Excerpts From A Letter From John H. Ter Laak, #77
"At last I get a chance to write you a letter. I left Holland on October 17th and arrived in Suriname on November 29th. It was a long and varied journey. Never in my life did I have such a beautiful time. The news that I must start on the 17th came so quickly that I had no time to write all of my friends.
Before the 9th of December I had to prepare an expedition to the jungle to inspect the prospect of timbering. It was a great change for me to do this. Never did I think that this type of work would be mine but everything turned out O.K.
The jungle, the large rivers, and the bush negroes (here we call them Djaekas) made a great impression on me. I was away three weeks and came back for the Xmas holiday. The 4th of January I started again and returned on the 3rd of February.
After that I went to and from for a month and on March 8th started another trip from which I returned three days ago.
I can't tell you much in this letter. It's impossible to write in one simple letter all the impressions I got. The only thing I can tell you now is that these are hard and troublesome times for me. The jungles of the tropics are crawly. Sickness and accidents are common. The first time I went up I went without any gun, medicines or maps. The day before I left I bought clothes and compass. In truth I can tell you it was criminal to send me into the jungle.
I was the only white man and to help me understand the strange language I found a negro interpreter. So as I told you everything was O.K. I was successful and love my work. I loved the great forest with the thousands and thousands of trees. I made up my mind to stay here. Is this what I looked forward to, where I had spent the best years of my life in order to obtain a good living for my wife and children? I don't know. I can tell you this only after a few years. The only thing I can tell you is this - that the struggle for life is very very hard here. If I find a good job here then I must pay with a shorter life.
I am studying the native tongue. I am talking well and understand their speech very well. Their language is a mixture of English, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. Very few white people understand them but if you go it alone in the jungle you must be able to talk and understand."
Wow...what a beginning of a story. So much mystery...what exactly is his work, and who pays him to do it? Does he stay there for the rest of his life? If so, does his wife stay with him? And what happens to him? I hope we hear more of Mr. Ter Laak in later issues.