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Rio, Aug 2011

Got home this afternoon to a beautiful Cape Cod day. Everything is green, it’s warm and sunny. Kathleen and I both commented on the way home that it’s like a different world here; both places great – but so drastically different. There’s no place like home!

We explored Rio for two days – saw the Christ the Redeemer statue (above), Maracana Stadium, the Sambadrome (where Carnivale ends), Copacabana Beach… We stayed on Ipanema Beach. (If I were tall & tan and young & lovely – I could BE the girl from Ipanema, but…).

It was a fabulous trip. I met wonderful people, explored beautiful places and have come to appreciate the comforts of home like you wouldn’t believe!

Thanks to Kathleen and Paul at WHRC and all the IPAM people too.  I learned a lot and have many ideas how to bring my new-found knowledge back to my classroom.

Thanks to everyone who read about my adventures here (and especially those of you who commented – I didn’t feel so isolated). I’ll be posting a link to my pictures as soon as I organize them (there are over 1200!!!)


P.S. while flipping through the TV channels Sunday night after dinner, what did I come upon? Red Sox vs Yankees – Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN!!! (in Portuguese!)

Goodbye Canarana

We leave Canarana on the 5pm bus to Goiania this afternoon. There is no set schedule today, so we’re just packing up and tying up loose ends to get ready for the 12hr bus ride. I’m not sure about internet connections so I may be incommunicado til Rio (or beyond) - 3pm 8/6. We’ll be staying at the Golden Tulip Hotel on Ipamema Beach til Monday, then home.

To view Kathleen’s notes, go to the WHRC center site and check out her “Field Notes“. She has pictures too!

P.S. – there is no such thing as a postcard in Canarana and next to nothing as far as souvenirs go – will just have to shop in Rio I guess!

Back to the ranch

The teacher strike is really affecting this trip – but not in a bad way – we just are rearranging and rescheduling. Turns out the Secretary of Ed needed to meet with the teachers union yesterday afternoon so he/she cancelled on us. Our translator, Nelton, took us on a tour of Canarana instead. We went to the “Pioneer Museum” which consisted of one room of photos of the 81 families who settled Canarana in 1971 and one room of “stuff” from the 70′s. He showed us stuff in the supermarket that was truly Brazilian and showcased their culture – the history of the traditional “teakettle & gourd” etc… Then took us to a por kilo ice cream place. (por kilo is pay by the kilogram – lots of lunch buffets are that type too).

I think the highlight of the day was that in the morning, I broke my sunglasses and wore them taped all day (can you say Steve Urkel?) That is not the highlight. On the way to dinner, Kathleen and I stopped at the supermarket to look for superglue – couldn’t find on our own so I whipped out my phrase book and asked for cola (which the book said was glue), they sent me to the Coca-cola aisle. No, no. I looked up broken and fix but was getting nowhere and we were the show of the night at the market trying to act out “broken and fix”. Finally, I said superglue? and one the stockboys said “soo-pair-bon-dair” ? Yes, yes – superbonder! whoo-hoo! My glasses look like new.

Took a drive out to the ranch today to fill in some blanks from last week and what did we see cross the road? – my highlight of today – a Capuchin monkey! Stop the car! We saw them swinging and flying throught the forest but they were so quick and moving away from us, no photos. So cool and now we don’t have to go to the zoo in Rio to say we saw monkeys in Brazil!

City Schools

We visited our last school this morning – the one we were scheduled to visit cancelled so Maristela scheduled a meeting with the Secretary if Education instead.

The Serra Dourada  school is only 45 mins from Canarana and we got to use the paved highway (speed limit 80km/h) to a  relatively more “urban” setting, more modern looking building and incorporating a student population of native Brazilians as well as city students. They are involved in the seed festival and reforestation but also are involved with erosion and recycling  projects. Their focus was to look in their own community and see what needs to be done and do something to fix it. So far, they have successfully monitored & documented a huge erosion ditch on the main road and now the federal government will come in and repair it in the near future. Their slogan, per se, is to increase farm production but preserve the ecosystem as well. A fine balance needs to be achieved but they are well on the way to success.

The students here ranged in age from 14-17 and were far more outgoing than in the more rural schools. I got out my phrase book and we had a lively conversation about family, sports & music. One student even wore a NY Yankees cap (more for the skateboarding culture than for baseball allegiance – they are futbol fans).


The meeting with Maristela yesterday included a powerpoint presentation of the history of Canarana and it’ s agriculture. I took copious notes but need to transcribe them into something readable. Then she took us to the school in downtown Canarana where the “greenhouse” for the project is located. I couldn’t believe the size of the nursery! It’s like a mini Mahoney’s and 90% of the work is done by students. They collect the seeds, plant them, care for them til they germinate and become transplantable, replant in appropriate soil and then go to wherever their plot (to reforest) is located – within the county – and plant the sapling. Hundreds of students are involved and dozens of teachers as well. I was overwhelmed by the organization, care and detail of this project.

Got and early start today since we needed to drive 90km (~1.5hrs) to the first school we would be visiting “Colonel Vanick” in Coluene. The roads outside of Canarana “proper” are unpaved, dusty & bumpy and people drive very fast on which ever side of the road they can get a better ride, often passing tandem soy trucks and other vehicles in a cloud of red dust. These roads are state highways, stop signs are just suggestions and the only way a vehicle will slow down is when they come upon one of the xlge speed bumps or depressions in the road. I wear my seat belt!

We saw many new animals & birds along the route; inculding blue macaws & racoon-like quati. Kathleen saw a toucan but I misssed it again.

Since the teachers have been on strike for approx 2 months, only a few were available to meet with us and a handful of students came in especially to show off their work. They made a formal presentation to us and then opened up for Q&A on both sides. The teachers there and I are comrades in that we are underpaid, overworked and “don’t get no respect”! The students love the project, are deeply engaged and invested in its success and many want to further their education to the field of agriculture in the future (but no-one wants to be a teacher).

We went out on school grounds to observe their school nursery and they presented us with freshly picked papaya and cashew fruit (did you know that the cashew is a fruit and the nut is an extension of it that cannot be eaten til it’s cooked?) The cashew smells fantastic and the fruit is so juicy – we left with a bag full and saved the papaya for later as well.

Did lunch and toured another school on the way back, the “Elidia Corbari” in Garapu. They were involved in the restoration project/seed festival competition but had to pull out this year due to transportation problems – the school is in a more remote location and the students would have to travel too far to the sites. but they hope to be involved again in the future.

Our last stop of the day was back in Canarana at town hall to meet with the Secretary of Agriculture for the state of  Mato Grosso (Maristela’s boss). She’s very proud of the outreach project and the cooperation between the schools, farmers, researchers and business people. It’s a small project to them, considering the size of the Amazon, but it is a great beginning!

Back to “work”.

Barbecue yesterday was delicioso! Various grilled meats, potato salad with corn & apples, arugula salad & yellow peppers – mmmm. Saw many,many blue macaws fly over the yard, a few little lizards trolling the fences and a beautiful hummingbird flittering by a flower. Good conversation for the most part but it was 50/50 Portuguese/English and it’s difficult to follow a conversation when I catch only one or two words here and there.

Chris, Carmen and Chelsea did not make it back from the ranch in time to go to Oswaldo’s but met us for dinner (8pm) at an outside sandwich cafe – I had a “mini americano” sandwich (bread, ham, fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato) and papaya juice. Paul told us that many of the sandwiches have peas and corn as well (just to fall into your lap as you eat!)

Today, the real work begins. Paul & Chelsea are returning to the ranch, Chris & Carmen are going back to the US, Kathleen and I stay in Canarana. We’ve been told that we will have a dedicated interpreter for the week as needed. So far, Paul and Chris have been doing all that for us.

We meet with Maristela at IPAM at 2pm for a presentation by area teachers. Unfortunately there has been a crimp put into our plans. The teachers in Canarana are on strike so I will probably not get to see any students here, but some teachers will still meet with us and show off their restoration projects. Kathleen will be filming a lot of the stuff I do this week but she’s going back out to the ranch on Thurs to fill in some gaps from last week and I’m on my own for meetings that day – no problemo! (or is it probema?)

Sunday morning in Canarana

The pizza buffet last night was not a buffet but the waiters just kept bringing different pizzas to us (ridizio  – pronounced ho – geez – ee- o). I ate too much but it was hard to stop. Flavors included; garlic & oil, tomato, basil & cheese, hard boiled egg, onion & ham, chopped tomatoes, green peas, and hamburg or sausage, creamed corn & chz (didn’t have that one), french fried onions (or potato strings) & hamburg, coconut & evap milk n cheese, chocolate sprinkles & cheese, 2  different ones with fruit & evap milk…. and more. All with cheese but no tomato sauce on any. Tried the Brazilian drink Caipirinha (with cachacha – pronounced cashasa). They serve beer really,  really cold and in a xlge coozie.

This morning we had cafe at the hotel, sat by the pool and swapped pictures with Kathleen & Paul. I’m blogging, Kathleen is writing up the “field notes” for WHRC and Paul is making me a map of Tanguro labeled with my pictures where they were taken.

The barbecue at Osvalwo’s is at noonish – will add more later.

Sox make any deadline trades?

Last day at the Ranch

Slept in (til 7am) then was awakened by noisy birds in the yard. I must have been in a dream about crows cawing or something and woke to this noise, got up and investigated. There were 1/2 dozen yellow/green macaws in the tree jawing at each other. I startled them a little and they moved to other trees and eventually flew off. Got lots of decent pics. Carmen and Chelsea (Brown U grad students) made breakfast for us – oatmeal, fruit and eggs; as opposed to the bread and fruit that is usual weekday fare.

Paul, Kathleen and I went to look for monkeys at a different jungle site but it was not accessible enough to us – tramped around, saw lots of cool plants, birds and bugs - but no monkeys. Our last stop was to pick up the 3 Critter Cams. One site was a gold mine! Lots of wild pigs and tapirs (we baited the traps with papaya and banana). Made sure to take a picture of me next to a termite mound so you could see how big they really are!

We’re done at Tanguro today and heading into Canarana. I’m looking forward to going to the pizza buffet at the restaurant in town tonight – it’s highly recommended by all!

Change in plans

This morning we headed out to one of the 10 meter deep “pits” to do soil sampling. We were still hoping to see monkeys too, but no luck. Did hear a toucan in the forest and tried to track him but the leaf litter is very dry and we are so not stealthy – he ditched us.

Later, Paul took us for a tour of the ranch through many, many soy fields and through the rubber fields that I did not realize were even there. The fields looked like maple forests in Vermont – with the taps and buckets etc… The rubber was nasty looking though and smelled like dirty, stinky, cheese feet!

We also took a hike out to the edge of the Amazon Forest and into the Jungle. The temperature rose and the humidity skyrocketed but the stream at this location was pristine. We couldn’t get very far though because the tiny wooden bridge had collapsed in places and was very rickety in others. In between the tour of the ranch headquarters and the rubber tree plantation, we needed to retrieve a datalogger from the Darro River. It is placed under a wooden bridge (away from prying fingers) and pretty difficult to reach. We voted for Carmen (the grad student) who is the youngest and most agile. She retrieves the logger, amidst double tractor trailers and various other motor vehicles passing overhead and threads it up through the boards of the bridge to be downloaded and replaced safely back in it’s pod under the bridge. Pretty cool operation!

On the way back “home” we saw a tapir just moseying across a soy field to a nearby stream. We decided to drop Kathleen nearby with her video camera and Paul and I would take the truck out of hearing/sight range so she could “stalk the Wild Amazonian Tapir”. He wandered very close and she got some great footage but he ended up getting spooked and took off back from whence he came. – no drink this trip!

We got back in time, after the work day was done, to hit the reservoir (or as they call it – Donkey Pee Pond - there is a story). There is a 2-person kayak so we took a spin around the pond and then floated for a while in the inflatables.

Usually, the scientists and crew leave the ranch on Friday afternoons and head to town (Canarana) for the weekend but since we lost a day traveling, we are staying tonight and heading back tomorrow. The cook and the other Brazilians are gone already so Chris (from MBL) went to town, got some food and we’re having a cookout tonight – just the 6 American scientists. We’ve been invited to a barbecue at one of the Brazilian scientists houses on Sunday – yummmmm.

I’ve tried and tried to post pics here but no luck so far – maybe shutterfly????

Yesterday’s News

Ran out computer battery checking the critter cams, so could not blog last night. This $99 netbook has actually been a valuable field tool! We got images of wild pigs rooting around the test site, one cam failed and one just had images of us setting it up so we moved it to a new location where we saw a path into the forest and lots of animal tracks. Our “spy cam” on the porch is just for fun.

Spent the morning working with Wanderlay (pronounced Vanderlay, a Brazilian IPAM scientist) while he monitored his CO2 plots in the burn forest. Then Kathleen and I took off to check the critter cams. After lunch (rice and beans and meat), we went t0 the control forest to run another transect for Paul’s resistivity project. It was really hot in there … and the bugs! The more you sweat, the more the small black flies are attracted to you (salty sweat) and I was so hot my knees were sweating! (not knee pits, knees)The leather snake chaps go over the knees so cause more heat. At one point during testing, we needed to wait for the machine to run so Paul, 3 of the Brazilian guys and me practiced our Portuguese/English pronunciation etc..

We ran long in the field so there was no time to swim so we went on a drive around to see – whatever… Saw a tapir (kind of a small hippo type critter) with a baby and chased down an armadillo in the field. It was running and I caught up to it as Paul ran the other direction to head it off! Pretty funny image in your heads now right! Took many more photos and can’t wait to share.