It’s hot, hot, hot and very humid in Cayenne, which you might expect from the place that gave the pepper its name and is only 5 degrees from the equator. It also happens to be Leroy’s home town, which technically makes him a French national (despite not living here for the last 20 years) and a fluent French, English and French Guianan Creole speaker, with a further smattering of Portuguese and Spanish.
We’re mainly here to see his mum and sisters and, if that means sacrificing time for stumbling across jungle-dwelling giant anacondas and poison dart frogs, I’m pretty fine with that. And here’s the point where I probably should tell you that Leroy’s first name is actually Christophe. The day I met him, he wrote his name LEROY Christophe in the European way, and I began calling him Leroy as a kind of joke. I’ll be attempting to remember to call him ‘Christophe’ in front of his family.
From what Leroy/Christophe has told me, Guiana is a very unusual place. Established by the French in 1604 as a harsh penal colony for European convicts (sound familiar anyone?), it’s the only part of South America still governed by an overseas country. The jungle-filled interior is sparsely populated with Amerindians, Maroons (the descendants of escaped slaves) and Hmong refugees living traditional lifestyles. And at the other end of the spectrum, the European Space Agency operates the impressive sounding Spaceport, a launch facility for communications satellites. No rockets today, though.
We’re about to head to the Hmong village of Cacao to check out the market and stilt houses, then dinner will be at his mum’s house with the extended family. I have my fingers crossed the Creole banquet being served in my honour is leaning towards the cassava and bouillon end of the scale rather than the fishy end. What should I take as a present for my imaginary boyfriend’s imaginary family?