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Back in Suriname - and in the hospital

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Our return trip from Trinidad went flawless. Petra and Dick (Sally Lightfoot) were so kind to bring us to the airport; distance 30 km but in peak hours this means two hours driving. The plane was not late but early, our neighbour Gerben obviously wanted to be the first to greet us so he was already in the airplane (coming from Curaçao), and our backdoor neighbour picked us up from Zanderij. And after a couple of icy-cold rum and cokes we enjoyed a wonderful night's sleep in our airco-ed bedroom in our four poster bed (our double berth on board is exactly 117 cm wide, which is not much in the heat).

We had a lot of work to do in home and garden, although on the day of our return Viviane already did the worst jobs with four people. But four months of absence in the tropics result in mildew all-around, and a pressure washer is an indispensable instrument; and of course many buckets with soap and chlorine.
Inquisitive neighbours passed by and one hindustani lady inquired boldly for her sister, who is on the look-out. JW didn't understand at all what she was talking about, but P immediately knew what was going on: we were approached as go-betweens. “But surely someone from your race.” Hindustani men hit their wifes and bakra’s don't do that and also they don't run away, that's why.

Not only did we catch up with home and garden, socially we had to catch up as well. With Kaka's family we made a day trip to Babunhol in the interior. One of Kaka’s brothers owns a mini bus that could take 9 people, plus lots of food. We had three big guys on the back seat and additional to our cool box, we carried two more coolers and all the necessary attributes such as hammocks and snacks.
As usual we left an hour later than planned and it is a long ride: one and a half hours of driving over neat tarmac, but the Surinamese don't see it that way. Three years ago it was still a disastrous trip over an extremely bad bauxite road and they don't forget that. So underway we stopped for an icy-cold rum and coke.

Upon arrival at 10.30 food was served immediately: moksi alesi (mixed rice) with chicken and “pepper and sour”. In the afternoon we had rice, beans and chicken and (as is the proper way) all this was continuously washed away with rum and cokes. In between we went for a “swim” in the Suriname river. Surinamese swimming is nothing more than loitering and liming in the water. Very entertaining, but it has nothing to do with any sportive activity, unless it concerns the swimming marathon.

For the annual swimming marathon the sailing club was asked for assistance to support the swimmers. We were with six and in Holland this number would have been split up in two boats. But in Suriname the motto is: the more people the merrier, so we all embarked on Kurt's boat, an ancient Beneteau 28. Sponsor Staatsolie provided us with T-shirts and safari caps and 20 liters of fuel, which the guys used to top up their cars. We had to distribute fresh water in flow packs among the swimmers, as it is a long swim from Domburg to Paramaribo: 18 km. With a favourable current, but still, and the quickest (a 15 year old boy) finished in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 11 seconds.  A day out in Suriname means: plenty of food and topped up coolers; it was a very pleasant day.

We also sailed with the sailing club in a recently launched Chuck Payne 24, a self-build project in glassfiber/polyester which took the owner 30 years. The boat is a darling and amazingly tight, especially considering the (non) availability of construction materials in Suriname.
The sailing club is rather active at the moment and if something is going on, we are eager to join the party. Within 4 weeks we went for a sail twice and we had a meeting at our place and one at Kurt's. On
his boat is in the background as it is moored in front of his house.

You don't go every day into a hospital, but JW had to because he had a cyste in his spine and this could only be resolved in surgery. In Holland they have waiting lists of at least 6 months and that was the  argument (and not the much lesser costs!) with which JW’s neuro surgeon convinced our Dutch health insurance that the surgery could better be done in Suriname. Quite an adventure, in a Surinamese hospital, and at times also difficult as the trouble started already at hospitalization, for which JW had to be present at 9AM, but it was not before 6PM that they finally found a bed for him... So that night P dreamt about the surgery being performed in a broom closet and ON THE FLOOR for lack of beds.

Nevertheless our general conclusion is that health care in Suriname is on a surprisingly high level. The GP who took the right action and referred JW immediately to the right specialist, the approachability and the competence of the neuro surgeon and the anaesthesiologist, the nurses, all are professional and above all extremely kind. The biggest bottleneck is money. The accommodation is poor, and the organisation and communication are quite inadequate. But when you realize that payment of vacation allowances to the hospital staff was a big item in the newspapers, it is clear that means to improve things are insufficient.
Being hospitalized is never great fun and you have enough time to split hairs. That during visiting hours you may be confronted with 10 visitors for your neighbour, rubbing him with bush medicins, and on top of that a religious service organised by a reverend, is part of life in  Suriname. Upon admission you receive 2 visitor's passes, so you can question the organisation. Every bed in the class area has tv, but no headphones. So if your neighbour watches a Bollywood movie while you want to read a book...
JW’s recovery worked out much quicker than his admission to the hospital and he is now home again and already rather mobile.

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