Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day Nine: Semi-Professional Quasi-Masons Available for Hire

Day Nine: Thursday, January 19, 2017

The morning was cloudy but it seemed likely to clear.  That meant that we all hustled to get our laundry on the lines in places where the sun might shine.  Our hopes were realized as finally, finally, finally, after three days of waiting (and a re-washing or two), our laundry dried.  Whew. 

We hurried off to work because we knew that we were laying bricks today, probably all day long.  We worked in shifts to make sure that (almost) everyone got to put down a few bricks, though some of us were otherwise occupied with other tasks.

The bricklayers gained new respect for many forms of manual labor, as they picked up on the fact that there is a lot more going on there than is immediately obvious.  Trying to level things from all sides while the mortar is quickly setting is much more hectic than they had imagined.  We’ve all become acutely aware of the construction of the structures we see, noticing things about how the corners come together, how roofs are attached and how square (or not) things are. Having hauled all of the sand, rocks, and water by hand definitely boosted our respect for the people of this community, as we really appreciate the amounts of labor that have gone into all of the buildings around us. 

We all have had great experiences with the locals, even though the language barrier could have proven to be a deal breaker.  We’ve gotten great at charades (at least as far as tools are concerned) and have found ourselves having extended exchanges that we believe are actually meaningful.  For some of the quiet ones among us, we come out of our shells even more when we need to reach out to the locals, as it takes some pretty animated behavior to get a point across. 

It also helps that we almost all have Portuguese nicknames now, as the words we have chosen make perfect sense to the Brazilians once they get to know us a bit.  Our American (or Canadian) names are not always easy for them to pronounce, but the Portuguese words give them a big kick and make each of us memorable. Julius, for example, is Galú, which is close to the Portuguese word for rooster: galo.   We added the “u” and the (unnecessary) accent as a tribute to Julius’ actual last name, which is Luis.  He does a great rooster impression, so everyone here knows who he is by name.  The same goes for Aldrich, whose name is Pica-Pau (pronounced like PEEK-a-pow).  A pica-pau is a woodpecker and Aldrich’s haircut reminds the locals of a pica-pau. 

We already pointed out that Colleen is Pipa, which means kite, and the locals are glad to call her that name instead of the one with all of the confusing double letters that make little sense to them.  And Kim is Brisa, which means breeze, because she always has a look like something wonderful has just happened to her.  Rachel is Graça (GRAH-suh), which means Grace.  Zé named her himself.  And Eddie is getting called Ed Mota (pronounced like EDGE-ee MOH-tuh), who is a famous musician here.  Claudia, whom we often call Cloud, is Nuve, which is our way of using their word for cloud. Annie is Tuxaua (pronounced too-SHAH-wah), which is both a goddess-like leader and a variation of the spelling of a brand of guaraná, a local soft drink. Natalie is Foguete (pronounced foh-GETCH-ee), which means “rocket;” she is launching herself into a whole new stratosphere this year compared to where she was last year.  Kevin chose to called himself Manga (MAHN-guh), which is the word for mango; he just tjhinks it’s funny to be called a mango.  There are more, some of which you have already heard.  But there are still some to come (like names for Zummo and Julia!), as we learn the essence of each person and translate it into Portuguese.  In any case, our names are helping us to bridge the gap with our hosts and making it easier for them to remember who is who. 

Julia is already one of the most memorable among us and she has somehow convinced our hosts that she understands Portuguese pretty well.  They turn to her constantly, asking her to explain things to the rest of us.  Strangely, she believes that their belief that she knows what is going on helps her understand what is going on.  If that sentence doesn’t quite make sense to you, you are getting a slight hint of what it’s like trying to understand what is said around here all day every day between us and our hosts.  In any case, Julia is doing a great job of being approachable and finding a way to make sense of the messages that are coming our way. 

Matt (Mate Leão, pronounced kind of like MATCH-ee lay-OUNG, and the name of a lion-logoed form of a local drink called mate) is one of our best communicators, especially in nonverbal forms.  His eye contact gets him to a level of understanding that some of the rest of us don’t reach and his ability to reach the hearts of our hosts is unparalleled. 

Nate is convinced that he is conversant in Portuguese, though our hosts might not agree.  Still, our hosts get a kick out of his confident attempts to communicate and they especially appreciate the fact that his nickname indicates our understanding of the Brazilian version of irony, as we call him “Natinho” (pronounced na-CHEEN-yo) and meaning “Little Nate.” 

Joe had a great moment with Zé today, when Joe got nailed in the face by a big flying bug.  Joe was reacting as anyone would react, mostly with surprise and a tiny bit of fear over what had just happened, and Zé immediately started making fun of him for trying to kiss the insects.  It’s remarkable how far we have come in our relationships with our friends here in such a short time.  Our reflection tonight was on this whole subject (language barriers) and how they are helping us to grow and transform in this context. 

Along with our bricklaying, we also cleared a small patch of forest near the chicken coop, as the chicken stewards wish to plant some things there that can co-exist with the chickens in their run.  We got to swing machetes and other tools to reduce the brush.  We started to do it a few days ago, but once the rains came they had us stop because they thought snakes might get more active in the wet forest.  We were glad to comply with their change of plans once we heard their reasoning. 

We also found a few palhas (palm starts) appropriate for thatch, so a few of us learned to “break” the palhas so that they can eventually be stacked as part of a roof.  We learned how to weave some of the other fronds into fans and other things too. 

And now for the announcement of tonight’s recipient of membership in the Order of the Purple Bike: Alessandra!  Her name is Panã-Panã (pronounced like puh-NUH puh-NUH), which is a strikingly beautiful huge blue butterfly that is native to this area.  We see them ahead of us on the trails sometimes and they inject a sense of beauty into the whole context.  Alessandra is one of those quiet workers who isn’t always on the glory job, but who is always taking care of important things that need to be done, especially when no one else wants to do that particular job.  There were times when something needed to be lifted and it wasn’t clear that she would be able to do it; every time she did.  She smiles a lot and laughs a lot, which draws people to her on the job site and beyond.  Tonight, our young friend Cristian and his sister Sibele were here at our guesthouse.  Sometimes we can circulate around visitors, especially if they are not English speakers.  But Alessandra dove right into conversation with them and stayed near them all evening.   At one point they were all sitting in a hammock together, finding a way to communicate.  Beautiful.  Like that butterfly . . .

Zummo (Megan) cutting a corner out of a two by six to fit in the limited space for the crossbeams. Sometimes things don’t quite fit right, and we have to adapt and work with what we’ve got to keep the job going.

Julia found a machete! Don’t worry Mr. & Mrs. McDonald, we were taught the proper way to use them to clear the very heavy brush for the chickens to roam around.

Julius laying the foundation and pouring cement for the wall of the chicken coop. With our ingenuity there’s no way any cat can get in and kill the chickens again!

Kim and Gui looking super cute for a not-so-candid pic. During lunch today Gui bonded with all the girls. What a lady-killer!

Kevin mid laugh. We have tons of fun with each other and the dining area is a commonplace for many jokes.

Nate, Matt, and Joe are pulling palm for roofing and Zummo and Rachel are ready to cut underbrush near the chicken coop. 

Madalena, who rocks the fedora, teaches Jules how to weave a fan out of palm to help with the flies.

Junior the expert mason in Anã, helps Natalie mix the concrete so it is the right consistency to lay bricks. 

Annie works hard to clear underbrush near the chicken coop. Soon the chickens will have free range to roam around.

Zé taught Pipa (Colleen) how to properly lay bricks on the base of the chicken coop.

As we cut around the brush we have to be extra careful around those caba (wasp) nests!

Annie and Junior working hard getting the cement to the right consistency (: 

A very hungry caterpillar we found after breakfast. 

Filling buckets with sand to mix and make cement for the base of the chicken coop.

The crew using machetes to clear bush for the chicken run.    

1 comment:

  1. We have enjoyed reading all about your adventures. You are all doing such meaningful work and this experience will be life changing for all of you. We love Alessandra's Brazilian name. It fits her perfectly. She is always happy, has a good heart and very welcoming. We are looking forward to your return home so we can hear all about your journey. We love you. Mom, Dad, Stefano & Rocco.