Again a hindi celebration. This time a
wedding, the Javanese call it scornfully a coolie wedding. Because they
don't like it. Little to eat and only vegetarian food, no alcohol but a
lot of noise and the hindi are so occupied with their ceremonies that
they don't have time to welcome you properly. In real terms it isn't so
bad. The lacking of booze and meat is part of religious hindi
celebrations, but according to the Javanese the reason is that it is
cheaper. Sour grapes! This Javanese envy dates from the '20s, when
the Javanese immigrated into Surinam as the second wave of contract
labourers, after the hindustani who therefore rose one step higher on
the social ladder.
But talking about money, we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw
adjacent to the wedding altar: a table especially for the presents,
manned by two collies counting large piles of banknotes.
We presented our gift modestly under cover and with an accompanying
congratulatory letter, but hindustani prefer to draw noticeable their
wallets. The donation is noted in a cash book so at a reciprocal
occasion the value of the present you are entitled to, can be checked.
Hindustani and money, we noticed it before during negotiations about
land (failed with all hindustani), terrible.
Within this scope the Surinamese-hindustani interpretation of the
reincarnation theory is quite special. One of the basic ideas of the
original hindi religion is: the richer you become during your life, the
better your next life will be and probably it will bring you into a
higher caste. Of course spiritual richness is meant here, but in
Suriname people think mainly of material wealth. The more money, the
sooner Brahman! But luckily we know many right-minded hindustani.
The wedding was a great party. The bride not dressed in white as we are
used to, but in red symbolising the energy she will need to perform her
tasks as a married woman. The groom wears yellow, the colour of thinking
and acting on human level, as he is expected to live as a good husband,
father and citizen.
The relatives were also beautifully dressed and everyone was decked out
with gold from head to foot. We were lucky to arrive just when the
pandit started the ritual of the wedding. With prayers and all
accompanying rituals such as incense, flowers, sacrifices and fire.
The traditional roti meal was very tasty. This is always dished up on
long tables where 20 or 30 people can sit. Plastic plate and metal cup
filled with water to drink and to use later to wash your hands, as no
cutlery is handed out. The people who serve the food walk alongside the
tables, armed with buckets and tubs in which they carry rice, yellow pea
sauce, marsala potatoes, pumpkin mash, mango chutney and of course the
roti's. There were 2000 guests and relatives and the neighbours prepared
together about 3000 roti’s. Solidarity and duty to one's neighbours are
part of the game here (as is the unavoidable doggybag).
When Oma closed her warung and adjoining
sailors pub by the end of May, we moved our table for regulars to the
neighbouring pub. Also a warung and again run by a granny. We call her
Mae (Sranan for “granny”).
Mae loves cooking and she has lots of customers. If we eat there, she
serves up to 8 dishes!
An assistant in the kitchen might be helpful. For a while, Mae employed
an almost toothless Indian lady of 45 years old but she was fired
because she used Mae's warung as an operating base for her own business:
for 5 euro's she went with men into the shrubs. So P was the ideal new
assistant (until we started working on the house).
The standard menu is: bakabana (banana beignets), saté (chicken of
course), saoto (soup), noodles, nasi, lumpia’s, chicken, petjil
(vegetables with peanut buttersauce) and teloh with trie. Teloh is fried
cassave and trie are small dried fish that are fried crispy with red peppers, tomatoe
Mae, P can start a warung herself at home in Boxel. The
Javanese-Surinamese kitchen is indeed quite simple. The basis of each
dish is 150 ml of oil (but drastically reduced by P). Chopped onions,
garlic and laos are fried gently and salt, sugar and aji-no-moto (flavour
enhancer) are added, a stock cube and eventually tomatoes or mashed red
peppers. Nasi, noodles but also vegetables, everything is fried in this
basic stew. Water is only for washing the dishes! We already had the
feeling that Surinamese use a lot of fat in the kitchen, but it is even
worse than we thought. And Mae claims that she uses little fat in het
In Mae’s kitchen it is fairly hot as she operates double burners.
Luckily many customers pop in and P helps them at the counter, because
as so many elderly people Mae didn't go to primary school and she can
hardly use a calculator. But marketing isn't a science, as she proved
when it was becoming very busy with sailing yachts in Domburg.
Until today it was a Dutch circle, but now our neighbours to the east
have discovered paradise. And they also want to eat at Mae's, of course
the German way as an invasion of 12 people. So the Dutch had to move up
to an improvised table. Mae didn't want to disappoint her regular
clients and the worst thing would be that we moved somewhere else for an
evening. So she suprised us with a huge pan of a favorite national dish in Surinam:
peas soup. Mae had a lot on her mind so P helped with serving. The Herrenvolk
assumed that P would clean the tables as well but when - after one hour
waiting - we pointed out that we do everything together here in Suriname,
they came into action immediately: Befehl ist Befehl.
Quick tour through our home (7.40 Mb)
We started working on the house, enjoying
buckets full of mango's; every day several are ripe and the trees are
Our mango's are most wanted and we often distribute them among the sailors,
who crave them. And from what is left we make mango mash for on the way to
the Caribbean islands. Well, “we”... we don't have much time because we are
busy with the renovation of the house, so a sailing colleague preserves
them. We deliver the mango's and we share the jars.
Our neighbours are very curious and interested. They are all very kind. Some
come to cut a kind of weed that is growing 10
cm per day and chickens crave for it. Our creole lady neighbour is happy
that our house will be inhabited again, she calls us 5 times a minute "darling"
and roars with laughter, showing her white teeth. These are richly
decorated: three teeth with golden frames and one front tooth with an
additiopnal inlay of a golden star.
P cleans up the garden, while W is managing the renovation of the house. So
he directs the team of workmen. Sailing colleagues also come to help, but
the bulk is done by our paid staff: Wensly and Marius cs: roof, raising the
ground, boundaries. These men are locals. Before we went into business, they
showed us a house that they were building at that moment, and it looked
pretty neat. They work with only three basic tools: crowbar, hammer and saw;
later an additional circle saw appeared, a 90°hook, measuring tape and
spirit level. Wensly is the boss and he has a super trained body. This is
not the result of aerobic sports training, he just works extremely hard. The
men work 10 hours a day with 30 minutes break. Quite different from what we
saw elsewhere, four persons moving a heap of sand: one shovels the sand into
a wheel barrow, one operates the wheel barrow, one shovels the sand out and
one is the supervisor.
The first day it was bingo. It hadn't been raining for weeks, but the moment
the roof was torn down... a downpour of 2 hours time. It seemed disastrous
at first but after all we could wash away all the bats droppings with the
tons of water that fell inside the house. And the following days again. But
despite of the rain, our men succeeded in finishing the wooden frame of the
roof within 2 weeks.
Teamwork is the key word here!
The 25h of November Srefidensi is celebrated: Independence Day, and all
Surinamese celebrated that their country became independent from the
Netherlands 31 years ago.
A national holiday so nobody worked... except our boys who found it
necessary to work half a day. In the afternoon we were off too and drove to
Paramaribo. The presidential palace was decorated with drapes Surinamese
and many people were festively dressed.
In the Palmtree Garden the unavoidable booths with food and drinks, but also
native art and craftwork. We bought our first piece of furniture: a
granmanbangi, the village elder's seat in marron villages. Magnificently
made (with built-in hinge) from one piece of Savanna-ironheart wood.