Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day Eighteen: Jesse’s Birthday and Closing Ceremonies

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Update: Steve is MUCH better already and has some meds to keep him on the upswing.  He was dancing on the boat on the way out of Anã so we might have to rein him in a bit.  He’s not at 100% yet, but he is well on his way. 

As for the rest of us, we had a volunteer workday once Steve went off to the clinic. That is, if people needed to rest for the soccer game (or out of sheer exhaustion), they could.  Or if they wanted to work, there were plenty of jobs to do.  Almost everyone went for the jobs.  

We went back to the chicken coop and continued two jobs that we have been doing the last couple of days: stretching chicken wire and digging more postholes for the perimeter of the chicken run.  We also had new wood available to make two more sets of roosts, meaning that we have provided “dormitory” space for almost 250 chickens.  Our goal was 125.  Not bad. 

Lunchtime was approaching just before we finished the roosts but we decided to soldier on and not only finish them but deliver them to the back of the garden so they will be ready to set on posts as soon as someone can cut more of the jacaranda stands for them.  We were very satisfied with our level of achievement even though we were hot and tired when we headed home to the pousada.

We made two executive decisions over lunch regarding the soccer games: 1) no game would start before 5 because it was just too hot and 2) the women’s halves would be 20 minutes each and the men’s would be 30.  We knew that dragging things out any longer would not likely make much difference in the outcomes of the games.  Knowing that things were a bit reduced made it easier to drag ourselves out of our hammocks and head for the field. 

As it turned out, though, we weren’t as ready as we thought.  Phil went out without stretching, kicked one ball and felt like he had pulled his hamstring (he hadn’t).  He didn’t play. Steve sat out due to his recuperation, as did Cole (who was ready to play but forbidden to do so by Shawny).  Cooper opted out too due to some intestinal inconsistencies.  So, the USA team was made up of five US Americans and six Brazilians.  Our five guys – Matt, Carlos, Daniel, Cameron and Robert – hustled hard, but couldn’t hold back the strong Brazilian team. 

Our dear friend Zé served as goalkeeper until Tonico kicked him out after letting too many goals get through.  Our team actually scored this time (yay!) but it was a Brazilian team member – Diorlando – who did the honors.  Despite some great shots on goal, we lost 5-1.  We didn’t mind. 

The women were up next but we were down a few of those too.  Leah was sleeping off some minor illness that was slowing her down today and right at the last second, Annie decided that she should be a spectator rather than a player.  We started with the rest of our women and a couple of our best Brazilian friends. 

Within the first few minutes, we saw another one of our women go down on the field: Jenny.  We all ran to her to see what was wrong and found her in total agony with a severe leg cramp.  We carried her off the field and started working on her leg but the game carried on.  Another Brazilian went in for Jenny but we still had a mostly US American team. 

Like last week, Suzanne ran madly and unreservedly for the ball, as did Claudia.  Callan, Marlina, Ari and Natalie were fierce defenders who kept cutting off the Brazilians mid-kick and reclaiming the ball as our own.  They would get it out to our new power duo, Julia and our visiting friend Jani (pronounced like Johnny almost), who were quick and nimble and able to walk right through the Brazilian defenders dribbling back and forth to each other.  Our Brazilian goalkeeper, Marcia, was out grabbing the ball and preventing her friends and neighbors from taking shots they might have hit. 

Sadly, despite all of this hustle and commitment, we watched a couple of kicks find their way into the net despite our best efforts and we lost the game 2-0.  We had strategized about how to capitalize on penalty kicks in case of a tie but we didn’t get a chance to test our plan.  By the time the game ended, dusk had fallen and we needed flashlights to hurry home and clean ourselves up for the much-talked-about Cultural Night. 

We showered quickly and most of us changed into our nice clothes (just light dresses for the women and collared shirts for most of the men) and walked down to the school where they had a PA system set up in the auditorium.  The leaders of the community all gathered at the front of the room and gave short speeches about the pride and beauty of Anã and their gratitude for our efforts there. 

There was music (including three songs by our friend/goalkeeper Marcia) and they had planned a dance but once they saw our disabled list at the soccer game, they nixed that idea.  They also cancelled the part of the evening that always made us squirm in past years: the selection of the most beautiful woman and most handsome man among our group.  Awkward. 

After they spoke about their community and their affection for us, they had us all get up in front and introduce ourselves.  They then had us present our tourist guide to Anã (a product of the efforts of both last year’s and this year’s students, with enormous support by Suzanne).  It works like those binders in hotel rooms that help visitors find the local attractions and learn more about them.   We also made a visual dictionary, with little cards on rings that have pictures on both sides that help people understand both the English and Portuguese words for those things.  We also included useful phrases and questions.  Suzanne led our presentation of these items to the community. 

We then had a chance to express our appreciation to them for the warm welcome they have given us.  Carlos began by talking about how they made us feel at home.  Marlina continued by describing the sense of community that she experienced in Anã and how it was different than anything she has ever experienced in the US.  Julia talked about her great respect for the individuals who worked with us directly and for the rest of the community members who serve as models for us all.  Matt talked about how inspired he was by all he saw in Anã and Annie told them that the impact we have experienced there will stay with us for the rest of our lives.  The local audience applauded loudly for each message once translated by Jesse. 

Once the Cultural Night came to a close, we all walked the length of the community to return to our Amazon home.  Surprisingly, almost all of the community walked with us.  It was a quiet but still festive parade, with little children running alongside us and different pairs and groups of us in conversation with different pairs and groups of the people of Anã.  The kids were fascinated by our flashlights, especially the weird ones like headlamps or lanterns.  We handed them over and they escorted us home with our own lights leading the way. 

As soon as we got to the pousada, we found it dark.  People still entered and crowded around and three of us – Jesse, Marlina and Steve – were ushered to the front of the room.  When the lights came up, there were three HUGE fancy cakes waiting for all three of our January birthday celebrants and the locals sang Happy Birthday to them in English (they’ve been practicing all week).  A big sign wished them Happy Birthday in English and we all joined in a big party with the locals.  There were so many people that we had to eat in shifts because we didn’t have enough plates/bowls.  Our teams jumped into action and washed furiously to keep the cake going until everyone was served.  We played music and talked and laughed but then let the party wind down with the understanding that we have an early morning coming and we have to pack everything we own and walk away for good this time. 

We only left ourselves about five hours of sleep time so we are going to have to count on sleeping on the boat tomorrow as we head back to Santarém.  We know the morning will be full of tears but it will be full of tasks as well, so maybe those tasks will distract us from our sorrow at leaving this place we love so much.  We’ll see . . .

Marlina, Claudia, and Phil worked as a team to construct two more chicken roosts for the Anã nursery. These chicken coops will each house 24 chickens. 

The crowd watching the men’s game. The intensity soared after the US team scored a goal! 

The girls take the field! Coach Jesse hops in to the picture unannounced. 

While at the cultural night, community members performed three different regional songs. 

Suze showing her skills on the saw. The group put in some morning work on the chicken coop before the soccer games. 

Students presenting the Anã visitors guide and visual dictionaries at the cultural night. Students from JanTerm 2015 and 2016 worked on this project and hope it will serve as a living document for the community. 

Shawny helping to clear the path to make way for the new chicken coop grazing area.

Ari and Carlos working on constructing another chicken roost in the Anã nursery.

The women cheer on the men’s Estados Unidos team!

The night ended with a celebration — of the soccer games, our time in Anã coming to a close, and especially the birthdays of 3 DIRTies. Happy Birthday month Jesse, Marlina, and Steve! 


  1. Sad for your good-byes, happy you are coming home! Have a good journey.

  2. Glad to know Steve is feeling better. Thank you Shawny for taking care of him and getting him what he needed to get better. And glad to know everyone came out of the soccer game injury free...mostly! Safe travels home to everyone!

  3. Even though you lost the soccer game, job well done, DIRTies! The teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie had paid off and much appreciated by the community. Though your stay was only there for a few weeks, you made a big difference and contribution to the people of Ana. We are all proud of you. I am also happy to hear that everyone recovered from their illnesses.

  4. Thanks dear for these sneak peeks of Jesse’s Birthday and Closing Ceremonies. The video was great. I also attended a friend’s birthday bash last weekend. It was hosted in one of everyone’s favorite party venues in Chicago and everyone who was present there enjoyed it.

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