Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Cheshvan 5766 - November 16, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by Gita Gordon

Serializing a new novel.

Chapter 5 — Part 1

Brazil, June 2000

Fay sat in the plane and looked at the itinerary. They had flown from New York to Miami. From there they had embarked on a plane to take them to Manaus, a Brazilian city situated right in the middle of the Amazon Forest.

Fay studied the timetable for their week in Brazil. First there would be two days in a luxury hotel in Manaus. There they would meet with a charity that worked to protect the rainforest. They would also visit a firm that sold rainforest products that were collected in an ecologically friendly manner.

A luxury ocean-going-sized vessel would take them on a cruise for two days until they came to a camping lodge on the Rio Negro River, where they would remain for a further two days.

There they would have a chance to see the rainforest, to walk in it, to see the unique flora and fauna and to meet with the Amerindian people for whom the forest was home. They would then return to Manaus, and after a day of rest at the hotel they would fly back home.

It all sounded exciting, but Fay, with her early years spent on careful business planning, could not help trying to calculate the cost of the trip. It seemed horrifyingly expensive. Her early days helping to run the grocery shop had instilled in her a concern with budgeting. Her charity work in the inner city had shown her how every penny counted for poor people on a budget, and so she had a horror of unnecessary waste. She wondered why they could not simply have received literature about the charity, perhaps called the representatives, and then made their decision. That was the usual way that their charity was chosen each year. Why this year all this traveling and expense?

However she was looking forward to the trip, so she tried to put the doubts out of her mind.

Her husband next to her was gazing out of window, looking at the unfolding scenery. Fred Smith was a few rows back, looking at papers, putting them in a large briefcase, and then pulling them out again.

A feeling of unease crept over Fay when she looked back at the assistant. There was something about him that she didn't like. Yet she knew that he had persuaded Eli to take her on this trip and for that she was grateful.

Fay was determined that she would be a help on the trip, not a hindrance. She took out her Portuguese study book and went over the latest words that she had learned.

The first two days passed smoothly. The representatives of the charity were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about their subject. They explained how once the rainforests of the world had covered 14 per cent of the earth's land surface and now less than half of that remained. They talked about the permanent loss of many plant and animal species as a result. They spoke of the lives of the Indian tribes, who lived in the forest and how they suffered as a result of the encroachment of loggers and ranchers. The told of how global warming would increase incrementally as the forest was destroyed and less carbon dioxide was recycled into oxygen. Fay and Eli agreed that it would be the charity for the coming year, but Fay wondered still what benefit it had been, traveling all this way to hear these details.

On the second day a representative of the firm that sold rainforest products in America came to see them, bringing many leaflets and samples of some products. When Fay read the leaflets she noticed that their main office was in Carson City, back in America, and she wondered anew at the necessity of this journey. All the hours that Fay had spent learning Portuguese seemed to have been for naught. Everywhere they went people spoke to them in excellent English.

Fay began to look forward to the next stage in the trip. Eli felt unaccountably irritated. He wished he was back among familiar places, in his office looking down on the supermarket floor. He began to regret agreeing to this trip.

The first hint of trouble ahead came when Fred informed them that the River Negro was low that year and the liner that had traveled from Belem on the coast and that should have taken them upstream along the River Negro, could go no further. It would return to Belem. Instead he was arranging for them to fly to Altamira, a frontier town on the Xingu River. From there they would be flown by helicopter to a different, but equally interesting, eco-hotel in the forest.

Fay began to feel uneasy. Traveling on a large ocean liner was one thing. Flying in a small helicopter was quite another. She protested. She said they would look at alternative ideas, or perhaps just fly home early.

Eli thought that cutting out the boat trip along the river would shorten the time they were away from New York and so he agreed.

They flew to Altamira and landed at the small airport. There a tall man came up to them and pointed towards an old automobile. "Welcome. My name is Manuel. Come, we will go to another airport where your helicopter waits for you."

Some time later they arrived at a clearing where there was a ramshackle building and one helicopter. Now Eli began to look uneasy. Manuel beamed at them. He nodded at the driver who took their bags and followed them a short way to the helicopter.

Fred said, "Pedro, will take you to see the beautiful little hotel in the jungle. The `Save the Rainforest' idea will go down great with the supermarket customers. I'll be waiting for you here when you return, to drive you back to the hotel."

"You aren't coming with us?" asked Eli in amazement.

Fay had turned her attention to the other two men, Pedro the pilot and Manuel. She listened to their conversation, struggling to understand. Then she said quite suddenly, "Eli, we are going back to the hotel right now."

She acted in a way quite unlike her and pulled him backwards, tugging him in the direction of the hired limousine.

"Fay, what are you doing? Of course we're not going back to the hotel. We have come all this way especially to see this Amazon rainforest project."

Manuel pulled out a gun and pointed it towards them. He smiled, looked at Fay, and said very slowly, "So you understand Portuguese. I didn't believe it when I heard you were learning Portuguese. Well, it's too late now. You are both going for a little ride with Pedro here."


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