Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day Four: Sunday, January 10 – The White People Become the Red People

We got another morning of fun with the kids today, though we have been struck by some minor illnesses and injuries that have a few of us taking some time to rest.  Shawny took the tip off her toe by stubbing it on a strange-sized step, Gianna’s bike just drove itself into a low wall along the road and made her take a big chunk out of one of her toes, and Marcia and Jared are both feeling a general sense of weakness that means they need to rest.  Brie had an inexplicable spell of nausea that has corrected itself now, so we have a 25% casualty rate.  Because we each expect to get a little bit sick or hurt at some point on the trip, we are not too alarmed that some of us have already reached that moment.  We’ll just keep our focus on making these setbacks as small as possible and as comfortable as possible for those who suffer them. 

The morning started with a mad search for a way to pump up our under-inflated bike tires.   We found a gas station that had a pretty fancy rig that monitored and controlled the pressure for us.  Gary has become the go-to guy for every form of bike repair, so he was raising and lowering seats, fixing chains, and even reversing the fork on one bike in a totally ingenious and labor-saving way.  He and Jared are going to have plenty of work to do keeping our fleet rolling for the rest of the trip.  No matter what, we are glad to have the bikes because they save us tons of walking time and allow us to get more work done. 

Once at the beach, we met with a bigger group of kids than yesterday, including some more returners from last year’s group, including Rebeca and Domeciano.  The kids were really happy to be doing art, playing volleyball, tossing the ball around, or just trying to communicate with us.  We worked on English lessons with a few of them and a couple of them really started to speak clear English sentences for us. 

The kids are available at different times this year because some of the schools were on strike for two months during the school year.  Our friend Josialda is still in class even though she should be halfway through a two-month break (but that doesn’t keep us from seeing her every day).  The kids come and go at different times now, but we are ready and willing to adapt to their schedules.

Today we got a definite sign that they have accepted our newcomers: they dragged us all into the river at the end of the day.  They did a similar thing last year as their way of (literally) immersing us in their world.  In both cases, we were terribly hot and covered with sand, so we didn’t mind a bit. 

We took a short siesta after lunch and then took some time to explore a local beach called Maracanã.  It was lovely to see a whole different face of Santarém at the beach and the weather was perfect for our short visit.  We arrived at the beach at 4:00 or so and knew that we could only stay for about two hours so we got tables right up by the water and just soaked in the fun and beauty all around us. 

We got lots of looks from the locals, none unfriendly.  They were curious about us though, especially after Brian pulled out his Frisbee and several of us started to throw it.  A few kids came to watch and we eventually got them to join us.  They got pretty good at it pretty fast even though we feared they wouldn’t catch on and that they might get frustrated.  Instead, they got more curious about us.  They eventually started asking questions, the most hilarious of which were about the red on our skin (sunburn).  They didn’t understand why some of our guys had white bellies, but red shoulders and faces.  It took us awhile to figure out what “red stuff” they were asking about, but Ana’s fluent Portuguese helped us understand.

We left the beach, went back to camp and regrouped for our next excursion, in which we went downtown to check out a local art fair.  We hopped on our bikes and went to meet Georgete, Jaime, Josy, and Alex at the fair.  It was a small event right on the orla (riverfront walk), with some hand made dolls and jewelry, as well as Amazon souvenirs and keepsakes.  We won’t go into detail about what we found there because some of you readers might be the intended recipients of our purchases. 

We came home for a late dinner and then gathered on our porch to get oriented to the week and to conduct our own mini worship service.  It is Sunday after all, but our attempts to clarify what time we could go to mass at the church in the main square were fruitless.  We didn’t want to get out of bed and bike downtown to learn that no service would be held at the time we expected.

So instead, we gathered on our lovely front porch and discussed the ideas of blessings and gratitude.  Then we talked about things that inspire a sense of blessedness and gratitude in us here.  Some of us were grateful for the ability to be in Brazil, especially if our parents (or travel scholarships!) paid the costs.  Some talked about the people that we have met and how gracious they have been.  Some talked about their teams and how smoothly things are going.  Some talked about Jesse and Ana as our capable translators or about Marcia, Quincy, Jenn, Bryan and Brian as our capable supertechies.  Some acknowledged the great food we have eaten while others talked about our place of lodging and its wonderful staff.  Others recognized the importance of our support systems back home, who keep encouraging us by email and other messages that they see what we are doing and are proud. 

All of us agreed that we are also blessed to have such a wonderful group with whom to share this experience.  We talked about how lucky we are to get a feel for what a totally fulfilling life feels like.  We even wondered if our experience here will teach us to create similarly meaningful situations when we return home, whether they be at work, at home, at play, at church, or something else.  We all agreed that we are very fortunate to experience such blessings here together in Brazil. 

From there we kicked into collecting photographs and working on our video (which will post tomorrow, as the video team needed sleep more than it needed to finish that video tonight).  We also wrote in our reflective journals and checked email, etc.  For those who stayed up the latest, we got to see one of the biggest hairiest spiders ever (though we understand that we will find even bigger ones on our boat trip).  Brian and Neil took one for the team and transported the huge spider (see bottom photos below) outside of our cabin and back into the forest. 

As we cleaned up the porch a light roar came up in the distance and then a heavy rainforest rain fell (and fell really hard!).  Those who were awake watched in awe of how much water was falling from the sky all at once.  Before long the rain subsided and now it is time for sleep.  Thanks for keeping track of us over here . . .

Alex, a previous student of Georgete, makes a phenomenal save while playing soccer.

Quincy and Brian with Gabriela and Josialda on their shoulders while playing chicken.

A group of us playing with Josialda and Gabriela in the water.

Josialda and Scott playing a new game we learned, called Taco, on the beach.

Neil trying a quail egg that we bought from a vendor on the banks of the Tapajós River.

Brian does an epic front flip. The landing was questionable.

When we're playing with the kids on the sandy beach, we usually go barefoot. Here's the leftovers.

Gary chows down a delicious banana popsicle, a much appreciated refreshment after a long day in the sun.

Matt Beutner fancies himself a tour guide of the Tapajos River. And doesn't he look the part?

Maracaná beach is popping for the locals and their new Americano friends.

One of the kids, Lucas, has turned out to be quite a photographer. He took this picture of Jenn today.

The kids threw everyone into the Tapajos.  This is a bunch of the girls dragging Dani to the water.

This is when everyone was in the river, it was one of the first real bonding experiences between St. Mary’s students and the kids.

At the end of the day, all of the kids lined up for a snack of bananas.

This is downtown Santarem, looking out onto a square we have visited twice.  The blue church is the Matris of Santerem and is named Nossa Senhora Conceição.


  1. WOW!!! Looks like loads of fun...except the HUGE spider (no thanks!!)....what an amazing experience...WE MISS U MATT S.!!!

  2. So glad you are all having such fun but I don't know who are the bigger kids - you Gaels or the locals! Yea for the rain showers - keep em, coming.

    The blogs are so interesting and very well written.

  3. Hi All! Reading your blog and seeing your videos and pictures has made me so homesick for our Brazilian home. Everything looks and sounds so familiar. I am excited to hear that you have already experienced the magic of the neighborhood and its people; eaten the best fried chicken in the world; and contemplated the lasting effects of your experiences so far. In my case it has been a year since I too did these same things and my day to day life still reflects who I became while I was in Brazil. If you keep yourself open you will come home to the U.S. as a better version of your previous self. You should all be very proud of yourselves because it seems like you have accomplished a lot in only the first few days of the trip and really grasped the spirit of the Amazon experience. Can’t wait to follow your trip and transformation.

  4. Hello everyone! Sorry to hear some of you are under the weather or slightly injured. I hope it is all the excitement and the fast pace as you attempt to do the most you can each day. I am now sharing your photos and commentary with my third grade students in Merriam, KS. It has turned into a great geography lesson and has given them an awareness of South American culture. I am so pleased with their interest to follow your adventures. Maybe Jared (my nephew) will find a small treasure to send to us. The kids would be so pleased. No spiders please.

  5. Huge tarantula and lots of blank space on the video!!! Enjoy seeing how things are going.
    We miss you!!!
    Sue & Stacy <333
    miss you Jenn!!