I haven't blogged in almost two weeks, sorry! But now I have something new to blog about - I am in Suriname! I am here for work so I haven't gotten to see much of the city (Paramaribo, the capital) yet, but I am having a good time!
Suriname is the smallest country in continental South America, both by area and population. It was a Dutch colony until 1975, and it borders Guyana to the west, French Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the South. It has a tropical climate with two rainy seasons and two dry season - I can safely say that this is the middle of the rainy season, as it has rained most of the time.
Interesting tidbits I have learned so far:
They drive left side of the road, like the British. Apparently this is because the first cars came from Guyana, which used to be a British colony. This makes it hard to cross the street - I always look the wrong way!
Suriname and the two Guyanas (French Guyana is a so-called Overseas Department of France, literally a region of France, with the Euro and everything) are often referred to as "The Guyanas", as Suriname used to be Dutch Guyana.
The biggest ethnic group is East Indian. The first people from India arrived on June 5, 1873. This day is now a national holiday and was celebrated just last week. (In Dutch the East Indians are referred to as Hindustaans, although many of them are Muslim!)
Suriname is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and this is reflected in the cuisine - Creole, Indian, Indonesian (from Java), Chinese, etc. It all has one thing in common - the food is greasy!! But tasty... :)
The Dutch people who live here, especially the students who come for a semester, ride around on bicycles just like in Holland - except here they risk getting killed any second. Crazy drivers + crazy Dutch bikers = blood.
Everyone thinks I am Dutch. Hey, people, I am not a kaaskop!
Everyone speaks a million languages: Sranan Tongo (Creole), Dutch, English, Javanese, Maroon, Sarnami... I am so impressed with the fact that everyone seems to speak English, even though it is their third or fourth language. Countries like this prove that you can indeed be completely bilingual or trilingual.
The old parts of the city are beautiful and filled with colonial wooden houses. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Suriname River, which gives the country its name, is long, wide, brown and does not make for good pictures:
There is a science conference going on. I know I am a nerd myself (I love to discuss politics, for instance) but boy, these people are serious nerds! They all have those kaki-colored pants that dry fast and have lots of pockets, in case they need to pop into the rain for a quick collection of plants or insects in between poster sessions. As my friends in Georgia say, bless their little hearts! (Apologies in advance to any scientists out there!)