow, my newly-washed clothes, my backpack, my suitcase, my books -- everything covered similarly. My room was not solely hit, either; my host's room was also coated in soot. Just before I left to go to work the old zinc was totally removed and the process of installing the new zinc was beginning. No doubt things are far worse than last I saw them since all the hammering and nailing will shake loose the remainder of the soot.

When I told my host about this, he sucked his teeth (a universal Caribbean expression of disgust) and dashed back to the house on his motorcycle to see what was going on. It seems the person he hired to do the work subcontracted someone else and so failed to give my host proper warning: normally, he would have covered everything in the house with sheets to facilitate easy clean-up. But now the house is wrecked and will take a major cleaning overhaul.

All there is to do is laugh about it now. Fortunately, I tucked my valuables safely away under the bed when the first soot began to fall. Now all that remains is to wash, dust, sweep, or mop every square inch of the house. Sigh.

No comments: