Friday, March 5, 2010

Circle South America: Boca de Valeria Brazil

Dear Family and Friends,

We only thought we were in the jungle until we arrived at Boca da Valeria, Brazil, a remote village at the confluence of the Rio da Valeria and the Amazon. Approximately 75 people live in this minute village, surrounded by the great rain forest of the Amazon Basin.

We tendered in to this small floating dock and brought with us pens, paper, baseball caps, hundreds of chocolates, and well over $ 100.o0 in one dollar bills to hand out to these gorgeous children who populate this town. They do everything to “earn” their dollars. Two darling little girls grabbed Vicki immediately and as I handed out the chocolates, they took one hand each and told her they would give her a guided tour of their little village. SO CUTE! They stayed with us the entire time, helping us buy various handicrafts offered by the locals in their little booths at the “best price”. We could have cared less how much they asked for their treasures, it was our privilege to aid their “economy”.

Children and young adults posed in traditional Amazonian costumes for a dollar. They displayed their animals….parrots, macaws, three-toed sloths, and other assorted mammals for photo ops…for a dollar. They gave you tours of their homes….for a dollar. They were all smiling and friendly and absolutely adorable. And everything was a dollar. They only get about 8 cruise ships per year at this stop but this is a major source of income for these simple, lovely people. Vicki took a picture of me with Terry Waite, one of our lecturers on board. You might remember that he is the renowned hostage negotiator, who worked for the Archbishop of Canterbury and was taken as a hostage himself in Beirut, Lebanon for five years in solitary confinement back in the 1980’s during the Reagan administration (Iran-Contra). He whispered in my ear…”This will cost you much more than a dollar”. HA!

We took a motor boat ride out of their village for about an hour up into the small tributaries of the Rio de Valeria into the heart of the jungle. Vicki and I took this boat to the “captains” home, about 20 minutes into the rain forest and saw his wife and children working around their place. His wife was working a small garden. His oldest daughter was in a small boat just off the bank washing clothes while his youngest daughter swam nearby. His two sons were building and/or repairing a boat for future use. Everyone contributes to the family’s survival.

It was strange but we saw very few men in the village. Most were women and children. The men were off in the fields, which were inland from the waterway, working the corn and soybean fields that are the principal vegetable staples, or out fishing which is the principal protein source for the village. No one looked like they were starving, which was a good thing.

We noticed the number of small children, from infant to age ten or so, were the largest segment of the population. Young girls start becoming pregnant about the age of 14 or 15 and have an average of six children in their lifetime. Paternity is not a critical issue in these parts and most of these women (girls) are never formally married. The village rears all the children and put them to work at an early age. Family is a loose term here.

We enjoyed our visit here and look forward to our trip up the river to Manaus, one of the largest cities in the middle of nowhere on the planet. Until then, God Bless you all,
Jud and Vicki

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