8.14.2006

Brasil

Ok, so this is a long time coming. If you didn't know I went to Brasil this spring/summer for a study abroad program. Since coming home, I have been trying to fly pretty low under the radar. Those I have been in contact with have all asked about the trip and wanted stories, and to some degree I have dropped the ball by not sending out a more inclusive trip report so here it is. However, with school lurking right around the corner this will be somewhat abbreviated as my to-do list is not short right now. But I always tell people that ask about the trip that you will get better stories if you ask specific questions, so if I pique your interest give me a call or shoot me an email and you can learn more.

If you just want to see pictures, skip all this writing and scroll down to the pictures below.

I took two classes while I was there--Comparative Environmental Law: Urban Issues and Environmental Health & Policy. Obviously these classes were of specific interest to me. In addition, Brasil has long piqued my interest, especially since staring down the Amazon from its headwaters in Equador. This program was also sponsored by Seattle U Law School and the timing worked out well to make this trip ideal for my summer. Finally I wanted to get exposed to some Portuguese as East Timor--where Jen went last summer and will go again shortly--uses it as their official language.

The course was in Rio de Janeiro for 4 weeks, including one 4-day field trip to Paraty--a well preserved colonial fishing village with well preserved Atlantic Rainforest nearby. A group of us also traveled to Buzious--a beautiful fishing village and resort town--for the weekend. But for almost 5 weeks, I was basically living in Rio, within the community of Ipanema, one block off the beach and right around the corner from Copacabana.

Rio is beautiful...Amazingly beautiful. But it is not without its social problems, and they are many and excerbated by the city's size and growth. Imagine a setting like Yosemite Valley with white sand beaches along the edge and 7 million people living there.

At this point I should explain the huge disparity of Rio. There is a HUGE division between rich and poor, haves and have nots, and they live literally across the street and all around each other. I am referring to the favelas (the shanytowns of rio). Much of Rio is very developed, full of tourism and a thriving upper class. But the majority of the city is poor. And with this kind of poverty comes major social issues: poor to no wastewater infrastructure, poor public health, etc. However, Brasil's most current government is very new; in fact the consitution was written in 1987 (I think, I am too lazy to look up). Their laws are very progressive and impressive by the letter of the law. But their is poor funding for enforcement and much corruption in the government. As with our society and the global society for that matter...its all very complicated, but very interesting to discuss and learn more about. I could bore you all to death on these subjects, so this is where I will stop and let you ask me questions if you want.

Other quick points from the trip:
Rio is a huge urban city...I am still a small town boy, and this trip reminded me of that.
Surfing and Portuguese were very humbling, but a fun challenge.
Only 7% of the Atlantic Rainforest remains!
Brasil is home to more freshwater than any other country.
Brasil is currently energy self-sufficient.
Fresh fruit juice every morning is awesome! Especially Acai, which is an Amazonian fruit and starting to show up in the states...go find some.
Brasilians like their meat and cheese, but I wouldn't say its great meat, and definitely not good cheese.
Brasilians are very diverse, yet there exists very few racial classes.
Soccer truely is sacred and it was fun to watch the start of the world cup there.

Ok thats it for now...time for pictures:

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