Monday, July 29, 2013

Departure day.

July 27, 2013

Today we leave Boa Vista at 3:30 for Gilbues. In Gilbues we will catch a bus at 5:00 that will take us on a 14 hour journey to Brasilia. We will arrive in Brasilia at 7:30 am tomorrow. Then, we will wait all day at the airport for our plane to leave at around 9:50 pm.

We are at our last breakfast right now. Actually, we finished eating about 20 minutes ago. Now we are sitting here teary-eyed because we just said goodbye to our main field assistant- Arisomar. He stopped to tell us bye on his way out to work. My heart was beating so fast when I hugged him that I will never forget it. He kept us safe every single day this summer. He is the sweetest and kindest man... Allison and I both owe him so much more than what we have here to give him. I'm sad.
....        ....          ...............

Time was passing so slowly. We were  all thankful for that. I began packing soon after breakfast. Packing was easy- I just threw everything in my bags. Needle grass, dirt, and ticks included. Real quick. Lunch was wonderful. We took pictures. We all talked and cried randomly.

Junior have me a ring he made for me. Maria gave me a golden grass keychain and told me to always think of her when I see her. Of course I will. I cried when she gave it to me. 

I didn't have anything to give anyone.... But I dug through my packed bags to find makeshift gifts. I gave Maria my Brazilian flag. She said she would hang it up in the living room next summer during the World Cup. I gave Marcio my UGA hacky sack. I gave Mara a golden locket mirror that I've had for years. I wrote a little message in it for her too. I gave Marta my blue Polo Club sunglasses. She absolutely LOVED THEM! I was happy to be able to give them something... But they all deserve so much more than I had available to give. 

I've never been so sad to leave a place in my entire life. The tears were so real. Marcio cried so hard... He held us each and cried. Like a baby. We each held him back and cried. (It's made me tear up to reminisce about his sad eyes.) 
Maria told me to come back again. She laughed and said that I was such a surprise... She said I was so quiet and shy at first. She said, "we had no idea that you were like this!" She made me feel so happy. And thinking about hugging her goodbye right now is making feel horrible. 
Marcus told me good luck. He meant something to me. 
Marta smiled her beautiful smile while telling us each goodbye. She is such a sweetheart. 

In all, it hurts me. It hurts me to know that we barged into those people's lives, connected with them, then ditched them. Who are we to do that? "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all." I've always had a problem with that saying. Losing love hurts and is not much better than anything. But...Maybe it makes sense in this instance. Even though we are all miserable now, knowing them and loving them is a good thing. 

We have all added each other on Facebook. And I will see them again.

Then we rode out to the bus stop in the truck we arrived in. Then onto the bus, 14 hours. Then a whole day in the airport of Brasilia... Where I spilled beer all over my pants. Security knew what was up. Oops.
Then I sat on the plane with a newly engaged couple. Two gorgeous people. They were holding their hands out admiring their matching rings. Congratulations, kids. And good luck. It wasn't even annoying sitting with them all cuddly. It was sweet. 

Then I got off of the plane. And here I am, in Dad's kitchen. And I'm not even scared of you humans. And I'm not scared of my future. The whole summer is over... But besides that- you know what I learned this summer? That I'm kinda cool. A lot have things have changed for me, you  guys. I'm happy. Thanks for reading this. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Last day in Boa Vista

July 26, 2013

Okay, let me try to explain how I feel right now. I feel miserable. I feel exhausted. I feel scared. I feel like I'm on the verge of being forgotten. I just laid down to sleep here in Boa Vista for the very last time. My heart hurts. And my head hurts from crying for the past four hours. 

Three hours and 40 minutes, to be exact. And I know that because it was 5:00 pm when Claudio came to our veranda to tell us goodbye. He said he was going to Gilbues and wouldn't be seeing us again before we left tomorrow. This first goodbye opened the flood gates.

We then decided to climb up that cliff so that we could watch our last sunset. Me, Allison, Natalie, Yonat, Marcio, and Mara. Marcio played his obnoxious music while we all talked and cried. I will never forget how I felt up there today... I couldn't even look at any of those people in the face. 

Climbing down that cliff with watery eyes is one my top 10 most dumbest ideas this summer. Dangerous.

And then we told Mara goodbye. She was off to Gilbues too. She gave me a ring that I put on immediately. This ring brought tears to my eyes every time I saw it for the rest of the night. Mara is special to me. I'm scared she doesn't know that.

I feel so sad right now. These people. I've been focusing so much on being scared of returning to the USA... That I didn't even realize how hard it would be to say goodbye. I wasn't prepared for this part of it.

I spent the rest of the night trying to memorize every crack in the cement and hole in the ceiling. These sounds that I'm hearing now... The constant insect undertones with donkeys, frogs, and Portuguese words from Maria's house. Will I forget this?
I couldn't even bring myself to look at those southern stars on our walk back from supper.

Will I come back? Mara told me to. Maria even told me to. Marcio said not to leave in the first place. Maybe I can come back. I have so much to say to these people... I'm irritated that I won't be able to tell them by myself. If I come again I will know more Portuguese. 

I need to return. Tomorrow's goodbyes will be awful.

Today was beyond.

July 24, 2013

Today started normally. The monkeys were in the blind. They greeted us upon our arrival. They were well-behaved and responded to our banana call just like we've been practicing. Perfect. We left the woods and returned to our summer home. I tanned a little bit and drank flavored water. Then everyone left. As in, Allison and Natalie went to one cliff to read/tan/text and Yonat went way out to another cliff to fetch cellphone reception. So I was alone at the house in the hammock reading for a half hour. Until Junior came to get me.

Junior is one of Maria's sons. I told him yesterday that I wanted to ride on the dirt bike before I left Boa Vista. So now he had come to get me.

He had to tell me that Noemi learned to drive the dirt bike before I would agree to learn. The bike is huge and the roads are of dirt! I was nervous to try... He showed me the gears and the breaks and all of the necessities. I sat in front of him and drove down the path. The language barrier was an obstacle of safety. I was driving through the sand. Until the sand got too deep, that is. When that happened Junior would grab the handles and maneuver us through without spinning out. Eventually I ran us straight off the road and into the vegetation. It was his turn to drive again, I explained.

He took me down the sandy roads of this place. For miles. We drove through a humungous section of land that had been cleared since our trip to Gilbues last month.... Cleared. All of the trees were chopped down. It was at least a square mile wide... At LEAST. We had heard this happened when Patricia arrived, but none of us have been all the way out there since Gilbues. It was a shock to see so much of the forest destroyed. We just drove past it all because there was nothing we could do.

He kept asking me where I wanted to go. I kept telling him to surprise me because, what the heck, I don't know what there is to see here! Just surprise me! 

He pulled out of the longggg drive way and onto the paved highway. This was rather scary. I was scared, ok? I was doing exactly what I always get onto my mother for doing- riding a motorbike with no helmet. The road was very wide, so when other buses or trucks would pass we would pull all the way over to the right to avoid them. I kept thinking it was unnecessary. 

He slowed down eventually to point into the woods. He would say things like, "that's my father's land" or, "that's my land." Then eventually we pulled off the big highway and into a gravel driveway. He parked the bike and I had no idea where I was. 

"This is my work," he said. We walked through a gate and into a plant arena. I don't know how else to explain this place, 'arena' is the best I've got. Rows and rows and rows of little black baggies filled with dirt lined the ground all around us. And a man stood in the middle of it all. Junior said that trees were being planted in each bag and that the man was his father. I'd never met his father...! I shook his hand because I'm a lady. Then, we left.

I was puzzled because when we pulled out of the tree arena's driveway we turned out and away from the direction of the house. Again, I had no idea where I was going. And I didn't know how fast we were going. All I know is that I saw 50 vultures eating a large dead cow on the side of the road.

Finally, after a short journey on this highway, we plunged down into another dirt driveway. We stopped to open the wooden gate, then continued onto the sandy road. 

Soon we found ourselves right next to a soccer game! Several boys were playing a pickup game on full-length sand soccer field. There were two goals, each made out of chopped down branches and four benches fashioned in the same way. Half of the boys were wearing cleats and scrunched-down socks. The other half were barefoot. "Want to play?" Oh, I would have! I shook one of the players hands, but then we had to go. Adventure!

Down the jagged road we went. I was in flipflops and plants kept whipping my feet. 

Next stop- a small pond river. Junior said it was a river. Looked more like a pond to me. He said it was the same river as the river we all swam in earlier in the summer. Remember? I was shocked to learn that we were six kilometers away from that part of the same river. There were fish here. And a strict army of ants lining the sides of the pond. "Want to swim?" I would have done that to! But it was time to go. 

Down the roads. I thought I had been all over this part of town... But today I learned that there was so much more to this place than I had seen. In fact, we were in Zangado's territory. Zangado is the alpha male of the other monkey group. Twisting and turning and sanding of the roads. And then- we stopped. Right there in the middle of one of them. Junior hopped of the bike and headed into the woods. I followed because it was implied that I do so. 

Soon after we entered these woods, they ended. And out from the ground shot up a semi-huge stack of rocks that I was about to climb all over. It was only when I got to the top of those rocks did I realize what a beautiful valley we were in. And that's when the macaws flew above us. On two opposing sides of us stood massive cliffs, and between them lay kilometers of the green forests I've been trekking in all summer. But not these exact forests... I've never been here before. This place was new. So I carved my initials into the rocks and left. 

Wait, before I left- remember, Leigh Anna, that you dropped your radio all the way down the rocks. It bounced straight to the ground. 

Then, back on the dirt bike. The sun was about to set. We were flying. And I was still uneasy about going as fast as we were. Regardless- that is exactly where I wanted to be. 

We stopped on a hill to watch the sunset's colors change the sky. This is the part that almost made me cry.

But then we needed to start heading home. We passed several houses that I'd never seen before. I was scoping out each of them. Each had their own arrangement of buildings, fences, wells, chickens, blue water tanks, and clothing lines. Gorgeous. 

One house had a pair of very sweet dogs. I was admiring their napping spots before they noticed us arriving. And as we were passing their home they transformed from being cute cuddled-up puppies to raging beasts of fury. They chased us. And not in the loyal dog way. More like in the purebred police drug-hunting dog way. And they were going fast. They made it three feet away from me before Junior could hit full speed on his bike. The dogs around this place are hungry- basic knowledge. These two were barking and chomping their yellow bloody teeth at me and my friend. (Ok, I just made the 'bloody' part up.) I was legit scared, and Junior was legit going only just fast enough. One of the scariest moments of my life, without a doubt. I survived though. Geez, will I EVER die? 

After the dog incident it became dark. And we cruised along through the woods.  We would stop every once in a while to open and close a gate. When we got close to the wetlands the temperature would drop. When we finally pulled up to the house, I was exhausted. 

There is no doubt in my mind that I need to return to this place.

The days are dwindling

July 23, 2013

Today was good. Like always. The monkeys were very well-behaved today and yesterday. I took a million pictures of them and they all posed as if aware of their appearance. Even the babies seemed to care how sweet they would look to my American family and friends. My PowerPoint presentation is coming along great.

Vanessa the sweet mouse is back. Turns out she doesn't even need that shelf to climb down into our room. And we thought we were so smart. Two nights ago she was on my bed by my toes wiggling around. Of course, she was on the outside of my mosquito net... But she was still wiggling against my toes enough to wake me from slumber. I knew it was her when I awoke, so I just wiggled my toes back at her to scare her off. And so she was indeed scared enough to run out of the room. 

I've been hanging with the family a lot. Especially the little three year old named Leo. We had a Photoshoot today. I'm scared I won't see these people again... So I don't want to forget them.

It occurred to me yesterday that I haven't seen myself from the neck down in two and a half months. I have to stand on my tippy toes to see my face in one of the two mirrors here... And the other mirror lets me see my collar bones. 

I've never showered so much in a summer... Yet I've never been so consistently filthy.

I'm reading this new book by Amy Tan called "Saving Fish from Dying." It is superb so far...!!! 

I'm scared to go home. I like my schedule here!! I like waking up at 5:30 and eating supper at 7! I like this routine! And I like the monkeys. I even like the bugs. Actually... I really REALLY like the bugs.

Oh, today I threw banana pieces at Mansinho and he caught them. Allison scolded me for it later when I confessed, so don't think bad of her. Think bad of me. But I couldn't help it! He was the only one in the area when we were doing the banana call, so he was right there and able to eat as much as he could before the mean alpha male showed up! So I needed to give him them quick! And he was standing right in front of me! So I just tossed them down to him- and he caught them with both hands. Standing straight up on his two legs, checking behind him every chance he could to make sure Jatoba wasn't there yet. He loves me (for my resources). 

Que mais, que mais... Oh! I'm getting back in the USA at 5:40 am on the 29th. So just know that. That is the time for you to go ahead and say to my face everything you've said behind my back all summer.

Party Animals

July 21, 2013

Yesterday we had a party all day long. Lotsssssss of people from all over came. We drank beer and played music and some of us danced!! I played soccer so much. I was very tired and very dirty. So I showered then put on my party clothes! And we had a great time. But now I wanna tell you about my favorite part:
 A little girl was at the party. She was 10- I asked. She didn't have parents here and I actually don't even know how she got here. There was no one at the party that was her age, so she looked lonely. Very lonely, in retrospect. But she was just here sitting and observing all of the drinking adults. But also she was really watching us, the foreigners. Intently, sometimes. When Allison got up and walked to the restroom, the little girl walked up to her, grabbed her wrist, and asked where she was from. Allison was moved by this, I think. Very soon after this the little girl came over and sat by me. That was when I asked for her age. She was such a beautiful kid. Stunning. She could be a GAP Kids model or something. So we told her. She was shy about that. We were sitting there observing the party-goers together when I pulled out my iPhone to check the time. She saw and said, "your phone is very pretty." So I let her hold it. I showed her how to swipe through the screen and to tap on icons. Then I let her look at my photos. I showed her how to watch the videos. I have 1,300 photos on my phone... And she sat there and looked at every single one of them. And I know that because she finally looked up from it to show me how she couldn't swipe any further. I explained to her that there were no more. She seemed sad. I showed her which games she could play. She played. Then I showed her how to take pictures. I'm pretty sure she loved that. She took pictures of everyone at the party. Every once in a while she would come back up to me to show me the pictures she'd taken. She was having fun. That was my favorite part of the party. 

Now I am hungover and in this hammock. Lucas is leaving within the hour. I'm sending these blog posts with him.  I wonder if I will ever see Lucas again in my whole life. He is a great person. A musician. He's inspired me play guitar again. Bye, Lucas. 

... But... But the routine!!?

July 19, 2013

Now that we have collected all the data Allison needs... We are starting to have lots of strange days. Today we only stayed out in the woods for four hours. We didn't follow a monkey, we just stayed with the group. I took data for my project too. It's just... I'm used to this schedule. I'm used to eating and waking and doing things on a schedule. Slowly but surely, things are changing. Soon we will be back on an airplane on the way to a very unpredictable place- home. Uh oh. 

A few hours ago I saw the largest spider I've ever seen in the wild. Except it wasn't in the wild- it was behind our refrigerator. It was the closest thing to a tarantula I have ever seen outside of a pet store. He was hairy.

As supper was being prepared, I played with little Leo. He is Maria's grandchild. So sweet. 4 years old, and we can't understand each other. Lol but we don't need to understand each other to play!! We had fun! Lol and 'That's So Raven' was on the TV.

Marcio was fixing my hair today in the woods. He pushed it all in front of my face, stepped back and said, "Justin Bieber" in his thick accent. I can't escape. 

Tomorrow we will be having a party for Lucas at 3:00 pm. Lol... So who knows how that's gonna be. I predict I will need to drink lots of water. And then he will leave the next day. I hope I can see him again one day somehow. 

I'll go ahead and tell ya- these posts are about to get sadder and sadder. 

Two girls, one megaphone... And no monkeys

July 18, 2013

Today was weird. We went out as usual, but we tried the banana experiment outside of the blind. This is strange because the monkeys have never been given food outside if the blind. And honestly, I think that was one reason why they didn't end up choosing to come to the other side of the pond for bananas. But we tried to convince them with the megaphone and marimba ringtone for a whole hour. They were hollering and some of them were trying to come to us... But ultimately- Jatoba and the alpha female decided not to come. This was sad for us. So later we decided we needed to practice the banana outside of the blind so that they KNEW we would give them bananas even when they weren't at their normal food spot. And it worked. So, maybe we will try again very soon. We left the woods early because of all this. 

Today Allison got sooooooo many ticks during the whole banana call. She apparently had them all over her arms and armpits. :-( And she had a lot in her socks. This made me sad. I found one attached in between two of my toes too. 

Oh, Vanessa the mouse didn't show up last night. HAHA!! Or the night before!! I think we won! But now I feel bad... Because remember I said she was adorable? So I got a stale cookie and broke it into three pieces and hid each one in a different spot in the office for her. Hopefully she finds them. Also, don't tell Natalie that I did that because I told her I didn't. Poor Vanessa!

Today we played soccer with Mara and her sister Marta. It was really fun!! They played in dresses, lol. My ball is flat and I'm really sad about it. I brought my pump with me and it works!... But there is a hole somewhere that I can't find. So, I covered the entire ball with masking tape. It didn't work. We played with a flat ball.

But honestly all I do here in Brazil is follow monkeys and scratch my ankles. Bugssss.

Me: "Everyone has a gay cousin."
Natalie: "Really? Do you have a gay cousin?"
Me: "No, I AM the gay cousin."