Thursday, May 31, 2012

Maipafolo women’s coop in Tutu

These ladies are fantastic.  Over the past 6 months, Jill worked directly with a women’s coop of 6 hardworking women (and a man).  They have been increasing sales month after month, meeting continually, resolving important issues amongst themselves, saving a portion of each sale into a group savings fund, and improving their customer service interactions.  Not only that, they also took Jill and me under their wing for our time there.  Any question we had or need that arose, they would be there for us.  They will be missed.

It really is comforting to know that they are operating so strongly as a group, though.  That makes leaving a little easier. 

Most days there is no electricity during the day, so working as a group is difficult. The women do have a generator though. One day they chipped in for gas to run the generator and had a group work day.

(Resida cuts bags while Clea and Magaly sew)

(Rosie sewing)

Jill invited another PC volunteer, Juliana out to help set up the shop into a better retail space.  The results were outstanding!


(Jill, Alissa (PC volunteer in neighboring village of Tjaikondre), and Juliana working on the shop. Juliana was definitely in charge with her captain's stick.)

(captain's sticks on display)

(the new look - people were interested in checking out the changes)

(combs and paddles on display)

(the shop aesthetics are definitely improved!)

(this was far from the most white people that have been in the shop at once, some days 30-40 tourists come through, which is great for sales)

When we left the village, the group threw a surprise going away party at our house, complete with bamie (with chicken), an Italian Rum cake, and gifts from the coop. It was very nice of them and we greatly appreciated the gesture.

(presentation of gifts)

(us with one of the captains of the village and the two other Peace Corps volunteers living at our site, Josh and Alissa)

(The majority of the coop - Rosita, Jill, Serwin, Resida, and Clea)

(a view of the party from our front doorstep)

(it's not a party without kids dancing)

(the cake was also a big highlight with the kids)

The group also took us by boat to Atjoni to give us one last goodbye.

(waiting for the boat with Resida and Clea)

(on our way to Atjoni, leaving Tutubuka for good)

Visitor in Suriname

One of my (Mike's) friends since elementary school actually made the journey to Suriname to come visit us!  Johnny C came for a week long visit in April.  It was great to see him and to show off a few of the highlights here. For the ~3 hour ride to Atjoni (on our way to Tutu), John got to experience the lanti wagi (public bus) in all of its glory:

(Lanti wagi to Atjonie)

Our time in Tutu went fast since John and I had to get back to Paramaribo in order to join a tour to Galibi, where leatherback and green sea turtles go to lay their eggs each year.  Galibi is a small indigenous town on the coast of Suriname near French Guiana.  The tour included some of the best indonesian food I’ve had yet – homemade bami with a spicy peanut sauce that was heads above the rest.  No turtle stew was offered.

(Moiwana Memorial to the over 30 men, women, and children that were massacred in 1986 during the civil war)

(the lodge in Galibi where we stayed. It was nice and windy)

That afternoon we toured the Galibi zoo, a ramshackle set up run by a self-proclaimed converted poacher.  It was a great experience as you really get to interact with the animals.  In fact, before we went into the zoo, this little critter was running around loose behind our guide:

(capybara on the loose)

Me, John, and the 3 other dutchies on our tour then casually entered the zoo through the side hedges.  We still ended up paying the 7.50 SRD, which was well worth it for the following reasons:

(ocelot looking at something fun and tasty)

(sleepy ocelot)

(Mike with toucan)

(John feeds a toucan plastic buckles)

(I bet you've never seen a monkey on a capybara's back!)

(anteater in action with capybara in background. They burrow incredibly quickly. Which is good, otherwise they'd go hungry.)

(Mike with sloth. That sloth wanted to go up, to its natural habitat. It just kept looking upwards and lazily reaching for the sky.)

At night we took a boat further up the coast to where the turtles lay their eggs.  I had heard, and it makes sense, that you do not want to disturb the turtles.  However, between our guide and the WWF film crew on the scene, a turtle or 2 was most definitely disturbed.  They claimed it was fine, that once the turtle is in the process of actually laying the eggs it’s in a trance.  Well, it seemed to keep on laying its eggs, so maybe they didn’t mess with it too bad.  And on the selfish plus side, all of their flashlights led to some decent nightime photos (even with all the molesting going on, I still didn't use a flash).

(green sea turtle nesting. We sadly didn't see any leatherbacks)

(a glimpse of some future green sea turtles. Unless they get poached by the locals (going rate is apparently 1-3 SRD per egg, or US$0.30 - $1.00) or eaten by predators)

(that bright video camera light is the WWF film crew. Just like with a wedding photographer, I tried to put my camera on their shoulder and take the same pictures. They love it when you do that, right?)

(short video clip of a green sea turtle covering its nest before heading back out to sea)

(this tree is in Galibi. It must know a thing or two by now)

We also had the chance to tour the old French penal (hehehehe...penal) colony in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.   This prison was the temporary, lower-security prison that many prisoners were received into (from Europe) or were sent to when sick (as in the famous case of Papill├│n). It still didn't seem like a fun place to be.

(maybe the walls weren't this gross back then)

(The ankle shackle in its usual position, which was on the prisoners almost much of the day. The worst part is that their piss bucket was on the floor to the left. Take a minute and picture yourself standing up to the left of that "bed", with your left foot fixed. Yeah...not good...)

(check out IKEA's new wooden wedge pillow!)

(a refreshing bit of color)

(When punished, or maybe even when full, 50-100 (they told me, but I don't remember) prisoners were put into this one room, shackled to sleep. Keep in mind that they worked hard labor all day, washed clothes once a month, and this concrete room is located in French Guiana, which is not a cool climate)

(the squat plate in the punishment room. Turns out this was also called the "love corner." Romantic, huh?)

(this boat didn't make it out of there alive, either)

After returning to Paramaribo, we just had another night or two with John here in country.  So we tried to make the best of it.  After just a couple of good meals and drinks, it was already time to see John go.

(Mike and Jill outside of Ft Zeelandia)

(a great pancake lunch. More like crepes, but covered with anything you can imagine. Yum!)

(John, Mike, and Jill before John had to catch a plane back to Denver)

(weird things happen when you are waiting for an international flight departing at 6am)

Seeing a friend from home was a really nice way to break up our time in the village.  And for all of you that have threatened to come visit, John set the new expectation –stop threatening and pull the trigger!

International moto maintenance

Mike took advantage of a trip back to the states (Feb/Mar 2012) to grab a few maintenance items and spares for the TA.  Routine maintenance was due, but it was also a perfect time to try to straighten out the front end again (thanks to that mutt in Guatemala and low side in Venezuela).  I couldn’t easily track down used bars in good shape, so I sprung for some Renthal aluminum bars to replace the badly bent originals.

Pulling the entire front end apart and reassembling still left a bit of a twist to the handlebars, probably less than 1/4 - 1/2" difference in height of the grips.  It seems like the top triple clamp is somehow twisted, but only affecting the right handlebar clamp – I can easily lift off/slide on the top triple clamp with both forks in place.  That suggests that the forks, bottom clamp and steering stem are all in good alignment.  So I bridged the rubber mounts on the handlebar clamps with big ol' metric washers, and shimmed the right side handlebar clamp a touch to bring the bars into alignment.  It feels right on the road, and seems a helluva lot easier than trying to flex that top clamp straight.  More to follow if the situation changes…

New steering head bearings were installed!!!  This was much needed.  The old races were badly worn and had a bad dent just off center line.  Ahhhh, steering is sooo smooth now! 

(And a quick poll:  how many of you have used a machete while changing out steering head bearings?  In this case, making a drift out of a screwdriver.)

(cheap tool - all thread and washers - to push the outer races into place)

It was already time for a new air filter, this one was installed with a sexy new feature:  pantyhose.  Some friends of ours, Daan and Mirjam, told us about their successful use of the pantyhose prefilter on their Africa Twins which they are riding around the world.  If it’s good enough for the AT, why not for the TA?  And by simply replacing the pantyhose prefilter regularly, the air filter life should be extended substantially.

The forks got fresh fluid.  I brought back new oil/dust seals, but the old ones aren’t seeping, so the new ones will be spares until needed.  New wheel bearings.  And some other wiring updates (manual radiator fan switch installed) and inspections.

After a 30km test ride, the TA is up and ready to roll!  Now we just have some gear to sort through… After a 6 month hiatus, it's almost like we're starting all over again. Almost.