Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off to the Amazon!

Tomorrow (or should I rather say in a few hours??) I'm heading to the Amazon!

What I like the most in this sentence is the reactions I get, which vary from horror to a strong travel bug itch. So let me explain myself a bit (based on most common questions asked by others) - Note: number of question marks below represent the level of exasperation and/or quizzical looks the person asking the questions has:

Q: Why to the Amazon?
A: Because that's where my research is. Besides, I always had a fascination about the forest, the people living there and a reality that seems light-years away from what we'd call "normal".

Q: What are you going to do there???
A: I used to work with communities that sell forest products besides timber (and therefore called Non Timber Forest Products) and am now working with more of an "environmental services approach" (i.e. anything that is good that comes from the environment, from fresh water to fruits to carbon sequestration).

Q: Where are you going?????
A: This time I will stay in Belém. It is a state capital with 1.4 million people... (so far from the village people usually associate with the Amazon). I lived there for a year and since 2006 have been spending a few months a year over there for work.

Q: If you managed to get out of there, why would you go back?????????
A: I don't know, but I really really like Belém. I think it has to do with the fact that I left after 1 year (which means that I had just settled in but had not gotten tired of it yet) and that I made great friends there. Never in my life did I have as many female single friends in one place. I usually have more guy friends but in Belém they are scarce (it's said that bars in Belém have 7 girls for each guy... tough market!!) but this was no impediment to go out and have fun. Most of my friends have now moved elsewhere but staying there for a while each year allows me to meet new people through the old ones and keep a nice group going. For example, I emailed people today that I am arriving tomorrow and they already organized to meet at a bar after work... sweet!

This is the view I had from the apartment I used to live in:

Pretty big city huh? And this is the view you see when arriving by plane:
Yup, that's the city in the peninsula in the middle, surrounded by water and beyond that, forest. From this broader perspective it is easier to remember that I will, indeed, be in the middle of the Amazon.

How about you? Been to places you really like that other people could just not understand why going or even living there? Tell your story!

And for those interested in the geography, here is the map:

View Larger Map


  1. Hello Samba,
    I've been reading your blog fairly regularly for the past few months. I was intriuged by your intercultural marriage, since a Brazilian-Indian union is, well, kind of rare. :)
    More importantly, this post interested me since it's been a lifelong dream of mine to visit the Amazon. So I wanted to tell you that I think you're very lucky to be living so close to the jungle!
    I have been reading about the Brazilian governments's plans to build hydroelectric dams on the Amazon and the Kayapo Indians and their efforts to protect the rainforests.
    I do hope that sense prevails and the rainforests are preserved for posterity.

  2. Hi Preeti!
    Thanks for your comment. You should definitely visit the Amazon sometime, but be aware that tourism infrastructure there is quite incipient!
    On the dams... that's a very contentious topic. I think Brazil needs a long term plan for energy sources, since the only alternative presented as of now is thermoelectric plants run on natural gas or coal... not very nice alternatives.