A journey in the Amazon

In Delaware, environmentalists try to conserve local turtles by building fences along Route 1 and putting up signs warning drivers to avoid running them over.
High in the mountain jungle of Peru, where the mighty Amazon begins its 4,000 mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean, Tom, a boy from Delaware, learns from his new friend Jairo how the native people build fake beaches for the same purpose. He learns that turtle eggs take 65 days to hatch, and that the charapa’s eggs must be buried vertically and its cousin turtle the taricaya’s eggs must be buried diagonally in the sand.

Tom and Jairo have fun and adventures together. They play soccer, climb trees and go fishing, all the while communicating in the common language of laughs, eye contact and gestures. They celebrate Tom’s birthday with a cake in the shape of an anaconda snake, made with legumes that taste like peanuts. They are a team: Tom has modern tools to take photos and record sounds, and Jairo has finely tuned senses and innate knowledge.

Tom also finds out that deforestation is encroaching Jairo’s village. Indeed, he learns the forests that produce a third of the world’s oxygen are being devastated by large corporations. To Tom’s dismay, he finds that the entire way of life in Amazonia is threatened, as well as the very existence of many native plants and animals.

Tom is on an eco-vacation with his mom that will change his life. He is the main character in a book geared to middle-schoolers but of interest to all ages, according to its authors. The book is titled “A Journey in the Amazon.” Complementing the book is a CD by the same name, featuring smooth bossa nova rhythms of the Brazilian coast to the ancient pipes and strings of the high Amazon jungle. Incorporated into the music are actual sounds recorded in the jungle.

“A Journey in the Amazon” is the latest endeavor of husband-wife team Marco Hernandez and Kimberly Grimes to bring attention to the plight of indigenous people and the natural environment in South and Central America. Together they own the Fair Trade shop Made By Hand, in South Bethany. Individually, Hernandez is a musician and Grimes is a professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware.

The idea for the book and the CD came to Hernandez during a journey to Peru during which Grimes conducted a field course for her students. In his spare time, Hernandez found himself recording sounds, taking pictures and interacting with the native people. By the time they returned to Peru in January of this year with a new group of students, the wheels for “A Journey to the Amazon” were already whirring.

“I felt we had to do something to save the Amazon,” said Hernandez.

Joining the book side of the project was local illustrator Joanna West and Harrington publisher Linda Chick. West took the digital photos Hernandez sent her and turned them into the illustrations in the book. Chick set out to publish the first 250 copies.

On the CD side of “A Journey in the Amazon,” Hernandez was joined by some of Delaware’s best musicians. They include Ken Schleifer, percussionist and music arrangements advisor; Blaze Berger, composer and instrumentalist; Dan Jordan, composer and guitarist; Kameron Schleifer, singer; Jordan Marvel, bassist; and Jesse Friend, keyboard player. Woven into the music are sounds of birds, monkeys and frogs.

“The frogs were recorded on a dark night, in a full moon, after the rain and at midnight. The tone and volume of their voices at each recording are unique and distinct,” said Hernandez.

But how will “A Journey in the Amazon” contribute to saving the area and indeed reducing global warming? The answer lies in the strange legume with a nutty taste that Tom enjoyed in his birthday cake. It is called the sacha inchi and is becoming a very popular health food in Europe because of its high content of Omegas 3 and 6.

The proceeds from both the CD and the book will go directly to a farmers’ cooperative in San Jorge, Peru, where Hernandez and Grimes are working with local farmers and Peruvian and American officials to produce the newly named “Amazon Nut.” The name Amazon Nut to call the sacha inchi was coined by Grimes. It happens that this legume grows well on depleted land, as long as proper specifications are followed, she said. The harvest will occur seven months after planting and then every three months year-round.

Hernandez explained, “In October, I will send the producers the first check from ‘A Journey in the Amazon’ sales. This is the agreement, and they will continue working with the Amazon nut. They will tell me when it is going to be the first harvest. By then, we must have all the information to bring it to America, USDA permissions and Fair Trade labels.”

He added, “It is a lot of work but worth it.”

“A Journey in the Amazon” is available for purchase at Made By Hand. The kick off for the project was a performance on the Bethany Beach bandstand on Aug. 22. Hernandez said he is looking for opportunities to promote the project and welcomes calls asking for more information or invitations to speak. Made by Hand is in the York Beach Mall in South Bethany, next to McCabe’s Gourmet Market. The phone number is (302) 539-6335.