Learning to be home again


Above: pictures of Rio, I fell in love with the city and the most hospitable people I’ve met on this Earth in 4 days flat.

Below: massive blog post

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a vida pantaneira (life in the pantanal)

I’ve been working at a really cool cattle ranch and ecolodge in the Brazilian Pantanal.

It’s so hard to sum up the experience I’ve been having here so I revert to lists of cool new things. Also,  the list of vocabulary words I’ve learned in Portuguese that I update every night is a pretty good way of seeing what I do.
– cattle drive
– getting chased by water buffalo
– wrangling a stray cow
– seen the flood waters come in and the landscape and animal behaviors completely change
– ridden a swimming horse through a deep river. 
– the men here wear large knives or small machetes (depending on how you look at it) on their belts to use when riding through palm tree forests. It’s a good way to trim branches in the way. 
– there are SEVEN components to the saddles here instead of the 3 I’m used to. I’ve finally learned how to secure everything though. 
– long sleeved pants and shirts are a must because of the mosquitoes. 
– At the farm we wake up at 4 am, drink coffee, milk cows, eat a breakfast of rice and meat and more coffee. 
– Lunch and dinner at the farm is always rice and beans and meat. I’m not sure how I’m going to get enough fiber in my diet to poop these days but maybe oranges?
– I cut open a green coconut with a machete yesterday and drank from it. 
– Instead of store bought leather conditioner, they use sheep fat and dry the saddles in the sun. 
– All the meat, milk and cheese we have here are from the farm, and Dona Ana in the kitchen bakes fresh bread every day. 
– A young bull was acting up when they were milking the cows so they litterally lassoed him, castrated him on the spot and fed his balls to the dogs. Not a good way to start a Friday morning if you ask me. 
fica a vontade: be welcome, or make yourself at home
esquecer: to forget
tomara que sim: I hope so
prestativo: helpful
fofoca: gossip
aprender na marra: to learn by necessity
afundar: to sink
quebrar: to break
esfragar: to scrub
rede: hammock
geito: personality, way of being. 
marimbondo: wasp
vagalume: firefly
estrela cadente: shooting star
égua: mare
veado: deer
morcego: bat
Chapeu: hat
adivinha: to guess
brincando: joking
mata: forest 
nao estou com presa: I’m not in a hurry
pena: feather
que e meu e seu: what is mine is yours
I’ve really enjoyed my experience here, because I’m not getting the typical “tourist” experience or any special treatment. I live in the wooden houses with the rest of the staff, who are all Brazilian. I have to learn Portuguese, there are no guides here to translate everything for me and only a couple people on the farm speak it, though only a little. I eat with everyone else, so (for better or worse, no vegetables) I see what normal people eat here, not the fancier food that goes out to the guests. 
The owners have been so welcoming. I work here, but you can tell that they also want me to enjoy my experience here and see as much as I can. You can also tell that they really love and care about the area. I got their email a couple weeks after I got rid of most of my clothes, so Olivia (one of the owners) has gracefully let me borrow a pair of her jeans, a couple pairs of socks, riding boots, a bunch of shirts. 
If you want to see pictures, here is the link
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A word after a word / after a word is power.

Departure from the Jungle (originally “Abschied vom Urwald”)

With my suitcase, I sit on the beach;
Below me, on the streamer, Indians,
Chinese, Malayans are shouting,
Laughing loudly and trading their knickknacks.

Behind me, feverish nights, and days
Of glowing life, that even now I carry
Carefully as treasures in my deepest thoughts,
As though I still wet my feet in the jungle stream.

I know many countries and cities are still waiting,
But never again will the night of the forests,
The wild fermenting garden of the earliest world
Lure me in, and horrify me with its magnificence.

Here in this endless and gleaming wilderness
I was removed farther than ever from the world of men –
And I never saw so close and so clearly
The image in the mirror of my own soul.

Hermann Hesse

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a crowd, dust and the sunset

a crowd, dust and the sunset

I went to the first soccer game of the season yesterday and snapped this shot after a heart-attack inducing, exciting game. The weather has been fantastic! I love the first real days of fall – everyone is just so grateful for the cool nights and a breeze. It’s jean wearing, picnic having, grapefruit eating, physically full of happiness weather.

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unconvential packing list


A friend here asked me the other day what I hope to take back from Paraguay. Not the tangible, but the habits I’ve picked up.

The first things that came to mind were probably pretty common from Volunteers who serve here. I hope I continue to drink mate and tereré (it’s going to be a much more expensive habit back home though). I hope I hold on to some of the tranquilo or tranquility I’ve acquired here. I’ve learned that nothing is set in stone and that’s been frustrating and liberating at the same time. Frustrating because sometimes you have planned for a full work day and it rains, so nothing happens. Liberating, because things don’t work out and you learn that that’s OK. You move on to the next thing, or work on making the first thing better. I really hope I hold on to that. Continue reading

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all over the place, so this post is too.

summer storm power outage

I was falling asleep last night and got into those crazy, nonsensical, but at the same time deep thoughts that you get pre-sleep. Of course I was too lazy to get out of bed and write them out that night, and today everything is fuzzy. This always happens. So I’ll try and write out what I do remember.  Continue reading

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Speaking of buses…

really crowded bus

After our Close of Service Conference, about 30 peace corps volunteers and I took a trip to the Salto Cristal waterfall. Somehow all the norteamericanos and all our bags (we have LARGE bags) fit on a bus that was already half full. Most of us were standing in the aisle, meaning people who needed to get off before us (picture on the left) needed to squeeze through.

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