"The same evening we went into town. Along the streets we see beautiful wooden houses and high palms. Remarkable is that they lack any glass in the windows.
I have to adapt to the food. Only the papaja's (a kind of fruit) are very delicious. The beer (Parbo = Amstel) is sold in one liter bottles: Djogo's. Everywhere are whores. This night I will sleep for the first time under a mosquitonet."
I write this in my diary on Friday 13th of december 1968. I was then 21 years old.
Now I am 63 and I am again in Paramaribo. The beautiful wooden houses, the high palms and the djogo's are still there, but the whores have disappeared, together with the TRIS-(Troepenmacht in Suriname) soldiers, the boys who served in Suriname, which was a Dutch colony till 1975.
We arrive late in the evening from Trinidad with Caribbean Airlines at the Airport of Zanderij. In the dark our taxi passes the buildings of Aerocarto (KLM). It was our basecamp during the expedition which mapped Suriname. I was one of the soldiers who joined in and saw spots deep in the jungle, where no one used to come. I
remember how I was dropped with a helicopter at Franse Herderschee piek for some weeks together with a boslandcreool, called Kokolobi. It was a spot deep in the jungle, nothing and no one around. I did the measurements and Kokolobi took care of the food. I saw once how he killed with one shot three woodchickens at once. It was an amazing man, who saved my life several times. With Kokolobi I could talk, because I could speak a little nengre. When I was together with an Indian communication was hardly possible.
Aerocarto still exists, tells our taxidriver. We are heading to Paramaribo, about 45 kilometers from Zanderij. 42 years ago it was a dark dirtroad, now it is tarred and there is light. The little wooden shops along the road have become supermarkets with neonlights. After midnight we arrive at the excellent Guesthouse TwenTy 4 at the Jessurunstraat. We drink a big Djogo!
´Generally the birds here have long tails and bright colours. The most common one is the Grietjebie, a green-yellowish bird, which covers the Suriname stamp. Later I will do more research in order to better documentated.´ (Tuesday december 17, 1968)
It is 43
years later now and we sit on the balcony of our Guesthouse where we see lots of Grietjebies. It is a large tyrant flycatcher. The English name is Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus). And indeed every now and then he flies up to catch some flies. Apart from Grietjebies we see Blauwfoortjes (Thraupis virens) and Kiengs (Rhamphocelus carbo), the same birds I have seen here years ago.
´I have to get accustomed to the food yet. By the way we have to get accustomed to everything yet. But I think we are going to make it.´ (Saturday december 14, 1968).
The food is absolutely delicious. The sate, the pindasoup, the moksie alesie, the roti, the broodjes pom and bakeljauw, we love it so much. There are nice restaurants like Mixed Food at the Waterkant or Joosjes Rotishop, ´t Vat and Zus en Zo. Since a month there is an exclusive restaurant Baka Foto, run by a Dutch couple, in Fort Zeelandia.
´From the Tutti-Fruttibar we went to the Havannabar´. (Saturday december 21, 1968)
All day I walk in Paramaribo with a big smile on my face. We try to find the Tutti-Fruttibar on the Heiligenweg., where we
used to drink our Djogo´s or still better our Black Cat Rums. We see the beautiful wooden houses on the Gravenstraat (now Henck Arronstraat) and the Petrus and Paulus church, completely made of wood. You can even smell the wood. We stroll along the Presidential palace, the Palmentuin, het Onafhankelijkheidsplein with the statue of the legendary Johan Pengel, who was prime minister between 1964 up to 1969. We all knew him. There was even a song about him on the Dutch radio. My parents wrote me you could hear it every day.
We see the Surinameriver, the quay where we once came ashore and where we left for ´always´. We cross the Dalliantsplein, where the statue of Mahatma Ghandi still stands and the Domineestraat, where once Kersten was. It is still there, but now it is a shoppingmall with all kinds of small shops.
We pass the Heiligenweg where the busses still leave. Here must have been the Tutti-Frutti bar. It is not there anymore. Though we left it in a reasonable condition, it has gone. Unlike the beautiful wooden houses of Paramaribo it is not saved. Apparently someone forgot to put it on the World Heritage List. We have
to face it: it is forever lost for the posterity. Only the stories are left. On the other hand it might be not such a good idea that our progeny will hear what their grandfathers did in this infamous sailor´s bar. In 1969 a scene of a movie, called ´Zan, the King of the jungle´ was filmed here, I read on Internet. So there is still some hope to see the Tutti Frutti bar back.
In the Numismatic Museum we read that Suriname originally was called Specklewoodcountry. The British called it this way, because they found lots of Specklewoodtrees (Brosimum guianense). The wood of this tree lookes like there are inscriptions in it. Along the Waterkant, near Fort Zeelandia, stand some big trees, but unfortunately we cannot find Specklewoodtrees. The British owned Suriname.
Above the entrance of Fort Zeelandia we see the year (1667) when The Dutch and The Brittish made an agreement to exchange Suriname for New York (then called New Amsterdam).
Inside the Fort is a museum. The spot where the decembermurders took place is indicated. The monument is erected by ex-president Venetiaan in 1999. On december 8 1982 15 people were executed here without a trial.
They opposed the military regime of Desí Bouterse, who is president now.
´You can do all kinds of things here on the military camp. There is a swimmingpool, a sportsfield, a sportshall, a tenniscourt and a studyroom. Everything is beautifully made. You can make music, there are more than 1000 books, you can develop your own pictures and there are all kind of clubs.´(Sunday december 15, 1968)
The Dutch military camp in Paramaribo was called the ´Prins Berhard Kampement´. Since Suriname became independent in 1975, it is called the ´Memre Buku Kazerne´. Memre is Sranang (Suriname language) for ´remember´. Buku was an old fort in the swamps of Suriname from where in the 18th century the Boni´s (called after Boni, their leader) attacked the Dutch plantations. Would it be a possible to visit the Memre Buku Kazerne, being a Dutch ex-soldier?
To our surprise we get permission. Sergeant 1 Andi Braafheid is our guide. I see the building of the m.g.d. again, the military medical service. (Now it is the m.s.d., the military social service). It was the spot where I worked, where I used to give injections and where I gave the prophylaxes when the boys had
been to the whores. I remember how they came back from town at night, drunk, but still aware that they needed a ´prootje´. We had a big spout and put it on their penis. Then we pushed some brownish liquid inside to kill all micro-organisms. They had to hold their penis tight for 5 minutes or so, so that the liquid did not come out. Some of them were so drunk that they forgot it and all liquid exploded out of their penis, so that the walls of the m.g.d. was under the brown stuff. I remember we had to paint the m.g.d. several times.
I see the swimmingpool, where I broke my eardrum (eversince I have problems with my ears), the sportsfield where we practised, the cantine, where we used to eat, the sleepingrooms of the Charlie-company. Every day we had to clean our sleepingrooms with Dettol. I still can smell it. Is it really there or is it my imagination? I see the library with its ´more than 1000 books´. I used to write my diary there. The books are still there. They are brownish now and smelly. The tropical humidity has infected them. A lot I
recognize, specially the buildings which have to be renovated.
I have good memories of my time as a soldier in Suriname. It was hard. I remember the march of 50 kilometers we made, the longest ever in Suriname. We did it in 9 hours and a half. How we made an hike of ten days across dense jungle. Lack of water was the major problem. How happy we were if we found a waterpalm or a liane with water. A brook was even better.
I remember how we had to survive. Shooting an animal was the only way. Once we shooted a cayman. One of us was a butcher. He knew how to kill a cayman. I remember how the body was still moving while the monster was beheaded already. We could not believe what we saw. The fangs still crushed a piece of metal. We removed the organs and the body was still moving. We put the body in pieces and laid it on the barbecue. And still we saw contractions. When we had to swallow our Cayman sate´s, we had the idea the meat was still moving in our guts. The best piece was the tail, they
said. We never tasted it. That was for the officers.
Sergeant Braafheid is really gentle, like all military men we meet here. We talk a little in the mess of the underofficers with a softdrink. We talk about how situation is now and how the Surinames see the Dutch. The discussion we have is open and respectful. When we leave we shake hands and thank him. I always wanted to go back once and now it has happened.
We drink a Parbobeer from the tap at the bar of the Torarica Hotel. It is a big luxurious complex with a swimmingpool. All the time I have the feeling I am not allowed to be here. That someone says to me ´who are you, what is your rank?´ In the past when I was a soldier it was a no go area for us. It was a spot where the officers used to come. Now I drink a beer here from the tap. Oh, this beer is tasting very special!
´Ad, Leen, Ko and me made today a trip to Nieuw Amsterdam at the other side of the Suriname river... The bus was an old wreck. It brought
us within 15 minutes over bumpy and dusty dirtroads to Leonsville. There a little motorboat brought us over the Suriname river to New Amsterdam.´ (Sunday december 29, 1968)
Now there is a bridge over the Suriname river. You can still see the spot where the ferry used to cross the river, but it does not work anymore. Still you can cross the river in little motorboats. At the other side are busses to new Amsterdam. We took a taxi. The road is not sandy anymore, though our driver complains about the potholes.
´Nieuw Amsterdam is an old wooden village with some dirtroads. When a car passes, you get all the sand in your face. It is hot, but it is bearable. Along the river are big canons. There is an open air museum. To get in you have to pay 50 Surinam cent... Inside is a little wooden building with some objects of the past of Suriname.´ (Sunday december 29, 1968)
Nowadays the open air museum is a big well maintained complex. The canons are still there.
Surinames are fond of birds. Near the Heiligenweg we find a taxi. The driver has a bird in a
cage on top of the roof of his cab. ´It is a Rooti´, he says. ´Because he is ´rood´(red).
When we leave he puts the cage next to him. ´He is going to sing in a minute´, the taxidriver promises. ´But I am not doing contests. I am too busy for that.´
We talk about everything while we drive, but when we are at the end the bird has not sung yet. ´Maybe he is in a shock, because we are so white´, I suggest.
It is Sundaymorning and we walk to the Birdsmarket on the Onafhankelijkheidsplein. We are late, so most people have gone. We talk with some birdlovers. They come together for their weekly bird´s songfestival. Who´s bird is the best singer? The birds we see are called Twa twa´s.
´We put them two meter from eachother´, tell the birders enthusiastically. ´Here you see a female Twa twa. Of course she does not sing as beautiful as the males, but she stimulates them. That is why she is here.´
´But how do you assess which bird is the best singer?', we ask.
´We count the amount strokes a bird makes within 15 minutes. So it is not
about how beautiful the bird sings or how complex. A short stroke is the best, because then he can make more strokes in 15 minutes.´
´And how do you train them?´, we ask.
´Good food of course. Like this ´Boszaad´. We collect it ourselves in the jungle.´
´And a good coaching is very important.´
Surinames are so gentle. Maybe it is because they are accustomed to live together with all kinds of races and religions. Hindu´s, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Jews have their own temples, mosques, churches and synagoges and they stand close together. We have seen that nowhere else.
I think Suriname has changed. It has far more selfconfidence than before. There is more balance between the Surinames and the Dutch. We feel welcome. Everyone speaks Dutch. It sounds so familiar. On the radio we hear advertisments for the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam. On TV we can followthe Dutch news.
Of course there is also tension. What did Suriname do with the 3,5 billion guilden Holland gave to Suriname in 1975 according to the independentstreaty? Joop den Uyl, the prime minister in those times was a socialist and wanted it to do neatly. In
the ´Ware Tijd´ of 17th of May we read that on december 31, 2010 only 300.000 euro is left. The Dutch reproached the Surinames, that they spoiled the money; the Surinames accused the Dutch of postcolonianism. Maarten Schalkwijk, professor in Social Change and Development at the Anton de Kom University says that Suriname invested in the wrong projects. One of them is the West Surinam Plan. There should come a trainrail between Apoera at the Corantijnriver to the Bakhuismoutains in order to transport the bauxiet. But the Dutch stopped the stream of money after the sergeantscoupe of Desi Bouterse in 1980 in the Memre Buku Kazerne. And afterwards the prices for bauxiet on the worldmarket went down. No any train ever drove over the rails between the Bakhuis mountains and Apoera. A loss of 200 million euro.
A lot of money streamed back to the Netherlands, says Schalkwijk. To the Dutch engeneers offices. It would have been better if Suriname had invested in education, in long lasting projects and in an own cadre.
Suriname is on the brink of a critical period. It has to generate its own money now. The people we spoke with have hope, now Desi
Bouterse is president. Others are afraid he will make a deal with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to get cheap oil.
At the veranda of Guesthouse TwenTy 4 we meet a lot of a travellers. Most of them are Dutch. One of the travellers is Thijs. He is 25 and psychologist. We decide to travel together for a time. The plan is to leave Suriname via Albina, then to cross French Guyana to Brazil. Via the Amazon we like to travel back to Colombia. Later also Ben from New Sealand joins in.
´The day of our departure
In the morning we prepared are luggage and delivered our last equipment.
In the afternoon we had a big party on the military base.
With two busses we went to the boat.
A lot of noise: whistling and yelling people, shouting goodbye.
Friends on the quaie
Early to bed.´
(Sunday, november 30, 1969)
´Here the Super Old Stomp is coming´, we sang all the time before we left. Now we are about to leave Surinam I really feel like a Super Old Stomp.
Together with Thijs and Ben we take a taxi to Albina. In the past
I passed this road in a bumpy military vehicle. Now we sit in an airconditioned car with music and drive over a tarred road. We cross the Comewijne river. In the past there was a ferry, now there is a metal bridge. But the stallions with fruits are still there. I remember that I ate for the first time in my life a mango here.
Near Moengo the roads become reddish. It is because of the bauxiet. But Suralco and Billiton are not there anymore. In the second world war the planes of the allies were made of aluminium coming from the bauxiet of Surinam. Now the mines are empty or it is not financially interesting to exploit them anymore.
Near Albina we see the monument which memorises the war between Ronnie Brunswijk and Desi Bouterse between 1986 - 1989. People were killed, villages and roads destroyed. Once Albina was one of the best places to be in Surinam. There is not so much left. Now Brunswijk is in the parliament and has a agreement with president Bouterse.
In a motorkorjaal we cross the Marowijne river. We are heading to Saint Laurent de Maroni in French Guyana.
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