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People who live along the Amazon River are called ribeneros, which means people of the river. The rivers of the Amazon Basin are very important to the lives of the people. Living so close to the river means that a ribenero's shelter must be built with the nature of the river in mind. Most of the houses we have encountered along the river have either been built on stilts or on rafts, providing the ribeneros with shelter in both the dry and rainy seasons.

These young ribeneros were very curious about us and our plastic canoes.

In addition to being built with the floodwaters in mind, what else is do you have to consider when building a house in the Amazon Basin? You probably wouldn't need thick, insulated walls. Lots of windows would be good to let the breeze in. A roof is essential to shelter you from the strong sun and heavy rain. Can you think of any other important features of a ribenero's house?

If you lived in the Amazon, you'd probably use a fire with a grill like this to cook your food rather than a stove.

The inside of a typical ribenero home is probably quite different from yours. Hammocks are more common than beds. Mosquito netting hung over one's bed or hammock protects people from insects at night. The kitchen is usually a separate building with a small hearth used for a cooking fire. These houses usually don't have carpeting, TVs, dishwashers, electricity, and even indoor plumbing. Instead, a battery-powered radio, a few books, and a kerosene lantern are more common luxury items in a ribenero's house. The ribeneros are dependent on the river for many things. They use rivers for washing clothes, bathing, fishing for food, and for water for cooking. Since there are not many roads in the forest, the rivers are the main ways to get places. Adults and children travel by dugout canoes to get short distances.

Dugout canoes are the preferred mode of transportation, unless one has to go a great distance.

To travel further than one could in a canoe, there are motorized boats that act like giant river taxis. These boats are called launchas and are very common to see carrying people up or down river. Launchas allow people to travel great distances to trade or sell goods as well as to buy new things in larger towns or cities.

This past week we traveled on a launcha for much of the week.

Hammocks serve as temporary shelter on the launcha.

Hammocks were slung from the boat's rafters as temporary shelter. The hammocks were a rainbow of colors and come in a few different sizes. They don't offer much privacy, but the whole launcha ride is more of a social event than anything else. Many of the people who board a launcha will use it as a temporary shelter for up to a week while traveling great distances. How would you entertain yourself if you were to board a boat for a week?

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