The Moa river is far more than a source of food and water; Nukini life is centered around it. The river is our road to the outside world. It's where we bathe, where we play, where we wash away our troubles. Nine-year-old Isaac teaches me how to play frogs and crocodiles, and we keep it up for hours on end.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed or tired, being in the water improves my mood, drastically—even if I’m just doing the dishes. Sitting in the cool mud, surrounded by ducklings scavenging for leftovers, I scrub the pots and watch the glistening suds float away, along with my thoughts.
But the river has a dark side. At first glance, there’s no way of telling what the murky water holds, but we know for a fact that it's home to stingrays, crocodiles, snakes, and piranha—at some point, we see all of these creatures end up in our nets.
We stay cautious, keep to the water’s edge, and never venture into the deep current, but on the last day of my stay an eager piranha chews off a good-sized chunk of Pedro’s finger. One of the neighbors got stung by a stingray once; she had to spend 40 days in the hospital.
Leave it to the Nukini to turn life’s lemons into lemonade: this stingray is put to good use. They take its liver, leave it to dry, extract the oil and use it to cure a lesion on Isaac’s foot that just wouldn’t go away—many happy future hours of playing frog guaranteed.