Where I Have Been Map

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sick Simon

I was in a deep sleep in my hammock when I heard the first echo of a firework about a block away. I didn’t know how long I’d been asleep since I had accidentally drifted off while Cindy was reading late into the night. I heard another explosion and was wide-awake by then, so I opened my eyes and saw only darkness. For a moment I considered that the electricity had gone out in the whole town… again. That had happened just earlier in the day, I was watching an Indian dance video with the little kids of my home stay family, but when they left to go to the store I found myself continuing to watch this video intently, and was upset when the picture suddenly turned black right as I was about to learn a dance move that looked as if the guy was mimicking a chicken with tourettes dancing like MC Hammer.

I stumbled around the dark house until I finally found a candle. Cindy had woken up from a nap by that time and we both looked outside and saw that the electricity had gone out everywhere, and as twilight was ending quickly the whole town was minutes away from being left in the absolute dark. Cindy and I watched our street to see if this would be like at home where the guys in the cherry pickers would come to fix the electric line that had apparently fallen not far from our house. The cherry picker never came, but two guys that lived across the street did come, and they were carrying a ladder. They climbed up onto the roof of a house and fixed the wire with their bare hands and a pair of pliers. When the lights flickered back on our whole street cheered and someone set off fireworks for celebration.

As I heard third firework set off while starring into the dark in my hammock, I considered that the guys had fixed the electricity once again. But as the lights above me never suddenly turned on, I assumed I had just been sleeping for longer than I thought. Sure enough, I looked at the clock and it was 5am… so why in the world were they setting off fireworks? My question was answered almost immediately as I heard excited knocks on our door and was greeted by our home stay dad who told us to come outside. I groggily mumbled “ok”, got dressed, and stumbled outside only to find a band serenading our house. It was then I remembered our family telling us earlier about the St. Ann festival where the local Catholic church picks a few families and parades from house to house early in the morning to sing the St. Ann song and set off fireworks. It was apparently an honor that our family got picked, so Cindy and I continued the parade with them and tried to sing along best we could as the sun was just beginning to rise. We ended our parade at the church, where we sang one final song, then soon after attended mass.

When we finally made it back home it was only 10 am so we ate breakfast, something I will miss very much when I got back home considering I eat fresh bread, fruit picked from the trees right outside, and delicious Brazilian coffee every single morning. The only meal that can top breakfasts are Brazilian chuhascarias, or cook-outs. Instead of hot dogs and hamburgers,, they grill juicy steaks and meat. We recently went to a chuhascaria of my dad’s new friend Jean Marie. He is an anthropologist from France that did research in Gurupa years ago and married a girl from the town. Now, years later, he is retired and lives with his wife and two kids in his privately own area in the jungle. The youngest daughter, Gabrielle, at age 8 gets to have a childhood most kids dream about, waking up every morning and having a jungle as your playground.
As we sat by the Amazon River and enjoyed our meal, I picked out at least 3 wandering ants that had crawled on my plate. Living in the jungle, you have to get use to the fact that you are now living in the wild animal’s home. I don’t know how many ants I have been bitten by and accidentally eaten, but it is something you have to learn to get use to considering they are not going to go away anytime soon. What you have to be careful of is making sure you don’t get sick from eating or drinking something that has been contaminated by a harmful bug or bacteria. This is something one student, Simon, had to learn the hard way.
It was his birthday that day, so my mom, dad, sister and I made our way to his home stay to bring him a present. When we walked through the door we were surprised to not see Simon with a birthday hat on blowing through a party horn, but instead laying in his bed with wet towels over his head looking miserable.
He had started to feel bad around 2 am, after they had gone out for his birthday. By the time he got back home he had a fever of 103 degrees and his home stay mom called a doctor as soon as she could. The doctor came the next morning and said it was something he had consumed, what he guessed came from a dirty glass from the bar that might have been washed with unclean water. In order to keep him hydrated the doctor decided the best move would be to give him a shot of IV liquid. Simon’s home stay mom, also a nurse, got the needle ready and went into his room. Since it is difficult for Gurupa to get the medical supplies they need, they had to use perfume instead of rubbing alcohol to disinfect Simon’s arm and liquor to disinfect the needle. They accidentally missed the vain the first time, but when they finally got the needle into Simon’s arm he started to feel better immediately.
Later that day Cindy, who is studying public health, told me that there are so many ways to get sick like that here if you are not careful. She said so many illnesses come from ticks off of animals on the streets, but as long as you don’t pet them you won’t get sick. I stayed silent after she said that. Cindy looked at me curiously and said “…you didn’t”. But I can’t help it if the wild monkeys here are so adorable. They had one in the back of an ice cream store, so one day when it grabbed my hand and licked the ice cream dripping off my cone, I didn’t think twice to pet its head and play with it. Cindy just rolled her eyes and handed me some hand sanitizer.

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