Sunday, June 3, 2012

Final thoughts on Suriname

Suriname is fascinating, silly, frustrating, beautiful, intriguing, hot, dirty, tranquil, … you name it, you can probably find it here.  Unless it’s a specific product that you’re looking for.  Then your probably shit outta luck.

Most of these comments are focused on our time in Tutubuka.  Life in Paramaribo would create a whole new set of thoughts (can you say, customer service?), but those thoughts would be similar to any city in a developing country, so not worth repeating here.

Mike’s Likes
  1. Killing ants (it’s like slow motion whack-a-mole with boiling water instead of a mallet.  But then Jill made me stop because I used too much of our propane to heat water.  Booooooo!).
  2. Killing kosombos, a type of biting fly that leaves a bad bite.  My fondest memory of kosombo killing was in a wagi on the way from Atjoni to Foto.  A guy took off his sandal and chased one fly around the VW van sized wagi until that fly was dead, probably about 10km distance to success. (I really don't like killing things that much, I swear.  It's just that these things are pesky.  Oh yeah, and mosquitoes, too.  I really like killing mosquitoes.  But that's it.)
  3. Randomness.  You never know what's going to happen on any given day, at any given time out in Saramacca.
  4. Saramaccan smiles.  Many Maroons are very serious a lot of the time.  But once you get 'em smiling, it's brilliant.
Jill’s Likes
  1. I loved working with the coop.  I had a lot of fun and developed great relationships with the members.  Plus, being a business advisor for a motivated group like this is something I would like to continue doing.  It was great to see positive improvements throughout the six months.
  2. I like living in the jungle and enjoy village life.  I think Saramaccans are extremely entertaining at all times and they never cease to make me laugh.  Going to work in the fields with the women is something I really value.  Having the chance of seeing random wildlife at any given time was also a plus.  I like eating the food, don't mind the boredom, and the heat doesn't bother me, so Suriname is a good fit for me.
  3. I also enjoyed killing insects of all kinds.  Towards the end of our stay, I became a highly skilled fly killer. My weapon of choice is an old Economist.
  4. I got to read 55 books in 6 months.

(Jill also enjoyed feeding our neighbor's scarlet macaw, Ralph. He came walking by our front door everyday once he figured out how to let himself out of his cage)

Mike’s Not-so-likes
  1. Lack of privacy.  The front door basically has to be open whenever you’re home. Kids come over all the time.  People will watch you eat, maybe asking for some.  If you’re not eating, they may just stare at you.  That’s awkward. 
  2. Lack of politeness (and maybe respect?).  “Dame som” is a very common phrase.  It means “give me some”.  There is really no equivalent for “please” in Saramaccan.  So the lack of politeness is mostly a cultural difference, I know, but seriously, at least ask my name or say something else before asking for whatever happens to be in my hands.
  3. Lack of freedom.  There is very little that you can do to escape the village.  There’s literally only 2 paths that you can walk out of town, you can walk around the village but you know exactly what conversation you will have all over town (Saramaccan greetings and conversations in passing are pretty consistent).
  4. The climate.  Jungle living is not for me.  It’s hot.  All the time.
  5. Dengue.  And giardia.  At the same time.
Jill’s Not-so-likes
  1. No matter how well I know the language, develop relationships in the community, and care about the people, I will always be a bakra, an outsider, a white person with money.
  2. Being sick a couple times in the last month was not much fun.
  3. I don't like Paramaribo very much.
Even with both of our ups and downs while here, we are both very much looking forward to hitting the road again.  I mean, which mode of transportation would you prefer…

(…riding in a container on a truck…)

(…or this fine 1989 Honda Transalp?)

Transalp.  Hands Down.


  1. Hi Jill (and Mike). I stumbled onto your blog by accident. And reading your Suriname posts brought back memories :-) What a great experience you are having! Glad you're able to share via your blog. Love love love it! Keep up the posts.

    As ever,

    1. Shuva, glad you stumbled upon the blog. It was strange but nice to be back in Suriname. Do you have plans to visit anytime soon? Hope all is going well for you.

  2. Hi guys! If I don't get a job teaching this year, I want to come visit! Where do you think you'll be in september? Mike you should call me soon! This is williams by the way! Miss you and hope to hear from you soon! Safe travels!

    1. Hey Mikey!
      Good to hear from you and good luck getting a teaching job. But if not, we would love to see you in September. Hard to say for sure, but best guess would be to look around Bolivia or northern Chile. We will give you a shout when we can.

  3. Fred's likes: Living adventures vicariously through cool people
    dislikes: Not getting to hang out with Jill and Stewey

    Miss you guys! Keep rockin!