Friday, March 11, 2016

The Ballad of Joao and Dindim

We live in a world in which the most vulnerable of people 
end up taking the brunt of disasters resulting both from
natural processes and from human activities. 
- Kai Erikson

He might not be your first choice to give the Best Man's toast at your wedding but Mr. Erikson has a point.  There is a lot of bad, truly rotten shit that goes down on this planet.  Every day.  Seemingly without interruption and far too often, whether we want to accept it or not, with an easily-understood explanation.  

It is for that reason that the story of Joao Pereira de Souza, a 71 year-old retired bricklayer who lives on an island off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and his best friend, Dindim, is so goddamn wonderful.  If you hear it and it does not bring a smile to your face, then perhaps you need to skip on off down the yellow brick road and call upon the Wizard for it is time to replace the briquette in your chest masquerading as a heart. 

Dindim is a South American Magellanic penguin.  Approximately five years ago, Dindim washed up onto Joao's beach.  He was covered in oil and near death.  Joao spent a week cleaning Dindim's feathers until he was oil-free.  He nursed him back to health and when Dindim was ready, Joao released him in the wild.  

If the story of Joao and Dindim ended right there, it would be heartwarming.  

It does not. 

Dindim came back.  And he has kept coming back to visit his best human buddy and his savior.  He makes an annual pilgrimage to Joao's beach to visit his old friend.  Once he arrives, Dindim hunkers down.  He spends an average of eight months with Joao and then heads back out into the ocean to his mating grounds, which are off of the coast of Argentina and Chile.  Dindim puts an estimated 5,000 miles annually on his flippers.  Sure, most of them are ocean miles, less stopping and starting, less restrictive traveling conditions, but still, 5,000 miles is 5,000 miles.  

Which may or may not really be any distance at all...


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