Today was a very interesting day in Belem. The morning which usually starts with Portuguese class at the SIT office instead began at the famous Ver-o-Peso marketplace. Ver-o-Peso is the second largest outdoor market place in South America located on the border of Belem’s Commercial District and Old City. For these reasons (as well as my unavoidable interest in shopping), I was extremely excited to get the chance to explore the market and be exposed to another part of Belem. Each Portuguese class (beginning, middle, and advanced levels) met up separately and were given tasks to complete by walking around and speaking to the countless vendors in Portuguese. My intermediate class was given a list of items to find in the market, an interview to conduct, and told to return with a list of ten types of fruit native to Para (the state in which Belem is located). In smaller groups we spent the next hour and a half bustling here and there learning about the various things sold at this huge market place.

The market itself was definitely the largest I have ever visited and it seemed that around every turn I found things I did not expect. There were large areas of at least 30 vendors each for fish products, clothing, hand-made gift type items, fruit, vegetables, medicinal plants, oils from perfume to spices, meats, and even a large section dedicated to stands and counters displaying tempting local foods at which people could hang out and grab a bite to eat. Overwhelming is an understatement. However one of the most surprising and endearing things that I experienced at the market was the over the top hospitality that we received by the numerous vendors we spoke to. To find out what some of the items on our list were we would go up and ask a random vendor what a certain word was or where we could find it. Almost every person we spoke to not only took the time to answer our question but often walked us halfway across the market to find the item, proceeded to question several vendors to find out who had our item, and once found would engage in conversation with us about the uses and means of obtaining the item as well as pointing out other similar items to us. I was astonished that people many of whose livelihoods depended on each and every sale they made would happily take so much time to share their knowledge with us. Simultaneously I hardly felt singled out by clearly being an American who spoke limited Portuguese. Instead I was greeted by most of the time by extremely kind and patient individuals genuinely interested in showing us around.

Visiting Ver-o-Peso was a great experience and many of the SIT kids and I have already planned to return and spend more time there this coming Saturday! Upon leaving Ver-o-Peso our Portuguese teacher, Renata, took my class to Belem’s Museo de Indios, – a small but very compelling museum dedicated to the heritage of Amazonian indigenous tribes – Museo do Nazare – a museum dedicated to the huge spectacle in the beginning of October called Cirio de Nazare, which I will say much more about when it happens – and a very famous Fort in Belem. All of these places, along with Ver-o-Peso, were located along the water which made for a breathtaking vista (especially from atop the fort structure) of the numerous boats, people, and commerce which make up this area of Belem. The architecture too in this district, while certainly not kept up in all places, is reminiscent of the renaissance architecture which must have been very popular during the early years of Brazil’s colonization and the various Rubber Booms which increased the money put into Belem as it became crucial port city during various points in history. I cannot wait to spend more time in this area and experience more of Belem’s historical character.

Tonight I have actually just finished packing for a group excursion to Sao Francisco do Para. We leave tomorrow and will return on Friday. I am excited because during this trip we will be visiting many plots of forest including primary, secondary, deforested, recovering, agricultural, and pasture. I think that seeing the rainforest at each of these stages will allow everyone in the group to experience firsthand the major impacts that deforestation has been having on the Amazon. I feel like after this trip time will really start passing quicker, because after we return on Friday we will only have the weekend and two more days of class until we fly to Manaus on Wednesday (just one week from tomorrow!). The Manaus trip will last for about two weeks including a boat trip down the Amazon and Negro rivers as well as a rural homestay and other various excursions. When we return from Manaus it will be October tenth. WOW! I am being exposed to so many new experiences that I’ve found it important to concentrate and take it all in so as not to miss out or take advantage of any situation. All of this talk is tiring me out, reminding me that I have to catch the bus at 6:30 tomorrow morning in order to make it to the office on time to leave for Sao Francisco!

Boa Noite, e obrigada por lendo! (Goodnight, and thank you for reading!)


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Aunt Bonnie said,

    Carra, I have tears of joy reading your blog. Enjoy, be careful, learn and respect!

  2. 2

    June said,

    hi carra,
    i love your statement: “overwhelming is an understatement”!!
    what an adventure…

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