Bigi jari in Suriname


Surinamese love celebrations. The nicest parties are the family celebrations and the good news is that we belong there as part of the family! Especially Javanese and Creole families and they say it literally: “You are my sister/brother.” These parties are always heart (and stomach) warming. The whole evening people are busy warming dishes, and no convenience food but everything is home-made. When the Dutch go to supermarkets and domestic caterers for ready-made snacks, these people spend a week in the kitchen to treat their guests to home-made  traditional pastry, oven plates, cookies etc. It is a lot of effort and the costs are considerable (especially in relation to the average income). That is why many Surinamese celebrate their birthday only once in five years. But they make a good parfty then!
The most important “bigi jari” is when you turn 40, 50, 60 or 75. Petra's was on the 2nd of April...

The preparations. The back terrace and the path on the front side of the house were covered with tiles and once busy with that, we extended the job  to the guest's quarters, thus making the whole ground floor looking extremely neat. We also had to construct a large party tent (from two genoa's, yes we are still sailors) because the weather was very instable.
JW also constructed a complete bar on the back terrace. But according to Marius, who came by while JW was at work, it was not a real bar as he didn't see any bottles. (Marius is quite bottle-oriented.) But of course the bottles arrived in the end, and a whole lot more. The organizing comittee looked to that: P&JW obviously, and Patricia as she knows exactly how to organise things.
One thing is certain: in Surinam you can't have a party without food. The national dish is peas soup (with hot pepper of course) and that seemed a good start. Followed by a buffet of multiculti-culi dishes, bearing in mind that moslims don't eat pork, hinustani don't eat beef etc. All this from the kitchens of P and JW, Mia, Mia’s mum and especially Patricia put herself put; even on the evening itself.


You can't celebrate a bigi jari without live music. Through Marius' sister we contracted a Creole band: Tjon Tjon. Eight good-humoured men playing not only South-American meringue but also cheerful Dutch-Surinamese songs on guitars, trumpet and percussion.

The guests
. A hundred people! Most of them Surinamese friends, but also Dutchmen in Surinam and on top of it all our oldest friends in Holland flew into Surinam tespecially for the party. With Jos and Anne-Marie we sailed along for 25 years, and Richard was JW’s first boss and marriage witness. It was great to have them with us (for a whole week!) and also quite practical as Jos as chief technician and Anne-Marie as busybody were essential during the preparations and also after the party.

The outcome was a fantastic party and everyone was (and is) madly enthousiastic. The dancing was great thanks to the band-leader, who not only played his trumpet but also the public, so our dancefloor of 36 m2 was just big enough! , and
The dancing culminated in a polonaise around the house, finished on the dancefloor with a farewell dance: the birthday girl in the middle and encouraged by the band-leader everyone made a quick dance with her. On Petra with Marius.
+++++++++ Click for the film! ++++++++ (5.23 Mb)

A birthday means presents, but the biggest gift is the successful medical treatment of P’s hallux valgus which became more and more annoying.
So we visited Pakč, the most famous “dresiman” in Suriname, also known as “the bone doctor”. A dresiman (medicine man) works with medicinal leaves and herbs. More comfortable than an operation, on demand of the insurance company executed in Holland. Furthermore rehabilitation takes at least 6 months, and it is a rather painful thing as well and not always successful.

Pakč’s outpatients' clinici ldoesn't look like a hospital. Three brick walls and a roof of corrugated iron as waiting room, including a surgery with adjoining kitchen where the medicines are prepared. Some scorched metal pans containing indefinable mashes and a wooden bed for the patients to sit or lie down on. A rasta walks in and out; he is the assistant who brings buckets of water, carries patients nto their cars (in Surinam are not many wheelchairs) and he often gets his bike to collect the necessary leaves in the forest.

It is extremely busy six days a week
and when Pakč treats open wounds, he does so in the waiting room as the surgery is too dark. And it is also closer to the taps. Thus we are granted a view on the most horrible wounds caused by diabetes. Very painful, judged by the moaning, but Pakč's treatment is quick and skilful. The wounds are washed, desinfected and then he adds a compress with a powder of burned leaves and oil and bandages it again. All these patients were told by their doctors in the hospital that they were facing amputation, but  Pakč succeeds in a couple of weeks in curing festering wounds to the bone, with a diameter of 5 cm or more. We saw it with our own eyes.

Pakč is not a wizard; he makes use of ancient knowledge. His father was the most famous dresiman in Surinam, so was his grandfather and Pakč maintains the family honour. He looked at P's foot without touching it and  naar P’s voet zonder hem aan te raken en announced that he could treat it for 250 SRD (€ 70). That afternoon he cooked a medicine of leaves, soft candle wax and oil and applied it with a bandage. To be renewed daily, move a lot and a result in ten days, he said. But the everlasting nagging pain was already gone after four days! And after six days the crooked grown bone was definitely a tiny bit smaller. “It is becoming thin,” Pakč observed. It is not going fast but we will continue the treatment which is in our opnion already a success because P's radius of action has already increased considerably.

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