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.