Notes from the Field: Brazil PLACES
Snapshots from Rio, Piracicaba, and Acre by Dr. Vidal
Despite a very hectic start to the program for most of our group due to our two canceled flights, our program progressed very well, with the students having a blast and learning a lot every day. They had a terrific time integrating into the SESC School—going to classes, playing sports (soccer and handball), attending music workshops, and giving presentations to the SESC students on American culture and life at Andover.
Our curriculum kicked off in downtown Rio de Janeiro with explorations of the colonial architecture of Praça XV and its surrounding area. We also enjoyed an afternoon at a cultural center that was hosting a Picasso exhibition, caught the sunset from the top of Sugar Loaf mountain, and finished the day dancing at a samba band rehearsal in Lapa!
Later that week, we went back to downtown to explore Largo da Carioca and the developments of the nineteenth century and the Imperial era. The students were grateful to have studied some of this material during the Brazilian Cultural Studies course in the spring and to have the ability to put the information they have encountered into context.
The students appreciated learning about urban development in Rio. The visit to the Christ statue on top of Corcovado mountain was a big hit, and our stay at the SESC school was a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and participate in meaningful exchanges with students and teachers. The SESC house counselors, for one, were particularly impressed with—and grateful for—a meeting they had with the rising seniors from Andover, who were all prefects this past year, in which they discussed the important role student leaders play in the dorm.
We left our gracious hosts for Piracicaba during the second week of the trip, and enjoyed the many activities planned by our partner NGO, Imaflora. The students were challenged to think about their own individual roles in efforts to promote sustainable development, all while participating in fun, practical activities that complement our curriculum.
They learned to make ethanol from sugar cane at one of the labs of ESALQ, the University of São Paulo’s Piracicaba campus, and planted their own trees to aid in reforestation efforts during a visit to a certified coffee farm in the region. Our itinerary was intense, fun, and rewarding, with our students deeply enjoying their interactions with the people and culture of Brazil—and especially enjoying the food!
In Acre, we immersed ourselves in the community of rubber tappers of the Seringal Cachoeira in the town of Xapuri, home of slain environmental activist Chico Mendes. Led by Nilson Mendes, Chico’s cousin and a “jungle expert,” we explored the Amazon rainforest in all its ecological and wildlife glory. Students learned first-hand the importance of our natural world and how it affects every level of our daily existence.