São Paulo is easily revered as one of the best cities in the world for street art. Many well-known graffiti artists hail from this region, which not only have their pieces adorned throughout S.P., but worldwide. Artists, such as, Onesto, Kobra, Alex Senna, Zezão, and the twins, prominently known as Os Gemeos have bedecked the walls of SP with their artistry. The colorful hues that transcend through the city have transformed it into a walking outdoor museum. There is vibrancy around nearly every corner, always leaving more to be found and explored. Be sure to visit Vila Madalena, Beco de Batman and São Paulo’s historic center to find some of these brilliantly hued pieces.
For many years I had dreamt of seeing the Amazon rainforest. When I was assigned to teach English in Manaus, the gateway city to the Amazon, with a Denver based non-profit, US-Brazil Connect, I could not wait to start planning my adventure to the Amazon.
I had already been in Manaus for a week and was having some trouble finding an operator that was reasonably priced and did not feel like it was a mass tourist operation. This is when I found Max at Maia Expeditions. If you are searching truly for the experience of a lifetime, I recommend Maia Expeditions and the Amazon Turtle Lodge. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Max grew up in this area of the Amazon. He knows it very well. He personally took my friend and I and a nature and survival hike. On this hike we were shown how to build a shelter, how to make children’s toys out of hearts of palm, natural bug repellent, we drank filtered water out of a vine, smelled the tree that Chanel no.5 derives it’s perfume from, tasted fruits and so much more… Walking through the canopy with someone that has lived with the environment made for a much richer experience.
2. The operation’s focus on conservation and preservation. The owner is very concerned with these elements. Having grown up here he has a unique appreciation for the beauty of the area and has supported and created many projects focused on such things as afforestation, and preserving eco-systems necessary for wildlife. At the end of our hike we helped plant Copaiba trees on the property!
3. The experiences offered at the Lodge. I personal did the Jaraqui Exedition however, Maia offers a slew of different experiences. They offer everything from small canoe rides under the canopy in search of wildlife to searching for Caiman’s after the sun goes down. Other offerings include: birdwatching, visiting a local community, fishing for piranhas, spotting pink dolphins at sunset.. Not to mention the service, accommodations, food and staff are all top notch! Also, the best caipirinhas I have had in Brasil- just make sure to order two at a time because they take a little while to make.
4. You are guaranteed to have a great experience. It is very important to the owner to ensure that everyone that comes to the lodge has a phenomenal experience. This is his home, he is proud to call it home and is eager to teach others about the beauty of the region.
I would suggest calling prior to make arrangements for your travel and to let Max know exactly what it is you are wanting to experience. We talked a few times on the phone and when we finally met in person it felt as if we were long-time friends. There are those times that you come across people and experiences that are hard to summarize in a few words. However, that being said if you are in search of a genuine jungle experience I give Maia and the Amazon Turtle Lodge a 10 out of 10! If you do decide to go please tell Max I say hello!
Last night I had the honor of sharing my experience in Brazil as a means of paying it forward in my community and here is what I had to say (wanted to share it all with you)….
Every now and then life affords us opportunities that could never possibly be recreated, retold, or even fathomable. And it is when we leave our hearts open that these moments come alive. This is exactly my journey with Red Rocks Community College and US-Brazil Connect.
This experience has proven to me that I am far greater than what I thought possible. It has taken away fears, given me confidence to continue in the direction of my dreams, built my leadership skills, and has continued to show me that in this life, we all NEED to connect with one another.
It has shown me that I can create impacts in the lives of people across the world that will last a lifetime. One of my students expressed to me that I lit the fire in his heart to do greater and bigger things. Another student wrote in a letter to me, that I had given him the courage to go for his dreams and to get himself out of living in a favela. One of the most impactful things that I witnessed was no matter their situation each one of my students ultimately sought out true happiness.
Something that was impossible to deny in Brazil was pure affection, care and love for another, even amongst the most, vast array of beautifully looking people that I have ever seen. I wish that I could count the number of kisses, hugs and moments of compassion that were expressed towards me while I was there. In the United States, we sometimes forget the healing power that this can have on people.
It was also hard to ignore the disparity in quality of life, when Brazil is known as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This country is growing at the expense of its most important citizens and at the mercy of globalization. It is my generation’s responsibility and the responsibility of Brazilian citizens, which we saw in the protests, to change the way that we think about consumption, success, and profits.
It is impossible to summarize my experience in a short speech so I will leave you with a few key points:
always love, always be kind and always be generous
don’t ever let your misconceptions get in the way
be thoughtful and be mindful
truly be that change that you wish to see in the world- it is possible not just a statement
never stop observing
most importantly never stop learning
I am forever indebted to Red Rocks Community College, US-Brazil Connect, my biggest supporters, the Colorado-Salvador team and most importantly my amazingly, inspiring, and motivated group of eleven young Brazilian individuals- for this I am truly grateful.
Life is incredibly too short to not seek out your true happiness. Today, I challenge you to do the same.
Every now and then life affords us opportunities that could never possibly be recreated, retold or even fathomable. It is up to us to keep our hearts open to these possibilites and the doors will always be opened. We have to be willing to say yes, to take risks and to step outside of comfort.
I have officially been home for only two days and I still am just beginning to process the past month and its incredible, life changing impacts that it has created in my life. My friends and family are anxious to hear of the experience, but it is true when you hear that the only people that will ever truly understand are the ones that you were fortunate to share the experience with. For this I am grateful.
If I could offer anything that I learned this past month in as little words as possible I would say…..
keep your heart open
travel often and truly as often as possible
don’t ever let your misconceptions get in the way
don’t ever let your fears get in the way
always remember there is infinite beauty in the world
we are all here to connect with one another
in life true happiness should be of utmost importance
lastly, care and love like Brazilians care and love each other. Be quick to give hugs, kisses, affection and genuine help to those around you. This can heal, connect, grow and fulfill meaning in life.
I will leave you with some of my favorite moments of my journey….
Heading into my last week in Brazil I am overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude, happiness, joy and sadness. The past three weeks of my life have been absolutely indescribable. Salvador and its people have been so good to me. It is definitely a place that will forever live in my heart. My experience with USBC and having the opportunity to get to know such a beautiful culture in such a unique way is one that stay with me forever.
Throwing myself out there and diving in head first to this experience has taught me that I am capable of more than I realized. It has given me the confidence to go forward with my dreams and has assured me that I am on the right path. For this I am truly grateful.
Thank you for reading my rant and for those of you out there that may be yearning for more, I challenge you to live outside of your comfort zone, to expect the unexpected and to trust that you are absolutely capable of whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
Now being in Brazil for almost three weeks, I have taken in many of the sights, sounds, smells and culture. Brazilians are known for their outgoing personalities and their affection with one another. They are quick to show their care and love for one another and more so, they are quick to help and most of all quick to give.
Since I have been here, I have been showered with food, presents, drawings, movies, clothing, help and love and more. Sitting back and observing my fellow americans with brazilians you can quickly tell the difference who has been acclimated to this type of living. Living to give and love.
This is not to say that we are not like this in the states however, it seems to me that this type of genuine love and care for one another has dissipated within our culture. It can be difficult to find someone who can find the time to really listen, find the time to show you love when all you may need is a simple hug or someone that will put them self aside to help even though they may not have the moment to do so….. I challenge people that are reading this to show more affection, show more care, show more love, be quick to give and quick to help. I argue that this can only help not hinder the phenomenon of such a immensely connected yet disconnected culture that the United States has become. The US could learn a lesson from Brazil…. thoughts??
A fellow and a partner that I am working with and living with in Brazil shared these thoughts with me, he has allowed me to share….
Barely able to see the filth collected on the lenses of my eyeglasses. I manage to snap the perfect shot of favelas under highway overpasses.Perfectly capturing the severe destitution and poverty that exists in Brazil and most notably here in Salvador de Bahia. All the while, our cab driver speeds hurridly through the chaotic and seemingly ungoverned streets with a zen-like calm about him.
To avoid being caught in the riots and protests against the blatently corrupt government of Brazil, our driver took us through one of the poorest areas of Salvador and in a sweet irony we passes by graffiti that spoke greater volumes than any photo of riots could ever capture.
(the graffiti wrote..)
“Brasil capital corrupcao terorismo subvercao propina”
(Brazil the capital of corruption and terrorism via subversive propganda).
“Corrupcao fora legislativo, Judicario, Execitivo”
(Corruption comes out of the legislative, judicial, and executive).
No more than an hour before this, a boy who appeared to be early teens in age begged a group of friends and I for the scraps from our lunch. While scams run rampant in the streets here, the reality of children starving and literally dying in the streets from inadequate nutrition and lack of basic medical care while government officials and legislators recently raised their own salaries to R 17000 per month and the worlds most expensive soccer stadium recently finished construction. Even further, the profits from games belong to FIFA and not the tax payers who funded constructing the stadium to the tune of R 35,000,000.
Since our arrival four days ago, protests and full on riots have spread through every major city in Brazil. While the government has wholly ignored demands for pay to equal costs for living and the media paints epic images of villians destroying the great democracy that Brazil has become. The reality is these people are homeless, starving, and have no means for upward mobility. As a foreigner, this is not my fight though for the sake of human right, it is and my weapon is the written word.