language barrier

I have been back home for quite some time now, almost four months, and I am loving this new experience. More doors are opening up for me, I am meeting new and interesting people, and I know more good things are to come. Bad things also happen, of course, but I have never let that derail me. They are blessings and lessons in disguise. Every single experience in my life, be it pleasant and not so pleasant, are worth it and welcome. They shaped me into the woman I am now. So, since I have been back I have been working a lot with people who work with Chinese or Chinese who work with the Surinamese. Good thing I can bridge the language barrier!

Excuse me, say what?

I think it was over three months ago when I received an e-mail from one of the cultural anthropologists that I have worked with in the past. She told me that a French Geographer needed someone who speaks both Portuguese and Chinese for some research that he will be doing in both French Guiana and Suriname. Since I had not used Facebook in A WHILE, she did not know how to contact me, so she tried my e-mail as the last option. The French geographer even wanted to pay my ticket if I was not planning on returning to Suriname for the Summer.

We went to Albina for two days. His research involves the illegal Brazilian small scale gold miners in French Guiana and he is writing a book about his work in French, which unfortunately I do not speak yet. But I have time on my hands because of my new career, so I will be adding another language to my list soon. Anyway, he is an incredible researcher, so knowledgable about so many things. Conversations with him were never boring, but 90% of them were very serious… except when we went out for some beers on his last night here. THAT was fun!

We went to Albina for two days because he wanted to talk to Chinese supermarket owners

So, you might be thinking: “What do Chinese supermarket owners have to do with illegal Brazilian gold miners?” His interest in them is because they are an integral part of sustaining Brazilian life there. The Brazilians who live there buy their supplies at those supermarkets, so he was interested in knowing why they were there in that region (and not someplace else), how long they had been there and where they get their supplies. All of the Chinese people were surprised when I opened my mouth and their language flowed smoothly from my lips. It was even greater when the local people in Albina heard me speak Chinese, they were like, “WHAT? Black woman speaking Chinese? This woman is AWESOME!” *I gotta get that dirt off my shoulder.*

That was going to be my room for two nights, but I only slept there one night. My work in the interior with the two cultural anthropologists has made me very flexible. Yes, I like my surroundings clean, but if I am not living there permanently, I have no problems with sleeping in the weirdest places. Once I even did number two in a hole in the forest! A snake or any kind of creepy-crawly reptile could have bitten my hooha! Quite an adventure, I loved it soooo much! If you are wondering what happened to the screen of my Google Chromebook… I also do not know. I came back from China and that line was there in the middle.

The interviews in Chinese were great. I loved hearing more about their life in Suriname.

We arrived in Albina on a Monday, I interviewed four Chinese supermarket owners, the next one was interviewed the day after. The hotel we stayed at was not the cleanest, but it did the job. I had my own private bathroom and shower, not the cleanest, but it was okay for a day or two. What I thought very odd about Albina, is that the Brazilians and the local people do not mix. I was working at the Brazilian embassy when the Albina riots happened. When this happened, it definitely was this big issue that “Brazilians were being MURDERED in Suriname.”

Quite a HOT item in Brazil at the time, I kid you not. They were outraged!

This is not a total exaggeration, but there is so much more to the story than is explained in the Wikipedia article. They used to live side by side (peacefully) before the riots, now they kind of avoid one another. Sure there are some who do not care about this, but they mainly stay out of each other’s way.

Part of his research is also Malaria and other tropical diseases. Suriname is almost a malaria-free zone, we have put a lot of work into eradicating this disease. But the garimpeiros (Brazilian gold miners) work on the French side, mostly in Maripasoula, and they bring back malaria when they return to Suriname. You only need one infected person for an outbreak to start. Once a mosquito bites that infected person, it (the mosquito) moves on to another person and another and another… and then there is an outbreak. I reconnected with a friend of mine whom I met five years ago in Antonio do Brinco, a lovely Brazilian girl who runs the Malaria program in Albina now.

Below is a map of French Guiana.

language barrier
Maripasoula is in the south. Can you see it?

From what I have understood, the French government does not really invest in malaria prevention and/or treatment, so it will be an ongoing battle. I hope this gets settled soon, because the malaria program will end in March 2020. That is why they are giving people the Malaria Kit (Mala Kit). The infected people can get a kit with all the treatment they need, but they will not be able to go back to the clinic for treatment, the only thing they can do is refill the kit. No idea how they will solve this problem going forward… I guess the French government will have to do more. Suriname also might have to do more, because the Brazilians living here all work in Maripasoula. Serious talk aside, look at my new furry friend! <3

If you are familiar with my blogs you know I dislike long blogs. Until next time, stay positive and spread love. And if there are energy vampires draining you, there is a BLOCK button for a reason. Toodles! <3