Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day Sixteen: Back to Work!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Our return from the boat trip wasn’t as terrible as we expected, as we have gotten very good at managing our own personal items along with the shared group items that we need when we move from place to place.  Getting them up the beach and the steps near the pousada in the dark was a new trick we needed to learn but we were up to the challenge.  As usual, we used the oxcart to our maximum advantage.  Cole slightly tweaked a previously existing ankle injury during the offload, so we might be looking for a new goalkeeper for our soccer game this Saturday.  We hope not. 

We had a fully prepared meal ready on the boat so we carried all of it up the steps and ate it at “home.”  We were really really tired and most of us slept very hard once we got our photos and videos ready for posting.  But we were ready to hit the worksite this morning and get back into project mode.

We sent one subsection of our group out into the forest with the oxcart to collect fenceposts that our hosts had harvested from the forest while we were away.  They didn’t have to go too terribly far to get them, but there were some exceptionally heavy ones, making this job a tough one.  They had to make a couple of trips to get the 55 posts we needed.  

The rest of us went to the community storage site and gathered up random wood to fashion into roosts for the laying hens that will eventually live in our coop.  (Please recall that our coop design was made by our colleague Cooper, whom we hope will open a new business called Cooper’s Coops.)  The wood is all rough cut and therefore the board sizes are not consistent but we figured out how to make it work.

The basic plan is to use three long planks (nearly 18 feet long) and attach them into one large shelf.  We have enough material to make three such shelves.  Each shelf will be divided down the middle to double the available roosting area.  The shelf will be further subdivided horizontally to make little nests for individual hens.  Altogether each of the three shelves will accommodate 24 hens above and below it.  So, we will have housing for almost 150 hens when we are finished.  We haven’t quite figured out all of the elements that need to align to make this work but we are pretty close. 

We have power tools with us but we are trying to use local practices as much as possible, which means lots of hammers and lots of nails.  We are terrible at hammering nails but we are getting better by the hour as we know that we absolutely cannot waste materials.  So far we have been quick to pick up most skills so this one will be in the bag by tomorrow most certainly.

We also had a few people digging holes for our new fenceposts, which should be going into the ground even as this entry is being posted.  It will be quite a thrill to go from zero to chicken coop in two days but it seems clear that’s where we are headed.  Lots of community members showed up today to help, so that makes the job both easier and more meaningful. 

Friday will be a continuation of our chicken coop work, along with some cleanup on other jobs we’ve worked on during our stay.  Saturday morning might bring a bit of labor but most of our attention will be on the soccer games that afternoon.  Once the soccer games are over, we will convert to social mode for our annual Cultural Night.  They will sing songs and do some dances for us and we will do some speaking and maybe singing or dancing as well.  It’s always a bit embarrassing but also a lot of fun.  We also have Jesse’s birthday to celebrate that night so Saturday is going to be a biggie. 

Sunday will be big too, as we will have to move out and say goodbye to our Amazon home that day.  On the way back to the city, we will stop at the community we missed during our boat trip and perhaps do a craft workshop there.  We’ll also make a brief stop at a somewhat famous local beach and spend a few hours checking it out.  Then we will head back into Santarém to meet with our partners at Saúde e Alegria one last time, do some souvenir shopping and eat loads of excellent Brazilian ice cream. 

We are unlikely to post again until Sunday night when we are back in Santarém.  In the meantime, you can make your travel plans to join us for our presentation night, where we will show some of our final multimedia projects on Wednesday, February 10, at 7pm in Galileo 201 on the Saint Mary’s College campus.  We hope to see you there!!

Jenny and Christian learning Portuguese and English with the new flashcards the DIRT class made. 

Phil, Matt, Cooper, Mar, and Claudia discussing strategies for the workload of the day

Cam cutting down trees to make a path that leads to the new chicken coop 

Spending the last month together, our team has become like a family. We enjoy working alongside one another on the worksite as well as enjoy a few laughs during our down time.

Ari, Julia, and Cooper taking a break from building the chicken coops. 

 Ari poses for the camera while nailing on the sides of the roosts.

 Jenny looks on as Matt, Cristian (local Anã boy) and Leah nail the siding onto the roosts.

Materials sit ready at the work site.

 Up close view of the chicken roosts in place. (Natalie approves)

Phil, Cooper, Matt, and Annie work to put the middle boards in the roosts. 

Marlina and Cristian nail boards together for the roosts. Cristian used to be shy around the DIRTies, today he laughed, joked, and worked with us.

Suze hammering down the final nails for the chicken coops! 

Diorlando biking back from the fish farm with some lunch for the DIRTies once we come back from work. 

The five C’s morning workout included powerlifting logs for the chicken coop! 

Jules taking a quick break before taking the chicken wire up to the worksite for the future chicken coop.

Leah working on preparing the cross boards and dividers for each roost.

A local woman carries some branches back to her home. 

A radio rests on a family table in Anã. 

While working in the garden, we had the opportunity to learn the importance of these tiny sacks of dirt. These bags will house the initial seedlings and allow for easy transport so the Anã nursery can reach beyond the fence and into the gardens of individual families.

Vicente and Madeline working on notching the tops of the posts that will be used to hold the roof of the roosts.


  1. Your stay is about to end but I know the community are very pleased with all the work you have done for them. On the other hand, DIRTies, you have learned their culture, reached out to the community, made new friends and built relationships. Your families and friends are all proud of you! We look forward to hearing more amazing stories and watching your videos when you come home. Good luck on your game! Advanced Happy Birthday, Jesse! Best wishes from the Golden State!

  2. With each posting we are amazed at how much you have accomplished! We are really looking forward to the evening when you share your final projects. You are seriously THE most adventurous people. We miss you. Travel on!

  3. We are so proud (and a lil' envious - in a good way) that you each opted to step out of your “box” to explore, learn, experience and pay-it-forward to the communities you have shared your time with in Brazil. Enjoy these last few days together with your Gael brothers and sisters, for this is a trip of a lifetime (hopefully not the last) that you embarked on.
    As some of us parentals’ are not from the bay area, we hope there will be an opportunity for us to attend your presentation remotely. Please be sure to keep us posted if this is an option.
    Safe travels home Everyone!

  4. Hi Jules. I have been enjoying the blog, photos and videos. I am checking everyday for new ones. What a wonderful adventure! Looking forward to seeing you soon. Love Grandma Syrnick

  5. Bummed out that we missed the boat trip this year. Seems like you missed the storms we faced last year! Safe travels back to Santarém and I'm looking forward to seeing the final projects back at gael university. Boa Noite!!!!

  6. Robert, Safe travels home. It sounds like an amazing trip. I have been keeping the family updated on your trip on my face book page. Everyone is very excited to hear about your adventures. See you soon! Love Mom.

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