Where I Have Been Map

Friday, April 13, 2012

Camping in the Rainforest - Day 2

I woke up in my hammock with a jolt. My eyes tried to adjust to the pitch black but I could see nothing. My ears, on the other hand, were overwhelmed with the sound of rain pounding on the tin roof of our boat, and the sound of a howling wind. The boat was rocking side to side. There was a loud crash as the  boat slammed into the wooden dock.  The thick rope attaching our boat to the large wooden post was doing its job despite the tugs of the angry river trying to pull us downstream with the storm. 
Suddenly, lightning flashed and I could see all around me as the entire Amazon night was electrified. It only lasted for a split second, but it was enough to see our luggage on the floor getting soaked as the rain began pouring in through the holes in the tarp covering the sides of the boat. I looked toward  my parents’ hammocks, and heard a peaceful snore coming from my dad, undisturbed by the storm. This calmed me down a little. I sank down in my hammock, my mind racing, and tried to find the sleep that wasn’t going to come for many hours.
This was the first tropical rainforest storm I had experienced. All I could think about was when we would eat at the Rainforest CafĂ© back home and they would have “storm simulations” every 15 minutes or so, when the lights would dim and fake lightning and rain would begin to lightly shower amused customers.  Now, my hammock swung back and forth with the waves caused by the storm in the real rainforest, with real lightning. I wished I could say “Check, please.” But since neither the check, nor sleep was coming, I began thinking about my day to keep my mind off the storm. I had met some incredible people, and got a glimpse into a way of life incredibly different than my own.
The day had begun that morning as I watched the sunrise over the Amazon River from the roof of our boat. When I climbed down from, I saw the archaeologists suiting up to explore for sites. They were covered from head to toe. They strapped on big black boots to walk through the flooded forest, long pants and long sleeved shirts to avoid getting scraped by the plants, hats to shade them from the sun, and t-shirts over their heads to cover the remaining exposed areas of their faces and necks. Everything but their eyes were covered, to protect them from the horrendous swarms of mosquitoes they were sure to encounter. They hopped off the boat and headed into the forest with machetes in hand, following their guide, a woman from the area whose house we were docked at. 
The Archeologists suited up for the hike through the rainforest

Covered as the archaeologists were, their guide was wearing a dress.  On top of that, she was a grandmother at least 60 years old. Her hair was greying, she had wrinkles under her eyes showing a lifetime of laughter, and a machete in her hand to chop away at the forest.  The crew nicknamed her, “Indiana Grandma.” She was living proof that age shouldn’t slow a person down, as she walked over broken tree branches in her plastic flip flops. 
"Indiana Grandma" leading the hike
When they returned from their search, we interviewed “Indiana Grandma,” or Artulina. She sat with us in her living room for hours, telling us stories of what life in the interior was like in the old days, noting the many struggles people in that area have had to overcome through the years, and humoring us with stories of legends and folktales of creatures that live in the forest.
 As we were filming, we discovered another obstacle to overcome with these types of interviews in the interior. Artulina’s six grandchildren had never seen cameras like we had before, and they were very curious. Aged 5 to 10, they couldn’t comprehend the “etiquette” of an interview in which other people are supposed to be quiet and still while the camera is rolling. How could they understand this? They had never been in this situation before.
So they decided to make a game of it. They began to pop their heads in front of the camera every couple minutes.  They climbed onto the couch with their grandmother, calling her name to see if she would stop talking to the camera people and notice them. They chattered loudly in Portuguese next to the camera, and were entertained when Glenn would put his finger to his mouth motioning them to quiet down.  In an attempt to distract them, my mom brought them candy. This worked,  but only for a short while. They ran off and enjoyed their candy by the river. But 20 minutes later, they were back with a full surge of sugar energy. 
Giving the kids candy = bad idea
The kids pointing at the camera and planning their mischievous acts

But not every child in the interior was this mischievously curious. Later that day we cruised down the river to another wooden house on stilts to interview a man there. The man also had grandchildren, and  as his 8-year-old granddaughter came outside to see what we were doing, I wondered if she was going to be as curious as the other children. She was, but in a very shy way. She peered at me through the open door and sat there, quietly.  She watched as I changed the battery and turned my camera on. I saw her from the corner of my eye, and motioned for her to come and sit next to me.  She came and sat down, and was soon intrigued to see a moving picture of her grandpa on the screen of my camera. She began handing me batteries and memory cards from my bag, and was excited at the thought of being a little helper. I handed her my mom’s handheld video camera and asked her to return it to my mother. After the interview was over, I found my mother teaching her how to film with the handheld camera. Her eyes lit up as she walked around with the camera and filmed trees and people. When we left her house that day as the sun was setting, she told us that she wanted to grow up and film movies.
Discussing future film careers
Another lightning bolt struck and lit up the entire inside of the boat, snapping me back to the reality of the storm. I started feeling motion sick as my hammock kept swinging back and forth with the angry waves.  One side of the tarp flung open, and rain began showering the inside of the boat. Then suddenly the weather calmed. The rain slowed to a drizzle, the thunder rumbled with softer force as the storm moved away. The frogs even began to come out from hiding, and croak their usual nightly croak. The storm had passed as quickly as it had come, and I finally fell into a restful sleep.

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