The fact that my country houses the Amazon, the world’s greatest forest and home to the biggest biodiversity in the planet, was as mythical to me as the existence of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. Living in a rushing megalopolis filled with smog, drizzle, and rivers filled with waste, my puerile mind could not imagine that Brazil could have the clean air, blue skies, and the amazing animals I saw in the television. To me, the Amazon was an alien place with alien animals located somewhere far off, west of the idyllic beaches associated with Brazil, and south of Neverland. Ironically, it was the day I left the country that I realized how incredible, how real, and how important the Amazon really is.
Only two days after the last Christmas I would spend with my family, I left for America, land where Uncle Sam rather than Saint Peter held the golden keys to paradise, land where so many failed to attain their dreams. It was with a bittersweet medley of fear and sadness that I crossed the boarding gate towards the flight. As the mechanical bird took off I left my country, but a forsaken Brazil would still be below my feet for hours.
It was high noon, with the sun scorching the plane’s wing, that I saw the silver serpent. The Amazon River was slithering through a nearly pitch-black jungle that extended as far as my eyes could see ? or the tiny airplane window allowed me to. It was then that I realized that the Amazon was real, that it was as part of my country as skyscrapers, congested traffic, and poverty. The river reminded me of all I had heard about the Amazon, how every square inch of the jungle was teeming with life ? beautiful, beckoning, and mysterious. I remembered how Indians used frog poison to make deadly arrows, how some trees produced rubber to trap insects, how incredibly colorful macaws could be, and the tales about lost cities and river mermaids that permeated my childhood.
Looking down, the Amazon puzzled me more and more by the second, for it did not only remind me of dormant memories, but it also made me wonder about what sorts of uncatalogued organisms that lived in it, and how life came to be so complex that it could fill an area with roughly the same size as Australia.
During the rest of the flight, my vision of the world changed. The Amazon showed me that the extraordinary was possible, and that there are still mysteries and enigmas to be solved in a world that is seems to know all the answers. It was then that I discovered my latent attraction for biology, and since then, I decided that I would spend the rest of my life trying to uncover the mysteries Amazon, the mysteries of Brazil, and consequently, the mysteries of life.
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