Monday, January 25, 2016

Day Twenty:Tying up Loose Ends

Monday, January 25, 2016

We had a blast at samba school last night.  We arrived late and got there just in time for the major percussion arrangements, which is always the best part of these evenings.  We knew we only had an hour so we maximized our time by going right to the front and dancing from the minute we arrived.  The musicians onstage immediately recognized that we were from out of town (not many tourists here!) and then quickly remembered that we must be those same Californians from last year and the year before.  They called out to us and a big cheer went up through the crowd.  We probably cheered loudest of all.  We were having a fantastic time but we knew an early morning was ahead of us so we packed it in and headed home.  We slept hard after our long emotional roller coaster of a day. 

This morning we headed out first thing to an animal hospital/preserve for forest creatures that have been injured or trafficked or orphaned or whatever.  The place is called ZooFit and it has become a favorite stop of DIRT groups in recent years.  We can safely get really close to animals and see them play and watch us back.  It wasn’t actually open today but they opened it to us because we have been going there for the last few years.

We started at the manatee tanks and learned a lot about river manatees and how they differ from saltwater manatees.  There are 19 of them under care here, including a 2.5-month-old one that was a real cutie.  We got kind of mesmerized by watching them surface in the sometimes murky water just enough to get a breath through their nostrils. 

We saw lots of different kinds of monkeys, including one zogzog like the ones that lived outside our oca in Anã.  It just roams freely around the compound because it was raised by humans as a pet so it is more comfortable with humans than with its animal peers.  It followed us around and made its crazy zogzog sounds while we were getting a tour.  We loved it. 

There were lots of other monkeys too, and some big cats (pumas), some alligators (including one that was about 14 feet long!), a boa constrictor, some beautiful birds (including parrots and macaws) and some other weird animals that we don’t even have names for in English.  We were especially into the monkeys and found ourselves talking to them through their cages, making eye contact and really believing that we were connecting to them in some weird way. 

We bid farewell to the animals and to our friendly guides and headed into the city to do some shopping.  We made two stops (TWO!) to get machetes, because we wiped out one store’s supply before we accumulated our 25 or so big knives.  They are not yet sharpened but we still looked like maniacs carrying that many blades through the streets.  Some of us got leather sheaths for them so we really looked like serious machete users.

We then headed home for lunch and quickly turned it around for more shopping.  We got lots of local souvenirs, some soccer jerseys, and more Havaianas (sandals).  Then we hit one of our most popular stops of all: a self service ice cream store.  We piled on flavor after flavor, compared and sampled them all, then got some more.  In all we had 5.5 kilos of ice cream, which computes to about 12 pounds.  There were 22 of us eating, but that’s still a lot to consume!

We came home from there and started a mad push to get everything packed and finish all of our pictures and videos up to this point.  We hope to get everything posted so that you can catch up with our adventures as we travel back to California.  We have a long layover in Manaus and we are going to visit an authentic churrascaria, which is a meat-lover’s paradise.  (They have things for vegetarians too!)  If we get a chance we will post from there but sometimes it is difficult to get a signal so we might fail in that endeavor.  If we get stranded like we did last year (for almost two days!) we will let you know. 

It’s hard to imagine that we will be on our way out of Brazil tomorrow, as we have grown accustomed to the heat, the sounds, the bugs, the language, the music, the personalities and each other.  But we know we will be able to remind each other of all that we have experienced together, especially because we will hole up in a computer lab for the first three days that we are home to finish our final projects. 

You may have trouble recognizing us when you see us.  We are all really tan.  We have really dirty feet and somewhat smelly laundry.  Our standards for what counts as an appropriate bathroom have really slipped.  We are used to the feeling of sunscreen melting off our faces all day every day.  We’ve been eating a lot of flan.  Some of us have lost weight due to the rigorous schedule and healthy diet we’ve been maintaining.  Some of us haven’t.  We don’t really depend on our cellphones the way we used to.  We have Portuguese words at the front of our minds now and they come out of our mouths as sensible responses to everyday situations. 

We’ll try not to be obnoxious, but we have had a wonderful month here together and we are going to miss it dearly.  Please be patient with us.  Even after we have landed in the US, it may take us awhile before we are all the way back in California.  Part of our hearts, lots of our tears and a good bit of our labor have been left in the deepest Amazon.  We will move on soon, but we’re not in a hurry . . .  

Still, we promise that we look forward to seeing you and telling you even more!


Here are some zoguezogue videos for your entertainment.  Imagine waking up in a hammock to this sound:

 Our new monkey friend (a ZogueZogue) listening in on the Manatee presentation. Originally a house pet, this monkey roams around the him brave enough to approach our group. 

 A wild, angry hawk caught looking upon the SMC DIRTies. 

 These silly monkeys (Macaco Prego’s) may look cute and cuddly but they are extremely smart and will out wit you. Although healthy, these monkeys will not be released into the Amazon until further studies are done to ensure that they will be safe in the wild.

Although these macaw’s have majestic colors, these feisty  birds kept trying to nibble at our toes. 

A majestic puma striking a pose while we visit her home. This is one of the four family members living in the cage at the animal hospital/preserve. 


  1. Glad everyone is having fun with the samba, shopping and ice cream. Enjoyed the zogzog video. Thanks for sharing. Okay, DIRTies, get your bearing when you come home. I know it is a long flight home. We miss you and hope to see you soon. The weather will be nice when you arrive on Wed. Expect some rain this weekend. God Bless You All! Safe travels!

  2. I'm glad no one got "showered" on at ZooFit this year! Safe travels back to California. See you soon!

  3. The monkey videos are hilarious, we laughed so hard!!

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