I’m still shocked at how the 21 days of our time together in Brazil both seemed like an eternity and also flew by in a second. I still remember the sea of blue shirts that came into the hostel in Manaus, wondering how I was going to remember everyone’s names. Now it’s safe to say I know not only your names, but who you are as people; and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to see you grow and learn throughout this program.
It seems like just yesterday we were hiking every day, playing hide-and-seek with Kenna, baking bread with Kinan, and learning about medicinal plants with Geo. I’m so inspired by Vanessa and Leo for creating that home and welcoming all of us into it (brb still pondering everything Leo has ever said).
We survived geckos in our beds, frogs in our toilets, and ants in our pants. We enjoyed a cold, fresh outdoor shower on a hot, humid day. We made crafts with local community members. We learned from biologists who are living their passions and who care about our planet. We played a lot of mafia, and taught Igor and Kenna how to destroy us in Uno. We talked every night. We explored the rainforest and climbed the Princess. We made George breakdance, sang a lot of Hamilton, and laughed at Charlie’s jokes. We rolled up our sleeves and played a small part in helping our planet. We slept in hammocks. We took time to close our eyes and enjoy the moment. We did all of this together.
Then we traded in Amazon time for the hustle and bustle of the big city: Rio. What a contrast, and such a unique experience to go from a home to a hostel- getting to see how both environments can be so welcoming in different ways. It was so fun getting to swim in the ocean together and explore Copacabana.
Meeting the locals in the Favelas was such a highlight; Hugo, who speaks so many languages and dreams of traveling the world one day; and Jorge, who is taking action in his community while also going to college for nanotechnology (?!). Getting to play with the kids in the garden and seeing how these neighborhoods truly embody the meaning of community is something I’ll never forget.
The last couple of days started to feel like we were one big family; we had gone through ups and downs together, danced samba in the Amazon and in Rio, debated and appreciated each other, and shared many a meal (and Reece’s snacks) together. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are one group of awesome teenagers. Thank you for impacting these communities, letting them impact you, and making this trip everything that it was.