I apologize for the long post...
¬20 minutes ago our ship lifted the anchor and left the Port of Manaus. So now I sit here in my cabin and it is time to reflect. What to start with? I learned so much in these four short days and that is made it an absolutely amazing experience. I suppose the first thing to start with is that I am not as stressed as I was and not feeling exactly the same since my last post. I really appreciate all of the comments to help cheer me up and see the brighter side of life, but it is going to be a constant struggle throughout the voyage. I will be sailing for 9 days before we get to Ghana so that will also be a struggle to handle the stress, but I am sure that I will be able to make it through that. I have an amazing group of friends that I have formed on this voyage and know that these relationships will last a lifetime. We all love each other so much and take care of each other that we would probably be lost without one another. I am looking forward to spending the rest of the voyage with this group and will be quite sad when we all have to return home, but sometimes that is how life works.
Now, getting to Brazil. We were here in Brazil for four days and they were the most amazing days that I have had on this trip so far. The first day in Manaus our group went into the city and just explored the streets. Right when you come off the ship and through the terminal one is instantly shocked with the culture of the Brazilians. The first thing I noticed was that Manaus was a very large city that was just like any other in the United States, at least considering size and population. The main difference was that this city lay on the banks of the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers and is considered the largest shipping port for products in the Amazon region. The next thing I noticed about the city was the language barrier! EVERYONE spoke Portuguese but could not speak English or Spanish. This is largely due to colonialism and patriotism as I have learned in my classes and personal experiences. It was not until very recently that the Brazilian government was able to start building their economy and becoming more global. It is now part of the BRICS, a group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) that is expected to be the five largest economies in the world by 2030, according to the World Bank. This is fascinating to me because it can already be seen today. The American economy is collapsing and the Brazilian economy is rising, bringing poverty levels down each year. Although the practices may be considered wrong to the American capitalist views, it is something that is working, and that is hard to deny given the evidence when being in one of these countries. It will be interesting to see if India, China, and South Africa are also bringing their economies up and bringing people out of poverty. So, because the economy is starting to grow, Brazil is realizing that they need to expand their use of language and that is why they are starting to incorporate English and Spanish into the higher education systems. They do not have a mandatory teaching of either of those languages in lower education, but I am betting that as time goes on they will begin to incorporate those into the schools. The language barrier made it difficult to get around, talking to taxis, waiters, or people on the street just to ask for directions. I tried to use simple phrases in Portuguese but that could only get you so far, so I used my hands and pointing a lot to try and get what I was saying across to the locals. This was really fun for me though and taught me a lot about this culture. It made me think of what happens when a foreigner that does not speak English comes to America experiences. It was interesting to see the similarities that two cultures would share regarding language. We often slow down our English to those who cannot speak it as if speaking slower will somehow make them understand. The Brazilians did the same. When I would shake my head or say that I do not understand, they would slow their speech as though I would be able to understand it more, but it just made it more difficult. For now on I will understand what they are going through and the difficulties that unfold from not knowing a language, and I will not slow my speech, but instead use writing or my hands to try and get a point across or try to understand something from a foreigner. Other than the language barrier, nothing else was difficult in Brazil. It was easy to pay for dinner, was safe to eat, and was fun to walk around the city.
As we walked around the first day I noticed that every street we were on was filled with stands where the locals would buy their goods. The stands were located on the sidewalks of all the businesses in the area. So essentially, Manaus was just one large market that was not built on tourism, but instead built on making goods cheap for the locals. The products were also all knock-offs of what you find in the States, so it almost felt like you were shopping in the black market of Brazil. The first day was fun, we saw most of the tourist sites and really didn’t live like the locals. That night, we went to find a Brazilian steakhouse, churascarria, and we got lost! At night!!! That was a little scary, but we were in a large group so I felt somewhat safe, however, I was the only male in a group of 9 and I didn’t know how I was supposed to watch over all these girls! We waved down a taxi and the language barrier made it extremely difficult to try and find a restaurant to go to. The girls were talking to the cab driver trying to communicate, but it was a failed effort until I walked up and said “churascarria” and then bam! The taxi driver immediately understood and was able to take us somewhere. It made me a little frustrated that the girls did not memorize that word and may have seemed a bit insensitive to the locals because of their lack of wanting to learn. The restaurant that we went to was absolutely amazing! It was the best steak I have ever had, aged, seasoned, and cut off the sword right in front of you. The restaurant also treated us like royalty! We got lots of drinks, food, and roasted pineapple for such a cheap price!! It was about $16 for a five course meal, five drinks, and then dessert. The local liquor that the Brazilians love is called cachaça, and I must say that I may have found my new favorite liquor. I believe it is made from sugar cane and they age it for years. It tastes like a mix of whiskey and tequila with a sweet aftertaste, but smells of sweet grapes. They also make this great drink that everyone liked where they mix cachaça, lots of limes, and sugar to make a cocktail that tastes like a long island/margarita. I wish you all could have tried that, but maybe I will be able to make that for you when I get back! After the restaurant we returned back to the ship and got prepared for our next couple of days that would be in the rainforest!
The next morning the group got breakfast on the ship and then went into town for a few hours to do some market and souvenir shopping. My mom was so awesome and was able to help reserve a night for the group at the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge. We left for the lodge at one and had a really cool transfer from the ship to the lodge. We had to take a 20 minute shuttle ride to a local dock where a small canoe powered by a tiny engine was waiting to pick us up. We got in the canoe and I felt very nervous because of how small it was, but it turned out to be really fun and safe. The boat ride was also about 20 minutes and gave us a great view of the Rio Negro, named because the water is so black, and let me tell you, I thought we were floating in black coffee because of how dark it was. You could even get some of the water in a bottle and see that is was not clear at all, but black-brown just like coffee because of the sediment of the river. We eventually floated up to the private bank of the lodge and I was immediately unimpressed of what I was seeing. There was a white sandy beach with huts and beach chairs at the bank of the river. I thought I was going to an eco-lodge and that it was not going to be treated as a resort where luxury was everywhere. However, when we left the canoe and made our way up to the lobby I could see that the lodge was going to be more eco-friendly and cater more towards people like me who care about sustainability and helping the environment. I found out that the beach was actually natural and that every piece they used to make the lodge was made from already fallen trees and was actually very sustainable. We had a little difficulty with checking in because of the language barrier but eventually got it figured out and made our way to the rooms. We each had a small cabin that was secluded and in the jungle. I was suddenly very impressed, maybe not with the service, but with where I was staying…in the Amazon rainforest!! After settling in, we went to the natural swimming pools where the black water flowed into five natural pools. I must say that I was scared because I could not see the bottom, but there were a couple of wading pools where one could see the bottom, and I enjoyed my time in those. We did not stay long because the insects were beginning to attack, so I made my way to the hammock area of the lodge and took a great nap until dinner. The dinner they served at the lodge was traditional Brazilian and Tupí Indian and I really enjoyed it. They had amazing fish and steak along with lots of fresh fruit and drinks. After dinner the group went to a secluded area of the jungle where we talked and played games until 3 in the morning. That night is where the bonds we made as friends developed and now will last a lifetime. I was staying in a room with my friend Meg and we stayed up even longer talking about our lives and what we liked. We didn’t get to bed until 5:30am and then had to get up at 8 for breakfast. That did not work out for me though because I got really sick as soon as food touched my lips and was vomiting for a while. I felt better afterwards so we decided to go into the jungle on a guided tour and to a canopy walk through all of the trees. That was also one of the coolest experiences. The different views of the forest were amazing and I learned a lot about the flora and fauna that thrive in the rainforest at all of the different levels. When I can I will post some pictures to try and show the views and what I was experiencing. We had to catch a transfer back early so we went back to the ship after the canopy tour. That night, the Teatro Amazonas, the local opera house designed and by Parisian architects, was having a free show where the philharmonic was playing. We were lucky enough to get in for free and enjoy the show of a lifetime! I was so impressed with the design and the performance. I could really see the Parisian influence and design and felt like I was in Europe. Meg and I also got a private box seat which made the experience that more special and great. We returned home after the performance and I was extremely exhausted so I caught up on my sleep and went straight to bed.
For my last day in port we went out to try the Paõ de Queijo, a traditional breakfast food that is essentially cheese bread, and the local coffee. I was so happy to find coffee and was able to buy a drip system so that I could have it while I am sailing around the world. I also had a field trip planned through SAS where we went to Nova Era Mercantile, a distribution center. I learned a lot about how business operated in Brazil, and to be honest, I was really unimpressed. The lack of communication was prevalent and frustrating because the company didn’t even know we were coming there, even though it was planned over a year ago. It helped me understand the different practices and just how far technology has advanced and helped certain countries, and hurt others. The businesses in Brazil are also mainly family owned and do not have stock or interest in their inventory or other companies to support their own business. The owners of these companies profit a lot of the money because there are no shares for people to buy and for an outside control of the company. The government also has a large influence on the companies as opposed to the United States where corporations have a large say in what the government can do. This is something I want to debate with though, I suggest that if you have other opinions you should talk to my brother Nich because he knows a lot about the current business situations that are occurring in the States. I am simply gaining a new perspective, as I will in each country I visit, about how business operate and the comparisons and contrasts that I see in America.
I am in love with this country and will most definitely be returning to learn even more. I only got to experience one of the 26 states of Brazil and I experienced the Amazon. The next places I would like to visit are Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to see how their businesses operate and how the culture there is different from the culture in Manaus.
Now, regarding tourism, I am not sure if there is really a market to develop on service and eco-tourism. The eco-tourism industry is already large, so it would be competitive to start my own business in Brazil and maybe much of South America. It also seems that tourism, at least in Manaus, is not prevalent and the economy is already growing from many other imports and exports that tourism does not need to interfere. I would like to do more research however, because there are still areas that are very poor in American standards and could possibly have the potential for a market of that type of tourism. I did not learn much on how to develop my ideas, but I am sure that as I go through more ports I will hopefully have a great starting point to get myself going towards a career or through entrepreneurships with eco and service-tourism. I cannot wait to post more and I am so excited to arrive in Ghana. I believe that Ghana will be one of the main ports where I can develop my ideas. I also wanted to give a heads up that on Neptune Day, the day where we cross the Equator and the Prime Meridian, I will be shaving my head completely bald!!!! Look for the pictures/slash post to see how it goes. As always I miss you all. Know that I am having the trip of a lifetime though and that I am truly getting some of the best experiences in life traveling the world.
LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!!