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!