Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Day Fourteen: Working through the Rain

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 hand.
  3. Washboards are a mystery. 
  4. The sun can work miracles on poorly wrung-out clothes.
  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 wet. 

So, we need sun.  For our laundry.  But we don’t want sun to beat down on our worksites.  It’s quite a quandary. 

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 happen.

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  . . .

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