We were woken up at 3 am by the boats horn, which told us to start getting ready to un-board. As the boat finally floated to a stop the crowds of people swarmed out onto the town of Gurupa. I had vague memories of what it looked like, none of which could be confirmed because it was dark and I was disoriented and exhausted. We stumbled our way to our home stay being followed closely behind by a man carrying an oversized wagon filled with our luggage.
When we got to our house we went straight to bed… or Cindy did anyway. I spent the night trying to remember how to sleep in a hammock. I would lay one way and my head was too high, so I shifted around and my feet were dangling from the side. The middle of the hammock was raised higher than the sides, so every time I would shift my hammock would swing and smack into Cindy – who was unconscious and didn’t even notice. I looked over at my sleeping sister and tried to mimic her form; sleeping on her back with her body at an angle to widen the hammock. This worked for about 2 seconds until I remembered that I never sleep on my back.
When I woke up in the morning I found myself in the strangest position. I was lying on my stomach with my arms dangling off either side and my chin tilted upward parallel with the hammocks slant. My legs were high above the level of my head and I had lost the feeling in both of my feet. This was going to take some practice. As I untangled myself out of the hammock I looked over at Cindy, trying to decide my next move. I was scared to go outside my room. I didn’t know what to expect on the other side, and I REALLY didn’t know how to relate to our Portuguese-only speaking Amazon town family. Cindy said if I wanted a shower I would have to go out there eventually. That convinced me.
As I opened my door and headed for the shower, I was greeted with many wide eyes. I said good morning, they replied, but continued to stare. They were not quite sure how to act around me and I was not sure how to act around them.
I hopped in the shower and woke up VERY suddenly to ice cold streams of water stinging my back. When I had spent just enough time in the freezing water to wash off the soap and shampoo, I got dressed and wandered around the house. The house was very simple with tile floors and a wooden ceiling. It was barely big enough to fit the family of 6… and now they had 2 more additions to their family with Cindy and me.
When I walked back to my room, I realized I had greatly underestimated the Amazon ants, who had somehow crawled into my closed back pack at night and found my bottle of cough syrup which they swarmed. I freaked out when I picked up the bottle and ants started to crawl up my hand. I shouted at my sister, “TAKE IT AWAY, TAKE IT AWAAAAAY!” and we tossed the bottle into a plastic bag. Evidently after the ants where finished with my cough syrup they found a new hang out in my laptop… but I would not be as surprised when I found them there the next day.
Cindy and I sat down for breakfast and were presented with tons of food and exotic fruits. While we ate, curious eyes watched on. It was starting to get strange, but before the awkwardness could be too much to handle a 3 year old little girl came waddling up to the table, grabbed a grape, and jumped up and down as she ate it – throwing the seeds all over the floor. I love the fact that in any culture anywhere around the world, children are all the same. It doesn’t matter if you are different, they will treat you like anybody else if you just pay attention to them.
So after our home stay mom picked up the seeds and told her daughter not to eat anymore cause she was making a mess, she waddled right up to me and held out her tiny hand towards the bowl of bananas. I knew her mom didn’t want her to have it, but one look at those pleading dark chocolate eyes and chubby little pout and I gave in. After I gave her the banana she unpeeled it slowly and shoved the whole thing into her tiny mouth. She waddled around the kitchen with the entire banana form still evident and intact in her cheeks and the while family started laughing. This finally broke the ice and let us begin to connect with our new family.
Edwarda eating Acai... some of it actually went IN her mouth
Later that evening we went to visit a family we are good friends with. My parents have known this family for over 20 years, and 4 years ago I had met them and made friends with the youngest three boys who were toddlers and pre-teens at the time. When I saw the boys again, my mind completely warped. They had grown so much in the past four years that when they came up to greet me, my heart broke as I saw a sense unfamiliarity shown in their faces. They had heard stories of us from their mom and seen pictures that we had left years before, but they treated me like a stranger.
It was crazy for me to have kept this little town exactly as I had left it in my head. Even the dirt roads were now paved and every once and awhile a car would drive through the once bike-and-foot town. As I continued my life after my last visit I realized I had slowly forgotten about my little family in Gurupa because I became wrapped up in school and other things. It made me sad to see I had missed so much of my old friend’s lives, to the point where I became a distant memory in their minds.
After that visit I decided what I would focus most on during my stay in this town would be the relationships with the people here. They taught me so much four years ago, and it’s about time I am reminded of how some of the most pure-hearted people in this tiny town live their lives and view the world around them.
A street in the "6 street town" of Gurupa!