Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day Six: Tuesday, January 12 - The Job and the River

Day Six: Tuesday, January 12 – The Job and the River

News from the Illness and Injury list: Gary did, in fact, turn out to be our next man down.  Brian also shows signs of queasiness, but Scott stayed on the list today even though we thought his bout was over.  Gary and Scott both had fevers so we took them to a private clinic to help them rehydrate.  They both got better pretty quickly, but we still had them stay home and sleep all day as they processed the medicines that the doctor prescribed.  Scott has definitely rallied tonight, but Gary is still a bit under it.  We hope he will follow Scott’s pattern and get better in the next few hours.  Brian is still moving around as if nothing is wrong, but we intends to restrain him somehow tomorrow to make him sleep himself back into health.  It’s a happy dilemma when you are having such a good time that you hate to even lie down and sleep (because you might miss something), but we also want everyone to be healthy again so we will have to agree that not everyone will be around for everything.

Those not on the I&I list definitely had another day full of firsts.  We got started on the construction project that will eventually provide a storefront for local artisans to sell their wares in “our” Santarém neighborhood.  Georgete is one of the artists, so we are particularly interested in this endeavor.

They have a garage-like storage area at their house that we are going to help them convert to an exhibition and sale area.  Before that can happen, though, the space needs to be modified.  The two large metal roll doors must be removed, half of each must be bricked in and then a large main door will remain in the middle.  First, though, we must scrape and smooth the interior of the space so that it will be suitable to display the artists’ work.  It was hard work, but some of us learned quite a few new tricks of the trade, especially involving the use of some tools that Jaime has that we have never seen before.  Even though they are often not particularly complex pieces of equipment, they perform specialized jobs better than some of the tools we brought along with us.

At the same time as the scraping was being done, some of us helped load bricks to the edge of the roof where Jaime and Seu João mortared them into a slope that will support a new roof soon.  We mixed mortar for them, hauled water, and even used their method of getting the bricks to the top of the building: softly throwing them up to gloved catchers above.

A few of us also helped Georgete organize materials for her next batch of art projects.  She specialized in reclaiming things that would otherwise count as garbage and reusing them as art.  She makes things out of used coffee filters, burned matchsticks, eggshells, and much more.  Today we helped her prep a pile of coffee filters for an upcoming project.  We will try to post pictures to help this description make more sense.

Our other big first was our first foray on a boat out onto the Amazon River.  We see the river and its sister, the Tapajós, every day, but not until today did we see it up close and personally.  We met the captain who will later take us on a four-day boat trip up into the Amazon region just west of where we are.  Rionaldo has been the captain for SMC student trips since 2002.  He took us on a different boat than we have used before, this one called the Esperança II.  It is a triple decker, with chairs lining the various levels, a spacious top deck for getting good views and a big kitchen (for a boat).  We were all giddy as we climbed onboard and our excitement was definitely warranted.

We ventured out just before sunset in hopes of seeing dolphins swimming in the river.  Our greatest wish was to see pink dolphins, which are unique to this area.  We also wanted to see the Encontra das Águas, which is the place where two rivers (the Amazon and the Tapajós) run side by side in different colors and at different speeds.  The Amazon is brown in color and the Tapajós looks more blue in comparison.

As we approached the place where the waters meet, we saw our first dolphin of the day: a PINK one!  These dolphins are the subjects of much local mythology and are one of only five kinds of freshwater dolphins in the world.  It is always a thrill to see them, but no one can ever count on doing so.  In fact, one of last year’s groups did a media project on the pink dolphins, but never got to see one.  This group today saw SEVERAL!  (Though we couldn’t snap fast enough to get even one picture.)  We also saw lots of grey dolphins, some of which flipped and twisted in the air for us just a few yards away from our boat.   It was magical.

Then we went right out to the line between the rivers and took a swim for ourselves.  We jumped off the boat (with spotters and lifejackets always on hand) and screamed and laughed and had a blast.  As the sun set, we headed back in to shore.

We looked off into the enormous Amazon sky and noticed that some clouds in the distance were starting to flash.  So we grew quiet and watched as a whole world of lightning danced along the horizon.  It was far enough away that we had no reason to fear for our safety, but close enough that we could enjoy it as our own personal sky show.  All in all, the quick evening trip was altogether magical.

We had plenty of time to get back to camp before the rain reached us.  In fact, we were eating in our dining room when we heard the huge wall of water come across the yard and douse the landscape.  The locals want big rains right now, and they even think that some of their own current illnesses are the result of lack of rain.  Maybe this big storm and others that may follow will help them (and our sick teammates) get back on track.  Let it rain!

Some of our group tearing up coffee filters with Georgete to make crafts.

Sky mixing cement.

Jen chillin on the deck of the boat that took us on the sunset cruise with Von Housen in the background.

Saw this guy riding his horse to his house from our sunset boat ride.

Matt throwing bricks up to Matt.

This is how the local Brazilians get their bricks from ground to roof (team work by the Tartarugas Ninja).

Day One on construction, holding the homemade ladder.

Where the fast current of the Amazon meets the Tapojós. Today we got to jump into these two waters.

The night banks of downtown Santarem.

Our night ended with a lightning storm over the Amazon.

The dirt of the river, or "green nasty gooey slimy stuff" as we like to call it, (it's really just algae) surrounded the beach we departed from.

We took turns jumping into the rivers and held on for dear life between.

Our boat's captain, Rionaldo, and one of our fearless translation leaders, Jesse, lounge and chat.

Rionaldo's boat. Our vessel for the evening and home for a few days next week.

We gazed out on to the Amazon and Tapajós rivers and were mesmerized by the view.

Encontro des aguas. The meeting of the muddy Amazon and clear Tapajós rivers.

We sure like our peanut butter. Especially on Ritz crackers.

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