Suriname is a special country. You see so many new things and quickly experience funny and sometimes very strange situations. Here is my top 8 of situations that I have experienced in daily life in Paramaribo.
1. I sat on a fire caterpillar, got shocked by an electric eel, left my bank card in the slot, got stung 1000 times by mosquitoes (and didn’t get ill) and got hit by a car.
Yes, those were not fun things, but it is a fact: Suriname is not completely harmless for foreigners and you have to pay attention to a number of things. You actually live in the middle of the jungle, which brings a lot of wild animals and insects. Unfortunately I had not seen that caterpillar, which first resulted in a large purple spot on my leg. Just like the electric eel who, when I went for a swim during a jungle trip, suddenly gave me a big shock (which feels like touching barbed wire, but ten times as hard, ouch!).
About the mosquitoes; there are a lot of them. But you get used to it after a while. It is important to continue to lubricate with a strong DEET every day and then there is often nothing to worry about. It’s huge chemical stuff, but it’s better than being bitten by all those mosquitoes. And finally, the road surface in Suriname is not exactly good, there are many large holes in it and the locals often drink-drive and are not used to cyclists, so cycling here is entirely at your own risk. But that didn’t stop us Dutchies from cycling, of course ;-). I was therefore not the only one in the house who had several bicycle accidents caused by a driver who did not see me. The first time was fortunately only a minor accident, but the second time my bike was completely wrecked…
2. I ate howler monkey soup
I ate (with a little reluctance, I must confess) howler monkey soup in the middle of the jungle. This was truly a case of being in the middle of the jungle and nothing else on the menu. Also, it was a good friend of the guide who offered it to us with love, which made it extra difficult to kindly refuse. And actually it was quite tasty! I’ve actually never had anything in Suriname that I didn’t like, that’s also special. They are particularly good at cooking in this country, using a lot of spices and fresh ingredients from the market. I have honestly never eaten so well in a country as I have eaten in Suriname.
You are being whistled 1000 times in the street and that is sometimes no fun
Yelling, whistling and dirty talk to women. Apparently it’s the most normal thing in the world here and men are always whistling after you, on every street corner. Sometimes his wife is right next to him (which he then has a good run with). They also find it very special that you cycle, so you often hear “Bakra (this is a white person) on a bike!”. That’s funny again. I’ve always had a good laugh about it. Also at the Waterkant there are sometimes men who chase you, or yell at you, but after a while you get used to this, and you realize that it is just a huge ‘flirt culture’.
4. Funny signs on the street
Surinamese generally write and speak much neater and more civilized Dutch than we do. But sometimes the lyrics are so down-to-earth and flat that you are completely covered in laughter. Here are some pictures of signs we encountered on the street.
5. A real American party and Thanksgiving
I thought this was one of the best parties I’ve experienced in Suriname. We had become friends at home with two Americans, who worked here in Suriname and often came by for our famous ‘pancake nights’. They both had good jobs and so lived in a luxury apartment with a swimming pool overlooking the Suriname River. I thought this was very impressive and had been really looking forward to this party, which turned into a lot of American drinking games and everyone in the pool. Yeww! We also celebrated a real American Thanksgiving with them, with a table full of good food and a large turkey from the oven. It was special to see two Americans in Suriname, since they largely speak Surinamese and Dutch.
6. I have seen snakes, monkeys, howler monkeys, alligators, poisonous frogs, macaws, large spiders and hallucinogenic toads in the wild
Some of our friends wanted to go on an adventure in the jungle without a guide. We then went to Brownsberg for a few nights to make hikes through nature. About six of my housemates who were there did internships at one of the hospitals in Paramaribo. In addition, there was a tree expert and someone with a lot of knowledge of animals and insects. So very interesting and learnful to be with.
Of course they wanted to spot wild animals, and in the evenings went in search of spiders, snakes and other wild animals. We spotted a lot of wildlife and insects this weekend, including spiders, large frogs and three howler monkeys. The howler monkeys were hanging in the tree less than ten meters in front of us, very special. You can often hear this distinct sound from miles away.
7. I abseiled from a waterfall
This was amazing and definitely recommended!!! So much adrenaline flowing through your body, when you have to descend from the highest point of a waterfall… I can cross this one off my list. I advise you to do this with guide Julio de Rooy (https://jungle-xperience.com/about-ons/). Julio is a very experienced guide and has been working in the tourism industry for over twenty years. He has a lot of knowledge about the flora and fauna of Suriname and besides abseiling, he also organizes many more adventurous trips such as whitewater kayaking and mountain climbing. He is now doing it together with his girlfriend Elaine, who I also met there!
8. My colleagues from newspaper The West
My colleagues from De West: all equally unique. Real Surinamese women with a lot of spirit and always in for jokes, a director who knew a lot and always came up with interesting stories about the Surinamese past and present, and lovely women who always had fun and occasionally gave some presents, such as fresh coconut oil, cans of Cola or handmade Chains. My two fellow journalists, Kim and Melissa, often talked about food in Suriname. They knew exactly what they wanted to eat and which places were good for lunch. We often went for lunch at a different place, so I tasted many different Surinamese snacks and dishes. There was never a dull moment with Kim and Melissa. I thought it was a very special experience, working for a local newspaper in an unknown country, a country that speaks your own language but in reality is such a completely different culture.
When my internship was almost over, my colleagues gave me a note with all the presents I had to bring from the Netherlands for them. Not greedy at all, ladies!