For the next six months, this blog will focus on my experiences in Brazil. This adventure technically started in February at an orientation for Fulbright scholars in Sao Paulo. In the past three months, I have met some amazing people, caught up with old friends and have seen some beautiful wildlife.
My first two months were spent in Porto Velho (Portuguese for “Old Port”), the capital of the state of Rondônia. This city, situated in the southern reaches of the Brazilian Amazon in the “região norte” (North Region), has a population of just under 500,000 people. A large part of the states economy is based in mining and ranching which unfortunately contributes to the rapid deforestation happening in Rondonia. I traveled there to work with the mammal collection at the Universidade Federal de Rondônia (Federal University of Rondônia).
During the month of May, I spent some time in the city of Campo Grande (Portuguese for "Large Field"), the capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul which is in the “região centro-oeste” (Central-West region) of Brazil. The population is about 800,000 people.
I have met some wonderful people there while doing research abroad at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul that have become some of my best friends in the world. Whenever I am in Brazil I make time to visit them in the region where I first practiced Portuguese with native speakers, first tried capoeira and yoga, first saw wild monkeys and hyacinth macaws, caught my first fish (a pirana!), first tried Brazilian cuisine, had my first caipirinha and first fell in love with South America. The experiences are numerous and I look forward to many more in the many diverse places of the country.
Now I am living in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. This is a huge city in the middle of the Amazon, (also in the região norte of Brazil) in fact it is the largest city in this region with a population of over 2 million people (7th largest population in Brazil). Despite its size and economic importance, the city is relatively isolated from the rest of the country and is typically accessed only by boat or plane. This isolation has resulted in a unique culture, based largely in native traditions of the region, which I am very excited to explore. It also has one other benefit – it has slowed the degradation of the forest surrounding the metropolis. Manaus serves as one of the main gateways to those drawn to the Amazon rainforest. I am here with the hopes of collaborating with biologists at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia and the Universidade Federal de Amazonas.
I will tell more stories and give more details of my experiences in these various places in future blogs...I have some video editing to do and pictures to post...but for now I just wanted to give an introduction to the blog and to what I'm doing here in Brazil. I probably should have started this 3 months ago when I arrived (I am already a third of the way through my Fulbright – 6 months to go), but I'll catch you guys up with what I've been up to as I go. I figured the eve of my 25th birthday is as good a day to launch the site as any.
My stories will not be strictly in chronological order and I won't only talk about nature, especially while traveling in another country. The people, the food, the cultures, the cities are all part of the journey as well and I have appreciated getting to know them. And it is arguable that all these very human elements can be related back to nature – the nature that still surrounds these structures, or was there before they were built. Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy taking this journey with me.
For more details about my current and past research in Brazil, visit my Research page.
Janet C. Buckner, PhD