18 students and two faculty members from Saint Mary's College are returning to our SMC home away from home in the Brazilian Amazon for Jan Term 2017. This page helps us to tell our story and -- even more importantly -- helps us to tell the stories of our friends and hosts in the Amazon . . .
Monday, January 26, 2015
Day Fourteen, Tuesday, January 19: Working through the Rain
After our post yesterday we stopped out in a deep part of
the river and had a blast jumping off the second and third decks of the
boat.We set up a safety perimeter of
people with lifejackets and then we jumped into the middle, sometimes carrying
GoPro cameras to catch the action.The
video we captured is a blast.When we
finished jumping, we returned home to our lovely hammock hut and tried to get
reorganized.Things fell pretty much
back into place, with only a few insignificant exceptions.
Even though we were kind of tired and still swaying a bit on
our sea legs, we decided to hit the sand job before cleaning up so that we
would get a jump on the job for Tuesday.It turns out that one of the jobs that needed to be done was to move the
rocks that last year’s group had gathered and piled on the beach for an
undetermined future project.It turns
out that the fish food factory is that project.
Because the rocks have been sitting for a year, they got
covered over with sand when the water rose.So, we had to spend quite awhile excavating that rock pile and then
transferring it to the worksite.We then
did another load of sand and were actually quite pleased with the amount of
work that we got done on a “non-work” day.
For dinner, we got to pile a little bit more birthday
celebration on Ranjay, as the cooks here made him a sign and baked him a
cake.We had a much calmer night than we
might usually have on a birthday due to our general level of exhaustion from
the boat trip.Most of us were in our
hammocks by 10pm.
Our early bedtime helped us all to pop out of bed ready for
a day of real labor.We got what we
wanted.We divided the teams to meet the
tasks of the day.One team – Brent,
Mari, Jillian and Hillman – known as Macacos Chiques (or Fancy Monkeys) took
the lead on the paint job at the pousada.They had to start with “primer,” which is really powdered lyme that is
mixed with water to whitewash the concrete.There was a bit of a learning curve but they made quick work of the
exteriors of the buildings around the guest area.
Another team – Sydney, Suzanne, Steve and Carlos – known as
Batatas (or Potatoes) took on the job of going after more rocks.This job involves the counterintuitive move
of going about twenty minutes up the riverbank in a boat and filling the floor
of the boat with rocks.We need some
small rocks (we think for the perimeter of the foundation) and some large rocks
(we think for the floor).The Batatas
did four trips of rock gathering.
The other teams – Marissa, Jorden, Tori and Ranjay – known
as Brasa (or Burning Ember) and Michael, Brittany, Connor and Mackenzie – known
as Bananas Bacanas (or, Crazy Bananas) took on the job of beginning
construction on the fish food factory.This job meant that we needed to re-clear the space for the factory
(which had been leveled through a controlled burn recently but, as things go in
the Amazon, had regrown quickly).The
clearing involved the removal of one large stubborn stump and lots of other
shoots and starts, including some tough baby palm trees. The factory group then laid out the basic form
of the factory and began trenching the foundation.
And then the rains came.At first it was sprinkling and all of the teams happily kept working,
welcoming the relief that a light rain can bring.Then the drops started getting bigger and
closer together and our community partners let us know that the rain was going
to really pour down.They told us to
come back in two hours.
The factory team was about a mile and a half from “home,”
while the rock team was out in boats.As
we have said many times before, rain is just plain wetter in the Amazon than it
is back home.It rains so hard that we
could actually lather, rinse and repeat with shampoo just standing
outside.We didn’t.This time.
In any case, we got soaked.The rock team also got covered with red rock dust, which means that by
the time they returned to the hammock hut, they looked like they had
participated in a bloody massacre.As
far as we know, they hadn’t, though they took some video that makes it look
like they were in a storm-tossed sea, so who knows what happened when they were
out there . . . ?
We ate lunch and tried to regroup as we just couldn’t tell
if more rain was coming or not.Our main
concern about the rain wasn’t whether we would continue to work or not, as we
knew that one way or another we would.Our top concern was, instead, LAUNDRY.
We have all been hand-washing our own things for this whole
trip and we are learning lots of important things:
1)There is such a thing as too much soap.
2)It is really hard to wring out your clothes by
3)Washboards are a mystery.
4)The sun can work miracles on poorly wrung-out
5)A clothesline that is undercover sounds good in
principle but is not terribly helpful in practice. 6)Rain wreaks havoc on a large load of laundry on
the line, especially if you are totally dependent on getting it dry.
When we got home from the boat trip, we had all thrown off
whatever laundry schedule we had established up to that point.Suddenly we all had four days’ worth of dirty
laundry that we needed to wash at the same time.So we filled the lines with newly clean
clothes that we NEEDED to get back into play.Then the rains thwarted our plans.We are likely to have a couple of stinky days ahead of us, either
because of mildew or because we are re-wearing clothes that are not soaking
So, we need sun.For
our laundry.But we don’t want sun to
beat down on our worksites.It’s quite a
We got some sun this afternoon, which helped our soggy
clothing but weighed down upon us as we continued to lay the foundation of the
factory.Nonetheless, we kept plugging
away, lifting and loading rocks and sand, mixing concrete, carrying water and
moving dirt.We got three of the four
perimeter trenches filled with concrete this afternoon.It took a lot out of a lot of us to make that
Meanwhile, the painters got full coats on two of the three
buildings we are painting.The colors
are pretty . . . uh . . . tropical.We
might do some combining of colors to make things even more interesting than
they already are.We will keep you
posted as both of these primary jobs progress.
We feel our time growing shorter and we still have lots of
work we want to complete with our Brazilian friends.We can tell already that we are going to have
a hard time leaving. . . Daily Photos
A shot of our boat once we were back in Anã.
It was an amazing day
to take a photo of the lake. (photo enhanced)
Our savior Diorlando captures the huge, poisonous centipede in our pousada.