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|To fully comprehend the shock I felt upon arriving in Kalanisi you have to
understand my situation. A 21-year-old gay male, I was, to be quite blunt
about it, incredibly hunky, possessing not only rugged good looks (dark
curly hair, steely blue eyes, the classic square jaw) but a drop dead
gorgeous, gym-toned body, 6'2" tall and 230 lbs. of solid muscle. I was
v-e-r-y popular with both the boys and the girls (who tried but never quite
succeeded in getting into my pants) back at Midwestern State University.
A microbiologist in training, I leapt at the chance to spend the summer between my junior and senior years travelling up the Amazon River and then even further into the jungle to Kalanisi, a Native American village not previously visited by American or European research scientists, reputed to be the site of extremely rare and potentially very useful flora and fauna.
Manoel, the Brazilian who met me at Porto-Novo, was short and swarthy and rather squat, rather what I expected (I'm ashamed to say) to find. His eyes widened slightly while taking in my height and musculature--a glance I was familiar with even at a Big 10 football school like Midwestern--but the words that came next took me by surprise.
"Are you visiting relatives in Kalanisi?" he said, wrinkling his brow.
"Why, no, of course not," I answered. "Why on earth would you ask?"
He shrugged expressively, then scratched his head.
"You'll see when we get there..."
And so I did, five hours later, after we had driven, then boated, then walked 50 miles into the interior. As it turns out, Kalanisi is at the center of a large grassy area--a small savannah, really--close to one of several mesas that dot the northern portion of the Amazon basin. The last stretch, through dense, dark forest, ended abruptly, when we entered a large clearing, brilliantly sunny.
"Welcome," a soft but very deep, powerful voice called out in badly accented Portuguese.
The sun was so bright that it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. When they did, it was all I could do to keep my jaw from dropping.
Manoel was somewhat nervously standing in front of what appeared to be a giant of a man, although I quickly realized that he was actually just a very tall man. At 5'8" Manoel was fairly average for this region and this man--whose name, it turned out, was Xochimi--was fully a foot taller. Still, at 6'8" tall he was half a foot taller than I was--and he was incredibly well-built. If I were any judge, Xochimi easily weighed 300 lbs.--and not an ounce of fat on his massive, muscular body.
Manoel introduced me and Xochimi and I exchanged a few pleasantries. Although his Portuguese was bad, I have a talent for languages and I quickly engaged him in teaching me the native Kalinisi language.
We had quite a delightful conversation during the 20 minutes or so we spent walking to the village, so much so that I began to wonder if the pings that were registering on my gaidar really *were* something other than just wishful thinking.
Eventually, though, the conversation ground to a halt as we began to see more and more of the Kalanisi visitors and I realized...
"My God, they're ALL huge...!"
Yes, as it turns out, at 6'2" and 230 lbs. of solid muscle, I was no more than average height for a Kalanisi male. Three out of four men I saw were as tall and as muscular as I, very few appeared to be any smaller, and many were nearly as tall and as well-built as Xochimi.
"What's going on here," I wondered to myself, then reaized, "that's what I'm here to find out, isn't it?"
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