Tuesday, July 26, 2016

No Monkeying Around


 

We have been busy at work analyzing the data we collected thus far. As a break I had the opportunity to go gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Southwestern Uganda on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this specific national park there are at least five families of gorillas each having more than 11 gorillas. Before the tracking began we were told that along the journey we would see wild elephants, baboons, monkeys, and of course gorillas.

We set off on our hike downhill. I naively thought the steep downhill portion would be easy, but I was wrong. Even though our guide cleared our path using a machete I quickly learned the true meaning of an “impenetrable forest.” After over three hours of trekking through streams and heavy brush we reached the gorillas. First, we came across a five year old gorilla that was playing with sugarcane. His name was Happy, and he thought it’d be funny to touch my ankle. He was playful and harmless, so we all laughed. We saw gorillas of all ages from small three year olds to the great male silverback. The male silverback is the prominent male leader of the family weighing over 400 kg (which is over 850 lbs.) Wherever he was moving it was a sure bet that that rest of the family would be close behind following.

Being with the gorillas for over an hour made me appreciate their magnificent beauty. I could tell they were very intelligent, gentle creatures.

Here are some of my favorite gorillas:


Posing with the family's male silverback mountain gorilla
 
This is the infamous gorilla Happy
 

A mother gorilla and her baby
 
In fact gorilla siblings play and fight too






 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Final moments

 Right outside one of the oldest landmarks in Belem during Praca Da Republica!
 My Brazilian host parents Claudio and Circe. They are actually Angels. They spoil us thoroughly by cooking us food, cleaning our cloths, and helping us pre-game before we go out.








Outside the Clube do Remo stadium right before a game! Today was our last time at the stadium. I will certainly miss this place. We laughed, we cried. #Remistaparasempre

Safe, Reckless Fun

At the beginning of summer a friend of mine gave me an interesting piece of advice: “Be safe and have reckless fun”. At the time, this oxymoron confused me. How could I simultaneously be safe and be reckless? Without a clue on how to go about it, I set out to concur my newly found challenge.  I attempted to get a tattoo in Brazil, but failed because nobody in the tattoo parlor spoke English. I tried going out and having a wild night of intoxication, and failed twice, one ending in me being completely sober. By late June, I ended my reckless attempts and focused my attention on traveling.
Since, I learned I would be spending my summer in Brazil I began planning the many cities, and counties I would visit while I was in South America.  Unfortunately, my American housemates did not have the same vision in mind. After a month of trying my best to persuade them otherwise, which only resulted in a visiting to an island off the coast of Sao Paulo, I gave up. I realized that if I wanted to travel, I would have to do it, solo.
The thought of traveling around a foreign country and into nearby countries without speaking the native language, terrified me. Many times, I thought of dismissing my thoughts of travel and staying at home, where everything was familiar. At the beginning of July, I went to Rio de Janerio with my housemate from Columbia. There I met a few travelers who had been solo traveling around the world! They assured me that I would have nothing to worry about and if I decided to travel alone I would have the time of my life.  It was in Rio, where my worries started to drift away and my inner reckless took over.
Since then, I have traveled to Buenos Aries, Argentina and Manaus, Brazil by myself. Looking back, I realize that during my adventures, I put myself in a couple of sticky situations that could have ended terribly, but through the grace of god, they did not.
I am currently sitting on a beach in the middle of the rainforest in Manaus, Brazil reflecting on my choices. I have traveled throughout Brazil and Buenos Aries. My phone was stolen. (In Sao Paulo ironically) I misread my iternary and went to the airport when my flight was not scheduled until the next day…twice. I’ve ridden on the back of a motorcycle for the first time. I’ve seen many world wonders. I’ve flown first class. I’ve rode on a speed boat. I’ve made friends from all around the world some of whom spoke English, while others did not.

I am damn near broke, phoneless, and covered in bug bites, but I would not change a thing. Between my travels, my research, and my amazing mentors, I have had the best summer ever! I learned, I created, I laughed and I cried. But most importantly, I had safe and reckless fun!
Me at the metting of the Negro river and the Amaazon river

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Doomed Trip

I'm a planner. Spontaneity and last minute decision making as well as deviating from the plan give me anxiety. This is one of the aspects of my character that has really been tested in Brazil, because normally even when I begin the day with a plan it usually gets deterred by a new adventure, a language barrier, or any other countless things that can happen while traveling.

This is all to say that planning our weekend trip to Foz do Iguacu was an absolute anxiety enducing nightmare for me. Everything last minute. Everything going wrong. Every problem solved produced a few more. I really and truly thought it was just not something I was meant to experience.

Even after ATM debacles, debit card denials and finally successfully booking the bus tickets just 6 hours before their departure, sometimes the bus breaks down in the outskirts of Curitiba at 11 PM and you anxiety reaches an all time high as your brain races to figure out a way to shelter for the night. (Another bus came for us about an hour later, no worries)

BUT the good news is, that even despite all this challenges and tests, you may just end up in the most beautiful place you've ever seen enjoying a free capirinha at "capi hour" at your hostel that's built out of storage containers wondering how it all worked out without meticulous planning execution.

So, my aniexty-ridden friends, take the 18 hour bus ride though rural mountainous Brazil and try not to fret about things that are out of your control because you still may end your day with a free capirinha in hand.

And some pretty great new memories:

Iguazu falls!

Although kind of cute, these animals are lowkey dangerous
Brazilian side of Igauzu falls
Got a bit wet for this picture but totally worth it! Another picture of the Brazilian side