Brazil

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Brazilian Problemsolving anda hero

 

Everyone of us could be a hero. Each person has a unique gene pool with their own strengths and weaknesses. With this idea set in mind, I went off to lead a summercamp. A summercamp where I hoped to be a fun leader that would be respected and loved.

 

As I set off with my delegation across the Atlantic Ocean to São Paulo, I thought about the children of all kinds of different races that I would meet. The different cultures from all these countries that I would try to understand. Together with all the other the children and the leaders and staff, we would make this place our home for a couple of weeks. I found this quite soothing. My ‘own’ kids weren’t anxious either, for they were excited to meet everyone and make friends. Well, there was no problem with there at all. Within a day, friends were made and laughter from all around the world came together. As if they knew one another all along. The kids got to know eachother through singing, games, discussion, theater and mutual hobbies.

 

When times were good, the kids only required assistance, but as life was not always sunshines and rainbows, the inevitable clouds sometimes appeared. So on these somewhat rare unasked for occasions I was needed and pulled up my sleeves and showed my capabilities.

 

Problemsolving. Sometimes, it’s easy and sometimes it’s difficult. But as every grown up relates to this word to a certain extend, how come we can never know enough about this topic? It got me thinking about when someone solves a problem. Does this make this person a hero? Or do you need to pull off something historically influential like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or Isaac Newton to be called a hero?

 

Back in the camp I was confronted with several problems, that needed to be dealt with. One more important or visible than the other. Everyone seemed delighted when supper was ready to be set onto the table, because it had direct impact. A few people were happy when a disagreement was cleared up, that was about to get out of hand. Luckily most of my time in the camp, I did see sunshines and rainbows and invested this precious time to push my limits to encourage kids to speak up their mind and not to worry for they’ll be loved unconditionally. Display that democracy goes hand in hand with chores, laughter and singing. I let the kids think about the world, because prejudice is not yet in their dictionary, and listen to them eagerly. Listen to the dreams, the asperations to what they have in mind for the future, for they have an unlimited imagination. The part where I tried let everyones voice be heard was considerably challenging. But my aspiration was that not only to hear the social, opinionated children, but also to let the the shy or bullied young ones be able to speak up.

 

Think about the story of the fisherman; It’s okay to give the famished fisherman fish, but wouldn’t it be much better to teach him how to fish? Giving children an opportunity to raise their own voice and let them be their own hero, is what benefits their growth.

 

And as my summercamp came to an end, my dream of making a difference came true. The girl, who was most shy and passive, and instead of being interactive, she was always following the herd, started to behave differently. Out of nowhere she was coordinating her group to perform a play. She came up with ideas, spoke her mind and argued to defend her opinion. The world gained a new voice.

This turning point brings my story to an end. My view of what heroism might be, has been changed. Because, yes, it’s advisable to listen to the teacher, because often he is right. Yes, it’s good to read about people who made a difference in the world to gain knowledge. But as the world shifts quickly, we need people to think for themselves and be brave to speak their mind. Let children prosper in to the resemblance of their hero to become a their own hero.

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“Open your mouth. Open your mouth and let the words fall out.”

This phrase repeated through my brain like rubber track on a treadmill, calming and taunting me in an endless cycle. As a child, I always dreamed of learning another language. I wanted to share secrets with people of another country, culture, world, and we would speak as loud as we wanted, because only we would understand. I could jump into the midst of a population, rich with new sights, sensations and especially syllables, and nobody would question that I belonged.

Challenge. Adventure. Growth. Bliss.

I was mistaken. In learning a new language, the first three words proved spot-on, but bliss simply does not belong in that list.

With only six weeks of prior training in Portuguese, I entered Brazil as a missionary for my church. Six weeks. One, two, three, four, five, six, and I had just enough practice to say I needed to use the bathroom with an atrociously American accent. Upon arrival, everyone expected me to talk, travel, and even teach in the Brazilian tongue, but as much as I wanted this to be true, my mind and mouth simply couldn’t keep up with the pace of real conversations.

First day: I sat next to my teaching companion (a Brazilian woman from Espirito Santo, and a total stranger as of a few hours ago) beneath the cover of a humble, cement-walled home. Without air conditioning, the shade only teased our senses, and sweat still crept along every curve and crevice  of our bodies. We each balanced precariously in broken plastic chairs, our stomachs heavy and brains lazy due to the full plates of rice, beans, and heavy meats our hosts had prepared so generously. Now, we had to fulfill our end of the bargain: teach.

I thought I’d begin the lesson with a question. They responded….

Whatever language they spoke was not what I’d studied! I tried another question, and they responded in the same language, but not the one I knew, or thought I knew, or clearly didn’t know!

And so began a nine month journey of immersion, humility, mental exhaustion, and a daily, hourly, second by second search within myself for the courage to simply open my mouth and let the words fall as they would. I have never done anything more challenging or more fulfilling than stripping myself of all familiarity and expression and relearning how to communicate. Ignore the looks. Embrace embarrassment. Move my mouth.

Victory is not in perfection, as I had always believed. Success is not in fame, as I had always seen on the Tv.  Beauty emerges in the midst of struggle, and my mouth soon sprouted wings like a butterfly prying herself from her cocoon cage.

I will never forget the day a Brazilian approached me on the street, asked me for directions, and my once clumsy tongue floated through a phrase with perfect Portuguese grace. No weird face. No repeating of the question. A perfectly uneventful interaction shone as my ultimate trophy. I had gone native, and the language I once feared became my most cherished friend.

Brazil bleeds passion from her every pore. Sensual music penetrates all the way to the veins, and savory flavors float from within each home. Every expression in Brazil exudes suavidade (smoothness), especially the conversations. To speak the language is to taste it, to think it, to know it as a part of one’s own identity, and that gives me the courage to learn more. In learning another language, I faced myself bravely and came to love a people through their own tongue.

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Being Brave in Brazil for the Sake of Others

I have always felt a need to help people, especially those in need, and those who are being oppressed. Living in Australia, being a white, middle class, heterosexual male, I am probably among the least oppressed people in the world, so I have often found myself working with minority groups, such as refugees. Living in a first world country such as Australia, it requires little bravery to help others due to the comfortable living conditions we enjoy. It was not until I stepped into another country, a developing country, that I experienced what it meant to be brave, and to amalgamate and use that bravery to make a difference and contribute to the lives of others who are in need.

In 2014, I spent 5 months travelling through Brazil, and was able to organize volunteer work in an area called Nova Contagem, located on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, one of the 2014 FIFA World Cup host cities. Despite the relative wealth and affluence of Belo Horizonte, Nova Contagem and numerous other outlying towns are ultimately slums, where it seems the people have been forgotten about by their government, apart from the strong presence of the military police. In Nova Contagem, children that choose to, or have the opportunity to go to school enjoy only a four-hour school day, which finishes by midday. This level of education, combined with scarce employment or higher education opportunities makes for a bleak future for these children.

The volunteer work I managed to organise was undertaken with a local Non-Government Organisation called ‘Casa de Apoio’ (‘House of Support’ in Portuguese). They had a room in which I could sleep which was on the premises, located behind 2 gates and with 1 security guard who would watch the property each night. Although many aspects of staying there were confronting, even overwhelming (such as the fact I was not allowed to leave the property alone at night time due to safety concerns), I wanted to help out where I could.

During my time helping out at Casa de Apoio, I dealt with a 10 year old crack addict, children approaching their teen years who were illiterate, and adolescent sports teams who have had team mates murdered as a result of drug related problems. Speaking very little Portuguese when I first started was also quite overwhelming, especially because no one in this area spoke any English beyond hello, and ‘the book is on the table’, which for some reason is the default English phrase all school children learn at school in Brazil. This forced me to speak Portuguese, and when you are forced to speak a language all day, every day, the rate at which you can improve is exponential.

All of these experiences I went through in Nova Contagem, Brazil were completely new and foreign to me. I was certainly outside of my comfort zone, especially when I first arrived. However, that is what bravery is about. Getting outside your comfort zone and doing something new, something different. This experience helped me grow as a person, and certainly changed my view of the world. Looking at the lives the children have in this area and the limited opportunities they will have in the future inspired me to be brave. The children who live in these conditions everyday inspired and continue to inspire me to be brave, and to do what little I can do to help them. To help give them some sort of future beyond drug addiction, jail or murder, which is the path of so many in the favelas and slums that cover Brazil.

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Brazil – Where dreams are found and Angels dance around  by Raphael Lallu

Having watched the now past and successful World cup on television, i was a real follower and dediated fan. I never thought that showing Brazil, to us th world would have such a far reaching impact on me. I have now truly falled head over heels in love with this beautiful earthly paradise. The beautiful people, magnificent beaches, fantastic nightlife all around in all their cities makes it the ultimate place to visit and if need be live forever.

here are some of  the areas in Brazil that have truly captured my heart.

The Amazon Jungle

A place so diverse it leaves you not only astounded, but also breathless at it’s beauty. Many movies have been shot on location in this beautiful rain forests of dreams. Many stories have been told about this rare treasure trove of some of the most exotic birdlife, marine life and even the infamous anaconda resides in this treasure trove of ethereal wonders. From its sweeping grandeur of forest trees, to its vast and spectacular views all around, the Amazon truly is one of the most memorable places on earth, you could visit. So much has been said about the many dangers hidden in this Eden like paradise, but let us also remember all the beauty in the foliage, the almost hypnotic effect the colors in the feathers of the birdlife sing and tell their own sort of story. The tribes as well, have their own unique qualities they bring to the amazon, humble, reserved, yet exceptional hunters . This is a place where God’s creation is glorified.

Fortalezza

A place so beatufiul, with people so stunning, magnificent parades and so many more things to enjoy, Fortalezza is the place where i would love to live. The food, the nightlife culture, all speak of a nation so diverse, yet so united in all its diversity, that to be one of them , living in this fabulous city, would be to be elevated to new sense of freedom. If you fancy yourself daring enough to dance the nights away, while sipping the most divine cocktails, and making incredible memories to last a lifetime, then Fortalezza is the city for you.

Rio de Janeiro

Which parades and street carnavals could compare in style, beauty, and extravagaza, as the Rio Carnivals. The most beautiful people dancing on floats, on pavements, in the streets, on balcony tops, make this amazing city come alive. The costumes are some of the most elegant, ingenious and most memorable, ever to be worn or seen at parades and carnavals, the hot nights, the sexy bodies and just as sexy figure hugging elements of the costumes, make the rio carnival scene, one that is truly hard resist. This is not a place for the faint hearted, but for those who dare to dance, who dare to live and who dare to celebrate life in all it variant beauties, who knows , if you dance long enought, with the most gorgeous of people next to, you just might meet and fall in love with one of these gorgeous people.

Brazil has some of the most exceptionally beatiful people in the world. To even have a glance of them and be in their presence, is like being offered a taste of the most sought after and most priceless wine, on glancing  at it, and then tasting it, only seeks to make one desire it more and enjoy every ounce of pure bliss and once consumes it. So for me Brazil is that special haven, where Heaven chose to leave its mark for enless ages to come.

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I’ve heard it said that you can’t ever step in the same river twice, but I never really understood that saying until Brasilia. A city that was tailor made for the future, that would never need to grow or change, and yet somehow defied everything around it. It changed without changing, a constantly different constant, just as you are always you, but you are never the same you that you were 10 minutes ago. I lived in many different countries throughout my life, but somehow I am always drawn back to one city in particular. My river.

Some 50-odd years ago Brazilian president Jucelino Kubitschek decided it would be a good idea to move the country’s capital from Rio, in the South-east, to a more centralized position. After mapping out a spot as close to the centre of the nation as possible, which also happened to be the middle of nowhere, he set about building. Thus, the city was born; thoroughly planned out with sterile, post-modern architecture and constructed in the shape of an aeroplane. To soften the regions harsh dry weather a reservoir was built right at the plane’s nose, as if to prevent it from ever taking off. A still, silent lake, surrounding what was meant to be a still, silent town.

But the city didn’t care for man-made barriers, sooner or later it learned to swim across the lake and stretch out under the sun. New structures sprouted up through the dirt, filling wide open spaces with noise. Bridges tip-toed their way across the water and reached out their stiff concrete fingers towards the eager houses that had been consorting on the other side. Even the landscape of its peoples changed. It had been built to house mostly government officials but now it made room for bakers, engineers, graphic designers, salesmen, fast food chains and even beggars.

Yet there is something stagnant about it all. Something that always resists the change around it. The very lake bed harbours remnants of a past long before the city. Of a forest and farmlands swallowed whole by the river as the dam blocked its passage. Reminding sailors, windsurfers and paddle-boarders, of the hazards from the past, hidden in its depths. A past mummified by still water.

It reminds me that there is always a way to triumph in face of the odds. That change is inevitable. That weeds can grow even in the best kept gardens. Even the water in a reservoir is refreshed every so often.

This is where I feel motivated to push forward regardless of what barriers stand in my way. Where the sterile white buildings are my canvases to paint on. Where normal and constant are consistently redefined. Where the strict organization of each districts seems chaotic in its own way.

Brasilia paved the streets of my mind. Constantly trying to plan, to make sense of life, to add order and logic to the chaos that inevitably dominates. To define the undefinable. In it I can drive around my thoughts and understand the movement of still water and the deception of stagnation. When I’m there I understand that I never land in the same city twice. And that even in the most rigid place on Earth, the water is never quite the same, and neither are the two feet that step in it. 

About the Author: Amanda is a recent graduate in Film, TV and Media Studies from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She has spent her whole life traveling and still hasn’t quite learned how to stay put…

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SAMSUNG CSCIsn’t it funny when you do one thing for so long, change your routine completely and learn to adapt your wants and needs- just as human nature intended, ignorant of nurture but solitarily relying upon nature itself when we adapt to our surroundings and having all the power to change whatever we deem necessary. As a traveller we adapt to not needing certain things.

Moving from one place to another and learning about different cultures and all the while having nothing more than what fits on your backpack, allows you to appreciate the things we maybe once took for granted: comfort- in beds and in situations, routine- in every day activities and in what we eat. Travelling is about learning new things and experiencing new experiences. You meet people who influence your thoughts and feelings and you adapt to new habits and ways of living, purely by putting yourself out of your comfort zone. But what are we all looking for? When I started travelling I wasn’t looking for anything more specific than anything and everything, but then when the statement was pursed upon me, “Well, maybe you haven’t found what you are looking for…” It made me think…

But maybe I have. Maybe this addiction was exactly what I was looking for.

Back then, the reason I started travelling was to broaden my horizon. I’t’s an odd feeling to have experienced, but in my heart I knew I had never belonged, at least not the way I wished to be. I never felt that I had a place where I could have purpose or most importantly inspiration. It’s unusual for me now to reflect because when I left I knew nothing about the world except that I wanted to find my place within it.

You can be whoever you want to be when you travel. You can live the life you have always wanted to live. You can change your personality and pretend to have lived another life, effortlessly. I only wanted to become myself. And finally after travelling I did. Travelling became my routine. Meeting new people and staying in new places. I learnt a lot about myself. My strength in dealing with difficult situations and my abilities to problem solve. Abilities that were forcefully and simultaneously successfully put into action. I met new people who helped me to develop my personality, one that has been overshadowed my entire life. These people, these places, these experiences helped me to develop myself, and without talking in clichés, they enabled me to find myself: finding out who I truly was on the inside. I learnt to love myself and I was happy in my own skin. I learnt that sometimes we make the right decisions and other times we learn from our mistakes, but the choices we make can never be deemed as bad, if made with good will, because the lessons learnt and the luck earnt are the things that build our individual character and enables us to be different to one another.

Its true when they say that you can’t love anything truly before you can love yourself. The love I found for myself- for my entire being- being comfortable and confident enough within myself to be exactly who I was, allowed me to fall in love with many places, and many people; both romantically and not. I learnt that love is much more than infatuation but also a conjunction of respect and desire. Desire not only sexually but the desire the learn and teach and the desire to just be.

The desire to stay.

I have now learnt and adapted my being so that nothing is really foreign to me. Not much really shocks me and not much can really affect me in a dramatically negative way. I have learnt to appreciate learning because every experience can be learnt from. I am not academic, it still shocks many people that I have never studied in a university and that I don’t have a degree, but instead I choose to learn from the world in which I consume every single day.

But then my heart stopped, figuratively of course, because something was foreign. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say because I had no way of expressing it. I knew not the actions nor the words. So I denied them all and shut them all out. My guard came up stronger than it ever had before and I ran, as fast and as far away as I could. The feelings then followed me everywhere I went and I learnt that these feelings couldn’t be ignored. When I ran they were stronger than ever and when I braced myself to return they never paused, but instead grew stronger. I was terrified but I discovered that the ignorance terrified me more. I was in love with Rio de Janeiro, and I knew that I couldn’t be happy unless I made the choice to call this incredible city my new home.

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I got off the bus in a small town in the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil, where I would change over to another bus on my way to Itaúnas for a famous forró festival. It was late at night, the skies were dark and the small dingy streets illuminated by artificial lights. I was 6 hours from Vitoria and had just spent those hours stuck next to a man with his never-ending packet of ruffles. Safe to say I was exhausted and agitated. I stood in line, waiting patiently to collect my bag from under the bus in order to transfer it to the next bus that would bring me to my destination, and according to some chit chat on the bus, the last bus would leave at 10.30pm (or in other words approximately 15 minutes).

My portuguese skills having only spent the one week in Brazil were poor, and that was being generous, so in line I waited as the man asked people the same repeated question before letting them take their bag. As the bus emptied and as I approached the bag compartment I realised that every passenger was handing the driver a little white slip in order to collect their bags. I checked my wallet, my passport and every pocket in between, but mine wasn’t to be found.

That ticket, that stupid insignificant piece of flail  white paper that I was handed 6 hours ago when I originally dropped off my bag was nowhere. It was gone; probably still sitting on my seat on the bus, among the ‘rubbish’ I left on board. I waited until I was last in the line until my bag was the only one left. I thought it would be that easy.

I tried to speak in broken portuguese the best I could – “Desculpe” (Sorry) “Eu não tenho” (I don’t have) .

He just looked at me, vacantly, and his actions didn’t need words. The shrug of his shoulders and the raise of the eyebrows said it all. “Too bad.”

“Por favor, aquele é meu mochilão!!” (Please, that is my backpack!)

I showed him my back which had a matching smaller version of the backpack. No expression except that of his eyes rolling in the opposite direction. He playing a game, teasing me as if he had had the worst day in the world and wanted to pass on the displeasure.

Desperately, I stared at my bag, and noticed that I still had an airline ticket attached to it. I grabbed out my wallet and showed him my identification, to compare with the airline tag. But it was so use: No ticket, no bag.

He was playing some sort of serious game here, either that or he was just blatantly being an a#$hole. At this point I was the only one left, and this was the only bag. He knew it was my bag, the matching backpacks told him so.  He knew it was my bag, because my name was clearly written upon it. He gave me a look, and I could see the twinkle in his eye, basically telling me, he’s going to screw with me tonight. He wasn’t not going to stop with this stupid game.

He started to pull the latched door shut to seal off the compartment containing my single backpack. In an act of desperation, I reached out and grabbed my bag before quickly running away. He chased me, yelling words that I didn’t understand. I kept running, trying desperately to lose him so that I could make my way to the next town. As I ran with the weight of my backpack upon on back, my foot gave way and my ankle collapsed hard and fast into a pothole. There I was, captured, as if he had purposely laid out a booby-trap.

There was no escaping. As I attempted to stand up and pull up both my own weight and the weight of my turtle shell, he had managed to catch up to me. I wiped my leg of the blood and rocks and ignored the pain over his loud overbearing taunts in Portuguese. He was singling me out with evident words of attack. I could only imagine what it would have looked like to onlookers- an overweight 60+ year old Brazilian man yelling at a young foreign girl.  I called out desperately to an on-looking local, “Descuple, onde fica onibus para Itaúnas?” (Where is the bus for Itaúnas?) He called out the directions and with them I stumbled away, slowly, but away. The bus driver followed me, at a distance but at the same pace, and I did my best to block out all sounds of taunt and criticism.

The yelling stopped after a couple of minutes, but within only a minute more I started hearing the calls of someone behind me again.

‘Oi, Oi!!’

Screw this, I thought, what on earth is this guys problem? I walked faster. I continued to hear footsteps, harder and faster, nearing closer and closer, ‘Oi, oi! Onibus não esta la, onibus esta aqui!” (You’ve gone past the busstop!) I turned around to see the man who gave me directions chasing after me, because in my frustration and anger, I had walked straight past the stop. I turned around, and started to head back towards him, desperately thanking him for looking out for me.

I found an empty spot on the ground, put my backpack down and sat upon it, waiting. He sat down as well, maybe 2 meters away from where I was sitting. I knew he was only sitting there to look out for me, even though he didn’t utter another word. I am forever grateful to this man- because without him, the next 5 minutes would have been much harder to handle.

The man was back, his face sterner than ever. He walked up and came right up into my face, the saliva from his words spraying across my face. I had no idea what he was saying, but I didn’t like the energy, I didn’t like the attitude, I didn’t like him. Every phrase, every word, every single swear word that I know in Portuguese all blurted out like word vomit, straight back at him. Then he grabbed the strap of my bag and I desperately ripped it back from his grasp, “DON’T F*ING TOUCH ME,” in straight English. I didn’t care if he didn’t understand the words, he would know what I meant. The scream that came from me attracted a lot of attention. Suddenly there were people running up to me, speaking in Portuguese to the man as I stood there, feeling completely violated.

I stood there, shaking, frustrated, fuming as the tears streamed down my infuriated face, watching the conversations unfold, understanding only the hand gestures that were being made. Then the man pulls out his phone and starts dialing, and I hear the word ‘policia’. I didn’t say a word, I just stood back and tried to calm myself down. A loving hand was put on my shoulder and with that I was handed a bottle of water. The kindest around me at this point well and truly outweighed the one outsider. I couldn’t be thankful enough.

The police turned up, as if they were on standby in the area. I didn’t want to talk to them and I didn’t want to look at the man. At that point and time I would have loved to have just curled up into a ball with my headphones in my ears and blast some really loud music. I didn’t though. The man gestures towards me, pointing, agitatedly speaking to the police. I had no idea what would happen next. They asked for my passport, and I reluctantly showed them. The policeman wrote down my details just as the bus pulled up. I looked back and forth, from him to the bus, and with just one discreet wink from the policeman I knew I would be boarding that bus. They took the angry busdriver away with very little force to calm him down, and there I was, free and without a conviction, and only an hour or so any from my next destination.

227050_10200287994709151_400948589_nTo Brazil! Brazil was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and would love to go back and time soon. From the powdery, white-sand beaches, to the gorgeous mountains, to the spectacular Christ the Redeemer statue, Brazil is truly amazing. Besides that Brazil is the is the host of the FIFA World Cup 2014 and Rio de Janeiro is the host city of the Olympic Games of 2016. This all together makes Brazil outstanding! While in Brazil, specifically Rio de Janeiro, we did many great things! First off, the reason we went in the first place was to see the Pope! Millions upon millions of people from all over the world came together on one beach to see the Pope! Sure it was crowded, but it was well-worth it. Seeing all the different counties unite as one, coming together for the same purpose was just amazing.

The next day, we visited one of the most outstanding statues I have ever seen. This statue of Jesus Christ called “Christ the Redeemer” is 98 feet tall, not including a 26 foot pedestal, and its arms reach 92 feet wide. The bus ride up Corcovado Mountain (the statue is at the peak of the 2,300 foot mountain) was so awesome. I saw rainbows, different plants and animals, and even while we were going up all of us on the bus starting singing different songs. The cool thing was since we were all from different countries it sounded so cool. One person could be singing something in Italian, while the person next to them could be singing in Japanese. All these cultures together having a good time was so cool for me to see. Once we reached the peak, I could clearly see why people were so amazed at it. This statue was so huge! I had to look straight up just to see it because it was so tall! Finally, heading back to the beach I got to meet so many cool people from all over the world.

I traded American flag pins for example in exchange for a Peruvian flag. One of the best parts about this trip was collecting all the different items from the different countries. My favorite thing I got was a shell necklace from a Mexican guy and the coolest part about it was after he gave it to me, he told me he made it himself by hand. He had to collect all the shells and attach them to the string himself and he said it was a lot of work but he was happy to give it to me as a gift to remember him by. Overall, the best thing about Brazil was how kind and sincere everyone was to me. The food, the scenery, the culture, the atmosphere was so incredible and this was one of the best experiences I think I will ever have. If you ever are wondering where you are thinking about traveling for a safe, fun time definitely choose Brazil and you will not regret it one bit.

About the Author: Hi I am Joshua Dea from Rockville, Maryland. I also enjoy playing basketball. Brazil was truly a magical experience and I hope I can go back soon!

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120_2064I rolled the seedpod around in my hand while Hugo positioned his frame to make for the best human trebuchet. Though I didn’t understand much Portuguese, the message that I “jogar como uma garota,” throw like a girl, came across clear. While he demonstrated how you must use your whole body to throw, I kept gesturing for him to show me again so I could watch the seeds launch into the dense forest and wonder at where they would grow. On our daily walks through the rainforest I had become infatuated with century plants. It wasn’t only their twelve-foot span of spiny succulent leaves growing out of sandy Brazilian coast soil that fascinated me, but their name that sparked the allure.

The century plant is a monocarpic species, meaning it produces flowers and seeds once before dying soon after, and its name is derived from the myth that it only flowers once every hundred years, although they usually live to about thirty. Now, tossing sacred seedpods shaped like badminton birdies into the tangle of tropical vegetation, I contemplated the years and resources invested into each pitch. I yearned to feel the weight of this with every calculated throw, as if every release of my hand determined the fate of the species itself, as if my being in this foreign land to do research had some significance in the tangle of life here at all. Hugo laughed at my concentration and continued down the tunnel of a trail.

To me the rainforest was a mystery that had to be solved: so many species still unidentified, unclassified, uncategorized. But Hugo didn’t see it that way. To him the rainforest was inexplicably magic and every living thing understood regardless of whether it could be called by an italicized Latin name. He whispered and listened in a language that no schooling, only time spent becoming acquainted with land, could teach. He sensed the slow motions of moss-camouflaged sloths, knew where to find the best fruits Golden Lion Tamarinds fed on, and danced through vines and vegetation to chase bird songs. He could read disturbances in the underbrush to determine which of his animal neighbors had passed through that morning and knew which conditions were best for Pao Brasil tree growth before any of us researchers ever could, despite all our tools, our training, our preparation.

One thing Hugo could not understand about Americans is why we spend all our time worrying how to live life right instead of just living it. He pointed to a pair of fully-grown century plants suspended in the air, somehow growing without soil on the branches of a tree. Knowing I would want the feasibility of it explained, Hugo smirked as he catapulted another fallen seedpod into shades of green. “We are like these plants, we grow where we land or we don’t.” The beauty of being human is that we are century plants who don’t flower just once, we can choose how much we grow and how often we bloom.

About the Author: Dominique Edgerly is a 25 year old middle school science teacher and outdoor educator/wilderness trip leader who has been fortune to be able to travel through five different continents in the past five years. She is passionate about meeting people with different perspectives, writing, photography, and outdoor activities of all forms. She is in the process of assembling a family narrative that has left pieces all around the globe.

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SAMSUNG CSCRio de Janeiro. The city that has more love than Paris, more nightlight than Tokyo, more culture than Barcelona and more music than a New York City street. Rio is the city that only those willing to risk all will travel to, unless with a corporate credit card, business briefcase and a high luxury suite. Generally you’ll spend less here in a week than you will in a night in Paris and yet it’s the city that is so overlooked. But… price has nothing to do with it. Brazil has been in the spotlight over the last few years; of course there is the world cup next year and the summer olympics in 2016, but thats not all that hits the media. There’s the never ending bureaucracy between the police and government officials which influence heavily publicised riots that demonstrate to onlookers a constant fear of ‘danger’, so naturally its a place where only the bravest of travellers will attempt to step foot, at least at this time. So why would anyone come here? Sure theres beaches, the brazilian booties, and the World Wonder ‘Cristo Redeemer’, but what really is the purpose in coming to a city for no other reason but to see a giant statue and take a picture imitating his stance?

So then, why did I come to Rio?

To be honest, I wanted to travel through South America, and the cheapest flight I could find was into Rio de Janeiro. Even coming from the travel industry I knew nothing about Rio, I knew nothing about the customs, the culture, the food. I didn’t even know what Lapa was until I heard it mentioned a few times whilst here and then googled it, let alone Copacabana, Ipanema and the structure of the city physically. I was then surprised to see that the city itself, it actually a huge beach, surrounded by beautiful green mountains and a few (thousand) high rise flats in-between. Throw in a couple of lakes and basically you’ve got Rio- a natural paradise. At a glance I started to understand the hype. Well, theres the beach, and the weather is generally nice, and I’m a beach lover so it was a nice change from other cities. But, it was more than just a horizon of translucent blue/green water that got me. It was more than the view from the top of a mountain, it was more than the reflections of light on one of the many lakes after the sun set. Personally, I am not one to be attracted physically. In fact, Im the kind of person that after a typical ‘laugh at me, smile at me, twinkle in my eye’ kind of philosophical conversation, I’ll then start to think about the attractiveness, and Rio, well… Lets just say it has a whole lot more than a twinkle and some good banter.

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Rio is like the jewel I accidentally stuck to my wallet with mismanaged superglue, but instead of tediously trying to rip it off like a bandaid, I decided to embrace it and make it a part of the patchwork. Call it edgy, call it hipster, but hey; Rio managed to become a part of me. Heres a quick confession: I’ve been in Rio for 6 months now, and I have never seem ‘Cristo Redeemer’ up close. I didn’t come to Rio to tick of a list, and I didn’t decide to stay here to have bragging rights. In fact, I stayed because I actually couldn’t rid myself of the addiction that is Rio de Janeiro. I tried to leave Rio, many times, but always wound up feeling more homesick than I ever have. Apart from chocolate and a nice glass (or three) -hmm actually or seven glasses of red, Rio is the only drug I need. It’s a vicious circle, like all drugs because the longer I stay, the more I never, ever, ever want to leave.

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So theres the whole danger aspect that you read about, and I have read about a lot. Before arriving my mother was horrified that I was going to Brazil, and South America in general. Mosquitos that kill you, riots with tear gas and rubber bullets, rapes, kidnappings. Basically she did what she could to find every single story that would mean my demise. But thats the thing about the media, you only hear the bad things. One rape (horrible as it may be), by one insane person is detrimental to an entire society. But with that in mind I was of course wary and cautious upon arrival. Maybe I am just the lucky one, because never have I ever felt any danger whilst walking the streets of Rio de Janeiro, daytime, nighttime, through the city centre or through a favela. I have felt much more danger walking around Barcelona in the middle of the day. Sure there are stories, and sure, bad things happen, just like anywhere else in the world, but living in Australia meant that I was confronted with many natural and unnatural disasters; bush fires, cyclones, droughts, and then the occasional street shooting or body that wound up cut into 70 pieces in a garbage bin. In the United States it seems that every month there is one crazy guy with a machine gun or a machete that ends up attacking a school filled with innocent children. And not to mention the child abuse and abuse against women that happens behind closed doors in many other of the worlds nations. But when something as trivial as losing my wallet in Rio, and once I finally accepted the fact that it was gone and that everything can be replaced, I got a phone call saying that it had been handed in. I am the lucky one, of course, and of course this won’t happen to everyone, but to get a wallet back with every single cent left inside- all I am saying is don’t be to abrupt to judge everything you hear or read about.

My experience in Rio has been nothing short of incredible, fantastic, mind blowing, life changing, amazing. I have never experienced a culture where most locals can’t take trips for too long because they miss their home city, and to meet other foreigners who get stuck, just as I did, it really says something about the city. But maybe it also says something about the type of travellers who dare to step foot here. For me though, through good and bad, thick and thin, all that ’til death do us part kind of junk, it seems that I have found home, in a seemingly hopeless place.

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