Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day Three: Saturday, January 9 -- Beginning Our Work

Day Three: Saturday, January 9 – Beginning Our Work

We heard a bit of rain in the night, but it had stopped before we awoke at a time that will eventually become normal for us: 7:00 a.m.  We’re still dragging a bit but we can’t wait to see what happens next so we just keep moving. 

In the morning we met at Jaime and Georgete’s house and gathered up some equipment and materials to carry to the beach.  Once there, we connected with some of the kids that last year’s group met and loved.  The kids were asking about all of the people from last year who hadn’t returned.  We assured them that all of the veterans sent their love even though they were unable to be with us. 

The kids showed that they missed the folks from last year but they also immediately opened up their hearts to the newcomers as well.  It didn’t hurt that the newcomers had studied the names of the kids pretty meticulously, so they could pick up the names and family relationships really quickly.  (Hey SMC Amazon 2009 vets, did you ever know that Alicily, Alcicléia, and Auricelia are all sisters?  They are!  And non-vets, can you even imagine how hard it is to keep these names straight?) 

We spent quite a bit of time constructing the portable canopies that provide shade for the art activities.  Whoever wasn’t working on the tent started connecting with the kids by kicking around a soccer ball or lobbing a volleyball around before we located the net.  Every form of motion is more difficult than we might have guessed, partially because of the Amazon heat and sun, but even more because of the deep, coarse sand that envelopes our feet whenever we try to move.  The sand makes it hard even to walk, but we are trying to play soccer, volleyball, and tag; we’re getting a good workout to say the least.

Different ones of us attached ourselves to different kids and they to us.  Two boys were playing on their own and kept resisting our invitations to join us; Schuyler pulled out all of his best big brother moves and eventually lured them in.  Each of us really rose up to demonstrate what strengths we had to offer to the group.  Everyone gave all of the energy he or she had.  Even though we are only on the first day of our relationship with the kids, things seem to be going perfectly. 

Before heading home for lunch, we added a special treat to our itinerary: a quick boat ride through the lake right off our beach.  Four catraeiros (boat handlers) carried us on low wooden boats with small motors through a channel that is used by the locals to pass from one part of the area to another.  Beautiful waterfowl, flowers, and huge plants surround the canal and a few folks along the shoreline methodically work on their boats all day long.  The whole scene was very tranquil in comparison to the high energy of the kids on the beach, so it made for a nice transition from our working morning into our unscheduled afternoon. 

On the way home from the beachfront, we stopped at Seu João’s house to sing Happy Birthday to his wife Joana.  Josy was there too with a brand new puppy.  Before we got a chance to sing, Seu João talked about how pleased he was to see us return and how much he looked forward to forming a relationship with the newcomers to the group.  We made sure he knew that we feel very privileged to be welcomed into his family’s home and to be treated with such hospitality by them and everyone else we meet here.

Some of us stopped to sample some new ice cream flavors today, including Coco (coconut) and Castanha (nut).  While there, we got the word that our brand new bikes had been delivered to Jaime and Georgete’s house so each of us stopped by and rode one the rest of the way home.  The bikes are a mix of colors and styles (we bought almost all that the store had available) so we are now an even more colorful group than we were before. This group contains two experienced bike techs, Gary and Jared, so we are convinced that our daily bike problems will be minimized, if not totally eliminated. 

Once home, we ate another lunch that was indescribable, especially due to the flavors that Louro was able to draw out of baked chicken.  We also enjoyed a range of fresh-squeezed juices, including cupuaçu, maracujá (passion fruit), and watermelon.  A late siesta followed, then we awoke and began thinking about topics for our multimedia ethnography assignments. 

We also opened up a suitcase full of percussion instruments that we hope we can incorporate into our lessons with the kids.  We messed around with drums, tambourines, triangles, cowbells, shakers, and other noisemakers until we were about to call the cops on ourselves.  (Fortunately, there is no one nearby for us to annoy, except maybe the staff of the camp, who seemed pretty amused by it all.) 

Things have been so fun, so rewarding, and so easy here so far that we wonder if we can sustain this level of synergy throughout the whole trip.  Based on our experience so far, we have every reason to believe that we will continue to shine. 

On our first day with the kids, half of us began setting up a tent for shade and drawing while the rest of the group began playing with the kids.

One of our youngest students, Vanessa.

Two boats experiencing our canoe trip on the Tapajós.

Gliding along in a canoe on the Tapajós river.

An anaconda eyeing its prey…just kidding, it’s only Neil’s camera!

Dani, Noelle, and Brie with our new friend Luli.

Local women rowing on the Pacucu.

We got the privilege to explore the Pacucu.

 Local father and son setting up to go fishing.

Our group getting off the boat after a successful adventure.

Fishing boats hailing our current hometown of Santarém.

Brian makes the boy in a spiderman shirt a true superhero by flying in the air.

Brie and Soliane bond on their first day on the beach together. Photo taken by Sabrina, age 8.

 The whole group comes together to play a counting in Portuguese game like "Concentration".

 Matt takes a nice, little dip.

 Seu João captains one of the canoes on our water excursion.


  1. You seem to be settling into the place and the people quite well. Great photos and updates ... keep them coming. Best wishes for your Janterm adventure!
    Jennifer Pigza, and your friends in CILSA

  2. Eu gosto muito de Bryan's dance moves :]

  3. The circle picture looks all too familiar. ;) Ahhh I miss it so much! And I'm definitely glad that tarantula didn't live in the rooms when we were there; if it did, I'm glad I didn't see it!