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Monday, March 10, 2014

IT CRAWLS UP YOUR WHAT? or Mykel's Caribbean Blog Chapter 13

by Mykel Board

Nov 15, 2013- Nov. 23, 2013


[Recap: From the start, it didn't look good for this trip. Everything went right... always a bad sign. Nothing portends disaster like 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 before, the bigger the fall later. And things get worse. (Better) The Miami trip goes so smoothly you could cry. The only problem was a lot of rain-- heavy rain. The streets were rivers. There were waves in the pool. I got wet. Very wet.

Then on to North Trinidad, where my friends pick me up at the airport, take me around drinkin'. Then, I move South to San Fernando T'dad... have some fun adventures, meet a Goddess... er... Empress of a girl. Go back to the airport and fly to Guyana.

In Guyana, my facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! meet me at the airport. From there, we go to Jamal's. This is the only time I have to pay for a place to sleep: 15 days for $150US. Not bad. No, it doesn't go perfectly. But it goes, and I meet some great people in the country. My trip to Kaiteur Falls in the jungle is literally (741 feet) a high point.

The two weeks of my stay in Guyana were adventure-filled, and beer-dulled. Most days, it rained. Sometimes for just an hour or two in the afternoon. Sometimes all day.

I don't get it Mykel,” Jamal tells me. “This isn't the rainy season.”

The plan is to travel to Suriname with Keep Your Day Job! I'll be a roadie! Mykel tours with a band... again. Yowsah! But, uh oh... a drummer problem. (Hard to imagine, huh?) Two drummers had agreed to tour with them. One, a close friend, the other, more PUNKROCK. They ditch the friend for the punkrocker. He bails at the last minute. (A punkrocker baling? Hard to imagine, huh?) The now former-friend does not answer emails. I cannot play drums. This cannot work out. We go to Suriname anyway. It works out.

In Suriname, I stay with a punkrock student and his super-generous parents. I mention a local synagogue; they arrange a tour. I mention a trip to “the interior,” bang, we're there... surveying monkey meat. When dad can't do it, they get the poor son, Jose, to chauffeur me around, as if he doesn't have enough with schoolwork and his own band, ADHD. I can see he hopes for rain... It's an excuse to stay home. Often, there is rain.

Then it's on to French Guyana. There, Florian, the brother of one of my top ten pals, Simon, lives with his girlfriend Marie.

So it's off to FRENCH GUIANA. I take a small boat there. The captain lets me choose “legal or backtrack?” I choose legal. Once landed at immigrtion, I annoy the white immigration officer by asking for a passport stamp. They give it to me and try to hustle me away. I'm as hungry as shit and don't know where I am.

What happens? My hostess Marie meets me on the road, helps me negotiate a ride with a French Guianan truck driver, and gets me to her place. Smooth as a baby's ass. The first morning is a crepe breakfast. Then a dip in the pool, then I donno. Everything is spot on... except that it's raining.]

I forgot to mention, THE CURSE. I knew it was coming. This is, after all, the life of MYKEL BOARD... Things cannot go well. And too much has gone well to start with. It's like that trip to the countryside in Mongolia. Everything arranged... free even (a trade for English lessons). A day of Gobi Desert/Altai mountain horseback riding-- Mongolian style-- then a night in a real Mongolian ger.

What an adventure it will be! Then I find out the Mongols use wooden saddles. I can't walk right for a week.

FLASH TO 2013: The ORIGINAL plan was for Florian and Marie to meet me at the boat terminal and drive me to their house. But... THE CURSE! The car broke down just before I got there. That's why I had to walk to my hosts' house. But, I DIDN'T have to walk. I was saved. Driven on a truck by one of the fine natives of French Guiana. Oh no! When is it going to hit?

My first breakfast in St. Laurent du Maroni: That morning (as will be the usual case) breakfast at home: crepes today.

What should I put in them?” I ask Marie.

Whatever you like,” comes the answer.

I don't know how to make them,” I say. “You tell me.”

Whatever you like,” comes the answer.

So I put in some jam, some fruit preserves some chicken bits, some pork. And the laughing starts.

Marie laughs. Laughs harder. “You put pork and jam together?”

You said put in what ever you like,” I answer.

Florian!” she yells. “Mykel made a crepe with pork, chicken and jam!” Then she laughs more.

Florian laughs. “Jam and pork and chicken!!!” He says and laughs, nearly spitting.

It's my religion,” I lie. “It requires meat whenever we have something sweet. It's called שקר של החזיר. If I don't do it, G-d (actually I say GEE-DASH-DEE) will send his Angel of Death® to punish me.”

That shuts them up. The crepes are delicious.

After breakfast, the pair has to leave to go teach. I'm on my own for the day.

Mykel,” says Marie. “Florian has left already. We need two of our bicycles, but there is an extra one. Here is the key to the lock.”

She hands me a keychain with three keys on it.

One key is for the bicycle lock. One key is for the back door. And one key is for the front door,” she says. “I have to leave now, but I think you'll be able to figure it out.”

I thank her as she leaves. Then I remember that I haven't ridden a bicyle in 10 years.

Fuck it,” I think. “It's all in muscle memory. Riding a bicycle is like... like... like riding a bicycle. Just get on, it'll all come back.

I do. It does.

It is an ordeal getting out of the neighborhood. That construction site, for example. Right in front of the little development. But after that, the road into town is one straight shot.. a breeze, right? I turn the corner.

Hmmm, this seat is a bit tough. Not like a usual bicycle seat, more like... I donno, I'll think of it in a minute.

It's a mountain bike, with more gears than a Spirograph. The problem? They don't work. So I'm stuck in third. Kinda tough uphill. Downhill's a breeze. (Wouldn't ANY gear be a breeze downhill?) The trip to town is mostly uphill.

It's about 2 miles. After the first, it hits me. And then hits me again. It's the Mongolian horse! This bicycle is the Mongolian horse. The same wooden seat. The same slapping. The same pain... it only gets worse.

By the time I reach town, I can't take it anymore. Actually, I can't take it anymore way BEFORE I reach town... but I have no choice. Once inside, I dismount and walk... in the rain.

The town is interesting, but seems devoid of restaurants... or at least cafes or snacking places. Come on! This is France! I should be able to get my pan with foie gras. Ou est ma petite boulangerie? And it's raining.

RULE Number 32 for International Travel:

When in a strange city, and it's

1. Raining
2. Afternoon or later

Stop into a bar, ask the locals what to drink, and make some new friends.

There are no bars. Maybe I'm just in the wrong part of town.

Actually, I like the town. It's interesting, laid out with the ocean on one side the river-border with Suriname on the other. Some of the buildings are old colonial-looking, but with Caribbean colors. A beautiful mix.

There are a couple parks by the ocean. By the river is what looks like a penal colony... a huge area fenced in with a thick metal fence. Near it is a tourist center. I pick up some free stuff, and a bottle of something alcoholic. Then, it's off to the Shopping Mall... the only place I know I can eat. I have a sandwich and buy some beer for the house.

The walking gives me some relief from the anal agony. I've moved from torturous down to simple torment. Ah, what a relief!

I stop in a bookstore. “Vous avez quelque chose en anglais?” I ask.

The proprietor, a gray-haired man who looks like a fat nice professor, shakes his head, shrugs and says Je suis désolé. That, I can understand.

The sun lowers in the sky. I'm taking the crew out to dinner tonight, so I have to get back. Get back! Oh no! It means riding that bicycle again.

The pain! THE PAIN!! I don't think I can make it. The trip to town was all uphill. The trip BACK is also all uphill. How is that possible????

My lower cheeks are so raw it hurts to think about them. I try to stand and pedal, but the seat is too high. If I stand, I squash my gonads. If I sit, it's a bloody gluteus. I opt for the trade. GONADS-GONADS-GONADS-GLUTEUS-GLUTEUS-GLUTEUS-GONADS-GONADS-GLUTEUS-GLUTEUS-GONADS-GLUTEUS-GONADS-GLUTEUS... I'm gonna die!

I don't die.

As soon as I get back, I head for the shower. I crouch under the running water, on all fours, with the full cool flow trained on my tattered tush. I run cool water over my netherparts. It's isn't long (enough) before I hear

Mykel! Mykel! Are you here?”

I'll be right out!” I shout, standing up, shutting off the water, and wrapping a towel around my waist.

Marie is in the livingroom.

Are you okay, Mykel?” she asks. “It's a strange time to take a shower. I hope I didn't...” she searches for the word... “interromps ce que vous faisiez.”

For once I wasn't doing THAT!

FLASH AHEAD: To thank my hosts in my couch-surfing life, I like to take them out to eat. It's a way to get to know the local cuisine, and say thanks at the same time. I always allow them to chose the restaurant. Tonight there's going to be another guest, Alec, an interesting French guy who lived off the coast of Africa for 10 years. My kind of company.

Not only will Alec be our excellent dinner companion, he'll be giving us a car! I shit you not. He just lets us use his car for a few days to drive all over... experience French Guiana life... and what a life it will be. Of course I'll treat him to dinner too.

So we plan that second night's dinner. I can picture in my mind exactly what's going to happen.

Where should we go?” I'll ask.

Anywhere you want to go?” will come the response.

You live here!” I'll say, “I don't know what's around here. Where should we go?”

The shopping mall,” I'll say

There will be laughter.

I'll have to make something up.

I'm wrong.

They know exactly where to go. In my wildest imagination, I couldn't have created this place.

As we enter the main room, we're shown a nice table in the back, under a thatched roof. I sit on the bench in front of a table... and stand quickly.

Ouch!” THE PAIN!

I fold my jacket and put it on the bench beneath my battered buttocks.

Sitting gingerly, I check out the menu options. 

Oh yeah! My kind of restaurant. So much to choose from. A rat, an armadillo, an unnamable, a dog-pig, a wolf-pig or a chipmunk. So many rodents, so little time. The solution? We need to order one of everything and just share.

I'm sorry,” the waitress tells us, “we're out of Cochon Bwa.”

Shit, there goes the wolf-pig. The rest of us pick one each from the picture menu. Here's the Tatou, even better than it looks! Everything tastes terrific! Waddaya expect? It's FRENCH Guiana.

This is us at dinner. With Alec, the guy who loaned us his car!

Dinner is a fascinating combination of weird food, and stories about a decade off the coast of Africa and life now in French Guiana. I love these people. I could sit and listen to them all night... if I could only SIT.

After dinner, we plan to drop Alec at his house and head back to Florianville. We pile in the car. It's raining. I roll up the window. It doesn't roll. Marie turns on the wipers. They don't wipe. The car jerks along like it's got fewer gears than the bicycle.

But it's a car, and Alec gave it to us. And beggars can't blah blah. Okay, it's bad luck. But is it bad enough to relieve THE CURSE??? I don't think so. The people are too nice, and the car at least WORKS. Something BIG has got to happen.

You'd better get some sleep,” Florian tells me. “Tomorrow is the canoe trip. You'll need your full power.”

Thanks for the info,” I tell him. “I'm looking forward to it... Can I stand up in the canoe? I don't know if I'll be ready to sit.”

He smiles and shakes his head. “I don't think so,” he says, “but you will have a chance to get into the water. It's a better swim than our pool.”

I go upstairs and check out the internet. See what I can find out about our swamp adventure.

Ah, here's a story about The Toothpick Fish found in the freshwater areas around the Amazon. It's not really a fish, but an... er... interesting parasite.

The head and teeth of a TOOTHPICK FISH
It likes to swim up the urethra and lodge itself inside. Getting rid of it requires a delicate and painful operation. I don't think I'll be going into the water.

This is getting long (TNWSS). And there's so much to tell. Of all the countries on this trip, I spend the LEAST time in French Guiana... but I do the most!

How 'bout a lesson in Nenge Tongo? A mudbath carnival? A trip to the bush? A jailcell where Papillion languished, carving his penname into the concrete? A Hmong village? A marketplace with fruit that looks like body parts?

As for the canoe trip through the most dangerous swamp in South America? Take a look at this:

You'll just have to stay tuned for the details.


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