Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hello from Suriname!

Blog post from Suriname!

So here is my first post from Suriname! I had a long, tiring journey here and have had a long, productive, and now boring time in the city. I can’t get out to my site until Tuesday, as this has been one of the wettest rainy seasons ever, and the airstrip out in the interior was too wet to go last week. I really hope the trip won’t get pushed back more, as the city is getting expensive and boring.

My journey here began when R and I left the house at 5am last Sunday. We drove to the airport where I paid $50 for one of my bags being overweight. Then I got on the plane and flew to Miami where I had to get my heavy bags and drag them to the BWIA desk, which was not open yet. So I hung around reading, then was able to get my bags checked for the next flight. I had a lot of time in the Miami airport so I had lunch, read and puttered around. Finally we boarded the plane. I was a little worried, as no other flights were boarding due to weather conditions, but we all hopped on, and then sat on the runway for 2 hours as we waited for the rain to stop. Finally we headed to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. There I had to stand in a line to transfer to the next plane. Once I was at that gate, the flight kept getting later and later due to “mechanical issues”. I was so tired by now, I tried to sleep a little on the airport chairs, but they were too far apart to really stretch out on. Finally we took off, and got to Paramaribo at about 4 am.

I got through all the immigration, and went out to the bunch of taxi drivers. I expected to have someone there to pick me up, but it became obvious no one was around. Luckily I had the person’s cell phone number so I borrowed a phone and called. It turns out she never got my email saying I was coming! It was ok, though, and she told me what bus to take and what hotel would take me at 4 am. So I got on the bus, and waited a really long time more as the driver tried to get as many people as he could to take the ride. Finally we left and I got to my guesthouse at 5:30 am. It was run by an older lady, who was very nice and told me to go right to sleep and we would do business in the morning.

So that was my exciting arrival on Monday morning. Since then I have been running around doing errands – I had some meetings with local agencies who are collaborating on my project, and those were really good and made me happy I chose this project. Having meetings like these, and working with the local organizations in order to do research that can be applied for management plans and conservation is exactly why I went to grad school. So after years of classes and sometimes doing stuff I wasn’t really invested in, this taste of actually doing what I want was great, and made me excited to do my research. It was like everything I didn’t like about being in school for the last 4 years was worth it to get to here. Hopefully I’ll keep feeling this way for awhile.

In the midst of all my errands I got sunburned from walking around here, 3 degrees above the equator. I think it was Tuesday that I really got overheated, so since then I have been being extra careful with the sunscreen, and trying to stay in my air conditioned room as much as possible and go out later in the day and walk less. I never got any grants, so I am concerned about cash flow but I decided not dying of heat stroke was better than saving a few dollars, so I also took some cabs on sunny days.

It has been interesting how much I am remembering from when I was here before, more than 5 years ago. Almost everything is the same, except there is way more traffic. The gridlock is terrible. I took a cab to a place that would take me about 20 minutes to walk to, and the cab ride took longer than that because we sat still for so long. But when I start to walk around, I find my feet remember how to get to the Post Office, the Bank, the Chinese Restaurant, etc. It is pretty cool.

As the week has gone on the errands and appointments tapered off, so now I am getting a little bored, and a little lonely. When I was here before I was never in the city alone, and the people I do know here now are out of town. I go to the internet cafĂ© quite a bit (an hour for about $1.50 US!) and I think they recognize me now. As today is Saturday, there were a lot of people out in the morning shopping, and I joined them for awhile, doing some window shopping and walking around enjoying the overcast sky (it has rained a ton the last two nights). I am being productive and working on fleshing out my methods, I think I will even make a little data entry test file on excel, but I can’t wait until Tuesday when I can finally get to the forest!

That is my first dispatch, blogging from Suriname. There is some bad news, that the future of the internet connection at my site is uncertain, so you may not get any more of these until December. We will see, though, often things work out at the last minute.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blogging for LGBT families day

Today is blogging for LGBT families day. I had scattered thoughts, but couldn't get them together to post. However, Shannon at Peter's Cross Station wrote the post I wish I could have.... go read it!

Leaving on a jet plane + geography lesson

Hey! I'm leaving Sunday for my field research! yay! So excited. I got the tickets changed Tuesday, and it only cost me $165. I was soooo scared it was going to cost more. So, soon I hope to post tales of adventure from yon jungle.

Also, because of the upcoming trip and my love of edumacation, I have decided to not be coy about where I do research, even though it will chip away at my anonymity a little.

I'll be in Suriname which is in northeastern South America and used to be called Dutch Guiana. It is a small country, about the size of Georgia, and with a population of about 300,000 people. We study monkeys in the little-populated interior, and where we are they are actually very few people at all. Thus, we can do thinks like drink straight out of the river (as long as it is running! Never drink stagnant water!). Suriname is a very interesting country. It is in South America, but the official language is Dutch, and it is less like a Latin American country than a mix of Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. A large portion of the population are descendents of escaped slaves, who ran off from the Dutch and lived in the interior for many years, living similarly to how they lived in Africa. When I was there before I worked with a woman who had been in West Africa for a few years, and the houses and customs of parts of the interior really reminded her of Africa. Religion-wise, it is 1/3 Christian, 1/3 Muslim and 1/3 Hindu, and I think there is a spot with a mosque next to a church next to a Hindu temple. It is really a fascinating mix of those colonized by the Dutch, with a few people of Dutch extraction thrown in.

Anyway, I was there for a year, 6 years ago, and I am interested to see how it is the same and what has changed. I have been trying to freshen up my Sranan Tongo which is the local language and is a Creole. I think I can get around pretty well, although most people speak English. Suriname is so unique in a lot of ways, that I felt my descriptions of it would lose a lot if I tried to be circumspect. So read the Wikipedia article and get some edumacation! Then, you won't ask if it is in Africa, or near Vietnam, which is what most people think. It can also help you in trivia games!