Saturday, January 16, 2016

Day Ten: Some New Friends, a Tour and a Plan

Friday, January 15, 2016

We intended to start work early this morning but first we needed to participate in a meeting with the local leaders who will take responsibility for the chicken coop when it is completed.  We were surprised to learn that their chicken coop aspirations reach much farther than we had ever imagined.  Where we were picturing ten or twenty laying hens, they are envisioning 500!  So, um, we didn’t buy enough chicken wire. 

After our meeting about the chicken enterprise, we joined with the other visitors at the pousada, all three of whom speak English, for a quick get-to-know-you session and a tour of the community.  As it turns out, one of the visitors, Dave, is an academic with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering who specializes in theories of community engagement.  Our class is designated to meet the community engagement requirement of the SMC core curriculum, so we had lots to talk about.  He was traveling with an occupational therapist/yoga teacher named Jamie and a freelance journalist named Isobel.  We had each of them do a quick presentation to our group about their lives and trajectories and then we set out with Isobel for a tour of the community. 

Some of us have seen the sights of Anã before but we all got a fresh look at the fish farm, the center of the community, the beekeeping enterprise and the garden.  At the fish farm, we rode out in small rowboats to check out the cages of the mature fish; a few of us even got in the water with the fish and caught them with nets or our bare hands.  We learned which cages belong to which families and were surprised to notice that we recognize almost all of the people involved.  We are really putting down some roots here . . .

We then checked out the bee “farm” and learned more about the stingless bees that community members brought in from the forest and what makes their honey so unusual to us.  As we have mentioned before, the locals use their honey more for a medicine than for a sweetener as we are prone to do.  In fact, if there is a scratch, bump or rash in our group and Dona Odila notices, she comes running with the honey and applies it liberally.  It’s sticky at first but because the honey is pretty thin and almost sour tasting (though really good to eat), it dries up and doesn’t make a mess. 

Right after lunch, we decided to capitalize on the presence of a yoga teacher in our midst and cleared the dining area to create a yoga studio.  It turns out that a lot of us are already really limber and really good at yoga and those of us who aren’t just did it anyway and loved it.  As we were relaxing at the end, we all felt so good that we could have slept soundly for hours.  Instead, we were supposed to get to work on the chicken coop. 

But then the community boat arrived and we hustled down to the riverbank to unload lots of food, some equipment and the parts of the new fish cage that we will assemble and install tomorrow.  The load also included several bags of cement that weighed roughly 100 pounds each.  Trying to carry those across deep (and HOT!) sand is much more challenging than it might be in some other circumstance but we somehow got them across the beach AND up the stairs.  We also got the not-very-heavy-but-still-very-clunky fish cage across the beach and up the stairs, even with terrible translation going on between us and the Brazilian friends who were helping us. 

We finally got to the garden to size up the chicken coop project.  We hiked back a little trail past the trees we planted last year and found a clearing in the forest that will be part of the chicken area.  In fact, the forest through which we were walking will also be part of the chicken area, which took us a little bit by surprise.  They say they know how to call chickens in to roost at night and we’ll just have to take them at their word. 

We then spent a LONG time making drawing after drawing, first in the dirt around the clearing and then on paper back in the planting hut at the garden.  Cooper and Daniel took the lead on making our proposals, figuring square footage of free range space and linear footage of fencing to try to learn how to maximize usage while minimizing costs.  Further, they did comparative studies of the locals’ original plan so that we could see which plan would work best in the available space with the available materials. 

This conversation took us all the way to dusk so we hustled home for dinner and raucous conversation.  We got a plan together to assemble the fish cage in the morning while Shawny and Jesse make another internet run on the motorcycles.  We have massively compressed our videos to help them upload and we hope that there is a way to decompress them (Bryan?  Is there?).  If not, we offer you blurry substandard videos, which we take to be better than no videos at all. 

We will post this on Saturday morning before we begin work and then play the locals in soccer on Sunday.  We will have lots of great info to post on Monday, hopefully from somewhere mid-river as we begin our boat trip.  Prepare to hear about our great victories (men and women) over the local teams.  Tee hee. 

By the way, Callan’s head is fine (though she acquired a big fat bruise on her thigh while wrestling tree trunks – she’s a clumsy one!), Cameron’s foot is fine and healing nicely, and Ari’s foot is back to normal.  We are sure that more illnesses and injuries will follow but right now we have no one on the disabled list.  Let’s see how many days we can make this last . . .

Thanks for the great comments on recent blog posts.  Jesse reads them out loud so we all can hear them and we hoot and holler and laugh and go “awwwwww” depending upon what you write.  There are big delays between when you post them and when we read them but the happiness they bring to us is not in any way reduced.  Thanks for reading!

Isabelle giving the members of the garden team her attention  
Dona Odila praising Jenny’s “DIRTy” strength 

Rowin’ our way downstream, paddlin’ fast, sting rays pass, and we’re oca bound.

At the fish farm. The fish’s smile blows Carlos’ out of the water.

We were able to pull some honey from the hives and taste it. The honey here has a liquid consistency, and the bees don’t sting! It is a perfect combination. 

How many treks have you made to your oca today?

Jessie wishing our friends a safe trip back to São Paulo 

Today we took a trip to the fish farm. In the river there are multiple fish cages that supply the community with hundreds (even thousands) of nutritious and delicious fish!

Marlina extracting honey from the honey pots at the bee farm with a syringe. 

Jules, Daniel, Cooper, and Jesse drawing potential blueprints for our next big project: the chicken coop!

A view from a few of our host’s homes. One of the many beautiful sights we see on the path we take to a worksite. 

Our new friends Jamie and David actively listening to our community meeting 

Auvaír’s multiple hives—the honey has a slight lemony, tangy taste. It was absolutely delicious! 

Auvaír, one of the bee keepers of Anã, pulls some honey from a beehive. These hives support the community and his family! 

Boys will be boys (Aldaír, Matt, Diorlando, Carlos, and Zé). 


  1. More great posts! So glad everyone is back to health! We are afraid to see the disabled list after the soccer games! GO GAELS!

  2. Day 10: Glad that everyone (Callan, Arianna & Coleman) are fine and back on track. Happy to see Carlos's photo at the fish farm and having a blast. Thank you all the wonderful things you do to make the community a brighter place. Looking forward to blog re the soccer match! Go Gaels!

  3. Happy to hear that everyone (Callan, Cameron & Ari) are all fine and back on track. Glad to see Carlos having fun at the fish farm! Nice to see that you all are enjoying some down time with Aldair, Diorlando & Ze.