Friday, January 16, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day Eleven (Thursday, January 15)

Today’s video was produced by the team As Onças.

Let’s start by talking weather and bugs. Those two areas seem to be the ones generating the most questions in our emails, so let’s see how to address them to help our readers understand. The first issue, weather, seems to center around the question of how hot it really is. As it turns out, the answer in “degrees Fahrenheit” is “not THAT hot.” We never really check the temperature during the day, but it probably never tops over 100 degrees, staying closer to 90 or so on most days. That’s hot, but in the U.S., that temperature is rarely an excruciating experience. At night, the temperature is usually about 80 or so degrees.

Apparently, though, that old phrase “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” really proves itself true in the Amazon. The air here is so thick and dense that sometimes it seems hard to use it to breathe. Once we’ve showered, we step back out onto our porch (where we REALLY live here) and we are immediately covered with a layer of heat and sweat and oiliness. Then we layer on insect repellant and sunscreen and the scumminess just increases. There is almost never a full five-minute period where our skin is just dry and feeling normal. Strangely, that basic greasy state of being IS now normal for us and we really don’t even complain about it anymore.

Today, though, we had a still, hot morning that broke into a siesta-time rain shower. After that, during our afternoon work time, the heat seemed more unbearable than ever. Our teammate Rob was actually, literally projectile sweating. He would bend over to measure a piece of lumber and his whole hatband would run like a waterfall. He says that he is “a sweater,” but this was crazy. We would work for ten minutes or so, head into the shade and guzzle water, then Rob would shoot it out of his pores and continue to work.

As for bugs, we are not nearly as grossed out as we expected to be by the somewhat enormous spiders, grasshoppers, and mosquitoes that we are encountering. We still gasp and run more than is reasonable when a big fat spider appears out from under a board or through a window. Our Brazilian hosts, though, are totally unperturbed and they just reach for the spiders and throw them out of the way. The mosquitoes, too, are not as intimidating as we thought they would be. They are sure everywhere, but we are so slathered with repellant that we don’t really have all that many bites considering how many of us there are and how long we’ve been here.

Anyway, our morning job today was split into two parts: working with the kids on English and recreation and working on the new deck of the building we’ve been working on. As for the kids, they got a huge kick out of doing the “Hokey Pokey,” and they didn’t even notice that we were substituting the English words that they had learned in “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” for the regular words of the song. We also did a few English lessons, including fruits and animals. They are still loving the idea of learning English, though they have really only mastered “Hello,” and “How are you?”

We, of course, want to help them learn English (as they have requested) because we want to help them learn and grow, but we also have particular interest in their progress because on Sunday we are all going to be on Brazilian TV. The local station has heard about us and about the program that Georgete runs, so they are spending the day with us on Sunday for a story that will run on Monday. We’re excited, especially because we think that the kids will love the idea of being on TV. We understand that the story will be posted online, so we will forward the link when we know it. Please be aware that if you click on it you will find it only in Portuguese.

The group that wasn’t playing with the kids worked on the deck of the building all day or else repainted the building. Georgete decided she wanted to put a lattice-type facing on the rail, maybe for safety reasons, maybe to discourage people from hanging out and sitting on the deck. The comedy of errors that came from mixing English and metric measuring systems with 45 degree angles was quite entertaining.

Beyond this comedic part of the construction, our awe for Jaime’s skills grew even more. We all struggled to make the small nails go through the hard wood as we hoped they would, but Jaime seemed like a zen master as he seemed to use the force of his will to make the nails obey him. More often than not, they did. As if we weren’t already impressed enough with Jaime’s greatness, we got another dose of it when, at the end of the day, he literally took the shirt off his back and tore it into rags for us to use to clean the messy paint off of ourselves with turpentine.

In the evening we decided to eat early and head down the street to play pool at a place that has been recommended by several of our local acquaintances. When we arrived just after 8:00 p.m., the place was pretty quiet, but it turned into a pretty happy, hopping spot not long after. We played pool with each other then took friendly challenges from the locals. It was all very calm and low-key, but really fun. We even learned that Marie and Joey are MAJOR pool sharks, as they spent a good deal of their youths perfecting their games. Most of us stayed up until just after midnight, so Shawny and Jesse worked it out for us to go to work a little later than usual on Friday, this time arriving at 9:00 a.m. instead of 8:00.

And as for the purple bike, the newest inductee into the “Ordem da Bicicleta Roxa” is Mercedes Matthews! She wins a day on the purple bike partially because she got locked in the bathroom of the boat on Tuesday, but more because she is always watching out for what work needs to be done (and, of course, she does it). One of our mottos is “Every job is everybody’s job,” and Mercedes exemplifies that spirit well. Congratulations, Mercedes!

Red light green light was one of the games we taught the kids.

An example of the giant bugs we live with here in Brazil.

Jaime teaches the older kids at the camp how to kayak.

Hokey Pokey was one of the other games we played with the kids.

The kids loves teaching us different Brazilian clapping games.

Shana learning quickly how to saw.

Our team, minus Katie, beginning the first half of the white paint on the new and improved boathouse.

The biggest spider we’ve ever seen. It was significantly bigger than a tube of chapstick.

Alesandra, one of our students, took our camera and capture this shot of the Tapajos River.

The kids are getting ready for their daily lessons. Today, we started with the Hokey Pokey.

The kids happily wait for our lesson to start.

Ana uses this downtime to hang out and relax on the hammock.

The girls smile for a picture during our night out taking a break after a hard day’s work.

The kids are so excited and full of energy that they tackle Erik full force.

Happy Birthday Cassidy! Zilly gives Cassidy a birthday kiss!


Anonymous said...

Margeaux Marie! We're watching the videos every day and can see what an amazing time you all are having. The children are so cute. Enjoy your boat ride next week. Can't wait to see your photos. Where are the piranhas?? Casanova.

jillagunter said...

Hello smc bravehearts! Your children look so happy as do you all. Those bugs are HUGE. Yikes. I would run too. The tv story should be interesting to watch and I'm sure your right that the kids will get a big kick out of it. continued success and happiness to you all. mama jill