Friday, August 13, 1999

A Return to San Martin Village

It was another 5:30 a.m. rising time. Lilia and I went back to San Martin Village and delivered the school supplies that the research volunteers on the boat had brought for the children at the grammar school. Our guides generously carried two heavy boxes that the student council at my high school had filled with writing tablets, pencils, and pens.

Giving school suppliesIn Spanish, Lilia told the principal of the school that I was a teacher in San Francisco. She also said what was in the boxes and that they were gifts from my students. The principal looked at me, smiled, shook my hand when I extended it and uttered a quiet "Gracias." That ended our brief encounter.

As we turned to walk away, I soon realized that I had missed what the principal had told me. I did not realize that in this culture people rarely show their emotions. On the short walk back to the boat, Lilia said to me, "He was so excited that he could barely talk. That is why he could barely say "Gracias." Also, to look someone in the eyes and to extend a hand to shake is a genuine sign of friendship. "That he shook your hand and looked at you in the eyes is very big," Tamara later told me.

When I went to the village I thought that I would need an interpreter just for the Spanish. I did not realize that I would also need someone to interpret the unspoken language of the eyes and hands as well.


Reflections of the Week

We have been up every morning by 6:00 a.m. We haven't been to bed before midnight and we haven't bathed in anything other than muddy river water for a week. Our bodies are covered in mosquitos bites. Shelly has a rash on her arm that looks pretty gruesome, and some biting insect took on walk up her neck one night while she was sleeping leaving little red marks to show where it had been. Poor Terry spent two days in bed with some yucky stomach bug.

Girl hanging from porchYet not one of us would have missed this adventure for anything. The people we have met have been friendly and kind. The sheer beauty of the river has been overwhelming. After a heavy rain storm that sent us all running for cover during dinner, Tamara ask us if the week had met our expectations. Each one of us said that the trip had more than met our expectations and how fulfilling it had been to be a part of her research.

As for Shelly, Tracy and me, we discovered that we didn't need half the things we had packed in our bags -- items we were certain that we could not live without before leaving home. We also discovered how smart we were in packing every piece of equipment and all accompanying cables in our carryon luggage. There were at least three times during the week when we thought we could no longer send information because of equipment problems. Each time we managed to solve the problem and transmit the data, even when it meant staying up half the night.

Our "office"Our "office" while on the Delfin was Tracy's 6 by 8 foot cabin. Often times all three of us were there working with all our computers connected together. The one outlet had a South American to a North American plug adapter, an electrical current converter and a grounded to an ungrounded adapter plugged into it. There was something plugged into this "contraption" at all times.Outlet

Each one of us has been touched by Tamara's dedication to her research and the difficult conditions under which she sometimes must collect her data. Her empathy and compassion for the local people which she encounters while doing her research were always evident. We found her sense of humor very enjoyable.

The crew not only made our stay on the Delfin comfortable, but they were more than willing to share their stories about their lives with us. They laughed with us at our feeble attempts to speak Spanish, and were as delighted as we were whenever the dolphins or other animals appeared. We are very grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge of the forest and the river with us. As for Bill, Sally, Pat, Terry, Marty, and Lilia -- we couldn't have asked for more enjoyable companions. From the moment our luggage didn't arrive -- and we all had to share clothing -- to the very last morning, everyone had a sense of humor and camaraderie that we won't soon forget.


And where are the dolphin pictures?

By now you've seen lots of pictures of our new American and Peruvian friends, and you're probably wondering when we're going to post dolphin pictures.

We've come to the conclusion that if it were easy to get pictures of the dolphins living in the Amazon River and its tributaries, then more people would know about them. Their shyness in front of the camera has been a source of frustration for all of us on the Delfin. This picture below is typical of most of our dolphin sightings -- and photos.

We HAVE, though, managed to capture the dolphins (both the boto and the tucuxi) on videotape. We hope to get our film onto a computer for editing shortly after we return to the United States and take off individual frames and place them on our website.

If any of our new friends have any prints, we'll post them, too. Taking pictures of dolphins has proved to be so difficult that Sally is sketching pictures of dolphins. At least she'll have one image to take home.


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