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July/August 2015


ost Suriname families have a history of migration

somewhere in their past. Like living in two

worlds—the present here and the past there, new

and old worlds. A question can nag at some: Is life

really better here?

To find their own answer, says Stephanie, some of her family

members visited Java, where her family had come from. “Stay

put,” they learned. “It’s crowded with people and no work.” So

her family committed to staying in Suriname, and they started a

wildlife lodge, built on stilts, on a lake at Bigipan.

body and write a report. Not long ago there was a shootout. Sometimes there

are two or three who claim they own your mining concession.

Generally, I’m quite careful and can see if something is going to hap-

pen. It’s funny, but I often think the accident with my hand quite possibly

saved my life. When I was in the hospital, we were robbed. Later I figured

out [the robber] was an old foreman who worked for me. A Brazilian I

had fired. He wasn’t happy about it.

Later, they found his camp high in the hills where he had kept an eye on us.

He loved to eat canned corn. The empty tins were found in the camp with a

shirt we knew belonged to his friend. When the crew was ready to leave, [the

robbers] placed a big log across the road. If I was there at the time, he would

have killed me. He could drink my blood. Shortly after, his friend was spot-

ted in the city spending a lot of money. I decided to let it go. Maybe it was

God’s plan that I only lost a couple fingers. I’m still here.

Gold mining now is big-time. I left the woods. Left everything

behind except a few debts. A time went by, then a Brazilian came to see

me, Bert, a former foreman who had taken advantage of me awhile back. I

asked if he had solved all his problems. He replied, “Sorry. Sorry boss.”

“No problem,” I said. “I’ll give you $2,000 if you go into the woods and bring

my machines out.” That was 35 kilometers through a rainforest. Soon after, he calls

and says he had it all loaded and was on his way out. He drove to Brunswick, repaired

the dozer and called me again.

“There is someone here who wants to buy something from you.” I went to the woods.

A Brazilian bought the equipment for $8,000. Another wanted the trailer—sold. Most

gold seekers end up with old iron. I always looked after my equipment. I rented my other

machines. In no time I paid my debts, but I’m still not Rockefeller.

Norman MacDonald


lives in Amsterdam, and

he is a frequent contributor to


Related articles at

Amsterdam: M/A 14; M/A 90

South America: M/J 92


Visit artist Norman MacDonald’s studio: