Those Aren't Squirrels!

Here are two more daily journal recaps for your enjoyment. The series began here if you want to start from the beginning. Divirta-se!

Day 5: Friday, January 10th

Second day of classes! We spent a solid six hours on Brazilian economic history. We watched two episodes of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and discussed events through the 1800s. Taking computer notes was a great improvement over writing by hand, and I started to accept our unchronological order. It was still a challenge to stay awake, especially during the movies.

Those movies are killer. Photo credit Erin Homerosky.
Lunch took place at yet another por kilo buffet. During our coffee break, I tossed my frisbee with AJ and Juliana, our wonderful Brazilian guide and life-saver. Tossing a frisbee was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Brazil so far! Gotta do that more often!

Survival Portuguese Class #2 focused on food, and that came in handy at Piracaçaí, the new restaurant we tried for dinner. The restaurant was açaí berry themed. Have you heard of that purple, antioxidant-rich berry? Chocolate covered açai, açai smoothies… Well Brazilians are even more crazy about it than Americans. Luckily there were no berries in my tuna sandwich.

Now I’m back in the hotel room, trying and failing (yet again) at sleeping early. When Shirota took us through the schedule today, I realized how little free time we are going to have for the next six weeks! Nearly every moment is scheduled, and the mornings are early. We only have twelve days of classes, which is pretty incredible when you consider twelve days out of an entire semester. On the other hand, the classes are eight hours each day with the same professor in the same classroom. It’s only our second day, but if I could give two pieces of feedback about the AZP Brazil trip, they would be these:

  • Downtime. It’s impossible to pack everything about a country into a six-week trip, so I understand why we're so busy. However, I’ve realized that my brain stops processing and appreciating new experiences when it doesn’t have downtime. For me, this involves going through photos, writing down the birds I see each day, and reading books. With eight-hour classes, group meals, this daily journal, and preparation for our hour-long group presentation, I’m not getting enough sleep, and definitely not enough downtime. I haven’t had time to walk the campus or explore Piracicaba. I feel the experience would be improved if classes were two hours shorter each day but took up a couple extra days.

    Chilling outside during a precious break.

  • Experiential learning. Looking ahead, I see a ton of experiential learning in the itinerary. Tours of a sugarcane processing plant, T-shirt factory, McDonald’s bun factory, dairy farm, Iguaçu Falls, and much more. I also see twelve days of solid classroom time, and the two classes I have experienced so far haven’t been as inspiring as I’d hoped. I would love for the classroom and experiential learning to be more integrated. During my last semester in Ecuador, we spent three hours per day in the classroom, and the rest of the day exploring the city, snorkeling, hiking, or touring. I never tired of either classroom or experiential learning, since each one reenergized me for the other. Classroom time allowed me to build background knowledge before field trips or clarify points after. Field trips inspired me to ask questions and build a deeper understanding through books and classes. For example, a trip to a church or museum would tie in well with our current lectures about Portuguese colonialism, and I bet our tour of the dairy farm would be even better if we could spend a couple hours reflecting on it with an animal sciences professor.

    The classroom where we live.
I don't like to give constructive criticism without a positive side, so here are my two favorite things about the program so far:

  • The trip is in Brazil instead of a comfortable, English-speaking European country
  • The trip is six weeks long, far more valuable than Mizzou’s ten-day trip.
Definitely not an English-speaking country!
Now for that early night! Well, midnight is better than 1:30am, at least. It’s a goal in progress. Boa noite!

Day 6: Saturday, January 11th

Finally, the weekend! Oh, never mind. We have class on Saturday. Sad face.

On a positive note, MONKEYS!

As we walked through the gated entrance to campus, I noticed these strange squirrels on a tree... But they definitely weren't squirrels!

We didn’t seem to worry them at all.
There were seven little black-tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii) spread across two trees. (Thanks Mom for that ID!) One monkey scrambled down to the ground and nibbled on a piece of fruit. The guards leave apples and bananas out for the monkeys sometimes.

The group left while I was taking photos. I didn’t realize Dr. Pfister had waited. “Come on, Nina!” she called from across the parking lot. Sadly, I had to abandon my furry subjects for another eight hours of Brazilian economic history.

We ate so much lunch at yet another por kilo buffet that no one was hungry for dinner. Instead, we tried the frozen yogurt shop after class. I got confused and accidently ordered gelato instead of yogurt – chocolate with white truffle sauce and Ferrero Rocher hazelnut. Not the worst mistake I’ve ever made! I also got to finish Jared’s plain yogurt because he didn’t know it would be sour.

In the evening I accompanied Erin and Sejal to the second-floor gym for a run. There was only one free treadmill, so I did crunches and pushups before a mile-and-a-half run. I prefer to run outside, but heat and humidity made that nearly impossible. The wall in front of the treadmill was a giant mirror, so I listened to music and silently belted out “Bad Romance” and “Battlefield” to myself as I ran. Best indoor run ever!

We don’t have class on Sunday, so tonight was our first (and only, for a while) weekend night. A group of us walked between various bars and ended up at Eisenbahn, the bar where we talked earlier this week.

It was a crazy night! I don’t drink and usually dislike being around drunk people, since my experience has been loud, sloppy college parties full of beer pong and devoid of food. Tonight was different because although people got very drunk, we all sat around a table and talked. Stories grew more emotional and hugs more affectionate. People started opening up and laughing ridiculously hard. It got really wild after people tried shots of cachaça, Brazil’s clear sugarcane brandy. When we finally left, I half-carried a friend home and spent the rest of the night watching her vomit, whimper, and moan. Nobody in the room got more than two hours of sleep, but we did hear some great quotes.

Don't have to be drunk to ruin photos! Photo credit Sejal Crouser.

I can see why people like to drink, especially those who feel quiet or shy when sober. I get asked a lot why I don’t. The main reason is simple: I don’t want to. I just don’t have any desire to drink alcohol, and no inclination to give in to peer pressure. To be honest, the constant pressure to drink is probably my main motivation not to. The second reason is that I don’t want to rely on a substance to change my personality. If I want to be more gregarious, open, pugnacious, or anything else, I’ll be that way on my own. Third, I may have slept for only two hours last night, but I feel a whole lot better this morning than everyone else. I’d rather not vomit or be hung over, and I see a very easy way to prevent that! And hey, water is a cheap drink.

Now for a two-hour bus ride of peaceful sleep.