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.
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.
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.
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”
“I am Julie”
“I am Tavishni”
And one by one they all told me their names.
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.
Then again, I come from a family of history buffs and nature lovers.
What a great day!