Monday, September 6, 2010

Across French Guyana and Suriname

French Guyana comes ahead of us with its marvelous forest that stands on both sides of the road to Cayenne. Rain has stopped. birds and mysterious animals are singing again love melodies from the deep jungle. A haze comes out covering our sight with a spiritual and mysterious veil. From the other side of the Atlantic ocean, people call this place the "green hell", for us, it looks more like a green paradise where eyes are amazed by its unique diversity, its rich flora and fauna that spread on more than 90% of the territory. A certain kind of magic lives behind those high natural walls, an attractive force that invite us to discover the mysteries of the amazonian jungle..

In marge of this intriguing forest, a small society developed more than 200 years ago by the french colons. They exterminated most of the indigenous people and import slaves from Africa to serve them and build their camps. It was a hard land to conquer...nature was stronger than everything but the blood of the slaves was not expensive and the french didn´t want to leave their only peace of land of America with its gold. When slavery was finally abolished, the french founded a new workforce with the "bagnards", criminals guilty or innocents who were sent for life in French Guyana. Later on many refugees from Sud Asia were also sent there.

Today, the majority of the people are "creole", a name that independentists don't really like. They consider themselves more as "Guyanais". They are not so supported by the population, the last referendum for more autonomy didn't pass. They are also quite a lot of "Metro", metropolitans from the continent who work usually for a short period in the education, hospitals, the Hmongs, refugees from the Indochina war control the markets and grow most of the fruits and vegetables of the country. In the last 30 years, new waves of immigration came in, most of them attracted by the economic situation, probably the best place in South America to make money. Haitians, Brazilians, who come usually illegally to collect gold in the mines or simply want a better life, some Latinos from Colombia, Peru, the indigenous people form the river with some of them who still live in the forest...a fascinating melting pot of cultures.

Our arrival in Cayenne was very surprising for us. We were trying to get as a far as possible from Europe...and we were there again. Incredible vegetation, sounds from another age, tropical climate that make us sweat every minute, exotic smiles from the locals...still, we could feel in Europe with its rules, taxes, its commercial centers...its Euro. Euro that attracts and seduces all populations living around French Guyana. It is considerated as an overseas fact it looks more like modern colonisation. France plays here poker, bluffing and winning on all stages. Social aid are distributed easily...with criteria that wouldn't be accepted in France...a subtle technique to coax the people. French Guyana, docile, is domesticated in front of this master of hypocrisy who doesn't hesitate to blind the locals with promises of a beautiful life...Ecologically, it is a disaster. Most of the products are imported from France with high prices, the local industries don't develop, some of those are even coming form Brazil and must be send to France to pass hygiene tests and then come back on the American continent...a ecological footprint for each product not sustainable at all. Those rules are even more absurd when we know that on the other side, other rules, European rules are not respected such as for recycling or sorting the trashes. Socially, it is even worst, there is a clear lack of identity in a country that has nothing to do with Europe but where everyone must speak french and use french products, segregation, racism, division of the different ethnic groups, complete absence of social development, alcohol and drugs in the streets...all this for what? a bit of gold, a spatial station, a natural park and some wood...and an immoderate french pride.

Despite all this, French Guyana remains a very nice place, quiet, a shiny sun and wonderful excursions in the jungle or on the rivers. We met there Gabriel and Joanna, a Uruguayan-french couple thanks to couchsurfing, a network of citizens of the world who share their couches, beds, ideas and thoughts with the trust in humanity. Thanks to this two angels, we get to know many people who welcome us as their brothers. We stay there for a month waiting for he passport that was stolen and the visas for the Suriname. We take advantage of this situation to admire the beauty of the amazonian forest where everything is more majestic, greener, more dense and more resounding. We hitchhike a little bit to discover the inland and spend some days at the edge of a river thanks to the generosity of our
"Martiniquais" We recycle some food...especially int he french bakeries where they are always some delicious breads and pastries and in the local markets where we are amazed by the diversity of the fruits and potatoes in this place. During this period, we face the first and hopefully the last administrative obstacle and we discover that when living and traveling without money is easy...when it comes to the administration everything is more complicated. We understand how lucky we are to be Europeans at that point. Most of the people of the world wouldn't have been able to leave their country...sad injustice...We are all human beings, brothers who share the same planet. We shall all be free to walk our earth freely. Therefore, we paid the passport...and the visas. Even the director of the City hall couldn't do anything for us...We unfortunately have to use money...hoping it is the last time. With the visas, we can finally leave Cayenne and they goodbye to our lovely adoptive family, Gabriel and Joanna, Virginie, Seb the adventurer, Kami, Laurence, Fabien, Vanessa, Reena and the others...

On the road again, easy to get out of the city we get in the same day to Saint-Laurent, situated more than 200 kilometers further on the riverside of the Maroni, the border. We meet two lovely french who organise a visit of the place, the prisons of the last centuries and they even find a way to organise us the crossing...some phone calls, good vibes and we are suddenly on the boat for Albina in Suriname. We meet there Carole and Jean-Yves with their high-tech Land rover. They are going to Paramaribo to assist to the investiture of the newly elected president, Bouterse. He has some stories of corruption and murders on his files but it doesn't seem to matter for the people. They gave him another chance because he is promising a change. Suriname is surprisingly beautiful, here the jungle is also extended over most of the territory, but the particularity of this place remains the architecture. We can feel the Dutch influences, the houses are beautiful, like in a painting from Rembrandt, all wooden and colorful houses surrounded by little channels...For more than 30 years, Suriname has been independent but no doubt that the influence of the Dutch is still very strong. we just stay one night in the capital and we get to Neckerie in one day thanks to the friendly Surinamese. Neckerie is a small town of 30 000 inhabitants that give a good insight on the Surinamese society. All speak a perfect dutch whatever their origin. There are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, all living in peace. After the British and then the dutch colonisation, the population from Pakistan or India represent more than 30% of the population. The wooden houses on stilts are charming, situated on the edge of small channels...that are unfortunately used as sewer...indeed, the level of ecological consciousness is pretty low. Everything here is thrown away in the nature and nobody seems to bother...on the riversides we can find rusted car frameworks, fridges, cans and all type of plastic packaging. Rice and sugar canes are grown thanks to huge amount of pesticides coming from Europe or China...trashes are burned in the nature, no recycling and a chaotic collect of garbage...Not nice to see, however, the people loving here are not more responsible than the ones who feed their desires of materialism and consumerism...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.