At home in Suriname
I open my eyes, woken up by a jolt of the bus, I look outside and see a red road with lots of green along the right side and power pylons along the left side. At the side of the road I see a walking bundle of twigs; someone is walking underneath it, obviously, but the Indian is dwarfed by the amount of twigs he or she is carrying. We are on our way to Brownsberg. Ella, a former colleague, has joined us and when I turned around I see that her blonde hair and her face are now completely red from the sand on the road. Will her white skirt ever be white again?
Brownsberg is a 500-metre high mountain which is popular among eco tourists. It offers a wonderful view of the Brocopondo lake. We spend two nights there sleeping in hammocks and in the restaurant we eat the most delicious dishes for a very reasonable price. The walk to the Witikreek, at the foot of the mountain, is a high point for us. It's a crystal-clear stream in which we wash our sweating bodies.
On the way back I hardly dare move my legs, because they are more or less stuck beneath the dashboard and every time the driver needs to change to second gear, I have to lift up my leg. But on the way there I learned that in the back you get a bad shaking, and it's not so bad in the front.
In a country as green as Suriname and with such an extensive rain forest, you can of course expect a lot of rain. There's a long and a short rainy season and in between a long and a short dry season. But what does that mean exactly? From our first day in Suriname we have been wondering about this. What can we expect? A whole week of rain?? A heavy shower every day? No one is able to tell us, opinions even differ as to when the rainy season is supposed to start. In the meantime it's clear that the short rainy season has lasted a very long time, it had already been going on for two months when we arrived in January and it lasted until the end of March. April was relatively dry and the long rainy season started at the beginning of May. This one started with a depression in the interior, which was accompanied by huge flooding. Later on, it rained for three days in Paramaribo and Domburg, with only a few dry spells. Is this what we should expect in the next few weeks? Yes, according to some people, but fortunately it's not as bad as that. We have a few dry days with the occasional shower. Which is a lot more pleasant. We are expecting to get plenty of rain until halfway through July, but that's how it is.
What does this rain mean for us? Rowing to the shore in the pouring rain when we have to go to work and then sit next to someone on the bus while you're soaking wet is of course very embarrassing. Then there's the laundry which takes three days to dry. And everything on board is becoming mouldy, floors, walls, curtains, pillows, there are mouldy patches all over the place, so we are constantly cleaning and washing things. But despite these inconveniences, we are still enjoying our time here.
A Bavaria ship sails up the river. We wonder what its nationality is, since there's no flag and the guest flag is missing as well. From the shore we see an elderly man who drops his anchor very close to ours. When he rows to shore we mention this to him. He turns out to be a German who is sailing alone on a ship, the Spanish registration number of which has been painted over. We ask him to anchor somewhere else but he assures us that that isn't necessary. We quickly go on board so we can at least install the fenders. We are just in time, but our evening is spoiled. Fortunately, when the German returns on board, he realises he should anchor a little further down.
A few days later we hear he has been arrested by the police. We already thought this ship without a name and flag smacked of crime. Later on the water police comes by and tells us that the German has been sent back to his Heimat and that the owner will come and pick up his ship soon. The German had rented the ship on Lanzarote and had simply sailed away with it. Unfortunately for him, the ship was equipped with a so-called GPS tracker. This allows the ship to be tracked all over the world using satellite signals.
A few days later the police ask us to stop by at the station, which is right next to our mooring place, by the way. We wonder what is wrong this time. Fortunately, it's good news: Mickey, our outboard motor which was stolen four months ago, has been found again. We have to go and identify it at another police station. The next day, Lieuwe, a nice bakra who is here on business, gives us a lift. It's unmistakably our Mickey, because the serial number is the same as the one we copied in the manual at the time, but it has been very badly treated. We will have to wait for a few more weeks until we can take it home and pamper it.
Our daily life
On the days when we are not working, we meet a lot of people with all sorts of different backgrounds. We are invited to a Hindu birthday party, where we have a great time making music and dancing. We think it's very special to see a grandmother dance with her grandchild. We enjoy experiencing Suriname life up close.
Our "own" Grandmother, who has worked in her own place Sandora at the waterfront in Domburg for sixteen years, is retiring and her eating house will be closed. Jan Willem and Petra from De Witte Raaf help organise a big party for Grandmother. With her seventy years she is still loose-limbed and has no problems lifting a crate of beer or a big bucket of water. She loved keeping up with the sailors' lives and she can giggle uncontrollably when people tell jokes. From now on, she's going to take her time to smell the roses, or rather, the orchids, and work in her garden.
Hans has caught a virus and, as a result, has a terrible bellyache and diarrhea. Fortunately, he is only confined to his bed for one day and after three days, he's already fancying a beer again. Dory has sprained her ankle on one of the pavements in Paramaribo, which are extremely well paved. Luckily for her, the damage isn't too bad and she can walk again soon. But her ankle will be sore and swollen for a while.
With everything we are experiencing here, we feel at home in Suriname.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)