Bella Bobrow: The rainforest? It’s cool, I guess…

Bella Bobrow

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This is the first column I’ve finished in more than a month. Just last week I passed the halfway mark for the duration of my study abroad. Two months have already flown by! That’s insane. I’m overwhelmed.

With 250,000 - 1,000,000 of my closest friends... Photo Courtesy of Bella Bobrow.

With 250,000 – 1,000,000 of my closest friends… Photo Courtesy of Bella Bobrow.

I feel obligated to say, “No! I’m still busy, and life is still hard! I have tests and homework and lots of irregular verbs to memorize!”

But, I’m writing this in a hammock and sitting to my left is a papaya I picked from the neighbor’s tree, so life can’t be that hard.

Without further ado, here are some updates on my life.

I’ve been to both of the protests accusing the government of corruption. To be honest, I don’t really agree with either side, but I learned a lot about Brazilian culture by attending the protest. They like wearing flags even more than we Americans. (Though I’ve learned to not call myself an American here. Brazilians are Americans too! South Americans…)

I’ve suffered through a finals week, where we had to come to school on Saturday to take finals. For the first time, I failed a class. The sciences (chemistry, biology, and physics) are relatively normally paced, but the humanities are much more difficult for me. It’s hard to understand the lectures in Brazilian history without having any historical context and with a limited understanding of Portuguese.

On weekends, we go to the countryside to visit family or the beach, which is actually worth mentioning because the beach is a few hours away. There they sell corn on the cob and coconut water from inside a real coconut. Ventura, take notes.

Serra do Mar 2

Some friends and me climbing all over a colonial-era building at Serra do Mar state park. It’s allowed. Photo Courtesy of Bella Bobrow.

 

My class took a field trip to the Serra do Mar state park to explore the route the miners took when they colonized the interior of Brazil. I was definitely the most excited out of my whole class. 

Everyone is just accustomed to having the rainforest right next door. “Yeah the rainforest? Oh yeah, it’s neat I guess. There’s lots of bugs though. And my phone doesn’t get service in there.”

However, I thought it was super super cool and took lots of pictures!

 

A few weeks ago I went alone to the nearby city of Piracicaba to visit the Institute of Agricultural and Forest Management and Certification (IMAFLORA). If you’ve ever seen me attempt public transportation, you’ll know that me getting there safely was an impressive feat.

The organization is pretty much what the name implies, except more interesting! My mom used to work at the Rainforest Alliance, which is why I was able to visit. The relationship between the the Rainforest Alliance and IMAFLORA is complicated.

Both use the SAN standards for agricultural certification. The trademark green frog seal of the Rainforest Alliance means that the product follows strict guidelines for environmental and social responsibility. IMAFLORA acts as an extension of the Rainforest Alliance in Brazil, adding a tighter set of rules for different regions.

Looking out over the Mata Atlântica, or Atlantic Rainforest. Photo Courtesy of Bella Bobrow.

Looking out over the Mata Atlântica, or Atlantic Rainforest. Photo Courtesy of Bella Bobrow.

I was expecting a handful of corporate-looking folks sitting around a table, twiddling thumbs and shuffling papers. “Well, here’s another graph on deforestation rates. As you can see, it’s still kind of a thing,” they would sigh. No. When I arrived, the staff had just finished their morning yoga session and were all rightfully optimistic about their work.

We split up into groups, and rotated through stations of the four main objectives for the organization: reducing carbon emissions, increasing responsibility in the other steps from farm to table, reducing illegal use of the rainforest and supporting family farms.

To be honest, there was probably a lot more that flew over my head, but it was a great trip regardless.

After two months, I can understand *almost* all of what people say, depending on their voice and which part of the country they’re from. Speaking is harder by far, and I always have headaches after school from trying to process all the new words.

Nobody said becoming a polyglot was easy. Speaking generally, nobody said studying abroad was easy. But it is, without a doubt, wonderful.

Bonus: Watch this video from the Rainforest Alliance. I promise it’ll make your life better.

What do you think?