Friday, January 9, 2009
Amazon 2009: Day Five (Friday, January 9)
Today’s video was produced by the team Dar um Jeito.
Today we made an important realization: we are thrilled and blessed that Ana Ahnen is one of our group members. Ana was born in Brazil but now lives in the U.S.; her connections to Brazil remain strong, though, as do her language skills. Ana has been very gracious at every turn with all of us and even more so with our hosts and our new Brazilian friends. Thanks, Ana! And thanks to her family for letting us have her in our midst for this experience!
Though we love and adore Ana, she is NOT the rider of the purple bike today. Instead, we gave it to yesterday’s star, Joe Arnold, who entertained the kids on the beach so thoroughly and who just had a fabulous glow of happiness about him all day long. Congratulations, Joe!
Most importantly, though, we FINALLY got to do some actual work (and not just prep work) on the project for Georgete and Jaime. As we mentioned a couple of days ago, they are trying to improve the small building in which they store their equipment, so we turned Chris Verrips loose with a bunch of Portuguese-speaking carpenters and a non-Portuguese-speaking set of students (they’re not fluent, anyway) to start doing construction on the new deck/veranda outside their space. They had a very frustrating beginning, but things soon started clicking into place and we made a lot of progress today.
We learned quite a bit today about the relationship between manual labor and the Amazon climate. Mostly we learned that it is too hot to sustain the levels of work that we might reach back home. We would saw a piece of wood then walk around to the shady side of the building to rest. Or hammer six nails and feel like we had just done something pretty strenuous. Our Brazilian co-workers, mostly João and his son Jadson, were unaffected by the heat and, in fact, seemed superhuman to us all day. Even more than their levels of endurance, we were floored by their skills with handtools. They could maneuver handsaws, chisels, and hammers in ways that few of us had ever seen.
Also, we learned that we need LOTS of water to keep things feeling right. Fortunately we brought lots along and even managed to get some 5-gallon jugs delivered right to the site. No matter how much we drank, though, we never quite felt hydrated, as that constant trickle of perspiration that we mentioned before turned into something more like projectile sweating. No one really overdid things, though, and by the time we broke for lunch/siesta, it looked probable that we would actually finish the small deck in one day.
Speaking of siesta, that’s another huge realization for us: naps in the afternoon are essential to most people’s existence here, including ours. A few of us resist the urge to actually fall asleep during siesta, but most of us crash HARD, eventually waking up totally confused about where we are and what day it is. We recover quickly, though, and start anew with a fresh level of energy.
Not all of us were at the construction site today, as some stayed at camp in the morning to get our lesson plans together. Because we have now seen some of the kids from the program, we are more excited than ever about planning activities that will be really fun and helpful for them. As it turns out, some of them know a few words in English (including “dollar,” “good bye,” and “Barack Obama”), but they all really want to learn more English right away. When we told them we would help them learn it for the next two weeks, they squealed with delight.
Thus, all of the teams have really produced high quality visual aids for their lessons and have practiced and practiced how to do the parts that must be spoken in Portuguese. We have tested out our lessons on each other and everyone has been pretty agreeable to every silly request (like singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” on the video yesterday). Some of us ran into town today to get more goodies to help bolster our lessons, including soft bouncy balls and newspapers. On Saturday we get a chance to put our plans into action with the kids in the program.
After siesta, we switched roles and the lesson planners became construction workers and vice versa. The construction workers had to face even more brutal afternoon heat than the morning crew had survived, but no one seemed terribly unhappy about it. We drank lots of water, pounded lots of nails, and actually got the small deck within one plank of completion. We, of course, wanted to install that last board, but João had been up since 5 a.m. and it was his wife’s birthday. So, we agreed to stop just after 6:00 p.m. and head back to camp. The kids followed us up the red dirt road like we were celebrities and screamed that they would see us tomorrow. We can hardly wait.
Speaking of tomorrow, we already know who will ride the purple bike. But we’ll wait until tomorrow to write it here . . .
Working hard on the job site using a chisel on the wood.
A very beautiful Brazilian girl who enjoyed coming to the work site and watching the work.
An iguana we spotted at camp this afternoon.
Georgete’s dogs that we saw when we visited her home up the street from the job site.
The last picture of our work site before its transformation.
A road that is on the way to work.
While Erik attempts to fix the broken posthole digger; Shana continues to dig a hole for posts of the deck.
Joe and Cassidy using the posthole digger to make holes for posts that will support the deck.
Our future students that we will meet tomorrow.
As we work, children watch attentively to us from a distance.
Sisters playing with a kite in front of their home.
The beautiful and calm road to work.
Working hard but still maintaining a smile.
Working with other local men in the shade.
Jadson taking a break in the shade.
Here's a long view of the almost finished deck.