It’s been a long week, but not because it’s been difficult by any means. I spent the entire week either napping in my hammock or doing interviews with different hunters in the community. My buddy Jorge has started to build me a boat called a casco. A casco is 6 meters long, and made from one large piece of wood. It is light enough to be used as a two- or three- person canoe, but also sturdy enough to carry a motor if needed. I think Mike is going to buy me a motor so I can cruise up and down the river whenever, so my boat has to be able to carry that as well. Exciting stuff.
A few weeks ago I fixed someone’s boat motor using a bunch of little tiny super hard seeds as ball bearings and since then everyone has been coming to me for help to fix everything – old electronics, solar panels, motors, whatever. I have been running a little repair shop out of my house. Today I was hanging out with Jairo fixing a fishing net and he asked me to take a look at his motor because it wouldn’t start. The ignition cable was literally separated from the ignition so that was an easy diagnosis. When we started to take it apart, I saw the old cable had been soldered to the ignition piece, and the old piece was still attached to the conductor taking up all the space. I half-heartedly asked Jairo if he had a soldering iron. He laughed. It was going to have to be old school.
I stripped the new wire and tried to tie it around the conductor. No dice. I grabbed a file I use to sharpen my machete and the chainsaw when I use it and started to file the soldered piece down flat against the conductor. Now I was down to the conductor, but still the wire wouldn’t stay tied – I needed to use the hole that was currently filled with molten metal from the previous piece. Plan C.
Jairo found a large rusty nail. He shoved it through a plantain and I had him throw it in the fire. When it was starting to glow on the tip, I yanked it out with a thick towel and used the tip like a soldering iron and the charred plantain like a handle, melting the metal and revealing the hole in the conductor. Marina couldn’t look. I burned my hand pretty badly frying some fish earlier in the week and she kept saying I shouldn’t be touching hot things because I still have three giant holes in my hand. I said you and my mother will get along just fine when she visits. We didn’t have any extra metal to solder with, so I tied the cable to the hole and put the ignition switch and ball bearing back together. Jairo tried the motor and it protested a bit (it’s 12 years old) but it started and stopped when the switch was turned.
Jairo asked me if they teach you to fix motors in school in the United States. I said yes, some people learn to fix motors in school for sure, but I never learned that, I had never done it, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to work until the motor started. Classic Amazonian engineering.
In other news, Pato has moved in with me full time and is living in his beautiful Orapendula nest. He’s super annoying sometimes because he always wants to be on top of you somewhere so if you put him on the ground to do something, he’s climbing up your leg a minute later. When I type on my computer he chases me fingers around the keyboard relentlessly (actually kind of cute because he doesn’t weigh enough to press the keys). Sometimes he catches himself in the reflection in the screen and he freaks out trying to attack. I laugh because the Maijuna use the verb rabiar to describe anger, but the literal translation of rabiar is “to rage”. Marina comes over and laughs at him attacking the screen and yells “Pato is raging! Raging Pato!” Hilarious. Classic translation humor.
Pato’s feathers have almost completely grown in and he has started to learn to fly. Today he had his biggest try yet. I was working on the computer and he was fooling around on the table when suddenly he started running and hopping up in the air, flapping his wings as hard as he could. He’d run a foot, hop and flap, run a foot, hop and flap trying to get airborne. I was laughing at how ridiculous he looked, and then I almost died when he kept going and just launched himself off the side of the table and fell straight to the ground, flapping as he went. I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard. He stopped trying for a few hours after that. I bring him to visit Marina sometimes because I know she loves him still, but this evening I was sitting in my hammock playing the mandolin with Pato when Marina came running over the hill by her house waving. I have two Patos!! she yelled over to me. I was confused of course, so I walked on over. Marina had traded one of her chickens for two little parrots, almost identical to Pato, so that she wouldn’t be lonely now that Pato was living with me for good. I brought Pato over to say hello to his new friends and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. He ran to the other side of the perch, jumped off the end into my lap, and ran up my shorts to hide. He doesn’t want to socialize with anything that isn’t human – he refuses to even look at the other two birds. What a wuss.