Monday, 9 August 2010

Children With Canoes.

Ok, I admit I was wrong again. When I wrote that small post about Maria Fumaça and elaborated on the singularity of the sentimentality around old steam trains I was wrong. Because I forgot boats and ships. I realized that in a place called the "narrows" as one gets closer to Belém and the ocean. Apparently the accumulation of slit though millions of years has created islands in the river (some bigger than small countries) filling its delta. And accordingly the river narrows down so much that sometimes the banks seem like a stone's throw away.

It was in the narrows then when I first spotted some small dark specs in the water far away, one after the other moving frantically and looking as if they were alive, approaching our ship. Of course they were alive. They were tiny canoes with children and sometimes their mothers on them, paddling towards us and waving, waving all in the same way with their palms facing forwards, moving up and down. Some of them were laughing and some were surprised, with open mouths and still waving.

But the strangest thing for me was that it started raining plastic bags! Dozens of tightly closed plastic bags with food or sweets were thrown from both sides of the ship into the river and the canoes started chasing and fishing them out. It was my turn to have a wide open mouth while waving. Apparently it is customary and the children come out to meet the ships partly expecting their presents.

Lessons of the day: People have the same urge to wave at ships as they do with trains. And the next time I come to Pará I know I'll have to carry some extra gifts.