Please note the Time Capsule letter for session 2 of our Brazil: Rio & Amazon Expedition program will be posted in December.
Sunday July 7, 2019
After a long day of traveling we were well rested and ready to get to work! We started off with a nutritious breakfast to get ready for our day which included eggs, fruits, and coffee as well as a special dish of guava jelly.
Afterwards we began orientation to gain a deeper understanding of the GLA program and values. We then played a dance game to help build a bond with our group.
We than embarked on our trip to the favela Vidigal to begin our volunteer work. When we got there we met two woman need Victoria and Tamires who are ambassadors of the Play Life program who help young girls who want to play sports gain those opportunities by building areas in favelas for the community to have a space to play sports.
We begun by moving trash out of the block as well as scraping paint off of a mural. While working we enjoyed each other’s company and got to know each other a lot better which made work really fun.
Later on after a lot of trash was moved and some painting had begun a dog wandered in that we all took a liking to who we named Kevin. After we had finished our day of volunteer work and were waiting for our transportation we decided to play a game of native chief to bond as a group.
When we arrived home we all had dinner which included pasta, beef, and salad. Afterwards we did our end of day leader circle where we gave shout outs to our fellow group members to show our appreciation for each other. Finally we finished off the day by writing in our journal about all of the days events.
Tuesday July 9, 2019
Play life is a soccer club in the Vidigal Favela, today we went and finished cleaning and painting the facilities, walls, and play area. Afterwards we made friends with some of the local kids. We shared food and drink after a couple hours of Soccer. We stood no chance against them. It was a really cool experience to spend time with the kids and interact with everybody and to see how we were able to connect with and impact the community over the course of not even two days.
Wednesday July 10, 2019
We began our second half of service work on Wednesday, in the Complexo do Alemão favela. Let me tell you, it was a LOT of work. We arrived around 10 at Abraço Campeão, a boxing center, widely known for the short film The Good Fight which revolves around Alan, the man who started the center.
The first thing we did when we arrived was watch the short film so we could get a better understanding of the backstory of this place. Alan created a safe space in the favela where people could go to learn self defense, have fun, or to have an overall feeling of family. He decided to create a garden to bring the community closer.
After that we got to work. The group before us got a lot done, so that was very helpful to us. We spent the first half of the day making cement and finishing the base of the garden. The neighborhood kids came out to help us and we got to know them very well, despite the language barrier. We had rice and beans for lunch, and we were very hungry because of the hard work we had done that day. After lunch it was back to work!
We left Abraço Campeão around four. Although it was hard work, we all left feeling very fulfilled with our work that day. Spoiler alert: we were very sore the next day.
That night we had Jeopardy night. All the categories were around Brazil. My team is ended up in last place, but it was fun anyway! We all learned a lot we hadn’t known before. Did you know that there is a Portuguese word that can’t be translated into any other language? Saudade. It means an intense sense of longing.
We had pasta for dinner, and soon after, we had our closing circle. We all named our rose, bud and thorn for that day. My rose was the feeling of fulfillment after our work, my thorn was doing the work, and my bud was doing more work tomorrow. We slept very good that night.
– Kaia Pelz
Friday July 12, 2019
I woke up to sunlight streaming from the open window of our room, although I did not have much time to enjoy it since we were in a hurry to get to the bus that would be taking us around Rio, meaning breakfast was hurried and limited, I settled for an Apple and a cup of coffee. It was also the other groups second to last day, they were trying to enjoy the last few moments they were gonna spend in Brazil, it was also our second to last day in Rio tomorrow, we spent most of the next day packing for Manaus and so we started our last fully productive day in Rio.
First we visited Rodrigo de freitas lagoon which was a lagoon in the middle of Rio, here you could see the silhouette of Christ The redeemer in the distance in surrounding you could see apartment buildings but because it was foggy, I couldn’t really see much in the distance, I feel that the fog made the the scenery more beautiful and gave a spotlight to the statue. Then we went to the leblon beach, this place was beautiful you could see people handglideing from a nearby hill and landing in the shores of this beach.
You could also islands off the cost of the beach, these islands, i learned were bird sanctuaries in which humans were not allowed in. The toure guide had also told us that this was the richest neighborhood in Rio. Next we went to the tijuca national park which is Rios central source of clean water. there was a little hike to the water fall there one thing i really enjoyed in the park was the fresh air and the refreshing smell of the waterfall. We got to see monkies, one of them named Chico had a missing arm and leg, one point Chico stepped on a caterpillar which was weirdly hairy had his hand got irrated and he kept scratching it. We met Chico in a spot with a great view of Rio him and the view made for great pictures.
After, we went to the Chinese view when gave us another incredible view of rio. We then moved on the the esteemed Christ The reedemer, it was very crowded and from here you could see the whole of Rio De Janero. Next we went to the Lapa Steps the was my favorite place we visited in the day. It was just very lively and vibrant, there were tiles from all over the world as we walked up the stairs we met a cat who i thought was very adorable at the very top there was a man playing the Beatles. Lastly we went to sugar loaf where we saw the sunset from it was very hard to see past the crowd being extremely short but i was able to get a couple of pictures i really enjoyed the view when it got dark all the spotlights were on the Christ the redmeer. In my opinion this was one of the most fun days we spent in Rio.
– by Ananyaa S.
Saturday July 13, 2019
We awoke to the sound of tears and goodbyes, the group we had shared the hostel with for this past week were about to depart. Although we had only known them for a short while we all knew that the hostel wouldn’t be the same without them. After the goodbyes we had breakfast, once everyone was finished we discussed the schedule and what our final day in Rio de Janeiro would consist of.
First on the list was to go to the beach for a much needed time of relaxation. By the end of our fully packed volunteer work week everyone was thrilled to have a day off at the beach. The water was the perfect amount of cold for the beating sun. Although not everyone had an amazing time we all learned a very valuable lesson at the expense of well, me. I was careless and distracted and my cellphone was stolen. Hopefully now everyone will be a lot more careful with everything. After that we played a game where everyone is dancing and then has to get with a partner and answer questions which helped distract from the sad turn the day took. After the game some got ice cream and we headed back to the hostel.
After the beach we had a very delicious lunch and got washed up. Then we had a mentor group in which we wrote poems about where we’re all from. After this activity we packed for our flight to Manaus which we have to leave at 4am for. Once everyone was all packed we were headed off once again, this time we were set on going to the markets for once in a lifetime purchases.
After the markets we returned to the hostel for a delicious dinner. After dinner we had an appreciation circle and proceeded to write our daily journals. Then it was to bed to try and get as much sleep possible before we’re off to Manaus bright and early tomorrow.
~by Katie Tanner
Sunday July 14, 2019
Trip to Manaus, 3:50 Am as feet start to hit the floor we tried to be out the door as soon as possible. Faces that only got a couple hours of sleep occupied the bus, although sleepy to the airport we went. Tired still? Yes we were, as we departed from Rio and the city life. The life we were all getting use to, we were all ready to go onward with our adventures.
After the flight we came to the hostel and chilled out for an hour before leaving for lunch and then going on our city tour of Manaus. Hot and humid but we still trekked on struggling but seeing who would drop first from a heat stroke. As we came back to the hostel we did an activity which covered how to handle situations that make you mad and how to stay calm and handle them. Not only that but talking about humility and staying humble because being outside your comfort zone can make you mad so we have to take a moment, step back and realize that we’re in someone else’s home and we need to respect that.
After the activity we had about an hour to chill out till the pizza came. Then after we ate we rested in our rooms getting ready for tomorrow’s adventure. I’ll leave you with a quote that I personally favor. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma Gandhi
Monday July 15, 2019
Today was mostly a travel day. We woke up and had a quick breakfast after breakfast we played a game. The game was to try and name all the animals in the paintings at the hostel. Which was hard because all the walls were covered in paintings. After the game we left for the Amazon. It was about a three hour drive but it went by pretty quickly and the views out the car windows were beautiful.
Once we got to home base we had a quick lunch and spent some time in the hammocks. We also went on a tour of the property and got to see some pretty cool views of the forest. Later we played a game where we all stood on one blanket and tried to flip it from one side to the other. It took us a while to figure out but eventually we were able to do it.
After a few other games we went down to dinner. The food was really good. We ended the night by doing our circle and reflecting on the day before heading off to bed. On the way back we also saw a really huge tarantula. All in all it was a pretty grate day.
-by Celia Schwietzer
Tuesday July 16, 2019
Today all started with the cries of howler monkeys outside. Then we went down to breakfast where we were greeted by various fruits and a special tapioca.
Our first activity was a presentation about the Amazon, deforestation, and the animals native to the region. We saw how the Amazon is spread across 7 countries. How the large companies are gaining land and causing deforestation. We also learned about things like how piranhas are not a problem unless there very hungry or you’re bleeding.
Before lunch we were given Portuguese lessons by Kinan, one of the children living at the lodge. He is fluent in English and Portuguese, and he is learning Japanese and Italian. We learned a lot of basic words and phrases that could be helpful in the future.
After lunch we walked around the property were on to see what were working. We were introduced to many exotic plants that are edible to humans. We were shown the pond there the fish are. finally we were lead to a small campsite in the middle of the jungle where we were all able to swing off roped tied to tree.
For dinner we had a roasted chicken with noodles and acerola juice. The meal was overall very delicious.
– by Matthew Kintzele
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Waking up to very humid mornings are almost getting bearable but the monkeys really get ya. We headed down after much needed cold showers and had one of the best breakfasts of this trip so far, frikin guacamole toast. After we had happy tummies we learned how to extract oil from different kinds of plants with a homemade extractor which is mildly genius.
Then lunch was something completely new to everyone, it was pirhana soup, teeth and everything included. And yes, bets were made on who would eat the head. To top the afternoon off, the man, the myth, the legend Leo taught us about cameras and how to use them for animal photography. He captures videos of animals in the forest by motion sensors. On one of the cameras, we got to see a video of a jaguar just walkin through the trees like it was no big deal.
Just knowing I walked on the same path a jaguar did recently was the coolest sensation. Towards the end of the hike we saw monkeys high up jumping from tree to tree and heard all different kinds of birds. Dinner was amazing as usual thanks to our amazing cooks and then we hit the hay to get energized for the next day.
-by Anna Pendleton
Thursday July 18, 2019
This morning we started our day with a mentor group in which we all drew an image of an important symbol or object in our lives, and then shared stories about it with the group. I liked learning new things about the individuals in our group. Then we had a cooking class with Marisa and Mayara, our two amazing chefs. We split into three groups, learning to make flat bread, omeletes, mousse dessert and juice. I helped cutting cheese to eat with the bread and cracking eggs for the omelette. My favorite part of the meal was the bread and the graviola juice, which is called soursop in English.
After lunch we got to talk to some folks who were here at Amazon Emotions collecting and researching different mushrooms. They had collected 52 different species in just 1.5 hours walking in the forest! We learned about the importance of fungi to the ecosystem of the Amazon, and how we only have discovered an estimated 3-6% of all the fungi in the world!
Then the group went on a jungle trek with our awesome guide, Samuel. He showed us some ants that we let crawl all over our hands (which we smashed) to act as a natural insect repellant. We also saw giant bullet ants and learned about a traditional coming of age ritual which Samuel had to endure the pain of the ants biting his hands for hours, multiple times. Samuel also showed us how to make bow and arrow from a tree, and a shelter and mat from palm fronds. He is the survival expert! The trekking was hot and humid but totally worth it.
After a delicious dinner Leo showed us some footage of jaguars, cougars, and peccary pigs. It was pretty cool to see these wild animals on cameras right near us on the property. Overall it was a good day!
Friday July 19, 2019
In the morning we were all packed and ready for our weekend excursion after a breakfast of fruit ammeters and a fruit cake we all loaded into 3 taxi’s in which we drove 30 minutes to Presidente Fueguero.
Once we settled into our hostel, we left for the markets. We first stoped at a store with handcrafted native art. The store consisted of things like woven baskets, ceramics, and wood carvings. Then we went to a fruit market where we did a scavenger hunt. During the scavenger hunt we had to take pictures with different Brazilian fruits.
After lunch we went to the river rapids. At the river rapids we swam and rode the current. We set up a system in which people would plans themselves in the rapids to catch others. It was really fun. We finished at the rapids and weren’t back to the hostel, we played with the kitten who lives there and played pool.
Saturday July 20, 2019
We started our day off by waking up after a restful night at a hostel we stayed at called Parque Hotel. After breakfast and packing we began a warm hike to the waterfall where we saw a beautiful forest. Along the way we met an officer who worked with tourism and we all took a picture with him and we met a bunch of puppies that were on the property with him. Then we reached the waterfall and we were all exciting to jump in to escape the heat. The waterfall had a raging wall of water crashing down so we decided to explore it.
It was thrilling however we had a little trouble getting back so our fearless mentor Beca came to the rescue. Afterwards we sat in a calmer part of the waterfall and enjoyed telling each other a variety of puzzling riddles. We then traveled back on our path to head to a river for lunch. On the river we enjoyed a picnic of sandwiches and pineapple. Afterwards our survival guide Samuel and Kinan helped set up an awesome rope swing for us. We swung for a while and enjoyed each other company.
After a day of swimming we were ready to return to Amazon emotions. When we returned we waited for the preparations of one of our amazing cooks Marisa’s birthday dinner so in the meantime we played a game of hot seat to learn more things about each other. Later the party preparations were ready and we found out we were having a pizza party with homemade pizza. The pizza was all delicious and we danced to music and enjoyed the beautiful celebration.
Eventually it became time to sing happy birthday and eat cake which was a wonderful moment where we all came together. The cake was a scrumptious glazed coconut cake that we all enjoyed together. After the festivities we were all extremely tired from a long day of fun and immediately went to bed to be rested up for our first service day tomorrow.
Sunday July 21, 2019
We woke up to the beautiful music of the birds of the Amazon, this was a lovely thing to wake up to. It’s very peaceful to see the sunrise in the hammocks and listen to their voices. After getting prepared for the day we head downhill for a delicious breakfast and the best coffee I have ever had. Then we get ready for our first day of service work where we helped mover fire wood up and down a hill as well as helped in the garden. Although the whole time we were just really excited for the camping night. As soon as we were done with the service we went back to pack. We got our hammocks and blankets. And headed to the area where we would be camping out.
After setting up our hammocks outside we started to build fires to cook food. We went inside the oca to play a couple of games. All while we got a lot of visitors mostly spiders and very large ones. One thing I found very cool was how Samuel our guide to everything Amazon was able to anticipate the rain without even clearly seeing the sky since it was covered by high canopies. Which meant we had to go get our hammocks. While it was raining we played games and tried to solve riddels, the key word being tried inside the oca. Eventually it stopped raining but only some people hung their hammocks outside again the others decided against that and hung their hammocks in the oca.
Later we had a delicious dinner made in a open fire by Samuel. After dinner we had our stomachs full and we all were really tired. So we went to sleep in our hammocks in the FREAKING AMAZON RAINFOREST!!!!!!!!! surrounded by jaguars and ocelots and panthers and pumas although it was incredibly unlikely that they would come to the camping ground. So I fell asleep to the sound of light rain falling in the roof of the oca making today one of the best days on the trip.
Monday July 22, 2019
Today we woke with the sound of howler monkeys from our hammocks. The previous night, we went camping and learned survival tips from Samual. It was a really special day, not just because we woke up in hammocks. It was also Katie’s birthday!
We returned to homebase and ate breakfast. Next we had a full day of service work. We worked from 10-1 in the garden, practicing sustainable farming techniques. It required a lot of energy, and we were all tired when lunch came. Nevertheless, we continued on with our work after lunch until 4:30. We were dirty and a little bruised up when the work ended, but we were completely satisfied with what we had done.
We had our last leadership curriculum at homebase in which we practiced debating. Our topic was whether or not whaling should continue on the island of Becquia. Then dinner time came around. There was a little surprise for our dancing queen Katy (she was turning 17). A display of flowers and sticks which spelled out HAPPY BIRTHDAY K. We had lots of really good cake that night. We slept soundly in the Amazon rainforest that night.
– by Kaia
Tuesday July 23, 2019
Another beautiful day with the sun rising.
As we got ready for the day we ate breakfast and talked about the schedule for the day. We did an activity and talked about what we would do different next time, and if we had any regrets from the trip so far. Today was our last service day and before we got started I talked to everyone about how it’s our last day of working. My little speech wasn’t too much, but it was something that gave me a push when my wheels started to spin. It was the fact that today was our last day working from 10:30-12:30 and from 2-5. That we will never be back here doing what we are doing ever again. That even if we signed up again that we wouldn’t be with the same people, how people you’re with makes the experience the experience.
How we want to go home and be tired. When we get back and don’t feel like doing anything and when we lay down in our beds that that’s when we can be tired. Having us feel like we did all they could the last day and not for to go home and lay down and say “wow I should of done that” but for us to feel complete. Then we did our work and made it through the heat, but only for another round. First we ate lunch and chilled out. We started back up and we worked and worked. Even harder the second round because everyone was tired, but still singing songs and getting work done. The service time ended and and 11 students out of 11 students were tired, dirty and ready for a shower. After a break was the talent show and everyone seemed to have a blast even when super tired.
Everyone had to present so no one was left out. Then we had dinner and the day was done. But we also talked about how time seemed to fly and how we were sad to leave but also happy. But we still have a couple days left and want them to make it the best. With that being said I’ll leave you with a quote about time. “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” – Harvey Mackay
Wednesday July 24, 2019
Today was the first day of tree climbing it was also felt like one of the hottest days here. We started off the day off with breakfast and a member of the staff tried to teach us how to climb trees with a rope .
Later on we learned how to make some hand crafts like bracelets and keychains and after a few hours we headed back up for lunch.
After lunch we left to climb the tree. It took about half an hour or so to get to the top. The view from the top of the was amazing and we were able to see a number of birds including a small toucan.
We all made crafts for a little longer and then had dinner. After dinner we spent an hour or so playing card games and headed off to bed.
-by Celia Schwietzer
Thursday July 25, 2019
Today we and went down for breakfast at 8:00 and had very delicious pancakes. After, we had a mentor group about leadership. We watched videos from the first week in Rio about ourselves talking about what leadership is. Then we watched videos of each of us talking about what leadership was after 3 weeks on this trip. Peoples answers were all different from one another because there are so many different definitions for being what leadership is.
Then we had lunch and after we had another mentor group discussion about what we have learned on the trip and how we can apply it to our everyday lives at home. We also wrote down goals for our future and explained how we were going to accomplish them.
Next, my group went to climb what is known as the princess tree while the others made pots for planting seedlings out of leaves. The tree climbing was a great experience for me. It was a lot of fun pulling yourself up the ropes to the top of the tree. Once you got up it was a great view of the forest and you could see the guest house in the distance. When we got back we got to ask the family any questions we wanted to about their life in the Amazon.
Later after dinner we did an activity where we sat in a circle and closed our eyes and 3 people were picked to go around the circle and choose people to appreciate going off of a question that was asked. For example, it would be like, tap the person or people who are very friendly and no one would know who was tapping you. It felt nice when you got tapped and it made everyone feel happy. That concluded our day.
– by Jason
Today was our last day before leaving, and was an emotional time where we reflected on our service, the friends we have made and the good times we have shared. After breakfast, we went to pack, and were panicked when one student couldn’t find her phone. We spent hours looking for it, but luckily it turned up literally 10 minutes before we left! After chicken soup for lunch, we had a talk with Leo about the work we had done at home base, where he thanked us for our work, talked about it’s importance to the conservation of the Amazon and encouraged us to apply the lessons we had learnt in our own communities.
We then read our letter that we had written to ourselves at the start of the trip and compared our expectations to the reality of what had happened. Although they were often very different, everyone felt they had had a really positive experience. We then watched a Ted talk about lollipop moments, when we have made an important impact on someone’s lives. We used this idea for our last appreciation circle, lighting the candle of someone who had done something special for us and passing the flames throughout the group. After our celebratory supper of delicious tambaqui fish, we then had a giant bonfire and thanked the beautiful local staff for taking such good care of us during our stay before we went to bed for an early start tomorrow!
Kelby & Dafne
(Mentor & Director)