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Finding Peace of Mind + Self Discovery in Suriname

In 2020 I was convinced I would finally return to Suriname after 20 years. I booked my flight in February and even made plans to celebrate my birthday. One month later, I was stuck at home spraying Lysol on my groceries. A trip to Suriname became nothing but a dream.

The time I spent home with my family working under the pressure of NYC’s collapsing welfare systems made me yearn for Suriname even more. Hence, the creation of Rutu Lobi in 2020. With no physical access to Suriname or working knowledge of importing the goods for my shop, I managed to secure relationships with vendors in Suriname.

Rutu Lobi didn’t take off the way I would have liked, but it received recognition from a Surinamese national newspaper and radio station. My promotion didn’t just stop there. When Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network team recognized me for my work as a Social Worker, I was sure to wear Pangi fabric and a Surinamese flag mask to the event.

After one bad Etsy review (the customer failed to read the product description), I gave up on working on Rutu Lobi. Then the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center featured me on a Time Square billboard alongside other women entrepreneurs. It did not matter. My passion for Rutu Lobi was beginning to fade.

I lost who I was and did not know what I wanted. To top it all off, I was turning 30! My career goals took a backseat. I was going through the motions of adulthood.

My family encouraged me to have a traditional Surinamese birthday party for my “Bigi Yari” (Big Year). I was reluctant to have the party because of COVID and concerns about spending too much money. Culturally, I was supposed to have this party and do it from my heart. So I put my reluctance away and celebrated my life, family, and culture that night. I had the time of my life and caught COVID 3 days late.

Music Credit: Tranga Rugie & The Music Lovers - Bigi sma floot Ft. Chaggi

Feeling revived and ready to face my 30s, I returned to work. Once again, the pressure and stress crept in. Suriname was calling my name again in October, so I heeded her calls. Without foresight or plans, I found myself in a studio apartment in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Suriname felt like home! My family embraced me with love and welcomed me after 22 years. I woke up each morning alone in my apartment without the needy screams of my children, ready to take on the adventures of Paramaribo. I wanted to savor every moment, so I didn’t bother with photos. I walked the streets like a local, speaking Dutch and Sranan Tongo as fluently as my memory allowed. Each day reminded me of who I was and my purpose in life.

I visited the plantation where my ancestors worked and swam in the creek. It elevated me to new heights. Finally, I dared to make necessary changes in my life. So I quit my job and returned home with a sense of agency.