“This isn’t my battery but of somebody who asked me to charge it. It’s full. Why don’t you keep it for now so you can drive to your guesthouse and I’ll charge yours all night long. Who knows it charges enough to get you to a city tomorrow,” Eudon proposes.
We fall silent. What kind of an incredibly friendly gesture is that? And what a confidence in total strangers, too. I am touched by his proposal. We reassess our situation and adjust the plans we had this morning: no leaving of Santo Amaro, no driving into the wilderness today.
Change of Plans
This morning, when we were packed and ready to leave, the Land Cruiser didn’t start. (Technical info to understand the next step: the car runs on 24 volts so has 2 starter batteries. We have a second set – the household batteries – for lights inside the car, charging digital appliances and running the fridge). Coen connected the household batteries and the Land Cruiser was running again.
We didn’t pay much attention to it as the Land Cruiser had been standing still for some two weeks. We drove to our friends Marinaldo and Lucia to say our goodbyes and chatted for half an hour or so before Coen turned the key once more. The Land Cruiser didn’t start. The seriousness of the problem started to dawn on us. These expensive, high-quality ACDelco pro batteries are only 1,5 years old. They shouldn’t be giving any trouble at all.
Now what? We had plans to drive deep into the outback, a vastness of trails through sand, dunes and scrub without exactly knowing where our destination, the hamlet of Bretagna, lies and of which we know includes one nasty river crossing that gives a reasonable possibility to get stuck. A smart idea when not having properly running batteries?
Instead of saying our goodbyes, Marinaldo directed us to a workshop where a guy fixes tires and charges batteries. Here we met Eudon and sure, it was no problem for him to take a look. Now that Coen was taking a closer look he saw that one of the batteries was deformed, as if it had been inflated.
Faith in People
Eudon charged it for half an hour but without result. He replaced the bad battery with one of his own and yes, the Land Cruiser started. He could now conclude that, indeed, it was the battery that was causing the problem.
We looked with somewhat of an amazement to Eudon. I have to take a sidestep here and I hope I’m not sounding unkind or generalizing when saying this, because everybody here has been nice and friendly to us. However, in this village of 3,000 inhabitants, where we have stayed for some three weeks, we can’t say that a proactive attitude is exactly a characteristic of the inhabitants. Marinaldo is one of the exceptions to this generalization.
Yet here was this young guy proposing, without any hint from Coen’s side, to charge the battery for half an hour and subsequently initiated the replacement of it with a good one so he could test more before drawing a conclusion. Was this guy just doing his job? You could argue yes, he was, especially when looking at it with western eyes, but we have come to accept that in large parts of the world this kind of proactive thinking and acting accordingly isn’t part of a job.
That’s why we are both so touched by his generous offer to drive around with a battery that isn’t ours while he will keep ours to charge it and give it one more try. Just the fact that he offers a (temporary) solution instead of a shrugged shoulders, “don’t know, can’t help,” makes the difference in the world. We have a problem, yes, but again we’re surrounded by good people. It may sound like the simplest thing in the world yet this guy’s way of working makes me smile and I know things will work out again, somehow.
He doesn’t ask for a name, a telephone number, a deposit. We only have to be at his place tomorrow at 6 am because he’s going somewhere else for the day. And so we return to guesthouse Solar das Gaivotas for one more night. Fortunately our room hasn’t been cleaned yet so without a feeling of guild we can use it another night.
(The next morning it turns out the battery hasn’t charged at all and feels incredibly hot. Busted. We’ll have to replace it. So much for a product that comes with a 7-year factory guarantee when bought in the U.S. but can’t be bought with a guarantee in Suriname).