My first impressions of Suriname are a little mixed. Today was a rougher day than normal, although I did get some interesting stories as a result. :)
First though, a report on my travel day. It was largely uneventful, my last meal in Curacao was at what has grown to be my favorite restaurant there, the Brion Plein cafe, Otrabanda, near the Queen Emma swinging bridge. It's an outdoor cafe, say "hi" to Olav from me if you see him. :)
Okay. So, remember the countless hours I spent trying to figure out how to get a Suriname tourist card? Yeah, all that fussing about before I left, rearranging airline tickets, staying in Curacao for a week to get one from the Suriname consulate there? Yeah, completely unnecessary. The little kiosk that is in the airport that sells tourist cards was open and staffed by a guy who looked like he was maybe a little bored, and maybe wondering if the US consulate was telling US citizens wrong things about if it was possible to buy a tourist card at the airport. I didn't see him sell a single one, I had mine already so I breezed on by, although I did consider buying a backup just in case French Guiana decides not to let me in.
I got in to my hostel late last night, made it to bed after 2am. I woke up surprisingly early this morning to birds calling and the sunlight filtering in through my shaded window. Also, 100% humidity and very warm temperatures. After a light breakfast, I pulled myself together and went out to explore Paramaribo.
Last night when my taxi driver was bringing me to my hostel, I was not particularly impressed with what I was seeing. Everything looked run down in a depressing, almost menacing way. I've never seen anything that I would more accurately use the word "gloomy" to describe. Many houses were run down, paint peeling pretty much everywhere, and dark corners that seemed oppressively sinister. I was hoping this morning when I set out to change that impression, and I've been partly successful. There are a few very charming and interesting parts of Paramaribo. One of the hotel lobbies I saw was quite nice. There is a very old wooden Catholic cathedral which all the tourist books talk about, and it's beautiful inside. This is however intermixed with dilapidated buildings, houses which are tiling in places they should not be, and abandoned lots. On the flight in, the guy in the seat next to me told me that Suriname is a third world country. I didn't quite believe it at the time, but I'm beginning to understand where he's coming from.
The low point of the day was when I was walking down a fairly busy street near the center of town. There was a man, beating up a woman, while 3 other men watched, stood by, and did nothing. I paused, and did a double take, during which time the man got the woman on the ground and began throwing big wide punches. This was happening maybe about 75 feet from me. I turned around and walked away, which in retrospect was, I think, the best choice.
What I've been keeping in mind is that this is the roughest leg of my trip. I've known that for a while, and now that I'm in it, I'm sure that there will be rough days ahead as well. This part of the trip is quite a bit of hard work, and I can't help but comparing this to what I would consider hard work in my day job. I've been reflecting on this for a while today, and I think the key is that with what I'm doing right now, I feel like I have the resources to get done what I need to, I feel like I have a pretty clear understanding of how to accomplish what I need to, and even though there are rough parts, I feel like I can accomplish my goal. That hasn't always been true at work. So when it started raining heavily today, I bought an umbrella. Easily done, goal accomplished, I got less wet. When I try to steer a project in a particular direction at work, and an engineer explains why my idea won't work using technical reasons I don't fully understand, I don't have an umbrella to buy, more times than not.
Also, regardless of the cause, I suspect that when I'm anxious about something, it will never ever be easy for me to get started on doing it. Even if that's exploring Paramaribo.
On the positive side, today also had some very bright points. I did make it to the wooden cathedral, and photographed the inside, which was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was eating dinner, a girl who was videoconferencing with her boyfriend (who I presume was back in Holland), she kept subtly flashing him. Probably at his insistence. :) The woman who I shared a taxi from the airport last night was a talker, and perhaps a bit insane, which made for a wonderfully entertaining taxi ride.
So with that, here are some of my first impressions of Paramaribo.
If you look closely, you can see Jacques hiding out under the umbrella there. :)