Total Pageviews

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Mykel's Caribbean Blog: CHAPTER SIX: The Road to Suriname

by Mykel Board

October 24, 2013- October 26, 2013

[Recap: From the start, it didn't look good for this trip. Everything went right... a bad sign. Nothing portends disaster more than everything going right.

Easy subletter in New York, smooth flight to Miami, promises of “meet you at the airport/seaport” for the whole trip. $10 a night accommodations in Guyana, the rest free.

Uh oh! Too good. The better the news, the bigger the fall later. And things get worse. (Better) The plan is to stay at the Hollywood (FLA not LA) home of my long-term friend and sometimes partner in crime, Sharon I. With a couple small exceptions. The Miami trip went so smoothly you could cry.

Then on to Trinidad, where my friends picked me up at the airport, took me around drinkin'.Then I moved to the South of the country, some fun adventures, a Goddess... er... Empress of a girl. Back to the airport and the flight to Guyana.

One thing after another... clicking into place. It's sort of like a Bingo game in reverse. Only when you do NOT get the blocks in a row can you call BINGO. If things come together in a straight line, one after the other, vertically, horizontally, diagonally, that's normal. That's losing. When things DON'T click... when they don't work out. That's BINGO.

I leave for Guyana tomorrow. My facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! will meet me at the airport. From there, we go to Jamal's place. This is the only time I'll be paying for a place to sleep: 15 days for $150US. Not bad. I'll have my own room and cool company.

Customs to leave Trinidad is a breeze. The plane is on time. We take off and land at the small airport in Georgetown. I'm one of the first to get off the plane, but I'm having a bit of difficulty organizing my few bags. A few people pass me, as I make my way to the immigration line. There are three lines: GUYANESE CITIZENS, CARIBBEAN NATIONALS, OTHER VISITORS. I get on the line for OTHER VISITORS... BINGO!

Immigration is hell. My room turns out to be a mattressless space on a hard wood floor -- with a roommate. The Air Conditioning blows luke warm. After a good drinking first night in the country, it turns very NASTY.

The cast of characters is NOT NASTY... I LIKE 'EM ALL:

Gavin and Ryan are Keep Your Day Job! the only punk band in Guyana. They meet me at the airport, take me to rock'n'roll karaoke, get me drunk. The plan is to stay here until October 26, then head with the band to Suriname. I'll be a roadie or do merch. It'll get me over to the next country with company and it'll be PUNKROCK.

The two weeks of my stay in Guyana are adventure-filled, and beer-dulled. The time approaches for the move to Suriname]

First to backtrack:

Friday October 18, 2013

It's fan-hitting time. I type this at Jerries Tight & Sweet, a small chain of air conditioned coffee shop type places. Friendly staff, beer (I'm drinking a Jamaican-made TROPICAL RHYTHMS juice right now.) AC... The day started after a nice Benadryl induced sleep. Up, breakfast downstairs, coffee, eggs and sausage, facebook. Upstairs, S-S-S and prepare to meet Ryan at 1:30 at THE MALL, our meeting spot and a place in town I know well.

1PM I get a call from Ryan. “Can we make it 2:30? I have to help my mother with something.”

Okay, that'll give me time to fuck around on facebook a bit more. Since I'm the only one in the room now I can head over to XVIDEOS and enjoy myself.

First Xvideos... I look up tight and sweet... ah, that's better. Then to Facebook. There's a message from my Danielle, my subletter:

Hi Mykel,
I hope you're having a good time in your travels. Alan, the super, left a note for everyone. They want to have the bedbug dogs in to do an inspection. I will be away for the weekend. He asked me to leave the keys with him. I know that you told me you don't want the super in your apartment while you're away, so I don't know what to do. For the record, I'm not happy that you didn't tell me your neighbors had bedbugs.

I'll be happy to leave the keys with the super. If you don't want me to, let him (email address here) know and cc me.

Great, something else to worry about. What do I do? There've been two bedbug inspections and I was there for each one. The dogs found nothing... but if I'm not there... they can find anything... they can bring it in with them. And, though I like my landlord, I don't like the idea that he can come into my apartment at any time.

But, I gotta do what's right:

Danielle, I apologize for not letting you know about the neighbor's problem. I do say, my apartment was inspected twice and they found nothing... and not only that, the whole line (2D, 3D, 4D and my apartment 5D) were found to be bed-bug free. In any case, it's best for your (and my) peace of mind if we give him the keys. That way you can be sure there are no problems.

Sure there will be problems,” i don't tell her, “I'll have to go home early, clear out my apartment, live out of a dumpster”

October 22:

I'm a bit worried about the drummer problem. The band can't play without a drummer. I can't go to Suriname unless the band plays there. Avinash (I called him Azzis in previous blog entries) has a soca band (and several others... he's something of a prodigy). They have a show scheduled for the same night we leave Guyana. He can't come.

I asked another drummer,” Gavin tells me. “He's played with us before. He can make it. The only problem is that he doesn't have a passport.”

Won't that make it difficult to enter another country?” I ask. “Even a light borders, they usually ask for a passport.”

We've got ways,” he answers. “He can come in a little below the immigration spot. Nobody will know.”

Sounds sketchy.

I'd been promised a home-cooked meal since I got here. Tonight's the night. We're going to hang out at Avinash's place. His mom is a great cook. Real Guyanan-Indian food, not what you buy in the store.

Avinash lives near OMG!, a quiet sports bar that serves tap beer. (I think they took their exclamation point from Keep Your Day Job!) It's a good place for conversation, and though bright on the outside, it's rather mellow on the inside:

When we arrive at Avinash's place we do NOT sit around the table while mom serves. We go to Avinash's room and watch punkrock videos on his laptop computer.

I hear some discussion outside. I can't make out the words. Before long, Avinash's mom brings in a plate with 2 inches of macaroni and cheese. Just one plate... for me.

Er,” I stutter, “is this dinner? I mean, thanks and all, but isn't anybody else going to eat?” I take a mouthful.

Mmmm, it's delicious,” I tell her. “But it's too much just for me.”

I hand the plate to someone else.

Nobody told me about this dinner,” says Mom. “It's the only thing I had. Look, come next Tuesday, and we'll have a real dinner. Roti, curry, the best of Guyanese-Indian.”

I look around me. No one says a thing... but mom gets it.

Oh yes,” she says, “they're invited too. Everyone's invited.”

After the get together in Avinash's room, Gavin, Ryan and I go to OMG! for drinks. That's when they have THE CONVERSATION©.

That's Gavin on the left and Ryan on the right:

Ryan: Avinash can make it now. He changed his schedule. We should bring him, right?

Gavin: We already told Nicholas that he could come.

Ryan: Avinash knows the songs he's played with us more than Nicholas.

Gavin: Avinash is a soka player. Nicholas is punkrock.

Ryan: Avinash is a better musician... and a closer friend, right?

Gavin: Avinash! Avinash! Avinash! You have him in front of your face, floating in a cloud all the time. He just isn't punkrock.

Ryan: He told me we are his only friends.

Gavin: Maybe he's YOUR friend. But I don't like Avinash. He's not punk. He won't fit in...

Ryan: But he's played with us before.

Gavin: Ok, Keep Your Day Job is YOUR band. You can do what you want. You want Avinash, we'll have Avinash.

Ryan: No, I didn't mean that. It's just that I told Avinash he could come. I thanked him for changing his plans. We asked him first, right?

Gavin: Nicholas agreed first. Look, you do what you want. I'll take care of everything EXCEPT telling the drummer. You do that. Say whatever you want.

Ryan: But...

Gavin: It's over. You're in charge of the drummer situation now.

We finish our beers and leave the bar in uncomfortable silence. The next day Ryan gives Avinash the bad news.

There goes my home-cooked meal, right?

Not exactly.

OCTOBER 21: we go to Avinash's place for dinner as planned. It is not comfortable.

Avinash's extended family: mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, sister's son, and more. All sitting around the table. Everyone, except Avinash. He's eating in his room... by himself.

No one mentions him at the dinner. Conversation is about New York, mosquitoes, something to do with cricket, and the weather. The food is delicious, best home cooked meal so far... but the atmosphere is... well... weird.

[Note: there are only three kinds of weather in the Caribbean: HOT, RAINY, or HOT AND RAINY. Yet, complaining about the weather is a favorite pastime... as if each day were somehow different than the day before.]

Avinash comes out of this room wearing a smile. He scoops a second helping of curry on to his plate. Then he brings it back to his room and shuts the door. A new guest arrives at about 8:30. Vaguely oriental looking, he's thin, handsome with glasses that have very thick lenses.

This is peeps,” Ryan introduces him. “Peeps, this is Mykel. He's from New York. He's seen The Beatles.”

After dinner, we retire to the parlor. Avinash comes out of his room. He is smiling... joking with his his sister... speaking with mom and dad... says hi to me... doesn't speak to Ryan or Gavin... we talk about the weater, New York, the curry dinner and whether it was too spicy for the white guy from New York.

It wasn't when I ate it,” I say. “Excuse me... where's the washroom.” They laugh.

I'm gone 20 minutes, but feel a whole lot better when I return.

Oct 23: Get up late. Do the usual morning things. Have coffee and breakfast downstairs. Then THE PHONECALL© comes. It's Ryan. He gets right to the point.

Mykel,” he said, “Nicholas backed out. He said that if he came with us he'd lose his job. We don't have a drummer.”

So what are you going to do now?” I ask.

We'll have to ask Avinash again,” he says. “I don't think he'll do it, right?”

You bet your punk assets he won't do it. You told him he could come. He changed his music plans. Then you told him he couldn't come. Rejection from his only friends. If it was you, would you come? I don't say any of this.

[NOTE: This just in from Gavin. Here's his take on the whole thing, which is probably more accurate than mine, since he was the insider, I was listening and barely understanding, from the outside:

Avinash did NOT change his music plans. He never got a replacement, which is why he couldn't come with us in the first place - so we had to ask Nick. Then after Nick backed out, it was just a final hope that maybe he could still find the replacement, but he still couldn't. So we didn't put him at any inconvenience by telling him he couldn't come .. because he COULDN'T come.]

The rest of the day is a blur. Walked into town to hang out at Jerries Tight and Sweet. Wrote a lot there.

[Positive point.. even though I've been way too facebook (not to mention xvideos) I have written a lot in Guyana. A travel piece for Street Carnage, a diary blog entry that brings me to the Guyana airport, and a post-MRR column explaining why the way you think is wrong. I wish I were that productive at home.]

Oct 24: Last full day in Guyana, I think

At 6AM Jamal's phone alarm goes off. As loud as a car alarm, it rings. Stops just long enough to think it's over, then starts again. An awful BING BANG BING BING. It doesn't wake Jamal.

I fumble for the zipper between the hammock and the mosquito netting, sliding it open, I right my body in the swinging hammock... let my feet touch the floor... slide out and crawl to Jamal's phone. By now I'm an expert in shutting the thing off. I continue to the bathroom, take care of my morning bladder, slip back into the hammock and fall into a fitful sleep.

At noon, Danielle texts me from New York saying that she's been to the post office and taken care of everything else. The landlord has the keys to my apartment and he'll let the dogs in to check for bedbugs. If the results are negative (logic says they should be, they've been negative so far), Danielle gets the keys back when she returns on Monday. If they find bugs (Mykel Boardism says they should)... I'm screwed. Party's over. Go back home, pack up everything (it'll take weeks), and let 'em spray out the bugs.

From 1 to 3 I pack up, take down the hammock, put away the electronics, charge up my camera and phone. Spend an hour on facebook.

At 3 I take a walk into town. Jamal's apartment is the only reliable source of AC (except for Jerries). But there, it's such a strain to get myself to write. I need to at least do something that's not Facebook. I walk to the post office to mail a couple of postcards. On the way back I stop for Royal Castle chicken. It's better in Trinidad. I stop for a banks beer... sitting at a table by myself. Drinking against the heat. A little boy, six or seven years old walks up to me and grabs my sunglasses. I chase the kid, grab him by the shoulder and wrench the glasses out of his hand. They do not break.

At 7 I text Ryan a simple: What's the story?

He calls me back. “Looks like we're going without a drummer,” he says. “We'll just stay at Gavin's tonight and leave in the morning. No rehearsals, right?”

How do I get to Gavin's?” I ask him. “Should I take a taxi?”

No,” he says, “I'll take a taxi and pick you up on the way to Gavin's.”

It's now 9:10. I'm packed and waiting. Waiting for the cab and Ryan to take me to Gavin's. Where we'll watch videos of Nirvana, Blink 182, and maybe a GG Allin or two... and wait. Wait until morning when we'll travel to Suriname, the only country I need a visa for. It's a long hard trip. With no idea what happens next.

9:26 Gavin calls. No nothing has changed. It's just that Jamal called him and told him he met this girl and he's trying to score so could I please have all my stuff out of the room by the time he gets back so I won't disturb them.

No problem,” I lie.

Everything is a problem.

9:45 Gavin texts: Ryan is taking too long to pack. You'll take everything you have and come here directly. I'll call you in half an hour.

10:30 I arrive at Gavin's house by taxi. The driver is angry because I put my bags on the ground to leave the building, and then put them on the seat of his cab.

People got to sit there, man,” he says. “Wattsa matter wid you?”

He's lucky there is no tipping in Guyana... or maybe I'm lucky.

The bus is going to pick us up at 4 tomorrow,” says Gavin when we sit in the living room.

That's good,” I tell him, “that'll give me the morning to take care of a few things in town. I want to go to the post office and the bank, and get something to eat for the trip.”

I guess he doesn't hear me.

Where do I sleep?” I ask him. “Should I stay on the couch?”

I think we should just stay up,” he says. “There's not that much time. And we can sleep on the bus. It'll just be us, so we'll have room to sleep.”

It's then I realize that the 4 o'clock is IN THE MORNING.

Ryan arrives at about 1AM.

For the next three hours, the two of them play video games. I try to sleep in an easy chair in the living room. It's not easy.

The bus comes at just after four. It's not a bus. It's a van. Room for 8 people and a driver. When the buss arrives there are 6 people inside... and the driver. Three of the people are giants. Pro-wrestler sized and shaped, they tell us they're from Latvia.

So was my grandmother,” I tell them.

They didn't know her.

To say that the road between Georgetown and the border is bad, is like saying that an amputation is inconvenient. True, but it doesn't tell half the story.

The trip costs less than the $100,000 we expected to pay. It's only $60,000... about $30US... Ryan and Gavin pay for me. The driver hands us tokens that we can use on the other side to pay for the bus from the port to Paramaribo, the capital.

Next is the ferry to Suriname. In order to buy a ticket, we have to wait in a long winding line reminiscent of the line at immigration when I entered Guyana. When we get halfway through the line, Gavin runs off. We're almost to the front of the line when he returns, with a bottle of duty-free Jack Daniels.

Through the ticket/customs line. Ferry boat tickets in hand (Gavin and Ryan paid for me), we get on the boat... more like a barge than a ferry... and cross the river.

On the other side, we again have to wait in a long line at Suriname immigration. Those guys don't need visas to enter the country, I do. It cost me $100 US. It'd better work.

[FACTOID: In the 1600s the Dutch and British traded. The Dutch got Suriname. The British got New York.

I guess I should tell them we're here to play at a party or something,” I say. “I don't think you're allowed to work in Suriname.”

That's right,” says Gavin, “Tell him we're just going to play at a party.”

I got in trouble in Mexico,” I say. “I was crossing the border with a band and we had guitars. They thought we were going to work in Mexico illegally. Can you believe it? The Mexicans thought Americans were illegally entering Mexico to work.”

He didn't get the irony.

Once we reach the front of the line in Suriname, my passport is stamped. Gavin and Ryan's are stamped. We head out to find the bus that our tokens are good for. A man in a uniform blocks our way.

You with the guitars,” he says, pointing to Gavin and Ryan. “Step inside that room there.” He points to a little room on the side of the immigration office.

Uh oh, here it comes.


[You can read previous travel blog entries below.
You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the RSS link at the bottom.
You might also want to check the blog of Mykel Board's Columns .

WARNING: The column blog is not PG. It might make you mad, or disgusted. The thin-skinned, politically correct, and easily sickened should probably stay away. You have been warned.]

No comments: