Thursday, January 8, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day Four (Thursday, January 8)

Today’s video was produced by the team called Bota Fogo, which consists of Marie Cacciatore, Mercedes Matthews, Ana Ahnen, and Alec Tappin.

By today we have all completely lost track of time, including what day it is. Nearly every hour someone makes a comment about something that has happened, and we say, “Was that today or yesterday?” or “How long have we been here?” Each day is so packed with unique experiences that it feels like we are living three or four days in the space of each 24-hour period. Happily, we spend most of our time being amazed, so it’s no problem for us to do that a lot.

This morning brought the completion of some tasks that began yesterday, as teams went forth again to search for the goods we need to perform our major service project for the Associão Amazonica. Yesterday, the group that went lumber and hardware shopping faced major frustration as they clearly seem to have faced a situation of overt discrimination against them. Today, though, that entire experience was reversed; our community partner Jaime found another source for the wood we need and not only was the entire staff of the store completely warm and friendly, but also the price of the goods at the new store was less than half of the price that the group was quoted yesterday. Although buying 2x4s is rarely regarded as a triumphant move, in this case it definitely counted as a major victory.

Another set of folks continued the search for art and recreation supplies and they, too, experienced major success with few obstacles. At the same time, two bike technicians came to our camp and performed all of the final maintenance on our great new bikes. Thus, though at times yesterday it seemed like we might never get to ride the bikes, suddenly, they were ready to go. It seems that things flow this way in this region all the time: things move slowly, obstacles emerge, logistics get complicated, and then the path just clears and the job gets done.

A couple of the groups that didn’t go on materials runs stayed back at camp to work up the lesson plans that they will use to engage the children that are part of the day camp we will assist in the coming weeks. Each group is working out plans for a song, a game, an English lesson, a health and nutrition lesson and a lesson of their choice. Two of the groups, then, worked most of the morning to develop their ideas, which meant that we all heard several rounds of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “The Hokey-Pokey.” By lunchtime another hard rain had started to fall so we all took naps knowing that our prep work was done and we could take a break before beginning the next phase of our work.

Before leaving, though, we had to divide up the bikes, knowing that none of them was perfectly selected to fit anyone’s individual body size. We tried to put bigger bikes with bigger people and smaller bikes with smaller people, but things didn’t always work out just right. Still, everyone was happy with having any bike at all.

One person who should be especially happy with her bike today is Sam. She was awarded the special privilege of riding the only one-of-a-kind bike in our whole set: the purple one. Yesterday, while all of the teams were out running frustrating and tedious errands, we discovered in the middle of the day that Sam was actually just a little bit under the weather. She hadn’t made a peep about it, though, and she just kept trooping away. Once we realized she needed rest, we offered her the afternoon off. She didn’t take it. She got enough rest in the night to turn the corner on whatever was ailing her. Though we don’t want to imply that anyone should hide an illness that needs to be addressed, it seemed that Sam showed exceptional toughness on this particular day. For that, she was rewarded with the purple bike. Because there is only one such bike, it will change hands daily as different students are inducted into our entirely imaginary “Order of the Purple Bike.”

The next phase of our day included hopping on our bikes and riding to the worksite where we will help with construction and where we will work with the kids in Georgete’s program. We expected the lumber to arrive at about the same time that we did, so we hoped we could plan out the building project and take some of the first steps. Like so many other things this week, the delivery did not work out as planned. Again, like so many other times this week, we capitalized on the available time in a great way. In this case, one of our hosts, a carpenter named João, offered us a chance to explore the marshy deltas of the Tapajós River. He and his son Jadson took us into one of the most stunningly beautiful experiences we have had so far. From the fronts of two rowboats, the father and son piloted two separate groups of us through reeds, grasses, and highly unusual lily pads to a lake in the delta that stands at the edge of a dense nature preserve. It will take pictures and video to make any attempt to convey the beauty and wonder of what we saw.

While two boatloads of people were out in the marsh, the remaining members of our group waited on a river beach full of fishing boats and their occupants. At the edge of the water was a group of happy and rambunctious boys who played in the water, ran up onto the beach to play soccer, flew kites, and swam some more. We eventually connected with the boys and threw the ball to them in the water as they screamed and fought madly to retrieve it. One of our group, Joe, turned out to be the ultimate expert at placing the ball just where it would produce the greatest mania in the boys. Using bits of Portuguese, he would ask if they wanted the ball to be thrown high or low, near or far. They would scream an answer and he would meet their request, whatever it was. They eventually offered their evaluation of him by giving him the most laudatory nickname they could think of for a U.S. American: “Barack Obama.”

Our day ended with the arrival of the lumber, which we decided to leave at João’s nearby house. Tomorrow morning we will move it to the program site and begin the improvements that we have planned. Stayed tuned to learn who will be riding the purple bike!

Bike Wranglers (Teams Dar Um Jeito and Jungle Cats) work on our lesson plan after the previous day’s success of obtaining 20 matching red bicycles.
A Bug’s Life: a group of crickets hanging out near our rooms.
Margeaux took this morning’s rain as a chance to test out her new poncho.

Today was the day we got to ride off on all of our brand new bikes.

Our shiny, matching, attention grabbing, bright red bicycles.

On the canoe ride on the Tapajos River.

Catch of the day.

Big Air.

The river had so many plants hiding the nest of the Anaconda.

Team Paz sending messages of peace to the Anaconda.

The edge of the water near where we work is populated mostly by fishermen. Many of them stay in their boats all day even when they are not fishing.

Near the site of our work project, these kids swam and laughed and played all day long.

The beach we sat on, the kids we played with, and the river we boated through.

Our work site: before shot. We will be building a deck (veranda) around it as well as replacing the back wall and adding a door.

This is not the first, and we’re sure it won’t be the last, gorgeous sunset we see in the amazon.


Anonymous said...

We are so excited about all of the adventure that you all are embarking on. These are days you will remember for the rest of your lives Love the videos! You all look great, HHHOOOTTTT but great! You all are in our thoughts and prayers. Hugs and kisse to Marie and Joey. Love, Momma and Daddy ( Cacciatore)

Gaby said...

You guys are all amazing - it looks like an awesome trip! Don't get eaten by the Anaconda! Miss you Marie, Joey and Cass!!


Anonymous said...

Casanova said: Wow! Beautiful photos. Anacondas, really? Where are the piranhas? Seems like your adventures have just begun - enjoy every minute.

Ms. Anderson said...

Hello from Ms. Anderson's class in West Lafayette, IN. We are using your tales to enhance our study of Latin America. With snow here, it is hard to imagine the heat you are in, but you seem to be ignoring it admirably. Great work on what you have already done. Some responses from the class:

How big was the anaconda?
Please introduce yourselves in each video so we can get to know you.
How does it feel to be compared to Barack Obama??
More Zilly! What kind of cat is she? What will happen to her when you leave?
We love the "Order of the Purple Bike"