Monday, March 17, 2008

Farewell churrascaria

The campaign is over, and after a flurry of calibrating and packing, we finished up on Saturday. There was a great sense of relief that the work was finished and a slowly growing sense of how exhausted we all were. But more than that, I felt sad to leave this home. But what a send-off we received!

A few days ago, the cook asked me when I was leaving, and apparently made some pretty impressive arrangements. On Friday afternoon, a truck arrived with a massive amount of food - including my absolute favourite fish, tambaqui. On Saturday morning, a full churrascaria was set up - a large metal barbeque stand, with layers to grill the meat. Friends started to arrive on Saturday morning as well - mostly to help with final packing of all the instruments, but also a few extras... There were only three of us scientists left - the three girls - but we were given special treatment. Beers, guarana, and then we were taught to make caipirinhas. I don't know if I'll be able to recreate the cocktails, as they were pretty potent. This was all before lunch. I spent most of the time after the boxes had left (so from about 9:30am to 1:30pm) hanging out at the churrascaria learning the secrets from the cook.

He out-did himself - the fish was sublime. Roasted to perfection, with just some lime and butter for flavour. I hear that the roasted chicken and grilled steak was also pretty spectacular. There were salads on the side, and fresh watermelon for dessert. When the trucks that had taken our boxes to Manaus returned, they brought the families of various workers to the site. Many cervejas were drunk, as was chachaca with the bark of a liana infused into it.

I decided not to head back to Manaus right after lunch, and took a last walk to the stream with the INPA students. We went swimming, which was a perfect end to the day. I made it back to Manaus that night, happy, satisfecha (full!), and feeling rather sentimental. It's a stressful place to live - I won't miss looking for snakes on the way to the bathroom. Or finding snakes on the way to the bathroom. But I will miss my hammock. And the pool games (we had a final epic series of games on Friday night). The breakfasts of polenta and fried dough. And the constant sound of insects and birds.

There is something special about the Amazon - it's not just the plants or the animals or the daily downpour. Perhaps it originates from the isolation or the inevitable understanding of how small humanity is in the face of this enormous forest. Either way, I will miss it. But not so much that I am willing to delay my vacation! It's on to Sao Paulo this afternoon for five days, followed by Rio. A few days in one of the largest cities in the world seems like a good way to recover...

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