Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Two weeks of water research in Bonfim

As always, click all photos to embiggen.

We drove up to Petropolis from Rio Sunday afternoon. I got to the airport and thank goodness ran into a carload of MDP students also arriving, because I would never have figured out that I was meant to go to the rental car lot (or even that we were renting cars! I thought it anything they would have hired a bus for us or something). It took literal hours for us to all get into cars. We ended up with just a few little Fiats, and how we fit out luggage and ourselves in remains a miracle and a mystery. I can only say once again that I’m so glad that I was able to consolidate my bags.

We caravanned as far as a roadside fast food place called Casa de Aleman (which I am now starting to see everywhere). After a snack, we all split off to our respective destinations. The Rio MDP group split into three – one group going to Bonfim, another to Magala, and another to Teresopolis. It was dark by the time we arrived in Bonfim.

It turns out that we arrived during the July festival, so when we pulled in there was really loud music and a ton of people in the front yard. We dropped off my bag, and then were invited to the party. There were probably 50-75 people there, and there was a ton of food and alcohol, plus children’s games and dancing. It was really nice to show up to such a reception – even though it wasn’t meant for us. Admittedly we were all a bit anti-social – standing in a circle only talking to ourselves. But I take no responsibility for that, as I literally can’t talk to anyone anyway.

Sunset from my house on the first day.
Monday morning the other students came down and picked Myriam and I up, and then drove into Correas to buy SIM cards and get breakfast. Back up the hill to meet Robson for a little tour of the area. Then we had lunch at the place Myriam and I had eaten at the week before – with the massive fire and pots on it. In the afternoon, we met a few more people including the president of the producers association, and then went back into Correas to do some grocery shopping.
Bonfim Chapel

Getting a tour of the neighborhood
Tuesday we spent the day going around meeting more people. In the morning we drove into Itaipava to meet with the guys from EMATER. Lunch at the usual place. In the afternoon we met a mushroom farmer, which was neat because I got to learn how to farm mushrooms. There were eucalyptus logs stacked up like Lincoln logs. Each log had holes drilled along the length, and the holes were injected with smushed up shitake mushrooms. Then they were left in a greenhouse to grow. I got to try injecting a mushroom. We met a few other producers throughout the day, and then returned to the MDP student house to refine methodology in the afternoon.

Growing Shitake

Thursday we went up to the park. We were told that we would be going on a 3 hour hike to find all of the source locations of the water the producers here in Bonfim use. The MDP students need to GPS those locations for their research (and I’ll probably want to steal that data for mine). It ended up being a 6 hour, rather strenuous hike. However, it was absolutely gorgeous, and really incredible the amount of different ecosystems we went through. It was kind of cool to be hiking with ecologists and biologists as well, even with the language barrier. They had a much greater appreciation of the surroundings than the people I typically hike with (where we’re more appreciative of just aesthetics). There was a lot of scrambling over slippery rocks and clinging to muddy cliff faces. The environment was almost Jurassic Park like in areas. Gorgeous gorgeous though.
One of the water sources
Thick bamboo forest at the base, atlantic rainforest in the middle, scrub brush up top
View of Bonfim from the Park
Group at rest
Going the distance for the GPS readings

View of Bonfim from the Park

The next few days I went around doing interviews with some of the other students. I’m really jealous of their ability to do interviews in their native language. They’re really getting so much done, and the people here are so lovely and nice and accommodating.

Friday night we went into Itaipava to meet up with the group that’s in Magala. We ended up going to a bar (B Bar or something like that) with live music and stayed for several hours. The cover band was really good. They played mostly Brazilian songs, but did several very impressive covers of songs I knew, including the Stone Temple Pilots, Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton.

Saturday we went into Petropolis. There was a meeting between the park and the producers to discuss the redelimination in the afternoon, so we needed to go in for that, but we headed in a few hours early so we could do some sightseeing and get lunch at a new place. There was some kerfuffle with the bus, but we managed it eventually (and I now have a bus schedule). After parking, we walked around the historic center (which is fairly small). We saw the parks in the middle, and the cathedral. There was a wedding going on at the cathedral, so we stuck around to watch the bride come in. I was surprised to learn that it’s a Brazilian tradition for the bride to wait in the car out front until the very last minute. I would be fretting about my dress getting wrinkled.
Cathedral in Petrópolis

After lunch at an Italian place, we headed over to the medical/law school for the meeting. The campus was really, really nice. It was probably one of the nicer buildings I’ve been in since I got to Brazil. Very up to date campus. The meeting itself was pretty intense. There were a lot of emotions being thrown around. It started with a few words of introduction from the park, the government reps, and the presidents of the producers and residents associations. Then ICMBio gave a powerpoint summarizing the history of the park/community tensions, and some information on what would happen next. Then there was a call for public input, and a lot of people asked questions or gave testimony. It was clearly all very very important for what I’m supposed to be doing this summer, but of course I barely understood anything. They were speaking so fast! (As people tend to do when they get heated). But, I recorded almost the entire thing.

Sunday morning I got to sleep in for a little bit, and then we went in as a group to Petropolis again. This time we went to see Santos Dumont’s house. It’s a museum in the house where he used to live that tells the history of his life, and his invention of flight. Clearly there is some contention between the Americans and the Brazilians re: who invented the airplane. I thought the museum was really neat. There wasn’t too much on display, although I did learn a good amount from the plaques and such. The best part though was the design of the house, which I guess Dumont himself designed (with the help of an architect). It was basically the precursor to the modern loft, and is pretty much my dream house (for me now, as a single person, or at least a person with no kids). The stairs were clever, and the design was smart. The only thing it lacked was a kitchen (although there were clearly spaces that could have been put in), apparently because Santos Dumont ordered all of his meals from the hotel across the street, and built a window next to his kitchen table so the waiters could deliver without even being let in. Fancy guy.

Santos Dumont's House

Crystal Palace

We intended to go to the Bohemia factory to beer taste after, but on the walk over realized it closed at 6. So, while we tried to decide what to do instead, we walked over to see the Crystal Palace. At the palace, there was a popup bar and a live band, so we ended up staying there for a few rounds until the music ended. Then we all went home so we could be up and working again on Monday.

The next week I joined the students again to go around doing interviews, broked up by lunches at our usual spot. Monday afternoon some of the professors showed up to discuss some complaints re: professionalism, requirements and supervision. There was a lot of tension building to this meeting which was definitely full of some fireworks. Anyway, after all of that intensity, we all headed into Itaipava to get out of Bonfim, and get some giant pieces of chocolate cake.
Lunch from the usual place

On Tuesday I went to Dr. Antonio’s house to find more water sources that were in the other valley branch (as opposed to the ones that source water from the park where we had gone on our 6 hour hike last week). This turned out to be a 4 hour hike, although it was more just a hilly walk as there were well defined trails and roads throughout. Dr. Antonio led us around, and he is a ball of energy for a guy in his 70s. We saw about 7 water sources, and interviewed him for the water project. He also showed us his cows (he’s a diary farmer) and his cachaça distillery (he’s also a distiller). We got to taste test his latest batch, and at 88 proof, it was pretty intense for a midday tipple.
View towards Bonfim from Dr. Antonio's

Dr. Antonio's Cachaça Distillery. "If you're going to make booze, you should make it in paradise!" - Dr. Antonio

Friendly Cow Portrait
That second week was also filled with some attempts at refining/getting started on my project. This was rife with internal politics and awkwardness. I’ve gotten started at this point (which I’ll write more about in my next entry), but said internal politics and awkwardness continue to plague the process. It’s all been more than a little frustrating. That said, in the first two weeks in Bonfim, I learned a lot assisting the other MDP students with their projects, about research methods, data collection, Portuguese, rural production, and water use. They all headed back to Rio on that second Saturday, and their presence (both academic and social!) is definitely missed!

Typical afternoon of hard work at the picnic table

1 comment:

  1. Love that house! And the bamboo forest. Your hike looks like one my wife and I did on Maui during our honeymoon. Our hike ended at a spectacular waterfall that we had all to ourselves.