After I posted the last time, I spent most of the next weekend and week in bed because I was SICK. YUCK! Had an awful cough and was pretty much exhausted from…well, everything. Luckily I got better just in time to go back to Brazil.
The last full week in March was a course in Manaus, Brazil. This was at a higher level than the courses I have been to recently – designed for project technicians and also with representatives from local governments. The workshop went well. I gave a surprise presentation on the forest carbon markets. Surprise because another person who works with us was going to give the presentation, but he ended up sick at the last minute and didn’t come, so I found out on Monday I was giving the presentation on Tuesday. It went well, though.
On Thursday, the workshop ended and a group of us – a guy from the US, a girl from Brazil and a girl from Spain – traveled from Manaus to Novo Airao – a town about 200kms away. I had no idea what was there, but it was recommended to us by everyone that we asked. We stayed in a nice hotel called “Bela Vista” which had a beautiful view of the river (Rio Negro). On the first night, we headed down to the beach and found a place where we could feed pink river dolphins which was awesome! Then we went to a family-owned restaurant for dinner which was delicious (some sort of fish in a potato/vegetable sauce and a beef dish).
The next day we took a boat tour. For most of the Rio Negro at this point, you can’t see the opposite side of the river because of these huge islands (one as big as 60 square kilometers) are all through the river. We went for a hike on one, almost stepped on a snake, saw some birds, went swimming and just enjoyed being out in nature and not in a conference room.
After lunch, we went to visit two cooperatives in the area. One makes things from palms – mostly baskets and floor mats, and the other uses scraps of wood to make all sorts of creations. They were both pretty neat – providing employment for the local folks in an environmentally-friendly way. Then we hopped back in a taxi to take the 200km ride back to Manaus. Upon arrival, we took a taxi boat across the river and then a second taxi to the hotel. There is currently no bridge across the river, though they are working on building it.
That night, we went to a churrascaria to eat. This is a Brazilian steakhouse, but the waiters just keep bringing skewer after skewer of meat to the table. There was chicken, beef, lamb and pork. They also have side dishes at a buffet so you can eat vegetables if you really want to. 😛 We also had a chocolate lava cake with ice cream for dessert. YUM!
Saturday morning we woke up to rain, so we were worried that our plans were ruined. We decided to change the order of things, though, and went first to the Teatro Amazonas. The Theater was built in the late 1800s and does not look like it belongs in the middle of the rainforest. It was really neat to visit, though, and see the different paintings, woodwork and artifacts inside. Our visit was made extra-special because the orchestra was rehearsing for a show, so we had music which was great!
After the tour there, it wasn’t raining any more, so we were ready to set off on the next portion of the trip – seeing the Econtro das Aguas (Meeting of the Waters)! In Manaus, the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes come together to form the Amazon River. The Rio Negro, however, is dark in color (thus “Negro”) and quite warm while the Rio Solimoes is a tan (coffee with milk) color and quite cold. Because of their different densities, the two rivers don’t mix and they travel side by side for about 3 miles until they start to mix. We hired a boat to take us out there which was MUCH cheaper than going on a tour (we paid about $10 each for a 1 hour tour). It was a pretty interesting phenomenon to see. He also took us to see some floating communities, we saw this bird in the picture who was squawking incessantly, then we found her nest and 4 eggs and we went to see a place where they raise pirarucu – a huge fish that can grow to be more than 2 meters long! Those were pretty cool, but I couldn’t get any good photos since they were in dark water. They taste delicious, though!
I flew back that night and spent last week between home and the office.
On Friday, I drove to PA to celebrate Easter with my family. Most of my cousins on my Dad’s side got together on Friday night with 2 of my aunts and grandmother for dinner and then hung out all night which was cool, because I don’t get to see them often enough. Saturday there was a baby shower for one of those cousins and then I helped a friend with her wedding invitations, then dinner and a run to Meyer’s Dairy for ice cream. Sunday there were sunrise services, then breakfast, then church services, then lunch with one of my aunts and one of my uncles, then we played Mexican Train dominoes before I left to come back to DC. What a crazy weekend!
This week I’m back at work and then on Saturday back to PA for my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower! Maybe someday I’ll spend a weekend relaxing at home!