Rain as a bonding agent.

A peaceful awakening.

12th February 2022

Domberg, Suriname

We’ve all heard jokes at the expense of the Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman playing on social stereotypes and driving discrimination. In a Suriname version the opening line would be; ‘Have you heard the one about the Muslim, Jew and Christian with heritage from Europe, Indonesia or the far east.’ If we were to continue then the punchline would involve everyone getting along spiffingly, accepting one another without question and all getting wet in the same rain that never seems to stop.

The reality of this cultural, religious and ethnic melting pot became apparent as soon as we left the closeted confines of Ruffian. We passed temples built next to mosques and churches nestled next to synagogues. The signs on shops were alternatively written in Chinese, Dutch and even the local lingo ‘Talkie Talkie’.

Entering the Capitol, the first port of call was the central market and this is where things got even more eclectic. Tables were strewn with the usual exotic fare and then there were reams and reams of ‘unidentifiables’. Knobbly cucumbers, which weren’t cucumbers fought for space with courgettes the size of small countries and beans were so long they could be used as mooring lines. Where things took a sinister turn was in the fish section. Fresh fish lined the streets and what was deemed not pretty enough for show was smoked. This smoked fish looked like it had been smoked in the bowels of hell it looked so menacing and smelt as menacing as it looked.

With the market and town behind us the rain then started and we were about to become initiated to the rains of Suriname. It was biblical in the extreme and we felt the only way home would be onboard Noah’s Ark, and when we finally got home, we were in for a shock. With the windows just mm’s ajar the biblical water had found its way inside, soaked our clothes, permeated through the beds and dripped down turning the carpets into a potential home for mustard seeds which squelched under our feet.

In the 100% humidity nothing dried and Ruffian started to smell like an old man, who was homeless, with an incontinence problem. With the first hint of sunshine Ruffian was turned inside out and everything was laid out on deck. This was just in time for more rain to come, remove any semblance of drying and thwart our efforts. Day after day this cycle went on, wearing us down and making us now smell like the aforementioned homeless man.

In between playing the drying game we were also playing the fixing game and chief among these ‘fixes’ was our poor headsail which we’d damaged mid Atlantic. Suriname is not known for its yachting infrastructure and the closest sailmaker was 100’s of miles away so we opted for the second best; a gold mine equipment supplier!

In the surface mines of Suriname there are lots of temporary structures and these structures are made of tarpaulin. We figured if they could sew industrial tarpaulin, which was strong enough to weather the rain, then they could also sew patches on sails. After just a few hours of being in this impromptu industrial sail loft we picked up our jib and were heartened to find that they had, as their name suggested, made a very industrial, but totally satisfactory, fix.

On Sundays the shoreline of the Suriname river come alive with people and to these people are drawn all manner of street vendors. The air was full of flavours from around the world from the spicey hot food of Java to the rich MSG fare of China and wanting to turn these 2D smells into 3D food we wandered the streets, picked our fare, and pointed.

We managed to buy ourselves a lunch that packed a super spicy punch and the icing of the cake was the super sweet desert. Served in banana leaves we unwrapped radioactively red and green lumps of sweet goo covered in sweetened coconut shavings and dusted with sugar. This was classic Suriname where everything is a fusion of something.

Wanting to find out more about the fusion flavours of Suriname we found ourselves in the expert hands of a Javanese cook for a cooking lesson. Exotic ingredients which we’d seen but not tasted were chopped, seasoned and miraculously turned into delicious platters of food. Bananas were battered and fried, spring rolls were rolled and fried, and noodles were boiled and fried. We then also learnt that if it hadn’t been friend, then you add some sugar, as only unhealthy things taste amazing, and everything we produced was both an education and amazing.

Everything we have seen in Suriname has had one thing in common and that’s that everything is different. Everything from the people to the food, from religion to their heritage and we think that the agent that binds all this together in such harmony is the ever-present rain.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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