Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Brazil Days 2-5: Amazon Jungle Experience (part 1)

Olga and I lived on the Amazon river, sought shelter under the canopy of its rainforest, survived on its abundant fruits, nuts, fish (and beer). Now emerging from this rich wildlife, I find I have trepidation about reconnecting with the outside (online and offline) world. What world/family/work events have transpired since I left? What is waiting for me to handle? Have the arrangements for the second leg of our trip been confirmed while we were immersed in the first leg? It turns out all of these concerns are mere distractions, the Earth has revolved and rotated for millions of years without me and will hopefully continue to do so (until they find the correct interpretation of the Mayan calendar).

What experiences stood out from our trip with Amazon Gero Tours, you ask. Here are a few takeaways:

There are three main employment opportunities for adults living in this region: farming, fishing, and tourism. Right now many changes are occurring that will affect future generations, particularly the building of schools in the villages (many of our guides, who grew up in this region, did not attend any school until they were about 14 years old) and the distribution of electricity (there is a major project to run power lines to all of Amazonas - the community where we stayed received theirs about 8 months ago). Our guides, in their late 20s and early 30s, had an opportunity to work steering sightseeing boats when they were in the early teens, then if they were self-starters and learned English on the job, could work their way up to guide. One guide I spoke with, currently 27 years old, is hoping to graduate from high school this coming year and start studying biology in university next year. Tourism is one path for these young men to get an education and leave the village, if they desire. Otherwise, it seems there are very few opportunities to live anything differently from how your parents and grandparents did.

The Amazonas we met were very warm and thoughtful. We were invited to their Feliz Natal (Christmas) party, which was also the birthday party for one of their oldest-ever residents, a 66 year-old great-grandmother. They shared beer with us and we danced until the wee hours. We made friends with many we would see farming, repairing motorboat engines, relaxing at the floating bar/market.

Here's the first set of photos from the Amazon:

"Meeting of the waters" where
Rio Negro and Rio Solimões
meet to form the Amazon River
Our guide Luis fearlessly picking up
a tarantula while I took a step back

Fishing for Piranha in the rain!

Dave Piranha fishing
Village gets electricity
and the first thing they buy...
a satellite dish!
Luis explaining how Manioc
is grown and processed from
a poison into a major staple

A young family we brought presents for
Piranha for lunch - fruits of our labor!

Olga swimming laps in the Amazon
What is Dave doing in the
Amazon?? The backstroke!

I'll post more experiences and thoughts in the next couple of days, stay tuned!

Olga blogs about her insights on our Amazon immersion:  http://plotkills.blogspot.com/2012/12/four-days-on-amazon.html

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