When in BrazilI

I pull on my long socks and tuck them into my quick drying pants. I pull out my trusty roll of duck tape and wrap it generously around my pants and then lace up my tennis shoes. I am ready. I step outside, breathing in the pantanal and then head to the hammocks. I am the first one here, as always. So I sit myself in my favorite hammock and begin sway myself anxiously. I am beyond excited.

My smile has more than quadrupled in size and width since arriving in the pantanal, the size is not an exaggeration by the way, if I knew how to say 5 or 6 times bigger I would, but the biggest thing I knew was quadruple, sadly. It seems like a natural thing here, to smile, I think I might even sleep with a smile plastered to my face. I cannot think of a time when I have been happier. It’s incredibly hard to contain myself at the moment, all I feel like doing is jumping out of the hammock and running around the pousada dancing, singing and anything else embarrassing I can think of. I pull my teeth over my lower lip, trying to suppress the length of the smile.

The first one ready, besides me of course, is surprisingly Jake He walks slowly; taking his time, then just as slowly sits down in the hammock opposite from me and smiles. I try to smile back normally, but my face erupts back to the huge watermelon smile I started of with. His smile grows. “Excited?” He asks. I nod quickly. I can’t stop my feet from taping. We have a conversation but I never concentrate on what he said, the excitement is overwhelming!

Soon, everyone gathers around the hammock area and we start chattering quickly like a family of guinea pigs. My enthusiasm is ardent, but I suppose that is normal for everyone now, I’ve been excited for every activity so far. I wait for everyone to go ahead of me as I let my enthusiasm get the best of me.

Jenny stays behind as well to keep me company, but I warned her! I begin to skip like I have never skipped before and head towards the others. Jenny stares at me at first than follows my lead. Once we reach the bridge we have caught up to everyone. Maso is taking us in to the Bahia reminding us that this is actual work to find frogs, but that wouldn’t stop any of us from having any fun that’s for sure! He explains the safety precautions; shuffle your feet in case of stingrays, and that the stick is not a weapon, several of the boys awe at this and he continues with his explanation.

We are not suppose to talk and to stay as a group. But then he mentions the anacondas… Up until that point I was more that determined to go into the Bahia, but the thought of stealthy anacondas lurking in these waters scarred me out of it. I look around; everyone seems just as dandy as when we first started. Gulp…We are suppose to use the stick to check before we step for any caiman or…anacondas….I am really rethinking this now. But I cant back out now, can I?

I decide if anyone else decides to stay I will to but as soon as Maso asks, are you ready? Everyone immediately answers in unison, yes! I am not feeling so confident, Maso looks at me, everyone looks at me, gulp…I analyze the situation. This is once in a lifetime, this is Brazil, and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life! Also analyzing the social impact of this a few points are against me, 1.this may sound stupid, but my rep. I do not want to look like the girly girl or a scardy cat. 2. Everyone is counting on me. I mean I’m the girl who does everything!

I have been horseback riding 3 times, once with the pantaneros I might add, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to see the sunrise, I went on all the night walks, I went on all the exploration walks, I love data entrée, I canoed 3 times when no one else wanted to, I love scat cleaning, pretty much I love anything that is thrown at me! I realize that this trip has made me a lot of things, flexible, open, happy, enthusiastic, but it has not made me a coward! I’m in. I announce. Wow I have even improved on my acting skills here too!!

Because as confident as I sound I am petrified! I gulp, the last one to step into the putrid water as I take a big breath and take the first step. Slugsh!! The noise under my feet is disgusting as my tennis shoes become trapped by the muck. All I want to do now is run back to the shore as quickly as I can, but I know it is far too late. Why did ever I get myself into this?

I am beginning to regret my decision now… You are suppose to check for animals by swishing your bamboo stick through the water before you step but it seems like I am the only one doing that. Everyone is way ahead of me! It seems like they want to get eaten! They are practically running towards the waist deep water! You are also to shuffle your feet when you walk for stingrays but it seems like with every shuffle I get one more mile behind!

I soon give up on the shuffling, the anacondas are my real problem, and fear. I don’t talk, that was what we were suppose to do, but I had no one to talk to any way. Everyone was laughing, way up ahead of me. Why were they were plainly ignoring the rules! I rolled my eyes, o well, I can do this, at my own pace. And then suddenly Roger yells he felt something. I gulp…my eyes widen. I am behind of him, a far way back, but still it freaks me out! Roger explains to Maso what he felt and Maso immediately says, “O yes it’s an anaconda.”

My mouth falls open and I almost leap out of the water. WHAT! Does he really want to kill me that bad! Because that almost gave me a freaking heart attack! I look around, despite the fact I can’t see anything in this brown swamp trying to spot anything, anything in this water! But I don’t even know why I try sometimes, yet another thing to add to my endless list of my futile attempts at many things, most pointless or hopeless. I try to take my stick, but it is stuck in a huge wad of reeds.

I pull as hard as I can but it truly is impossible. I give up and instead clutch the stick for protection and comfort from witch I get none. I finally manage to pry the stick form the angry reeds and trudge on. No anaconda will stop me now, considerably slow me down yes, but stop me, never! The waters surface is getting thicker and thicker with reeds and soon it is practically impossible to walk any further. This is going to be harder than I thought!

I am so slow! The anaconda alarm literally scarred me out of my shoes. I felt weak after the alarm, it scarred me pretty bad and managed to make me extra paranoid. I keep walking and then I feel something with my stick. I gulp. It is round, and smooth, and really big. It is shaped like a log, on the bottom of the bahia, right in front of my feet. My eyes widen and my breathing quickens. O no, not this again! Breathe! I tell myself, get it together!

I feel like screaming for help but that is the girly thing to do, I don’t even know why I care so much, I know I am braver than all the guys put together. But what if it isn’t an anaconda and it’s just a log or something, then what? O sorry! Yea right! I cant do that again! I gather up my strength, suspense building, I grasp my stick and stab the water furiously. Again and again I cut the water until I am sure if it is an anaconda it is either dead or left its spot and moved on.

I closed my eyes through it all and then open them up slowly, one at a time. WAIT! What was I thinking! Anacondas have one of the toughest skins of any reptile! O but my little sharpened bamboo stick can penetrate anything! O yea! God! I hold my breath and move my foot around slowly, very slowly, around the water. It’s still there… My eyes widen and my whole body freezes. I have no idea of what to do but run. I pick up one foot slowly and pass it over the circumference of the…object. Easy does it, I tell myself.

That thought doesn’t last and soon I am miles away from the object. I keep telling myself it wasn’t the anaconda but my paranoia got the best of my, as always. I am not usually like this, the situation has to be relatively extreme for me to become like this. I am very proud of myself at this moment, but my ego is crushed as I see everyone else at the far side of the bahia. O my god! They’re like caimans in the water! Ahh!! I squeal to myself as I pick up the pace. Traveling as a group yea right!

If I want to cross this huge bahia I am going to have to go faster than this, so I decide to abandon the stick idea all together. So I begin to leap across the bahia feeling like a gazelle, well a very slow, ungraceful and
uncoordinated gazelle. I am relived no one is watching me because I probably look like some demented ballerina or crazed rabbit. I am close enough to everyone feel safe again; Eric is only a few meters away from me. I sigh from relief and Gabe glances back at me. “Hi!” He says. I smile back relived to be within a 5 mile radius of human beings again.

Then suddenly Gabe snaps his head back to where he’s facing in alarm. My muscles tighten instantly as he does.

He quickly turns back to me and says, “There’s a caiman in the water…it just passed me” My eyes widen. O please not this! I let myself breathe and realize Eric is in clear water. I am ok, I tell myself. And then I see it. It is just floating on the surface far from us now, but not far enough. I tell myself. Anaconda… My thoughts taunt me. I jump up try and sprint to where everyone else is. But I am trapped. O my god! Why is this happening to me! My stick is impaled in the muddy bottom.

I pull on it with all my might. I am trapped. The more I pull the deeper the stick falls. It is really stuck! I push and pull on the stick furiously and just as I begin to free it my foot makes a slushy noise and becomes ensnared in the mud. I roll my eyes. I try lifting it back out but it is impossible, so I try the stick again. No use. I quickly lift up and push down with both my feet, like marching but just as I think I am in the clear both my feet sink into the mush. Ahh! Gabe is well ahead of me now with everyone else is. Perfect. Now I’m behind again. Suddenly Gabe turns back to me. I do not want to look like I need help.

So I smile pathetically and hang on to my sinking stick, since it is my only sense of balance now. He gives me a puzzled look and goes back to his work. I sigh, but now what? I am still stuck. We don’t say a word but we were having a conversation. Do you need help? He asks. No, thanks I’m ok, I say. Hmm, I don’t think so. He answers. No really, I insist. You need help, I think I should come back to help you. No really. I respond. He shrugs and gives me one last look but all I do is smile. He clearly does not buy my lie, but eventually moves on, and I sigh from relief. It’s about time! My stick is falling deeper into the dark water and as my only sort of balance I am falling with it.

I am falling slowly but steadily towards the waters surface towards my doom. This is not a comfortable position. I finally free my feet and then pull out the stick. I have reached the clear water. Yes! I finally join the whole group after a horribly long, exhausting, and courageous battle with the monsters of the Brazilian bahia. I look up and make eye contact with Jake smiling, he smiles back and I walk on proudly. I wonder if anyone knows what I just went through.

But then just as everything was going swell again the mosquitoes attack. Ahhh! My only negative experience from Brazil…the horrible bugs. And that is pretty impressive since I am the most pessimistic person I know. We are heading back now, and my excitement builds all over again. Its not that I didn’t like it but I was ready to be out of the water, I have never been waterlogged. I begin moving faster anxiously as I imagine my cool shower and getting out of my wet clothes. But just as I reach a good speed my feet become trapped again. What is wrong with me! Grrr!

I begin the marching routine again and with it come the fart noises. I march in place for what seems like hours as everyone gets farther and farther away. I jump up and down now, furiously. I see someone holding out their hand. I look up, it’s Jake. I smile sheepishly. He smiles and raises his eyebrows. I can’t pretend I don’t need help anymore. I am falling in quicksand. I hold out both my arms and Jake grabs hold off them. Everyone is watching now, and after a tug my feet are free! But my balance has never been good, and just as I am freed of the marshy mess I find myself falling back down into it. My butt is soaked; my whole body is soaked now.

I hold up my mud encrusted hands and look up at Jake. Jake? I look in front of my. He is also wallowing in the bahia. We all laugh but I cut the laughter short, anxious to get out. I hurry up the pace and what do you know, I get caught again. I make a small distressed noise and Jake looks back turning away quickly seeing I am stuck. Hey! I call out. He turns back to me laughing and helps me out once more, this time pulling more gently on my arms. We are so close to the edge I feel like swimming out, if it makes it any faster. I reach the edge, surprisingly faster than anyone else. “Wait!” Lily our facilitator yells agitatedly at me once I’m already out of the water on solid land.

“Get back in there; I’m going to take a picture!” I huff and reluctantly return to the water edge. One foot in, then the other, I can’t believe I doing this again…I stand stand next to Jake and smile. Ok! I think we have all had enough of this little adventure. Lisa snaps the picture and I fly out of the water followed by everyone else. It is getting dark, nearing dinner time and I haven’t even showered. Caught in a daze I forget to call shower and am forced to be the last. But its all good, when in brazil.

OK that was a true anecdote of my trip to Brazil, I went to a part called the Pantanal, the largest continues wetland on the planet. I went there with a team of 9 kids from around the world, 2 scientists and two facilitators. The organization I went with is called earthwatch, www.earthwatch.org I really recommend it, basically you can go anywhere in the world to help with actual scientific research, if your into animals, archeology or science check it out, it will be the BEST SUMMER OF YOUR LIFE! Trust me you will not regret it!





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

smallchild said...
Feb. 28, 2009 at 5:42 pm
This is a great story! Especially since it's from a teenager! Vote for it!
 
diegobarrenechea said...
Mar. 1, 2009 at 2:51 am
SOFIA!!! omg this is an amazing story! and im so happy for u that ur on the front page! since i met u i knew that u where going to do something that will change the world!!
Ur an amazing writer and i cant wait to read more!!
XOXOX
Diego Barrenechea
 
sofihuasteca said...
Feb. 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm
PLEASE COMMENT AND VOTE!
 
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