Some of the best days of my life

24May11

I have just returned from one of the most magnificent places on the Earth, the Amazon.  I really embraced the Amazon.  It was an expedition I will never forget.  The friends I made and the experiences I had are some that I would have never had another opportunity to make up for had I missed out on this trip.  Going to the Amazon as a tourist with a bunch of other foreigners is independent and adventurous.  But going on a mini cruise with 54 other students from around the world going through the exact same thing you are caused us to create such a strong bond, I felt so at home with these people who had their minds on the same level as mine but at the same time, were still normal teenagers who just had different goals from most young kids our age.  When they told us they were going to put 55 of us on 2 boats to sleep on hammocks in the middle of the Rio Negro, I felt like the whole trip would be a disaster and I would never never stop hearing German (too many Germans on the trip).  But it didn’t turn out that way.  We all immediately connected, more or less, and we actually spoke Portuguese as if it were natural for us to do so.  Even the Japanese kid- Gatsuke- and the Thai kids spoke in Portuguese with each other.

The weather was muggy, humid, and unbearably hot, like we had all expected.  Manaus is a poor industrial city but it thrives in the middle of the Amazon, which created its entire character.  We saw all the best parts of the city, and also some of the worst.  The favelas in Manaus are some of the worst conditions I’ve ever been exposed to.  They didn’t want to lie to us and show us the pretty parts of the city like typical tourists staying in a 5 star resort in a third world country, which I liked.  With my bad camera, I wasn’t able to take any powerful photos of these places, unfortunately.

For the rest of the trip, we were on 2 small “cruise” boats.  They divided us into two groups and put us on a boat in which we would have to sleep in hammocks.  There was also a restaurant that was on another boat which we would all eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together.  The food wasn’t all that good, especially because by the time we had to leave more than half of us were throwing up and/or with diarrhea, including the people who had appeared to have a strong stomach throughout most of the trip, including me.  The staff said that probably it was the water from the river but I think it was the food that they gave us because I didn’t even go in the water the last day.  We might be the last AFS group to ever go on this trip because so many people got sick, some of them even went to the hospital for overnight stays.  I managed to get sick the night after I got back, thankfully it wasn’t on the plane like the majority of AFSers.  The Amazon is a tough environment to live in, even for Brazilians.  Adventurous travelers still have limits and I guess the majority of us are still discovering them.

I had an unforgettable experience in the Amazon that will always be close to my heart.

As of today, I have 36 days left in Brazil.  36 days to do everything I think I missed out on during my time here, 36 days left with my best friends and family I have cultivated here.  There are definitely things I’ll miss here, and some things
I won’t really miss.  Being here has definitely made me have a different perspective on the world, people, and different cultures.  It’s what I needed before I head to college in the biggest city in the US.  My values, goals, and opinions have changed drastically here since I’ve been exposed to life in another country as a local.  Even though it’s a huge roller coaster and I’ve come across emotions here that I’ve never experienced in my life such as building strong relationships with people from different corners of the Earth and not knowing when you’ll be able to see them next.  But now I can’t imagine my life without this experience and the people I’ve met throughout it.

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