Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Day Eighteen: Winding Down in Anã

 Day Eighteen: Saturday, January 28, 2017

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning through the screen of our oca, which is a lovely view past the ends of our hammocks.  This perspective is a primary part of our experience here, lying in our hammocks, looking toward our feet, seeing past them to the ropes that support our hammocks, on past our hammocks to the pole that holds us all, then beyond the rest of the hammocks to the outside world.  This morning a large number of very busy and loud monkeys (zogue-zogues) were part of our first few moments of being awake.  And to top off all of these pleasant morning circumstances, we had bacon for breakfast!!

Most of us became painters today, as we decided to go for it and paint the whole kitchen building from start to finish.  It was always a light blue but now it is a darker shade that is more clearly a color.  (The old color might have been mistaken as a trick of the light on an observer’s eyes.)  Everywhere we looked, there was touchup to be done, so the painting job went on and on an on. We might have forgotten to get “before” pictures, but we will definitely have some beautiful “afters.”

A smaller group went back to the chicken coop to complete the enclosure of the peaked roof and to work on the two doors to the space.  They got one door completed before breaking for lunch, but needed more time to finish the second one. The chickens were just as content as they seemed yesterday and two more eggs were sitting in the nests that we had made.  We understand that this eggs are going to be left in place in hopes that they will hatch into more chicks to expand the population. 

The door team learned the importance of managing the openings when one of the chickens made a break for it during a time that the door was not yet installed.  They were quick to corral it but they pictured a mass escape during the moment that the opening was not secured. 

All the while, our teams were pursuing interviews with local leaders, getting footage for the final projects that we will complete between now and the end of our January Term, which this year ends in February.  Again, we invite you to join us as we screen some of these final projects on Wednesday, February 15, starting at 7:30pm in Galileo Hall, Room 201, on the Saint Mary’s College campus in Moraga. 

While all of this was going on, Shawny, Jesse and Annie attended a meeting of the community association, at the invitation of their new president, Zé.  We have heard over the years that we have been coming here that there are skeptics in the community, who believe that we have ulterior motives that we are waiting to reveal. 

We decided that showing up en force would be intimidating to the association members so we just sent three reps. Jesse reviewed the history of our program and helped to contextualize this year’s trip in a longer trajectory.  He then solicited questions from the thirty or so people in attendance.  A few people that we haven’t met introduced themselves and expressed appreciation for our projects here over the last four years.  They pointed out that the fact we haven’t met them doesn’t mean we don’t have their support and appreciation. 

Though we appreciate their positive comments, we really hoped to generate a conversation that would allow people to express their doubts about us and our intentions.  Either no one there had doubts or no one was brave enough to express them.  So, Tonico stood up and described the questions he has heard surface over the years, opening up an opportunity for us to respond. 

In addressing the question of the “return” on our investment of time and money in their community, we talked about the huge personal, collective, social and psychological gains that we experience in our time in Anã.  We also acknowledged that we loved carrying home a soccer victory, as it was our only one in 16 attempts.

But we were clear that we had no other interests in “cashing in” on this community.  We aren’t developers.  We aren’t seeking gold or wood or secret Amazon cures for mysterious illnesses.  And we have no intention of imposing our ways on the people who live here. 

Apparently our way of coming here isn’t the normal way that people here have experienced.  We haven’t heard specific stories of how visitors have violated the sacredness of this area, but we get the sense that it is not uncommon for some kinds of violations to occur.  We are proud to be different in this way but we are sad to know that it is important to clarify such things, based on the recent experience of our hosts. 

We carried on with interviews through and after lunch then got back to work.  We hauled sand to the chicken coop to make just a bit more concrete for a plaque of sorts on the front of the structure.  The original plan was to write each of our names on the plaque by scratching them into the concrete.  The more we thought about it, though, we decided we didn’t really want to mark it as “ours.”  We went around and around about how to use the space that Junio (it turns out his name is like the month of June in Portuguese and not the word “Junior” that we’ve been saying) was creating and finally decided to write in both Portuguese and English: “In Partnership, with Love – UPO and SMC DIRT.”  UPO is the name of the collective that manages the garden and the chicken coop. Junio is quite a craftsman and created a smooth wall for the inscription. 

Junio said it needed to dry a bit before he wrote in it so we decided to say our farewells to the chicken coop right then.  We all circled around it and laid our hands on it.  And one by one, we expressed our wishes for the coop, the chickens, their keepers, and the community.  We talked about wanting health and happiness for everyone there and for their dreams to continue to come true, as they had with the chicken coop.  We shed a tear or two, but mostly shared happy hopes.  Every once in awhile a rooster would crow in the middle of our statements, making us assume they were giving their assent. 

Then we all moved on to our last job: moving sand for Zé. He doesn’t have bricks yet but would like to get on with establishing a more firm foundation for the place he lives, which consists mostly of thatch at the moment.  We moved three cartloads of sand but didn’t want to burden him with too much, as it has to be covered and protected or it will just disperse.  Having too big a pile can be a hassle.  The amount we moved isn’t enough to do much, but it is a symbolic show of support for our dear friend Zé.

We then hurried home to clean out all of the painting stuff before we went down to the beach for Cultural Night.  We fancied up as much as is possible under the current circumstances, as it’s our only chance to show ourselves as something other than manual laborers. We also know that a lot of the locals have crushes on different ones of us (and we have crushes on some of them), so it’s a fun time to show ourselves a little better than our everyday appearance.  By the way, the #1 most lusted after guy on our trip is Aldrich. All of the local girls wanted to get pictures with him. 

We went down to the beach for Cultural Night and found a beautiful party set up for us and all of the community partners with whom we’ve worked during our stay here.  All of the kitchen workers from the pousada came, as well as all of the people who have helped us carry sand, lay bricks, cut down trees, paint and carry chickens. 

The main course had arrived on a motorcycle earlier in the day and some of us found it a little disconcerting.  Alex and his brother Bruno were both on the motorcycle with a live pig tied up between them.  They dropped it off at the pousada and we all put the pieces together pretty quickly about what was about to happen.  A few of us followed the pig through all of the stages of its preparation, but most of us kind of averted our eyes and tried not to think too hard about the bacon we had enjoyed this morning.  We all acknowledged that our sense of separation from our sources of food had given us a strange sense of falsity that we’ve never really considered fully.  But for this meal tonight, we actually expressed our gratitude to the pig that would soon be a meal for all of us. 

There was a huge selection of other foods available too, so we all ate like kings.  Before we did so, different reps of the community gave speeches to thank us for our work in Anã. And we learned that our new friend Junio had, in fact, been one of the doubters in the community who wasn’t a supporter of the projects that our partners had undertaken, all but one of which we have worked to further. 

Junio said that his work with us this week had give him a whole new perspective on collective action and unity and he has now decided to join the collective and help to expand the projects, including the fish food factory, which we didn’t manage to work on this year.  He said he is a changed man.  We believe him.

We took a million photos and laughed and talked, then our hosts showed up with a big surprise: a huge (belated) birthday cake for Jesse.  They make cakes of multiple layers with lots of fillings in between, none of them resembling the frosting that we might expect.  Then they put fruit (grapes and cherries) all over the top and use nonpareils to spell out whatever message they need.  They are also big fans of trick candles that won’t blow out. 

One tradition in Brazil is that the birthday celebrant cuts the first piece of cake and gives it to a special person in attendance.  At Jesse’s first birthday celebration, he gave the first piece to Gui and made a lovely tribute to their relationship.  This time, though, with apologies to Gui, he gave it to our newest Purple Biker: Kim/Brisa!  Kim’s receipt of the purple bike is long overdue, as she has been an excellent team member from the very start.  She is a happy presence in everything that we do and she is a determined and dedicated worker. She really does bring the sensation that her Portuguese name implies, in that she is like a fresh breeze bringing relief and comfort to all in her presence.  Her dogged aggressiveness on the soccer field, despite her lack of experience playing soccer, was especially impressive, as was her facility with tijolos (bricks), with only minimal instruction.  Junio had a special affection for Brisa and loved her name for all of the reasons that we do.  Yay to Kim/Brisa, for joining the Order of the Purple Bike!

We had hurried our celebration because a storm seemed to be brewing but it never came. We went back to the pousada and found that most of the local kids followed us there.  We played with them for awhile, then realized that our sad morning was going to come very early.  We knew that we had to pack up everything and load it onto the boat, but even worse, we realized that we were going to have to say goodbye to the oca, the pousada, the galinheira (chicken coop) and all of the people of this community. 

We agreed that 6am would be our wakeup time and that we would pull away in the boat at 10am.  We shall see . . .

We have spent this whole trip embracing the DIRT. Tonight, we got the chance to clean ourselves up for the cultural night that the community hosted. Look closely for a cameo from Kevin.

Obviously the best team of the whole trip. Team Canarinho de Ouro! 

Pork was the main dish, cooked over an open fire on the beach, which is known as piracaia de praia. It was delicious!

Some of the Big Dawgs striking a pose.

Rachel and Zummo trying to pry the temporary door off its hinges to replace it with a new one. We ended up just using hammers.

 Finally Time Chuva Roxa gets a family photo together at the cultural night. There was so much love and happiness for our last night in Anã and we were so excited to spend the night with the community members.

Vicente looks right at home with his chickens. He was putting the final touches on the chicken perch so they could have a place to sleep. All the DIRTies loved working with him for the completion of the coop.

Matt and Junio play a rock game where you guess how many rocks the other person has in their hand. Matt beat Junio two to one during a break at the chicken coop.

After the cultural night dinner the DIRTies found a cicada named Sebastian. Everyone was eager to hold the little thing until it started to make loud noises. Joe was especially not interested in the bug as the local children chased him around with it.

On our last day of work at the chicken coop, Rachel, Nate, Kevin, Kim, and Junio add chicken wire to a door. The door was the last step in the completion of the chicken coop.

Hammering in the final staples to secure the coop. No maracaja will be breaking into this anytime soon. 

With the coop finished, we stood around it all together to say our wishes for what the chicken coop will bring to the people and community of Anã.

Piracaia: As our farewell comes close, we ended our final night with a grilling of a pig- a common Brazilian cultural event to share with loved ones. It was a humbling moment when the community members shared this entire pig with us.

Time Maracuja: Our team dresses up nicely for our final night together in Anã.

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