Welcome to Michael and Lara's Ministry Updates from Guyana! (AKA "Mike and Lara" AKA Myk-en-Lara" :-) We Love to keep in touch with all our family and friends, but its difficult when we are so far away, and our internet here is not so reliable. So we will post our experiences and pictures on this site for everyone!

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Visit to the “Land of Many Tongues”

So our time in Guyana had run out again, due to the increasingly annoying three-month visa limitation. This restriction has become much more of a hindrance lately and has grown to include the majority of the foreign Need-Greaters in Guyana. When we had first arrived in Guyana in the summer of 2009, the branch was allowed to sponsor and extend the visas of 100 foreign witnesses, but in spring of 2010 it was sharply reduced to 50. So that number was just about enough to cover the Missionaries, and Elders that were serving in the 45 congregation of Guyana. Sadly around July this year another letter was sent out to all those sponsored indicating that the number had again been decreased to a mere 20! So many have recently been thrown into a very insecure situation and have been uncertain how best to proceed. Thankfully none of us are alone in this work, and with the combined research and efforts of our brothers and sisters here, many have been able to successfully handle this situation.

First of all, we have steadily been hearing good reports from those that have decided to continue serving in Guyana by simply crossing the nearest border, staying for a few nights and then re-entering Guyana. This has method has been suggested both by the Branch and by the Authorities at the Ministry of Home affairs. By doing this the majority have been able to get consecutive three month visas as needed. And Secondly, since this border crossing is becoming more common now, many of the friends in our Neighboring countries have worked together to lighten the load of crossing the boarder. Many have opened their homes to these ones, providing food and shelter, and meanwhile enjoying a joyful interchange of encouragement from other lands!

- - Map of Suriname - -
We went as far as Paramaribo this time but the first time we just stopped in Nickerie.

This was the experience that we recently had on our border crossing into Suriname. This would be the second visit that we’ve made and this time we were even able to arrange for a stay at the Suriname Bethel! Of course it was a beautiful branch as all Bethels are but this time we were very surprised at how multilingual everyone at the branch was. We were quite prepared to have to struggle to communicate with our Dutch speaking brothers and sisters, but right from the start the sister at the front desk went into an elaborate explanation of how almost everyone in Suriname speaks at least two languages and many speak three or more! She explained that in school the formal language taught is Dutch, but from an early age the children are also taught some English. Then in day-to-day life most people speak a Creole language called Sranan Tongo, which is Dutch for “Suriname Tongue”. On our first visit to Surname we heard of this language and we assumed that it was just a Dutch Slang or Creole, but it is actually a mix a various languages and it is very different from Dutch.

- - On the Left is Dutch - On the Right is Sranan Tongo - -
Notice that a few words are taken from the Dutch Language

Origin of "Sranan Tongo" Language

Here’s a brief history of how it was formed: When Suriname (Dutch Guyana at the time) was being colonized there were various slaves brought in, some from Africa, much the same as the British were doing. But the big difference from the British is the Dutch were very Strict with the Slaves and would not allow them to speak Dutch, whereas the British attempted to teach their slaves English. So this explains why there are so many more languages in Surname and Guyana is primarily English based. But the problem of communication arose during colonization of Suriname since there were so many languages, even the slaves from different African tribes could not communicate with each other. So a sort of Pidgin or Creole Language was formed which was English based but also has influence from Portuguese, Dutch, and African languages. And since it was spoken only in Suriname it was named “Suriname Tongue”.

Amazingly, apart from this there are other Creole Languages that are spoken only in Suriname like a Hindi / Dutch Creole called Sarnami. There’s also a Bush Language called Saramacan which has strong influences from the Native Tribes of Suriname. So the brothers and sisters at the Branch have their work cut out for them since they have to coordinate with NY in translating any new literature into these languages. This includes new releases and Magazines. Interestingly at the 2011 Convention of Suriname they just released a New World Translation bible in the “Sranan Tongo”. This was a huge feat since the language is mostly verbal and most are not used to reading it.

 - - Some of the Many other Languages Spoken in Suriname - -

- - Closely Related to the Saramaccaan People are the Aukaan people - -
They speak the same tongue but have a stronger African Influence

- - Suriname Bethel - -

- - Morning Worship - -
We Love to attend the morning worship when we visit Bethel, sadly this time the talks were in dutch, but afterward we enjoyed some nice conversations with various members of the family.

- - Check out the amazing lunch we had, "Chicken Loaf w/ Potatoes and Salad"
We also got loaded up on Fruits, its amazing how much fruit the Bethelites eat! - -

- - Our Accomodations =D - -

- - Some of the old Printing and Translating Equipment - -
- - In the 80's all the printing was transfered from Suriname to Germany. - -
Apparently it is much cheaper to print and ship from Germany, than from NY.

The Bethel Family

As you can see Suriname has a very diverse and rich culture, but we especially enjoyed getting to know the various members of the Bethel Family! Many of them are members of the translating team, including our tour guide who explained to us all about the history. From Childhood she was able to get a very unique perspective of Suriname since her father was a traveling overseer. She not only did she get to visit virtually all of the country, she also learned many of the local languages and even Spanish and Portuguese!

We also met a very kind couple, the Van Marl’s who invited us over for refreshments after Monday Family Worship. He is from Suriname and his wife is originally from Holland. We learned that they are involved in the sign language work, but much like Guyana, very few have learned the formal sign language, so their efforts concentrate on teaching people an “Unofficial” Dutch Sign Language in order to communicate.

- - Van Marl's - -

On our last night at the Bethel we were invited by the Struiken’s (Pronounced Stroy-ken) to come over for dinner but sadly Lara got a very bad migraine and we had to cancel. So instead the couple decided to pick up dinner for us and bring it over! We were so touched by their loving kindness, and on top of that another couple left on our door an amazing fruit that looked like a grapefruit but it was the size of a Cantelope!

- - This is the Food that the brothers brought over for us,
Delicious Chow Mein! And a Giant Grapefruit! - -
(We think they meant to write "SAFE Trip")

- - Yes, It tastes as good as it looks! - -

- - Struikens - -

Before we left the branch we got a chance to go into the capital city of Paramaribo! We were very excited to see the city since so many before us have raved about it being very “modern and clean”, and we viewed it as a chance to get some hard-to-find items that we needed back home. After traveling all over Guyana, we felt fairly capable of handling the travel from the branch to Paramaribo, which was only 30 minutes away, but things got very complicated very quickly. For one thing, unlike Guyana, which has only one main road which will take you just about anywhere, Suriname has a network of bus routes which go various locations. So in order to get anywhere you have to know the number of the bus and where to catch it. Thankfully a brother was able to get us to the correct bus stop and away we went!

- - They use real buses here as opposed to the "Mini Buses" in Guyana. - -
- - These are Much Slower though. =) - -

As we got closer to the city we started to get a bit disillusioned as the scenery was nothing spectacular, pretty much like Guyana, but with a lot more Chinese shops all along the way. These shops are huge and are pretty much like the “Wal-Marts” of Suriname carrying all the same items, but nothing we needed.

Eventually we noticed things looking a bit more populated, and we realized that we were now In Paramaribo. But we had no idea where to get off, as we kept expecting to see some kind of obvious city center, but everything looked the same! So thankfully Lara had done some research beforehand and got the name of the place we wanted to go which was called Onafhankelijkheidsplein, (No that’s not a Typo) which is Dutch for Independence Square, I have no idea how to pronounce it! So we spoke to a lady next to us and asked if she spoke English. She said she spoke a little bit, and we simply showed her the paper with the name of the place we wanted to go since we couldn’t even say it! She said she could help us get there and she ended up passing her stop and staying with us the whole way! It was quite nice when we reached to more historical part of Suriname which has some of the original buildings from Colonization period. The Highlight was visiting the 400 year old Fort Zeelandia!
Fort Zeelandia

- - On the Right is a Chamber used to Torture former Prisoners - -

Government Buildings

 Parliment Buildings

Other than that the day was pretty uneventful and a little disappointing since we didn’t find any of the items we needed but we did get to have a nice Lunch at a restaurant called Spanhoek Terras. It seemed very popular with the Tourist who were almost entirely from Holland. Lara kept commenting on how strange it was too see these white people walking around all over the place, since its very uncommon in Guyana to see any tourists at all.

- - Dinner: Cheeseburger w/ fries and Chicken Pita Sandwhich - -

So the time came to leave the “Big City” and we began our search for the bus that brought us in but of course everything started looking the same. The only reason we could find our way around at all was because we found an affordable map at a gas station. So after wandering around for awhile, trying to remember the number of the bus that we came in on, we decided to try and ask for help. It took a few tries to find someone that spoke enough English to understand us, and eventually we did find a nice man who enthusiastically told us which bus we needed. He kept saying “Pay Kah Way” “Pay Kah Way”, and we though maybe he meant that was the name of the bus. But I told him to write down the number of the bus and he wrote “P K W” which in Dutch is pronounced “Pay Kah Way”! So we finally figured out the number of the bus, now had to find it. So armed with our map and our handy pronunciation of Dutch letters we finally got back to where we needed to be.
On our way back home we stopped at the border town of New Nickerie and were able to stay a night with a wonderful couple, the Goolsarrans. This family has taken in several other need-greaters who have needed to cross the border, showing an incredible spirit of hospitality. We had a great time getting to know them better and they kept telling us that next time we would have to stay longer so they could have a gathering and go in service with us. We went to meeting that night and they wanted us to at least have a chance to get to know a special pioneer couple who are assigned to the English congregation there in Nickerie, Leon and Camille Doornbosch.

- - Meeting at New Nikerie -  No Jackets? - -

- - On the Left is the Doornbosch's and the right the Goolsarran's - -
- - Dinner: Pancakes and Chicken! - -

Making trips like these is not always easy as it does add an extra financial burden, and somewhat reduces the amount of time we are able to stay in our assignment. However as stated in the intro we view them as a precious opportunity to expand our appreciation of our international brotherhood. Even though we hear about the love of our brothers from our magazines and studies, experiencing it really serves to solidify in our minds that this is the truth. There's no other religion that has this same kind of love and hospitality amongst its members!