Environmental Activist Adventures - My Family Travels

As a Brazilian citizen who had never been back to Brazil, I was extremely excited to visit the homeland. It was the perfect trip before going off to college. Although I only spoke Portuguese before I was 5 years old, it has been English ever since then with my parents. However, I was feeling ready to shake the dust off of my Portuguese.

I would be traveling to all the places I had family in Brazil:  Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Curitiba. Currently, I am just finishing up my stay in Rio de Janeiro. I don’t want to leave yet, there’s so much more to experience!  But in my two weeks here so far, I have had some awesome opportunities to experience Brazil.


First, I went to Manaus, a city known for being the gateway to the Amazon. After visiting a college on a whim, I met a girl who invited me to stay with her and her biologist parents. They work at INPA (the National Institute of Amazon Research).  I got to visit and see research that was going on there. I also got to talk to Phillip Fearnside, the second most cited scientist on climate change and my friend’s father, about his work. I appreciated learning about what life is like as a researcher. I realized just how specific their work is, with each researcher studying a single species extensively.

I also made time to explore in Manaus. My favorite place by far wasIracema Falls inFigueiredo. It’s a little over an hour drive away, but every little bit was worth it. We went on my last day, because it’s a place that is not to be missed. We spent the day jumping into waterfalls and exploring the caves. But that doesn’t mean you can’t relax and just take in the beautiful scenery there; we did quite a bit of that too.

Next, I went to Rio de Janeiro for Rio+20, also known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. After reading an article about youth in New York City pressuring Mayor Bloomberg to go, I contacted the organizations and they allowed me to register with their delegation. It was really interesting to see people from so many different cultures working together: from indigenous people to youth. As someone who is also interested in majoring in International Relations, it was really neat to see the plenary up close and learn how UN procedures work.

After the tension of Rio+20, we explored the mountains of Rio. We took the Bondinho to Pão de Açúcar in the afternoon. I suggest taking in the marvelous view, walking on the lemur-filled paths that go through the rainforest, and staying to watch the sunset over Rio.

Don’t forget about the nightlife in Rio! We went toPedra do Sal, where samba parties happen every Monday. While we were there, I sampled a Bahian delicacy,  Acarajé, to go along with the Afro-Brazilian roots of samba. It was spicy, crispy and delicious. We danced to our heart’s content, enjoying the sounds of cavaquinhos and the cuíca, an instrument brought over from Africa that gives samba its signature sound.

I really enjoyed my time in Manaus and Rio de Janeiro; it gave me a much better understanding of Brazilian culture. Most of all, this trip showed me that I want to lead the environmental movement at an international level and help different countries compromise to create the future we want, a sustainable future of social and environmental justice. Overall, this trip has been “bem legal!” as Brazilians would say or “amazing!”

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