Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Tropical Paradise

I get a lot of questions like “where are you from? Are you Spanish?” Also a lot of times when I’m in The States, people talk to me in Spanish, how funny is that? So I like to play the game “guess where I’m from?” Because I’m always curious what people will say and most of the time I know they are going to be wrong anyway. Their answers would always be the same; they would say I’m Portuguese, Spanish, Italian or Latina. So when I say Dutch, people are a bit shocked “oh but you don’t look Dutch at all”, and my answer would always be “that’s because I’m special ;)”

I would explain to whoever asks me this question that my parents are originally from The Surinam. Now this is the part where it gets a bit confusing for people. They would go like: “Surinam, where is that? I’d never heard of it before”. My standard answer would be that it’s a small country in South America, right above Brazil and next to Venezuela, which used to be a Dutch colony. The Surinam is a melting pot of different ethnicities. A lot of people will ask me then “Do you speak Spanish?” “No, no hablo EspaƱol unfortunately.”

This year I decided to go back to The Surinam to visit family and explore the country. I had been there twice when I was young but I could hardly remember any of it, so in February I decided to go on my own. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect and my planning wasn't very good (I admit I'm a terrible planner). I saw my family for the first time in many years. I met all the family members I already knew and also the new additions to the family, my nephews Liam and Riley. Who btw are just the cutest.
Apart from that I went to the city by myself. I saw the presidential palace; the famous I LOVE SU sign; and Fort Zeelandia, which is a fortress in the city, that was built in 1640 as a wooden structure. Following the Surinamese independence in 1975, Fort Zeelandia became the location of the 'December Murders' of 1982 and was used to keep and torture political prisoners. On the night of the December Murders, fifteen important young Surinamese men –who had criticized the military dictatorship that had control over the country–  were killed.

One of my favorite places in The Surinam, is Palms garden (In Dutch: Palmentuin) You'll see those A-M-A-Z-I-N-G big palm trees. There is something about this place that I can't describe, you need to experience it. There was a calm vibe in the morning. If I would live in the Suriname I would go there almost everyday, taking just my book and some food to just sit back and relax and enjoy the environment. I even went that day to a restaurant/hotel called ZUS&ZO, which is just across the Palms garden. The staff is friendly and you can meet other tourists, book excursions or simply just enjoy a drink.
If you want to enjoy the nightlife, you should definitely check out 't VAT. This is the place where you'll find cafes, bars and clubs. Another favorite spot of mine is Torrarica, a hotel with a swimming pool, where they even do parties sometimes.

The Surinam is known for it's delicious  food, of course. My favorite dish is: Saoto or Saoto soup. It's a  soup dish originally from Java, Indonesia but with a typical Surinamese touch. It's basically served in every warung (indonesian restaurant) in The Suriname. If you have the chance, just try it out. Trust me you don't know what you are missing. In Holland you can find a lot of Surinamese restaurants as well. 

My absolute favourite drink is Dawet and, guess what, it's my favorite color: pink. Very sweet, but if you didn't know by now I'm a real sweet tooth. It's hard for me to describe the taste. But anyway feel free to check out the recipes of my favorite dish and drink online and create it yourself and invite me over! I doubt that anyone can cook better than my mommašŸ’“

Looking back I would've done some things differently. For sure I would've visited the Jungle. I mean, come on, the jungle is probably the most beautiful thing in the country. You can book tours practically everywhere. I regret that I didn't learn so much about the slavery in the Surinam. In The Netherlands you can't really find a lot on this subject. But no country is going to admit their faults, right?  There is actually a good Dutch movie called “How expensive is the sugar?” which relates everything about slavery in The Surinam, it was re-filmed from a book from the famous writer Cynthia McLeod. This subject has always appealed to me because I think a lot more people should know and realize what happened in the past in the colonies. We can all learn from the past so that it won't happen again but more importantly to show some more respect to people from all different races and ethnicity backgrounds. We shouldn't forget what those people have been through during slavery.

And last but not least...people ask me if I feel more Dutch or Surinamese. I've been brought up in The Netherlands but surrounded with the Surinamese culture. I feel Dutch but with a bit of South American mixed in me and I'm proud of my roots.

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