Monday, March 28, 2011

You Say Goodbye And I Say Hello

Remember! More pictures by clicking on the 'View More Pictures' link to your left! 

Who knew that after only 6 months of being out of the country and then returning I would be hit with culture shock. But I was. I flew out of Georgetown Guyana on Tuesday morning and I arrived into New York Tuesday afternoon. Before I get into that though, I want to update everyone on my last few weeks in Guyana.

To start, about 3 weeks ago Digicel, the phone & internet service in Guyana, decided to cut off their cell phone to computer hook up for internet (we purchase internet on our phones and use our phones as a wireless modem to connect to the internet on our computers). So we no longer had internet available on our laptops, only on our tiny BlackBerry screens. Good for emailing but not for sharing experiences and photos from Suriname. 

March 4 - Dania, Jessica and I wake up early in the morning to catch a bus to the Suriname-Guyana Ferry. The trip went smoothly, at least up until the time to get on the ferry. Originally, we were to depart at 9:00am but we had to wait for 3 hours for a ferry ride that takes 30 minutes to cross! We didn't end up departing until 12:00pm. 

Once we got across and arrived in New Nickerie, we had to wait in line for immigration. While we were in line we ended up talking to one of the immigration officers and he recognized me from the time when I came to renew my visa. He was really nice and very funny. We told him we were Jehovah's Witnesses and that we served in Guyana. He said he's never talked to Jehovah's Witnesses because they never came to his door, but that it was probably because he was always at work. I told him that was too bad and that I could give him some magazines in English to read. He said that he would prefer them in Dutch but since I didn't have any literature in Dutch I told him I'd bring him some when we returned to Guyana. He said he'd really like that. 

After immigration, Maryanne the local sister we were going to stay with, was waiting for us. We packed into the car and drove to her apartment. We were exhausted from waking up so early only to have to wait 3 more hours. Maryanne kindly had some delicious Javanese food prepared for us so we ate and hang out for as long as we could and went to bed pretty early that night since we wanted to go out in service (in Dutch!) the next morning. 

However, we never set our clocks to Suriname time and ended up waking up at the time Maryanne was leaving for service and English wasn't meeting that day (English is a foreign language in Suriname. There is a need for help in English). So we had no choice but to take a day off and just hang out. We walked to the market downtown, which is about a 20 minute walk, and got ourselves some refreshing ice drinks and sat in the park for a few hours. When we headed back we laid around in hammocks and read.

On Sunday we went out in service with the English congregation. It was a fun morning searching out English speakers. One cool thing I learned was that since many don't have doorbells and most houses are gated in they call out "Clop, Clop!" I thought it was funny. After service, I was in desprate need for a nap so I headed straight to bed. 

When I woke up there was quite a commotion happening in Maryanne's living room. She had some visitors: her bible study and daughter, Raymond a brother visiting from a near by congregation in Coronie, and of course Jessica and Dania. Again Maryanne had cooked up some yummy food for us and even though I was more asleep than awake, the food was really good. Once my brain was fully awake it was time to get ready for the meeting (English has their Sunday meetings at 6:00pm). 

I had been to the English meeting once before and so I remembered some of the friends and they remembered me. To our surprise sister Janet (from Orealla) was visiting too! It was such a wonderful surprise to see her again. 

After the meeting we stayed awhile to catch up with the friends. When it was time to go home we got a ride home from Camille and Leon (also known as "camileon") who I had met the last time I was in Suriname. They are such a sweet and fun couple to hang out with! Back at Maryanne's home, there were now more visitors and Camille and Leon stayed a while and hung out. After some time everyone went their separate way. Maryanne suggested we go for a ride around town so we could see more of New Nickerie, it was about 9:00pm. We drove by a big indoor stadium where she said the brothers were playing soccer (or 'futbol' as its know in Suriname) and we decided to go in and say hello. We had planned on not staying long since the very next day Dania, Jess and me were going to Paramaribo and our bus departed at 6:00am and we aren't morning people. 

As we walk in, there is a group of brothers, playing around with the ball. They tell us they need extra players and if we wanted to play. None of us had changed after meeting so Jess, Dania and I were still in our meeting clothes and shoes. They tell us it's not a big deal and to just play barefoot and that they've had sisters play in skirts before so it was OK. We end up playing but sad to say our soccer skills were very poor, what we very skilled in however was trash talk. Dania and Jessica were on the opposite team from me, so while the brothers handled all the maneuvering and goal scoring, we handled the good 'ol trash talk. We had such a good time and I laughed till my stomach hurt. Jessica fell once but scored a goal, Dania had a foot injury but she lived and I scored two goals. As I soaked in the glory, Raymond who was the goalie for Dania and Jessica's team, said he only allowed me to score because I was sister and he didn't want to hurt me. Personally, I think he just in awe of the my 'skills' Haha!

The next morning was very hard morning since we had got done playing soccer around midnight and were now sore. We made it to the bus depot on time, only to find out that the bus was sold out. We now had to wait for the next bus at 7:00am which was $20 SRD (about $6 USD) instead of $12.50 SRD (about $4 USD). There seems to be a theme when we travel, either its raining or we have to way forever and a day. This time it was waiting forever and a day. The 7:00am departure was only a 'suggestion' so we ended up waiting for 3 hours while the bus filled up. The ride to Paramaribo was about 4 hours and by the time we arrived we were exhausted from waiting and sitting. Caroline, the sister we were staying with, picked us up and we got Javanese food to go. We ate and went straight to bed.

The next day, Caroline had made plans for us to get picked up to tour the Suriname branch. Our driver was a brother named Stef from Holland who has been in Suriname for some years as a missionary and his co-pilot Danny, a young Chinese brother. Side note: most of everyone we met on this trip was in the Chinese congregation including Caroline, Stef and Danny. The drive to the branch was only about 30 minutes. Our tour guide was Natalie, a sister who originally came to Suriname as a need greater from Holland. She got married to a brother in Suriname and they are now serving as Bethelites in Suriname. The bethel family in Suriname is quite big compared to the Guyana branch, they even have to have some of the friends live off site because they don't have enough room. However Natalie said they are planning on expanding to make enough residence for everyone. It is one of the few branches that is not being merged and is growing month by month. They have a translation department where they translate from things like the convention dramas  from Holland Dutch to Suriname Dutch (they are similar but the accent and some common phrases are different), translate to the common Amerindian languages such as Sranan Tongo and some Dutch Sign Language. 


We were invited to lunch and afterwards to see one of the apartments. After our tour we said our thank yous and good byes and drove back to Caroline's house. Caroline then took us to the mall where Jessica and Dania got their long anticipated McDonalds. We bought some Suriname souvenirs, window shopped and hung out with Caroline and Fabian (they're dating) until the mall closed. 

On Wednesday we went out in service with Caroline, who I mentioned was in the Chinese congregation. The meeting for field service was mostly in Dutch with the scriptures read in Chinese. The territory that morning was downtown. There is also a need for help in Chinese, since there are many Chinese in Paramaribo. Many of them have their own business selling just about everything you can think of so most of the Chinese territory is business territory. The only thing I learned to say in Chinese were 'Hello' and 'Thank you' (although I did learn more phrases in Dutch, it's a lot easier than Chinese). 

We took a break outside a local super market and waited to meet up with the other group. We ate some of the local snacks such as 'Brong Brong' which is deep fried rice that is crispy and tastes like salted potato chips and banana chips which are nothing like the banana chips I've seen in the States. They're very thing and salted so they also have similar taste potato chips. 

That night we went to the Chinese meeting. Since we weren't going to understand anything and hadn't studied that week, Jessica, Dania and I took the opportunity to study during the meeting. The congregation book study and Theocratic school are conducted in Chinese while the counsel and Service meeting are done in Dutch. Stef had the local needs but before he started he announced he would be giving it in English for our sake. Another side note: Everyone in Suriname speaks a minimum of 3 languages, the first two are always Dutch and English and the third is either an Amerindian or East Indian language. So that night I experienced my first tri-lingual meeting: Chinese, Dutch and English!

It was our last day in Paramaribo so a group of us went out to eat after the meeting. We went to a Chinese restaurant owned by a brother and I must say, the food was not only delicious but very authentic! We got home about midnight that night and departed Paramaribo at about 10:00am the next morning. 

The ride down to Nieuw Nickerie wasn't as bad as the ride to Paramaribo but when we got to Nickerie we had no cell phone service to call Maryanne. It's good thing she lived close by and knew how to get to her house, so we decided to walk. Again, Maryanne had food ready for us (and it was, again, really good!). That night was the English meeting, so we got ourselves ready and went. We said our goodbyes to the friends and exchanged contact information. 

The next day we got up early, again, and Maryanne drove us to ferry. We boarded on time this time and ever arrived safely to our Guyana home at 11:00am. It was a 7 day trip but it felt more like 3 days. We met more of the friends and are hoping to be back to Suriname soon!

... Also soon to come are experiences and pictures of Brooklyn Bethel, Patterson and Wallkill!