Trip Start Aug 14, 2005
Trip End Dec 16, 2005

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Flag of Suriname  ,
Monday, December 5, 2005

Hi Everyone:
The mango's are falling from the trees here in the tropics. It's hard to think that in less than 2 weeks I will be in ice, snow and Christmas festivities. Christmas is just now beginning to appear, but it is certainly not the intense commercial hype of North America. A welcome relief to not see any signs of Christmas until December first. The hotels are decked with Xmas trees and some of the stores, but nothing remotely like at home.
Some of the things I've been wanting to share with are some typical Parimaribo experiences. Not the least of which are the city buses!
The buses have amused and frustrated us from the beginning. Early on, Amy, one of the participants sighted the buses as her biggest cultural frustration.
The buses are privately owned. The good thing is there are lots of them, although some lines don't run evenings or Sundays. They do follow routes, but there are no maps. Buses here are somewhat like boats in that most of them sport names and other decorations. The names are generally things like Amazon, Chief, Sharpshooter or a woman's name. More interesting, however, are the slogans on the back of the buses. I've posted a couple of examples in the picture section, but wasn't able to catch some of my favourites on photo. Things like "no backbiters here", "no more arguments" and one inviting one that says "sexual healing". All buses travel to and from a central location downtown. They take their place in line, the bus empties and then waits for it to refill. The bus doesn't leave until it is full. Typically this is amazingly fast, but can be tedious in the evening. The price is 1 SRD (in the evenings most routes are 2) this is about 50 cents Canadian. The driver, who incidentally is called "the chauffeur", is paid either when you enter or leave. It beats me how the driver can keep track. In the beginning I paid getting on the bus, but changed this routine after Brenda and I were hollered at one day by the driver who thought we hadn't paid. The buses carry 26 or 30 "personen". The seats are arranged in rows of two seats on the right and 1 seat on the left with a row in the center isle of fold up seats. when all the seats are full there are 4 seats across. This arrangement continues at the front of the bus with a fold down seat next to the driver.
Now picture this, the full bus pulls out, often with more than the 30 personon as typically one or two men will hop on and stand in the stairwell. Once the bus is full and begins it's journey winding through the streets we are, of course, also hostage to whatever music and at whatever volume the driver perfers. Shortly someone rings the bell to get off. If this person is in the back the routine is that the person in the fold up seat in front of the exiting person is tapped on the shoulder. Everyone in the folding isle stands, folds up their seats, skinnies up while the person who is exiting makes their way forward. Imagine this as the Surinames, particularly the women are often very "ample". Then everyone shuffles back, unfolds their seat and relocates. This process continues to repeat as the bus empties and fills on it's route. Needless to say, it is a relief to find yourself safely in a non folding seat, which doesn't mean that you still don't have to go through the tapping and waiting for the unfolding of seats when you are getting off. The worst is when you are in a front folding seat as the bus sets out. Chances are you may find yourself moving back one folding seat at a time.
Surinames are patient people when it comes to their buses. They are also generally accommodating. I've often seen people near the door or the seats behind the driver squeeze in an extra person (3 butts to a two seater, or 2 butts on a folding seat) Someone is bound to get off soon and release the squeeze.
Amy desperately wants to rip out the folding seats and put a bar down the center isle. She hasn't mentioned this for some time so I expect she is normalizing herself into the idiosyncrasies of bus travel in Parimaribo.
Settled into a seat one of my favourite pastimes is watching the little old wooden houses along the streets. They often seem to me to be slowly melting in the tropical sun as they often have a slightly crooked appearance of the old and tired. Shades of days long gone. These, I expect, would have been homes of the less well to do Dutch in the colonial times who weren't part of the delapitating grand old mansions that still line the Waterkant and the core of the old inner city, which, by the way is a world heritage site. Many of these little houses are now part of Maroon encampments in the city. Some of them are delapitated shacks with tin sheeting additions to protect from the rains. Many, however, while obviously poor have somehow maintained a certain charm, with their gabled roofs and shuttered windows. I find them an endearing part of the Suriname scene.
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