Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day Ten (Wednesday, January 14)

Today’s video was produced by the team Paz.

We quickly got back into the swing of things by getting to work on time this morning (we decided to get up 15 minutes earlier to help make this happen). Though our hosts weren’t quite ready to begin when we arrived, we were. We started going around to different kids and checking out their recollection of the English we had taught them. We mostly focused on greetings and the question: “How are you?” Little clumps of them picked it up quickly while others needed phonetics lessons on the words “thank you.”

When Georgete was ready to get started, we separated into two groups. Most of us went out onto the beach to build the tents and get ready to deliver our lesson plans. Today we planned to do two songs (The Counting Song and The Hokey Pokey) and two lessons in English (colors and clothing). Partway through The Counting Song, we could already tell that our students were pretty hyped up. Then we moved into our English lessons instead of going on to our next song. We managed to keep them together and focused on our lessons, but it was clear that they wanted to RUN!

So, Team Paz came to the rescue by setting up its calisthenics obstacle course. The kids had to run in pairs (representing the two teams into which we had divided them) and stop at different stations to do pushups and jumping jacks, among other things. Perhaps more than any other lesson we’ve done, this one was PERFECT for its moment. The kids were patient and courteous, they were really excited about the game, they ran really hard from station to station, and they cheered madly as each person returned to home base. We all cheered almost as hard.

We played Duck, Duck, Goose, and a game called Cat and Mouse. They taught us Portuguese words for all of the English in the game but we still had them play the games in English. (Of course, this decision meant that as we rode off for lunch, we heard calls of “Duck! Duck! Goose!” from the kids lining the dirt road.) We have all gotten a kick out of spending some of our college lives playing children’s games again.

Another group of the older kids separated off with Georgete to plant açai trees around the storage building. Açai is the fruit that is the basis of some new diet fads in the U.S., but here it is just a common fruit that people eat often. The main way to eat it is to smash it up into a substance somewhat like melting ice cream, sweeten it, then eat it a bowlful of it from a spoon. It is a great source of iron and other nutrients, so it will be nice for the kids and the program to have access to a steady supply of açai once the seedlings mature. We didn’t find out today how long it will take for the plants to bear fruit.

The rest of our group got busy with the building itself, demolishing the back wall in short order (carefully, though, so we could salvage as much wood as possible) and then rebuilding it. A few of the students who were on the construction job had never knocked a wall out of a building before (no matter how sturdy), so doing it for the first time was quite a rush.

Equally fun was rebuilding the wall using hand tools almost exclusively. The one exception was the small power saw that we bought to help cut the wood. It is of a familiar brand name, Makita, but it is so small that it looks like a toy. It saves us lots of work, though, so we don’t mind. Chris trained a couple of people on how to use the saw and they became a virtual lumber mill. We had two different sizes of boards that all had to be cut at 45 degree angles, so we would measure and yell out “Fat 310” and the crew would know just what to do. By the end of the day, the wall we knocked out was rebuilt much better than before.

As for that “310” up there, it is a metric measurement, which has been a constant source of confusion for us. We keep saying the number on the tape, then asking, “is that centimeters or millimeters or what?” Of course our Brazilian hosts always use the metric system, but few of us have ever gotten the hang of it. We keep switching back and forth: “Bring me an 8 inch board cut to 291 centimeters.” Maybe by February we will catch on.

Speaking of the metric system, we are guessing that a certain subset of our readership out there might be better versed in the metric system than we are. More specifically, we could probably use some of Miss Anderson’s (Shawny’s sister’s) sixth graders from Happy Hollow Elementary School in West Lafayette, Indiana, on our measuring team. They probably know their way around the metric system better than we do. Each of the Happy Hollow students wrote letters to each of our students before the trip began. We just got our letters when we were out on the boat yesterday.

The Happy Hollow students have some questions for us, so we will answer them here:

Q: How big was the anaconda?
A: Happily, we didn’t see an anaconda. We hear that they can be 18 feet long.

Q: Please introduce yourselves in each video so we can get to know you.
A: It takes a long time to put together our short videos. We probably won’t remember to do this. Sorry.

Q: How does it feel to be compared to Barack Obama??
A: Joe is not in the room right now, so we can’t answer. Maybe he will say it in tomorrow’s video.

Q: More Zilly! What kind of cat is she? What will happen to her when you leave?
A: What kind of cat is Zilly? A SKINNY cat! Did you see her bones? She seems much fatter already since we’ve been here. Another guy here seems to like her too, so hopefully he will give her attention when we go back to the U.S. Several of us have contemplated smuggling her back with us, but we think we will leave her to hunt bugs in the bushes around our camp.

Q: We love the "Order of the Purple Bike!"
A: We love it too! All day every day people praise each other’s work by saying, “That might be worth a ride on the purple bike!”

And speaking of the purple bike, the newest inductee into the “Ordem da Bicicleta Roxa” is Shana Dhillon! Shana jumped up and ran around collecting laundry off the line when the rain started a couple of days ago, and we had such a back-up of worthy recipients that we are only getting around to recognizing Shana now. She is always a person who is trying to see what others need. She offers to get first aid items when someone is tending to a blister or sunburn and she does more than her share of work on-site. The Purple Bike belonged to her today! Congratulations, Shana!

Ana helps us get the kids ready to start the day.

The building across from our work site shows the general condition of the riverfront in the neighborhood where we work.

The children taught us how to play “Cat and Mouse.”

Marcia chases Joe around the circle in the game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Even with a camera around her neck, she can still catch him.

Alec takes a break from the hand-saw to help one of the kids practice his English.

After playing around in the hot sun, the kids needed some water to refresh their body and mind.

Shana and Margeaux repaint the side wall of the new and improved boathouse.

Chris trained Marie on how to use the power-saw and she became a real expert today.

The two boys relaxing in the shade from the hot sun.

The two boys again, smiling (we think), for the camera. They came to watch and observe the hard work everyone had put in on the building.

Mercedes, Shawny and Alec working together to put up the boards on the building.

Here's a picture of the wall replacement job mid-morning.

A fantastic group puts on the finishing touches of the wall. It was ripped down and built up ten times better in one day.

Jaime standing tall on the reinforced building, proud of all the work that has been done.


Anonymous said...

You all must sleep like a rock! You all are working sssooo hard and your work is beautiful. Isn't great to learn all of these new skills on top of making a difference in so many other peoples lives? Marie, I'm impressed with the hand saw action, you'll have to teach me a thing or two. God bless you all and..... drink lots of water!!!!! Lots of love, Momma (Cacciatore)

jillagunter said...

good morning from beautiful capitola by the sea. Loved watching the bravehearts play such time honored games with the children-what fun they were having! I'm in awe of all your current and newly aquired skills with the tools(go marie!)cassie! You look happy in the brazlian sun my daughter, sleep well and dream big. love you bunchs baby! mama jill

jillagunter said...

Just in case it's already the 16th there(Ican't recall the time change)I wanted to wish you a happy happy birthday miss cassidy j.Can you get a cake there? I hope your special day is everything wonderful under the brazilian sun!! Alyssa sends greetings from south africa. Love you sweetness. mom xo

Anonymous said...

To All The Teams - you are definitely beginning to look like you are in your element. The children are beautiful and obviously will remember you all for a long, long time -- and you them, I am sure. That fish didn't really have teeth, right? We fell for it at first though. LOL! Where are the piranhas and the monkeys?? Glad to see that Sebastian looks happy and well ;-) Love from Casanova.

Anonymous said...

We can't wait to see what is next on the "Adventures of SMC". Everyday is something more exciting than the next for us to read...... it is like a book that you can't put down. We look forward to another chapter. Get lots of sleep and drink lots of water !!!!!!! We are proud of you. Marie and Joey, Let you light shine and find it in others. We love you, Momma and Daddy (Cacciatore)

jedfriedman said...

Good Evening SMCers,
This is really hard for me to write this message. I have heard hundreds of them in NOLA but this will be the first time that I actually write one. I am glad to see that you all are doing well, working hard, and exploring your surroundings. The class looks like it is doing great work. No power tools except a little saw, Rough… I bet Chris is either thanking his Dad for teaching him how to do something by hand, OR maybe he wishes he had listened to his Dad try and teach him… It is really cool that some of you are working with kids and at the same others are working on a building in the background; it gives the sense that you are helping in all aspects of theses kid’s world, from the current to the future. I am so proud to say that I went to SMC and that the students there put service work and service learning above a normal JanTerm on campus.

Sincerely and Jealously,
An Alum freezing his butt off at Olympic National Park, WA.