Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Quando vim de Minas...

Minas Gerais...I had been wanting to see where I lived when I was still in my mom's tummy. 14 hours by bus from Santo André, the towns of Três Marias and São Gonçalo do Abaeté are on the banks of the São Francisco River, in the north-central region of the state of Minas Gerais. This beautiful region has a rich traditional culture based on fishing, river navigation, and family farms. It also has big industries - metal refining, dams, eucalyptus plantations, and large-scale agriculture. The Peixes, Pessoas e Água project that my mom worked with brought stakeholders together to support research, conservation, and strong participation by fishers in environmental management.

Para meus amigos brasileiros: Me desculpem, por favor, de escrever somente em inglês - aqui no Canadá estou treinando bastante o meu inglês e preciso explicar para meus amigos canadenses um pouco sobre o Brasil. Na próxima postagem, volto para o português para contar sobre o Canadá.

First stop: After an eight-hour bus ride from Santo André (in the state of São Paulo), we arrived in the capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, where we spent the night and visited the municipal market.

The next day, we continued on to Três Marias. We passed the time chatting with our friend, Seu Raimundo, president of the Professional Fishermen's Federation of Minas Gerais.

Next stop: Três Marias and São Gonçalo do Abaeté, where we stayed with Thaís and Edson, at the house that Thaís, Sarah and Alison used to share...now Thaís and Edson share the yard with chickens!

We went to Minas that week so that we could attend the graduation ceremony of a youth environmental leadership and training project that my mom and Thaís were involved in creating at the end of the Peixes, Pessoas e Água project.

We also accompanied Seu Norberto in his boat on a river clean-up day. I didn't help at all!

I did, however, (vicariously, if that's the word for it) enjoy the yummy lunch afterward, prepared by project participants from the Fish Smoking group!

My mom wouldn't let me take a bath in the water in Beira Rio - she says that it is an outrage that a community of several hundred people still relies on water from wells and the river, both of which have been shown to be contaminated. Accidentally ingesting some of this water was likely the reason that my mom caught toxoplasmosis, a parasite that could have caused me to be born with birth defects or other problems. The nearby city of Três Marias sends its sewage without treatment into the river, just upstream from Beira Rio. Luckily, Alessandra and her family were nice enough to allow me to take a bath with the treated water at their home in Três Marias, after we went swimming in the Três Marias Lake!

We visited many wonderful friends in Beira Rio!

Here's me with Jaqueline, who makes beautiful jewellery.

And here's me with Gislaine - or maybe it's her twin Gislâne, I can never be sure - both active participants in PPA environmental education activities. We're at the Beira Rio Festa Junina, a traditional party held all over Brazil in June to celebrate the June saints' days (in this case, São Pedro - Saint Peter.) Note my lovely caipira, or country, dress that is worn to participate in Festa Junina square dances. But instead of the requisite straw hat, I have chosen a Canadian tuque to keep me warm....Beira Rio gets chilly at night in the winter, believe it or not!

And their parents Seu Manoel and Dona Odilia.

We visited Dona Zezé and Seu Raimundo's family one afternoon. Here's me with Osana.

And Obadias and Evelyn, from Chile. Their backyard is full of medicinal plants, rabbits, dogs, mango trees, sugar cane, lime trees, and just about everything else you could imagine!

We even went to the Beira Rio rodeo!

Pirapora is a city that's a few hundred kilometres away from Três Marias. Like Três Marias, it is famous for its surubim - a huge migratory catfish - although fisheries have declined significantly in recent years due to dams, industrial and urban pollution, and overfishing.

Evelyn with the dourado phone booth!

Pirapora is the city of bicycles. Here's us causing a bike jam on the old train bridge that connects the cities of Pirapora and Buritizeiro.

Visits with friends in Pirapora:

The Antunes family

Nicinha, Camila, Thaís, and Tiago at the Pirapora Night Market.

Nicinha and Socorro, from the Fishing Colony (association of professional fishers)

Well, that's enough photos for now! Next post will be my trip in Canada! Tchau!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Old friends

What an exciting day! I received a package in the mail from my mom's host family in France! She lived with them in 1998, right after high school - and despite how bad my mom is at keeping in touch, they found me and sent me this cute little dress and other great presents. Comme je suis adorable! Merci beaucoup, Danielle et Joel. Je vous enverrai un petit mot par courrier bientôt!

The very same day, I was thrilled to meet Evelyn and Carlos, from Chile. Evelyn and my mom studied together in 2001, in the environmental sciences program at the Universidad de Chile. Here we are at the Parque Celso Daniel in Santo André.

Here are some things Evelyn and Carlos liked in Santo André:

O Rei da Tapioca....cheap and tasty tapioca (pancakes typical of the Brazilian Northeast), very hygenically prepared in the Tapioca King's car. You know it is tapioca time when the jingle plays from the loudspeaker on the car's roof and kids start lining up in the street.

Taking me out to the bars....

Hanging out with friends at the Parque Central.

Going to a huge Festa Junina with a crowd of neighbours, including about 10 kids between us, and walking home together late. See the photos of the Festa Junina that my dad and our neighbours organize every year on the Prestes Maia Apartment Complex blog.

And visiting Paranapiacaba, the charming historic town nestled in the mountains between Santo André and the coast.
We climbed up to a look-out, from which we could see the port of Santos and the ocean.

And saw the sunset....and walked down in the dark!