What is a day like for us in the Amazon? It is both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Some days seem to fly by, some days are more tiring, some days feel purposeful and kind of exciting, other days feel monotonous.
Every day is different. We have even decided to run our weeks differently than “the outside world,” because trying to rest at home in our house on weekends often has proved ineffective. We found that weekends are when people from other communities come to visit those here or play soccer. It’s kind of hard to take a day of rest trying to relax in your house when there are people all around outside yelling. We hear the continual sound of the soccer ball being booted across the soccer field that sits right next to our house. Sometimes a boombox is even brought, treating everyone to repetitive forró (Brazilian country) for hours on end. It has worked out a lot better for us to take a day toward the middle of the week as “our” Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes even that day is flexible if other opportunities come up or someone shows up on our doorstep. Our poor boys are always thrown for a loop, and sometimes we are too, as to which days are “our” Saturday and Sunday and which days are the “real” Saturday and Sunday.
Around the world, every missionary’s situation and surroundings are different around. Where their house is situated within a community can make a difference as to the amount of people and noise are all around them within feet of their house every day. Some live in huge communities, others like us live in very small ones. This affects how many people are knocking at the door all day wanting to visit, or wanting to borrow or have something, or needing medical attention. Some missionaries have several people on their team, others like us, have just a few, which makes the load heavier for how much each missionary has to deal with.
Life for us here is slowly becoming more normal after being interior off and on over the course of a few years. Adjusting from life in the United States to life off-grid in the Amazon jungle with a people whose culture is very different is quite a drastic change. At least I grew up on a farm, and Brian grew up on the mission field, so both of us find this kind of life more appealing in a lot of ways than living in a big city. I love the green and the rivers, and I don’t mind the outdoors. (I just always keep an eye out for snakes and spiders and woolly caterpillars. Down here, you don’t want to touch a caterpillar, because some of them can sting you.)
What does a specific day look like for us here? In a lot of ways, it’s pretty normal, and we find we hold to fairly the same schedule wherever we are, whether it’s in our interior home, out in town, in the big city, or in the States. Our waking up and going to bed times do seem to be earlier in the interior though. The people just about go to bed with the sun, so if we stray from that by too many hours and roll out of bed late at 7:30 am, Brian will miss out on heading out to go do whatever the men are doing such as tagging along on a hunting expedition.
Wherever we are, we always have breakfast, of course, and then our son D works on school. He does it online here interior. This is a newer and huge blessing for us, because doing life down here just takes so much longer for me. I make much more of our food from scratch than in the States, do laundry (in the interior it’s with a more manual twin tub washer), and I hang it on the line to dry. There are a few subjects I do personally teach or guide through. We do school year-round so we can take breaks as needed, like when we go to town for supplies where we ironically DON’T have good internet, so he would have to do all paper schoolwork and be taught. But I can’t really think about much else while concentrating on what we need to buy and get done in town, so often he gets to have a break from school and play creatively with his brother J.
Brian’s tasks vary, depending on where we are. In town, he’s often out and about much of the day going from store to store looking for what we need to buy or getting other business done. When we’re interior, he goes out after breakfast to see what the guys are up to, if they’re going hunting, or fishing, or after something in the jungle such as açaí, or clearing their gardens (during dry season), or if it seems like they’ll just be sitting around a bit that day. Brian spends his time listening to the people speaking, noticing new words or things he doesn’t understand, as well as noting cultural things. He also talks and asks questions. Often, he will try to get help with specific words or pieces of language he’s trying to discover more about.
Our main focus right now is learning the language and culture of the people so we can communicate with them in their language, the language they understand best. This process we call “culture and language acquisition” or, CLA. It is really neat to me to see how far Brian has already come in his understanding and ability to speak the language. He is much further than me, because that’s what he spends most of his time doing.
Lately, since it is dry season, the trail to the next community has appeared (usually it’s underwater during rainy season). Also, more people are around since they can’t get to town as easily on our currently extremely shallow smaller river. Brian has been going often to the next community to spend time with the people there. More bilingual people live there, so he has been able to get a lot more language questions answered, which is a huge help.
Besides doing CLA, the other main thing we are doing right now is relationship building. Having an actual, meaningful relationship with the people here will give them much more of a reason to listen to what we have to say when we are able to share with them about the God of the Bible.
Some of what we do is also helping the people and surrounding neighbors. As many of you know from our newsletters and our old blog, we and our coworker, Ed, helped the people put in a boardwalk for the long muddy stretch from the river to their community. The church we attend in town also helped us put in a one-room classroom building here. We have taught some literacy and math classes. We are still teaching some when the people are here and interested. We also dug a well for ourselves, which we are currently sharing with the people. We want to do another one closer to all their houses someday before too long. Brian also helps fix motors and other parts with his tools as well as lending tools out all the time. We get to be the hands and feet of Jesus to meet physical needs until we can also share His message to meet spiritual needs.
One of the blessings we have in our lifestyle is that we usually get to eat three square meals a day together as a family. If Brian is close enough to home, he comes home for a little morning snack break too, and then goes back out to be with the people for a little while longer before coming home to work on the computer for a while before lunch. We are always home together for supper in the evening too.
My days look quite different from Brian’s. It’s up to me to get food on the table, wash clothes, supervise the kids and try to keep them learning what they should. I also try to keep the house clean-ish, which is not my gift, especially when I clean cobwebs and they just return the next day. It feels like an overwhelming, losing battle. At least the boys are getting older now, so they can at least start helping sweep the floor.
Besides all of the above things, I also need to try to get CLA learning in on top of everything. Don’t ask us missionary mom’s how we do everything. I think many of us would honestly say we don’t know. We just do life, and somehow something gets done, kids get raised, and somehow some language is learned and relationships are built and people are helped. Probably many things get missed along the way, and we just have to trust the Lord to show us each day what’s most important.
Brian goes out in the jungle way more often than the boys and I. The boys and I usually stay home mornings. That’s just what seems to work out best for us. Of course, anything at home can be interrupted when Brazilian neighbors from upriver stop by to borrow a tool or gas and stay for hours talking. At least once in a while we are able to share nuggets of truth with them. Or, kids from our community here want to play, and we have to say, “Not now, later. D is studying.” Or, someone from our community or the next one down wants to buy or borrow gas or a tool or just wants us to charge their cell phone (like, almost every day). Many times, the calling at our door starts as early as 6:00 am, once in a while even earlier.
J plays happily while D studies, or sometimes he watches the stuff D is learning online. D and I are working on helping him learn his letters and numbers.
The boys often get a little playtime together in the house in later morning. Sometimes I also send them outside. Then on “weekdays,” they watch downloaded cartoons in Portuguese. This way they can keep up on hearing and understanding Portuguese since they aren’t around it as much here interior. It is helpful to know, since it is what everyone speaks in town and everywhere else outside our community. It seems to be working, because recently, J had started randomly asking throughout the day what different things in Portuguese mean. The boys look forward to “Saturdays,” because that’s when we let them watch in English. Just like looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons in your childhood, right?
I’ve figured out that for me, it’s a challenge to get both laundry done and cooking lunch in the same day. Where we are in Brazil, lunch seems to be the big meal of the day, and we’ve adopted that. It does work easier (probably healthier too) to eat the big meal in the middle of the day, and then have a lighter meal in the evening. Up here near the equator, with it consistently getting dark between 5:45 and 6:30 pm year-round, people take advantage of the daylight and just eat a snack around 4 pm and then a later supper after dark. (This is in reference to the Brazilian culture at large up here. The people in our community seem to eat three similarly sized meals a day, plus snack all the time on whatever is available, such as fruit, farinha, etc.)
For me, when I cook lunch, it works best to make several meals worth of food so we can just reheat and eat it for several days. I’m not sure that’s very Brazilian. I think the culture at large likes to cook fresh every day, and at least outside of the cities, it’s all pretty much from scratch. Even that is definitely a culture difference in this country as a whole compared to that in the States. Although, one handy thing is that down here, if you’re in town and don’t have time to cook lunch, you can go to family-owned restaurants and pick up covered pie tins of home cooked food. When we are in town, I definitely take advantage of this, as I’m sometimes running around so much or just busy getting things around, packing, or whatever, that I really don’t have time to cook. Buying ready-made food in town is really a treat, since interior we rarely have the option to eat anything except what I cook. Unless it’s hotdogs, if I want a break, I have to plan and cook ahead.
I try to alternate cooking days, laundry days, and random stuff days since it seems like somehow one thing can easily take up all morning. Some days I do clothes laundry, some days I do bedding and towels. Everything has to line dry, so I either have to get it all hung and dried while there’s sun outside, or have indoor space to hang it, which in our little house is a challenge. I try to cook lunch on other days and sometime in there make bread every week or two for our suppers. There are always random things needing done, like cleaning something, or sewing a rip on some clothes. When we go to town, I do my supply inventory beforehand and also gather a few things to take back with us. When in town, I pack up all the supplies to come back interior, and once we’re back interior, I have to organize and putting away said supplies.
Spending time with the people and doing CLA while having the challenge of just living a more tiring, hands-on-work lifestyle has been kind of a puzzle to work through, especially as the only lady on our team. I have had to do everything without ever having another lady to swap children supervision with or share any other tasks or needs with. Our household afternoon rest time has proven to be a good time for me to work on the computer entering language/culture info or reviewing material. Usually, I have to lay down for a little bit first to get refreshed, because the heat just wears me out.
Later afternoon is the time the boys and I usually go out and spend time among the people. There have been times we broke up the routine and have gone out in the morning with the someone to their garden, and more recently, we have hiked several times with Brian to the neighboring community. But usually, afternoon is my time with the people. Many times, during rainy season, we do have to be flexible because of the rain. Generally, it’s easier for me to focus on home and family and all the work I need to do in the morning (and now with schooling the boys too), and then switch gears and do language and culture stuff in the afternoon. Even when we’re staying in mission guest housing in town or the big city or in the States, the late afternoon is when I always for sure send the boys outside to get fresh air and get out their wiggles. But being interior is the difference between that time being “work” time for Brian and I continuing to work on CLA, or it being a time to play with the boys, hang in a hammock, or visit with people or other missionaries, depending on wherever we are and who is around us.
When I go out in the afternoon in our community, I go around to the people’s houses, observing what they’re doing. For me, I’m with the ladies, so I see them preparing hunted meat or fish, or cooking, eating, washing dishes or clothes, or just sitting talking and watching kids, or doing something like making baskets. Our boys play with the kids nearby while I listen to the language around me, noting new things I hear or questions I have. Sometimes I record things to review later or to have Brian or someone else listen to and translate. I speak when I can, and it’s rewarding when the people understand.
When it starts getting dark, we come home and shower. Showering at night is the Brazilian way. It makes sense after sweating all day to go to bed clean. Sometimes people even shower twice or more in a day. It makes sense. It often does help cool you off (I say often, because sometimes when it’s extremely hot it doesn’t really seem to make a difference!). We finally got an on-demand gas water heater here interior, which is a big deal to us. Air temperature water isn’t as terrible when the air is in the upper 80’s and 90’s, but when the temps dip lower than 70 degrees during “friagens” in the summer, when cold weather blows in from the south for days or a week or more, it is like ice to have to shower with cold air around you. You may not think it’s that cold, but when you live here long enough, you adjust to the heat, so less than 75 degrees actually feels cold. Just imagine taking a room temperature shower in 60 degrees where you are. It’s not something you would look forward to.
After showers, we have supper around 6:30 pm, give or take. We are usually ready by around 7:15 pm to do an evening activity. We alternate between story reading nights or listening to audio dramas, Bible questions night, Bible verse memory night, game night, watching movies or shows together or separately. When Ed is around, we have team worship/sharing/prayer meetings together twice a week. In town, we might go to church one or two evenings during the week. (Sunday night is the big service down here like Sunday morning is in the U.S.)
Then it’s bedtime! Then we get up and do it again the next day. Who knows who will stop by, or what cultural experience will be taking place for us to observe or join in. Every day has the same things yet different things, and each day we need the grace and strength of God and wisdom and understanding to deal with things that come our way. We have the privilege of serving Him in this place for however long He has us here, and we have no regrets.