Dam We're Fine

Day 33: Friday, February 7th

This morning we visited the Cascavel Rural Show. It was like a giant fair on a hot summer day focusing completely on agriculture! We met with the president of Copavel, the coop which puts on the show, and I was so impressed by his people-skills even when he was speaking a different language from us. That’s how you become president of a large farming coop!

When we were released to explore on our own for a couple hours, I felt like a little kid turned loose at a candy shop or campground. We have been so scheduled and enclosed lately in hotels and buses – the freedom was delightful.


I was sold on the toy anhydrous ammonia tank.

We played a game called "make up a use for that crazy farm equipment." I joked that this octopus is used to plant seeds in little rows between the wheels. Someone heard me and said, "Exactly!" Who knew?

The giant katydid tractor.

No one told me my WV was backwards!

Hydroponic lettuce starts.

Tomatoes on tomatoes on tomatoes.

Our friend the milk fountain.

I got you a Christmas cactus, mom!

Our friend the cow table.

This strange-growing corn caused a commotion until we realized it had been pruned for display.

Two capital Cs!

We got free hats!

We missed lunch because so many vendors wanted a photo of the Americans.

Itaipu Dam! This was WAY cooler than I expected. This dam is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It produces electricity for Brazil and Paraguay. It used to be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world until China built the Three Gorges Dam, but the Itaipu Dam still has higher electricity production due to more favorable conditions. I loved our tours, but I have one regret: I wish I had asked my dad for a list of questions to ask about the dam since that helped me learn so much about the wind turbines in the Galapagos.

The dry spillways at Itaipu Dam.

I go to Ohio State! Really I do!

Dam we're fine!

Entrance to the concrete giant.

One of the turbines seen from the outside.

That's a looooooong way down.

This is what the spillways look like when there isn't a drought.

Some engineering stuff for Dad.

The Central Control Room, where a team of Paraguayan and Brazilian workers run the dam. The old analog control machines are around the outside of the room for back-up, but nowadays the dam in controlled digitally from the computers in the center.

One foot in Brazil, one foot in Paraguay.

Descent to the dungeons.

A turbine from the inside.

The long hallway of giant red dots (above the turbines).

The reservoir behind the dam.

Power lines running away from this enormous hydroelectric generator.

Looking down at that same entrance from on top of the dam.
We lunched at the mall (more salmon sushi and a frozen acai bowl with bananas and strawberries, plus half of an ovaltine chocolate malt which I shared with Logan.)

After dark, we drove all the way back to the dam to watch the famous light show. We waited for twenty minutes for the show to start, then watched the same informational video as this morning. A dramatic symphony struck up through the speakers, and we watched for five minutes as the white lights slowly dimmed on. When the music creshendoed and died, the dam was lit up. Most anticlimactic light show ever.

They turned on the lights.
I’m being partly facetious – even without bright colors or explosives, gazing at that magnificent concrete structure under the stars was inspiring. I imagined myself as another person looking for a direction in life, and I could imagine myself deciding to make energy my life passion. What a noble goal, to produce electricity for the world. It helps humans, and producing more efficient energy helps the environment. To capture energy from the world requires such simple, elegant physics. When the light show ended, I realized I probably won’t be switching to a major in physics or engineering, but I am inspired to gain a better understanding of electricity.

Day 34: Saturday, February 8th

Today we went to Iguazu Falls, or Foz do Iguaçu. I was really excited for today because the falls are one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Plus, my sister went here when she lived in Argentina and said they were awesome

We started out with a talk from a National Park ranger. I found some neat bugs on the front porch.

Little bug.

Big bug.

Oh hey there.

Then, we scrambled down a muddy embankment in our flip flops and skirts. (Once again, wardrobe fail!) When we got to the bottom, we could see Argentina across the river. We only stayed a second before biting ants scared us back up the hill, which we climbed up faster than we had climbed down.

That's Argentina over there!

The falls were just as magnificent as I had heard they would be. The “first view” outlook was stunning.
A rainbow too!

Friends and falls.

But the views just kept getting better and better. By the end of the boardwalk, I was standing in the middle of a 360 degree, panoramic view. To my left, I could feel the vibration of raw power as a massive wall of water roared over a cliff. The fall itself was obscured by a boiling veil of mist. In front of me, I saw calmer waterfalls streaming over slick granite. Between the tounges of water, cushiony green plants carpteted the rock. Below me, a rainbow formed a nearly complete circle. Right below my feet, I saw the smooth curve of water as it moved from the calm lake to the tearing rapids of another waterfall. It gave me the willies to see that water going over the edge, switching so suddenly from a calm shallows to a flailing nosedive.

The wildlife at the park was incredible. I let a gentle, brown praying mantis crawl onto my hand and work its way up to the top of my head. (So cute!) Raccoon-like mammals called coatis used their long, inquisitive noses to search through our backpacks. We saw a couple meter-long, black and white lizards basking in the sun.

Just baskin'.

Pet the wild animals!

And the monkeys! This baby swung by its tail and stripped moss off twigs right above our heads.

For lunch, we returned to the mall and I once again ate a salmon sushi cone and an acai cup, but I added in half a pastel, a fried bread pocket filled with beef and mozzarella.

In the afternoon, we went to the confluence of the Parana and Iguacu Rivers, where the countries of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil all meet.

Three countries at once.

Erin and I found some entertaining public art at the river park.
We stopped at several souvenir shops, and entered a giant duty free shop in Argentina so we could officially say we have been in three countries. It was such a relief to speak Spanish instead of Portuguese! I’m excited to go back to Ecuador next week. I bought a pair of green Brazil flag flip flops. Erin, AJ and I made a last minute friendship bracelet purchase – so we are now linked by the Straw and Bead Jewelry of Sarcasm and Ironic Friendship.

I bought a couple of these little agates to bring home in my pocket. (Hi John.)

During the bus ride, someone asked John, “Do you still want to be a vet?” That’s the Question Bomb for sophomore animal sciences students. It’s like asking a high school senior, “Where have you applied for college?” It’s overasked, and it usually elicits anxiety because the answer is either, “Yes, if I can get in!” or “No, I failed chemistry,” or “I don’t know, I am having a continuous existential crisis, thanks for asking.” But today that question actually initiated a long, friendly conversation about what we want to do with our lives. Everyone has so many big ideas and reasonable concerns and interesting priorities. It was a great bus ride.

Soon we will be heading to an all-you-can-eat dinner. Good thing I’m hungry!

Day 35: Sunday, February 9th

Today we got a minor sleep-in which was heavenly. Then, we rode the bus all day, which allowed for a lot of extra napping. We pulled up to a grand buffet for lunch, but I was still full from dinner last night, so I just got a healthy (yeah right) snack: a chicken dumpling and a patty of dried coconut and condensed milk. Then more bus naps! I have found I really enjoy curling up in my seat with the curtain pulled and my headphones in. I put my iPod on total shuffle and turn the volume semi-loud, and I can disappear into my own dreamy thoughts. Eventually I end up falling asleep. When I get tired of that, I can gaze at gorgeous rolling farm landscapes. I have seen so many shades of green out the bus window!

We stopped at another mall for dinner, where Sejal and I went to a fazenda (farm-style) buffet. I got some delicious shredded greens (collards? kale?) and filled more than half my plate with produce. For dessert I got a small frozen acai cup with strawberries. Yum!

We got back to the hotel in time for about thirty minutes of frisbee in the pool. It felt so good to leap and swim – I can’t wait to be more physically active when this trip is over. I miss playing ultimate so much!

When we got kicked out of the pool, a whole group retired to my room where we played cards and talked. I always learn something new about my friends around 1:30 in the morning. I also caught up on some blogging. It feels great to go through my photos, post captions, and reflect on my experiences so far in Brazil.