12/13/09 – Final Entry (for now!)

As I lay in a hammock swaying in the breeze on the porch of our program’s sitio where the semester first began, I feel like things are starting to come full circle. Thinking back to the first time that we were here I recall how nervous and out of my element I was. While extremely excited for the coming semester I had such a limited set of expectations mostly being based off of my trip in 2007 to Panama and Costa Rica leading to a desire to spend more time in the rainforest and anticipating what the homestay would be like. Now instead of concepts and pictures that I had in my mind of how Brazil would look and what I would get out of this experience I have a full frame of reference through which to view my life here in Para as well as some serious ideas about what my future might look like. As I have said countless times here, this semester has been incredibly life-changing for me. It is very interesting because I have really had two completely different experiences here, both of which have been unexpected, enriching, inspiring, and unbelievably fun.

First, and most recently in my mind is the extensive network of Brazilian friends and family who I have made strong bonds with. I cannot describe the warmth, generosity, and inclusion that I have felt each day from my host family and for this I am eternally grateful. They were constantly involving me in every aspects of their lives: introducing me to the wonderful members of their family at the giant birthday parties which we frequented at least twice a week, encouraging me to try all of the Paraense comidas tipicas (typical foods) and then boasting to their friends that I was becoming a true Paraense since I liked every one, taking day trips to Mosqueiro beach with the whole family, my parents bringing me along on their supermarket runs showing me all of the native fruits and vegetables and asking me about the different foods in the US, going out on the weekends with my sister and her friends – who quickly became my friends as well – enjoying the richness of Belem’s nightlife and staying up until it was light out, feeling the incredible sense of community that was ever present in the streets, homes, and pracas (parks) among families, friends and strangers, watching movies complete with popcorn on Sunday nights with my sister and Brazilian friends at our house, and the innumerable little experiences that I will remember which allowed me to feel truly at home with the Melos in Val de Caes, Belem, Para, Brazil. Getting the chance to be immersed in the various types of Northern Brazilian culture by living with my family in Belem, my riberinho family in Lago das Pedras, and my MST family in Palmares II, I now understand how important it is that foreigners gain a realistic perspective of who Brazilians are and how they live – moving beyond the simplistic association that Rio de Janeiro is an accurate representation of Brazil. I am very excited to share my experiences and stories with everyone who is interested back home because I definitely believe that this will help people to better understand the conflicts going on between the various actors in the Amazon, less-developed cities, and rural areas.

By the same token, the that I have gotten to spend trekking around the rainforest, enjoying its beauty, experiencing the various ways in which people depend on and utilize it, learning about the different strategies and projects being implemented to help conserve it, and understanding further the growing threats and conflicts facing it’s biodiversity, people, and land has been exceptionally valuable. I have not only fallen back in love with the rainforest that has always been important to me, but I have also learned much more in depth about the specific issues and actors and projects which affect the rainforest and efforts to conserve it. I have been able to develop much more educated ideas about what makes affective conservation strategies in what specific circumstances within the Amazonian region which I am now able to back up with history, case studies, and research which I have come across and absorbed. Attending this program has allowed me the resources and experiences to think critically about the ways in which change can be affected in the Amazon and specifically how I might best use my strengths to work for conservation in the future. While there are still a number of different issues and types of action that I am motivated to be a part of and believe are crucial to the environmental movement, I have been thinking a lot about the specific realm within the fight for rainforest conservation that I may want to direct my work towards. I have developed a strong interest in protected areas and conservation projects – including national forests, extractive reserves, sustainable community logging initiatives, biological reserves, and more – and their interactions with the local communities affected by them. I have seen how important it is that communities are involved in both the implementation and development of conservation projects and that these areas are regularly monitored to understand their successes and issues in terms of both conservation goals and community involvement. I have thought a lot about wanting to explore and deal with these issues through work with an NGO, potentially international, and have looked a lot into organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund who are starting to understand how important it is to adopt some of these methods and techniques, especially to make up for a lack of available resources that government organizations have to devote to these types of actions. More immediately I have decided that, while it is very early in the process, I am interested in pursuing an undergraduate thesis during my senior year at Connecticut College as a type of comparison analysis of the various conservation strategies in the Amazon looking at both community and conservation incentives and trying to understand how to best determine the appropriate type of conservation unit for a specific area. I think that this project would be both interesting and pertinent to the work that I would like to pursue in the future and I think that utilizing this opportunity for research will be great.

All in all I have learned and gained so much more than I ever expected to during this semester. I feel extremely lucky to have had an experience like this that not only provided me with an incredible wealth of new and more in depth knowledge specifically in the field which I am actively pursuing, but I have also had the opportunity to create incredible bonds and connections with Amazonian people and land. This has allowed me to continue my understanding of humans and nature within the Brazilian Amazon as well the many environmental crises facing our world with a new perspective and an intensified enthusiasm.

I would like to personally thank each and every person who took time out of their lives to read my blog whether you read one entry or were an avid follower. I documented my experiences and realizations only partially for myself – as an environmentalist, activist, and caring person it was my primary desire to have the opportunity to touch the lives of others by sharing my passion.

Your comments and enthusiasm have impressed me greatly and I encourage anyone at all who would like to know more information about my experience, learn about ways to help, share their own thoughts, and/or continue this important conversation about environmental justice and rainforest conservation to contact me directly at: carrabeth@gmail.com

Once again I thank you all and urge you to consider and share the importance of environmental consciousness throughout your lives. It is more important than ever for us to band together and work to save our environment.

Peace and Love,
Carra

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Barry (dad) said,

    Carra, Once again you have demonstrated and expressed your commitment to the cause and the importance of sharing information and passion. I congratulate you and love you.

  2. 2

    Aunt Carolyn said,

    Well done Carra! I am sure that this is a continuing saga, Ì’ll be watching.

  3. 3

    June said,

    hi carra,
    i have enjoyed sharing your experience and learning from you – congratulations!
    love,
    june


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