Today we go on a quick day trip into jungle with friend, Jaswan. Was supposed to be yesterday but business kept him too busy...we insisted that he not disrupt his schedule just for us but he really wants to get us out somewhere so we shall see. We leave for Fr Guiana tomorrow on bus at 8 am.
Our experience in Suriname puts many things into perspective and illustrates the difficulties faced in S. America. Case in point - Jaswan would be considered a success anywhere in business world having developed businesses, built a home, and has many possibilities and resources going into the future! Unfortunately, his business, tho austensibly legal, relies on providing logs to China and India thru illegal means. The govt. inspects the logs and, for example, stamps 5 of them. After govt. okays them the seller adds 5 more to the load which is put into shipping containers and loaded on ships...3000 containers/ship, half legal. Jaswan makes one/two trips like we did - 250km (150 miles) into jungle to Amerindian village each week. He brings them staples and food in return for logs. They have no electricity or water except from rain (altho Aruna says the village of 9 sisters/husbands/children are lucky in that there is a spring w/in walking distance. Mostly just old people are in the village, the children live in Paramaribo to go to school. The village has been here 15+ yrs, the road was built in 1963 (700km+ long) into the jungle. The govt. allows Amerindians to have land if they make it productive ie lumber or living off what the jungle provides (Jaswan also buys animals once in awhile). On the surface all is legal but then there are a few govt inspections and someone gets caught and the fines are huge. Most of this business, it apprears, is done by people of Indian or other foreign decent. You see lots of Chinese running retail stores or businesses and restaurants. Likewise, it seems Indians are into agriculture/land ownership. So the exploitation of resources is continueing if not expanding. Alcoa has one of the largest bauxite mining operations outside Parimaribo and it's been here over 60 years, still going strong!
After our trip into the jungle Jaswan exchgs $$ for us, it's black market time. He gives us 3.35 to 1 US, the official exchg from banks is 2.71 to 1 US, quite a difference.