Letter to a Sister: Brazil

Monday 22nd June
Yesterday was a day off, which was good. Had hotel breakfast: melon, cake and something like a set egg custard. Not unpleasant.
Saw a capuchin monkey in a tree in hotel garden. Very cute. Then had lazy day. Drove around town, did very little. Didn’t go to a church as they were all a distance away and started at 7pm and Tearfund has a policy that you shouldn’t drive at night in developing countries for safety reasons. It gets dark really fast here. Dawn is 5am, dusk is about 5pm and it’s pitch black by 5:30. Same all year round. No seasons, except that June and July have more rain.
Today we drove to see three rural projects. The charity tends to work with women and teenagers. This is partly because there is a lot of domestic abuse and it helps to empower the women and girls if they have a trade, are not at home all day completely dependent. It helps them have a sense of self worth, have rights ( at the very least the right to not be abused.)
They have also found that when a woman earns money, she tends to use it to improve the whole family. If men earn money, they tend to get distracted and spend it on alcohol, gambling, etc.
The first project was a small farm. Originally it had provided food for just the family, sustenance farming. This left no safety net if crops failed, more money needed for improvements, etc. The charity provided knowledge and tools. The women now produce enough to provide for their families and also sell some. We saw a warehouse where they were preparing the food – fruits, bread, honey – for sale. Some goes to market, some is sold to the government for schools and hospitals and the proceeds then ploughed back into more charity work in the community.
We went to see Rosa ( so wish I could show you a photo of her house but cannot figure out this machine!) We sat on brightly coloured furniture in her little sitting room. The walls were bright red, strewn with pictures of Jesus and photos of her grandchildren. There was a large tele with a statue of Father Christmas on top ( wondered if her grandsons have the same sense of humour as my boys and they were ‘gifts’ or if she had chosen it.) The internal doorways had no doors, just curtains. There was no ceiling and you could see up to the roof tiles ( which had big gaps in them.) It wasn’t a bad house – as long as it didn’t rain. Not quite sure what happened to the tele when it did.
We went off round her garden. Saw lots of the normal crops ( onions, marrows) and also bananas, cashew nuts, medicinal herbs. Her kitchen had huge freezer where the produce could be crushed, bagged and frozen ( the charity had given her the crushing and bagging machines and helped sort out the irrigation system. It was a really dry area.)
Drove to next project. Saw big expanses of arid land with a few shrubs and tall spindly palm trees. Also saw lots of donkeys pulling carts of stuff and even two oxen pulling a cart of logs. Would be SUCH a cool photo. I have lots of blurry ones. Mainly of trees. Lots of animals as we drove: goats, hens, cats and dogs everywhere we go.
Went to San Jose do Egypt, which translates as ” Saint Joseph from Egypt”. They had never heard of the Technicolour Dream-coat musical and were somewhat bemused when Barbie started singing it to them (so were we.) Went to cafe for lunch. Everywhere much cleaner than I was expecting it to be. We were advised to not eat the salads, which was a shame as they looked fabulous.
Went to a bakery. Charity had again provided equipment and education. It was MILES. From anywhere. Was so glad they had a toilet ( very bumpy track to get there.)
We got out the van and the heat from the sun was boiling, so hurried into the bakery. Then we nearly melted. Was like entering a furnace. They keep the door shut so the flies stay out but opened them when we arrived ( so it immediately filled up with flies. Glad they don’t make currant bread.) Two girls and a teenaged boy worked there. They showed us how all the machines work, made some bread and cooked some rolls in the wood fuelled oven. We then ate warm loaves and coffee. The best coffee ever, even in a disposable plastic cup that burnt your fingers. Hot, black and sweet.
Luiz translated for us. We asked him to ask them what they had for lunch. Not bread. Bread is for dinner, pasta is for lunch ( was not the silly question we had all assumed.)
Drove to a bee farm. Luiz now censoring our questions. When David asked him to ask the Bruce Springsteen look alike farmer what instrument he played, he checked with me first if that was a serious question ( it wasn’t.)
Looked around the farm. Tearfund had provided funding for wells to be dug so production could increase ( it’s a semi arid area, lots of cacti) Saw the bees. Saw turkeys ( which really do ‘gobble’!)
Then had one of those horribly awkward moments when the granny on the farm called us all into her house and sat us down for drinks and snacks. She had prepared vats of juice for us, all prepared with local water which would have made us ill. Luiz had disappeared, she had gone to a lot of effort, we didn’t want to offend her nor be ill all night. I used my best Portuguese and apologised that we couldn’t drink it because….. had to mime last bit, my Duolingo app never taught me how to say that! Thankfully Luiz came back and explained a bit better. Felt bad. Difficult situation. Escaped to car.
We drove for miles on unmade tracks. Passed lots of small farms. They have no address, no street names. Also the area is about to be flooded as they are building a huge dam. All the farmers will have to be rehoused. (Our bee farmer and fruit juice granny will be okay, are out of range.)
Drove back to Ant Hotel.

Take care

Anne xx

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