Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fitting in the good times and forcing down the food


Sorry it has been so long since we last posted.  It was Becca's fault. 

Actually we've been having some skype interviews and trying to get in all the things that we haven't done yet, so we've been kinda busy.  And speaking of skype interviews, Cody cut off his beard to look more professional.  It was probably a good thing, though, because he had a sort of heat rash- living in a tropical environment with a beard fit for a lumberjack does that to you.  In fact, the people native to this area have very little hair, and that's probably why. 

So Cody has been going regularly to Papaichton to work, leaving Becca to fend for herself by throwing our ferocious kitty at any potential threats, aka Tucker attacks all the roaches when Cody isn't there to deliver a swift death blow that not even a nuclear bomb could accomplish.  Cody definitely likes it, stays at different people's houses, and eats a lot of fruits and nuts that he gathers with the local kids.  Plus, the mode of transportation is a dug out canoe- who else can say that he/she goes to work in a modified log?   

We have done a few things that we have been wanting to do since we got here, and thats what we mean by "fitting in the good times."  We actually spent Easter in Amerindian country, which means a place where people have parrots and monkeys for pets, don't have toilets, and the school uniform consists of a loin cloth.  It was really calm and a really nice change from the craziness that the Bushinenge people seem to thrive in. 

We also, yesterday, went to visit the "fromager" of Maripasoula.  It is basically a really really big tree that the traditional religiuos beliefs hold as holy.  To get there was a real aventure, where we had to hack through forest with a machette, mark our path by little notches in the trees that we passed, and battle for our lives with giant robot tarantulas.  K that last part is a lie. 

But speaking of tarantulas, we have seen some.  We've also seen a number of awesome frogs (pink, red, organge), the passion fruit flowers came back into bloom. the pomme rosas, ramboutans, maripas, fruits a pain, and the bombins (don't know their names in English, but they are all really good) seasons have come and gone.  We have seen cars being brought up the river on more modified logs, a student flip out and throw rocks into the classroom, and a large group of 12y/o students doing backflips after school.  Also, we got our Christmas package from Rebecca's mom which only took five months, and Becca got her hair braided which only took five hours. 

By forcing down the food, let us explain.  Basically, a few weeks ago we bought all of the food that we thought we were going to need for the rest of our stay.  We did it in two minutes flat, spending about $100, because where we go food shopping is across the river at stores owned by Chinese people.  Well, we learned recently that at any time of the day, there is a danger of being caught in a gun fight between these same sweet Chinese people and the illegal Brasilian gold miners who come to rob them.  Apparently this happens quite often, in fact so often that nobody thought it an important enough event to talk about it whenever it happened.  We only leaned when one of our good friends here had to flee in a modified log to get away from it.  Are you also getting how much life revolves around these logs?  Well, long story short, we shouldn't have bought all of the food because between all of the food that Cody gets daily off the ground or from the trees around us, and the food that the people around us have straight up given us (including canned beans, chicken wings, quack, etc), we are struggling to finish our food. 

And that word, "finish," is coming up a lot.  Becca is finished with all of her classes but next Monday and Tuesday's.  We have finished doing laundry by hand and with are finished with rationing our yogurt. 

Basically we have done most all of what we wanted to do here.  We are happy with all of the experiences that we have had, experiences that most people will never have, and experiences that we will most likely never have the opportunity to have again.  We are really excited to go home, see our families, and start our next jobs (most likely in Virginia Beach, working at a camp ground-  wanna visit?). 

We're leaving Maripasoula this week, and will be hanging out in Paramaribo, Suriname until our flight on April 30th.  Let us know where you'll be in May and we'll try to make plans to meet up!


Monday, February 27, 2012


Happy Carnival season!  We've been in Cayenne for the past week for Carnival break, enjoying the parades and the fact that every place you might need to go is closed.  We head back to Maripasoula tomorrow, and have 6 (count 'em- 6!) straight weeks of school before another vacation!

WE GOT OUR KITTEN!!!!!!!!!!!!  His name is Tucker, and he is utterly adorable.  He's a little redhead and is about 9 weeks old now.  There are pictures up on facebook if you're interested :-)  We got the name Tucker for two reasons- first of all, he likes to tuck himself into a ball (or a pocket) and cuddle or sleep.  Secondly, he sleeps A LOT.  When we first got him (when he was 6 weeks old) he would run around like crazy for about twenty minutes before tuckering himself out so much that he slept for the next 2 or 3 hours.  It's kinda ridiculous, though, how much he likes to be around us.  We have to continually find bigger and better barriers to keep him out of our room so he doesn't climb up the mosquito net, but he just wants so badly to be with us :(  Also, Cody found a poison dart frog, and kept it for about two weeks (he says it was to keep Tucker company when we were at school).

This past installment in Maripasoula had some nice improvements.  We came back from the Christmas holidays and were pleasantly surprised- instead of getting robbed (like we thought we were going to be), we gained some things!  First of all (obviously) was the kitten.  Our landlady also surprised us with a nice big freezer, which is invaluable in Maripasoula because every time we come back from Cayenne now we can bring lots of frozen vegetables and meat and seafood and things that we can't get in Maripasoula (especially because our fridge is fit for a dorm room and not even quite waist-high and has virtually no freezer compartment).  Unfortunately, we also gained some ant infestations- and not just any ants, but ants that bite and sting you for getting too close.  We sprayed down the house right before we left a week ago, so cross your fingers that when we get back tomorrow they're all gone!  

On a good note, Cody has finally started doing some of his hours in Papaichton!  Some people think they have been able to figure out a way to reimburse him for the cost of the pirogue ride (40 euros per week), so now we just have to hope that they follow through and that the payment office (which is in Martinique and is completely and utterly unaware of everything that goes on) accepts the proposal.

But then we got a break from our 10-12 hour work weeks, and now we are in Cayenne.  For the last time?
We've been making full use of our vacation time with the amenities that being in Cayenne brings.  Such as:
-lunch at McDonald's (only once!!)
-using the internet to apply for lots and lots and lots of jobs for the summer and next year
-getting to call our families
-watching Carnival parades
-catching up on tv shows
-going to the doctor's office
-traveling to Cacao, a Hmong village about an hour's drive away
-being offered a car to borrow by people we barely know (Thank you Jennifer and Jean Christophe!!!!)
-going to the beach
-fishing and seeing dolphins and a sting-ray
-hiking on trails that we are fairly certain we won't get eaten on
-going to an exhibition of different bugs, butterflies, months, and spiders of French Guiana
-getting frustrated with the Post Office (still waiting on that Christmas package to be delivered...)
-climbing up to an old fort in the center of Cayenne
-stocking up on yogurt and cheese and other things to bring back to Maripasoula

So monkey island.  Absolutely incredible!  We were trying to decide if we wanted to go to Monkey Island (actually called Ilet la Mere) or Iles de Salut.  Ilet la Mere is closer to Cayenne and smaller, but Iles de Salut are a huge tourist attraction in Kourou.  We ended up choosing Ilet la Mere, and we are so glad we did.  Apparently you can see monkeys on Iles de Salut, but because there are so many people, they are not like the ones on Ilet la Mere.  The ones we got to see not only let you feed them, but they would eat out of your hand, climb all over you, and practically pose for pictures.  Cody got a banana out that we had brought to feed to the monkeys, and as soon as they saw it, it was peeled, broken into pieces, and completely devoured in less than 15 seconds right from his hand.  We barely had time to revel in our first wild squirrel monkey sighting and we were already getting the dandruff picked from our scalps.  It was quite hard convincing Cody to leave at the end of the day!

A little anecdote to show you how small FG is:  During this vacation, we've seen several people from Maripasoula as we were walking around.  It's nice to be in a city, but still recognize quite a few people.  Then, we went to Monkey Island with about 10 other people, so a total of twelve people.  Well, two or three days later, when we went to Cacao, which is about an hour drive away from Monkey Island, we ended up seeing six of the people that we went to the island with.  So with us, that makes 8/12 people that went to the island also decided to go to this village on the same days.  It was kinda crazy.

Tomorrow is back to normal life.  Well, as normal as Africa being picked up and dumped in the middle of the rainforest of South America can be.  We'll let you know how our last hoorah in Maripa goes in our next post!  Meanwhile, check out the facebook pics, and comment to let us know how you are doing!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

McDonald's Hiring Cashiers- Must Speak 7 Languages

Hey everyone :)

So it's been about a month since we've last posted- which happens to be the amount of time that we've been away from Maripasoula.  Let's explain:

So we left on the 14th of December to go to Parimaribo, Suriname.  There are much easier ways to get there, but so we could get there legally there is only one way:  It took a flight to St. Laurent to get our passports stamped, a trip across the river in a covered pirogue, another stamp that we had to convince them to give us.  Then we fought off taxi drivers until we found one with acceptable tread on his tires and after we convinced him that we didn't have enough money to pay for all the empty seats, we left for the capital at about 200 km/h over bumpy roads for about 3 hours. We had to go there to get Cody some extra pages in his passport, so we could go to the rest of the countries on our trip.  We made friends with the guards of the American embassy we were there so many times working out the formalities (ok really we were just getting our backpacks that we forgot/getting the right amount of money in the right denominations).  We spent about a week there.  The city was pretty awesome; there is always a party/concert/McDonalds to go to. 

Funny story about concerts... and McDonalds.  For one of the concerts we were just walking by, they were setting up.  We sat down and were kindly given a brochure in Dutch, which we pretended to read until we noticed a convoy of cars pull up.  Well dressed people got out, the last of which was a woman in a wedding dress.  At first we thought, "Oh cool!  A wedding!"  Then we realized..."Oh no!  We're at some stranger's wedding!"  The closer she got to us all, the happier we were that we were speaking French to each other- at least that way these people would think that we were French, not American :) We thought about leaving, but just as we had finally decided to just crash the thing, it became evident that the wedding party just wanted to get their pictures taken next to the large, lit-up Christmas tree that dominated the park.  The concert was awesome. 
As for McDonalds, we did the typical American thing and ate there or Burger King every night.... and evening.  To be fair, we kept on trying to go to this other place, but every day we went it was closed.  So, we'd be like.... well.... either walk around, get lost, and be hungry, or just go to McDonalds and take full advantage of the wifi and 50 cent ice cream cones.  Umm, we'll choose the latter, thank you.  Don't judge. 

Then we met up with a few other assistants and moved on to the next country: Guyana (formerly British Guyana, the place where that religious cook took a bunch of people and made them kill themselves).  In any case, we only stayed a couple of days, but it was sufficient enough time to be called out for being white more times than we can count.  And, by being called out, I mean that they would call out "John. John. Johnny! ok then your name must be Mark.  MARK!" or better yet "White Boy! You must buy the shark meat that I am selling.  NOW!"  Or something like that.  The English they speak there is quite litterally unrecognizable, especially considering that while you are trying to understand them there is a meat cart absolutely blasting music right next to you, there is a car driving straight at you even though you are in the middle of the market, you are trying to figure out what that strange fruit/veggy is next to you, and about ten people every second are accosting you because they think that, because you're white, you have come to spend every penny you have. 

Then we proceeded to our next and final destination: Barbados.  There were seven of us in a large villa with three bed rooms, two sitting rooms, and the most beautiful beaches a leisurly stoll away.  We honestly didn't do much besides wake up whenever we wanted, walk to a beach, swim with a multitude of different fish which seemed indifferent to our presence (including one really weird bottom feeder with large wings and fins that it used to walk!), and try not to fry in the sun.  One day we rented surfboards and enjoyed the sea turtles we were swimming with just as much as the surfing.  Then we would go home and everyone took turns cooking dinner.  Christmas was spent trading gifts and, what do you know, going to a beach.  Cody got a nice Christmas sea urchin that he stepped on in the water.  Sadly, though, we eventually had to leave. 

So, we did the whole voyage in reverse.  This time, in Parimaribo, it was our one year anniversary!, and boy do the people of Suriname know how to celebrate it.  From about 5pm to past midnight every night for three nights there were constant fireworks.  The day leading to our anniversary every store put out a line of firecrackers on steroids in front of their business and set them off.  Each deafening series would last for about 2-5 minutes, and after the streets were red with firecracker wrappings.  There were also concerts every few streets.  And yes, for those of you who were wondering, our anniversary is on Jan. 1st. 

Since then, we were able to get back into the country (even though we were illegal... long story), and have been in Cayenne since then (now two weeks) trying to get out medical visits sorted out so we can be legal immigrants.  To explain why it's taking so long, let's go through a typical obligatory visit that I just so happened to chronicle:
-We just barely slipped in to get our lung X-rays done before the only machine that we're allowed to use broke down.  It had been broken before we left for Christmas (part of the reason we were illegal, but was repaired a few days before we got back.  Only to break down again) We needed these X-rays for this visit. 
-We get to our appointment a half hour early, only to be told that we should be somewhere else.  Meanwhile, it was this office that gave us the appointment to come back to them, and we were at the the address that was on our paperwork.
-Because we were sure that we were in the right place, we insisted and we were able to convince her.
-Only after asking twice why it was taking so long when we were the only one there for this particular kind of appointment, she then told us that the doctor doesn't come in to work for another hour. 
-They switched our birth dates, and so the paperwork had to start over. 
-Cody saw the nurse, and then the doctor.  Yay!  Only 1:45 after we got there!
-After another half hour when Becca still hadn't gone through, Cody went and asked why.  The reason was that they had lost her appointment form. 
-The whole thing took 3 hours, and when we got the paperwork at the end, Becca's nationality was marked Brazilian. 

Oh French Guyana.  Tomorrow Cody is going back to Maripasoula, Becca is following a few days later.  We'll tell you about that next time! 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The USA? Where in England is that?

So we'll start off by saying that we're ok.  Despite the fact that Cody was involved in a boat crash, and Becca almost got eaten by a toad.

The boat crash happened while coming home from Papaichton (the next closest village to us, which is about an hour away on the river).  We basically had to get off of the boat and push it off the rocks that were in the middle of the river. 

Becca's incident happened one night just outside our house.  We had just finished dinner with our friend Marie-Paule, and Cody went outside for a second and immediately ran back in, grabbed his glasses, and said "You have to come see this!"  We went outside and there was a toad (not exaggerating) easily the size of a human head just sitting on our terrace.  Even Marie-Paule said she had never seen one that big before (and she's from the country of AFRICA! *insert wittiness here- we will come back to this point*).  Again, as promised, we will put pictures up on facebook soon (we're actually trying to simultaneously write this and upload pictures, but the picture half of our plan doesn't seem to be working).

*Coming back to our comment about people often mistaking Africa as a country instead of a continent*, it still amazes us what a constricted view of the world people have here.  It may be due to the fact that many of the kids don't watch tv, either because they don't have one or because they're not allowed in the house during the day, but they have no concept of anything outside of Maripa-Soula, except things that they're somewhat exposed to (like Paramaribo- the capital of Suriname, or Cayenne).  This was probably one of the most shocking things for us teaching here- to be in a place where people have never heard of, have no concept of, and know nothing about the USA.  At best, people might think that we're from England- and even this is only because since they recieve the "same" education as kids in France, they're more exposed to Europe than the US (or South America, for that matter).

And this might be a good place to post this post's edition of "You know_______ when_________"
This list is entitled "You know you live in a small village in the middle of the rainforest when....
  • You get directions to someone's house including "turn left at the mango tree"
  • You have to go to a neighboring country to do your grocery shopping
  • Everyone knows everything about you.  Always.
  • You can ask anyone for directions to someone else's house, and they know exactly how to get there
  • Your house doesn't have a number- it's just "so and so's house" on whichever street
  • You notice when the neighborhood kids get new underwear (because that's all they wear outside once they get home from school)
  • Cloud coverage can cut out phone, internet, and tv
  • You find frogs in you living room when you wake up in the morning
  • Kids bring their pet beetles (whose bodies are the size of your fist) to class with them
  • There are no school busses.  There are, however, school pirogues
  • "Did you put a giant leaf in the sink for some reason or is that a bat wing????"
  • Your third graders wave at you as they drive past on their mopeds
  • It's rare to see any less than three people on a moped
  • When the medivac is arriving or departing everyone in the village runs after it as long as possible
  • There is barbed wire all around the elementary school
  • When you ask your landlady if you're allowed to have a pet, she tells you "people here aren't that complicated"

We've been finding some various ways to pass the time here.  A few weeks ago we went to a Reggae conceert in Papaichton.  We rode there in the back of a truck (Mom please don't get mad), and took a pirogue back at 8am the next morning when the concert ended.  We celebrated a small and lonely Thanksgiving on November 17 (can't remember if we already wrote about that or not), but then, much to our delight, we realized two days later that Thanksgiving is not the third Thursday in November, but the fourth!  Since we weren't going to let Thanksgiving sneak up on us twice in one year, we did the best we could to plan a typical American Thanksgiving for some of our friends here.  We had sweet pickles, carrots, and a cherry type fruit (in honor of Grandpa Rosenbarker's famous hors d'oeuvres tray), powdered mashed potatoes with a gravy like sauce, authentic Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, peas, carrots, corn, and some chicken cooked by Mamaya, a local woman who has been very nice to us.  We would have liked to have cooked a turkey, but seeing as how they don't have turkey here, nor do we have an oven, we decided to tackle that at a future Thanksgiving.  We finished up the meal with worms and dirt.  For those of you who don't know, worms and dirt is chocolate pudding (or in our case, modified cake mix recipe), gummy worms (bears), and crushed oreos (crushed oreos).  Despite all the substitutions, the dinner was wonderful, as well as the company. 

Last weeked we went on a little excursion with some of the teachers.  We took a pirogue about a half hour down the river, then hiked another half hour to a waterfall.  It was an awesome ride, awesome hike, and beautiful waterfall.  We spent about 4 hours there, and in the 4 hour period, we didn't go more than 2 minutes without seeing at lesast one of those giant bright blue morpho butterflies.  After, we went another few minutes down the river and went swimming and had a small BBQ.  Even though the waterfall wasn't huge, it was nice to just get out of the town and spend some time with some other teachers. 

Tomorrow is actually the start of our Christmas break!  We'll tell you all about it when we get back, but we will be celebrating Christmas with some other assistants in Barbados, and then our 1 year anniversary in Paramaribo.  Miss you all, especially around this time of year, and hope to hear from you as well!


Friday, November 18, 2011

2 Months In and 90 Degrees is Comfortable

Hey everyone :)

So quite a few things have happened since the last time we wrote. 

First of all, we went back to Maripasoula.  We have really for serious almost started for real this time.  Becca actually worked about ten of her twelve hours this week.  We had a meeting with someone for the other two, so she wasn't able to go to class.  Cody, on the other hand, only worked for about five hours.  He has finally figured out with who and at what times he is working at the middle school of Maripasoula, but things for Papaichton are still a little foggy.  First of all, we have been told all along that he will get reimboursed for the forty+ euros a week that he has to spend to get to papaichton.  Finally someone took things into his own hands (that's what the meeting was about that made Becca miss some of her classes) and he will know within a week, hopefully, if he will be getting the money to be able to go to Papaichton. 

In the meantime, Cody took things a little into his own hands and walked to Papaichton one day to work.  He left at about 7 in the morning and started walking down the trail to Papaichton from Maripasoula.  It's a 35 km trail, or about 22 miles.  There are cars that go down the trail, so he didn't have to walk the whole way, but he did end up walking around 9 miles of it, and it took him about 4 and a half hours.  During the walk, though, he saw some awesome things.  There were flowers that were completely black, views that overlooked... well... nothing but rainforest, two parrots flying together like you see in the movies, a black bird with a really pretty song and a crest of red feathers on the top of its head that looked kinda like a rooster's, an ant that was about an inch long, and he heard so many noises it sounded pretty much exactly like the sound tracks of the rainforest on those cds that relax you. 

We've been here for a little over a month now, and so we can start to make some real friends.  Right now, for example, we're at another teacher's house using his internet and computer.  We spend less of our day inside, which is good because our tv (that only had one channel to begin with) hasn't worked for about three weeks now. 

We are also making friends with nature here.  There isn't a day that goes by when we don't eat a good number of things that we find or are given.  Bananas, star fruit, mini cherries, coconuts, greens, a multitude of fruits that don't exist in the states, and all the bugs that inevitably inhabit them.  Becca's been a trooper, dealing with the limited ability to go outside due to the mosquitoes, having to close all the doors in the house last night because of the bat, dealing with the red ants that burn when they sting and the black ants that have pinchers so big they actually draw blood, etc.  But the birds are beautiful, the lizards are really colorful (and sometimes huge), and we've actually seen a real live wild monkey. 

Other than that, we're just kinda settling in to the routine. We are learning the langauge as well as the history.  The history has apparently changed as of 50 years ago, because nothing really resembles what the books say the culture is like.  It's sad to say, but most of it has changed for the worst.  They do have internet since last year, but they also are given money for having babies which makes it the number one job of any girl over 13, the dancing and drumming has been reduced to clubs at the school, and it is no longer a culture that is in tune with nature and doesn't waste anything.  So there are still vestiges of what used to be an awesome culture, but for the most part school and governmental funding has pretty much ruined it :(  I say school because they get the same schooling as a French kid in Paris, which means it is not at all tailored to the culture here.  School goes until about 5 at night so they no longer learn how to build their pirogues (boats) or learn their oral history or anything like that.  To compound it, in order to go to high school all of the kids have to leave and go to one of the larger cities in French Guyana because there is no high school here, which also changes their culture. But, the people are still cool and really friendly, so it definitely has its positives. 

We are missing you all.  We are really gonna miss you for Thanksgiving, but we fully expect to be represented in all of your family gatherings by a ball with a picture of our faces on it.  I feel a contest coming on for the best picture of this happening.  Also, speaking of photos, this site/internet/country doesn't seem to want to let us upload pictures, so facebook will have to do for now. 

Wishing you all the best, and look forward to hearing from you as well!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

We've actually almost started for real! Almost. Take 2.

Hey everyone!

We are soooooo sorry that it has been so long, so we're going to try to make excuses for not being able to post in so long:
-Since our last post we have only had an iPod touch to work with, so it's kind of hard to write a blog post
-Internet wasn't widely available in Cayenne and we had to go to a bar to get wifi
-When we had to move out of the hotel we were staying in because we still weren't able to get housing in Maripa-soula, we moved into the program director's house.  We tried to write a post there, but something happened where...well it just didn't work
-THEN, we got housing and moved to Maripa-soula :-)  If you thought wifi was scarce in Cayenne, let me tell you something...
-We were finally able to use the school computers, but they had a security setting that wouldn't let us get on our blog.  Not to be discouraged, we wrote our blog and emailed it to ourselves, so that the next time we got internet without the security settings, we could just copy, paste, and share it with you all.
-Apparently blogger doesn't like it when you copy and paste into it, so we're typing the whole things over again

So all in all, don't feel like we've neglected you and only you.  It took us about a week from the time we got to Maripa-soula for us to let our parents know that we got here safely.

Anyway, we spent about two and a half weeks in Cayenne.  We were supposed to start working on October 1st, but our program director insisted that someone find us a place to stay, at least temporarily, in Maripa-soula before we got there.  Apparently the assistant from last year ended up sleeping in their version of a hostel in a hammock for a long time (months?).  It was great to get to know Cayenne, not really have any responsibilities, and on top of it, get paid for it!  We spent our nights going to jazz and traditional music concerts, eating from the food trucks that are all around the city, walking on the beach or attempting to body surf but really only succeeding in getting tossed around by the really rough sea.  Our mornings were usually filled with a walk, fruit collection from one of the many fruit trees, or sometimes, very rarely, taking care of some obligation like opening a bank account.  In the middle of the day, we mostly spent our time hiding from the intense heat.  It's so hot, in fact, we've made up a list of "you know it's hot when..."

You know it's hot when...
...a house only has cold water faucets.  After all, why would you want to add to the heat? turn on the cold water faucet and think for the first 10 seconds that you turned on the "please burn me" faucet because the water has been heated by the sun.'re as wet getting in the shower as you are getting out.
...bugs seek refuge in your house from the heat, not the cold.
...80 degree air conditioning gives you goose bumps.  Any colder feels like winter in Antarctica.
...all schools and businesses are closed from 1-4.
...chocolate is sold exclusively from fridges.
...their version of a hostel has no walls.
...a good number of the buildings have an opening between the roof and the top of the walls, so they are open all year round.
...hammocks are the preferred napping place. doesn't matter what color your skin is, you carry an umbrella everywhere to protect yourself from the sun. arrive dripping with sweat no mater where you go. see someone on tv wearing pants or long sleeves and think, "what is wrong with them????"
...acceptable work attire is as little clothing as possible.
...bathing suits, or just plain old naked, is acceptable street wear.

please feel free to comment and add to the list :-)

Then we got the news that we would in fact be going to Maripa-soula.  They found us a place to stay and we got on the plane two days after we got the news- arriving on the 13th of October.  Not bad, only two weeks after we were supposed to have started work.  And, to show you exactly where we are, we turn once again to  Put in these coordinates: 3.643238,-54.033088

As you can see, the College Gran Man Difou is really close by.  That is the middle school that we both work at and it takes about 5 minutes to walk there, and that isn't even the closest one to our house.  One of Becca's schools is a one minute walk from our house.  Yep.  One minute.  And that's taking into account the fact that we walk slowly here to avoid overheating.  You may have noticed a sort of field right to the north of our house.  That is where all the neighborhood kids play soccer whenever they have a spare second.  (EDIT: we realized that in fact, it's not all the neighborhood kids.  Rather, they are the kids of one family that lives next door that has enough kids to form their own soccer team.  Literally.  There are 12 of them.  And almost every family is relatively close in size).  Oh that's another thing- the concept of a lawn as your property doesn't really exist.  People just walk through your lawn if it's the shortest way to where you're going.  And it really does cut down on walking time, and when it's so hot out, the less amount of time you are outside the better.  We live on the first floor of that house, and it's got a really big kitchen, a living/dining room, a bedroom, and a toilet and shower.

Here everything is good but very different.  If you just appeared here you would never know that you were in South America.  Most of the people that live here are descendants of slaves that revolted soon after they were brought to Guiana from all over in Africa.  Everyone that doesn't fit this description (except for us) is French as was assigned to a position here (teachers or nurses mostly).  They had time to pick up some of the English language before they revolted, so their language called "aluku" sometimes closely resembles English.  However, much of what they do and eat more closely resembles their traditional cultures in Africa,  There are also pockets of Brasilians and other pockets of native peoples, so it's a pretty interesting cultural mix.  To add to that mix, directly across the river (which you can take a pirogue ride across for free) there are a bunch of Chinese people that have built shops specifically for the people from Maripa-soula.  They do this because they can't build stores here in French Guiana but they can attract customers to come across to Suriname because their prices are much cheaper.

Cody has also gone to the village of Papaichton, which takes about an hour in a pirogue (which is at its origin a dug-out canoe).  It was really awesome because it is the dry season, meaning that the driver had to do some pretty awesome manoeuvres with his 15 foot pirogue to get around the rocks in the river.  As for animals seen so far, sadly no monkeys (yet).  Many, many lizards and bugs, a beautiful frog that secretes a milky substance that burns you and blinds you and will jump on you if it feels threatened, a beautiful snake that looked exactly like a green vine, so many beautiful butterflies and moths we can't even count (or photograph most of the time), a fairly large spider (the size of your average mouse, although no tarantulas yet), someone we know saw a sloth, a rhino beetle the size of Cody's fist, and one of the most absolutely strangest bugs we or anyone here that we asked about has ever seen.  Pictures to come.

So far we haven't been doing much.  We worked for approximately a week.  Cody worked for three and a half days.  And now there is Toussaint vacation, which will end November 3rd.  To fill up the rest of the time here we have been figuring out how to feed ourselves with the strange and sometimes questionable foods.  We've also been reading, watching the kids play soccer, walking, collecting more fruit...basically the same stuff we did in Cayenne.  We have been trying to find that churches that speak French here (there are some in Portugese, some in Aluku, and some in French, so it's not always easy).  Speaking of church, we have also volunteered with an organization called Gospel for Asia, which is mainly focused on sending native missionaries to evangelize in their own countries, rather than having Americans go and have the added expenses of plane tickets, language and culture courses, and in general a higher cost of living.  They are currently trying to open up their sponsoring market in French speaking Canada, so about once a week we are getting a letter or some sort of text that we translate and then send it back to them.  In other language news, we have started learning aluku :-)

Another favorite past time of ours is getting inondated with household appliances and other items from teh people here.  So far we have been given: A t.v. with antannae (but that only gets on channel- but it has news, Friends, 30 Rock, the world championship of rugby, and some movies, so we're happy), a fan, pillows and bed sheets, utensils and pots, papayas and plantanes, strawberry wafers, coca-cola, sponges and dishwashing soap, meals, roach spray, housing in Papaichton, and probably some other stuff that we are forgetting.

So all in all, things are going well.  We got an email a few days ago saying that we needed to return to Cayenne for two days of training for the assistants working in the elementary schools, so after a long day at the aerodrome in Maripa-soula yesterday, and a rather turbulent flight, we got back to Cayenne yesterday night.  We will be staying here for a week, so we will try to get another post with some pictures up before we leave again for Maripa-soula.  Miss you all, and hope to hear what is going on with you guys too!


(aka Teeny and Tall, as we have also been dubbed.  Cody would like to clarify- he is Tall, and Becca is Teeny)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

One week in and still going strong

Salut tout le monde!  We've been in FG for about a week now, and it's still really really hot.  Definitely getting more used to it, but still- really really hot.  We thought you might like to see some pictures of what we've been seeing every day, so here ya go!

During our stay in Cayenne, we have been living at la maison de l'education.  This is the view from on of the windows in our room.  It's really great that they've been housing us for free, but the place itself is kind of far from the center of town, the kitchen is rather basic (read: none of the appliances, the stove, oven, microwave, absolutely nothing works), and our room is kind of dark (again, read: our one light doesn't work)

Here's a view from the front of the building we're staying in with the other assistants


Really beautiful beach is about a five minute walk from the house. Feels like bathwater!

Don't know if you can see it or not, but there's a really tiny, almost see-through, creepy looking crab in this photo.

Place des Palmistes

So as I mentioned, it's really really hot.  Luckily, we do have air condition in our room at la maison de l'education.  It has been so hot though, that we have been keeping our air conditioning between 26 and 28 degrees celsius.  I'll wait for those of you who are mathematically inclined to do the conversion to fahrenheit youselves....(or you could keep reading)

Yeah.  So our air conditioning stays within a few degrees of 80.  All the time.  And it feels like heaven on Earth it's so much colder than outside.  We actually have woken up shivering because 80 has started feeling cold.

Speaking of planes...

We will hopefully be traveling to Maripasoula (our placement for the 7 months) sometime in the near future.   Actually, we thought we were supposed to be there today, because today is when our contract officially starts.  However, the plane tickets are reserved a few days in advance, so we can't just go to the airport the day of and buy our tickets.  Also, our director doesn't want to send us until he's secured us a place to stay, at least temporarily, which hasn't happened yet.  He also doesn't want to send us on a weekend.  That being said, we might be in Cayenne for another week or so at this rate!

We also find out that Cody's second placement- Papa├»chton- is currently about 2 hours away from Maripasoula by pirogue on the river, because it's the dry season and the river is quite low.  It also costs 40 euros round trip, so between the money and the time, we are hoping his hours work our so that he doesn't have to make the trip too often.

Alright everyone, sorry there's nothing too exciting.  We've just been hanging out in Cayenne and enjoying it while we can :)