The Amazon, Goodbyes, & the Strike
THE AMAZON RAINFOREST
MAY 5th- 14th
I did it. I held a sloth.
Holding a sloth was the top item on my wish list of things to do in Brazil and I've been telling everyone about it since Day 1. I was not prepared for the way people here responded to my dream when I first told them about it.
"Don't do that. Sloths will hurt you and they smell bad. They are dangerous. Perigoso."
Yes. Dangerous. It turns out that sloths' long claws are legitimately dangerous. They're sharp like little daggers. A sloth could literally hug you to death if its claws dug into your skin. Even the tour guide on my Amazon trip warned us to hold the sloth away from us and not let the claws get near us.
Did this information dissuade me or make my desire to hold a sloth go away? No. It probably should have, but it didn't. Sloths are my spirit animal. The fact that a sloth, that is
#1. called a "bicho-preguiça" in Portuguese, which literally translates to "lazy creature"
#2. an animal that sleeps 8-12 hours a day
has a reputation as being dangerous makes me like them even more.
Sloths are goals.
Holding a sloth was the main thing I was looking forward to on the Amazon trip, but there is much more that I did and saw there (not meaning to sound cheesy, but there's no other way to describe it) that made it a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.
The trip was organized by Belo Brasil, a tour company that specializes in foreign exchange student tours. What made this trip a once in a lifetime experience were the other 68 foreign exchange students that went on it. There were exchange students from Germany, Argentina, Venezuela, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, various states in the USA, France, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Japan, and Finland.
We spent the first night in Manaus, which is the capital of the state Amazonas, and the second night in Presidente Figueirido (a smaller "city" a couple hours away from the capital) where we went night trekking in the Amazon rainforest, watched a cultural performance, and swam in a waterfall the next morning.
Then we spent the remaining week divided onto three boats, cruising down Rio Negro into the Amazon Rainforest.
I still can't comprehend that I've actually been there. It was truly incredible, and I'll never be able to repay my parents for giving me this experience.
-Night trekking, going inside a cavern with bats, and waterfall in Presidente Figueirido
-Mini Zoo in hotel in Manaus, Amazonas
-No Wi-Fi & sleeping in a hammock on a boat for a week
-Understanding Portuguese. Our tour guides and "monitors" spoke mostly in Portuguese.
-Visiting 3 communities, one of which was an Indian tribe
-Swimming in the same water as alligators, snakes, and piranhas
-Trying to climb an açaí tree and failing, learning how tapioca is made
-Swimming with Amazon Pink River Dolphins
-Night alligator hunting
-Kayaking, Stand-up paddle boarding, Banana boat
-Paddling in an Indian canoe
-Spending a night in the rainforest & hearing stories about legends of the Amazon while sitting around a campfire
-Seeing the meeting point of the Black River and Amazon River
-Sloth and anaconda holding
-Seeing Victoria Regia, the largest aquatic plant in the world
-Hearing various languages being spoken throughout the trip (Portuguese, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, and much more.) Most exchange students can speak English, and I have the dumb luck of speaking English as my native language, so I usually don't have a problem communicating. Most of the exchange students speak 3-4 languages (their native language, English, Portuguese, and another they've studied in school in their native country). I barely speak two.
- The Black River, or Rio Negro, was the river we were on. The water is a yellow color and acidic, so mosquito larvae doesn't survive in it, which meant no mosquitoes attacked us while we were on the boats.
-Planting a tree in the Amazon Rainforest on May 13th in honor of Mother's Day. I named the tree Glappy (only my mom will understand.) Ironically, the plant I got was a cacau tree. Cacau is the one of the key ingredients used to make chocolate. And my mom is allergic to chocolate.
-Being on the best boat : Barco Anaconda
DISTRICT 4760 ROTARY DISTRICT CONFERENCE
a.k.a the beginning of the end
Last weekend was my rotary district's district conference.
It was the last meeting of my district's exchange students. We started out as strangers, but now thy'e my family. It was our last weekend together. I probably won't see many of them ever again. We're spread out all over the globe, so reuniting all of us in one place again is impossible.
The last night was full of tears and lots of hugging.
It's the beginning of the end because most of them start leaving soon. They'll return home one by one throughout June and July. I was the last to arrive and I'll be the last to leave.
It's very bittersweet.
The truckers of Brazil are striking.
In protest of the rise in gas prices, the truckers (caminhoneiros) have stopped transporting the country's goods. The strike started last week on Monday, May 21st, 2018. According to The Washington Post, truckers transport 64% of Brazil's goods, including gasoline, so the effects of the strike are being felt all over the country.
My city, which is in the interior of Minas Gerais, is no exception. The gasoline posts ran dry on Thursday. The propane that is used for stoves and ovens is already out of stock. My host mom, who works in a Pharmacy, says the medicine is slowly running out. There still hasn't been an effect on the food supply, but that's because we're in the interior and the supermarkets here already plan for a lull between deliveries. Both sides of the road leading out of Joao Pinheiro are lined by parked trucks that are participating in the strike.
In the rest of the country, flights are canceled because airports are out of fuel for the planes. Buses are still running, but are slowly being affected. Public transportation is impossible. Travel is halted. Hospital ambulances don't have gasoline. At the gas stations that still have gas, the lines are backed up well down the road. In São Paulo, few cars are on the road (unheard of in Brazil's largest city) because people are trying to preserve the little gas that's left in their car's tanks. Factories will start running out of raw materials to make goods.
Schools are suspending classes until the strike ends because the school buses and vans are out of fuel. I won't have school for the rest of this week because of the strike. People are having to get creative to find ways to get to work.
Fresh fruits and veggies are rotting in storage facilities. Livestock is starting to die because their feed hasn't been delivered. Fresh produce is being sold at prices that are way higher than normal in grocery stores and farmer's markets. Several McDonald’s restaurants even ran out of hamburger buns.
It's like an apocalypse.
It's all over the news. Public opinion is divided. Some people support the truckers and believe that the end game of lower gas prices is worth affecting all of Brazil in the various ways above. Others aren't supportive and are angry at the standstill.
The truckers refuse to back down until the gas prices are lowered, and the president is calling on the military to intervene. They already have in some cities. This all ends one of the following ways: the government lowers the gas prices, the truckers give up their strike, or the military intervenes and uses force or fines to get the truckers to work again.
In the meantime, the strike continues.