Travel

Travel

Brazilian Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro

- for the Grateful Web
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When you think of Brazil, what comes to mind???  I'd say Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro, samba…right? Yeah, there is a lot more to Brazil than just that, but honestly, those are all some pretty awesome things that my Country is known for.. I wanted to tell you guys a little bit about the Carnaval, since I was just there for that, this past Feb.

It's really hard to try and describe something so indescribable, so unbelievably out of control as Brazilian Carnaval…Just try to imagine yourself experiencing the ultimate feeling of exhilaration, freedom, fun, excitement, enthusiasm, happiness…!!!! I'm sure that the thought of hundreds of people dancing, singing, sweating, moving, smiling, laughing, drinking, flirting, feeling joy, all cramped up against each other in the middle of the street in Rio somewhere at 04:30 am, to the blasting sound of a live samba band embedded in the middle of the crowd, might not be that hard to envision. However, the electrifying energy that takes over, that seems to contaminate everyone there, is something I believe I can't transport to a piece of paper…

This is the street Carnaval, which spreads around scattered streets and blocks, in different cities throughout Brazil, during those 4 days a year when the whole Country seems to set it's timer to a different pace, to function and operate on a festive and laid back mode…where almost every other matter gets postponed 'til "after Carnaval…"because the overall mood in the Country becomes that of "there's nothing that can't wait 'til past ash Wednesday…."

And that's how it goes during those crazy few days most Brazilian wait the whole year for…lots of booze, lots of women (and cute guys too), lots of music, lots of dancing….'til the sun comes up, so you can go get a few hours of sleep to try and get rid of you hangover, and to get ready to do it all over again….

There are also other ways to experience the Carnaval in Brazil..there's the big parade of the "Samba Schools" in Rio, which is a real competition, with judges, classifications, ranks and all…  I had the privilege to be a part of this huge and incredible event this year, as a member of "Grande Rio", one of the participating "schools", which I'm proud to say, came out in 3rd place.

There are a lot of tourists from all over the world  that come to be in the parade every year, as this is something that anyone can be a part of, as long as you purchase the costume of the one particular "school" you want to go out in, and learn how to sing that school's samba lyrics, so you can sing along (not mandatory, but recommended..!)

Brazilians are indeed very happy and friendly people, who like to party like there's no tomorrow, and who, for the most part, have a very positive and spontaneous way about them, finding pleasure in simple things, and enjoying life regardless of what their social and financial situation might be…Therefore, If you ever feel like experiencing Brazil and getting to understand a little bit about its people, I recommend you drop by for Carnaval sometime. You can be a participant, or just choose to watch as a spectator..either way I'm sure the contagious energy of those passionate and exciting people will blow you away, and make you want to go back again…

For more info about Carnaval in Brazil, you can check this website:

www.ipanema.com  and/or if you want to see more pictures from my trip, click here.

Home Brewing Wine: Easy, Fun, Cheap

Out of all the miracles recorded in religious texts, history and fiction, I think Jesus' first miracle is my favorite.  After all, what is better than turning water into wine? This got me into the most rewarding hobby I have every tried – home brewing.

Turning water into wine is hardly a miracle, though it will take you more time than it did Jesus. The equipment to get started is around $75. Any home brew store can help you get started. You can use a lot of this same equipment to make beer as well, though beer is a little more difficult than wine to make.

Hotel & Inns Review: Boulder Corporate Rentals Hotel Alternative

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Reviewer: JUSTIN HANCOCK
Staying at: Remington Post, Boulder CO
When:          Fall 2004

Boulder Corporate Rentals


I heard of Boulder Corporate Rentals from friends at work, and they were very accommodating with my hectic home purchase.

The accommodation, a private terraced one bedroom, was quiet and larger then I expected. It was clean and fully stocked with everything I needed.  I used and loved Remington's indoor heated pool, and the on site staff accepted several critical documents for me at the Remington Office when I was out of town.

I had to call and reschedule my leaving date 4 or 5 times, but Michele, Mike, and Barney were understanding and flexible every time.

I finally did buy my house in Boulder, thanks to Boulder Corporate Rentals, I never worried about the changing closing date.

Thank you!

Justin Hancock, Fall 2004

*****

Editors Note: Boulder Corporate Rentals is a for profit company some editors of Grateful Web have an interest in.

I met Jane Goodall!

Jane Goodall - One of the world''s best known animal researchers- for the Grateful Web

I just wanted to share with you something very exciting that happened yesterday - I met Jane Goodall!  I even got to sit next to her at a table for about 45 minutes, and exchange opinions on international "development", the exploitation of people and resources, and the Bush administration.  She was here because her organization Roots and Shoots that focuses on empowering youth to care for their environment will now be collaborating with Peace Corps to get Roots and Shoots programs established in rural villages.  It is very exciting work!  It is immensely heartening and inspiring to listen to her speak, and to know that there are positive forces at work out there in the world!

Also exciting is that she may be speaking at the University of Nebraska in March, when I am there, and so I might get to see her again (as will some of you!)!  She hopes to go to Nebraska to see the Sandhill Cranes and is trying to set up a speaking engagement at the University to encourage more students to vote in this year's election, and to vote for the Democratic candidate.  She says we may not get a good Democrat but at least a Democrat and Bush will be out of there.  With him in office the whole world is in danger.

If you want to help Jane, I'm sure she has websites where you can donate money to help fund her research on chimps or to help the Roots and Shoots program.  I am inspired! (Editor's Note:  Click on Jane to view her site).

Happy New Year from Africa! -by Pamela

- for the Grateful Web

Hi Everyone! Hope your holidays were warm and wonderful!  Mine were fantastic, I spent them with other volunteers in the area.  We cooked up a couple of huge feasts and made memories to last a lifetime!  If I hadn't had gotten together with other volunteers, it might not have felt like the holidays at all.  Christmas here is very subdued, because most Tanzanians don't have any money to spend on things like gifts or decorations.  In the village, the Tanzanians I know spent Christmas by going to church and spending time with their families, which is what Christmas is all about anyway.  For New Year's, the other volunteers and I had a big party at my friend Carolyn's house, who is my nearest PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) neighbor.  There were 19 PCVs and several members of her village government and their families who showed up.  It was great to have the villagers there!  They are used to big parties, because they have them all th e time.  However, their drinks of choice are ulanzi (fermented bamboo sap) and pombe (a brew cooked up from corn and millet).  I find ulanzi to be quite tasty, like a Bartles and James wine cooler, but pombe I find to be terribly repulsive!  At our PCV gatherings, we stick to the traditional wine and beer.

Now it's back to the business of settling into my new home.  For our first three months of service, we are not expected to do anything except set up our houses and get to know the people and needs of our villages.  I have already become good friends with several of my female neighbors, the mamas, who are either teachers or wives of teachers at the school.  It is not acceptable here to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, but all the mamas bond together and support each other.  They have been very supportive of me so far by sending their kids over with cuttings of flowers for my front yard, helping me haul water from the well 150 yds from my house (with buckets on our heads!), and giving me fresh harvested beans and potatoes from their farms.  I have tried to return their favors by baking them cakes and breads and sharing vegetable seeds.

One of the biggest tasks I have accomplished so far, with the help of Doris, a neighbor girl, is digging up a large area for a garden.  The area was previously sod, and it was a tremendous amount of work overturning the soil and removing all the grass!  Doris (who is only 16 and half the size of me) could swing the jembe, a large hoe, up over her head and get it twice as far down into the ground as I could!  Of course, she's been doing this her whole life.  A common sight around my village now is all the women and children out working in their fields, swinging jembes.  The women will often do this all day long, sometimes with babies slung over their backs!   Most fields are planted to corn, beans, potatoes, and pumpkins or other squash, and these are usually intercropped together.  It is a goal of mine to encourage growing other vegetables as well, like tomatoes, carrots, mchicha (a local green), onions, etc.  I have been told however, that it may be too cold here to grow certain things like watermelon, peanuts, and maybe even tomatoes and green peppers!

My village is at elevation 6,000 ft, and every night I sleep with 2 heavy blankets. Some mornings I can see my breath!  It's hard to believe this is the warmest time of year, and hard to believe I am in Africa!  Never did I imagine I would be writing home asking my folks to send a hat, gloves, and long johns!  I will certainly need them come June and July.  Oh but I'm not complaining!  I would be complaining if I was one of the other volunteers who live down in the lowlands or along the coast.  They say they do nothing every afternoon except sit nearly naked in front of a fan and try not to sweat.  No thanks!  I'd rather be curled up under a blanket any day. 

Adjusting to a life of solitude has been somewhat challenging, but I'm sure times will easier once my Swahili improves and I become busy with projects.  For now, I have been spending my time reading, writing letters, sewing, learning how to cook and bake on a charcoal stove, doing yoga, meeting people in the village, working in the garden, and getting out to explore the INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL surroundings on my mountain bike!  It is a very peaceful life, going to bed and rising with the sun, and having no distractions except ones I create myself.

Well, except for the distractions of rats and bugs!  Hopefully soon I will have a cat to take care of the rats, and as for the bugs, I'll have to learn to tolerate them.  Most don't bother me though, and there are some really cool ones here!  Butterflies and moths of all colors, shapes, and sizes, and strange looking beetles, grasshoppers, and dragonflies.  There are some really neat birds as well.  With all the trees near my house, I have several birds that serenade me in the mornings and evenings!  I have been able to identify a few of them with the help of an ID book my friend Lori gave me before I left.  (Thanks Lori!).

Happy Valentine's Day... from Africa!

Pamela in Africa 2003/2004- for the Grateful Web
- for the Grateful Web

I am back in Iringa again, to take care of some business and buy certain things that I cannot buy in or near my village, like a new (used) pair of work pants and a new short-wave radio, since mine for some reason is not working.  I have been borrowing my friend Carolyn's radio however, and listening to BBC or VOA everyday.  I find all of this talk about war to be very disturbing, but I also feel removed from it.  There are a few Muslims around in this part of the country, but they do not at all appear to be threatening.  The only adverse attitudes we volunteers have encountered is the occasional "Osama!"  shouted out at us from little boys, usually only in the bigger cities.  There has been terrorist threats on the island of Zanzibar, but no action resulted from them. 

Life in the village continues to be nothing but peaceful.  I am beginning to be very busy - talking with farmers about the problems they are having with their crops and trees, and projects they would like to do.  Beekeeping, medicine for cows, and layer hens are first on the list, but I will not have any funds to initiate these projects until May or June, due to changes in our Peace Corps project budgets.  In the mean time, I have begun helping to weigh babies at "clinic day" which is held once a month for the mamas to bring their babies to be examined.  These days will be good times for me to hold seminars about health and nutrition for the mamas.  Next month already, I'm giving a seminar about how to make banana bread and corn bread!  Bananas and corn are two things that we have an abundance of in the village, and although sweet breads may not be considered to be entirely healthy, they do add some variety to the villager's diets.  Also on Monday, I will begin teaching English to first and second graders at the primary school near my house.  At first I was apprehensive about this since I have never taught English before, but first and second grade should be fairly easy, and I think it will be a lot of fun!  Once the students get to secondary school, all of their courses are taught in English, and many of them fail since English is not adequately taught in primary school, so I feel this is a very important thing to do.  There are four students from my village that attend secondary school (the have to ride their bikes 12 miles every day round trip!), and I have begun to tutor them in English and other subjects.  Very few students have the opportunity to go to secondary school, because not only do they have to pass a very difficult examination (in English!), but their parents also have to pay fees.  So usually, only students with parents who have paying jobs get to go. 

Two opposing attitudes I have observed and experienced here have posed challenges to feeling completely comfortable and "blending in" with Tanzanians.  One attitude is that because I am white and come from America, some villagers seem to think that means I can do anything and have all the answers to their problems.  I feel a lot of undue respect from them, especially when I look around and see many of their answers to their problems (their poverty in particular) are all right here.  Several farmers already make compost and use contours and have fruit trees and beehives.  It's just that the information is not shared.  Some people seem to be saying that only if it comes from me, it will seem like the right thing to do.  How I will convince them that their knowledge is just as, if not more valuable, I do not know. The other attitude is apparent resentment of my material wealth.  I look around my little cottage of a house and think about how few things I have here compared to what I had or what most people have in the States!  But even what I have here is far more than most villagers can ever even hope to have.  This resentment is more blatant when I leave my village, and people shout out at me, begging for money, or when cocky young 20-something males strike up a conversation about the differences between the US and Tanzania, and ask "so why is it that you have a job and I don't?"  Jared Diamond offers an answer to these questions in the book Guns, Germs, and Steel (an excellent read, I highly recommend it), but how do you begin to explain his intricate and elaborate theory in a 10-minute conversation (and in broken Swahili and English)?  I'm not sure this question can ever be answered in a completely satisfying way for those of us who feel guilt, or for those of us who feel resentment, about the disparities in the world. But I'll continue to carry on, waging PEACE!

International politics in Africa and more Pamela

The Serengetti - Tanzania, Africa- for the Grateful Web

Hi Everyone!  How are you?  Hopefully staying sane in this insane world!  I am continuing to listen to VOA and BBC every day, and glad to hear the war is (maybe?) nearing an end.  It has been interesting hearing the differences in American and British perspectives, although we are "united in the war effort".  The British angle is definitely more analytical and objective, expressing more views from other nations as well as their own.  Most Tanzanians don't think the war is justified, and they don't like Bush.  They think he is using excessive force to accomplish a task that should have been left to the United Nations.  We are not seen as a liberator, we are seen as a big bully and it's quite embarrassing to be an American right now.

At the village level, the war has had an impact on my ability to initiate projects, because the grant review process was stalled until the war ends.  All first-year Environment/Agriculture volunteers were scheduled to go to Dar Es Salaam March 23-29 for meetings on how to fine tune our grants and implement projects.  However, just prior to this, the war began and our meeting has been postponed until a date that is still unknown.  Also, we were put on modified standfast, meaning we were not allowed to leave our regions.  A week later we were put on full standfast, and not allowed to leave our villages except to buy supplies.  This lasted for two weeks, and now we are back on modified standfast.  When the war began, there were several Muslim protests held around the country, but nothing potentially violent or dangerous resulted from them, so the Ambassador and Peace Corps staff have relaxed a bit.

I have still been keeping busy - gardening, building a rainwater harvester, talking to people to prepare for projects, teaching English, reading a lot, and traveling.  After we found out we weren't going to Dar and before we were on full standfast, a couple other volunteers and I traveled down to the town of Njombe to visit our volunteer friends there.  We took a bus out to a village 3 hours east of Njombe, and I would have to say it was the scariest bus ride of my entire life!  The road was muddy and the terrain was very mountainous.  At one point, the bus was spinning tires trying to make it up a hill, and a guy jumped out to run along side the bus with a block of wood!  I assume he was our emergency break system !?!  Once we arrived at our destination however, the ride was well worth it.  The landscape there was absolutely breath taking - steep lush and green mountains covered with tea, other crops, and forest, and surrounded by thick mist.  On high points you could see out over several layers of mountains, probably for hundreds of miles out onto the plains.  It was incredible!

Last week, I traveled to another beautiful area in my district, near the village of Ifwagi.  Each of the 17 volunteers around Mafinga brought 3 students (one boy, two girls) to a Girls' Empowerment Conference.  The students learned about women and children's rights, HIV/AIDS, rape, good nutrition, and also fun things like new songs, how to crochet, sew underwear, make corn-husk dolls, and play hacky sack and frisbee!  I think the students had a great time, being away from home and their chores (especially the girls, who haul all the water, wash clothes, and help their mothers cook.)  The volunteers also had a great time.  We set up a tent city and made sure the local dukas (shops) made a profit this month by buying up all their beer!

This weekend, I had the options of climbing Mt. Kili or going on safari in Ruaha National Park, and was leaning towards the safari because it was not as expensive.  But now I've decided to hold off on that as well (until ya'll come visit!), and save my money to go to South Africa in July to see my friend Lori, go to an International Film Festival on Zanzibar, also in July, and maybe go to Lake Victoria in June.  I am having no problem enjoying life here!

Hamjambo?

- for the Grateful Web

I hope your spring going into summer is wonderful.  Here it is nearly "winter" and getting very chilly in the Southern Highlands.  Not like Nebraska winter chilly, but with no central heating or insulation and lots of drafty cracks in the house, certainly CHILLY.  My guess is some nights it gets down into the 40s, and some days not warmer than 70.  No complaints though, I'm still able to garden!

 

About ten days ago I returned to my village from In-Service-Training in Dar Es Salaam, where I learned that I have received $2,000 USD in grant money to initiate projects!  The first projects will be at the school:  renovating two classrooms, adding clear panels to the ceilings of all classrooms for more light, painting a mural of a world map, and constructing a garden and tree nursery for the students to learn how to care for vegetables, fruit and lumber trees as potential cash crops.  In the village, the first project will be to improve the genetics of local chickens.  This will involve distributing medicine to vaccinate all the chickens for a common virus (which modern breeds are more susceptible to), helping villagers build bandas (coops), bringing in modern roosters, and setting up a breeding program (second generation offspring are the best).  The result will be chickens that are more productive in laying eggs and providing meat!   The villagers are very excited about this project.

 

Currently I am on my way to a conference in Morogoro, which will be attended by all 110 Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania.  I'll return to Mafinga on Monday, regroup with all the Environment volunteers in my area, then go to the village of Itimbo for EcoCamp.  We're each bringing 3 students and will be teaching fun things about trees/plants, animals/birds, the water cycle, good soil practices, and introducing the concept of Ecology. I'll then return to my village for two weeks, and hopefully be able to get several projects rolling, then go on vacation to Zanzibar for the International Film and Cultural Festival!  I'll return again for two weeks, then go to an AIDS conference with a fellow villager, where we'll learn all the current statistics and be able to share what we've learned with other villagers.

 

With all this coming and going, it's going to be difficult to implement projects, but by August things should settle down, and I'll be in the village for longer periods of time.  I've absolutely fallen in Love with Tanzania!  It's people, the culture, and landscapes are all so beautiful.  Time is flying; I can't believe my service is already 1/4 over! 

Greetings from South Africa

Pretoria, South Africa- for the Grateful Web
Johannesburg, South Africa- for the Grateful Web

Just to let you know, I'm in Pretoria, South Africa, to see the dentist.  It looks like I may be here until the end of next week, August 7th, and I don't have much to do, so if you want to write, I will certainly have the time to write you back!  The PC Medical office in Tanzania sent me here because the dentist in Dar es Salaam thought I needed a root canal and a crown, and there is no one there who is trained to do these things.  The dentist here, however, says I don't need a root canal, YEAH! Only a crown, but it will still take about a week and a half for this.

Usually from Tanzania we are sent to Nairobi, but currently we are not allowed to travel there because of a ban issued by the State Department.  Apparently links have been found between the diamond and tanzanite mining companies in Kenya with Al Qaeda, and the British and American governments are making a big deal out of it.  People who I have talked to from Kenya think this is all totally absurd, and are pleading for the ban to be lifted because, as one of them said, "the tourism industry has been brought to its knees."  British Airways have cancelled their flights to Nairobi since about the middle of May. 

Also to let you know, Johannesburg and Pretoria are really not as dangerous as their reputation suggests.  I flew into Johannesburg earlier this week, and everyone I have met has insisted on this.  However, they say it is still smart to be precautious.  From what I've seen so far, nearly everything here is exactly like in America!  The only differences are people drive on the left side of the road, have mostly German vehicles: Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW, and most of the signs are in Afrikaans, that funky language that is the derivative of Dutch.  Besides that, Pretoria could be any college town in the Southeastern US!  There are tree-lined streets, stylish residential areas, good restaurants, lots of nature preserves and parks, and many young people out and about, riding mountain bikes and walking.  This is what I've seen.  But from what I've heard, Pretoria and Johannesburg give the impression that this is first-world country, but once you get out in the bush, it becomes obvious that South Africa really is third world.  The disparities are enormous!  Only about 15% of South Africans are of European descent, yet almost all of them live within the greater Johannesburg and Pretoria metropolitan areas, giving the impression that more than half the population here is white.  It is obvious though; that help is needed otherwise Peace Corps would not be here.

Pamela at Lake Nyasa in Africa

Lake Nyasa - for the Grateful Web
- for the Grateful Web

I hope you are all doing well and had an enjoyable summer!  It is getting near spring here, evident by the pink flowers of the blooming peach trees.  Yet the weather in the Highlands is still very cold!  Some days, when it is cloudy or windy the temperature doesn't get much above 65, and when the sun is out it will get maybe up in the 70s.  The crops and grasses are brown and have died down, but the pine, eucalyptus and other evergreen shrubs remain as a presence of green.

Time is beginning to slow down a bit here, probably because the excitement has worn off, although new things are happening every day.  As many of you know, I went to South Africa last month to have dental work done, and since returning I have been tremendously busy with projects.  I was very happy to see that the school carried on well with classroom renovation and constructing the fences and raised beds for the garden and tree nursery.  One day about 600 of the 690 students helped to haul rich soil up from the valley (about 1/2 mile from the school) in bags that they carried on their heads!  They looked like a line of worker ants.  For several days they also brought bags of composted manure from home.  We now have literally thousands of seedlings of 8 different types of trees (mostly for lumber and soil improvement; soon we will obtain fruit tree seedlings), and 38 varieties of 14 types of vegetables, including: tomatoes, onions, collards, kale, several types of beans, amaranth, eggplant, carrots, peas, watermelon, pumpkins, sweet corn, and cucumbers.  We have 10 varieties each of tomatoes and onions, and several varieties of other vegetables, and therefore are conducting a mini variety trial research project!  (Like I didn't get enough of that in grad school!)  The seeds were obtained from local markets and two NGOs, ECHO, a Christian hunger relief organization based in Florida, and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center based in Taiwan and has an African Division office in Arusha.  Both of these organizations are interested in obtaining feed back the plants' performance, so I plan to make evaluation sheets that the students to help them analyze plant growth, then we will write reports.  In addition to developing critical thinking skills, hopefully the students are also learning the basics of vegetable gardening and tree care, so that the health and income of their families will be improved.  I am happy to see that the students are very excited about this project, as are other teachers.  I have no doubt that this project will carry on well without me!

Another project to help achieve the goal of improving the health and income of families began last week with a "travel study", when 4 women and I went to observe the farm belonging to the mother of one of our district officials, who has artistically integrated the components of a large vegetable garden, numerous fruit trees, and various types of livestock.  The farm is near the village of Ludewa, which is 35 km from Lake Nyasa, and within the Livingstone Mountains.  We were not able to see the lake because of mountains, but it was still very beautiful!  Hopefully the women came home with new ideas, but I'm sure just seeing some place new changed their lives in some way.  I am now meeting with them to plan seminars that they will give in each sub village about what they learned and observed, and this will hopefully get people talking about ways they can diversify their farms.  The beekeeping and chicken projects are both in progress; 2 village craftsmen are currently making beehives and soon we will have 85 to sell to villagers at a reduced cost, with the help of PC grant money.  The District Beekeeping Extension Officer came to the village to give a seminar, after which the villagers formed a bee group.  If they keep in touch with the Extension Officer, he will be able to help them find markets for their honey and wax.  People are also really enthusiastic about the chicken project, and this coming week we will be organizing a chicken group who will decide and coordinate the method of distributing vaccinations.  I will then give a series of seminars on the needs of modern breed chickens, after which 20 roosters (Rhode Island Reds) will be brought to the village and distributed to people who have built bandas.  In the following months, more vaccinations and more roosters will be brought. 

On a personal level, I have been struggling somewhat with homesickness and what PC terms "cultural fatigue".  But I am not going through this alone; all of the volunteers in my training group seem to be experiencing the same feelings right now.  At least we have each other and plans of many adventures for next year..