Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day Fourteen: Sand and Sanding

 Day Fourteen: Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The chicken coop still needed some work from the professional mason, so we couldn’t return there to hang the wire.  Instead, we joined in on a project already in progress at the Catholic church.  They have built a new barracão, which is a big meeting room with open sides where visitors might sleep if needed.  There are a few of these meeting halls in town, which makes us wonder a bit why they need more than one.  But that part is not up to us so we are quite willing to help them gather the HUGE amounts of sand that are needed to make the top coat that covers the brick structure. 

We ran one set of bags (an oxcart load) and then got the message from Vicente that we would need another.  After every cartload, we got that same message again until we had done nearly 15 cartloads.  We don’t know the exact weight of that amount of sand, but it has to be in the tons.  We left a BIG pile of sand ready for the workers who will do the finish work on the barracão. 

Sometimes this kind of work feels less “important” than something like building a new chicken coop or laying the foundation for a fish food factory.  But we realize that it is this kind of work that is the basis of everything that is built here.  Someone has to bring load after load after load of sand from the river’s edge.  If it’s not our group of 21 in a bucket brigade, then it will probably be a group of four or five volunteers who are the ones who hold up most of the collective enterprises in this community.  We can see how these tasks would get burdensome and the desire to avoid them might be enough to prevent the tasks from getting done at all.  We are happy to be the ones to put in the effort to help forward these projects that the community wants and needs.  And honestly, though there are monotonous moments, we have fun doing these jobs, so why wouldn’t we do them?

As lunchtime approached, we went back to the pousada to get organized on our next project: painting the new bathhouse and oca.  It turns out that few of us have ever painted walls before, which made for an interesting display of logic.  The modes of painting that produce consistently coated walls are just not intuitive. People’s first instinct is to put a line of paint right at their own eye level, not realizing that it is now wet and in the way of reaching above it.  Because today we were just priming, we got to learn some strategies that left some blobby patchy places, as we will put a couple of coats of paint over this one anyway.

We had enough equipment for everyone to participate, so we just cranked up the tunes and danced and painted for most of the afternoon.  We would have loved to go ahead and get the next coat on, but we obeyed the printed dry time on the can and will wait until tomorrow.  Either way, painting is always satisfying, because it is not back-breaking work but it makes a big difference really quickly.

The other thing we did today was set some very important appointments: for soccer games.  There is always a BIG hubbub about our men playing their men and our women playing their women.  We always lose (or at best tie) in our matches, but we love the drama that precedes the games and we love the games themselves.  The whole community comes out and an announcer broadcasts on a PA system locally as well as by a radio signal throughout the region.  It’s a big deal.  So the plan now is to play two games (the men’s game and the women’s game) on Wednesday and two on Friday.  Friday will be considered the World Cup of Anã, with the US and Brazil in the final game.  We’re ready.

We finished priming the bathhouse right before dusk, so we headed for the river to take a dip.  On the way, we discovered that a happy day had arrived: the huge ants with big butts (saúva) that come out of the ground when the conditions are right have finally arrived.  The first few showed their big bulbous butts today and the local kids started snatching them up and eating them right on the spot.  Zé found a few for some of us to try.  Gui found his own and just ate it right up. We have heard from those who came before us that they are better dry roasted so we hope to see a bounty of them tomorrow so we can convince the kitchen to cook them up to help us prep for our soccer game. 

Our swim had one surprising highlight: Jake, who was floating with a swim mask, was sure he saw a small stingray.  It’s not impossible but it’s not normal for them to be right here at this particular part of the river.  They are usually harmless and we are instructed to always walk into the water using the “stingray shuffle,” which involves pushing your feet out in front of you as you walk to encourage any rays along the bottom to scoot along away from where we are.  Though all of us have had images of Steve Irwin in our heads related to stingrays, these rays are not like the one involved in his demise.  Still, the sting can be very painful, so we have every incentive to avoid them altogether. 

Other than that little bit of excitement, our swim was cooling and relaxing and gave us some time to get our soccer strategy together, including what number jersey we each want to wear.  The guys practiced kicks on the beach and the women talked through tutorials with those of us who are not already well-versed in the game.  We’re doomed. 

Tonight we will rest up for a hard half day of work and then an evening of humiliating soccer.  This blog entry should post (along with those from our boat trip) on the day of the game, but then we won’t be able to tell you what happened until about Sunday, we think.  We hope you can take the suspense!

Our Purple Biker for today is Julius (Galú).  He has been a constant source of laughter as he impersonates roosters during our work in the chicken coop.  We have a certain kind of chicken in mind that we would like to bring to Anã (we saw it in Santarém) and Julius can do enough of an impression of it to make it ring familiar to people here when we are struggling to describe it.  Apart from his humor, he is calm and flexible, willing to take on any job and meticulous in getting the job done right.  Today when we were painting, he followed behind the less experienced painters and corrected their errors, making sure we had done the best work that we can do. We are grateful to have him in our presence. 

Now off to bed, to rest up (and hydrate!) for our first big soccer match . . .

Sittin’ on the dock of a bay. Just kidding, it’s the Tapajós river! Near our worksite today we found this beautiful sight that needed to be captured.

Alessandra working the bucket line. Team work makes the dream work so we use a bucket line to move literally tons of sand.

One of the local dogs. Fuleco is his name. He’s Kim’s favorite dog and one of the only dogs we’ve seen without fleas.

Today we moved a beach. One of the projects needed sand for making cement, so we filled 16 bags of sand from the beach, bucket brigaded it to the ox cart, and pulled the ox cart to the church to be dumped there. Rinse and repeat 15 times. Luckily the church was very close by.

One of the houses we walk by almost every day. Today we noticed that the tree in front of this family's house is shedding its flowers, leaving the ground with a bright pink blanket   

This new structure is a part of the pousada area that houses tourists who come visit Anã. Last year's DIRTies helped build this building and now this year we are finishing it. We put the first coat of primer on today and will be painting tomorrow.

Marissa, AKA Caba, is always willing to do the dirty work, seen here standing on a toilet to get those hard to reach places.

We can always count on Aldrich to bust a move and keep the mood light. We play music at our work sites to get the energy high and bring out the dancers in us all.

Annie, Matt, Joe, and Natalie (background) wearing bandanas to keep the dust out of their faces as we worked on sanding the bathroom for pre-painting.

and Zummo working together to prime the bathroom building. The final color will be a light orange (laranja), similar to the accessories they’re wearing.

Everyday the daily water team has to bring multiple 5-gallon water jugs to the worksite, which usually adds up to a couple of miles a day.

During the afternoon we applied the first coat of primer for the new bathroom’s that will be used by future eco-tourists.

Each day one DIRT member is chosen for what we call “the purple bike award”. This award is given to someone that stands out to the group for a particular quality or action. Today Julius stood out for his dedicated and detailed approach to painting the bathrooms, when others quickly went over sections, he took the time to make sure each part he touched was properly covered.

Recently stucco was applied to the new bathrooms. Today we sanded the walls to prep them for this afternoon's primer.

Aware that our impending game is soon approaching, we covered our strategies in the dirt this morning, by going over the absolute basics of soccer.  We’re ready now.


  1. Hello "Dirties" the name has been WELL earned. I look forward to reading the blog, watching the videos and listening to the music choices. I will NEVER listen to Welcome To The Jungle the same again!!! I feel as tho I am getting to know each of you through the videos, tho we have never met. It is obvious who the pranksters are, the dancers, the coffee lover, the journalers, the soccer players, the motorcycle enthusiasts,you are all a joy to watch. What you are doing for this community, will be treasured and valued long after you are back in California! That must make you feel good. What a gift. It is no surprise to me that Jake has been given the nickname Draga. He has been a Draga as long as I can remember; focused, quiet, highly effective, constantly working, picks up the slack and can guide others. I am so proud of you all and I LOVE YOU JAKE! xoxoxo
    Sending...Love and Light
    From San Diego
    Sheri (JAkes Mom)

    1. P.S. On a personal note... Jake I absolutely loved the Brazilian Mud infomercial! :)))