Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Day Six: Getting to Work!

Day Six: Monday, January 16, 2017

Special Note:  This is one of the days that Shawny and Jesse go to upload as much of our material as possible from a remote riverbank where they can get cellular signals.  We are back-filling things on previous days when possible, so don’t be shy about clicking back to see if new things have appeared.  We are reducing the quality of the images to help us upload them so we promise to replace them with more high definition images later.  Thanks for your patience as we struggle with our technological challenges. 

We tried out battery powered fans in the oca last night to try to get the air moving and to maybe provide a little white noise to reduce the impact of our prolific snorers.  We’re not sure the fans helped a whole lot but it was sure worth a try.

The breakfast crew got up at 6:30 to make pancakes as a special treat.  The rest arose at 7:15 and prepared for a day of hard work.  Our first job was moving sand, which all of the vets from the last three years remember well.  We go to the beach, load sand into buckets then bags, then transport it up to the oxcart using our famous bucket brigade.  Getting it up the hill is quite a chore, but it is made much easier when each of us shares part of the load. 

The person at the top has the burden of lifting the bags onto the cart, then helping steer the cart while one of us pulls it as we transfer the sand to the garden.  We found that we couldn’t navigate the back of the garden area with the oxcart so we had to carry each bag quite a distance by hand.  Eventually we figured out that the wheelbarrow could navigate that last stretch so we used it to reduce the difficulty of the job.  Gui’s job was to run back and forth as the bags got emptied so that we didn’t lose time in the gaps while the oxcart was gone from the beach.  We made quick work of five or six cartloads of sand (we’ll try to do the math on weight later) and then moved on to the next job: moving rocks. 

Sand is heavy and so are rocks.  Rocks are more likely to scratch and scrape us, though, so we had to use slightly different techniques to get the rocks loaded into bags to be delivered to the garden.  These rocks were transported by one of our prior groups and they now waited for us on the beach with a slight covering of sand and silt that meant we had to dig them out. 

Our final set of heavy loads for the morning consisted of some yellow clay that they use in their foundations here.  This clay, strangely, was still in the ground at our friend Auvair’s house, which meant we had to dig it out and figure out how to bag it and transport it.  As expected, we got our system down through several trial and error attempts, with minimal emphasis on the errors. 

We were hot and tired when we broke for lunch, so traditional sestas (like siestas) were in order.  Some of us rested by doing laundry (we’re not very good at the concept of “rest,”) some by napping in hammocks, some by sitting in the shade and catching up with journals.  Later today, we are going to take apart parts of the old chicken coop to begin the process of strengthening it.  We will finish this blog post in a few days when Shawny and Jesse return to the signal spot.  Until then . . .

And to pick up where we left off, we got WAY more work done on the chicken coop project than anyone expected.  Our hosts thought that moving sand, rocks and clay would occupy us all day, but we got all the way to the demolition work on the coop before the light started to change.  We stopped and surveyed all that we had done, recognizing that we still had abundant energy to work even more.  Still, we recognized that this is our first full workday and we need to be ready for many, many more. 

So, we decided to take a collective dip in the river.  Some of us put on suits and some of us decided that going into the water fully clothed might prove to be a laundry shortcut.  We (unwisely) didn’t bring soap, so our laundry plan wasn’t exactly foolproof.  We will learn from this experience, no doubt. 

We had a lovely evening splashing in the river.  We brought a football and a volleyball and almost everyone was involved in one game or another in the water.  The sky was awesome, as it almost always is here.  There is something grander and larger about this sky and its clouds and the shades of light that are all around than anything we are used to seeing.  And even though we already said it, the clouds, the clouds, the clouds, the clouds . . .

We’ve already gotten pretty good at taking turns in the four showers we have so that getting clean doesn’t take us all night.  Moving quickly to get ready for dinner helped us to get things moving a bit earlier on our reflection and the induction ceremony for the Order of the Purple Bike.

Our reflection was about what we learned today in all of our collaborative tasks.  We talked about what lessons emerged, some of which were about the actual tasks at hand and some of which were about bigger life issues.  We expressed appreciation for especially great team members and regret about particularly bad ideas that we pursued.  Lots of individuals were acknowledged for their special efforts today, with almost everyone weighing in with an observation.  Though this was a hard day of work, we all had a great time.  We could hardly ask for more.   

But one person stood out as even stronger than the rest today, making this person the newest member of the Order of the Purple Bike.  Not only did this person join the Order, but he also got his new Portuguese nickname: Draga.  A draga is a posthole digger, which is a necessary tool that is focused and invaluable at taking care of the particular task that it is designed to do.  It is a “quiet” tool, if there can be such a thing. And it is highly effective.  This description perfectly describes our teammate Jake Saunders.  He is constantly working and watching all of the parts of the job.  He picks up the slack on the least desirable jobs and carries the load on the most daunting ones.  He’s never bossy but always guiding us in directions that are productive and appropriate.  We are honored to have him as a part of our team.  Yay, Jake!

Rachel walks the beautiful path to our work site at the chicken coop through lush forest. It takes about six minutes to walk to the site.

Matt and Gui take a break under a tree after loading rocks onto an ox cart.

Nat, Eddie, and Gui work hard to unearth stumps with hoes and look good doing it!

To make the job of splitting rocks more exciting, Nate, Kevin, Aldrich, and Joe played a game where each person got five hits on a rock with a hammer. The winner was Aldrich who broke the rock!

Jules juggles apples from Rachel’s basket while working on the demo of the chicken coop. 
The dirties had the opportunity to work with several communities members while moving rocks from the beach to the chicken coop. Here they are consulting about the best way to move the rocks.

Here lies the boi (ox cart), we use this transport sand, rocks, and clay from the beach to the garden.

Jacob working hard transporting rocks to the chicken coop.

An outside look at the chicken coop before the old chicken wire was removed. Currently we are in the process of installing a thicker gauge wire so that no more unwanted animals can break in.

Alessandra breaking rocks that will be turned into concrete along with clay and sand to mortar bricks. 

A beautiful sunset in the Rio Arapiuns after a long and rewarding day of hard work.

This is the path to the chicken coop that we had to walk multiple times today as we moved sand and rocks from the beach to the coop using an ox cart.

The majority of the houses are one story and made of either brick or wood. The houses that have the word CAIXA on them were given to the people of Anã by the government.

The bugs were really bugging us, so we pulled out our mosquito nets in order to work on our daily photos in peace. 

Taking a break from shoveling sand and rocks up to the chicken coop. The menu included watermelon, bread and a variety of juices.

Matt (left) and Gui (right) trying to find shade from the blazing sun. The sun is the worst between 1 pm and 3 pm, so we don’t work during those hours. Instead we take a siesta where we can nap, journal or do laundry. 


  1. Really great to hear and see that everyone is settling in well! Reading through each blog post and seeing photos of everything really brings me back (shoutout to Shawny for being so descriptive!). Can't wait to see what the next couple of weeks bring to you all! Very excited and anxious to see some of the videos you all have been working on!
    Wishing the best - Phil Camperi, DIRTie '16

  2. We finally got the chance to use a bit of our afternoon to check up on you! Glad you are there and working hard. The kids LOVED the airport video! I had them watch them by themselves with their headphones and all I could hear was snickers and chuckles! Some are checking out past years as well....you've got a following! Keep up the great work!

  3. Glad things are looking up DIRTies, seeing and following your travels, pivots and teamwork makes my day! Keep working hard, you'll miss it when you're back, trust me! Cant wait to follow your stories as time moves on! Hoping the best for yall, please tell everyone in Anã that I miss them and I hope all is well. Love, peace and prosperity from the Bay! -Carlos S.

    P.S. They aint seen nothing yet! It aint just the tarantulas you gotta watch out for, its the ones that'll go skydiving from the ceiling. lol