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2 days before returning to Texas ( I’m sorry I was so absent)

November 20, 2012 4 comments

Before setting out in this journey my mom gave me a card that said to pack lightly and that all I needed was in me. Well, unfortunately, I didn’t pack lightly. And, while not everything I needed was in me, except for a me full of dreams, it was enough to get me by.

Here, I came to gain what wasn’t in me, and those things I would have not gained if it wasn’t for coming. Yes, I’m going back with more dreams than I came with, and that’s the most beautiful thing. I just put on my favorite C.D. I bought one day at a bakery corner, of Arlindo Cruz, it’s a mixture of romantic samba and something else. Well, I’m listening to it as I pack, as I look through old papers, books, and good bye messages from only the greatest brasileiros alive; my professor and my life-long (of this I’m certain) friends. And guess what, tears are falling down my face. All I can see when this music plays is me, as the third person, dancing samba, smiling at every wonder I saw from North to South, walking under the heat, waiting for the bus, sitting on the bus (sometimes even hanging squeezed on the Recife buses….for hours), listening to Daniel speak (my best friend here), taking and getting used to cold showers two to three times a day, being taken care of by Fatima, going to see multiple doctors and enjoying (synonymous of exploiting) the health care here, walking to the ATM machines and hiding my money in my secret waist bag, going to the beach with my waist money bag and the gringo king of boa viagem (C.J.) picking at it, drinking only the most refreshing beer on hot days, and dancing with my Sao Paulo girls (Gabi e Mariélen) and can’t forget Disly and Carla, my girls in Bahía and then Rio- now those were some good times! Etc. Etc. Etc. …..etc. etc. etc. 

Last week while in Colombia, in an apologetic tone, I told my husband I felt guilty for not saving money and consequently going back to him, broke. He responded, you traveled everywhere, you ate everything, you saw it all, how would you have saved money and why would you have preferred to save money? That’s him, he is the guy I married, the man who waited patiently day and night, in some of his roughest days, in some of mine, who encouraged me to go explore, who found me the most hip places to stay, with whom a call away I just couldn’t be lost in the middle of the Amazon (and no, I didn’t go to the Amazon….ahhhh que raiva!!!). 

Now where do I go? I don’t know! I go to be by his side, and that’s the best reward for this accomplished mission, my life’s most ACCOMPLISHED mission, indeed. And I go, as I already said, with a bag full of even more dreams than what I started out with and NOT packed lightly (again), but please give me a break I gotta bring all the souvenirs from everywhere I went for all those who I love and need in my life back home or back in Guate, and now also to my newest family in Colombia. These dreams include two big publications with two of the most maravilhosos brasileiros working onto my newest agroecology dream, and opening an NGO in Salgueiro, no coração do nosso sertão com Daniel…. 

I finished. Yes, I’m a Fulbright Alumn! God bless Brazil, because “if God ever existed on this earth, it sure was here”-amigo taxista brasileiro in Rio de Janeiro.Image

I’m feeling grateful for and inspired by

1. Beauty. It’s everywhere, I see it in all places in my daily Recifean life (as the mural I ran into -below-) and mainly in people. I see it through the conversations I engage in and in the actions people take, like the international protest this past Saturday (for an end of women’s violence (VADIA) and the university’s professors’ strike for better working conditions.

2. The upcoming projects, like my trip to the “sertão”- the interior of Pernambuco once again. This time I will go for field days to learn, watch, and take in the realities of small production farmers and their adversities with the drought that they face every year.

3. The possibility of being part of a social movement and address SO IMPORTANT issues like the UTMOST IMPORTANT NEEDED respect of our environment and social justice for vulnerable groups like small farmers, during the event Rio+20.

4.My upcoming personal plans of traveling in this country for “cultural immersion” purposes (which by the way yes it is personal joy traveling, but is also an IMPORTANT component of my scholarship!). I fall in love with Brazil every time I encounter and meet a new dimension of what it has to offer; it’s such a rich country.

First blog in Brazil about Brazil: The people I’ve met

Revolutionary Woman, Mafalda and I

It’s about time I write about Brasil? Other than my take on the language? Yes! Well, I’m finally “stable”. I already moved three times (nothing new with my usual lifestyle), and I’m settled. Currently, I’m at an apartment complex with foreigners and Brazilians. Most of them either attend one of the two universities, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco or Rural de Pernambuco, or they teach. I attend both; Rural for the two Master’s classes and Federal for “Português Avançado”… haha, yes! I enrolled in that class, mainly because I’ve learned the basics via Rosetta Stone—Thanks Borlaug Institute- and now I just need to become decent in writing since writing about dense subjects is what we do in the Master’s Program I’m part of, Extensão Rural & Desenvolvimento Local.

Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco

So, is it a myth or reality? ARE BRAZILIANS THE NICEST PEOPLE ON EARTH? THE HAPPIEST? Below I will write what I know of them (p.s. A total reality!)

Day 1 I get to Recife (the São Paulo experience was so short, I didn’t get to experience the Brazilians, other than Luana and Patricia from the Fulbright Commission, who since we established communication they were already extraordinary): the few friends I had here picked me up at the airport, took me out to eat seafood at the beach and made me feel as welcomed as my family would.

My amazing friend who I’ve talked about in the past here on my blog, Dennis Cunha, and his family took me in right away after my first living situation wasn’t ideal, NO QUESTIONS ASKED (do we know the importance of this phrase?). His mother, Fatima, offered me her house and her time. She offered me a new Brazilian HOME (and all that word means, starting with acceptance and so much care). I have to say I never thought in a million years I would fall right into place in anyone’s home and in anyone’s heart as I did with Dennis’ mom; she calls me “minha filha gringa” (and yes, she also knows I’m Guatemalan). She has taken me to the doctor and we’ve spent days together even now that I’m at my new apartment, which by the way she and Dennis helped me move into (Fatima even made my bed the first day I slept here). I feel happy, safe, and cared for.

My friends at school are so smart, they care so much about the rural communities and the people who make up these realities. They, like me, know how important justice and equality is for these individuals- just another group of society who are left vulnerable after the adoption of decisions and policies of the elites and governmen. My friends know so much more about these realities, specifically in the Brazilian context; every two days a week I take classes with them and hear their well-constructed and well-informed opinions, their proposed solutions to problems, and all topics related to agricultura familiar, pequenos agricultores, terras, etc. All the reasons why I’m here.

Some of my friends at Rural

I have not only met this group of people with conviction and dedication. I also met a group of mostly women of a sindicato yesterday. My friend Caitlin, a soccer player and my fellow Fulbrighter, brought me to a meeting where women from different social groups and movements discussed equality, justice, and a variety of topics that dictate the actions they will take for the benefit of the working woman in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. This reminds me of my young days in which I was an active member of a similar group in Guatemala, less by choice as I was only a child and my grandmother was the forefront feminist coordinator of GRUFE, a feminist NGO that offered help and resources to women from all paths of life.

As novas do grupo

Other than these specific groups, I’ve met people here at my apartment and other friends from my Portuguese class. For example my Peruvian friend Jose. He is here trying to get into a Master’s program and research a topic related to ecology and sustainable growth. I feel so connected to the foreigners because we are here with the same purpose, to live within the Brazilian natives and experience the Brazilian culture. We believe this is a place of opportunity and personal growth with enriching experiences and people.

Which, brings me to my last point, Brazilian natives. I’ve met many already and day by day I’m experiencing their realities, and this fills me with satisfaction (all realities included, including not taking “security” for granted the way we greatly enjoy this in the U.S.). Their common denominators: HARD-WORKING, KIND, CARING, CALMED, LIFE-LOVING and most of them with the same purpose in life: A Better Life, A Better Tomorrow. All people I’ve met always always always have a place to show me, a place I can stay in, an extra garrafo of oil, time to meet again, time to talk again, time to make a deeper connection. They are great!

Where I come from

Yesterday I had a long phone conversation with my boyfriend. We discussed the difference in cultures, and he not only made me appreciate mine more than ever, but he also made me re-examine what the Guatemalan culture offers. I can only think of 1 big word that encapsulates it all. That is HUMILITY. What exactly humility means is really a matter of perception, as he said it. But to me humility is very simple; it means being humble, and it means caring. It just seems as if most people put themselves first and above beyond everyone in cultures like the American culture. While I agree we should do that to a great extent because we need to be okay to offer more and give more to others, we still should act with humility first and foremost, that is showing in a meaningful way every time we can how thankful we are, how much we appreciate friendship, food, family, and whatever we think is important. Always keeping in mind we can harm others when we don’t act with humility towards them.

Angela, my young aunt, sent this to me and I want to say, I love Guate deeply.

Cheers and enjoy!

Oi, Feliz Natal pra você e toda sua família (ENGLISH Merry Christmas)

December 25, 2011 5 comments

Hello! Today is Christmas Eve. I wanted to share a little bit since I have been absent, and also wish you a warm holiday season.

This semester was amazing, I met my very first excelente amigos brasileiros from Recife, Dennis and Caio. They are finishing their internships at Texas A&M as we speak. The first place they suggested I go when I get to Recife is the “Beach of the Hens”, in Portuguese Porto de Galinhas! Funny story- because I just love how Portuguese sounds (so foreign!) when Dennis quickly pronounced the beach name for the first time I literally exclaimed “Oh my gosh, that sounds like paradise!” It wasn’t until I asked them to help me spell it so I could google it that I said, “ooo, umm, the hen’s beach?”

Anyway, the hen’s beach: amazing. I suggest googling it. My first Brazilian destination indeed.

Dennis and Caio, yours truly:

Statue of Liberty in Austin, Texas

I already know the dates of my stay in Brazil! I leave straight for São Paulo on February 28th for the 5-day Fulbright orientation. There I’ll meet the rest of the U.S. Fulbrighters, the ones I haven’t yet met through email (foi um prazer em conhecê-vocês!! virtually anyway). Also, I’ll get a peek of my second destination for 6 months.On March 4th I’ll hop on a plane and go to my first destination, Recife, in the state of Pernambuco. I will remain there until July. I’ll meet the Brazilian family I’ll live with soon thereafter.

Earlier in the semester I finally met the very helpful and kind Professor Jose Dubeux from Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco. Among many things discussed we spoke of potential Rural Extension projects I can be part of. I’m interested on the project in which I may be able to visit small farmers’ sites where new technologies were introduced by a recent university project. There, I may begin studying how well the small farmers implemented the technologies or even if they adopted the technologies at all (very similar to what we do here at the Borlaug Institute in terms of development agricultural work). Other activities include traveling to different sites of Pernambuco, as it is a diverse state.

He suggested I take few classes so that I have the time to do as much research and exploit all the sources the federal rural university has to offer, in terms of research tools, faculty and their extension projects. These classes will be free of charge as the Federal Brazilian higher education institutions are free of charge (isn’t that sweet?). Thank you Brazil!

Less than a week ago, I also met Dr. Franzolin Neto, my second hosting professor from Universidade de São Paulo. He very kindly invited me to an event for Texas A&M aggies and students from Universidade de São Paulo who had done exchange programs. I’m so happy every time I meet new Brazilian amigos….they’re all such a delight.

Hanging out Brazilian style in College Station, Texas

Finally, I finished my graduate classes two weeks ago, American Diplomacy and Military Strategy in the Conduct of Nations… phewww! Graduate classes demanded a lot more and I’m overall very happy with my grades and all the learning I did. It was a tough semester while I worked full time, but well worthwhile.

These few past weeks I have begun the visa application process, the Portuguese learning, and I even met with Dr. Feagley at the soil sciences department and borrowed his books on Brazilian agriculture, EMBRAPA, CERRADO, etc. January 2012 comes, I’ll be ready to launch into the brainstorming for the year-long research!

So with these accomplishments I want to thank you for being part of a journey with me this year and helping me become a better human being. From the bottom of my heart I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a WONDERFUL HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012! Or in lovely Portuguese, Um Excelente e Feliz Natal e um Ótimo Ano Novo 🙂

Update

Texas A&M Faculty International Agriculture Summit 2011


Tears filled my eyes last Thursday night when I heard live and close the honorable ex Senator George McGovern tell the story of when he came to realization that hunger indeed existed in the United States. How he passed the law of all school systems required to provide reduced lunch and free lunch. As Senator he saw a documentary or news report (can’t quite remember, I’m pretty sure the latter) filmed far deep in the slums of some city in the U.S. and how at the lunch line the camera was zoomed in on a young boy. He was asked why he would not get lunch, he said he didn’t have money and that he felt ashamed. Senator McGovern looked at his wife and his daughters, and said “that boy shouldn’t feel ashamed, I am the one to be ashamed”. He went on the next morning and wrote that into law and ever since kids like me have benefitted from this type of economic relief and have not been left behind in getting food at the public schools. I made sure to wait in line, shake his hand, and thank him for this one direct contribution that had benefitted me personally. He has made many more contributions, among many others that concern food: He was the first director of the Food for Peace program, key player in the creation of the United Nations-based World Food Programme,the first UN Global Ambassador on World Hunger, World Food Prize co-laureate in 2008. He introduced reforms and new nutritional guidelines for Americans in his “McGovern Report”, and we can’t forget his McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program (IFEP). It was an honor. I could not forget to mention I was awarded a Fulbright fellowship, that my interests were deeply invested in making a difference in the food and agriculture realm, and he replied with a personal story about Senator Fulbright, and how Fulbright fellowships had been his most proud accomplishment.

Texas A&M Faculty International Summit 2011

Love and Acceptance as a Warm Welcome

This past week has been eventful so far. As I sit here tonight back in Texas (not sleepy), listening to Brazilian beats, I will retell just some of the best…

I went back to College Station yesterday a brand new me (ok, a renovated me). Did I mention how much growth I did living in Washington DC against heavy odds in my last post? Well, I returned with my head held high, ready to conquer my dreams and to answer a great call as is Fulbright. The article about me along with the other two Texas A&M Aggies who were granted national awards/scholarships was published right the night before returning to my college town. This article published about us focused on the people we have to thank for in some way or another for shaping our accomplishments. When I was interviewed I was able to recall very specific events that led me to be in the place I am today. I was indulged in complete satisfaction to remember and name key people in the past and present who have been part of what makes up me. “I am part of all that I have met”- Alfred Lord Tennyson.

I spent time walking in the silent streets of a college town when everyone is on break. The wind kept me and my thoughts company. I reminisced some about my college life. I can’t believe time flies by, I graduated and onto something new!

I visited Dr. Michael Greenwald who is responsible the Guatemalan Student Association at A&M did an amazing job at acting out our first skit! The skit was of a poem of Jose Martí, named La niña de Guatemala. I was La niña de Guatemala, I am that same girl from Guatemala. This long overdue visit had a taste to it beyond sweetness.

'The First Essential Component of Social Justice is Adequate Food for All Mankind"

Then I went back to what I consider one of my sacred temples, the Borlaug Institute. This institute shelters a legacy. I could easily spend a half a lifetime learning from the people who work to keep it alive every day (the other half, taking all the lessons learned and putting them into practice). Anyway, The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture has once again opened its doors to me. I was hired to work as a full-time Graduate Technician. I will be a half time student in the Bush School of Government’s online Graduate Certificate Program until I leave for Brazil. The dearest African Programs Coordinator, Dr. Linda Cleboski,has once again given me the opportunity to work with her. Except now I will be working in all aspects of well-known projects, like SPREAD in Rwanda (even a Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars Focus piece on SPREAD!!).

It felt great being remembered there and to walk the halls and see people such as Ms. Julie Borlaug walk up and down the hall diligently. She doesn’t personally know me yet, I have never had the guts to introduce myself. But the people who do know me were so welcoming, including an exceptional woman in my life Johanna Roman, director of the Latin American programs, and a recent couple who just graduated from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. I was able to congratulate the couple on their graduation, their latest project on food security surveys in Sierra Leone, and of course being married at such a young age and making a change in the world together.

Speaking of couples, these past few days I have spent most of my time with my sweetheart. He is the most loving man I know, as well as the most hardworking. He is worthy of many honors for his courage for doing everything to live his dreams. He is a dreamer just like me. That’s a story for another day. For now all I will say (or quote)is:”Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage”- Lao Tzu.