Where are we now?

View Where are we now? in a larger map Jo, Annie, Miles and I are living in Northport, Alabama and working at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We've been glad to be in one place for a bit after what appeared to be semi-permanently traveling (in actuality for a period of 2.5 years).We started this blog to catalogue some of the adventures when Jo and I were sequentially conducting our dissertation research in India and Brazil. While we've fallen off the blogging bandwagon somewhat during recent trips to Brazil, we're trying to pick it up again now that we're back in India!

Friday, July 24, 2009


(For those of you who haven't been dutifully {obsessively} watching the show, I'll try to keep the ridiculous similarities to a minimum)

Ok, I think I FOUND the island.....seriously....ok, first, it's called Ilha Grande, and no, it's not located in the Pacific, but off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (sneaky, I know)....

Well, I thought you wouldn't believe me so I've included some photos to prove it (in addition to the top one, I saw all of the survivors of that Oceanic flight too!)

So here's a photo from the dock upon arriving on Ilha Grande (luckily, my plane didn't crash, and I didn't have to go through some strange time-travel portal in the Moroccan desert....I know now you really want to watch the show right?)

Ok, enough Lost nonsense, I was on Ilha Grande for a little over two days. Ilha Grande is exactly what the name denotes- Big Island. It really is huge, i don't know how huge but really big. It has a 106 beaches, and is basically all mountains and native Atlantic rainforest. It has a strange history, which is why there is only one fairly small town and lots of remaining native rainforest. First it was the site of a prison, then a leper's colony, then another prison, then a dharma initiative (just through that it for the Lost fans). It's a great place to take a vacation because there are something like 16 trails crisscrossing the island, some of them essentially unpaved roads, others near vertical root-grabbing treks, that take one all over the island to the various beaches and mts. And that's just what one can do on their own, most of the people it seems avail themselves of the tour boats going out to visit the beaches and go snorkeling.

I'm more of the explore-it-on-your-own-type, so on the first day I went on a great, albeit long hike to a series of beaches, traversing some amazing rainforest....just like in LOST!

the trail was built of stones by prisoners from one of the former prisons...beautiful, but not fun i imagine....

I had planned ahead, and stuffed my hammock in the bag, so when I got there...you got it, hammock time!

It was amazin how different the beaches I came to were. There was the sliver of beach that one can see in the above hammock photo, and then this great long beach at Dos Rios...

Dos Rios (two rivers) is aptly named for the two rivers that cut through the beach. One of the rivers is particularly amazing, the river itself is clear,and then when the tide comes in you can see the mixing of the salt and fresh water.

On the next day I decided to go on a different type of excursion, and so set out to climb Pico do Papagaio, pictured here from town above the church.

Unfortunately, this photo was taken the day before when it was relatively sunny, on this day it was one of those days where I could just here my parents saying...I think I see blue sky over there...but the fog just added to the ambience, as I walked among the giant tree covered boulders...

I came across some really interesting little things...such as these crawling plants (this photo doesn't capture the scale, but they're going about 30 feet up the cliff)

and a close up...

some strange cacti beneath the parrot's beak...

and what I think is a Jack fruit tree....

and then...I ran into a an Australian tourist coming up the mountain who I had helped buy a bus ticket in Sao Paolo a week before, he greeted me with a "Brother, I knew we'd meet again" (which is basically what Desmond said to Jack in the football stadium)...and that's when I knew I was FOUND (horrible pun, I know).


Well, as I indicated in a previous post I was a little dissappointed by Paraty; true it does have a little localized colonial charm, like New Castle, but it is so heavily touristy, not surprisingly that it didn't leave a great impression with me. I would like to return sometime though, on either a Wednesday or Saturday, as they have an apparently amazing puppet theater that gives performances only on these nights...so who knows, maybe a return to Paraty is in the picture? Well, here are some shots of what stood out in my mind.

and what left the most lasting impression....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Well, I'm now in Paraty (no not, Party, but Paraty). I'd have to say it is a great dissapointment, after all I've heard, but I guess when you compare any touristy city to an MST settlement, where in just 5 days you've made very good friends, it's bound to pale by comparison. So before I show off Paraty's charm, a handful of parting shots from the 25th of March school, and the Conquista and Vitoria settlement.

The first is a shot of from left to right, your's truly, Matheus, Ana Flavia, Ana Claudia, Veronica, and Naira. Ana Flavia and Ana Claudia are Matheus and Naira's daughters (hope on school holidays) and so it was a full and happy house. In my time staying with Matheus and family we had some truly wonderful family meals. Not just the quality of the cuisine, for Matheus is one who absolutely relishes in the culinary arts, but in the closeness within the family, and how welcome they made me, whether at the inside dinner table...

or the outside dinner table... (I like this picture especially because it captures something linguistically that is quintessentially Brazilian-the unimicable ability to talk with one's hands- absolutely unbelievable, especially the strange and unreproducable finger snapping they do for emphasis)

or around the BBQ pit! BBQ, or as it is known in Brasil, Churrasco, is a tradition that makes the American grilling of burgers look like child's play. The meal we had with Jaimie and his family (Jaimie and his son Adriel (sp?) are pictured here). I don't know the quantity of pig that was grilled over the embers that cold morning, but I know that I was absolutely catatonic after the thanksgiving-like spread that we had for a late lunch (complete with Pancakes rolled over and filled with seasoned ground beef, and local pine nut "Farofa" (like stuffing) not to mention the innumerable gourds of mate (pronounced mat-ay) that is a traditional gaucho (cowboy) drink in South America (and one can see Matheus drinking).

Plenty of wonderful wonderful moments, such as the post-feast catatonic state in which I found myself playing mandolin on the veranda in the sun (one can only appreciate the pleasure of this after several days of cold rain) while Naira and Jaimie's wife (?) knitted up a storm.

It was very interesting to visit Jaimie's farm; no, not just because of my initiation into the art of southern Brazilian churrasco (mind you I'm a veteran of the northern Brazilian variety-see blog posts of several moons ago), but also to tour Jaimie's land, as he has been settled here for 25 years now. What was especially interesting for me to see was the forms that "agroecology" takes: for example, Jaimie found that one of the country's largest juice processors was located nearby, and was able to make use of refuse.....

by feeding the orange rinds that the plant had left after squeezing to his cows! Now that's what I call recycling!

and as always a parting shot. Now this is what I call a realistic picture...no it's not a picture of the landscape that hangs in their kitchen, but rather a look through the giant swinging shutter window into the "backyard" where Matheus has an ambitious mandala project planned....to learn more about it

you'll need to come to the 25th of March school, and meet a man who is proud of his dirt...and proud he should be, but not just of his dirt, but of the school that he and Naira have transformed, as well as the lives of students, such as Adriel (Jaimie's son-from the BBQ photo), who have come back to teach at the school after getting a university degree in agroecology ...now THAT is what I call recycling at it's best.

Friday, July 17, 2009

An International Show! and Extravaganza!

So when you're the gringo in a small community you're basically like a strange animal that has just arrived to the zoo...no, not quite like a cute baby panda...more like an armadillo with two heads....that speaks a strange language....

And so this strange armadillo got asked to give a concert at a graduation ceremony/party for the school.

And here are some photos from the ïnternational extravaganza.....can't you just hear the announcer's voice over the loudspeaker now?

Bem Vindo da Escola 25 de Marco

Greeting from the 25th of March school located between the MST settlements "Conquista" e "Vitoria"; as you might ascertain, MST schools, settlements, and encampments are all named according to either important dates (such as the 25th of March, the day when the settler's first received the land) or names like "Conquest" and "Victory"; the cultural geographers in the group would like to note that such names, and the processes through which they are institutionalized and inscribed, are forms of toponymic territoriality (now there's some academic jargon for you!) or in other words using place names to form connections between people and specific landmarks and landscapes....now you done been edumacated!

So here are a few photos from my time here at the school. It's unlike the 17th of April settlement that I was at previously in the north, which is an agrovilla, basically like a centralized village. This is more spread out, there is no real village per-se, rather each house is seperated by about 15 hectares, and the school is between two settlements. The school itself is very different from the one I was at up north. By different I mean not only the physical structure of the buildings, which you will see in the next photos, but the pedagogy, and educational identity are very different as well. As the photos might show, there is a much stronger educational identity related to the movement itself here than in the north. Additionally, the formal agroecology curricula is much stronger here than in the north. This is what I was expecting, but is very interesting to see how it is manifested and think about the implications for cultural identity, agricultural practices, and formal and informal processes of landscape change.

SO the first picture is on the way to the school. Matheus, the director who wears innumerable hats here, picked me up after I took an overnight bus to the state of Santa Catarina. We stopped the car to look at the school from the top of the hill, where Matheus proudly told me that the land of the school, 34 hectares had more native forest than any of the surrounding land....a trend?

As I mentioned, the physical structure of the school here evidences the political identity of the movement, much stronger than the relatively blank walls of the school up north. This mosaic and the mural that follows are the product of a collaboration between Dan, Manoela, and the school a number of years ago (they are my connection to this particular school). There work with the students is amazing,and continues to shine on.

As these images show...it's always MST time at this school (I know a horrible pun...)

Now in terms of actual pedagogy, and its effects, we see images like these: students taking seeds home from the school's stockpile. The school works on an interesting block system, the students spend 45 days living at the school, and then about the same period of time working at home, putting the lessons learned in the ground...literally, they then return and continue the process.

and other examples, such as this agricultural mandala that is part of the school's teaching garden, very agroecology, very different than the kind of educational landscape I witnessed previously.

and to end with a few funny pictures: It's been raining and very very cold here (in the 40s probably at night)considering the houses are basically plywood without insulation or heating...a good warm drink is much welcomed. Here is a photo of Matheus stirring the witches brew in a giant pot...

and then having an assistant light it on fire to burn off the alcohol!!!

and a parting shot of the seedlings in the nursery: these are a native species of pine that is very beautiful when it grows old....very elegant...another step in the transformation of this cultural landscape.

ok, and a last photo. This is a picture taken from within one of the classrooms. The rough translation is "We are the multiplication of struggles; like the ground multiplies planted grain, we are planting and harvesting, we are a ray of hope"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Funny things

Ok last quick posting before I head down to Santa Catarina (where I'll be visiting another MST settlement for 4 days, before heading to the beach for a week of really difficult research on sun tanning and 16th century colonial architecture)

So I often joke with people that I might make a better living dropping out of school and starting a company translating ads for in country companies, i.e. in India the ridiculous ads one sees that don't make any sense when translated into english....

but then I see this one which makes me wonder....

just what is "Diving Baptism", and why wasn't it part of my religious education?

Oh those Unitarians, no good under water!

The Brazilian Chameleon

So, I came from the Amazon, where it was sweltering (although not as hot as in India) to the south of Brazil, where it's in the 50's, and tonight I head farther south, where the temp has been dipping into the freezing digits....

So, with only shorts and short-sleeve shirts I need to do some retrofitting...

Now, I had been feeling like I stood out a little, but I wasn't about to go Native, as I think Brazilian clothing styles are absolutely atrocious (I imagine the Natives think the same of my zip on pant legs...oh well)

And then a fellow hosteler was getting rid of half his wardrobe in front of me...and I scored this marvelous gem!

Now, I was not going to go whole hog and buy the pants to match it, which would have been jeans with zippers and doo dads in strange places, acid washed, and with strange non-sensical english words scralled on them....

So instead, i headed down to the equivalent of China town....

and retrofitted myself again....

For US$ 20, not bad for jeans (which lack all of the culturally-appropriate acouterments, sorry) and a long-sleeve button down, now who looks legitimate.....

except for that stuff on my face...no it's not dirt, i didn't fall. I just decided it was a lot easier to trim my "neard" (neck beard) every once in a while, and embrace the beard than actually shave proper style. Whether I come back with said facial hair will depend on the number of electronic requests I get, and who they're coming from!

Clean as newly fallen snow...

or the beautiful white seats of a cadillac (google images has everything)...

(and it only took SIX HOURS of me pacing frantically, drinking too much coffee, and playing the mandolin obsessively, while the cleaner cleaned to find out that my data was clean was well)

and for US$80 (which I'm not sure, but I have a feeling is a pretty good deal for having a technician come to you and work for six hours, try getting that in the States), I'm now a happy camper.

The Cleaner

So let~s play the `have you seen that movie game`:

Anyone seen Resevoir Dogs?

Pretty violent flick....anyone remember the cleaner scene?

Well, for those of you who turned the movie off, what happens is basically as follows. An incident occurs in which the protagonists blow someones brains out all over the inside of the fancy white leather car and they need to get the situation (as well as the car) cleaned...in a hurry. Harvey Keitel (the cleaner) is called in and arrives in a tuxedo to make the situation go away.

Now, you are probably wondering what situation I´m in that warrants starting off a story with this cinematic analogy.

Well here it is:

So two days ago I opened an email message from a researcher here in Brazil, and downloaded a document he sent me (which I assumed was virus-free) ((You can probably see where this is going...)

After downloading the document all of these ads started popping up on my computer...then several minutes later the computer started acting funnier, no not like tellnig jokes, but like not working....I shut it down....

and it wouldn~t restart....

Ok, freaking out: all of my summer research. Not really thoroughly backed up, a draw back of not having a cd/dvd burner in the computer, is that i only have 2gb backed up of the important stuff on a thumb drive, and some stuff in the cloud storage online (yes, various lessons being learned here)

So freaking out, I ask the people at the hostel: And they make the call.

And arrives Marcos, in a very nice suit (a tuxedo might be innappropriate).

He~s the cleaner. And three hours later he~s still cleaning. Apparently this was a very nasty virus and was trying to destroy my operating system.....Marcos seems to be of the qualifications of Harvey Keitel, so I have complete faith that he will be able to get my white leather cadillac back to its pristine white condition (minus the amazonian dirt that~s engrained in it)......

So lessons learned:

1. A spyware program is only as good as it is (i.e it can~t detect new viruses it doesn~t know about (according to Marcos)

2. You are the best spyware program there is (ie know what you~re opening, which unfortunately makes it difficult when you revert back to the law of the highway which is you~re only as safe as the least safest person on the road.....)

3. Back up, back up, back up

4. Know the number of a good cleaner

Friday, July 10, 2009

Back in SAMPA

So I'm not sure, but from what I can tell people actually do refer to Sao Paulo as SAMPA, as opposed to those flower children posers who refer to San Francisco as Sanfran. Well, regardless, I'm staying at the SAMPA hostel, which is located in the unbelievably large metropolis of Sao Paolo (18 million and counting in the metro region).

My "worst" fears of returning here in the dead of "winter" were luckily unfounded: it's not THAT cold (all the warnings I'd had were from Brazilians after all)....so I'm sitting in shorts (and a very smelly t-shirt that should just be burned at this point as no amount of washing seems to ameliorate its unfortunate condition) and it's 8 am in the low 60s...I know...frigid right?

Anyways, so I'm staying in a slightly different part of SAMPA this time, in a different hostel (as my favorite Oca hostel is under renovation, which is very very very sad). I have a very love-hate relationship with hostels. If it's a nice hostel (like the one in Belem or the Oca) it's great; for US $ 12-15 dollars you get a dorm bed, wifi, shower, bad tv, and breakfast (of marginal quality). But it's a "crap shoot" (pardon the expression) as it depends on how many annoying travelers are staying there at the moment, and how thick the hostels walls are...let's just say here in good old SAMPA there are many of the former and the latter is of as much substance as their travel itineraries.

So judging aside...ok judging not aside: this area of Sao Paulo I'm in is insane! It's like a mix between Sanfrancisco (the hills), Berkeley/North Hampton (the funky), Buckhead (the incredible opulence) and I don't know a few other things. It is sooooo far removed from the 17 de Abril settlement it's unbelievable. On one street I walked past a Russian, Morrocan, Indian, Japanese, several artisan pizza restaurants and microbrew pubs a buddhist meditation center and innumerable art galleries, even the grocery store (where I thought I might be able to afford something) was an upscale version of Whole Foods/Trader Joes where I couldn't even afford the bread...

oh well....now it's pouring and unlike the rain in the Amazon which was cathartic and cooling...this feels like that great rain in October at the beach when all you brought is shorts and a t-shirt thinking it would be warm...where's Rag-R-Rama when you need it?

and sorry, I couldn't help taking this picture, or posting it: But at a funky "toy"/art boutique store, which I have no idea what you would really call it....I saw this very strange and disturbing chatchka.....yes, you can get your very own miniature OB/GYN or proctologist action figure set....yes, now life is complete. No, I didn't get them (but I am taking orders...)

Life of the River: Parting Shots

On the way back from a day trip to the island of Cotijuba, at sunset I saw this person commuting....somewhere

While wandering along the docks at night I came across a passenger boat getting ready to do a different type of commute along the river.....holy moley! Can you imagine sleeping for 5 days (let alone what you'd be doing the rest of the time) on a deck with hundreds of people in hammocks slung this way and that across each other! Absolutely insane!

Fresh shrimp anyone?