Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paz e Amor (Peace and Love)

Today there was a break through in my class at school.
I arrived late because I had gone to a Rotary meeting at 6:30 am in the morning (my Rotary club is full of early-riser people....me not quite being a morning person but I don't mind :)) and had also said Happy Birthday to my Second Host Mom Helena. This put me at school at around 8:30 am.
Class was going well, except the part where I layed my head on my desk and had a boy named Bernardo come and put many tiny pieces of paper all over my head, mainly in my ears. The other day he was throwing paper balls at my hood-covered head as I shivered away in my seat. Everyone refusing to close the outside door no matter how many times I persisted. I even came to school in four layers of clothing! They do think I am pathetic though, it was no less than +15 degrees. They don't understand how I can be cold and yet have been born in the land of ice and snow. I want to tell them that at least in Canada when it is winter people act like squirrels; collect nuts, keep the doors CLOSED, use inside heating, wear lots of proper warm clothing, drink lots of hot chocolate, and take hot baths. Or at least that is what this Canadian does. I was the kid whose mother bundled up so tightly in a snowsuit that when I fell over I couldn't get back up again. I even peed my pants once when I didn't manage to undo my gear fast enough. My point being that yes I am Canadian, but no, in Canada you will not survive wearing flipflops in the snow.
Anyway, so class was going fine. Minimal paper throwing from Bernardo and people seemed pretty happy. By the time Biology class rolled around my teacher got everyone to put their desks in a circle and began to talk about the last year of school and also what people wanted to do in their futures. My profession seemed to be the only one that you can't put a name too, because I want to make music but at the same time help with social causes around the world. I guess you could call it "Bono" or something like that. But I also said that I want to do everything. I do, I want to do as much as I can. For example, I want to write a book. Why can't I? there is no rule saying that people are only allowed to have one profession in their life. I just want to learn as much as I can. But I don't know how I could have really explained that I want to do that (especially in Portuguese) so whatever, they think I want to be "Bono-like".
Anyway, my professor got to talking about how everybody is never going to forget their classmates and they will always be in their memories and hearts. Then he said that he was aware of some conflicts between pupils. Some people had not spoken to some other people for four whole years! One person just always ignored the other person and vice versa. My professor asked if it was really worth it and that did they really want to graduate on a bad note.
So what happened next was really surprising. Isadora got up, walked across the classroom to where Andressa was sitting and shook her hand, saying the word "desculpe" (sorry). Andressa then stood in turn and offered her hand to Tunico who accepted it, and then to Carol. Nearly everyone went and shook the hand of their former enemy. There were alot of people too! Some of which I wasn't even aware had a problem with each other! Some of which "sorry" was the first word exchanged between them in years.
Finally I stood up and said that I wanted to say something. Before having said that though, Bernardo hid behind his book thinking that I was going to go and forge peace between us. He should know that it takes more than a few balls of paper to start a war with me, especially to make me STOP talking. I am always the one to try to communicate. He eventually came out from behind his book. I said that the ultimate goal of youth exchange was actually mundial peace, and now with all of their school mates they had made peace! Then I sat down, but got back up and went over to shake Tunico's hand, because nearly everyone else was and I also wanted to apologize for anything that could have offended him. Lets just say he is very sensitive and he gave me the silent treatment more than once. Like even today I had crumbs on my nose and he tried to wipe it off but couldn't so I wiped it off myself, which caused him to walk away in sad silence. These little things really aren't worth fighting about but they are the root of these tiny fights that turn into year-long grudges. It's really not worth it. And when you look at how long it lasted and then the small amount of time it took to resolve it, it really is just funny when you think about it. Ridiculous really.
That was my day of peace and love. I thought I'd just share that with you so you could be reminded of what is truly important. It is like what my professor said, you have little fights with your brothers and sisters, your parents, but that doesn't end the relationship. And when you leave them (like I have) all of those little things melt away, almost like they never existed. What you are left with is what's real. And saying sorry first starts with forgiving yourself.

Peace and love


P.S - sorry about writing such a sappy thing about "Peace" and "love" and "peace, especially if you are one of those people who like to be really serious and straight to the facts. Stop kidding yourself and go hug your teddy bear that I know you keep hiding under your bed. I know you have a soft spot too. Peace out. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

People of the Amazon

We went and visited two idigenous tribes, both times arriving to their communities by boat.
While we were on our way to the second one, Allan (the guide) told us about some of their traditions. He himself shared some of their blood. Kind of like the Meti of Canada except Native mixed with Portuguese etc.
Their way for getting married is a little more painful than typical methods. When I say painful I mean literally. The man who wants to marry the woman has to stay with lots and lots of ants on one of his hands and arms for a certain amount of time. From what I can recall, Allan said that the cheif decided the time but I can remember hearing the phrase, "normally three hours".
When asked if he had gone through it he replied,
"No, why do you think I'm not married!" George the rotarian from Argentina made a good point; that if a person could withstand the pain of ant bites then they would be better to withstand the pain and toil of their marriage to come. The good times and the bad. The weaker ones would stay single, because seriously, I do believe that embarking in marriage does require some level of tolerancey and you have to be up to it. It's not for the light of heart. So maybe their way of picking who got to get hitched wasn't so crazy after all.
I asked the question if the woman had a say in any of it. What would happen if she didn't like the guy? Could she say no? The answer was that the decision was not up to her. Then again, if the guy went through so much trouble just to get your hand, maybe he would be worth marrying. Or wouldn't he be?
The natives are facing some problems. there are all these different things that are restricted now in the Amazon as people are trying to protect it. The thing is, for example, that the natives need to fish in the river, it's their way of life, their means of survival. Look at it, they aren't really the ones destroying the rainforest, there really isn't that drastic of an impact to support their way of life. They live off the land, live with it. Actually after doing some research I have found that one big impact on the Amazon are the global climate changes caused by the increase in greenhouse gases which would mean that the developed countries who are the largest consumers of fossil fuels are responsible. Brazil uses mainly hydro-electric power.
I was surprised and saddened by the type of assimilation that some of the indigenous people have undergone and because of that, the culture that has been lost.
They do not practice their ancestor's religion anymore, they have converted to becoming Evangelistic. Even the knowledge of their religious beliefs and customs have been lost with the new generations. They even now speak Portuguese as their first language and learn their native tounge in school.
When it comes to the language I found it to be interesting. There didn't seem to be an original written form for it. They used the latin alphabit that English, Portuguese, etc. uses. Except some letters and sounds were removed. For example, I do not believe that "C" exists in their language. The fact that they only use our alphabet lead me to wonder if their language was purely oral. Only passed down between generations by speaking. Maybe they had pictures to represent or portray stories. I do not know for sure, I did not get the opportunity to ask.
I liked seeing how their community functioned. The only system that came to mind that it followed was communism. Except that it works in the way that Karl Marx actually imagined it to. Everyone is equal. When I talked to Kate from Canada about it we decided that there are too many negative things attached to the word communism so we decided to create a new term to describe their way of life; equalism.
A man (I think he worked on the boat) painted some of our faces with orangey-red natural paint that came from a strange looking fruit. It was pretty hard to get off after when I went bathing in the river.
We played soccor and at one point I had a break away and attempted to score. I felt slightly redeemed after having had so many collisions with other people in the last game. I slammed into who I think was one of the captains of the boats a number of times, he was just a little guy too. I am pretty sure Ben from Germany still has the huge bump on his shin from where my knee hit.
Pretty soon it started to rain. Hard, Amazonian rain. Meaning that it stayed really sunny but the down pour was alot. I guess I could compare it to being underneath the waterfalls at Foz do Iguaçu. Okay, well maybe it wasn't quite that hard but it was close.
Everyone still continued playing, sopping wet, strange-fruit painted faces. I looked around at all the people. People who had been brought together from all corners of the earth to a place that really showed mother earth in all her glory. Playing together in sportsmanship in a community where everyone is equal. Showing how the world really needs and could be. With people of all kinds coexisting in harmony. But when they were brought together like that, indigenous person and exchange student alike, any difference that would have seemed to seperate us disappeared. We were only left with one common unity, kicking the rain licked ball from one person to another; the joy and wonder of being alive. All part of this big, magnificent world.

*This is a diary entry transcribed (is that even a word? I seriously don't know anymore) :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Toucan's on my Trail

I moved host families the day after I arrived back from the Amazon. I was sad and reluctant to leave the great memories I had made with my second family but at the same time excited and ready to get to know my third. My new family is really awesome, their daughter is in Belgium on exchange. I will get to meet her when she comes back. I have another younger host brother named Mateus. He likes football (soccor) alot which is really funny to watch when his team wins and he does his happy dance.

I think about the third day after moving my parents called me outside one day to show me a toucan that was in a tree close to the house. I filmed him which allowed me to zoom up really close. He had a more colorful and brighter beak than I have ever seen on a toucan. Not that I have seen many of them but I was just comparing him to the one I saw in a Zoo in the Amazon.

Well it turns out that this toucan might have a thing for me because today at school a bunch of my classmates excitedly told me to look outside where I saw the distinctly bright-beaked toucan. I am pretty sure it was the same one.

Then when I was walking home from dance and I was coming into the house I saw him fly down and sit in a tree right beside me! I think it would be kind of too coincidental to be seeing the same toucan everywhere but I am almost sure it is. Maybe I will come back to Canada with a new pet! If of course the tiny monkeys I am gonna bring that like to eat the fruit out of the front yard trees allow for another toucan friend. Except I don't think those little furry guys would allow me to pry them away from eating their fruit, let alone stay quiet in a suitcase. But I will be curious to see, if one day in Canada I look out my window and see my multicoloured friend spying on me from a maple tree. Although I doubt that toucans can fly that far.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Into the Amazon

I went to the Amazon!!

It was amazing and indescribable. I will try to convey my experience on here as best I can in future entries. I am just so happy that I got the opportunity to go there. It is paradise on earth. I stayed on a boat for four days on the "Rio Negro" and slept in a hammock. I only took a shower on the boat once (it was together with the toilet!) and the other two times I bathed in the river in my bikini! The water was really dark, reminding me of coca-cola. I got to see where the Rio Negro flowed into the Rio Solomon and they together create the Amazon River, (rio is portuguese for river). It was so cool to see the two colors melting into one another creating the largest river on earth! It looked more like the ocean than a river.

One night we went into canoe type boats and went alligator spotting. Our guide Allan dove into the water and submerged with a baby alligator! she was small enough for us to hold and take pictures with. She seemed so frightened of us she barely dared to move. Everyone's question was the same; where was her mother? Allan said that if her mother had been there she would have swam away the moment Allan's body made contact with the water. She would have been warned by the sound. Even so, I would not volunteer to enter the water anytime soon.

Another day we went piranha fishing. We had these simple wooden fishing rods and used cut up steak as bate. It took a really long time but the first one to catch a fish was my Austrailian friend Jet. She just didn't know what to do after the fish was dangling in the air, it was pretty funny. Allan showed us how the piranha could use its razor sharp teeth by putting a leaf in its mouth. Altogether our boat caught about three, me not being one of the lucky ones. When I boat returned to the bigger boat the guy gave me all the fish and then I just walked around for a bit holding them. People from the other boats thought I had caught them all. I assured them I wasn't that talented at fishing for piranha. Later that night we ate fish, I asked if it was piranha and they said no. Too bad.

We also had a day where we learned how to survive in the Amazon forest. We got into our canoe boat things (they have a name in portuguese) and went along the river and through all the trees that were growing out of it. Unfortunately for Clarissa (a woman working for the tourism agency) she got stung at least 6 times on the outside of her face and even on her tounge and inside lip!! It was this type of wasp thing that looked like a giant mosquito. It also bit some exchange students but their reactions were normal. With her, her bottom lip swelled to a comical size!! I know it wasn't funny but it was a real sight to see. One girl from Denmark went back to the bigger boat and she was reduced to tears because she has a dangerous allergy to wasps and that sort of thing.

We finally got to some firm land and left the canoes where a "jungle man" (for lack of better words) lead us to the start of our survival journey through the Amazon. I think about five spiders managed to fall on me along the way, after a while my friends stopped pointing them out to me and just let them be. Which was such a relief when they told me. Hehehe. He showed us how to make fire, get water, find food, and create shelter. The water part was really cool because there is this type of wood that filters the water and you can drink out of it kind of like a straw, the water stays inside. The first thing he showed us to eat was a larvae!! at first I joked and said I would eat it (not knowing they would actually try to make me) but then I refused and a boy named Michael from Germany did. When I asked him what it tasted like he said it had been sweet. Then the jungle man (or G I Joe, whatever you prefer) found some Brazilian nuts for us. They were so delicious, they were juicy!!! I wanted more but couldn't because the other people needed some too. He then showed us many different ways to weave together leaves and such to create adequate shelter. It was really cool the different kinds of materials that can be used, some of them are really strong like rope! You know the kind that you can see in movies? Well, that was pretty much it. WE had to wade through lots of water and I asked him if there were snakes, he said, "we are in the house of the snakes, the house of all the animals, we are in the amazon!" Typical jungle man response. It was inspiring. I felt like so primal getting all dirty and making my way through all the vegetation. Afterwards we ate lots of fruit and chicken, using a big leaf as a plate. I felt like some sort of jungle cat.

Another day we went to hike through the forest and had another guide telling us different facts about it. I had to be careful not to grab a tree to steady myself well I walked through all the mud and leaves because there were spikes on them! Huge ones! It's not like walking through a forest in Canada. We came to some waterfalls and also some caves that had bats in them. There was water on the ground, again I was afraid of some sort of snake grabbing me from below. Nothing happened of course. I was also one of the only two people who wore open toed shoes after they had specifically told us not to. At least I am learning how to deal with my irresponsible choices. Lol. I was so scared that I was going to step on something venomous and die. Me and my over-active Canadian imagination. My friend from Austria had worn sandals too and in the end we decided that we weren't completely stupid because at least we didn't get our runners wet by wading through all the muddy water. I should mention that I saw a huge spider in a hole in the trunk of a tree, I am sure that my Dad in Canada would be delighted to hear that. I will show him the photo I took.

After words we went to a river with really dark water and lots of algae (which made it darker). There were strong rapids that would pull people along like a water slide. Except the rocks underneath acted like a cheese grate against my bottom. Not the most pleasant feeling but it was fun nonetheless.

Another day we swam in a type of hydro-electric lake that had pink amazon river dolphins!! I did my dolphin noises and they actually came closer, but then they left. They came back later though. They were so beautiful! ANd it was so breathtaking to see them with their rosy color. On another day we went to a sort of rehabilitation center and saw some manitee. They look really strange with their tiny eyes that close when they are above the water. It makes them look like they don't have any! There was a baby one who was drinking milk out of a bottle. Later I will put pictures of them up.

Anyway, that is all for today!!

Até mais! Beijos

Emily <3