Blog written by Yoav Balaban
Have you ever eaten a fresh coconut?
I haven’t yet; it’s a dream of mine to be able to eat one, fresh from the tree. I’m talking about the fresh ones, the green coconuts that have much liquid with soft flesh in the inside. Today, my dream came true, as we were walking through the streets of Novo Airao, a quiet and quite modern village; I spotted coconut trees at the sides of the streets. This excited me very much! I thrived to just take one and open it up with a machete straight away. Later, we found out that they belong to the locals and that we would need to ask them for one. We had a chance to walk around and explore the village, talking to the locals and asking them questions about the place. Once we had the chance, a very nice local showed us around some coconut and cocoa trees. He was very generous and gave us three nice coconuts and three cocoa beans. This made my day! It was so exciting! Throughout the whole day Julia translated perfectly, making it much easier to communicate.
We visited the local school, which is the biggest in the area. It was very interesting to listen to what the teacher had to say. One impressive activity that she mentioned was that the students have an Internet session once a week with a professor from Manaus. This amazed me because it’s very advanced and it shows that the school, which is run by the government, put a lot of effort into the education.
Later on we went to the Nova’Arte center. It is run by a foundation that gives the locals an opportunity to pass a fairly cheap course in order to master the skill of handcraft. After the government decided to preserve the forests around the town, the locals, who depended on it, had no alternative to take care of themselves. What the foundation does is that they collect scrapped wood and keep it in order to craft it into different animal sculptures and other products. This offers the locals an alternative instead of working in fields that harm the ecosystem such as fishing and agriculture. These working places allow them to make money from tourism, support their families and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment.
After having an interesting tour around the center we went to a local bar and had some cold fruit juice, which pleased everyone very much due to the hot and humid weather. We had a good time communicating with the interesting people from around the world that lived and volunteered there. We listened to their stories under a full moon light, with many mosquitoes buzzing around.