Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day Seventeen (Wednesday, January 21)

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Today’s slideshow was produced by the team Dar Um Jeito.

Our riverboat trip was slightly delayed, as last night’s rain never stopped. We got up at 5:45 anyway, ready to get on the boat no matter what. We packed our things, gathered them all for delivery to the boat, then learned that it was fruitless to leave so early when it was raining so hard. We all went back to bed. When we awoke again, our bags had been delivered to the boat for us and all we had to do was walk to the river and embark. A slight rain continued to fall, but we were undaunted.

We dropped the first stop from our trip, which was supposed to be a visit to a community east of Santarém on the Amazon. There would have been no good way to tour the area in the pouring rain, so we just skipped that step and headed west (upriver) instead. Before we had gotten anywhere, we were already exploding with excitement because the captain told us that we were about to go fishing . . . for PIRANHAS!

We headed to a small community called Santa Ana, where a long staircase led to a small town that was almost entirely dependent on the river for its survival. Groceries were being delivered by boat as we arrived, and we even docked next to the grocery boat and walked across it to get into the town. Young men were carrying huge loads up the long staircase, mostly supporting them with their heads. We were huffing and puffing just to walk up the staircase itself and we could scarcely imagine trying to conquer it with two cases of soft drinks or beer on our heads.

The community at the top of the stairs was simple and beautiful. The dirt roads were mostly used by people walking from place to place, though a few work animals also pulled wagons along them. A lovely church stood open in the center of it all, so we stepped inside to check it out. The people of the community were friendly and happy to see us and it took us a few minutes to realize that one reason they were so happy was that they, too, like so many other Brazilians we’ve met, are VERY excited about Barack Obama. Their town has a generator that produces electricity for only about an hour and a half a day. They used their hour and a half yesterday to watch our new President’s inauguration.

One man approached Marie and Shawny gushing and offering thanks, saying the word “Obama” every fifth word or so. All of us were stunned at the level of interest and enthusiasm that we encountered. We also, realized, though, that when we are out in the world, we are held accountable for the actions of our nation, no matter what our personal politics might be. None of us had really faced the relationship between our own lives and our country’s foreign policy quite so directly before. Fortunately, most people that we meet are giddy and hopeful about the U.S. at the moment, so those are the feelings that we got to bask in today.

Once we left Santa Ana, a very small number of us had our first confirmed sighting of a pink dolphin. It leapt up right in front of our boat, but only a few of us were out front when it happened. Those people screamed and called out for everyone else, but the dolphin didn’t surface again when we were looking. We’ve seen lots of other gray dolphins, but the pink ones are the ones we really want to get a glimpse of.

We also took turns going into the march in the dingy attached to our big boat so that we could scope out some ENORMOUS lily pads that are just called “The Big Leaves” here (but in Portuguese). The Big Leaves are endangered, so we counted ourselves as lucky that we got to canoe right next to them and check them out.

Pretty soon, we stopped to do our fishing for the day. We found a place that our captain knew would have piranhas and we baited our hooks with red meat and fished away. Unfortunately, we fished and fished and fished but didn’t catch ONE piranha today! Our captain said that they either bite or they don’t and that therefore patience would not pay off. We surrendered, but only for today.

We moved on to another river beach to park and sleep for the night. We stretched out our hammocks and lined up on both decks of the boat to learn whether hammocks are a viable place to sleep or not. The rain had come and gone all day, so we dropped the tarps on the boat to help us stay dry if it rained in the night. (It did.)

As mentioned already, our purple biker today was Joey Cacciatore.

First community we visited off the amazon river.

Family living on the edge of the amazon river.

River leading away from the main river to a small community off the river.

Kids shying away from us as we looked on the community.

Couple in the community who greeted us as we walked through the community.

The rainforest is home to numerous species of plants, most of which are new to us.

Instead of spending all day behind a desk, this fisherman spends his work days in the Amazon River.

Our boat has become home to many large creatures including this large grasshopper.

This small community off the Amazon River is home to less than 100 families.

Lotus flowers grow from the harshest of conditions, yet always rise to the surface.

None of us know what lay ahead of us, but if it looks like this we are happy to continue down the path to find out.

if these lily pads were not green they could easily be mistaken for bathtubs.

Franklin was seeing the white light as he came face to face with Margeaux.

Never have I ever seen a bird this blue.

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