A Little “Peace” of Heaven: Down the Upper Suriname

March 1-7 is Peace Corps Week. The Third Goal of Peace Corps is for volunteers to share their experiences after service. I’ve decided to share excerpts of emails I sent to family and friends during my life in Suriname (2004-06). Here is the 6th of 7 posts related to my Third Goal.

February 23, 2006

IICA / Butterfly Farm, Lelydorp

I’m spending less time at IICA (1-2 days a week max) and more time at the butterfly farm in Lelydorp, which is where I enjoy being more.

Lelydorp Butterfly Farm

The butterfly farm in Lelydorp is going well, and the brochure I’m helping them create is near completion and going better than I had expected. Much of this is due to the collaboration with Ewout and Amira Eriks, who run the farm, and plan to use the brochure for the weekly public visitors they receive, including schoolchildren. Their input and feedback on this project has been invaluable.

NIEUW AURORA – 4th and final trip to the Upper Suriname River

Previous three trips to the Upper Suriname had been with IICA, during which we took the IICA truck to get to Atjoni – the pit stop before getting onto the Suriname River. This time I was on my own. My trip…started in the city with a DAF truck ride. DAF trucks are…an experience to be remembered, especially if it was a bad one as many other interior volunteers have explained. A DAF truck is a like a commercial truck but the passenger part of it looks like a really pathetic-looking bus. It’s dilapidated inside, torn seats – the seats are actually pieces of wood that may or may not have cushioning on them. I got a seat with ripped up cushioning, and that was good enough for me. The DAF is cheaper than taking the wagi (minivan) – 16 SRD vs. 40 SRD. The downside is the DAF takes a great deal longer to reach its destination than the wagi. I was told …to go for the wagi, the extra money was worth spending, and I was planning to take the wagi. But once I got to Saramaccastraat, where all the vans/buses usually are parked, there were only two going to Atjoni – a empty wagi and a quickly-filling up DAF. I got on the DAF. We waited a long time to start. It was a long, long, long ride to Atjoni, on the Afobakka Highway, which is the red dirt road – bumpy, bumpy, bumpy, long, long, long, and scattered with numerous potholes you’d think were big enough that they could’ve been created by meteors and made us jump from our seats.

Down the Afobakka Highway

A DAF truck ride is not for anyone who is pregnant or has heart condition or high blood pressure. Amazingly, I didn’t get sick or dizzy on this ride. I read a book almost the entire way to Atjoni. The aisles of the DAF were filled with people’s bags…or other stuff, so to get out you couldn’t help but step on other people’s stuff. Of course there were a handful of stops along the way, mostly for the men to take a pee break or to drop people off in villages along the way. (Public urination is normal – for men – in Suriname). We left, I think, around 9:30 a.m. and got to Atjoni at about 5:30 p.m. – earlier than I expected, especially I’d heard enough horror stories from other volunteers who’d ridden the DAF about vehicles getting stuck and well, you either rely on the DAF driver to take care of the problem or well…no AAA in Suriname can save you here. 

DAF truck arrives in Atjoni, which is many miles south of the lake near Brokopondo

I was lucky enough to befriend a guy on the DAF who was also headed to Nieuw Aurora and helped me find a boat and get started on the river part of the journey from Atjoni. …To my surprise, we got on the boat shortly after we got to Atjoni.

Soon to get on a boat in Atjoni

The boat ride is about 1.5 hours… It’s a smooth ride for some of it. The Upper Suriname looks like silk when you’re in a boat. It’s magnificent scenery…and then we hit some rapids and then took a side route to avoid some small rapids. The amazing thing about traveling on the river in Suriname is the boatmen – regardless of what river you are on – …know exactly where and how to maneuver the boats around rocks, and Upper Suriname is filled with some incredible rocks and boulders.

Down the Upper Suriname River

We… then made it…I got off and was greeted by Sur11’s Joe… and Margo and Viki who were hanging outside by some of the villagers. Almost immediately, some of villagers came to me and were excited to see a new face, and one woman, Pauletta, came and gave me the name Satimai (“short woman” in Saramaccan).

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If you missed the previous posts, you can still read them: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday .

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About accentphoto
Accent Photographics specializes in on-location baby, children and family photography, and special-event photography of weddings in eastern

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