We recently finished making my Saramaccan canoe!! The tree is first cut and dug out in the jungle before it is dragged to the village.
Once the canoe arrived in the village, we submerged it about 4-6 ft underwater to prevent the wood from cracking when it came time to burn the boat. Here is where I ran into some problems. My friend Dona who was teaching me how to make the canoe left Ligorio to go work and live in another village downriver for roughly 6-7 months. Once he returned, I was busy with project work and the river level had risen, burying the boat to depths of about 16-18 ft underwater. All work on the boat came to a long halt, pushing my patience to new limits, and I was instructed to wait until the water level dropped before we began working on the boat again. With a dose of American determination, I ignored all advice, jumped in the river and began diving for my boat.
But the boat was nowhere to be found. I dove and dove again, doing my best to keep my mind off of the piranhas with whom I shared the water. I begged my friend Waldo who was watching in amusement to help me. The two of us repeated dives of all depths for at least an hour scanning the riverbed for any signs of my boat like blind men. Clearly the stronger and deeper current had swept the boat downriver but we had no idea exactly how far. Eventually Waldo gave up echoing the advice to wait until the river level decreased. I decided to give it a few more tries and on one of those dives, I hit a vine which felt anchored on the other end. Pulling on the vine, I guided myself deeper and deeper until I felt a log shaped in the form of a dug-out canoe. I was ecstatic; my fears of having lost my canoe washed away. But my excitement was grounded quickly, realizing that I should have listened to my friends’ advice.
About two months later, Dona and I hauled the boat back on to land and began working on it again with his father, Basja Alfons (who, in my eyes, is like the Michelangelo of shaping dug-out canoes). The process of making the canoe in the village is much more technical than in the jungle and I would probably say I did roughly 15% of the total work, assigned typically to jobs given to 12-16 year old boys, but I loved it. It was a great way to spend time with Dona and Basja Alfons and I learned so much by watching and helping in any way I could.
Here is a photo journal of my experience:
Click here to check out more pictures of the making the dug-out canoe!
And click here for updated photos of Life in Ligorio!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! This year I am very thankful for all of the people who have supported me over the past year and a half. Living in Suriname has been a wild ride and your support has truly propelled me forward, especially during tougher times. One testament of your support has been through my blog. Last month, the blog reached 10,000 hits and we are already well on our way to 11,000! So to all the “Sunny in Suriname” readers, THANK YOU!! Your continued interest in my adventures and the Saramaccan lifestyle means a lot to me and contributes to the mission of the Peace Corps. Please feel free to continue to spread the word!