Sunday, December 4, 2016

Travel Blogging XII

Docked in Manaus, Brazil, nearly 1000 miles upriver from the South Atlantic: Manaus is probably as far inland as one can cruise on an ocean-going ship. On second thought, Thunder Bay, MN, may give it a run for the money.

When you think of Manaus, its most famous landmark is the Opera House, built by rubber barons in the late 19th century. Now 120 years old, it is elegant in an antique sort of way and has excellent acoustics.

We saw a symphonic performance there last night, very professionally done by an obviously local orchestra. The room has four tiers of balcony, the first only a meter or so above the general seating.

A friend sarcastically described Manaus as "like Dakar, without the charm." I'd say she was unkind and probably incorrect as well.

Today we took a river tour, largish local boat to the edge of some shallow water channels where we offloaded into roofed 10 passenger skiffs. These took us into the riverine environment to a settlement of floating houses, shacks really. The "pontoons" that float these buildings are giant rain forest logs, perhaps 3' in diameter, 4-6 under each building.

One of the shacks had an air conditioner and most of the others had a TV antenna and/or a satellite dish. This suggests they all have little gas-powered generators for evening use, I can't blame them.

Floating houses become important because the water level can rise 8 meters or more during the rainy season, which just began. We saw yellow boats which serve as school 'buses' as well as a floating school and perhaps a floating church. We also saw a child being bathed in river water by his mom, the same river water into which their floating outhouse deposits human waste - sorta gross.


I've been musing about the amount of hate that accompanied the last election. I believe at least part of it can be attributed to the ideological 'purification' the two major parties have recently undergone.

Once there were liberal Republicans in the Northeast and conservative Democrats in the South. A Republican could find ideological allies among Democrats and a Democrat could likewise find simpatico Republicans to hang with. Not any more.

Except for kooks and extremists, all conservatives are now Republicans and all liberals are Democrats, wherever they live. This makes a difference.

It is commonly joked that Republicans see Democrats as stupid whereas Democrats see Republicans as evil. Again, not any more. Today Republicans see Democrats as stupid, evil, and unAmerican. Democrats see Republicans the same way.

I have a relative who doesn't like to spend time with his parents because they're bright blue Democrats and he's a bright red Republican ... seriously. This is one of several things that are worse than they used to be.