Sweet Merodia

Standard

the Boat Trip

Somewhere around the third day we took a historical/ educational boat trip up the Suriname River. We left early early. The rain was already coming down, it was going to be a muddy day. The pier was just a few blocks away from out apartment so we walked, single filed, along the left handed traffic.

We boarded the Sweet Merodia for a journey into 18th century suriname,  an eco tour created by novelist, activist, researcher and the daughter of the first Surinamese President, Cynthia McCleod.

On our way to the Sweet Merodia

Views from the boat

After 13 years of historical research Cynthia McCleod wrote the novel The Free Negress Elisabeth – Prisoner of Color. One of my favorite books – I have a signed copy  : )

“The novel chronicles the life and experiences of the intriguing personality of Elisabeth Samson, who during slavery was a free black woman envied for her enormous wealth, intelligence and beauty.” – wikipedia.

I partially agree with this quote except it leaves out the very thing that made her interesting: her  class struggles and her persistent loneliness because of it.

As we cruised up the river our tour guide handed out maps so we could see exactly how many plantations were once here. And there were many; plantations to the left, plantations to the right –  for miles. I couldn’t help but think about Elisabeth Samson and all the Dutch colonist who came to buy her dresses and fabrics yet refused to dine with her.

Here is map no.1 - the plantations are drawn to the left and right of the river

Plantation Entrance


Doesn’t my aunt look great in those glasses!

Walking through the plantations didn’t completely recall the days of slavery for me; they are all beautiful farms now  filled with Coconut, Tamarind, Noni and Calabash trees, to name a few.

But  THEN  we stopped at  Plantation Rest & Work. Disgusted and humbled by the name I slowly took it all in.

Walking through Rust & Werk

Tamarindo Tree

Calabash Tree

Fresh Picked Noni

 “Turtle and Crocodile CheckPoint”

Baby Crocodiles

Love fresh Coconut

The whole gang. plus one extra

One of the things I REALLY  wanted to do while I was there is visit an Orphanage.

As it so happened our last stop on the tour was a visit to a place called Alkmaar Kinderhuis.

I have ALWAYS  wanted to adopt  from Suriname  and meeting all these bright and beautiful children confirmed that. We were taken to the girls section and led to a shaded area. Most of the children were across the yard, huddled in a group looking at us. I noticed some of them talking to my cousin so I walked over and put my best Dutch  words forward

“Hello. Hoe gaat het?”

Nearly all of them covered their mouths and laughed.

OK, tough crowd.

“Ik ben Remi.”  This got a few more laughs. I must’ve sounded like a total yankee struggling with one of the most difficult European languages.. hey I’d laugh too.

Then one little girl said “Remi?” and another said  “Remi!” as if to correct the first girl. After her, another little girl spoke my name almost as if she just wanted to try it out on her tongue.

Looking at the first child who spoke, I said  “ wat is je naam?”

“I am Melissa”

then

“I am Julie”

and

“I am Tavishni”

And one by one they all told me their names.

Alkmaar Kinderhuis – The House of Happiness

The Headmaster and the girls

I showed them ALL the pictures on my camera; mostly pictures from the city, Paramaribo but I felt terrible when I got to the dead Monkey. Half of them screamed, the other half laughed “Monkey, monkey.”

I had to change the subject quick quick – as I too am not fond of dead monkeys and it didn’t help that they had a very cute pet Monkey named …Peter ? within an eyeshot. So I showed them a video of my mom dancing to The Blue Hornets. Everyone loves that video and it always gets a laugh. whew!

After that, the Headmaster came over and told the children to show us their classrooms. With pride, they showed us their books and their seats and their work. Then they led us upstairs to their sleeping room and showed off their dolls and stuffed animals, their beds and even their clambu’s (mosquito nets). They were like a group of  butterflies; light, colorful and happy.


The dinner bell sounded and in total silence, they  vanished.  As we walked back down we heard them singing their prayers  then the small sounds of children eating. Each one of them touched my heart.

There are so many orphanages in Suriname. This was just one.

             

                              Despite the rain and the mud we had a good time.

Then again, I come from a family of history buffs and nature lovers.

What a great day!

The City

Standard

Late last night six of my cousins arrived from Amsterdam. We stayed up even later talking and reminiscing,  the excitement must’ve triggered a second wind in all of us. With them here we could get in and out of places easier and faster.

They know the city really well and have been here several times, so in the morning we took the BUS to the REAL fish market.

It was the same markets my brother and I found the other day but there were so many vendors and stalls we didn’t see at all.

In contrast to the bright and sunny Suriname, the market is quite dark. And like most market places, there is a distinct smell. As before, we went through the first market that sold dried herbs, clay, feathers, oils, and tinctures for whatever ails you. I totally missed the fact that this was also a juju market, a place to get items to practice white, red or black magic with.

After that, we split up and went our separate ways. I went with my cousin and sister to do some errands. I knew this was the best way to get a quick tour of downtown. I now know where to get everything. Even nice handmade furniture.

By the way, Suriname is quite famous for their wood.

We stopped for lunch where I became fixated not on the food but on this  sink… and the very orange soap.

It was time for a much needed siesta.

Its really hot here, did I mention that?  So we walk back to the bus but the bus wont leave until its full. At close to 3:30 in the afternoon, no one was on that bus. Waiting on that hot bus made me delirious. I shot some crappy video footage but I know my way around  more than yesterday. Can’t complain.

Below is a picture of our apartment.


And random pictures of the family

Back Row: Fritz, Tante Scene, Willem, Inge, Hannie, Ben
Front Row: Mom, Tante Gladys, Me, Carl,  Kuiky
We need a photo with Janin, Rodney, Freddy and Foyd..but I don’t think we’ll ALL be in the same place at the same time

The Birthday Party

Standard

I’ve appointed myself as my brothers trainer. Hope he doesn’t mind. Running through Paramaribo is a great way to explore the city. The roads are paved but there’s absolutely no sidewalk. So as I’m trying to imagine my Father’s walk to school, cars and trucks are zipping by on the wrong side of the road inches away from me, completely snapping me back into reality. We must look like a strange bunch my brother, cousin and I…just running and happy. I mean, no one else is running. oh well. Its pretty fabulous to include your exercise regime on a holiday. My 5k training isn’t compromised and before you know it my brother will be running a 5k too. Or maybe walking one.

Anyway,

Today was ALL about the 83rd Birthday of Mijnheer Pleisner (Mr. Pleisner), my mother’s friend’s father. Shirley and my Mom met in New York years ago and have been friends ever since and we were invited to this party months ago. Usually in Suriname, the birthday boy or girl receives a surprise serenade before dawn, like at 4 or 5 in the morning.  A family member leaves a door open for the chorus to enter through as they softly serenade the birthday person with religious song. Isn’t that sweet?

Well, needless to say we weren’t there for the serenade but just in time for the party.

Driving there took close to 40 minutes. The neighborhood was mostly residential, not like where we’re staying with cafe’s, restaurants, casino’s etc. The streets were narrow with only a few streetlights. I think we were in the hood. Suri-Style.

When we got to the house there was an old man fixing a motorbike inside the front porch along with a few seats for guests. Off to the side were several elders wearing Anisa’sthe suriname headscarf.  How you fold the Anisa sends a social message, for example “ I don’t care what you think of me” , “I’m looking for a husband” or “Let them talk”.   As soon as we settled in someone came out with a tray of drinks for us then asked if we’d like some Pinda Soep (Peanut Soup). Yumm. I haven’t had Peanut Soup since I was 12 years old!

After the soup we sat around talking. Apparently there were a lot of people inside  because every time I looked up there was someone new coming out. One lady came out with a baby – and started passing the baby around. But when that baby got to my brother, he wouldn’t let go.

Meanwhile, the guy is steadily working away on his bike and it starts to downpour. I don’t know if its because I’m all blissed out but I love  the rain storms here. I could watch them for hours.

I have no idea what the relationship was with this guy and the birthday boy but he was clanking away right until the food was served. 

The food took a long time but it was well worth the wait. Fritz wanted  to do something a little special for the birthday boy so he went out and bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. Wow, the old man ‘s face lit up. “Is this for me?” The other men in the room also froze with excitement. The party just got bumped up to another level. The eldest grandson, seated in the corner of the above photo, gave Fritz a serious look and said  “you want to drink?” My brother smiled ‘yes’. The grandson took the bottle away and returned with an ice cold bottle of the SAME THING! We all had a good laugh. It was one of those ‘great minds think alike’ moments.

From Left to Right: Antruwa, Yellow RIce, Baked Chicken (kip), Pom (cassava and chicken casserole),Rice and Peas, Pastay, (Chicken Pie), Pickled Cucumbers, Nasi Goreng, Bami.

So Good

FYI my brother ate whatever I couldn’t.

After the rain, they gave us a tour of the back yard. The house was long and had multiple houses in back of it for children, grand children and in-laws. In between each property the had vegetables growing and my new most favorite thing: CHICKENS

Watch the rainstorm and see the chicken coop here.

the first day

Standard

The morning of the first day my brother, Fritz woke up early early and went to scope out the neighborhood. Unable to contain his excitement he ran as far as he could go before passing out.  Upon his return he informed us of his findings: a fish market, men bringing in fish from the pier, a Marriott Hotel, our local supermarket Fei Yun, a Chinese Restaurant called Chi Min and a Breadfruit Tree. He stopped in Fei Yun and bought a bottle of coca-cola, excited about the fact that this one was made with sugar and not the dreaded Fructose Syrup that he hates. We accepted that. Until he pulled out the Rum he bought in Trinidad.

Ever seen a Breadfruit Tree?

Breadfruit Trees are on every other corner – amazing.

When he came back, he and I went for a walk…two adventurers together following their nose, trying not to look too much like tourists..I pledged not to take pictures at the same time as  him…after-all we’re not Japanese.

We made a few twists and turns, both of trying to remember the route our Driver/2nd Cousin Rodney took the night before. All roads led to Waterkrant Straat which runs along the Surinamse River (pron. Suri-nam-suh Reveer). We passed de Blumen Markt (Flower Market) de Palmtuin (Garden of Palms) a statue of Henck Arron (Former Prime Minister of Suriname, famous for giving the country its Independence from the Netherlands), a Rum Factory, the Italian Consulate, a Shell Gas Station , a Star Fruit Tree, the well known Torarica Hotel & Casino, Art Galleries…

People were out having drinks and ice cream, kids walking from school, (school in July? – Yes! The kids here stay in school until August 1 and resume school on October 1).

As we got closer to the Bus Station, the more chaotic things got. I think we both thrive on a little chaos every now and then, it keeps the blood hot.

As we’re weaving our way through the crowd of street vendors, bier drinkers, bus passengers, students, ferry passengers, hustlers, thieves, couples, bicycles, motorbikes…voila, we stumble upon an opening to a  huge market inside a hangar that runs 2 blocks deep, 4 blocks wide and 2 stories high. We’d hit the motherload. We don’t even know what these people, our people, are selling but we want it –  want to buy it –  want to taste it, touch it.

The first section  was mostly herbs and dried spices and fruits. The hunter- gatherer in us kicked in quick so we started looking for food to bring home. It was awesome. We didn’t have any Suriname Money (SRD) so we just bought a few things from the people who would accept the USD. We got Kouseband (Dutch) or Kousebabdy (Sranang Tongo)  aka Long String Beans,  Am Soi (Mustard Greens) and Plantains to get us through the night.


We took the long trek home to find my mother and sister well rested and just in time to meet our 2nd cousin/driver for a 2:30 appointment.

But right before we met him, my Sister and I shot up to Fen Yui’s to buy some oil and onions…we had learned that if we pay in American dollars, we’d get back SRD’s at a good rate. A good way to exchange money on the first day huh?

As we’re walking against the right handed traffic I see a woman go flying off her motorbike. I gasp. I freeze. I don’t know exactly what happened but she’s been thrown off her bike backwards, like super man flying backwards. My sister RUNS towards her to help. My reflexes are slow; my eyes well up. Kuiky, my sister, quickly covers her body with her white shawl and begins running healing energy on her body. I lift the heavy bike off her leg and walk it over to the side. After a struggle holding it up and scared it might fall back on me, I finally get the kickstand down. I turned off the ignition and put the keys in the lady’s purse. whew.

By now, a few minutes have passed, traffic simply goes within a few feet around her, a crowd forms; mostly Indian men from a nearby construction site. Someone calls 115, Suriname’s emergency line and soon after that a man pulls up right behind the accident victim and touches her – or feels her in the same manner my sister had done. She said he was ‘running energy’ on her. An undercover police officer shows up and begins asking questions. The construction workers speak in Nederlandse (Dutch), I recount what I saw in English, the officer looks from side to side and the man with the car helps her off the ground and off to the side. Frightening!

Comparatively, the rest of the afternoon was rather uneventful;

Suriname: First Impressions

Standard

First Impressions

July 11, 2011

Tropical Paradise

minus the water

Sun Kisses

Skin Smiles

Mango,Breadfruit Guava & Sour Orange Trees

Flowers, Food and Fruits I’ve never seen: Maripa anyone?

Monkey?

Everywhere

Lush Vegetation

Bushwomen, Hindustani, African,

Indian, Dutch, Indonesian, Muslim, Jew, Christian

Family Tree

History

Curiosity

Protective

Love

Relatives I’ve never met

Stories Untold

Unfold in my imagination

Left Side Driving, Dangerous Crossings

Look right then left then cross

Look right then left then cross

Look right then left then cross