A Journey from France to the River Maroni: An interview/ photo essay with William Barylo

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TE: Did you have any preconceptions before you went to French Guiana or was it just a case of throwing yourself in at the deep end and seeing what you found?

WB: I do not usually expect many things before traveling, I like to be surprised and smash down any preconceived ideas I may have. I knew there would be traditional parts but I did not know to what extent, meaning I didn’t know the conditions in which I’d be living in. I just prepared myself including learning as much as I could of Bushitongo, the local language, so I could immerse myself in the life of the Bushinengue people. It was the least I could do as a mark of respect – when you go to a new place at least try to learn the language.

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TE: So how long were you out there for and where exactly did you stay?

WB: I first went there in December 2007. I planned five weeks travel and stayed in the west part of French Guiana, far away from the big city centres and more into the Bushinengue area, meaning towns like St. Laurent and Apatou on the river. Most of the population is settled along the Maroni River, which is the borderline between French Guiana and Suriname. So just imagine, 500km along a river almost as large as the Amazon, you have plenty of small towns and villages where it is physically jungle plus one main city in the north – St. Laurent.

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