Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day One (Monday, January 5)

The team named “Dar um Jeito” (pronounced something like DAR oong ZHAYtoo and meaning “to make a way”) made our video blog for today. Click the link above to view the work of Katie Leonard, Sophie Damerel, Joey Cacciatore, and Tara Larson.

Our adventure to the Amazon began at 4:15 a.m. on the Saint Mary’s College campus in Moraga. Our friend and SMC staff member Michael Viola agreed to meet us at that terrible hour and he somehow managed to be incredibly warm and cheerful anyway. Huge thanks to Michael!
We struggled to contain our enormous amounts of luggage in our state of desperate – but planned – exhaustion. We were tired because most of us got no sleep in the last frantic hours of getting ready to leave. We had planned it, though, because we knew it was important to sleep as much as we could on the planes.

Seventeen of us left from campus and met our videographer Marcia Ong at the San Francisco airport. We flew to Atlanta where we met our other professor, Jesse Wheeler, an ethnomusicologist and Portuguese instructor currently living in Chicago. He and Marcia have been on two trips with SMC Jan Term students before (2002 and 2005). Jesse serves as our indispensible translator, guide, and language instructor. We picked up our final team member , student Ana Ahnen, in Manaus in the middle of the night.

Our trip lasted 17.5 hours, only 12 of which were spent actually flying. We left at 7:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and arrived in Santarém at 6:00 a.m. in whatever their time zone is called on Tuesday. Though we had planned to sleep a healthy number of hours on the planes, no one really succeeded.
Still, we all experienced a huge collective second wind as soon as we hit the tarmac in Santarém. Santarém is a river town at a very famous spot where two rivers, the Amazon and the Tapajós (pronounced tap-uh-ZHOESS), run side by side in different colors (Amazon = Brown, Tapajós = blue). It is about equidistant from two other well-known Amazon cities, Manaus and Belém, each about 400 miles away.

The thrill of a different climate, a different language, a different landscape, and a different perspective served as a caffeine-like jolt for all of us. We sprung to life immediately, and so did all of our cameras, our conversations, and our imaginations about all that is to come.

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