Friday, January 24, 2014

Baskets and Dolphins

SMC Amazon 2014: Day 17

We awoke to a beautiful morning after a rather breezy night.  The sun hit the beach and changed the color of the sand from the night before and the clouds, the water, and all of the vegetation around us all went into high contrast mode.  We decided to try to get a group picture to meet a Jan Term program request, but we couldn’t get the light to quite work out the way we wanted. 
We motored around the point and headed into a cove of trees that were out in the water, indicating that the river is higher than it sometimes is.  We stopped the big boat outside the cove and used our little motorboat to shuttle groups of six in through the trees to get to the community of Arimum.  We were met by a man in a yellow shirt, who walked us to a group of other people in yellow shirts, all of whom were part of the “tourism committee” for their community.  They were in a thatched shelter by a swimming hole where children were jumping from trees into the water and squealing with delight. 
Once we had all been shuttled over, we got a demonstration of how the locals collect a slightly different version of palhas than the ones we opened in Anã and dry them properly for use in baskets and other handicrafts.  They showed us how to dye them using natural leaves, plants and roots and then they let us pick our own colors and try to weave a little coaster for ourselves. 
“Try” is the operative word here, as many of us did not succeed in our goal of finishing a legitimate project.  Some of us did a pretty good job, while others successfully conned one of the people in the yellow shirts to do the project that we set out to do, while still others gave up entirely and did something else.  We learned a lot about the concepts of “teaching” and “learning” in this process.  Let’s leave it at that. 
We got a chance to see some of the community’s real handiwork at the end of the demonstration and several of us invested in quite a few pieces (maybe as gifts for some of YOU!).   We swam a bit with the kids in the swimming hole and then we got out our markers and paper and drew with the kids who felt like drawing.  It turned out that a lot of them wanted to draw so we stayed pretty busy. 
We started to shuttle back to the big boat and then set off for our next destination: the middle of the river.  Our captain knew a great place to anchor the boat where the water would be very deep but the current would be very mild.  A place like that is an excellent place to jump off of our boat and into the river, with lots of spotters waiting below with life jackets and other flotation devices, just in case. 
All of you old DIRT fans know that this moment can be a momentous one.  Without belaboring the point, we will let you know that there was a BIG safety talk that preceded anyone jumping off the boat and that Shawny took her usual role of being the first one to jump.  Everyone went off feet first, knees bent.  We had a fun frolic in the water and then decided that we were ready to move on.
Then Dennis noticed the dolphins.  CLOSE to us.  So we asked the captain about them and he said that if we swam some more, they would come even closer.  So four people offered to go back in the water and the dolphins did, indeed, come really close.  Not close enough to touch, but close enough to hear them really well and see them really well.  The captain pointed out that they were black dolphins (not regular grey or Amazon pink ones) and that they aren’t terribly friendly.  So, we got back out of the water and watched them go along their merry way.  
Tonight we are having a piricaia on another lovely river beach.  This means we will dig a pit, start a fire, build a grid over it and then roast fish.  We’ll do some potatoes and other things at the same time and have a blast.  The sky has more clouds this evening but there doesn’t seem to be an immediate threat of rain.  We’ll let you know about our evening when we write tomorrow . . .

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