I’m Baaaack!

happy fall
happy fall

Today I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off of my phone because those are the two most distracting things in my life at the moment. Sit down to do homework, open Facebook, get up an hour later having done no homework. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time I gave the real world a try.

So what have I been up to? Biggest life change: going to college. The questions I am routinely asked: Where are you going to school? How did you choose said school? How do you like said school? What are you majoring in? What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Question 1: The College of Wooster.

Question 2: I read a book plus I listened to my super knowledgeable and all around awesome uncle.

Question 3: I love said school.

Question 4: If I had to answer this question today, I would say I’m majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. If you had asked me yesterday I would have said that I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in English. If you had asked me the day before that, I would have said I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in Early Year Education. This is the most annoying and yet most persistent question I get asked. Also so many people outside of Wooster think I’m crazy for going to school without having my life figured out. Guess what? I don’t have my life figured out. Whatever. I’m not supposed to. I’m not concerned about it. This is not the thing that keeps me up at night.

Question 5: Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHA. Why are you asking me that question; can you hear how annoying you are sounding? (Incidentally, for the rest of my life, I plan on living. How I will live, now, that’s the real question.)

What does keep me up at night? Whether I have tomorrow’s reading done. Global warming and climate change and the environment in general. The United States political system and this year’s presidential election, as well as big business and lobbyists and whether they serve a democratic function to the government or not. (Talk to my parents — I was yelling at my books during fall break and they told me I shouldn’t do anymore homework with them present.)

I hope you enjoyed this short post! I’ll try to keep up with the blogging world on a more consistent basis.

Pioneer Camp 2016

Lovely La Foret
Lovely La Foret

Pioneer Camp 2016

For the past three summers, I’ve counseled a week long summer camp at the La Foret Conference & Retreat Center. Pioneer Camp is one of the many summer camps hosted by the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ, and it’s something I absolutely love to do. I love counseling so much that I made it so that my return date from Brazil made it possible for me to go and counsel.

Why do I love Pioneer Camp so much? There are so many reasons, but I’ll try and narrow it down some. First, the staff. Gavin, Courtney, Cameron, Kenny, JoAnne, Teddy: I love you. Everyone but Kenny was a returning staff member, but he seamlessly fit into the team. On many nights after we get the kiddos down, we find a way to meet up. Usually this is outside one of the cabins with us whispering so we don’t wake anybody up. Obviously, it doesn’t always work perfectly, because we need to have at least one person in each cabin. But it is always a ton of fun.

La Foret. This place is my home away from home. I couldn’t have thought of a better place to come straight to after ten months in Brazil. The view of Pike’s Peak was especially clear the week of Pioneer Camp.

The kids. Boy do I love the kiddos. At times they can be frustrating, annoying, and many other things besides, but at the end of the week I am always very sad to see them go. They are cute, they are funny, they are smart, they are so many amazing things. I love so many things about camp, but I will always come back for the kids. Pioneer Camp is one of the youngest camps that the Rocky Mountain Conference hosts: any kid going into second grade through fourth grade may attend for the week.

IMG_0112Here are some stories from the week.

Tuesday night was campfire night. During the week we had a fire ban, so the campfire was really the camp around an empty fire pit singing songs and playing games. The six girls from my cabin were all sitting together, and they spent the entire evening playing with dirt. One girl, Molly, was licking her thumb, sticking it into the dirt, and licking her thumb again. I wasn’t really paying a ton of attention, since I led many of the songs, but another counselor saw and put a stop to it. By the end of the night, each girl was covered in dirt. Another girl, Kendall, had dirt all over her face.

While we were walking back to our cabin, Courtney and I told the girls that they had no other option but to take a shower that night. During our walk, Kendall, Courtney, and I had a conversation that went something like this.

Kendall: “My face is itchy.”
Me: “Well, that’s what happens when you get dirt all over your face.”
Kendall: “I don’t have dirt on my face.”
Courtney: “When you take a look in the mirror I think you’ll find that you have dirt on your face.”
Kendall: “But I can’t see myself!”
Me: “Once we get back to the cabin you’ll have to go look in the mirror and you’ll see that you have dirt all over your face.”
Kendall: “I don’t have any dirt on my face!”

This conversation persisted in a similar vein the entire walk back to the cabin. When we did get back, Courtney told Kendall to go straight into the bathroom and look at her reflection in the mirror. From the front part of the cabin, Courtney and I both heard a loud, “My face is covered in dirt!” We both laughed.


One dinner I was sitting next to a kid named Aaron. I asked him if he would please pass me a napkin. Aaron passed me the nearest already used napkin on the table. I clarified that I would really like a clean napkin. He said, “Oh!” like he’d never realized that I would have wanted that in the first place and then passed me a clean napkin.


On talent show night, Teddy, JoAnne, and Kenny’s cabin performed a song called “Ant In My Pants.” The song included kids looking like they were going to jump right out of their pants there were so many ants. It was a kind of you had to be there moment, but I can assure you that all counselors not participating laughed so hard they cried. Literally.


Molly got married to her stuffed gorilla. The girls were either bridesmaids, they walked Molly down the isle, or officiated the wedding. Courtney played her guitar and I simply attended.

When the boys heard about the wedding, they had a field day. One boy named Jason was particularly fixated on it. He kept asking the counselors about the “marry-age.” Then he persistently asked us if we were married, and throughout the week matched us up to different counselors as our future spouse. I was married to Gavin, Courtney, and Cameron at different points throughout the week.


Right around Thursday everybody started getting tired and cranky. Symptoms: Laura left Molly out of something leaving Molly lying on her bed in tears. Later that same day, Molly slammed the door into Laura’s face, announcing that her room was having “private third grader time” and effectively leaving Laura out. Courtney took care of both incidents — I didn’t have to calm down any crying children that day. However, before bed, Courtney and I decided that we should have a cabin discussion about community.

To make a long story short, Courtney and I came out of that discussion feeling like we were the best counselors ever. Not only did the girls genuinely seem to understand that they were a part of something bigger than just themselves as an individual, but they finished the discussion by going around in a circle and saying that they each wanted to be a counselor when they got old enough. High praise indeed.

Right after we finished that discussion, we did Pow-Wow-How. Pow-Wow-How was something we did every night right before bed. It was just a way to reflect on our days. Pow is something not so good about the day, Wow is something good that happened that day, and Wow is how God was seen or experienced that day. Each camper was not required to answer every question, but each of us had a turn every night to share.

Molly is a camper that always wants to go first or last. This night was no exception, because she went last. Her Pow-Wow-How went something like this:

“My Pow is, ummm, I don’t really have a Pow. My Wow is, I don’t really have a Wow either. Okay, for my first How…” And so it went.

Molly started listing things as her Hows. These things included, but where not limited to, seeing light in the pool and while she was walking down the path. To clarify here, Molly was going for content rather than substance. I completely acknowledge that God can be found in many different places, but Molly was just listing things to make it obvious that she’d seen God more than the other girls. But I’m also all for each person saying what they want to say, and paying attention while the campers are talking. Everybody has something important to say, no matter how nonessential it might seem.

Anyway, Molly is listing Hows. Right around her seventh How, Courtney and I made the mistake of glancing at each other. We completely lost it. We both started cracking up — I think we both were crying we were laughing so hard. Finally Courtney and I both managed to pull ourselves together, apologizing to the girls profusely, and told Molly to continue. Molly made it to eleven Hows before Courtney and I both lost it again. Another girl asked us if we had a case of the nighttime giggles, which we both quickly agreed that we did indeed have such a case.

I spent some quality time staring at the wall, trying to get myself under control.

To put things into perspective, Courtney and I went from an awesome counselor moment where everyone was sharing there feelings and talking about being a part of an awesome community to a not so awesome counselor moment where we laughed uncontrollably during another camper’s sharing time. Not our best moment. But if you had been faced with that situation I challenge you not to laugh.

After we pulled ourselves under control for the second time, we told Molly that she was done and asked the other girls if they had anything else they wanted to add before bedtime. Kendall said that she had some more Pows to share, in her very specific Kendall-like manner.

“Umm… Umm… My first Pow is…. Umm… I forgot! Oh, yeah! I remember. My first Pow is…” And off she went, styling her Pows in the way that Molly had styled her Hows. Courtney and I both cracked up for the third time in as many minutes. That was when we decided to call it quits, but not before Molly’s hand had shot up again, announcing that she had two more Hows to share. We told the girls that sharing time was over for the night, and to get ready for Lights Off, and barely made it to our room before losing it again. Courtney told me later that she had wanted to ask Molly if she saw God while flushing the toilet.

Upon writing this story, I still laugh.

Courtney and Claire: dubbed the "Crunch Twin Counselors"
Courtney and Claire: dubbed the “Crunch Twin Counselors”


One kid named David waddled around camp the entire week with his hand on his crotch. No, he did not have to go to the bathroom. I guess he just needed constant reassurance from his steadfast friend.


I love little kids and I love counseling. It might sound like something to avoid: being around small children for 24/7, but I don’t want to miss next year if I can avoid it. I don’t really have a very satisfactory ending, other than I ran out of funny stories to tell. Parents, I love your children, no matter how much of a handful they are. I love camp.

Goodbye Brazil, Hello Colorado


A last hug with my host mom
A last hug with my host mom

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been procrastinating the writing of this blog post for a while now. It’s not really flowing off the fingertips like some of my posts do. And I think the reason for this delay is because my life has taken somewhat of a dramatic turn in the last two weeks, in that I am now home. Back in Colorado. And I’ve been back for about two and a half weeks.

Leaving was so weird. I couldn’t sleep the two nights before I left. I was so hyper. I was so excited. And then the scene in the airport. In contrast to Veera’s leaving, when Chiara, Virna, Veera, and I sobbed all over each other at the airport and the target of many stares and became a kind of weird attraction, I didn’t cry at all. I did want to say goodbye, but at the same time when we were all sitting in the airport together just waiting for it to be a reasonable time to go through security and go to my gate, I felt as though everything was drawn out.

At the time of my departure, I was ready to leave. I gave Virna one last hug, and then I went through security. I was wearing my blazer, covered with pins. I had two suitcases that were checked under the plane, a red wheelie that was with me, and a backpack. In the gate while waiting for my flight I sat and thought. I am proud of everything I accomplished over these past ten months. I have learned so much. My confidence has skyrocketed, I learned a new language, I made friends and family. But I was also ready to come home. It wasn’t until my layover in Sao Paulo and subsequent takeoff to Dallas that I really started to tear up. I had spent my two hour layover reading and responding to messages from my friends and family of Brazil. And now I was headed home. When I would get off the plane, I would no longer be in Brazil, but in the United States. What a bittersweet moment. It was the moment I had been waiting for and thinking about since my arrival in Brazil, but I was also sad to go.

Goodbye, Brazil. I love you.

And now I am home! I feel as if I just woke up from an incredibly detailed dream. I feel as if everything is the same and yet something about me has fundamentally changed. I don’t know what that is yet. It hasn’t been long enough for me to reflect on everything that happened and really produce a big takeaway from Brazil.

All I can say is that it’s weird being home. I love seeing the mountains and the heat that isn’t humidly oppressive and carpeted floors and the fact that I can successfully negotiate a conversation over the phone without having to ask my host mom for help. But I miss my host mom like crazy, and all of the exchange students I met and love so much.

Guys, if you’re reading this, I miss you and love you so much. We went to talking with each other every day to being separated by oceans. What a weird concept. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to leave you all behind. I see you as being my friends twenty years down the line, and I hope I ca see you in person again soon.

So, here I am. Welcome home, Claire.

Over The Past Ten Months…

Photo Jul 03, 15 47 58I lived in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil as an exchange student.

I learned how to speak Portuguese fluently.

I lived with two different host moms.

I met other exchange students from all over the world.

I cried.

I took a surfing lesson.

My family came to visit me.

I laughed.

I studied in a Brazilian high school.

I suffered from homesickness.

I drank coconut water out of actual coconuts.

I made cookies.

I made Brazilian friends.

I ate so much acai it’s embarrassing.

I went to Rotary club meetings.

I learned how to make torta de limao.

I drank enough passion fruit juice to fill up a small lake.

I made tapioca.

I went to the mall enough that I practically lived there part time.

I bought (and wore) mountains of bracelets.

I stood out like a sore thumb pretty much everywhere I went.

I binge watched Netflix.

I filled my blazer with a mountain of pins.

I went to the Amazon Rainforest, the Pantanal, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Foz do Iguaçu, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Gramado, Florianópolis, Bonito, Recife, Joao Pessoa, Olinda, and Pipa.

I had a year I will never forget.


I leave to go home tomorrow. I will have been here for exactly ten months at the time I leave. I have a lot of mixed feelings about my departure, but I am mostly excited. I am happy and proud of what I accomplished this year. I will miss the friends and family I made, but I am ready to go home. Bye bye, Brazil. I’m gonna miss you.



Photo Jun 15, 01 14 46At the beginning of our exchange year, there were eight Rotary exchange students in Natal. Then the number dropped to seven, when Haven got sent home. Now the number is down to five, because when June came, so did the despidadas (farewells). Pierre left on the thirteenth, and Veera on the fifteenth.

I knew before coming here that I would meet people from all over the world. I didn’t fully comprehend just how close we would become. We practically lived out of each other’s pockets these past ten months, and now we have no way of knowing if the eight of us will ever be in the same place at the same time ever again. I don’t know if I will necessarily miss Brazil as a country, but I will for sure miss this moment in time.

Excerpt and translation of a speech I did for the 4500 Rotary district conference:

Photo Apr 20, 14 58 59Ten months ago I said goodbye to my family and arrived here in Brazil. I didn’t really understand what I was doing. I had come to a country completely different than mine, without speaking the language and without knowing anything about the culture. Now I am completely sure that I will never forget these ten months. It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been just a vacation, but it was a life. Here in Brazil, I have friends and family.

I am going to talk about the other exchange students that I met and built friendships with. I knew before I arrived I knew I would have friends from other countries, but I didn’t know that we would be so close. Now, when I imagine visiting another country, I don’t think of the place, but I think of the people I would like to visit. I have parts of my heart around the entire world, and I will never forget you guys. I love you all.

All red eyes and smiles at the airport.
All red eyes and smiles at the airport.

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“We leave at 8pm!” – Virna

6:30pm, the same day:

Virna gets back from wherever she was. I think she was getting her hair and nails done. “Are you ready?”

“I thought we were leaving at 8pm.”

“No, that’s when the party starts. We are leaving at 7:30pm to pick up Mamãe (her mom) and then we will go to the party.”

“Okay, I need to take a shower.”

Virna proceeds to spend approximately forever in the bathroom, and I finally jump into the shower at around 7:15 or so, washing up, putting on a dress, and doing hair and makeup in record time, managing to be done right around 7:30. While I was getting dressed, I heard Virna say, “So we are just waiting for Claire, right?”


Veera, Chiara, and I are ready, and waiting on the couches in front of the door. Virna spends the next thirty minutes nattering around the house, doing I don’t know what, calling Mamãe, and doing more random things of nothingness.

File Jun 05, 15 14 078pm:

We leave the house, at the time Virna originally stated. We pick up Mamãe and head over to the ninetieth birthday party of the mother of Virna’s ex-husband.

We walk into the venue of the birthday party, thus starting the most awkward walk of my life. There were two lines of tables, with an isle in the middle that we had to walk down in order to get to our table. We arrived later than most of the people at the party, and alone, so everyone was staring at us as we navigated our way to our table.

One thing to know about Mamãe – she is elderly and infirm and requires support to walk. She is also like a crow attracted to shiny objects. The shiny objects in this case were Mamãe’s many acquaintances, whom she had to walk over to in order to greet, despite many efforts to convince her to go sit down and let her completely abled friends come to her. Being Mamãe’s support, I was dragged along. This meant that the twenty foot walk from the entrance to our table took about five excruciatingly long minutes. Five minutes during which everyone in the entire room stared at us. It was like we were in a zoo – who were these foreign looking girls? Veera, Chiara, and I exchanged glances, and then proceeded to pretend that we didn’t have any idea that about forty people were staring at us and whispering.

Later that night, after the birthday song had been sung and best wishes exchanged, Virna told the three of us that we would leave now, and to go wait by the door, while she helped Mamãe. After about fifteen minutes, we migrated to the couches right by the door, waiting for another fifteen minutes until we finally left.

Too Much Potter?


In the back: The Golden Snitch. On the left (me): Luna Lovegood. On the right: Member of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team
In the back: The Golden Snitch. On the left (me): Luna Lovegood. On the right: Member of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team

A fact about me that is relevant to the rest of this post: I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I LOVE Harry Potter. I obsess over Harry Potter. I spend a lot of time thinking about Harry Potter.

In the summer of 2012, a website called Pottermore was launched in beta. In July of this year, a two-part play called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open. And a movie called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them premieres in November of 2016. Each of these projects are extensions of the Potter universe. And yet, I can’t bring it in me to be too excited.

Pottermore is a website that J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has used to expand the Potter-verse (Potter Universe), by becoming a new medium for news, articles, and interactive features. The site has revealed the backgrounds of certain characters such as Professor McGonagall, the origins of the Potter family, famous wizards from the different houses of Hogwarts, information about different wizarding schools located around the world, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the soon to be released movie with screenplay by J.K. Rowling. It is loosely based on a book released by Rowling with the same title, but instead follows Newt Scamander as he discovers some of the “fantastic beasts” in question. Finally, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play, written by J.K. Rowling that details the “19 Years Later” that fans everywhere have been speculating about.

All of these new expansions are very interesting and exciting, but I’m having a hard time being interested and excited.

I read the Harry Potter books, and a whole new world opened up in my imagination. I watched the movies, and the world that I saw in my head took warped a little and became a little closer to that of the movies. Now when I think of Hermione Granger, I’m more likely to think of Emma Watson than the book loving, bushy haired, know-it-all that I saw in my head. I’ve had several different opportunities to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a theme park in Universal Studios Orlando, but have declined because I don’t want to ruin the land the land of Harry Potter in my mind any more than it’s already been. Why can’t we just let Potter stay as it is? I, for one, would much rather speculate on the backstories of the characters and write fanfiction about it than have it spoon fed to us. J.K. Rowling, I love you, but isn’t it good enough for you to know explicitly Professor McGonagall’s backstory and leave the rest of us to think about it for ourselves?

I think that this is the problem with story lines and universes and the continuous thought of, oh let’s just release one more movie and one more book that’s been happening lately. The more cynical part of me thinks that the only reason that these universes appear to be expanding needlessly (in my mind) is because of money. Harry Potter is already popular, so of course people will line up outside the movie theatres for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Star Wars already had a hugely loyal fan base, so of course releasing three new movies isn’t out of the question. And people have already embraced the idea of Iron Man and Captain America fighting together, so now let’s see what people are going to see when we put them against each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But all of the bows were neatly tied, so can’t we just let sleeping dragons lie? It’s for this reason that I’m not entirely sure that I’ll be seeing Captain America: Civil War. I like where Marvel’s left it off at the end of The Winter Soldier and am not the hugest fan of the all of the extras – Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

 Yes, I’m still most definitely going to buy the book formatted scripts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It doesn’t mean that I think these expansions of the Harry Potter universe are the best thing that’s happened since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out.

Adventure in the Amazon

When I was in second grade, my class had a unit about the Amazon Rainforest. I remember watching videos of monkeys, seeing pictures of all sorts of different animals like sloths and jaguars and alligators, learning about the different levels of the forest, and thinking, wow, that’s amazing. Never once did it cross my mind that I might be able to go there one day. I can’t believe how lucky I am, because I spent the past ten days in the Amazon, and they were the best ten days of my life. I feel like I woke up from a dream.

Excerpts from my journal:

April 16, 2016

I left the house this morning at 2:30am and now I’m currently on the plane from Brasília to Manaus.

Manaus! Do you know what state Manaus is in? Amazônia!

I’m on my way to the Amazon!

April 18, 2016

We have divided into three different boats of twenty three exchange students apiece.

Yesterday we went on a city tour of Manaus, which is basically us driving through the cities with a guide pointing out landmarks. The thing I was most excited to see was the teatro of Manaus. When I was younger, I read a book called Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, and now over the past few months I’ve been chipping away at the same book in Portuguese. This book is set in Manaus, Brazil about a girl named Maia and her friend Clovis who performs at the theater and her other friend who leaves to find his mother’s tribe.

The theater/opera house of Manaus
The theater/opera house of Manaus

I felt like I was coming to live this book in real life. And we saw the theater/opera house and now I’m on a boat in the Amazon and I feel like I’m living my dreams.

After that we went trekking in the forest. We drove two hours north of Manaus and stayed at a hotel called Santuario on a reserve and went trekking in the dark for a time. It was really cool. It involved wading through water that was almost to my knees and there was a this pool with a waterfall at the end. There was a time where we all turned our flashlights off and it was so dark that when I held my hand in front of my face I couldn’t see it.IMG_8563 (2)IMG_8569 (2)

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Today we went to a part of a stream and there was this platform where you could jump into this really deep part. I jumped twice while some people didn’t jump at all. And then we packed up and took the bus back to Manaus to get on the boats. Each boat has twenty three people, and I landed with a good group of people. There is a third boat where we eat. I am on Barco Bicho Preguiça (Sloth Boat).

We saw the huge lily pads today. The water lilles. In order to go see them we had to get on smaller boats, and when they asked if anyone wanted to sit on the very front part of the boat nobody was saying yes so I went for it. Never be shy when something good is going to come from putting yourself out there. I definitely had the best view.IMG_8634

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I just feel so happy here and one with nature. This whole thing is just so cool and amazing. I’m in a place I never thought I would ever go to in my life before. So many people in the world never get this opportunity.

Life is good.

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April 19, 2016

This is the best trip ever!!!

I just held a baby alligator that our guide caught just moments before.

We slept in hammocks last night. I was so exhausted and tired that I basically fell asleep right away, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about how cool it was.

The boats were anchored and we set up the hammocks in the upstairs living portion of the boat and we climbed in and then they turned the generators off (no power means no light) and it was completely dark. I was asleep before they turned the lights off.

We were all woken up very early in the morning when a few of the workers on the boat were running to get the tarps down. It felt like the second they managed to get them all down this HUGE ginormous downpour started. And lighting! It was really epic. There was this lightning strike that appeared to be right outside of the boat. There was a lot of screaming and running from the girls at the end of the boat but I was too tired to care, because I fell asleep again right after. Rain and the sounds of the rainforest is a good thing to fall asleep to.

April 20, 2016

Yesterday morning we went to a tribe of Natives. They were a tribe of about seventy “indios” living in a little village. They have built a sort of industry around tourism, but even with that they retain most of their traditions and beliefs. Veera said that she was talking to one of the teenage boys and they had basically no concept of the world outside of their tribe and why would they want to leave? It’s scary to leave.

And we happened to arrive on a very special day. Special because of a few different things – it was Dia dos Indos in Brazil. I don’t think the tribe did anything differently because of Dia dos Indios but there were people from the Policia Federal and also it looked like some doctors that were vaccinating people in the tribe.

The other way it was special is because it was a day of ceremony for the tribe. We just happened to come on exactly the right day.

In order for this tribes’ men to be considered as such and to get married they have to put their hands in a sort of glove that is full of the most dangerous type of ant that is found in the rainforest and get bitten. They do this ritual dance thing while keeping the glove on and then they take the glove off. They aren’t allowed to cry. If they cry, it’s a shame/dishonor and they have to do the ritual again. If they cry a second time they have leave the tribe for a year. They can tear up and sweat but no full blown sobbing.

We happened to be there on the day they were doing this ritual. We watched some kid that was maybe twelve years old stick his hands into gloves full of ants that bite you with venom that burns for twenty four hours. In order to become a man they do this forty times, starting from around the age of eight or so – it depends on the kid in question apparently. Once they have done it forty times they are eligible to marry.IMG_9254


We saw a marriage ceremony, too. We got so lucky. So a boy/man who has been bitten by the ants forty times (at least) chooses a girl that he would like to marry, and he gets permission from her family to marry and then they have another ant ceremony because that’s really what the wedding is. So while the guy is putting his hands into the ant-gloves the girl is outside thinking thinking thinking deciding if she wants to get married to the guy in question. If she does she breaks into the singing stomping circle next to the guy and then when they gloves are put back they are considered to be married.

So the guy put his hands in the ant-gloves and he looked like he was in serious pain. And then eventually the girl joined the guy in the ritual circle so they were now married. It was really interesting for a lot of reasons, but the ones that stuck with me was that the girl was fifteen years old and they guy was seventeen years old. And after the ceremony was over and everyone was done clapping the girl just went off with her friends and the guy just was off to the side – no them being happily married together. They didn’t even talk. It was almost like an everyday event, except the tribe’s medicine man person told us what a happy day it was for the tribe. There were like sixty strangers watching a tribe of seventy’s ceremony. We almost outnumbered the tribe. That’s gotta be awkward, so maybe they were waiting to celebrate after.IMG_9259

Also there was this girl that was pregnant and she was thirteen years old. Apparently her husband was twelve.

I can totally understand why the Europeans of old would want to “civilize” the native tribes they encountered in the New World because I like to think of myself as pretty open minded and accepting of cultures different than my own, but this totally weirded me out. And the in the 1500s and 1600s it was way more unaccepting than it is now.

It doesn’t mean that I like or agree with the complete domination of the natives of the Americas, but I understand why it happened.

That night we went alligator hunting. When they said that, I didn’t really know what to expect, and it turned out to be the absolute BEST thing ever.

We have this “indio” on our tour who has been our nature guide over the trip. His name is Ananias. To go jacaré hunting (jacaré = alligator) we had to split up into smaller boats that are motorized. They are the adventure (passeo) boats. Ananias was on my adventure boat. So we were out in the dark and he had a flashlight and was shining it along the coast. At first everyone was really confused – what was he doing – and then we pulled into part of the coast and Ananias jumped out into the water and he kind of tiptoed forward and then he lunged down like a ninja and came up holding a JACARÉ.

It was maybe a foot or so long, and after he came up with it he hoofed it back towards the boat and the driver of the boat tied a string around its mouth so it couldn’t bite and then they passed an ALLIGATOR around the boat so everyone could hold it and take a picture.

Can we establish that Ananias ninja style picked up an ALLIGATOR and that I held an ALLIGATOR?!

This is the coolest trip of my life.

Ananias said that he has been bitten by a lot of jacarés. Once he got drunk and went alligator hunting and it tried its best to eat his leg. He showed us the scar on his leg. He said, “I had a kind of crazy childhood.” No shit.

April 21, 2016

Yesterday we woke up really early to go fishing for piranhas before breakfast. Milena, who is one of the coordinators told us that last week with group 1 of Amazon her boat didn’t catch any, but I felt plenty of tugs on my line and our boat caught maybe ten piranhas in total. The bait was small bits of uncooked steak. One of the guides caught two huge ones and he kept them for dinner. All of the others we released.IMG_9238

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Making tapioca

Then we went back to have breakfast, and after breakfast we went to this Casa de Farinha were they grow the actual fruit of acaí (every exchange student in Brazil’s addiction) and the vegetable plant thing that becomes tapioca (a Brazilian food). It’s called mandioca.

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Exchange student futebol team for the girls’ game. The other team completely destroyed us.

After that, we went to a small community of Brazilians that live in the Amazon and got schooled in futebol (soccer).

Today was really amazing. I felt like we did all the things that everyone thinks of when you go to the Amazon Rainforest. I really think that this trip has encompassed some of the best things of my life.

After breakfast we split up into the adventure boats. We found two sloths hat we “split” among three boats. It was so cool. We spotted sloths – real live sloths that live in the rainforest – and then the guides became monkeys and scaled the trees to collect them. Then we passed the sloths around the boats to take pictures with it. That must have been the weirdest day ever in that sloth’s life – just chilling on a tree doing sloth things and then some human comes and takes it down from its perch and it gets passed around to a ton of exchange students.

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Nice sloth

Also, sloths are an evolutionary mystery. They really move as slow as everyone says they do. Apparently one of the ways they die is they grab their own arm thinking it’s a tree branch and then they fall to their death. Also at the top of trees they are predators to eagles and at the bottom they are prey to alligators. They basically have survived evolution by some miracle.

Then we went to the same place of the Casa de Farinha and we were all lounging around looking for a cage with an anaconda until we saw said anaconda just hanging around in the trees. It was FIVE METERS long. FIVE. It was really heavy and in order to pick it up and take pictures with it there had to be at least four people (plus the guy holding the head so it wouldn’t eat some innocent exchange student) holding it.IMG_9243

Honestly I enjoyed the anaconda more than the sloth. It was really quite gorgeous. It had all of these cool colors and it was pretty soft. And the people from the Casa de Farinha say they basically let it roam free around the property during the day and then at night they lock it up in the room of artesenatos.

After lunch we went to see the pink dolphins – that’s right, the famous pink dolphins of the Amazon. I was in the water with them and touched them and it was really cool. We also saw the biggest fish of the Amazon by way of luring it to the surface by way of smaller dead fish.

Fishing for a large fish
Fishing for a large fish
Pink dolphin, anyone?
Pink dolphin, anyone?

This trip is so amazing. Words can’t describe how happy I am.

April 23, 2016

Yesterday we went to a sandy beach along the river and hung out there until lunch. It was a don’t worry be happy day.

After lunch our boat had more time to just chillax and then we split up into the adventure boats to go bird watching. We were traveling up the river looking for birds and just enjoying the nature and the view in general when we spotted some monkeys in the trees, so we stopped to look at them for a while. While we were looking at them we spotted a sloth on a tree that was basically right in front of us.

Somebody said, “Can we go get him?” and the next thing I knew one of the drivers of the two boats was scaling the tree and brought down the sloth. The sloth had cool brown markings on its back which signified that it was a boy and also it wasn’t the nice, calm, and docile sloths that we held a few days back. He was clawing and hissing. Apparently there are two types of sloths. One is calmer and they have three claws, and the other is very aggressive and bites and scratches and you can’t just grab them off trees. They have two claws. The sloth we grabbed had three claws but Ananias’s best guess that he was a cross between the two types.

When we passed it to the other boat to hold it the sloth grabbed onto one of the support beams and refused to let go and it even tore a hole in the tarp. Everyone was cracking up, even Ananias and the other guides as they were wrestling with it to get it off.

Meany sloth.
Meany sloth.

After everyone was done holding the sloth, Ananias said, “I told you that all animals of the Amazon can swim so its time to test out that theory.” Then he put the sloth into the water. The sloth swam to a tree in the middle of the river and hung out at the bottom before it finally pulled itself up when we left ten or so minutes later. The sloth was a faster swimmer than he was a climber.

Ananias told us, “Well, our bird expedition turned into a sloth expedition.” Right when he said that there was this really loud CAW and he looked up and said, “That’s the sound a toucan makes!” We never actually saw the toucan though.

We went trekking this morning with a different guide who has lived in the area for more than forty years. It was really really cool. He was showing us plants and trees and pointing out what was poison and what was medicinal, and we saw this HUGE tree that reminded me of the tree in the book The Great Kapok Tree. Somewhere along the trek it began to rain and all I though was this is the rainforest and I just felt so insignificant and in awe.

I can't remember which one is poison and which one is medicine for malaria.
I can’t remember which one is poison and which one is medicine for malaria.

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