We Study, We Eat, We Walk Around

Day 15: Monday, January 20th

Today was our first day of classes with Professor Fernando Peres. We began with a discussion of geography and biomes. I wish we could have spent the next three days talking about the Amazon, cerrado, pantanal and mata Atlantica ecosystems!

The discussion turned toward economics and world population. At break, John and I got into a great discussion about the Malthusian Crisis and overpopulation, and a whole bunch of people joined in. We asked each other, will we be able to curb our population voluntarily before we hit a crisis, or will we keep reproducing until a disaster like the plague, climate change, or famine takes us out?

The debate continued at the lunch buffet, and then after class as we walked to the basketball and volleyball courts. It was exhausting to play defense in the humid heat!

I showered, ate frozen yogurt with delicious coconut/condensed milk topping for dinner, and set to work on my homework. (It was our first day with homework!)

I really needed to wash clothes in the sink, but around 10:30 at night Erin, Sejal and I got hungry and headed to McDonald’s for second dinner. We snuck out of the hotel, giggling and hoping nobody saw us, but at McDonald’s we ran into AJ! I got to try that McDonald’s hamburger I’d been thinking about since our tour of the Food Town factory. It was a bit of a struggle to order – I ordered for Erin and asked for a sweet tea. The woman nodded and handed me a coke… I tried to order a grilled chicken wrap for tomorrow’s lunch and one of the items said “Mostarda,” and then “grill” in tiny letters, I ordered the Mostarda and got a crispy (not grilled) chicken wrap with mustard. It will make for a good lunch tomorrow anyway.
When we got back to the lobby, we got sidetracked watching John’s philosophical YouTube videos. Then we showed each other our favorite music videos and funny talking animals. I loved how easy it was to goof off and laugh! I won’t have any clean clothes tomorrow… worth it.

Day 16: Tuesday, January 21st

People got very heated today during class over the distinction between farms as a way of life and farms as a business. I wasn’t sure what people were arguing over, as Devon said partway through the debate. I think it would be interesting to delve deeper into these discussions instead of hurrying through them. It helped a lot to have read a homework piece, because people were more engaged. I think we should replace an hour of lecture time with an hour of personal work each day.

For lunch, I ate yesterday’s Mostarda wrap, but it was not enough food. By the end of the day, I was seriously hangry – shaky and weak with an oncoming headache. From now on, I’m going out to buy lunch, even though I might miss a bit of studying time.

After class, I walked straight to dinner like a zombie. I drank a suco de maracuyá quickly for some glucose, and felt much better after a pizza dinner. We chose two flavors – pepperoni and franga (chicken) stroganoff. The stroganoff was covered in catupiry (that thick white cream cheese) and little potato chip strips. It was very heavy.

I got back in time to work on my Hollings essay and get to bed by midnight. I am missing out on a lot by not going to the pool or playing cards, because I need that little bit of free time to work.

When we got back to the hotel, Erin and Sejal both lay down to take naps. Erin didn’t wake up until the next morning! I guess we’re all a little short on sleep.

Day 17: Wednesday, January 22nd

Today was our last class with Professor Fernando Peres. On our first day, Professor Peres has explained the five main topics for the course and taken a poll about which we were most interested in. The fifth topic, the environment (specifically environmental constraints of agricultural development and environmental problems caused by increased crop and livestock production), won by a wide margin. I was excited to focus on this popular topic, but unfortunately we ran out of time to even start on this topic. Taking a poll of interest was a good idea – but what is the point if we didn’t adjust the class accordingly?

Even though we missed out on the environment, we took some fascinating notes on something called the Lorentz Curve which shows the income disparity for a country or a certain industry. This curve is a visual, mathematical way to visualize the income gap. It was also fun to take colorful notes using Microsoft Word.

The bottom graph shows the income distribution of various industries in Brazil. The yellow line shows the best distribution (farmers) and the purple line shows the worst (public servants). 

After school, Devon and I walked to the ATM, but his card didn’t work and apparently I didn’t have mine. ATM fail! I was riding the struggle bus all day, and it was only compounded when I got back to the hotel late to find that everyone else had stopped for Subway sandwiches on the way home. Now hot, hungry, and frustrated, I elicited AJ’s sympathy and ate 6 inches of his teriyaki chicken Subway. It was the perfect meal – I still owe him for that! I need to start keeping some healthy snacks in the room.

When it got dark, Erin, Sejal, AJ and a small group headed out to a tropical bar near campus called Manga Rosa. I stayed in and worked on my Hollings application. Can’t wait for that to be over!