French Guiana. One year. A cycle. A season. In fact — two seasons: one wet, one dry, but both hot.
I managed to stay, beyond my own expectations. Well, maybe I’m just a softy, but I still think it’s tough out here. The tropical extremes, the heat, the humidity, the overly rich natural abundance — it’s wearing me off.
Maybe it’s because I’m not twenty any more. Maybe my body has just reached its limits. Maybe I crave tranquility. Maybe it’s all that.
In many ways, French Guiana is something special though. Still being a French colony, it has this typical flavor of no-hurry, no-goals, and “mommy takes care.” It’s simultaneously frustrating and relaxing.
To get things done here takes way too much time and energy (and also too much money), but on the other hand it teaches you to “let go.” It teaches you not to hope for the results you expect, and it teaches you to be happy with what you didn’t want.
It’s a country where virtually anything is possible. Or impossible for that matter. It hosts two ultramodern space centers (European and Russian), and crappy, cracked, muddy, water-soaked headache roads at the same time. A country where you lie in your hammock fighting the mosquitoes off, and suddenly feel earth and ears tremble as another rocket is launched, cruising into space.
A place where they import stuff out of Europe (mostly from France though), taking a two weeks minimum to arrive (if you’re lucky) and costing a fortune, instead of getting it out of Suriname or Brazil, which would take only a few days while being a lot cheaper. No, it’s not allowed, because French Guiana is supposed to be Europe with European laws and European rules in the European Community.
A country where the national Zoo in fact hosts less animal species than you would generally see or hear around your own home. Now really, tell me … what’s the point of having a Zoo then?
No road-signs today, but suddenly tomorrow there are literally twenty signs, symbols, and pointers planted on twenty square meters, showing you from all imaginable directions where and how to go, including to non-existing destinations.
Where thirty-five percent of the population is not born in French Guiana, and where the second (in some communities even principal) language in the West is Surinamese (Sranan Tongo), and in the East of the country — Portuguese. Where Cayenne (the capital city) seems rather like a misplaced North-Brazilian village with awkward French road signs, announcements, and advertisement billboards.
A place with very rich and very poor people. With castles and shacks. With a staggering burglary and (armed) robbery rate in cities and villages, but were you can still live safely in an open hut in the forest. Where you can drink water from the creeks (but not from all), take in healthy air, but just as well can breathe your last one having caught malaria, or a venomous snake bite.
It’s just my little fact-sheet. One year living in French Guiana. Do you get the picture? It’s frustrating, it’s funny, a fury, it’s a French frenzy. It’s La Guyane.