Monday, January 19, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day Fourteen (Sunday, January 18)

Today’s video was produced by the team Paz.

What a day! What a day! What a day! We experienced so many totally unique facets of Brazilian culture today that we can barely express what all happened. We started our day at the worksite, with a couple of us finishing the facing on the deck and most of us working with the kids out on the beach. The TV station came as planned and their presence made the kids pretty excited (us too!).

The television folks interviewed Jesse in Portuguese to get the whole lowdown on who we are and what we are doing. Then they talked to Ana and found out about our work with the kids and the agency. Then they talked to Shawny about why we would do a course like this one (even asking the loaded question: “Isn’t it the government’s job to help poor kids?”). All of our interviewees just gushed about how lucky we are to be here and what a privilege it is to work with these kids in this neighborhood. They took lots of footage of us doing our thing, so it will be interesting to find out what shows up on TV tomorrow at lunchtime.

After the TV crew left, a small group showed up to demonstrate the art of Capoeira ( a Brazilian martial art/dance with music and singing) for the kids and for us. We got to hear them play the berimbau (a one-stringed instrument that is hit with a small stone in different places to change the tone) and we got to see some of their moves. A few of us got to give it a try. All of us look forward to next Sunday, when an even bigger group will return.

Georgete let us know that she didn’t want to return to the worksite in the afternoon and that neither should we. We thought we might go into town and do some wandering and shopping, but we soon learned that few shops would be open and we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much. We had team meetings instead and did a bit of video shooting at our camp.

Then we went into town in the early evening to watch a karate demonstration by our teenage friend Josialda and the other students from her karate class. We waited on the steps overlooking the rivers for the event to begin and we all felt really happy that we had connected with someone in such a way that we were the guests she invited to see her show off her skills. We were like proud parents or older siblings in the audience, going particularly nuts whenever she was showing off her moves and whispering to each other that she was clearly the best of them all. She was giddy (and nervous) because we were there and we were thrilled to be a part of it.

We got an additional thrill when we realized we had a chance to hit up the highly competitive pickup basketball games that occur on a riverside court near where Josialda’s class performed. Five of our guys (Alec, Erik, Joe, Joey, and Rob) took on a very tough team of Brazilian players and lost the first game (they play short intervals until the first team scores 11 points, then they switch players) exclusively on foul shots. It turns out that they call almost any physical contact a foul (falta) and free throws are handed out rather liberally.

In the second game, though, our strong team caught on to the fact that they were spending all of their time trying to draw fouls from us. Once we had them figured out, we had them beat. We calmly avoided any reactions, we kept our distance, and we scored and scored. Joe was draining threes, Rob and Joey were hustling on defense, Alec was dominating in assists, and Erik scored the winning basket. The rest of us were hanging over the low fence surrounding the court screaming, cheering, and offering advice to our players.

We didn’t even notice at first that a pretty big crowd had gathered (compared to the numbers of people who are usually watching that court). We also didn’t notice how many people were taking pictures of us both on and off the court. Once we noticed all of these things, the whole game only got even more fun. We hooted and hollered, their fans hooted and hollered, and our players just kept smiling and avoiding fouls. It was a blast. And somehow, we succeeded in resisting any urge to start chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

As we cleared the court after a third game (a somewhat disappointing loss that seemed to be due to bad officiating, but, hey, we lost, so of course we’re going to say that) kids and others were coming up to shake our players’ hands and take their pictures. One guy took a whole series of pictures to post on his blog. For whatever reason, the chance to play a strong U.S. American team was a real thrill, even if people were only watching. We learned that those guys play each other every single day, so we’re not surprised now about how happy they were to see some new and interesting opponents.

While we were still thoroughly jazzed about the whole basketball experience, we decided to find a local samba school that we heard would be practicing for Carnaval. Though this Mardi Gras-like festival is identified with Rio de Janeiro, it happens all over the country, including here. Different groups of musicians practice for months in advance to lead parades through the city. We went looking for one of those groups and found them just as they were leaving their indoor practice area literally to take their show on the road. We met a big truck with a big amplifier on the street, being ridden by samba singers and musicians and followed by lots of dancers. No on was decked out in feathers or anything, they were just rocking out.

We followed the group for a couple of blocks, danced with them in the street where they stopped, then went on our merry way. Over and over we said: “Now THIS is Brazil!” What a day! What a day! What a day!

And before we sign off, we should let our readers know that the newest member of the Order of the Purple Bike is: Sophie Damerel! A few days ago, Sophie’s team was granted an afternoon off to run errands, rest, or do some shopping. Sophie (and Mercedes, whose group also had a break) decided to go to the worksite anyway. Not only did she work through a possible break, but also she stayed until the very last shift of that segment, helping to clean paintbrushes and put away materials. This set of actions is actually typical of Sophie, so it’s a bit weird to give her an award for doing what she does all the time anyway. Still, we are very lucky (and happy) to have her in our group and today we acknowledged how fortunate we are by asking her to ride the purple bike. Congratulations, Sophie!

This is one of the homemade kites that the children make themselves.

This was a demonstration for the group of a Brazilian traditional art.

Cassidy learning the basic moves of Capoiera.

Georete explaining the technique of using color sand to make art.
Ana being interviewed for the local tv station about our work here in Santarem.

Josialda, one of our students, warms up for her karate demonstration.

Volleyball is a favorite activity between lessons on the beach.

Sophie and Katie tried avocado ice cream popsicles for the first time. Though they sound strange, they are pretty much amazing.

Today, we used sand in our art with the kids.

even though words might fail us the fist pound is always a good way to make friends.

They might not know much English but Josialda knows how to let us know what she is feeling.

one of the capoiera performers in mid move… impressive.

one of the boys from our work site surveying the area from his lookout post.

the boys challenged some Brazilians to a game of B ball and were victorious.


Anonymous said...

What a completely amazing day - it sounded magical - capoeira, samba, basketball, and Josie's karate exhibition. And then you're on TV! Have a wonderful river trip, and stay away from those piranhas!
Here in the US, people are pretty excited about Obama's inauguration tomorrow. Katie, you might be out of "Blog Range" by then, so happy, happy birthday on Friday!
Katie's mom, Kim

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the basketball game was a lot of fun. By the way, St. Mary's is ranked 22 in the nation by ESPN/USA Today, but they're ranked just out of the top 25 (at 27) in the AP poll. So, you guys did well to represent St. Mary's. Congratulations!!

Katie's Dad
(By the way, all of Katie's aunts and uncles graduated from Syracuse, and Syracuse is ranked #8 in both polls!!)

jillagunter said...

Hello smc bravehearts
I just watched our 44th president take office. What an inspiring speech he gave! So much of what he tried to convey can be summed up in what you all are doing in brazil. Working hard to give back, to share when you can, to believe in the possibilities, and the opportunities gained in a shared future. Hope you got to see it, love to you all. mama jill