Cows, Art, and Cow Art

Day 25: Thursday, January 30th

Today was the day of our essay exam. Handily, Shirota gave us the whole morning to study. I know we all would have been OK without it, but the extra several hours of study time let me feel over-prepared, which is how I like to go into exams. Lunch was nice and relaxed – I made a tuna salad to eat on my stale-bread crackers and peeled two juicy mangoes over the sink. I used up my food perfectly, and ran out of crackers, tuna, and cherry tomatoes today. The only things left are one mango (for tomorrow’s breakfast) and half a jar of mayonnaise (which I gave to Julianna). For lunch, we all sat around the table in the little staff kitchen and quizzed each other on potential essay questions. Then, after lunch, we were all happy to start the exam a little early, which left time for volleyball in the afternoon.

The exam itself was not bad. I’m not used to writing essays by hand, so my shoulders and fingers were cramping up, and my back needed to be cracked. (What does cracking your back really do anyway?) Two of the questions were almost the same, so I used the same answer – education – for those. I wish we could get individual feedback on our exams, or at least grades. I’ve heard from past AZP years that students only get a final grade for the whole trip, not individual grades for the exam, project, and journal.

After the exam, I had a stomachache (maybe from stress?) but I played sand-volleyball anyway and it was fun. The sand was so hot that we needed to wear socks to keep our feet from burning! Back at the hotel, I laid down to rest my stomach and spent only a few minutes getting ready for AJ’s delayed birthday bash tonight. I let Sejal put on eyeliner and mascara, so it was already a big night.

I split a portion of parmesan filet mignon with rice for dinner at The Suckling Monkey. Then we all walked to Manga Rosa, a funky outdoor bar near the university. It was a great time! Everyone was so happy to be free of the exam. The bar serves a delicious chocolate milkshake drink, and before midnight on Thursdays the drinks are two for one.

Then, around 1:30 in the morning, we decided to go out dancing. It was sort of a flop because we were tired and it wasn’t the sort of dance club we were expecting. The club looked like a converted house, and the living room was packed with a band and a sea of dancing couples holding each other tightly. There was a ring of men around the outside waiting to pick up girls who walked in – so suddenly I was dancing with a Brazilian man! We talked (or he yelled into my ear) the whole time, so I learned that he is 26 years old and from the state of Minas Gerais. I also learned that the style of dance was called forró, pronounced “fo-ho” and meaning “for all.” It was difficult to make out his Portuguese in that loud room.

When the song ended, I excused myself to find my friends. The group ended up sitting in the windowed dining room of the club. I danced one more dance with Jared before we were all ready to go home.

One cultural difference in Brazil is the casual attitude toward drunk driving. I made sure not to get in a car with a driver who had been drinking too much, but I saw lots of at least buzzed drivers get into cars tonight. For some reason, there don’t seem to be as many drunk-driving accidents in Brazil, which could be due to the fact the people on the roads are used to it here. Or maybe the accidents just aren’t as public here as they are in the United States.

Day 26: Friday, January 31st

Today was the day after our exam, so we were all feeling free and happy. I slept in until 10am which was wonderful. Sejal, Gabby and I packed our bags and took them down to Dr. Pfister’s room, which made the long trip start to feel real. I scrambled to finish my Hollings Scholarship application this morning, and I finally submitted it two minutes before we left on the bus for the dairy farm tour. It feels great to have it over with, but there is still the lingering feeling that I could have done an even better job. I could have send one more revision to Erin Odor at the Undergraduate Fellowships Office, or I could have sent at least one draft of my activities and honors list to Erin for revision. I’m sure she would have had constructive comments, but on the other hand, I don’t think better formatting of my activities list will have a big impact on whether or not I get the scholarship. I’m just happy that I got the whole thing done, and with more revisions than I thought would be possible.

I woke up too late for the breakfast buffet, and I didn’t have time to go out for lunch, so the wonderfully helpful Erin brought me back a wrap and fries from McDonald’s and it was delicious! Hunger is the best seasoning.

Enough about boring things – the dairy farm tour was awesome!

We put on white moon-boot slippers to stop germs from entering the barn.

The holsteins were sweet...

...and enjoyed the occasional nose-pat.

But the Jerseys were the friendliest in the barn!

Erin made a lot of friends.

We also saw this one milking gir, a spotted, big-eared Brazilian milking breed.

This little dog followed us everywhere and loved to tease the cows.

I love strong dairy women!

We got to watch this truck fill up the storage bin with ground corn.

The dry cows and calves live on pasture.

These ladies had a lovely view.

The dairy was in great need of a larger milking parlor.

This interesting feedstuff is pelleted material from the orange juice factory. It smelled great!

When we got back from the farm, we all smelled a bit like manure and silage. I took a quick shower in one of the three rooms the group still has checked out at the hotel. Now I have all afternoon to journal! My goal is to get caught up by the time we get on the bus this evening at 11pm. I think it will be possible… as long as I don’t get distracted by the guys watching American Pie on the other bed.

Day 27: Saturday, February 1st

Last night was rough. No matter how I prepare myself for redeye flights and overnight bus rides, I can’t help it. They kill me! I was groggy, sticky, sweaty, smelly, and aching all over when we got off the bus this morning in Curitiba. Before long, my stomach started hurting really badly and I had to lie down. Once I had washed my face, eaten a few packs of Club Social crackers, and laid down in the grass, I felt strong enough to face the day.

Our first stop was the city of Curitiba. We walked to the city's famous French gardens and greenhouse.

This iconic glass structure reminded me of the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle.

The French garden was neatly laid out in triangles. How do they mow the grass inside the hedges?
I found tree ferns in the greenhouse! My favorite plant friends!

We also got a tour of the Curitiba Botanical Museum. It was amazing to get a behind-the-scenes look at the technical science of botany.

The man took us on a tour of the stacks, where official scientific "types" are kept. Types are pressed plants which represent a specific species. It's amazing to realize how something as dynamic as a species can be defined by one sample.

Nuts, seeds, and fruits were preserved in little bottles in this cabinet.

The plant pressing room looked extremely casual compared to the type-stacks room. Cardboard, aluminum foil, and string were the tools of choice.

After the Museum tour, we learned quirky facts about some plants on the property. For example:

This spiky red flower in named calliandra, meaning "beautiful male parts" in Latin. Ironically, Calliandra is a popular girls' name in Brazil.

We stumbled around this "sense garden" blindfolded, so we could experience the smell and feel of the plants.

After lunch we headed to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, which is one of the best museums I have ever visited. I was stunned by the enormous, iconic statue out front, The Eye, but even more impressive were the works of art contained within the eye.

JARED, get outta here!

The Eye.

I was moved by the modern photography and the evocative uses of color, nudity, and blood.

There was a video of this red horse and its muzzled rider walking slowly and powerfully down a street.

These murals were spilling blood on the floor.

Fighting naked violence with naked bodies.

These photos show stunted native trees imprisoned in the bars of a eucalyptus plantation. 

These frames were filled with real, red, Brazilian dirt.

I saw a lot of environmentally inspired artwork, as well as digitally modified photographs which perfectly captured my vision of magical realism. Looking at some of these pieces, I was reminded of one of my favorite books, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, and the wonderful magical realism literature class I took my senior year of high school.

What is real and what is magical? I like how my reflection in the photo's glass is added to the scene.

We had fun interacting with the artwork, too.

Collin poses for the camera obscura.

Sejal, Erin, and I posed with our second cow of the trip.