Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Day Twelve: A Day of Boating
Day Twelve: Sunday, January 22, 2017
Well, the rains that threatened our piracaia never came, but the rains DID come in the night. Oh, did they! Our whole top floor is covered with a tarp-like roof but it is not enough to protect people sleeping up there from pouring rain. They were surprisingly orderly about getting themselves down the stairs and finding places to land on the main floor and in the jungle room. They quietly squeezed between existing hammocks and a few of them crashed onto the bunks downstairs. Only one person landed on the floor. Because it was Joe, we are pretty sure he will complain to the manager. He likes to do that. Our #1 snorer was in the jungle room and somehow made the benevolent decision to stop snoring for one night. Once things settled down, the rain was pretty welcome white noise that helped us sleep until breakfast.
It was still raining when we ate breakfast but we were confident that it would stop before we started our excursion for the day. The sky stayed cloudy and the wind still blew, but we were able to head off to CEFA, which is a reforestation project that started just before our trip last year. We visited the budding enterprise when it was brand new and now we had a chance to see if they have realized their aspirations.
When we visited last year, They were just building a new oca for guests and visitors and they already had a nice bathroom and kitchen area. Now they have expanded even further and are working on a number of new projects, including a small dam to provide power to their own complex and some neighboring homes. The hydroelectric project is not quite functional, but is impressive already, as the waterwheel has been installed and it is clear that the plan is going to work. They can also grow some aquatic plants in the dammed lake and they intend to start a fish farm there as well.
They have also tested a new mode of septic treatment that is called something like “vapo-transpiration,” which involves growing plants over the septic tank. They have some huge banana trees over one of their septic tanks, growing some of the largest bananas we’ve seen in this area. Because they have managed to make this situation work here, they are likely to spread this new strategy across the region to improve waste treatment methods for many communities.
The whole enterprise at CEFA is about experimentation to try to improve the preservation and use of the “active forest.” And all of these experiments are over and above the 50,000+ tree starts that they are propagating for replanting in the communities around their compound. They are seeking interns to help them with their work and we will have to see if a few SMC students might want to be among those numbers.
We had lunch at the CEFA compound, then hurried back to the boat in time to find Gui, who had stayed behind, getting started on the movie Zootopia (in Portuguese with English subtitles) on the large screen TV in our strange party boat. So suddenly, after almost two weeks being cut off from most media, we all gathered around a screen and watched a movie with our young friend. Louro made popcorn and pão de queijo (cheese bread, a fabulous Brazilian staple). We needed to motor for a couple of hours to our next destination, so this combination was just the perfect recipe for a happy voyage.
We were heading to the second place that every one of our Brazil trips has stopped during the boat trip: Urrucurreá. The people of this particular community are at the forefront of the local artisan movement, as they perfected the art of basket-weaving many years ago and now have become world famous for their work. Along with Ponta Grande, this community has become a necessary stop for all of our groups.
We already knew that their beach is a perfect spot for our postponed piracaia so we decided to head on over there early to get things started. While Louro and our crew dug a pit in the sand to start a fire, we all bathed in the river and just floated, letting the clouds cross the sky above us as we just took it all in.
We started our own separate bonfire and gathered around it. Shawny, Jesse and Gui went out in a motorboat to try to find signal to post the blog text. Jesse and Gui got enough signal to talk to home, but there wasn’t enough to post or make international calls.
When they got back, the fish (tambaqui – pronounced tom-bah-KEE) was ready and Louro served up HUGE portions of it to each of us. We had also roasted potatoes, which were a welcome distraction from our daily doses of manioc. There was a ton of other food as usual, so we ate like kings (except for Natalie and Claudia, who still haven’t gotten their heads around enjoying fish – they have been very brave in trying multiple versions, not all of which disgusted them, but they haven’t converted to fish-eaters).
There was a quick challenge over eating the huge eyeball from one of the fish heads, which turned into a triple challenge involving Claudia, Jules and Joe. They all ate the fish eyes, some with more gagging than others. Gui, on the other hand, took up the challenge and really liked it.
We started playing word games around the fire, including a somewhat confusing one called “Contact.” We were all together and playing round after round, so we just let it roll instead of stopping things for our world premier (that’s what we call our video screenings), reflection session and purple bike ceremony. We’ll catch up on all of that later.
We finally realized how late it was getting (after 11!! For college students!! And that’s late!!) so we headed in and started stretching our hammocks. We’ve all gotten good at tying the knots necessary to sling our hammocks just right and we’ve gotten very intuitive about staggering them so that some of us hang high and some hang low, meaning everyone has space (and air!) to themselves.
We are a remarkably unified group. We don’t have factions or cliques; we don’t break off into separate groups when the opportunity arises. We just all stay together because that’s what we want to do. It’s surprising. And it’s nice. Lucky us.
At CEFA, the dirties explored the nursery for several different seedlings. The seedlings are sold to community members so they can harvest products from the plant.
Silvanei shows the dirties how CEFA uses the sewage system to fertilize banana trees. This sewage treatment method is known as vapo-transpiration.
CEFA is a research facility for neighboring communities in the Amazon. They research ways to be more sustainable and more effective in areas such as energy, beekeeping/honey, and farming in connection with reforestation.
CEFA focuses on innovation and creativity. Currently they are building a dome that will be used as sleeping quarters. They say part of the fun will be discovering how to incorporate details such as a roof, doors, and windows for a structure they have never built before on their facility.
Who Wore it Better? Shawny and Colleen noticed that they had matching outfits while waiting for our exciting tour around CEFA. Maybe the blue shirts were good luck as they later saw a beautiful blue butterfly.
We’ll miss Joao Felipe II, thank you for being our home for the past 3 days #imonaboat
I’m a piranha, I’m from the Amazon #findingNemo
Taking a tour around CEFA
Look at these little saplings from CEFA (Center for Environmental Action) #sustainable(:
One of the experiments CEFA is working on is a new style of Oca, which features a lightweight wood design and larger structure. They are still unsure of how to finish this structure, but are making decisions as they go.
Upon our arrival back to the boat, we were surprised to find that Gui and the crew had caught a piranha. This is not something you would want your big toe to encounter due to their sharp teeth.
On a rough and bumpy ride to CEFA we couldn’t help but notice the amazing scenery. The road only took about two days to create because of the numerous participants and large equipment that helped transform this walking path into a drivable road.
A structure CEFA built this past year is a small dam that will produce energy for up to 16 families throughout the community. Their hope is that this experiment will be the first of many eco-friendly and sustainable projects for small Amazonian communities.
CEFA, an organization that helps in the reforestation of the Amazon, has dedicated part of their program to planting various native plants and trees to distribute to local communities.