September 5, 2018
Monday was meant to be the day of Jairo and Marina’s minga to clear a field of grass and weeds. Two days previously, Marina (with some help from me of course) worked hard all day preparing a whole trough full of masato that had been fermenting in large trash cans ever since. Two days of fermentation produces a moderately strong masato (between 3 and 4% alcohol). Sunday night, however, Jairo decided he was going to go to the doctor on Monday to get his head checked out instead, so the minga got moved to Tuesday and the masato had another full day to ferment. Tuesday I was pumped up to participate in my first minga, and I rolled in to Jairo and Marina’s with my boots and machete at 6am sharp. They had been up since 4am (I saw their lights turn on) prepping the food and masato for the day. At 6am, I was the third person there and the masato was already flowing. No matter how many people are drinking, there are only two or three bowls so when you get handed a bowl full you’re supposed to chug it and hand it back so the next person can have some. I was relieved that I would have a bit of time to drink my first bowl before I had to give it up since not many people had arrived yet. The masato was much stronger and tastier than the last several times I had had it, with an actual alcoholic bite to it. The alcohol taste actually made it easier to stomach and I put away bowl number one. Chugging alcohol at 6am made me get a strong case of dejavu to Delaware (shoutout BHAs). More of the community arrived and I had a solid twenty minute break before I was handed another bowl. I decided that today’s going to be the day where I try to fit in whether I get sick or not, and put away bowl number two. Luckily the next one I was only halfway done when we decided enough people had shown up that we could start. What I didn’t realize was that the 10-gallon buckets full of masato would be coming to the field with us as well. Rookie mistake.
Arriving at Jairo’s field was commemorated with more drinking. Just when I thought I couldn’t do another drop, Jorge asked if I wanted to go clear the east hill with him first and I agreed right away (it was a bit further from the masato buckets). Rookie mistake number two. Two women from the community had come to the minga with the sole job of carrying bowls of masato to all of the people working. Fast forward three hours of swinging a machete at clumps of grass and I was back in my hammock with a bunch of new blisters and the classic headache you get when you exercise after drinking. I noticed all the minga participants heading back to Jairo and Marina’s so I hopped in as well figuring I’ll round out the day with my machete-ing friends. Marina shoved an enormous plate full of pasta, rice, plantains, and fried duck in my hands then quickly followed up with yet another bowl of masato. How could there still be masato left? At this point it was an open invite to the entire community to come and chat and finish the masato buckets, and they didn’t disappoint. A few hours of chatting and jokes followed, with the noise getting steadily louder. I am happy to say that my masato drinking ability was one of the leading conversation topics, and everyone is now equating that with being the final step to me being a true community member of Sucusari. I am now actually a Sucusarino. Awesome.
On an unrelated note, something very strange happened to me that evening. I was upstairs in my house reading in bed under my mosquito net (maybe around 9:30pm, I was close to the end of my book) when there was a lot of flapping and crashing in my house. Next thing I know the flapping is right next to my head, then something had run into my head and was attached to my arm – yes, inside my mosquito net, while laying in bed. Yes, my mosquito net has a door and yes it was closed (I am also confused on that point). Anyway, it was an enormous bat, now attached to me. Safe to say I freaked and threw it off, but then it was just flying in circles in my mosquito net, hitting me constantly. I tripped getting out of my sleeping bag and it finally stopped, hanging on the side of the net. I tried to throw my blanket over it; the blanket dropped off and it started freaking out again. When it settled again I remembered back to the bat expert people – they just grabbed the bats no problem. Granted, those were tiny bats and they had gloves, but still. I went for it. I had it literally in my hand and it spread its wings and wiggled out, then bit me on the shoulder. No, no vampire bats here, yes Mama G I am pretty sure I had a rabies shot. I went to Plan C: I exited the mosquito net and took a photograph. Not sure why I didn’t think about leaving my bed before that point. I opened the net fully and tried to shake the bat out. No dice, he seemed pretty content hanging at the top of the net, chirping. Plan D. Mama G always used the cup/paper plate method to catch dangerous things, I figured that would be solid. I grabbed an empty water bucket and lid and went back in the net slowly. I put the bucket over top of the bat and slowly slid the bucket’s lid along the net until the bat’s claws let go and it dropped in the bucket. Mama G never fails. I took another photograph.
Now I had a large, pissed off bat in a bucket, but it turns out the bat had basically given up. I opened the bucket outside preparing for another fight, but it just dropped out onto the ground outside my house and chilled. When I return home, I will be checking Amazon for bat nets that could possibly augment my mosquito net setup. It’s clearly needed. What a strange experience…