Saturday, January 16, 2016

Day Nine: DIRT in the Dirt

Thursday, January 14, 2016

We call ourselves the DIRT people for a number of reasons, but one obvious reason is that everywhere we go we get really dirty.  Today was a great example of that tendency. 

We surveyed the job from yesterday and noticed that there were many, many, many stumps in the area that had been cleared.  So we loosely organized into teams and started taking them on.  Some of them were pretty deep but not that hard to rock out of the ground, looking something like big fat sweet potatoes or maybe the mandrakes in Harry Potter books/movies.  Others were insanely huge and had whole segments of trunk that dropped down three feet and then grew horizontally underground.  And some were innocent-looking little palms, that fought surprisingly hard against being removed.  No matter what, when we got to the bottom of things and brought up the stump, we held it triumphantly overhead as a trophy with whatever set of people helped us uproot it. 

We are preparing this plot for even further expansion of the guest area, perhaps in the form of a small “chalet” that will perhaps hold real beds and that will accommodate a small group of visitors right down by the pousada.  Thus, there will need to be a flat piece of ground for the slab under the new space. 

Additionally, we learned that yet another pit needs to be dug related to the septic system.  The first one we dug will be for the toilet contents and the second will be for “grey water” from the showers and sinks.  Certain plants will be planted there to help reduce possible smells and to make good use of the water that is available.  Pit #2 is round and smaller than Pit #1, so we went ahead and broke ground and almost finished it this afternoon.  In fact, once we knocked off for the evening, a few of us went back out before we lost daylight entirely and worked with headlamps to take it even further. 

We are very heartened to see how much the tourism business has picked up here, especially because we do not see any major negative impacts on the way of life of the community.  Almost every day three or so visitors come through and join us for lunch or dinner.  Most are doing casual tours of some of the Amazon communities along the Tapajós and Arapiuns rivers, some organized by friends and fans of Saúde e Alegria, the organization that helped us connect to this place. 

In fact, our group in January 2014 was the first to stay here in the guest area and even we wondered how many people would follow.  When last year’s group was here, some other visitors came and stayed during our boat trip to other communities.  The same will happen during this year’s boat trip.  But throughout the month of January, even apart from us, there are visitors scheduled for almost every day.  That’s huge progress.

We are proud to have played a part in the growth of the tourism enterprise here and we have seen the impact of our prior work in a number of ways.  The reforestation work we participated in over the last two years is already having effects and many more will be felt over a much longer time frame than just the two years we’ve been around.  The work on the fish farm and fish food factory will probably pay off more literally (in actual sales) than several of our other projects.  And we feel certain that the improvements to the guest area that we are supporting will also bring huge benefits to the entire community. 

Tomorrow we hope to begin the chicken coop project near the garden.  It will involve more digging – postholes this time – but we are ready to get dirty once again.  We also hope to assemble the new fish cage that will arrive from the city tomorrow.  Having seen the cages already at the fish farm, we have the attitude that often brings a world of trouble: “How hard can it be?”  We’ll proceed carefully.

We are sorry to report two new injuries, one semi-exotic, one less so.  Cameron, sadly, stepped on a nail and got a small puncture wound in the bottom of his foot.  It could have been much worse but he reacted very quickly and hit the ground, giving us time to remove the nail before it went very deep.  Still, it’s no fun to have a foot injury of any kind when you spend as much time on your feet as we do. 

And for our second foot injury, we think that Arianna actually got stung by a tiny baby stingray.  There are not usually rays around this area but the low water and strange temperatures might have brought one to a place where they rarely go.  River rays are nothing like the ocean stingrays that people might fear (due to their familiarity with Steve Irwin or other gruesome stingray stories).  And baby stingrays have very little “juice.”  Tonico, the local medic, came and checked out Ari’s wound and shared numerous stories of stingray experiences from many parts of the river.  He had her stay off her feet for the rest of the day (she got her sting when we were swimming to cool off right before lunch) and he assures us that she will be good as new in the morning.  Maybe we shouldn’t have gushed about eating stingray last night . . . ?

We’ll post as soon as we can and then hope to make our next file transfer during our boat trip, which starts on Monday.  Out on the river, we sometimes get signal and we might be able to call from there if we are lucky. If there is no signal, though, we might appear to go dark for a couple of days while we visit other local communities.  We assure you that you will love to hear what we see and learn out there, even if there is a delay before you get a chance. 

Before we go, though, we must complete a couple of our projects and meet one of our most significant challenges: playing both men’s and women’s soccer games against the locals.  More on this to come . . .

Jesse admiring all the trees chopped down. They are planning on building more housing in the clearing. They also saved the jacarandá, which is a type of a wood that is in high demand. 

Phil, Shawny, Natalia and Jenny taking a break from digging. 

Matt standing in the 6 and a half feet hole that we dug out, to be used for the septic tank (AKA the hole lined with a bunch of bricks). 

A wide shot of todays worksite. where we continued to clear stumps and dig another hole fro water. The stumps where between six inches and five feet deep into the ground making them very difficult to remove. Shovels, machetes, hoes and axes were all used in order to complete this task. 

 Arianna (Air, Jar Jar Binks, Tig Tig, Yoda, Perogie) chillling with her walking stick after she got stung by a sting ray at about 12:27 pm today. To the amazement of the locals she did not cry because she is a tough tiger. She is fine, and will be ready to come back to work tomorrow. The locals recommended using honey to extract the venom from the wound, which worked!

Our trusty pooch Fuleco finds a perfect resting spot in one of the holes we dug up. Also featuring Natalie shoveling.

Shawny and Suze smile at their success — tree stump removed! 

Two days and two holes! A future septic tank and water well. 

Currently under construction, the new bathroom will consist of two showers, two toilets, and two sinks, which will be available for visitors to use when completed.

Everyone stopped what they were doing to see how high Monkey Diorlando could get!

Laughing at the amount of time it took us to pull this root out. Today was filled with clearing trees, roots, and shrubs for a future Oca (hammock hut). 

Phil and Annie producing a daily video for our class blog, capturing our experiences to share with our audience.

Zé and Steve hanging out during snack time

Annie, Cole, Daniel, and Matt discussing what would be the best way to take out the tree trunks. 
Cole, Phil, and Leah taking a break after and long, exhausting, and dirty day. 


  1. Day 9: "Coming together is a beginning...keeping together is progress...working together is success". Great photos, DIRTies! Sorry to hear about the 2 incidents but glad that both Cameron and Arianna are okay and recovering well.
    Be careful out there, DIRTies.

  2. I have never dug a hole that deep in my life (at least not one out of dirt). My daughter thinks Arianna is really brave, and says she will never go in the river there, ever (that would last less than five minutes, believe me). My son says he wants to come help the boy's soccer team. Take him next time, please. Good luck with tomorrow!


  3. It's great to see you guys investing your time to have this life experience in another country .
    It's a choice you've all decided to do on this adventure filled project. It's not an easy task by any means to adjust from a tech world you live in - to a world that has retained it's simplistic way of life .. not by choice, but of circumstance - for there are still nooks on this earth where communities still live with bare necessities! Refreshing to see you all learning (or re-learning ) basic skills .. whether it be exploring, shopping for supplies, searching for Wifi's, clearing land, uprooting trees, fishing, digging, irrigating, building, creating … etc. and most importantly, interacting with people from a different culture ! I'm sure in some holistic way - it's paying it forward .. but also a way to appreciate the finer points in life by sharing our time, our knowledge & ourselves to others. Hats off to you young ladies and young men who have venture out of your comfort zones to experience this life changing adventure that will open your eyes and ground you.
    Perhaps this is why some have come back the 2nd time to immerse themselves again and get another bout of grounding, understanding & appreciation! Good on you guys .. this once in a life time (for most) experience will open up a world of awareness that normally will be contained in our local area or state. Regrettably, most of us won't experience a way of life that exist in another part of the world .. where smiling, giving (of oneself ), interacting, exchanging knowledge and just simply getting to know a culture without any strings attached - is how the real world once was & for some communities, towns and barrio, still is. Now that's not even pointing out the creepy crawlies ! I commend you all for reaching out to our brother's and sister in South America and do what you've set out to do . At the end of the day, after this adventure .. you will feel empowered from the insights that you've experienced -- for this will be a good foundation for whatever lies ahead in your life … so soak it up mates and enjoy the journey ! Stay safe and sound, God speed.