Welcome…to the Hotel Krasnapolsky! (to the tune of Hotel California)

a further brief account of a visit to Suriname and the charming Hotel Krasnapolsky…

Rhonda Fredericks poses in front of works by Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi…

So as i said we stayed at the Hotel Krasnapolsky in downtown Paramaribo. I liked the fact that when i finally arrived in my room at 3 am after travelling incessantly on Caribbean Airlines which wouldn’t allow us out at Piarco to get some doubles even though there was a 3.5 hour layover there, and after all that you couldn’t even get a real drink on the plane to calm your nerves because for some inexplicable reason they had no alcohol on board,  when i finally got to my room hungry, thirsty and starving at 3 am it was incredibly welcoming to find a little care package waiting with slices of cheese and bread, peanut butter, chocolate spread and a bottle of water.

Bedroom suite at Krasnapolsky

Likewise when we departed a week later, also at 3 am (the airport is almost in Guyana, an hour away and the flight was at 6 am) each of us received another care package with an apple, bottled water, bread, cheese and a boiled egg, albeit without salt or pepper. It would be a few days before I would learn that Carlos Fuentes once said that sex without guilt is like a boiled egg without salt, the twitter feed was buzzing with Fuentes quotes the day his death was announced. Carolyn Cooper managed to find a vagrant Rastaman at the airport who was happy to receive whatever was left of our Krasnapolsky care packages. I hope he was luckier with the salt situation (an Ital Rasta would’ve eschewed salt anyway) but at any rate Dear Dear Krasnapolsky Hotel, you made us feel loved and cared for on leaving tantalizing Suriname. The only complaint i might have was the patchy wi-fi in my room and the Protestant work ethic of the cleaning staff who liked to start their working day very early, practically dragging you out of bed to clean your room.

This time the wait at Piarco was much shorter and Carolyn and i nearly missed the connecting flight so deep in conversation were we. Actually she was trying to mark papers and periodically showing me the most egregious samples of what passed for student English and it wasn’t until we suddenly heard a voice on the loudspeaker announcing a final boarding call for Caribbean Airlines flight 455 to Barbados and Kingston and urging passengers Cooper and Paul to show themselves immediately that we realized that everyone else had inexplicably boarded the plane without our even noticing a thing.

Short Stories’ by Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi, Fort Zeelandia. Kit-Ling posing in front of her paintings.
Issue 5 of ARC which has just hit the newstands

Some of the other enjoybable things about the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS) conference we had just attended were the art exhibit ‘Short Stories’ by Kit-Ling jon Pian Gi and the launch of ARC no. 5, the latest edition of that remarkable art publication by Holly Bynoe and Nadia Huggins, two women from Bequia and St Vincent. If you haven’t seen it yet, get copies, they’re likely to become collector’s items for they’re produced in limited editions with the highest production values imaginable. Rarely has the region seen such an uncompromising commitment to international publishing protocols and standards. May ARC have a long and eventful life.

Paramaribo, Suriname…

A brief account of the 2012 Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS) conference in Paramaribo, Suriname

The erstwhile queen of Holland used to be in the city centre, Paramaribo; when the country detached itself from its former colonizer the Queen was banished to the banks of the Paramaribo river where she looks forlornly over the water….
Jamaican music is big in Suriname…as it is elsewhere in the Caribbean and all around the world…
Angeletta Gourdine rocking it at a karaoke bar in downtown Paramaribo…

The last few weeks have been filled with travel, and I’ve enjoyed moving from place to place much more than I usually do. The most recent trip was to Paramaribo in Suriname at the beginning of May. I was invited to be one of the featured speakers at the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (ACWWS) annual conference, held this time in Paramaribo. We stayed at the charismatic Hotel Krasnapolsky, the site of the conference.

A highlight of this second trip to Suriname, for me, was hearing Cynthia McLeod, author of ‘The Cost of Sugar’ and one of the premier writers in Suriname regale us with stories of how she began writing, of her desire to write a ‘Gone With the Wind’ type historical romance set in Suriname, and being mistaken for a cook when she appeared at the grand building in Amsterdam where a subsequent book was launched.

Another highlight was the food, for Suriname is a gastronomer’s delight, with cuisines from Java, China, India, the local Creole and Dutch competing for your belly. The Garden of Eden in Paramaribo is the best Thai restaurant I’ve ever eaten at and Joosje Roti downtown saw me return several times with fellow conferencers in tow. The owner/manager there runs a tight ship, with roti and curry rolled out on trolleys, an ultraclean establishment and delectable Jalebis for dessert. Dumpling # 1 (yes, that’s the name of the restaurant) satiated my perpetual craving for dim sum and the amazing Indonesian restaurant we went to in the Javanese sector was something to remember (if anyone can tell me the name of the vine in the photograph above i’d be grateful).

The conference itself was well organized and a lot of fun. Another highlight was a book called Kuis (Chaste–in English) which had the most provocative cover i’ve seen in a while. About a goldsmith commissioned to design a chastity belt for a young woman the cover bore the image of a delicate diamond-studded gold chastity belt snaking around slender female loins. The actual chastity belt in the photograph was made by a South African jeweller for a client in London who ordered it for his bride to wear on their wedding night.

Unfortunately (for me) the book was in Dutch but the author Rihana Jamaludin read excerpts translated into English which sounded quite compelling. The book is a local reading choice for high school students who previously had to choose exclusively from Dutch titles. Not surprisingly its their top choice…