August 29. 2018
I think everyone is probably getting tired of reading about my daily life since it’s been pretty slow, so I figure I’ll start to blog about more specific topics that come to my mind. The first one is culture shock! The Maijuna live their lives very differently than we do (obviously) and I have had to adapt to quite a few things on the fly. You may have noticed a few so far, but here are some notable ones:
Meals. Typically, only one “meal” is eaten each day, at around 11am. If there is food readily available, this could expand to two big meals and a mini meal. This means two main things. First, when the Maijuna eat, MAN can they eat. They will put away pounds and pounds of food in a sitting. Second, the concept of certain foods being for breakfast and some for dinner doesn’t exist. I am just as likely to get fried fish or spaghetti and chicken at 5am as I am at 7pm.
Bedtimes. Even though lots of people have solar lights in their houses, almost everyone’s sleep schedule still follows the sun. By 5:15am the sun is starting to peek out and most people have already had a good start to the day. Similarly, at 7:30pm it is completely dark and almost all of the houses in the community are dark and quiet.
Bathing. Everyone bathes in the river, including me. It’s actually nice and refreshing, and at night you can sit and look at the Milky Way while you soap yourself. Anyway, this kind of non-private communal bathing thing has resulted in a habit of everyone constantly asking if you’re going to bathe. I could be walking to the river with a bar of soap and a towel in my hand, and five people will ask on the way “Are you going to bathe??” No, I am going to fish with soap as bait. As soon as the soccer game is done or we get back from a hike, everyone begins to ask again. It’s immediate. I took a while to get used to everyone caring when I was going to bathe and I am still certain that when I do bathe, by the time I get to the river the whole community knows.
Etiquette. I think etiquette in some form exists everywhere, but is always one of the most difficult things to learn. Some key points here that I have picked up on. When you are done eating, you thank everyone in the room (or in the vicinity if you’re outside). It doesn’t matter if you cooked the entire meal and served everyone, or if you were all guests in someone’s house. Similarly, every time someone finishes eating and thanks the room, you’re to say “Provecho!” in return. Whenever you want to visit someone, you always stop at the door and ask for permission to enter, even if you’ve been invited in by someone one second earlier. When your foot hits that threshold, you have to ask. If you’re seeking someone out and going to their house to chat or ask a favor or something, you announce your presence at the door or outside by making a hooting noise like an owl. I don’t know why, but that’s just what everyone does. I like it. One small final note, nobody eats with knives here. You choose a fork or spoon as your weapon of choice. When you’re eating meat, it always has bones still in it, so the polite way to eat is to hold your utensil in your right hand, and just hold the meat itself with your left. I like this one too because I like to picture myself shoveling pasta and oatmeal in my mouth while also holding a large smoked deer leg. Welcome to breakfast in Sucusari.
Shaking hands. The Maijuna also shake hands to greet people, but it’s a bit more extensive. When you meet someone the first time, you shake their hand. If you run into someone while walking, you shake their hand. Every time you want to say good morning to someone, you walk over and shake their hand as well. The rule I have come to live by here is that if you’re about to talk to someone that you haven’t spoken to for at least 30 minutes, you shake their hand.
Weather. Here in the rainforest, a bright hot sunny day turns into a raging thunderstorm with torrential rain and booming thunder and lightning in minutes. Oh, and it does this almost every day. People barely even notice. Sure, if the rain is hard enough, people will head inside to wait it out (if they aren’t playing soccer or fishing) but I am convinced nobody in Maijuna history has been struck by lightning. No matter how loud the thunder gets and how bright the lightning flashes are, the soccer game goes on, the kids keep playing in the mud and jumping in the river, and work may continue.
Sundays. Hope you don’t have anything important to do on a Sunday, because nobody’s down with that. Sunday is the lay-in-a-hammock-all-day day.
Dirt. In the Amazon, the dirt is thick and sticky. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t mind being covered in mud at all, the but the Maijuna care even less. All day they walk around without shoes, their feet covered in the thick clay. When it rains, half of the soccer field floods but the game goes on. Everyone walks away as one big brown blob from the tackles and slides in ankle-deep mud. Even when you’re bathing, you can’t get out of the river without your feet being covered in clay. I’ve adapted to this pretty well, but if you come visit me, embrace the dirt!
I am definitely learning more every single day, but I hope this post highlights a few cultural differences that may not be as obvious as some others in my writing or photographs. As always, here’s a set of random images that I have taken in the past few days! One is Pato eating his morning breakfast. Then a series of Jairo and Marina beginning to make Masato for a minga they want to have in three days. Then a portrait of Shebaco and his son Danielito, with his large mound of food after my house minga. Then two portraits of Ignacio and Marcos. Marcos is making a cumba for my house - a thatch weave that goes at the highest point, the ridge, to stop water from leaking through the roof join.