Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day Thirteen: Happy Birthday, Jesse!!!

 Day Thirteen: Monday, January 23, 2017

Special Note:  Save the Date!!  We will have a public presentation of some of our final video projects on Wednesday, February 15, at 7:30pm in Galileo Hall, Room 201, on the Saint Mary’s College campus.  We would love to see you there.  Please join us!  Make plans now!!!!!

Special Note #2: It’s Jesse’s birthday!!  This is his ninth birthday with the DIRT crew, having spent eight birthdays with us in Brazil and the other one on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  We are very blessed to have Jesse (and Gui!) in our presence and we are honored to celebrate his birth with him. 

We woke up early for a planned walk to a new vista for us, but the rains came right as we finished breakfast.  We’re great at making the most of the situation, though, so we did a world premier and picked up our reflection from last night.  Our reflection team had us think together about the rainforest and the changes in our perceptions about the promise and peril of the rainforest in our time.  We realized that our sense of the rainforest often focuses on the animals and the trees, but we have rarely considered the people of the rainforest when considering the need to preserve it. 

We talked about the ways that the primary forest did not meet our “Disneyfied” expectations but also the ways that our real lived experience there far exceeded our expectations.  We talked about what we want and wish for in our everyday lives and how mediated reality changes our expectations and our ability to appreciate the joys of the mundane all around us. 

Every DIRT trip has had this conversation at some point and we are glad to join the ranks of those that have come before as we catch ourselves saying things like “This is like a ride at Disneyland” or “This looks like a scene from King Kong.”   We are working hard together and as individuals to really recognize our daily experience, appreciate it for what it is and find joy in all that life brings our way rather than harboring deep desires for something more/else. 

As we talked, the rains began again and the blue tarps that ring the boat rolled down at the hands of our crewman Dai (pronounced DIE-ee).  Everything took on a blue hue that Natalie immediately noticed and appreciated and the echo of the rain on the plastic made Claudia’s heart sing. Anyone who has been on these boats before is probably having fond flashbacks of the feelings that accompany rain on a boat on the Amazon.  Not a big storm, no lightning or thunder; just rain falling hard, wind blowing, and the sound of the tarps flapping in the breeze. 

We were stranded for quite awhile, so we played some card games while Louro and Dona Maria cooked up amazing smells.  Portuguese language radio was playing in the background and we hooted and hollered as we taught each other card games with really confusing rules.  We heard that once the termites swarm, the rain will end within 90 minutes; we saw them swarm (but not around us) so we decided to wait. 

We ate a great birthday lunch (fried chicken!) and headed out for what was supposed to be a 20-minute walk.  Most of us wore flipflops or something equivalent, as a 20-minute walk is nothing to us.  After 90 minutes and several steep climbs and slippery descents, we realized that this was not a 20-minute walk.  Our guide from Urrucureá was speaking rapidly in Portuguese and Jesse was pretty far back in the line, so we just followed along.

We finally came to a community named Bom Jesus (“Good Jesus” and pronounced kind of like BOHNG zhay-SWEES), which is situated on a low marsh that runs along the actual Amazon River.  It was a completely different environment than the ones we’ve visited and we even got a glimpse of some vitoria regia, which are these huge lilypads that can grow to be about ten or more feet wide.  Right now they are blooming, but the ones we saw had lost most of their blooms in the rain today.  We saw one bud that was about to open, but didn’t get the full effect. 

We realized that a few of us had worked up some monster blisters on our surprise hike, so our guide hired some motorcycles to help a few of us get back to the basket enterprise at the original community.  The rest of us walked back along a strangely wide dirt road that had some surprising items along it: utility poles and power lines.  We haven’t seen these things since we left the city and we had very mixed feelings about what this “development” would mean for the locals.  They apparently have mixed feelings too, but we can predict that they will adjust to an electrified way of life and things here will never be the same.  We realize that every community in which we live back in the U.S. went through this transition at some point in time; it’s just strange for us to be right here right in that moment for this community. 

We went back to the basket-weaving collective and heard a bit about their work, how they do what they do and where their baskets can be found.  We bought a substantial part of their inventory, which makes for a beautiful load of bags and goodies in our boat on the way home. 

We spent the ride home celebrating Jesse’s birthday, with a special pineapple and banana cake prepared by Louro.  Gui was the boss of the whole surprise, arranging people in seats and counting down until Jesse came down from the top deck where he got a brief cell signal to talk to his wife. When he finally complied with Gui’s demands that he come downstairs, he seemed very touched and gave sweet tributes to all of us as the family with which he has spent so many birthdays, to our Portuguese-speaking friends for all of their commitments to our enterprise and then the most moving one of all to Gui, with whom Jesse has not ever spent his birthday (because he is always away with us).  Watching Gui’s glee at celebrating Jesse and seeing the way they looked at each other through the whole evening left us all very thrilled to witness their beautiful relationship. Jesse also spoke longingly of how he misses his wife and infant daughter, but said that the pain is slightly decreased by Gui’s presence here, as they can share stories, photos and memories to keep their closeness to their family strong. 

It will take us awhile to re-establish our rhythm back at Anã, but we are happy to have seen the impressive creativity of the communities we got to visit on our excursion.  We are eager to get back to our work in Anã, but we see this work as important too: spreading the word about far away lives and the innovative people who live in these beautiful places. 

We had some important work to take care of still tonight, as we left the Purple Bike situation dangling for our whole boat trip.  We planned to keep it up while we were away, but the nights just kept filling up with other things so we bumped all of the tributes to tonight when we got home.  We decided to honor the vets (five returning students from last year’s group) as one big cluster, but to speak of each of them individually. 

We started with Jules, who has been nominated by several of her classmates for the purple bike over the days we’ve been here.  Julia is always full of energy and is one of the hardest workers in our group.  We have an agreement that “jobs have no gender,” meaning that we all share in all the jobs, without making unnecessarily gendered judgments like assuming that the men should do the heavy lifting or the women should do the organizing.  Julia is one of the best examples of this agreement, as she goes load for load with the biggest guys in our group.  She is always willing to add one more trip when we are carrying things from place to place or to carry more than her share of the load if she thinks anyone is struggling.  She is hilarious and inspiring.  That’s a rare combination.

We moved then to Claudia, who has reached a transcendent state on this trip.  She was a fine team member and a good worker last year, but now she is known in our group as the CEO.  She organized a communication system for the entire group as we started our training process through our fall retreats.  She helped all of us get perspective on our planning for this trip and since our arrival has been a constant source of smiles and joy.  She is especially magnetic for the children around here (Gui included), who flock to her and hug her and hold her hand.  Today when we had hiked out to see the vitoria regia, there was a period where we were sitting around and waiting.  Claudia had noticed some kids near a soccer field, so she quickly got them interested in playing a game.  Others of us joined in, as did others of the local kids and suddenly a happy game was on.  That example is typical of Claudia’s way.  We have called her “Cloud” for a long time due to the way her name would be pronounced in Portuguese.  Now we also sometimes call her the Portuguese word for cloud, which is Nuve (NOO-vee). 

Natalie was next.  Nat asked Shawny last week what one word she would use to describe her.  Shawny said, “Rocket.”  (In Portuguese, “Foguete,” or “fo-GETCH.) Natalie has grown, changed and transformed perhaps more than anyone since last year, when she was quiet and reserved.  Though she was always responsible and dependable, it was rare to hear her stand her ground or speak her mind.  This year, she is a true leader who is flexible but confident, willing to take up the jobs that others don’t want to do, and always determined to stick with a job to make sure that it gets done.  She is thinking through what her dreams for her future are, sharing those dreams with us and starting to figure out the ways to make them come true.  And she’s only a junior, so there is at least the possibility that she will be on another DIRT trip in the near future. 

Matt was our fourth honoree.  Matt’s Portuguese name is a tea called mate (MAH-chee), because that’s kind of how everyone says his name here anyway.  We added the brandname Leão (lay-OHNG, which means lion).  Matt has become Shawny and Jesse’s top consultant on problem solving and project management.  The Brazilians look to him to get things organized when we shift to a new job.  He is a hard worker who does more than his share.  But he is also funny and warm and kind, which is particularly evident in his relationship with Zé, who adores him. They can communicate with facial expressions in ways that express their deep connection and in ways that help them to get the job(s) done. 

And our final honoree of the night was Annie. As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, her name here is Tuxaua (too-SHAH-wah), which is a certain type of community leader.  Annie has been the top lieutenant helping on an almost daily basis in the prep for this course through the fall semester and she is the one who knows exactly what we have and where everything is in our bags.  The rest of us turn to her constantly to get a handle on what needs to happen and we can trust her judgment and decisions about what we should do.  She has given her all to this trip and to all of us; we appreciate her, her efforts and her impact on all of our lives. 

A giant Amazonian sapo (frog) was spotted today on our hike to the Amazon River.

A church in a community near the Amazon River. We got to play soccer with some local children in front of the church.

Urrucureá community is well known for their basket weaving. We had the opportunity to purchase some of these beautiful baskets to bring to America, which some of you may get if you are nice!

We hiked an hour to a community that is near the Amazon River. We saw giant lily pads. This is one of two places that these can be seen in Brazil.

On our way back from looking at the Amazon River, this is the main “dirtway.” Some of the braver ones decided to walk, while those covered in blisters hitched a ride on a motorcycle or car.

When visiting Urrucureá, one of our destinations was the weaving craft store. We had the chance to learn about their arts and the beauty it exerts.

After our failed boat attempt on the Amazon River, we had a pick-up game with some of the local children in Uracuraya. It was a difficult game because the ball was deflated, the children were very skilled, and there were cow pies on the field.

On our boat ride back to Anã, Jesse and Gui had a special moment after we sung happy birthday to Jesse. This was truly a beautiful moment because it was the first time Gui was able to spend time with Jesse on his birthday.

Dona Odila was very excited to show us her beloved lily pads on the shores of the Amazon River. It was very interesting to see the different biomes of the two rivers that surround the communities.

As we were on our hike to the river, we surprisingly emerged from the forest to an open dirt road. We learned that it services several hundred community members with supplies and energy.

This unique staircase is made of local wood as a pathway that connects the community to the river. It was extremely steep and most of us struggled to summit to the top in our flip-flops.

Finally getting to see the Amazon River in all of its glory #cowlyfe

Our 20 minute hike turned into a 90 minute hike … consequently Joe got a ride on a motorcycle because of his blisters #ouch

Dona Odila and Shawny leading the way to the Amazon River #fit

1 comment:

  1. Poor Eddie broke the bench in the row boat! Lol

    Shawny thank you for sending the emails out today - it was a nice treat to wake up to!