Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saramaccan Homecoming

Jill's Peace Corps Response position was not due to start until December 1st, so we had a few days to spend in the original village that she lived in for 2 years, Drepada. Drepada is a small Saramaccan village located close to Brokopondo. There are usually about 100 mainly women and children living there at any given time.

(Welcome back to Drepada, in front of one of the new houses being built)

She had not been in much contact with the village since she left in 2006, but was able to get a message out to the village that Mike and her would be there, arranging a house to stay in. The road used to be unpaved and took several hours on a bumpy, red road. It has been paved recently (Chinese interests) and the drive only takes about an hour or so, but the wagi makes several stops along the way, so the ride ends up taking longer.  (we had already stored the TA in a secure garage, given that the village where we will live is only accessed by river, so public transportation it is)

Jill was excited to see everyone again and for Mike to see the place that she talks about so often. She was also anxious to see if she still remembered the language (she does).

We spent 4 full days in Drepada. Stenda, the woman who runs the only store in town and was one of Jill's good friends, kept us eating well the entire time. As is typical with new people to Saramaccan villages, the kids were at our house all the time. They loved using Mike as a jungle gym, trying to braid Jill's short hair, etc. It was a good reminder of how life will be for the next 6 months here in Suriname.

(Jill with Stenda - she was helping me use her sewing machine to sew kousus, the traditional skirt that all the women wear)

Jill had a few friends from Guyana who work gold in Brokopondo, so we went to Brokopondo one night to see them. Marlon now owns 2 pontoons and is the boss of an 8 man operation. He is doing very well with 2 kids and a new house. It was great to catch up with them again over some djugos (1 liter Parbo beers) at Jack's, what used to be the only store in Brokopondo.

(Jill with Marlon in front of his pontoons. The crew works by having one man go to the bottom of the river with a dive mask attached to a tube with oxygen, and sucking the bottom of the river with a long vaccuum like pipe. One pontoon sucks up the gold, which is heavy and sticks to the bottom of the filter on the pontoon. The other pontoon sucks up the gravel on the bottom of the river and is sold to a buyer in Brokopondo. The gravel makes enough to break even. The gold is pure profit.)

(The men live on the pontoon)

Some things have changed in the area, like the addition of several supermarkets, nicer houses, and lots of new kids, but in reality, most has stayed pretty much the same.

(Jill's name in the village was Lobimai. The girl sitting next to her was named after her when she was born. Last time Jill saw her she was just able to stand on her own. This time she followed Jill everywhere. Jill was very honored that her parents call her Lobimai in the village and that her school name is Jill.)

(kids, kids, kids)

(at the river, where everyone used to have to wash dishes, clothes, bathe and drink. Thanks to the Rotary Club in Higginsville (Jill's hometown), Jill was able to do a water project that is functional and supplies clean drinking water to the village. People still go to the river to wash dishes and clothes, but they don't have to drink the polluted water anymore.)

(Mike as the human jungle gym)

(soccer and slagball are played every afternoon)

(Jill with some buddies)

(this little critter is not to be touched)

(Jill with her former counterpart, Percy)

(walking around the village)

(talking to Edith in front of my old house)

The visit to Drepada was a whirlwind, and provided some insight into what our stay in Tutubuka will be like.  It will be interesting, fun, challenging, hot, rewarding, and certainly a lot more...

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