Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another perspecitve on Iracambi. A volunteer's blog including photos and stories from Iracambi.

Michael Petrov a Russian born American from New Jersey just finished his month long stint volunteering at Iracambi. Mike was working on trail maintenance and plumbing. I will share some of his photos in a future blog but for now just wanted to share his blog address with you. Mike left today with his girlfriend and her friend to travel for another year or so throughout South America so his blog will become less relevant to you, as a comparison to Iracambi, as the weeks go on but for now there are some interesting photos and stories on the blog about Brasil in general and Iracambi specifically.

His blog, Chasing Aphroditie, is maintained Mike and his girlfriend Sasha and the link is I will share more stories and photos tomorrow or later today if the internet is still up. Thanks Mike for you help!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Eat a cow kill the planet, eat a veggie burger and sleep better.

Ok this might not be a completely accurate statement but it felt good to say and gosh darn it...this is my blog. Brad Knickerbocker a fellow Oregonian and father of a colleague from Principia College, wrote an article in the Christian Science Monitor on February 20th that I think it would be great for everyone to read. The article is called Humans' beef with livestock: a warmer planet and I hope you take a time to put down your burger, veggie or beef and take a look at this.

Some food for thought (from the article) to whet your appetite, "American meat eaters are responsible for 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide per person that vegetarian every year."

"Arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products," writes Noam Mohr in a report for EarthSave International.

Once again click here to read the story. Take it from me a vegetarian of 8 years now it is really a great change that makes you feel better, treats the planet better, introduces you to so many more types of foods and is the right thing to do.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hiking the Iracambi High Trail/Trilha Alta on a sunny Saturday in February.

Brian, a avid birder from the UK who has been birding throughout Latin America, a bit in Africa and Europe took Sally, a volunteer from Chicago and Rosa Virginia a Venezuelan living in Massachusetts and like me studying at SIT, plus myself of course on a 5k or so hike up on the High Trail above the research center here at Iracambi. This took place Saturday morning and the following are pictures from this trip. I won't write much as they are pretty self explanatory and I am still getting to know the area so I don't know much natural history, geology, anthropology, etc. yet.
This sign just says "Iracambi Limited-Graminha Farm...It is prohibited to hunt, fish or cut trees." Reminds me of signs on my grandmothers 4oo plus acres of land in Maine that she wants to turn into some type of conservancy.
This sign says "Beginning of the High Trail"
Brian is in front, followed by Rosa Virginia and then Sally.
We did see some birds on our hike but I was not able to get any on film (digital) but I did manage to get some great scenic and wildlife shots still.Looks beautiful until you think that once all this land was forested and today so much of it has been cut for ranching and growing of crops such as coffee. Of course then the beef ends up at McDonalds and the coffee at Star Bucks. Globalization OOC (out of control) once again.Here again you can see how "development" has led towards bare hillsides, mudslides and more destruction of the planet.
I found a friend or better yet it found me. If you think it looks beautiful/interesting from above you should see it when it flies from the underside. I am not very knowledgeable about insects but they are very diverse here coming in all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes.
The road not yet traveled. And one our children may never see if we keep treating the planet like our play thing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Carnival 2007 in Rosario da Limeira, Minas Gerais, Brasil!

On Saturday I went to the opening of Carnival with Alexandre and Claudio and we stayed till about 2 in the morning and then drove/walked home and got to bed after three. The music was good, people energetic, weather perfect and atmosphere fun filled for the whole family. Very different I am sure (even though I have never been) from Carnival in places like Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. It was cool to see the whole family there from little baby to great grandparents. Then on Tuesday Claudio and I returned for the final night of Carnival with Rosa Virginia, Sally and Gustavo and we had a good time but I think the music wasn't quite as good as it had been a few nights earlier. It got so cheesy at points that I expected Fabio to get up on stage and strut his stuff. I was too tired from traveling these past 2 plus months to go any further than 40 minutes away for Carnival and it was a perfect speed for me with a more family atmosphere and unlike Mike who traveled to Bahia I didn't have to worry about people putting their hands in my pocket constantly trying to steal money, etc.
Gustavo and Rosa Virginia with two boys who were collecting aluminum cans which are worth money when sold to a recycler.
Stage where performances are held in middle of Rosario da Limeira the nearest small town/village to Iracambi about 40 minutes by car. that looks really disgusting. Sorry to pass judgment and while some of my friends at this "fast food" I choose to go without dinner.
Another picture of the main square/plaza from the street. You can see all the banners that were put up to decorate and the entrepreneurs making cash off of selling beer in the red tent.
Reminiscent of Marci Gras I imagine.
Uh oh might it rain?
Group consisting mainly of older folks who first paraded on foot and by car and then drove and walked into the central square to dance and have fun. Some men, like the man on the left with the peach shirt and bandanna, dressed in drag.
Red sky at night on this night meant our delight as the rain held off yet when we were heading back to Iracambi we walked through areas where it had recently rained. It seems it often rains up here but not down towards Limeira.
While the music and the crowd was entertaining and entertained I would have to say that most of the music tonight was rather cheesy love music and the dancing by the men and women was hilarious at times.
Who is this weird guy looking as if he is gonna eat the photographer?
Thats right all you Mozambique RPCVs and others who have traveled there, Mozambique isn't the only place where the locals love thumbs up. Rosa Virginia is on the left followed by Claudio, Sally and me.
Claudio and Gustavo having a great time playing the air guitar ala Scrubs and going thumbs up as well.
We left around 12:45 as we all had to get up and work the next day. Of course the last song was one of my favorites, in fact it is one that Heather or Anthony from SIT shared with me.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A wild past two months.

You might be wondering what happened to me from about the 15th of December until now. The truth is that I was in Mozambique as I told about in a few blog entries posted in early January and then went to Kenya on the 5th of January and stayed until the 27th before flying from Nairobi to Johannesburg. I was so busy in Kenya and most of the time in places with no internet or such slow internet that I chose to check email only sporadically and only wrote one entry, January 10th, while on the road. I had a great time in Kenya traveling as far as Migori/Lake Victoria in the western part of the country and also getting to know people and places in an around Nairobi. I got a chance to spend some time at two schools started in Kenya by groups of Christian Scientists and it was nice to get to know faculty, staff and students at these schools. I was even asked, on the spot, to teach an English lesson to 5th and 6th graders at Petals bringing me back to my days of teaching English for the Peace Corps in Mozambique. I will try and edit some of the hundreds of photos I took in Kenya and Mozambique and post them over the coming weeks. As I am going in to my second week of work here at Iracambi things are looking to get busier and I already have a long list of work to do. Also, colleagues are starting to go on vacation for varying lengths of time so I will be covering for others over the next month while still trying to define my work as program coordinator. I start my official SIT practica this Friday the 23rd and do it for three months. At the conclusion of this I will still have 2 ½ months here but will be one step closer to completing the requirements for SIT. These are exciting and busy times and I should get back to my work before the day is completely gone.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A little Iracambi orientation to better explain my next 6 months in Brasil.

This post seems to have been added to by volunteers and researchers over the years who have come from various countries and continents around the world. If you figure Portland is about 10 hours to the north of San Fran you can see that I am about 11,000 KMS away from home.My house it the Casa Azul (blue house) on the left and to the right of mine is Toni's a Spaniard who is working in the plant/tree nursery here at Iracambi and has been here about 10 months.Here is my room which is not much to look at but certainly more quiet and private than my accommodation in South Africa but I don't have the fast internet access like I had at ETC nor do I have Doug or Ben to make me laugh.
This is the "living room to my house, my room being the one to the right and the other is where Muffi a volunteer arriving soon will be staying for about a month.Here is the glorious view from the front of the house. I can see this just by opening the front door and sitting at my desk in my room and working in my computer. You can see the large area where erosion is taking place. Erosion is a huge problem in Brasil due to deforestation and I am sure I will write more in coming blogs about this and what is being done to try and fix this problem.
Another view of the valley and hills across the river. This one is taken from the Centro (Center) which is the main communal space where most volunteers live. The greenish building to the left is the kitchen which has an open air but covered dining area on the far side that has a nice view of the river, pastures, etc.
This is Marcelo who is in charge of the medicinal plant project and has been working at Iracambi for about two years now. His wife and daughter live in Sao Paulo which is about 14 hours away by bus and he sees them about once a month.
Marcelo is at the far left and the other people are community members (plus one volunteer) who were attending last Saturdays medicinal plant workshop that Marcelo holds about once a week in which community members can participate. This is part of Iracambi’s community outreach and attempt to create environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative income generating projects for community members.
Alexandre is the volunteer on the left who is here for about a month from Sao Paulo and is studying music at university. In addition to being a musician he is an artist, creative and friendly person. In the middle is Gustavo who appears to be the person on the Iracambi staff who I will be working the closest with. He is from the south of Minas Gerais, the state we live in, and is here for a year as part of his university studies in ecotourism. The boy in the back is one of the community members who participated in the medicinal plants workshop on Saturday. On the right is Rosa-Virginia who is an International Education grad student with me at the School for International Training. She is here for a few months to help with the environmental education program that Iracambi does to increase the community’s awareness of our presence and get the community more involved in protecting and caring for the land, forest, etc.
Some of the participants of workshop weighing the leaves of one of the plants that Marcelo had been discussing.
Here is someone’s laundry being dried on the line with the hills across the way in the background. As long as it isn’t raining this method of drying is very effective and many of us also have lines in our homes in the event that it is raining. Here is a lovely sunset pic that I just took a few hours ago. I think it won’t rain tonight but the clouds with the last rays of sun hitting them looked rather lovely. What a difference a few thousand kilometers makes moving from Johannesburg, South Africa to Iracambi, Brasil. Here I see maybe one car a day, don’t really have to worry about personal safety or the safety of my possessions and get to breath fresh air most all the time