Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Day Fifteen: Project Progress and Soccer Success

Day Fifteen: Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We know that you want to know how the soccer games went.  We lost.  But we knew that was likely to happen.  We see our performance as success, because we were not totally humiliated.  The women lost 1-0 and the men lost 3-1.  Though you are excited to see that our men’s team at least scored, we must admit that it was our Brazilian compatriots who combined to score our goal, with a MAJOR assist from Draga/Jake.  We’ll get back to this subject further down the page. 

Our worksite was our “home” today, as we worked on projects related to the ecotourism project that SMC groups have been supporting for years now.  Last year’s group cleared space for the new bath house and another small sleeping area, with the added benefit of overall spider reduction for the pousada and its surrounds. 

So our group is doing followup work on that project from last year.  We are finishing the brick wall of the new large sleeping area, then painting it and the new bathroom.  Our semi-professional priming job made the paint flow smoothly, easily and quickly on the entire bathroom.  We assume there will be some touchup to do tomorrow but that job is essentially done.  The color is called “tangerine” but looks a little more like pumpkin.  It works here. 

Our other job onsite was working more with Junior to finish the brick walls of the second sleeping area.  It was supposed to be another screened room like the oca in which we sleep but it appears that people are happy with it not being screened so we are finishing it in its open state (for now, anyway). 

Most people were drawn to painting, perhaps because it is so satisfying to do something that makes such a significant change so quickly, so most of us gravitated toward that job.  A few, though, took on the challenge of learning how to do the topcoat on the brick wall with Junior. 

The masons around here have this magical way of throwing the concrete at the wall so that it hangs just right, then using a trowel to smooth it perfectly.  SMC groups that have done this job before have done just fine, but found that there was a big learning curve.  Somehow, today, one of our members just picked it up like he had been doing it all his life: Aldrich.  It turns out that he is a perfectionist and that getting the wall just right was the perfect job for him to do.  He stuck with it through sesta time and all the way up to the time that we needed to prep for the soccer game.  Nate and Kim joined him on the late afternoon crew and all three of them showed enormous dedication to the job. 

Junior told us that he is having more fun on this job than any other he has ever done.  He loves the energy of our group and our “can-do” attitude, even when we are learning entirely new skills.  He said that yesterday when we left his job site and came back to work at the pousada, he was actually kind of sad and lonely, even though the conditions in which he was working are the normal conditions under which he works.  We really like working with him, so we are glad that he likes working with us. 

We made great progress on the jobs today, but once we broke for lunch, we didn’t return to the jobs (except the people who stayed on the concrete work).  The rest of us rested and hydrated to prepare for our first big soccer matches.  Some people took longer naps than usual, some people bathed in the river to remove concrete dust from all over their bodies, some stretched (we all stretched eventually) and some prepared concoctions of Gatorade or Emergen-C as means of hydration. 

In fact, we all had to pay special attention to water this afternoon, as early this morning we noticed that the water coming from the taps had a somewhat foul smell.  Jesse inquired about it and our hosts immediately recognized it as a result of termites in the tank. We’ve been dealing with swarming clouds of termites in many contexts, (including one session at the front door of our oca and a series of clouds on our 90-minute hike on Monday).  So, we weren’t surprised to learn that these winged marauders were involved in our water problem. 

Of course, because we have a portable purifier, we can ensure that our drinking water is fine.  But having a smelly shower is a bit awkward.  And washing your hands and having them smell worse than before you started is no fun either. 

So one of the activities of our hosts today was to take the HUGE lid off of the tank so they could drain it, clean it and refill it.  We stayed out of this job, as it seemed far too important to the whole area for us to muck around in it.  They made pretty quick work of it and now our water has a slight chlorine smell, which we welcome.  There was a very short period where there was no water flowing into the toilets, but not everyone got that message.  There were some unfortunate lingering problems related to this issue, but we will skip the details and tell you that everything worked out fine in the end.  All of this water drama was unfolding just as we were about to head off to the soccer game, so we had to do our best to get ready to go without having running water available to us.  We managed.

As usual, when we showed up on the field (later than the agreed start time of 4:30), we were the only people in sight.  We warmed up a bit, stretched and took team photos and noticed that people had started to trickle in, including the guy with the generator and the PA system for broadcasting.  They very carefully recorded each of our names and jersey numbers for use in the play by play announcing.  We, of course, used our Portuguese names to make it easier for them to pronounce.  The women’s team showed up and we learned later that most of the men on the sidelines in the earliest parts of the evening were the men’s team that we would play second. 

We won’t belabor here all of the details of the game, but we held our own.  Their strongest player, Debora, played for us this year but for the whole first half, we were the rest of our women’s team.  In the second half, another of our friends from the kitchen, Miriam, joined us as a very welcome sub.  We hooted and hollered and hustled all over the place, and had a pretty even exchange of possessions and shots-on-goal. 

Julia was fierce on goal, even though one kick snuck by her somehow.  Zummo’s footwork was awesome (considering she is a lacrosse player rather than a soccer player at SMC).  Pipa/Colleen made some diving saves that shocked us all.  Claudia/Cloud/Nuve was running madly back and forth and staying with the ball no matter where it went.  Kim/Brisa and Marissa/Caba, who had never played soccer before, looked like they knew what they were doing and ran like crazy even when they didn’t know what was going on.  Alessandra/Panã-Panã was also surprisingly tough , considering how tiny she is.  Annie/Tuxaua was in constant motion, as was Natalie/Foguete.  And Rachel/Graça was one of the most impenetrable defenders we have ever had on our team. 

Hearing all of our Portuguese names screamed into the mike excitedly by the announcers was pure joy.  And playing our hearts out just for the fun of it was pretty happy-making too.  We had lots of close tries on goal.  And we had lots of great saves.  We’re proud of what we did but we also have some strategies that we’d like to try the next time. 

And the men had similar experiences.  We felt kind of confident because we’re a pretty athletic bunch and we had some of the strongest Brazilians willing to join our squad.  The newcomers thought that combination might actually bring us victory.  The veterans were trying not to burst their bubbles but warned them that the Brazilians have magic in their feet AND they actually practice together consistently, which we have never done. 

For the first half, most of the action was around our goal, putting a lot of pressure on our keeper, Julius/Galú.  In fact, we spent so little time on the other end of the field that the announcers were asking if the Brazilian goalkeeper would like a magazine or a glass of water. 

But that joke soon ended, as our guys started to threaten their goal numerous times.  They had already scored once in the first couple of minutes, which was a bit deflating, but we stayed with it and kept hustling.  Matt/Mate Leão was running madly from end to end, covering the entire field.  Aldrich/Pica-pau threw his body in the way of Brazilian progress to the goal.  Joe learned a few new phrases to up his trash talk game (“Nem estamos tentando!” = “We’re not even trying!”).  Kevin’s (Manga’s) legs looked longer than ever as his huge strides carried him to match up with the Brazilians as they danced on and around the ball.  Eddie hustled and cheered on his teammates, plowing down a few opponents along the way.  He later subbed in as goalkeeper, using his large wingspan to frustrate the Brazilians who were sure they were going to score.  Nate reined in his rugby-based desire to grab the ball with his hands and showed extreme agility moving around the much smaller players on the other team.  And Julius/Galú showed off his incredible vertical leap time and time again, blocking a lot of threatening shots on goal, even though they managed to sneak a few by him. 

But our big surprise was Jake.  He was wearing a very non-standard soccer uniform, which consisted of his soccer shirt, long bright blue compression pants under swimming trunks and then the best part of all: hiking boots.  Some of the Brazilians play barefoot but Jake went in the total other direction.  He was surprisingly fleet-footed in his huge shoes and even more, if he could get a kick in, those boots made the ball really fly.  In fact, he was the key to the one goal we scored, as he sent a blast downfield that was totally unprotected by our opponents, making it possible for Auvair and Alex (one of the staff at the pousada) to combine on a goal.  When that ball went through, a casual observer might have thought we had won an Olympic gold medal, as we went NUTS. 

In the four years we have been coming to Anã, our teams have scored a few goals, but “we” (the visiting Californians) have only scored three times: one decisive goal in our earliest women’s game in 2014 by Ali Archer, one awesome goal by Jorden Tappin in 2015 and one penalty kick by Natalie Gonzalez (Foguete) last year.  But when our Brazilian friends join our teams, we are ecstatic about the goals they score for us too.  And we learned that the team we played is invincible even here.  They tend to beat other local teams by high scores, so our friends here say that a 3-1 score is actually quite impressive. 

After the game, we dipped in the river, soccer uniforms and all.  Darkness was falling, so we got to float on our backs in our rinsed out clothes, looking up at the stars and loving being together.  Marissa/Caba brought a floating lantern thing that made the whole situation seem even more mystical and fabulous. 

When we returned to the pousada for dinner, we were blessed with a huge plate of dry roasted ant butts, all doled out by their “owner,” Gui.  People really liked eating ant butts, saying they taste like popcorn or roasted peanuts or maybe soy nuts.  It was a good thing that Gui was controlling distribution or we might have had a feeding frenzy. 

Our reflection for tonight was on happiness.  We talked about our changing perceptions of happiness, especially our extreme joy over arguably small things, like glimpses of the stars, a smile from a friend, a smooth line in concrete, or a perfect hit with a paintbrush.  We are happy here.  All of us.  (At least we think so . . .)  And we hope we have learned to make happiness for ourselves and other people, no matter what the conditions.  Time will tell, we suppose. 

Our purple biker should be obvious: Aldrich.  He was almost universally nominated for membership, as anyone who said anything about the award today said that he was the most deserving recipient.  His determination in mastering the plastering (it’s not really plastering, but that sounds cool, doesn’t it?) inspired us all.  We think he introduced new levels of perfection into the system, but maybe he just met the standards that they would have reached anyway.  Further, he is fun and funny in all that we do, and always has some dance moves to bust out when needed (or even when they are not “needed”).  He gave a really lovely acceptance speech and won some socks (all of ours are ruined!) as his gift.  The plan for tomorrow is for Junior to deputize Aldrich as the head of the project at our pousada, so that Junior can return to the chicken coop to finish that job.  It’s nice to see Aldrich recognized as a leader both by us and by our co-workers.  Yay, Pica-pau!

Julia in the painting zone incapable of smiling when focused. One of our jobs today was to paint the bathrooms a tangerine orange.

Nate barely flexing a muscle to lift a 110 pounds of cement. We needed the cement to finish building a wall of the new part of the pousada (guest house).

Annie and Zummo sifting sand to make the cement to finish the wall. We need 6 buckets of sand and 1 bag of cement to make the cement mixture.

Os capitães (the captains), Matt and Claudia, with their captain bands giving us a pregame pep talk. Okay, ladies now let’s get in formation.

We were all very excited to play our first soccer game against Anã. The women ended up losing 1-0 and the men 3-1. All in all we are very excited for our rematch Friday!

Friendship featuring Annie, Rachel, and Zummo.

Team Jacaranda: Nat, Joe, Annie, Kevin, Marissa.    

Jake putting in work slathering cement all over the brick walls.    

Jules and Colleen applying a layer of tangerine paint to the bathroom.

Despite valiant efforts, the men still lost to the Brazilians 3-1. 

Brick wall: keeping the Brazilians from scoring, the men’s team kept the game close by having a solid defensive wall.

Drone view: after painting the new posada bathroom we decided to get an aerial view of the beautiful Anã that we will miss so dearly. Look closely and you will see the eco-tourism area.

Flickin’ da wrist: not as easy as it might look, applying the cement to the brick mortar is a skill that is difficult to teach others. It is all about experience.

Sifting: before mixing the sand and cement together, we removed rocks, leaves, and sticks from the mix to ensure a high quality, consistent and smooth cement product.

Time Maracujá: introducing Time Maracujá before the men’s and women’s USA vs. BRAZIL games.

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