Boa tarde todo mundo,
Our last week was a great wrap up for our trip. After Marabá, we had a nice relaxing weekend with a day at the beach before getting back to work. After our relaxation, we set out to make sure we had everything wrapped up by the time we left on Friday. This mainly revolved around writing our final report and thank you cards. In addition, we visited a local public school on Thursday with Wederson from LEA lab for a robotics presentation. We presented ourselves to the class, in Portuguese! That was a challenge and required a bit of help from Wederson. After our presentation, Wederson took over and we walked around the room watching and occasionally helping the different teams with the various challenges.
We flew out Friday although I don’t think any of us wanted to leave :( Many goodbyes were said, none of which were happy.
To close this blog, I’d like to finish with one of my favorite quotes from this trip, courtesy of Antonio Ribeiro, our driver from Marabá: “Good friends never say good bye, they only ever say see you later”
- Sam, Rachel, Magann, Carson
We had an amazing week in Marabá, I'm going to try to keep the update brief, but I could write a whole novel about the experience. (She wrote a novel -Sam)
On Monday, Isabela dropped us off at the airport for our flight to Marabá at 1pm. It was only a one hour flight to Marabá from Belém. When we arrived, Laís and Gabriela were waiting in the airport for us with a sign that said "Michigan Technological University", even though four Americans really weren't that hard to pick out in the Houghton-sized airport.
We walked out to our "mini" van, as Laís called it (it was a full on 16 passenger van), and met our driver for the week, Antonio. We headed to Campus 2 for Universidade Federal do Sul e Sudeste do Pará (UNIFESSPA). This was the engineering campus, and we took a short walk around campus to get acquainted.
Then, we hopped back in the van and headed to the historic part of Marabá, ("old Marabá) to a neighborhood called Francisco Coello or Cabelo Seco. There, we met up with a group called Rios de Encontro. They greeted us with a dance and drum performance. Dan Baron and Manoela Souza moved into the neighborhood nine years ago and have been working with them ever since. I think the main purpose was to discover their roots and heritages and form a more sustainable relationship with the environment around them. Dan told us that when they arrived none of the people knew about their afro/indigenous heritages and cultures, so the group has been researching them and teaching the community about them. They have a variety of projects that they are running, including the ones about the heritage, but also projects related to women and children's rights, literacy projects, a community library, solar power, and many other things. The programs were all run by 17-22 year old members of the community. They travel around and compete internationally in dance competitions to fund their programs and give them each income to be able to devote more time to the program. We also discussed a variety of other problems that the community faces. We talked about their poor educational system and how bad schooling early on makes it hard for them to get into college. We also talked about the dying rivers around them, problems created by mining, and hydroelectric power and dams. They talked specifically about the Belo Monte dam and how it promised the area electricity and jobs, but really just brought pollution and prostitution. Then, we all sang a song together before we left. For more info, this is their website: https://riosdeencontro.wordpress.com/.
For dinner we went to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant and ate the first of many picanhas of the week. Picanha is basically like a steak with a layer of fat (think bacon fat, not normal steak fat), that they put on a skewer and roast over a grill on a rotisserie. It's soooo goood.
I guess there was some problems with the hostel for the first night, so they took us to a hotel to stay for the first night. It was the first time any of us have seen two knobs in the shower in a while. Not that many of us wanted to take a hot shower (except Carson...), but it was notable.
On Tuesday, after breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to the "Fundação Casa da Cultura de Marabá" or "culture house". The foundation has many departments that research a variety of things for the area. They have a division that studies and maps local caves, archaeologists that collect pots and other artifacts mostly left from indigenous tribes, a (dead) bug and animal collection, an (alive) orchid garden, environmental protection and monitoring (like if a mine wants to set up, then they go survey the area and see if it should be allowed), a museum displaying each department's work, and a group that collects historical records from newspapers.
As we arrived at the culture house, there was a news crew waiting to interview us. I guess word had gotten out that a group of American students were visiting, and it was breaking news for the "small" (300,000 pop.) city. They interviewed each of us, and we later were sent the video (below) that someone recorded (one of Gabi's mom's friends saw her on TV and sent it to her).
After our tour of the culture house, we had lunch with the vice-dean at UNIFESSPA, Idelma Santiago da Silva. We went to one of those places that is a buffet where you weigh your food to pay for it, which seem to be very popular here. Luckily (especially for Sam), it was much more reasonably priced per kilo than the one in the mall. We talked with the vice-dean and Professor Fábio as we ate lunch. It was freshman orientation week at UNIFESSPA, so the vice-dean didn't have a lot of time to sit down and meet with us, so this was our meeting time with her.
After lunch we took a few tours of UNIFESSPA. First, we went to Campus 3. We visited a lot of departments and groups and met a lot of people, but I think between Magann and I, we remembered most of what we saw. First we went to the Proex office, which is where Dr. Diego de Macedo Rodrigues and Dr. Fábio dos Reis Ribeiro de Araújo, who organized a lot of our trip, work. Then we visited the Infrastructure office for UNIFESSPA, who are in charge of all the infrastructure on campus. They showed us around the new building that they just constructed on campus that was almost done (the bathroom and elevators aren't quite finished due to funding issues with the federal government, Brazil is having some political issues currently). They're basically finished with that building, are in the middle of another on that campus, and we saw one under construction on campus 2. UNIFESSPA only separated from UFPA 4 years ago, so they are still a small university, but they are growing. We also saw the Propit office, where Gabriela and Laís work. Then, we were invited across the hall into the dean's office for an impromptu birthday party for his wife. Well, impromptu for us. There was two cakes, mini coxinhas, and some mini-corn dog like things. And Coke. Always Coke. At the party, we met Otávio, a professor who got his masters and PhD at Cornell and teaches in the economics department at UNIFESSPA. He expressed interest in helping us out with any projects that we are doing, and we arranged to have dinner with him on Thursday night.
Then, we made our way to campus 2, where we were the day before. We met up with Dr. Marcio Correa de Carvalho, a Materials Engineering professor, who was currently teaching a class. He had Carson introduce us to the class and explain about Michigan Tech and the program that we're involved with. We are slowly becoming professionals at explaining why we're here, and anytime someone asks us, we all look at each other like "okay, who's turn is it this time". By the end of the week, Laís could explain what we were doing there just because she had translated it so many times already for us. He also asked Carson some questions about the Materials courses at Tech to understand the differences in what is being taught between the two schools. Then, he showed us around some of the Materials labs that they have on campus, and Carson said they have a lot of the same machines as we do at Michigan Tech. Then, we visited the CTIC, basically the IT department for all of UNIFESSPA.
Then, we met up with a 14 year old genius named Eduardo. His dad came up to us at lunch because he heard that we weren't speaking Portuguese, and he was wondering if we could speak French with his son because he was trying to learn it. But I guess his son already knew English, but could use a little practice so we met up with him anyways. He was fluent. I mean if I could ever have mastery over a second language like that, man. So, we ended up all going out to dinner with him and his dad to get pizza. We ordered one with shrimp and a local plant that makes your mouth numb called jambu. The second pizza had mashed potatoes on it. Three things I can honestly say I've never had on pizza before, but good.
After dinner, they took us to the hostel for the first night there. I guess priests used to stay there or something, but now it is open to the public. We all stayed in one room where there was a bathroom, a shower, two sets of bunk beds and three hammock hooks (for two hammocks). Carson and I slept in our hammocks and Magann on a bed in the room (with the doors and windows closed because of mosquitos, and two fans because of the heat), and Sam slept outside in his hammock.
On Wednesday we went to go check out some of the Movimento Sem Terra farms.
First though, we had breakfast, we got picked up and we went to Casa do Bolo. Laís went to introduce us to the girls that were working there, to excuse our poor Portuguese, but they had seen the news the day before, and already knew who we were. A few of them asked to take pictures with us. We ordered breakfast, and they gave us two free cakes, more than we all knew what to do with. But it was all delicious.
On the way to the farms, the background to the Movimento Sem Terra (or Without Land Movement), was explained to us. First we got some background on the city of Marabá. The city is broken up into three regions, Old Marabá, New Marabá and New City. Old Marabá is the area that was settled first, and the neighborhood where we went on Monday night (Cabelo Seco) is there. Then, during the military dictatorship, more of the city was planned out and settled, called New Marabá. This part of the city is set up to look like a Castanha do Pará tree, and instead of neighborhoods and gridded streets, it has an extremely complicated numbered leaf system. Then, eventually the city spread south of the Itacalúnas river, and was called the New City. This is where the airport was located.
Then, we talked about the Transamazônica highway, a road built by the government to transport resources and goods. However, as the road went up, poorer people from other states (I read on wikipedia after that people who lived further west were having problems with flooding) moved in. They cleared the land and started tending livestock, but then after they got all set up, bigger companies came in and basically took the land from them one way or another. That's where the Movimento Sem Terra came in. People started coming together to take back land from the big livestock farms that were kicking them off their land. They'd find one way or another to get onto a farmer's land, maybe he had bribed a politician in the past or forged some documents, and then begin to occupy land.
The highway runs right through Marabá, and in 1996 there was a "conflict" about 100 km north called Eldorado dos Carajás. People from the Movimento Sem Terra were occupying land, and the government sent in police to clear them out and 19 people were killed. Since then, 800 people have died in the area due to similar conflicts.
When the Movimento Sem Terra occupies land, there are two different types of communities. We visited three farms on Wednesday. The first two were "assentamentos", where the people there had obtained legal consent from the government to be occupying the land. The third community was an "acampamento", where the people were technically occupying the land illegally and don't have official permission yet.
After driving through the 5th largest livestock farm in Brazil, and down a few dirt roads (still in the 16 passenger van!), we arrived at Projeto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (P.D.S.) Porto Seguro. We visited two of the houses there where they are trying to reforest the area that was previously used for livestock. They plant mostly native species of bananas, pineapple, beans, peppers, açaí, cupuaçu, cilantro, fish, ducks, chickens, cacao, coffee, watermelon and many other things. Instead of growing it in monoculture and exhausting the soil, the farm was set up to have more diversity throughout it, some trees shading other plants that couldn't handle too much direct sun and other techniques like that. The second house that we went to was the president of the community.
On our way to the second farm, we stopped by a house that was making farinha (a flower like substance that is sprinkled over literally every food to kinda help it fill you up more and give it texture) from mandioca (cassava) root. First they peeled it, then they soaked it for a few days, then they heated it up. Apparently, raw, the mandioca could kill you, but this process takes out all of that bad stuff.
After that, we headed out to our second farm for lunch. We had a "caldo" which was basically a stew with macaxeira, beef and some veggies. We had a long discussion on the difference between macaxeira and mandioca, but I still don't understand the difference. They kinda seem interchangeable to me. After lunch, the farmer took us around his farm. He said he tried to have livestock for a little while, but quickly realized that a small livestock farm was not economically viable, so now he basically just grows fruit. He took us all the way through his farm to the maracujá fields, and I got to try one for the first time! He was also implementing some interesting agroforestry techniques. The maracujá field turned over every 2-3 years, so he had some açaí trees growing underneath the maracujá, ready to go once the maracujá was done.
The third, and final, farm we visited was Acampamento Hugo Chávez. It was relatively new, and seemed more like a community than a farm because the houses were so close together. they said their rice production this past year was through the roof though, so they just must have their houses all together and the fields somewhere else. They started occupying the land in 2014. They brought 700 families to defend the land. For a while, the camp was under continuous gunfire. Eventually though, things settled down and now they have 200 families living in the camp. Now they only have a few people on surveillance crews 24/7 in order to alert the community if anything is going on. The HQ of the landowner is only 2 km away, and on occasion he hires gunmen to come attack the camp. For a while their food production was low because gunmen would hide out in the field and attack members of the communities when they would come out to tend to the fields. The community has a generator to produce power for them and they also had a water reservoir (one of those big blue tanks on stilts).
After the late big lunch and the long day, we just picked up some coxinhas at the university when we dropped off a few people at campus 1 and then headed back to the hostel to go to bed.
On Thursday we filled our trusty van to its full capacity with our team plus 12 students and professors. After a quick breakfast at another weigh your food buffet, we were on the road. We drove north to an indigenous village, Aldeia Gaviao Akranti. After some impressive dirt road driving, we arrived at the village. There was about 5 or so brick houses in a cleared area, a gas (diesel?) generator, the classic water tower, and they had cell service (someone's phone was dinging in the jungle).
When we arrived, they forced all the people in shorts into knee high socks to protect their legs from getting scratched, and we set out on our trek through the jungle. We walked for about an hour and a half through the jungle. Professor Fábio is in the agronomy department, so he was pointing out different trees and plants as we walked through. About an hour in, three of the guys from the tribe with guns went tearing off into the jungle. I guess they had heard a wild pig. We heard some squealing as they crashed through the brush and the creeks, and then a single gunshot and then everything was quiet. Eventually, one of them showed back up and cut us a path to the dead pig with his machete. They put it into an empty rice bag and we headed back to camp.
After the walk, we went back to the village and ate a "simple" lunch of beef, fish, rice, beans, tortoise, and liver (tortoise liver?). After lunch we practiced our bow and arrow shooting and then got some body painting. The team and Laís all got an arm painted. The designs each represented something. Mine represented a fish, Carson's toucan footprints, Magann's was a design they often use to decorate kitchen utensils, and Laís's was a tortoise. Sam never asked what his was.
After the village, we went back to "Old Marabá" to take a boat ride down the river and back. We went from Old Marabá to the bridge going north and then to a sand bar right across from Old Marabá. It was really sweet. The water was seriously warm. Not like when you say Lake Superior is "warm" to get your friends to come in, but like actually you could hang out all day in it. A bunch of people had chairs and tents and music set up and we went swimming and hung out until the sunset, it was amazingly gorgeous.
Then we went back to the hostel, showered and got ready for dinner with Dr. Otávio. Unfortunately, the professor's wife had gotten sick and he wasn't able to make it to dinner, so we just ate with all the professors and some of the students who were with us for the day. We had some fish, picanha and mixtão. The mixtão is like a plate of various meats. There was a little bit of bull heart on there, and it was actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I have never eaten so much meat in my whole life.
On Friday morning, we had breakfast again at Casa do Bolo. Laís revealed the grand surprise, she and Gabi would only be speaking and understanding Portuguese for the morning in order to help us practice. As we were eating breakfast (and another free cake), Laís put us into imaginary situations where we wouldn't know how to ask an important question (such as "Can you help me please?") and she translated them into Portuguese for us to know. Then we took a field trip to the grocery store to do some shopping for Laís. She gave us each a few slips of paper with items written out in Portuguese and had us walk around and try to find all of them. The girls' team won, obviously.
Then we went to campus 1 to say goodbye to Professors Fábio and Diego. We recorded our first in country clip for the dance video project. We hung out there for a while and gave out all of our thank you cards, and almost started crying (the sun was just really bright...).
Eventually we headed out to the airport to catch our flight. Antonio drove Gabi, Laís, Ronaldo and us, and then we all said goodbye in the airport. It's still too soon to think about all those goodbyes.
Overall, we had an amazing time in Marabá, hands down our favorite part of the trip, mostly thanks to all the work that was put in by everyone at UNIFESSPA.
TLDR: Marabá was amazing, the culture we got to experience was rich, the people we met were beyond cool and completely welcoming and I think everyone on our team would jump at the opportunity to be able to go back.
So, we have finished our third week here in Brazil. We completed our Portuguese classes on Friday, and we all feel a bit more confident in our Portuguese knowledge. Rachel knows the most of all of us, but we are getting there. We are going to miss our classes, and our instructor, but we are glad we had the chance to learn.
This weekend we adventured on our own a bit, and tried to see a bit more of Belem. Our lunch yesterday was intense, and we tried all sorts of Brazilian meat, beans, farafa, and something that seemed a lot like cheesy grits. We ate so much we didn't need dinner, and we still had leftovers that we brought home. We also checked out the local park again, where a lot of different stalls sell all sorts of things, from jewelry to electronics, food, decorations, clothes, and a bunch of other knick-knacks and such.
Tomorrow we fly to Marabá to spend the following week there, touring the area and the university, and meeting people. We hope to find out as much as we can about the university and community there, and maybe find some potential for future work and projects. This should be quite a bit different from Belem, and we are all looking forward to what the future holds in Marabá.
That's about where we are at for now, and we are excited for the next several days. Ayways, signing off for now. Tchau!
Yesterday was an adventure for our team. We headed to Boa Vista do Acará to see a little bit of the what life is like on the islands around the Belém area. We met with four students from UFPA that were our guides for the day. We started the trip off by taking two small boats from the university to the village. When looking at a map, it is possible to get their by car, but it would have taking an hour and a half to drive rather than our 15 minute boat ride. Along the river, many houses were on stilts because of how much the tide goes in and out on a daily basis. Boats seemed to be everyone's main form of transportation if they lived along the coast. There was even a school boat that docked at the village since that is where the school is.
We got to the village and went right to the school where we were able learn a little bit about how they get internet and phone service. There is a group at UFPA called CELCOM that is able to get connectivety from UFPA to a room in the school. From that room, they are able to have towers that make internet and phone services available throughout the village and surrounding areas.
Behind the school, there is an elderly man that is somewhat famous for what he does. He is known for showing people how to open a Brazilian Nut and how to climb the açaí trees as well as showing them all of the different vegetation of the village. As we hiked around the forest, we walked past trees that towered over us. We smelled a lot of the vegetation they use for medicine, spices, and perfumes. All of this giving us an insight as to what life was like living on the island.
From there, we took a few mototaxis to the Association of Organic Producers of Boa Vista do Acará. There, we were able to see some of the different plants they grow and how they grow them. Carson tried one of the peppers they grow and was completely caught off guard by how hot it was. From that, we learned that sugar can stop the burning sensation from the pepper.
It started raining as we took the mototaxis back to the main docks, and we looked for another boat to be able to take us to the island of Combú so that we could have lunch and go for a swim. It was refreshing to be able to eat and jump into the cold water in the river. We were able to talk with the students that brought us to the island and share personal stories as well as to share our cultures with each other.
In the end, it was a fantastic (and tiring day)! Though we wish we would have had time to talk to the director of the school to see if there were projects we could work on, we plan to contact her to see if there are possible potential projects. As a team, we have discussed that it would be cool if students in the future could stay on the island for some time and work with the school and the association.
That's it for now. This is Magann signing off. Look for an update this coming weekend about our visit to a lab, final days in Portuguese class, and exploration of more of what this beautiful city has to offer. Tchau!
Boa tarde from Brazil!
Just finished our second week here in Brazil, first for Rachel and I. We are having a great time meeting people, learning about currently ongoing projects, and eating mysterious foods.
Isabela and Magann picked Rachel and I up from the airport late Tuesday night. The next day we headed to the university for lunch and so Magann and Carson could introduce us to Professor João and his students. Professor João teaches electrical engineering. On Thursday, we met Professor Juliano, architecture, and his students. We gave them a presentation about what we are in Brazil for and some of the students and Juliano presented to us what they are working on. Then, on Friday, we met with Professor Manoel to talk about projects that we can participate in. Professor Manoel works in
For lunch, we spent R$ 1 for the full meal, that’s US$ 0.30! Some days we get charged R$ 3 because we are not students, but that’s still only US$ ~1. Lunch changes every day but rice and beans are always a significant portion of it accompanied by some sort of fruit, veggies, and meat. So far, it’s been pretty good. On Wednesday and Friday the line was relatively short, but Thursday the line was excessively long and we almost ran out of time to eat before our next appointment.
We started Portuguese classes on Thursday with a professor who doesn’t know English, so that’s fun. It has actually been working pretty well though, especially with Rachel’s and Carson’s Spanish experience. We have class from 2 to 6 PM for five days instead of the original eight because of Rachel and my late arrival. So far, 2 sessions in, it seems to be working pretty well. The hope is to be able to speak basic Portuguese by the time we head to Rio and Iguaca falls.
Tchau from Sam, Magann, Carson and Rachel
We have some exciting news on our hands, Sam and I are finally on our way! Sam and I met up in Chicago at Union Station at noon, grabbed a slice of deep dish Chicago pizza and headed out to O’Hare for our overnight flight to Sao Paolo. We are now sitting in the airport there on our 12 hour layover before our flight to Belem, using our free hour of wifi to post this update. We’ve finally made it! After the small struggle to get our visas, we are now even more grateful to finally be in country. Sam and I have determined that once we arrive at the hostel, we will have traveled between 36-40 hours (Sam more than me because he started in Minnesota), using planes, trains and automobiles! We can’t wait to meet up with Magann and Carson and get rolling on everything! More updates to come soon on our progress. Tchau for now!
Hey, Carson here. We are done with our first week in Brazil, and its been an interesting one. We met a LOT of people at the Federal University of Para (UFPA), and toured a bunch of different labs and work spaces on campus. Next week we are going to meet even more people, and try to finalize some project ideas. Also, Sam and Rachel finally got their visas so they will be here next week. Woo! Hopefully once we are all here we can get started on some Portuguese lessons as well. That's about where we are project wise, at least so far. We are really hopeful for what the future holds. This weekend we went to an awesome bird sanctuary and museum called Mangal das Garças. There were a ton of different birds there, and I was slightly attacked by what looked like a Brazilian chicken. Probably my fault for antagonizing it, but oh well. After that we tried some ice cream from a store called Cairu, which we were told was the best in Brazil - it was very good ice cream. We are making a lot of friends at the hostel as well, and everyone is really nice and friendly. Anyway, that's about the update for the week. Tchau!
The day is finally here. We are headed to Brazil! Three years of Pavlis classes have brought us to this moment.
This past week has been crazy to say the least. After issues with Visas, only Carson and Magann are headed out today with Rachel and Sam coming as soon as they can. It will be difficult to have only half the team in country to start off, but we are all making sure that we stay in communication.
As we sit here in the airport, we are excited to finally get to our country to start working with the people we have been emailing back and forth with. Our flight to Brazil leaves O'Hare tonight, and we will arrive in our final destination tomorrow evening. We will have more updates in the next couple of days as we get settled in Belem.
For now, this is Carson and Magann signing off. Tchau!