About Jerusalem from Belem in Brazil

It is early. It is hot. Billy has just left to teach. I am having breakfast in a little ” kiosque it is in the middle of a street. I like it.

I look around, hearing the people. It is so different than Sao Paulo. Belem is the city of Mangoes. It is in the north of Brazil. They have a dance called Carimbó.

I am eating tapioca, something like a pancake made of the root of cassava. It is common to eat this in the north and northeast. I love it. I am drinking coffee which for the first time has no sugar. I am happy. I am wondering where should I go next? And suddenly I hear from very far away bla bla bla bla netanyahu.

I stand up and walk towards the tv. I stop in silence. Of course, they also think I am Israeli. My phone vibrates. It is from the middle east. I ask my dear friend Michal what has really happened? She is in Jerusalem. I am in Belem.. Bethelehem in Brazil.

I immediately ask my Palestinian and Israeli friends what had really happened in Jerusalem.

I did not fully understand the news on TV, but also a life in academia leaves one always skeptical of papers and news.

I had many different answers on fb. I expected that. I feel so much sadness. An internal attack , it is not the first but I know what it means. It is very different than an attack from Gaza or the WB.

I knew unification of Hamas and Fatah was precisely what had unleashed the last Gaza war.

Could two states ever be possible? I feel so much sadness. It was never meant to be possible. I think of my friends. Who are suffering. I think it is hard to be objective when you are afraid. I think it is impossible to have peace under oppression. Anywhere in the world. I see it here. I see it there.

I look for the voice of a man I respect. Uri Avnery. He who has survived nazism, who has fought for Israel. He who was part of the Knesset and who was the first Israeli to meet Yassert Arafat.

No one can say he is a self hating jew, so they say he has lost his mind because he is old. I always search for him. I finally read him hours ago. So if you want to know about jerusalem through the voice of someone who has lived all sides, here it is.

You can find it in other languages in Gush Shalom.



Manaus to Belem- another boat journey

I just arrived in Belem. I love boats. I met the captain and every single boat “driver” of this boat. There are 6. They work for 4 hours at the time. There are always two people working together at the same time.

From the moment I met one I stayed there on this riding cabin most of the time. Learning all there is to know about a life in a boat and all about this place. The north of Brazil.

The state of Amazonas and the state of Pará are kind of rivals. This does not seem to be a violent thing. It is shown by jokes. Most of these jokes are sexual. In this boat most of the songs were sexual too.

We left Manaus and took the Rio Amazonas, then we passed by Rio Tapajós, and rio Jaburu. I was told we floated for 920 nautic miles, which I was told is about 3 thousand km.

We passed by Parintins, juriti,obilis, santarem, monte alegre, prainha, almerim, gurupá, breves and eventually we finally arrived in belem

Some things are so ironic. Like Moises who is an atheist and hates religion. Senhor Antonio who is older and is evangelic. Marcio who was raised very poorly, and told me in details of the poverty he had experienced in his life as a child. I heard 6 tales from inside of the captain “driving” place.

I definitely do not know the terms used to call places that are inside of a boat, nor do I know what they call the actions that they do there. I don’t know it in English nor even in Portuguese. But I do know some of their lives and thoughts.

All of them are incredibly chauvinistic. They cannot even imagine that their wives could have male friends. All is about sex. Almost all of them have children. Multiple children by different people. Men have this ludicrous idea that only men have affairs. Through women you realise that in this generation, at least, it is different. They all do whatever they want.

You also realise that this might be an older thing. There are of course old legends. Like the legend of the boto, that states the boto ( a dolphin from the river) becomes a man and seduces women. They are responsible for unexplainable pregnancies. I sat for days in this boat and they told me these stories, that were told to them by their grandmothers and apparently these boys seemed to believe in them.

One of the most beautiful things I have seen since I came this way is the “estreito de breves”. It crosses “Ilha do Marajó”. I was told that ” Ilha do Marajo” was the largest archipelago of the world. I did not believe it at first.. But since we spent 12 hours to cross it, I changed my mind. It could be. I guess, I should research it. Great or not it is so beautiful. There is soo much vegetation, little houses.. Life in general.

There is something that shocked me. Children from these little houses take a canoe and come to our huge boat. They jump into them in an incredible manoeuvre to sell palmito. They also take clothes as gifts.

I spent lots of time inside of the place from where they conduce the boat. Since I do not know the right name of these places, I call it the captain place 🙂

Lots of time had passed since the little boat had come towards us, lots of time had passed since I had seen these little children climbing our boat, and suddenly as I was looking the trees this little girl came desperately towards me. She cried out loud that all her sibblings had jumped out, and she was left alone.

She was desperate, begging for someone to let her out in any boat. I searched for senhor Antonio, the older man from our crew. I asked her wether I could hold her. I did it. Her heart beat so hard, so fast and when I let her go she was crying. They found her a canoe to go in. A total stranger took her.

I sat quietly and I was so shocked. Women were angry.

“How could a mother let a 9 year old work? Put their lives in danger?”

I sat hearing the women talking about it angrily and I prayed she would not be raped in another house. The lady next to me, a lady from here was sad like me, she told me a worse tale. Something that had happened in another boat. It was about a mother that had ignored all women in another trip.

They were all telling her to not let her young child climb the boat. The mother told them to leave her alone. They took the child out from climbing several times. Yet the child fell and disappeared.

Then she was desperate. Women were furious.

I sat in silence and when I stood up to go up we hugged.

No one believes I am brazilian. Even when I show them my brazilian ID, they still look suspiciously at me.

I arrived here and decided to go to the house of Dona Janira, the grandmother of my friend Rafaela. She is 90.

Some part of me feels sad to leave the boat. I like these boats, the life you see so naturally unfolding.

I never will be able to write all that I have seen. I think the whole time about Andrey, my russian friend from my PhD who was here years ago. I always think he is write. Somehow people tell me the detail and secrets of their lives.

I feel blessed by this. I feel an enormous feeling of thankfulness to these people. I feel a thousand of different emotions seeing life so open like that in front of me. I feel alive.

I guess now it is time to leave this port. It is time to start a new path.



Boats and lives

I am again inside of a boat. This time I am going to Belem. There is so much I have learned in the other boat. That time I spent 8 days in the river Solimoes. That boat was destined to go to the triple frontier. So I was briefly in Colombia.

I flew back to Manaus, and ironically I could see more of the amazon from a plane than from inside of the Amazon itself. I guess we can always see better things from a distance :).

My first boat was a boat that carried goods. It was huge, there I met Mr. Manuel who taught me so much. Not only he was 70 and his whole family were boat people, but he had also taken J. Cousteau in the eighties through the amazon.

He taught me about the trees in the Amazon, the rivers, the people, his life and he even told me that BR 174, the road that links Manaus to Venezuela was built by the Brazilian army which was composed by many indigenous people. In this construction part of two indigenous groups, the Waimiri and the Atroari were killed.

There is so much that I have learned there that I thought this boat here (where I am in now) was kind of boring. The first boat brought it all to those who lived in the small villages of the state of Amazonas. Those villages are basically separated from the rest of Brazil. This boat here, where I am in now, goes the other way, it returns to the northeast of Brazil. It is a boat mainly destined to the transportation of people. Apparently, when it returns to manaus it also brings goods back.

Of course, my dislike of this boat was entirely deconstructed by the fact that next to me is a Cuban who had escaped his country and had an amazing story to tell about his life. To my other side is a man who works for Belo Monte, the huge hydroelectric that is being built here.

I hate Belo Monte for all that it represents, the destruction of the Amazon, its animals and its indigenous peoples. But I kept quiet as I heard the tale of a man who can’t find a job anywhere else.

I heard in details what Altamira was like. He called it “an eldorado”. A world in itself. Brazilians are so opened in explaining how their marriages have collapsed, how much they look for a new family that I could write several books by now.

Sometimes I feel they are very lonely and that they do not have who to tell these stories to. So, I hear quietly the tale of a man who was abandoned by his wife, and who now searches a new life in Belo Monte.

To the other side there are evangelic women who have been to Israel in a religious trip. They are kind, and have taught me a lot about the bible.

I go up to meet my captain. He is friendly, young an beautiful. We are in the Rio Amazonas. First I miss mr. Manuel who was so knowledgeable. Only till I go down to go out in our first stop. There are not that many things to deliver, nor anyone leaving the boat. But I go down anyway to buy fruits.

My new captain comes down and explains me a lot of things. He offers me Biju a cracker made of some kind of cassava, and nuts that is typical from here. I find it nice since it is quite salty.

Then I make a new young friend. She is 18 and and she has a two year old daughter. Her own mom is in the boat and is pregnant of her 4th husband. I understand everyday a little more how sexuality is active in this part of Brazil. I also understand how much the evangelic church is growing.

The boat stops again. Now there are nuts coming in. I go down to observe. The “policia Federal” is there. I watch for a while and eventually go up to a policemen to ask him why are they here for.

This beautiful policemen, is polite, and explains to me that through the rio amazonas comes lots of drugs. I ask him where is it that cocaine is produced. He tells me it is inside of peoples houses.

And so I meat Mr. Antonio. He is older and used to be the captain of this boat. He is about to retire. He explains loads of things. For instance, that the factories are in the middle of the amazon. He tells me so much in details. He is also part of the evangelic church. He reminds me of Mr. Manuel.

I write little because lately I live more. There is so much to tell but I guess now is time to eat. I already like this new boat.

I can’t forget to tell one thing. I met a 54 year old man who is going to Santarem to put the ashes of his wife there.

She died when she was 47. She had Lupus. He explains to me that this was her last wish. He tells me about his whole life , how it had been to have been married to a woman that had an autoimmune disease. How many years he had passed time going to hospitals. I am so moved hearing him speak. I recollect myself and ask.

“Had you known she would get sick would you have not married her?”

He knows I had been sick and is not offended by my question. He looks at me and says

“Of course not. I knew very early on she was sick. I have been with her through it all. I would not have changed anything at all. I miss her every single day. I do not regret a single moment. I love her.”


The Scary secrets of a boat Journey- The Amazo

4th day.

We woke up in Sao José do Amparo. Last night I felt really cold, it rained a lot, and during the night there was a lot of wind coming inside of the boat.

I slept in pants, socks, long sleeves, scarves and a rain jacket.

Yesterday it was actually quite interesting but I ll tell first the beginning of today. I was told this little village where we stopped was very intriguing. They were a sect.

Since we had 2 hours there for the delivery of goods I went up.

Literally up since you actually have to climb stairs to reach this little village. It was 5 am and from the boat I could see the population coming to buy goods. I asked from the people whether I could see the village. They told me I could. I went up, people of all ages sat in front of the church. It had a huge name.

Associação missao ordem cruzada catolica apostolica evangelica- templo de deus vivo

There were many people sitting in front of the church, they were dressed in white clothes. I asked whether I could go in. They told me I could. Men in the boat, huge men were shocked I entered that church. I asked about the church to the people and they told me to talk to the priest. And so they took me to his house.

I said hello to the priest and told him I would like to know about his church. I was honest and told him I was curious.

He was a man of few words. The village was particularly different. I asked him

“How is this church ?”

“Like others.”

“I am honestly curious. It is not common to see a church that is at the same time catholic and evangelic.”

“It is the same.”

“Which book do you use?”

“The bible.”

“Do you have baptism?”

“Yes in the river when they are 11 or 12”

“Oh, so when they are born nothing really happens?”

“Yes. Circumcision.”

I was so fascinated. It seemed judaism, catholicism and evangelism together.

“How about the symbols?”

“The eye means we are being watched. The hand is peace. The book is the bible.”

I realised he would not tell me anything else. I had understood enough. The most I could understand in such a small time.

A little girl came up with us to the boat. She was the strangest girl I have eve met. She looked the whole time to Martin, the Uruguayan who was travelling with me.

The words of a new friend that lives in Boa Vista came to my mind.

“This area is a strange place. It is quite common for fathers to have sexual relationships with their daughters.”

Though he studied in the same school I have studied in Sao paulo, a french school, I thought he was exaggerating.

Only till I had a conversation with the little girl. She was also a secretive girl. She said few words, and simply because I asked questions. I have met children all over the world. Some of these children were badly treated, others were very well treated. It was the same in this boat. They all fell in the category of normality. This girl was so different.

She was 12. Responded almost without words. She was moving to live with her uncle. She was informed about it that day. Because I asked her, she said she was happy. I did not believe. I tried soo hard to talk to her and she simply barely spoke. She simply asked me whether my Uruguayan companion was my brother. The way she said it, made me certain she was abused.

I went to Angelica, the lady who became my friend and who works in the boat to ask about it. I was expecting her to say I was wrong. But she said.

“I want to become a lawyer to defend all women who have been abused. It is common in Amazonas for men to take the virginity of their
daughter. In Manaus they would put the men in prison, they would beat them up, but here it is common. If she is moving to live with her uncle it is much worse.”

I am now in Tabatinga. My internet connection is poor. I will write about what it was like to be in a boat for 8 days. I saw millions of things, I experienced a thousand of emotions. I love the boat,I made friends, my captain Mr Manuel is a kind man. He is evangelic so we obviously disagreed in thousands of things. But as usual I was protected, and learned a million of things. I’ ll write more from Manaus. The place I have friends, and have learned to miss.

The Boat- 1st day- The Amazon

Day 1

We start our journey. I have quite soon no internet. I talk to the people.

Then it is so hot. Yet since the boat starts moving the air cools you down when you are looking the river.

Quite soon we see the merging of solimões river and Negro river. This is called the encontros das aguas, “the encounters of the waters.”

It is very known because you can see quiet clearly when it happens since the waters do not seem to mix. They look like two different things.

And the boat keeps floating and now I come dow where there are two things. A little restaurant open all the time where one can buy little things and a football court 🙂

The music are classics from Samba and carnival. While the attendant fixes christmas decoration I hear huge noise of construction. I go to the lady and ask “what are they doing?”

“Oh they are fixing the net to be able to play.”

I laugh. Thinking it is done so that the ball does not fall in the river. I am amazed by the amount of work people do to play football here in the boat.

It is actually hilarious to see all these men working on this. Heavy equipment. Burning, knocking, crouching all of this in this heat for football.

My mind is sarcastic so I obviously think that if they used that energy home, in their work the gdp and the happiness in their houses would probably really go up.

They are still not done. Oh well I will go back to look at the trees. They are closer to my right side.

The samba still plays. And I will stop now. Soon there will be dinner. That will be really a surprise 🙂

They still build, the boll roles discretely on the floor and the samba plays. Soon there will be the sunset.

I am happy 🙂

Later I go up to speak to Mr. Manuel.

He is the man who conduces this enormous boat. He is 70. We spoke from sunset till night. I learned so much.

For instance I learned he came from
a family of boat people, those who did not own one at least new how to ?ride? them 🙂 His father built them.

I told him my grandmother was very concerned about me taking this boat since boats sometimes sunk. And so he explained to me the following.

The water is in a great level. There is more water than there usually is for this time of the year. He pointed at the river side where I could see land carved, on top of it were trees.

“Later in the year the river goes up because of the Andes, so all that you see of this carved land will be under water. In order to save fuel captains ride close to the shore. In that way they avoid the current that is coming from Tabatinga. If they are not attentive they might hit the shore and that is when they sink.”

We ride in the middle. The river is not that close. And our captain, Manuel, has done this his whole life. He asks me about Buddhism. Tells me he is religious but respect all beliefs. He tells me I should call my grandmother to tell her.

” Is there signal?”

“Yes, sometimes in the day for calling.”

It is night and I already love this boat. Mr. Manuel is gentle, is a religious men, he explains me all about currents, river, and tells me he has lived his life around boats.

“The best work I have done was with doctors. I was part of the health system bringing help to those who could not have access to medicine in remote villages. That felt wonderful. We were really helpful to those people. Since I am older they let me go, I could not leave the see so I came back to this industry. As a form of transportation it is rarely used. There are hammocks for those who enjoy to see this life, and the workers. We pay the fuel by the transport of goods. Tell your grandmother this is a new boat.”

I attempt to call but it is too late. In Sao paulo it is two hours later. I go to sleep.

Tomorrow I ll tell about today. Sometimes we have signal 🙂 It is enough to say that I slept almost 11 hours. I only woke up because they called us for breakfast.

It gets cool in the evening, it is wonderful to sleep in a hammock in a boat. So far there is not even any mosquitoes.

Love from the boat to the triple frontier between Brazil, Peru and Colombia.


Now I am in jutai. I ll post only first day. The others I ll do when I have again.

Ps: no time to edit 🙂