Episode 3: Ronja in the Everlasting Summer

Finally I am on the airplane. On the airplane that will bring me to Suriname. To my dad! Into the jungle!

Yesterday was tough! My mom and I took the train to my grandma, five hours, and then my grandparents drove with me to Amsterdam, another six hours. These were eleven hours and now, another eleven hours on the airplane. Pheeewww… I am tired and I am not even there yet.

I have a window seat. Rain drops are running down from the outside. It is cold already. Hard to imagine that somewhere else it is really hot now. I am so excited, I am really flying to South America, all by myself!!

Suriname, I am coming!

After lunch I fall asleep, when I wake up there is only two hours left to Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital. I watch part 2 of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. When the kraken takes down the Black Pearl the flight captain says we are almost there. 

I watch out of the window and we are not flying that high anymore. But all I see is trees, trees, trees and more trees, it must be a huge forest. Is this the rainforest? And I see a big river. This must be Suriname River, the river where Seefalke, my dad’s boat is anchored.

When we land I first don’t see the airport. It looks as if we land just in the middle of the jungle. Then I see that tiny building. Is this the terminal?? So much different than Amsterdam, where it took more than half an hour from the check-in to the gate. Here the aircraft just parks on the runway. And it is bigger than the terminal building!!

Landed in Paramaribo

Now they open the doors and I see the passengers walking from the aircraft to the building. I wait in my seat until the flight attendant picks me up:

“Come Ronja, let’s go and meet your dad!”

When I step out of the airplane the heat hits me like a punch into my face. It feels like opening the oven door or if someone would aim the hairdryer right into my face. Within seconds I am soaking wet, it’s hard to breathe at first. 

The flight attended smiles:

“Welcome to the jungle, little girl!”

I would have never imagined how hot it could be. I have never experienced anything similar. How can people live here??

The flight attendant takes me by the hand as we pass the long line for passport control. This is cool! Like a VIP, no need to wait, my luggage is already there and we are the first out. So many people! And all of them are black. I have never been at a place where everyone is black. Now I can imagine how weird they must feel in Germany!

And there is my dad, with a sunburnt face, smiling as always! He hugs me, exchanges a few words with the flight attendant, shows his passport and signs a piece of paper. Then we walk to his car. I feel like everybody is looking at me, this small girl traveling all the way just by herself. I feel very proud!

My Airplane in Paramaribo

As we are driving through little jungle villages to our boat, I ask him:

“Dad, it’s almost November and it is still hotter than anything I have ever seen. How hot will it be in the summer??”

My dad laughs:

“Here it’s always summer, Ronja, we don’t have any seasons here. Ok, that’s not completely right, we have dry seasons and rainy seasons but we don’t have spring, summer, fall and winter.”

“How can that be? I thought there are seasons everywhere.”

“No, Ronja, not everywhere. Do you know why it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter in Germany?”

“Hmmm, no.”

“Wait until we arrive at the boat. I will explain it to you on my map, that will be easier.”

My dad parks the car on a sandy parking lot and we walk down to the dinghy pontoon. We load my luggage into the little boat and dad starts the outboard motor. 

The river water is muddy and very warm. Dad tells me that there are Piranhas, and biting fresh water jellyfish and little worms that creep into any body hole they can find. Brrrrr… Maybe not a good place to go swimming. That’s a shame! The water really is bath tub warm! But my dad also warns me of the current, it can be up to four knots, this is almost eight km/h. Wow!!

Seefalke Anchored on Suriname River

In our boat dad has a big world map that shows his route. 

“So, you wanted to know why it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter in Germany but here it is always hot? Now listen carefully, it is a little complicated.”

“You know that the earth circles around the sun, yes?”

“Yes, and one circle is one year.”

“Exactly, very good! So now, when the earth is circling around the sun it also wobbles a little back and forth. In more scientific terms the earth’s tilt is changing over the year. From down here it looks like the sun sometimes is a little more over the north and sometimes a little more over the south. You need to know that the straighter the sun is on top of you, the hotter it will be.”

“Over the year the sun moves from here, the so-called Tropic of Capricorn to here, the Tropic of Cancer. Have you already heard of the Tropics?”

“Yes, this is where it is very warm we learned in school.”

“Correct. The area between the two Tropics, the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere, are called ‘The Tropics’. As you can see the sun is never very far. It is almost on top of any place in the Tropics almost all year round. The sun is never on top of Germany but in the summer it is closer and in the winter it is further away. This is why in Germany the summer is warm and the winter is cold.”

The Tilt of the Earth and the Tropics

“And on the north pole?”

“On the north pole you also have summer and winter, only in the summer the sun never sets and in the winter it never rises, it is always behind the horizon.”

“And in the Tropics there’s always summer?”

“Yes. Look at this. The distance to the sun is measured in degrees. Let’s take your home town Halle for instance. Halle is on 51° north. In the summer the sun is approximately at 23° north. This means the distance to the sun in the summer is 28°. In the winter the sun is at 23° south, on the other side of the equator. This means the sun is 74° (23°+51°) away from us. Here in Suriname we are at 6° north. This means in the summer the sun is just 17° away and even in the winter just 29°. Much closer than the sun will ever get to Germany, even in the summer.”

“So here there are no seasons?”

“Here we don’t have seasons like spring or summer but we have dry seasons and rainy seasons. In the dry seasons it hardly ever rains whereas in the rainy season it rains every day. And it rains a lot! Right now we are in the dry season.”

That’s Me and a Banana Tree

“And there is one more thing that you will see. Here the sun rises and sets almost at the same time all year round. In Germany we have long days in the summer and short days in the winter. Here the days are almost of the same length every day.”

All of a sudden I get tired. It was a long day and in Germany it’s already in the middle of the night. 

Dad makes us dinner and I fall asleep immediately, dreaming I’d be the princess of the Jungle.