Monday, January 18, 2010

Day Eleven: Sunday, January 17 – New Sites/Sights

News from the Illness and Injury List: Still Empty!

Because it’s Day 11, it’s a very important day for us. Today is the day we agreed to revisit the housing allocations. That is, only half of the rooms here have air-conditioning. Thus, deciding who should get the air-conditioned rooms was a tricky feat. Because last year the women took the hot rooms for the whole trip, we decided to switch things around this year and let the women have the air conditioners, but switch halfway through if that seemed like the fair thing to do. Though last year’s women toughed it out and even embraced the challenge as part of their overall experience, this year’s men have been whining since we got here. Thus, they argued hard for the change. The women at first argued that it was a hassle to move their stuff, but then realized that the men will never stop whining so they agreed to give them what they needed. We will switch sides tomorrow.

As for our work, we had another morning on the beach with the kids we are growing to love. Our youngest student from last year, Enrique, returned for the first time today to hang out with his great friend Lua. They are incredibly cute together, especially when they are politely sharing a lollipop.

We added a new facet to our beachfront activities today: kayaking. Most of us took a spin in the kayaks. We mean that literally: we got in the kayak, paddled two or three times, then flipped over and got drenched. The two exceptions were Dani and Brie, both of whom managed to stay dry throughout their kayak experiment. Neil unfortunately was assigned to the very smallest kayak in the bunch, which just wouldn’t work no matter how hard he tried. Admittedly, it was fun for the rest of us to watch, but he didn’t get to have any fun kayaking until he got a bigger boat.

When Marcia arrived with the day’s snacks – bananas -- the kids noticed her arriving and the day’s events ended rather suddenly. We’ll have to be much sneakier in the future.

We hurried home from work to capitalize on our afternoon off by going to Alter do Chão, a rather famous local river beach. The journey there was quite an odyssey, as we decided to go there the way the locals do: by bus. We walked and walked to get to the bus stop in the center of town, then waited for just a bit before the next bus arrived.

While there, we met a local guy named Erik, who immediately identified us as U.S. Americans and then proceeded to gush about all of the U.S. musicians that he loves. He started with Christina Aguilera and – prompted by Marcia – quickly moved on to Beyonce, complete with a few lines of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and the accompanying hand signals. We were cracking up.

The bus ride beat the thrills of most amusement park rides we’ve ever experienced but somehow we all survived. Once there, we walked down into town and then saw the beautiful beach stretched out before us. It’s a little island just barely separated from the mainland (you can walk across the water that separates it if you want). The main way to get all of your goods across to the beach though is to be rowed in little boats at a cost of about 50 cents per person. A few of us walked across while others took the boats. Once there, we crossed over the beach to establish a set of tables and chairs right at the water’s edge.

Shawny even figured out a way to get across the sand with her crutches, but Ciara and Ana came up with a better way: they BECAME Shawny’s crutches. With one of them on each side of her, the three of them moved very slowly across the sand with the maximum possible amount of stability and safety.

We sampled foods from the vendors passing by and then ordered some specially prepared fish. While sitting through the long wait for our food to come, most of us got in the water to cool off. As usual, a few of us started doing front and back flips and then a couple of us began to throw the flippers so they could go higher in the air. As we did so, we noticed that a group of young Brazilian boys close by were doing the same thing. In fact, they started to match us one for one, which meant a bit of a friendly competition broke out.

We were each throwing our teammates into the air and then we decided that we could help their best flipper go even higher so we invited him to be thrown by us. They invited our best flipper, Brian, to get thrown by them and suddenly we were all one big group having a blast in the water. We are quite proud that on all of our excursions, we have managed to connect with groups of locals despite our language barriers.

We got plenty of time to connect with the locals as we waited for the bus ride home. A line stretched all the way down the street, turned the corner, and stretched another whole block from there. It took more than an hour for us to board a bus. We made the most of it, though, once again pulling out our Frisbee to entertain the people around us.

The ride back to town was another thriller, somewhat enhanced by the fact that it was happening in the dark. We got to the center of town and realized that we missed the evening mass that we planned to attend so we went to find the practice of a local samba group instead. At the moment that we located them, they were playing their last song. We heard that there was a samba group competition going on downtown, so we hurried down there and again arrived to hear only the last song. Oh well. Tonight apparently was not a samba night for us.

We wandered home weary (some on foot, some in cabs) and realized that we had been traveling for more than four hours since we left the beach. We were too tired to finish today’s video, so it will post tomorrow. Our internet connection is out right now so it might be hard to post then unless someone fixes it for us. In any case, we only have one more day of posting before we go “dark” for a few days as we embark on our boat trip up the Amazon. We are very excited. We think you will like what you see when we get back . . .

Henrique and Luã share a lollipop much to Ana’s delight.

Who let the dogs out?

Jaime attempts to give Brian some words of wisdom prior to his kayaking adventure.

So the white people tried kayaking, it didn’t go so well. But this is a rare moment when all heads are above water.

We spent the afternoon at a beautiful, white sand beach called Alter do Chão and experienced yet another gorgeous Amazonia sunset.

The fried coconut we had at Alter do Chão.

A local vendor at Alter do Chão selling crafts.

Some of the groups decided to play extreme Frisbee while we waited for the bus.

Alter do Chão beauty.

The two hour line we waited in to leave the beach.

Kayaking in the Tapajós? More like swimming in the Tapajós.


Our excursion in the afternoon to Alter Do Chão.


Sugar high bees hunt for Coca Cola while Noelle protects her face and her soda.


Ana and Ciara swimming at the beach.


One of our favorite beverages in Brazil, Guarana.









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