Dear Global Education Office,
One weekend towards the end of the program, we traveled by boat to Marajó, a large island in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest. The trip consisted of an early-morning boat ride from Belém, where we interacted with people commuting in and out of the metropolis, plus a ride on a smaller skiff. We zipped through the rainforest for forty-five minutes with our guide, who would point out monkeys and sloths peeping out through the vegetation. We stayed at a large ranch house with dogs, horses, and domesticated buffaloes, not to mention hundreds of species of insects, ranging from spiders the size of my palm, to grasshoppers and wasps, to, most terrifying of all, baratas, flying, stinging cockroaches larger than bars of soap. We took a walking tour through the jungle, where I climbed a palm tree and feasted on some fresh (still squirming) larvae that tasted like a tangy mixture between coconuts and milk. Some of the most memorable experiences from the weekend were evenings spent relaxing in a hammock while sipping fresh pineapple juice and chatting with friends in the program. We'd watch the sun sink below the horizon and seeing a dazzling array of stars slowly dot the clear night sky.
The weekend in Marajó was unquestionably fun, but it was also informative and sobering. The Amazon rainforest is subject to colossal amounts of deforestation, and millions of acres of trees are cleared each year for their timber. Deforestation also makes space for grazing cows, as beef (carne) is a celebrated food item in Brazil. It was sad to think that perhaps one day, that lush horizon I spent so many hours watching from the porch would be cleared to the ground. The people who live in the Brazilian countryside are some of the nation's poorest, with no access to basic commodities like electricity and water, and many miles away from schools and adequate medical care. It's easy to get caught up in the rush of college life at a place like Duke, but my trip to Marajó helped me take a step back and put my life into perspective. I left the island more appreciative for what I have, and everything that my family, school, and country have given me through the years.