Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tchau Brazil!

It’s 5:30 a.m. and we are all wide awake once again. As a group we have proven that there is no time too early to wake up or too late to go to sleep. Everything and everyone is calm as we wait on the moist deck for Noel and Mike to pick us up. There is a refreshing breeze circulating through the air. The river is relaxed and you can see the ripples left by the fish. The night creatures are quiet, preparing for the daylight transformation. After getting picked up, we head to the tree house to pick up our Indian friends, but they aren’t ready. We start to get antsy. The sky becomes brighter as we wait. We grow anxious. Could we possibly miss the sunrise of a lifetime? Then to our relief the missing Indian wife slowly appears from the darkness and joins us on the boat. Noel takes us out into the river and we begin to take in the scene.

The sky reminds Maria of cotton candy. Now I’m not sure I saw it the same way, but it was certainly a sweet sight to see. There was a horizontal dark gray layer of stratus clouds at the bottom of the sky. This layer had openings, which allowed the sun to illuminate a pinkish color. This light intensified as the sun continued its ascension. At 6 o’clock the sun revealed its rays through the cloud openings setting a heavenly scene. These rays seemed to not only wake up Anne but also the entire forest as the Horn Screamer birds sounded their horns as its name implies. After a half hour of picture taking and stubbing toes from dodging frogs, tour guide Mike decides it’s time to eat and so we take our short trip back to Ariau for one final breakfast.

Breakfast was as solid as it had been the previous two mornings. Although I’m not a heavy morning eater, I found satisfaction in eating the fresh fruit and breakfast cakes that the buffet provided. While others like Dr. Samra enjoyed his egg whites and Mike his hardboiled egg. After breakfast, the rest of the morning was built around simplicity. A word that could describe the Amazonian’s way of life. We rested, we tanned, and we soaked up the last remaining hours at Ariau.

Highlights of the Morning:

Maria and Joe trying to tan at 8:30 a.m.

Mike thinking that jumping into the flooded Amazon water is a substitute for a shower.

After tanning it was time to pack up our belongings and experiences and head to our final meal at Ariau. When I walked in I was excited to see that they changed up their buffet lineup and introduced ribs for the first time. We ate until around 1:30 p.m. before we had to wipe away our tears and say our final goodbyes to tour guide Mike and the rest of the staff. Next, we hopped on the boat and set sail for our voyage back across the Amazon to the Manaus mainland.


Mike and Nicole getting soaked on the boat compliments of the Amazon River.

Amelia upset that her dog (Bonita) wasn’t waiting for her upon our return.

After an hour and half long boat ride in rough waters, it was time for some rough negotiations. Our dilemma was that we had a flight at 10:15 p.m. and it was only 3:30 p.m. But after some intense negotiations by Dr. Samra, the Ariau crew, led by Sir Stefano, agreed to take us to downtown Manaus, thus extending our trip; at least for a few more hours.

The city of Manaus was quite scary by day, but pleasant by night. The city was similar to Sao Paulo, but livelier. We ran through the city like it was a rat race. After many lefts, rights, and weird looks directed at us we finally found the flip flop store that Maria and Nicole dreamt about. There they effectively purchased their Havaianas for 26 reals, which is about half the price that it is in the United States. Next, Stefano had us turning every block again, but led us to a little flea market section of the city. While there, we noticed that the flood issues had followed us from Ariau Towers to the city of Manaus. The city is located next to the Rio Negro and was dealing with flooding in the low lying streets. Lastly, on the return back to the van we stopped to view the Amazonas Opera House. Joe begged me to take a picture of it, so here it is.

After the city race, it was a race to the airport, well at least the driver thought so. When we got to the airport we knew it was the beginning of a lot of waiting and a lot of flying. What we didn’t realize was that we would encounter additional stress on top of an already difficult situation. When we went to check our flight on the monitor, we weren’t listed; in fact our flight seemed too have vanished. However, after a few hours of uncertainty and anxiety, Amelia and Joe’s detective skills solved the mystery. What happened was our original flight had been cancelled, but that we were fittingly moved onto the 12:45 a.m. flight to Sao Paulo, thus dodging a potential disaster.

And now here I am blogging on this turbulent 12:45 a.m. flight (delayed) back to Sao Paulo where our journey first began. We have come full circle. The tired six, possibly seven (not sure where Dr. Samra is) are sound asleep around me, exhausted from all that we have experienced over the past several days. Starting in Sao Paulo where the money is made. Our visits to Bovespa and the U.S. consulate revealed the business side of Brazil. Our second stop in Rio where the money is spent showed Brazil’s diversity with a combination of tourism and business; with visits to Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, and Petrobras. Finally, our last stop in the Amazon taught us simplicity and the natural side of Brazil; with journeys along the Amazon River and visits to the Natives. And as I glance out the plane window, I observe the same stars that I’ve seen in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon, and even back at home. And then it dawned on me that even under one sky, we really do live in a world that is more vast and diverse than I had originally imagined.

So obrigado (Thank you) tour guides: Eduardo, Angela, Mike, Stefano, and presenters: Flavio Pacheco, Tom Hanson, Izeusse Braga and all those involved in our study trip for your knowledge and wisdom, which has provided us with experiences that will last a lifetime.

For now this is Lucky 7 signing off.

Tchau Brazil!

Kevin Kenny (The Malaria Man)

Bonus Coverage

Lucky 7’s Favorite Moments of the Trip:

Kevin- Christ the Redeemer, Cayman Hunting, Discovering the Malaria Plant

Mike – Cayman Hunting

Joe – Cayman Hunting (Felt a rush holding it)

Anne- Native visit

Nicole- Dolphins

Amelia- Monkey’s on Nicole and Cayman Hunting

Maria- Christ the Redeemer

Dr. Samra – Outback Steakhouse and swimming in the Amazon

Additional Photos






Monday, May 28, 2012

Lucky Day #7

One week into the trip was rewarded with another late wake-up for the gang…6:45am; and to think, we struggled with 8am classes all semester. There was a slight hiccup at breakfast, as the local water caused one of our members to be at less than her full strength. She, however, soldiered on; unwilling to miss her chance to SWIM WITH DOLPHINS.

Positives- Plantains

Negatives- Vomiting in a urinal 

After a 15 minute boat ride, we arrived at our destination. All eight of us being eager to participate in this particular adventure. We stripped down to our bathing suits and put on life vests to keep us afloat; one by one we venturing into the mouth of the legendary Amazon River, home to our aquatic buddies. Fortunately, there was no need to worry about any other possibly dangerous sea life that we had heard of the days prior; as the dolphins scare away/eat all the others. The group was overwhelmed with delight; the combination of the scenery, the refreshing temperature of the water, the warm sun, and the presence of the dolphins cemented the beauty of the Amazon in each of our minds.

We quickly realized the local dolphins differ a fair amount from the oceanic dolphins we all fell in love with at Sea World when we were younger. The pink dolphins as they are called, due to their coloration once adulthood is achieved, have a longer snout used to navigate through the Amazon River for food. Interestingly, their anatomic structure allows them to quickly turn in a different direction as opposed to the oceanic dolphin which must make a U-turn in order to do so.

We were able to not only see and swim with the wild dolphins, but actually touch them as well. It was a good thing that Maria was such a trooper because she became our link to the creatures. Apparently, she is a dolphin/human translator. Cries of “I touched it!” and “Come play with me!” were said by all as the dolphins swam between us and surfaced to eat the fish being provided to them. Another successful morning in the memory bank and it wasn’t even 10am yet.

Positives- Joe’s underwater digital camera

Negatives- Maria still wasn’t feeling well

The morning was not over yet! We quickly came back and changed out of our bathing suits to prepare for a ride through the flooded area. We were all initially confused because half of our hotel was already submerged so we thought why we would need to venture elsewhere. We soon realized that our tour guide planned to show us the beauty of the area during the Wet Season. On the ride over, whispers of the long trip home were quickly silenced; we opted to enjoy the day worry-free. The area was gorgeous with “roads” that went through forested areas. We stopped at a lovely 300 year old tree to take a group picture together. Dr. Samra continued to capture the beauty around snapping pictures left and right. He was starting to give Kevin a run for his money (for all of you who do not know, Kevin is a professional photographer along with about 8 other careers).

The ride back to lunch, however, was the highlight of this excursion. Our tour guide, Mike, decided to give a few of us life advice. Having been married 5 times and having 14 children he had acquired some wisdom to bestow upon us, which we took willingly. The following are some of Mike’s top lines from the conversation.

“My idea of happy is away from the city.”

“Don’t stay with a nagging woman. When she nags, give her something to nag in the bathroom!”

“Always have a getaway fund in case you ever decide you need to leave your wife.”

“He who hates doesn’t destroy what he hates but himself.”

“When people become complacent, everything falls down.”

“The women here look like flowers but sting like bees.”

Following lunch, we had a three hour break. This is was a needed blessing. The members either decided to nap or sit out in the dock to get some color. For those that opted for the latter, they were pleasantly surprised when the resort employees brought lounge chairs and cool beverages without even being asked. Yes, we are living large here in Ariau.

Our final activity of the day began with yet another boat ride. In store for us was an afternoon of piranha fishing. There are 3 indigenous piranhas to the Amazon; the red belly piranha was the most dangerous.  Kevin actually caught an upward of 10 fish but due to their lack of size he decided to use what were in his eyes, “inferior” piranha, as bait for  larger game. Excluding Kev Boy from the equation, I took an early, epic lead. Yupp, we are going to leave it at that.

The last night in the Amazon we decided to be fancy. Annie suggested the idea of dressing up that evening. This, of course, led to a bonding session between the ladies of the group exchanging dresses. During dinner the lights once again went out for 10 minutes. The group then took pictures on the adjacent yacht. En route I had a traumatic experience. Unaware of what awaited me outside the restaurant, I walked out causally finishing my apple. Within seconds, I was attacked by multiple monkeys hungry for what I had in hand. I proceeded to scream and drop the apple as the too-close-for-comfort wildlife devoured it immediately with almost a smirk on their faces. The next few hours were spent relaxing and reflecting on the days past and the days to come. Dr. Samra discussed two of his favorite topics: gold and oil. Each of us took turns saying our favorite part of the trip. As the evening was winding down, the group played cards and spent some time staring at the gorgeous night sky. (We were actually able to see stars not being in the city!)

We Made It Through the Jungle

As I wake up by the natural sunlight beaming through the balcony windows, I look up and I am just amazed by the breathtaking view outside. I was in awe and was so excited to explore the Amazon rain forest.

We were told the night before that we were going to hike through the rainforest so we had to wear long pants, closed shoes and a lot of bug spray. Everyone was sweating profusely due to the hot weather and the fact we were not used to wearing long pants. We all applied generous amounts of bug spray before heading down to breakfast.

Breakfast was so different compared to what we have been eating in the past few days here in Brazil. There was a variety of foods, such as made to order fresh eggs, oatmeal, fruits, juices, “real” fried bananas and plantains along with many other options.

After breakfast, we met with Guide Mike. He is the one who has been accompanying our group with all our adventures here at Ariau. Our group was accompanied by 3 tourists from China and we all got on the boat to go to our rainforest hike adventure. We traveled on the Ariau River, which means potato in Portuguese. This area a long time ago was known for the varieties of different potatoes.  Finally, we arrived to the dry part of the river so that we were able to hike.

We walked around and saw some amazing and interesting things. We saw the Caypai (spelling?) tree, which is the largest in the rainforest. The trunks of this tree are used for canoes and the other parts for plywood. Other types of plants and things we saw in the rainforest were “Bengay” plants, abortion plants, incense trees, trees that can lessen prostate cancer and many other things. The most interesting plant we saw that stuck with us was the malaria plant. Our chant always continues with Kevin and his “obsession” with malaria. “Malaria pills, Malaria socks, Malaria leaves in Kevin’s socks.”  The majority of the plants we saw in the rainforest had medical quality alkaline, which attracts pharmaceutical companies to the rainforest. However, we learned that for companies to do business in Brazil in the Amazon it is not ideal since the Brazilian government has many laws and regulations pertaining to its share of the rainforest. Companies will be taxed and charged large amounts of money along with having Brazilian lawyers work with them. Evidently, this does not look promising to many (foreign) companies, which is why they do not come into the Amazon. Once we finished our hike, we were greeted by Noel, our boat driver, with crowns for the males and tiaras for the ladies which were made out of palm tree leaves.  

We arrived back to the hotel, got changed, and hung out before lunch. After a hearty lunch, we explored the hotel shops and boat. Along with our explorations, we saw pelicans, fish, dolphins and monkeys. Right before we were gathering up to go on our next adventure, we had a very brief encounter with the owner of Ariau, Dr. Francisco Ritta Bernardino.

As 4:00 p.m. rolled around, we gathered together to go on a tour of a native’s house. On the way to the native’s house, we saw a “haunted” house… but is it really haunted? No one is sure but apparently there’s a long story behind it. Upon arriving at the native’s house, you were able to see how simple, but beautiful it was. The natives live off their own property for sustainable living. That family had just got electricity only 8 months ago. They do not pay taxes due to their sustainable living. This family grows Kasara, in Spanish, it means Yuka, which is part of the potato family. Mike showed the group how to detox this Kasara because it contains cyanide. One of the other guests accompanying us touched this and kept putting it closer to her face, which startled the group and Mike. If she were to have put it in her eye she would’ve gone blind and wanting to taste it could’ve have caused death! It was scary. Then the family was generous enough to make us Tapioca and a type of pancake and washed it down with the Acai energy juice. As we finished eating and drinking, we entered the gift shop in which almost everyone made purchases to support the natives and thank them.

While on the way back to the hotel, it got dark extremely quickly and we saw the beautiful stars. Mike informed us that because Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, they do not have a north star, but they have a south star which is the last star of the Southern Cross.

When we got back to the hotel, we ate dinner and decided to go to the flooded shops at the hotel. In which Joe bought me a BEAUTIFUL necklace. Furthermore we went to the convenient store in which we purchased soda and water for everyone. As we were standing there about to pay, the power went out. Everyone was afraid to move/walk since we were on planks and scared of falling into the water. With the power still out, we made our purchases and decided to walk in the dark with light from just our cell phones. As walking on these planks holding heavy bags trying not to fall, we had a little accident. A bottle of water fell in the waters of the Amazon. Luckily we saved it, but it was scary because we thought that one of our fellow students fell in… almost thought they were part of the 5% Mike was talking about losing.

Finally we got back to our rooms to shower. I walked into the bathroom so that I could shower, and I encountered a frog. I was so scared that I called Joe over to check it out. However, by the time people came, there was no frog, which made me look crazy. So I shower and as I am showering I scream, not because the frog came back, but because my shower head was starting to go on fire. I was a little nervous but got out of there quickly and no harm was done. It was scary but extremely funny. Aside from those two incidents, everyone keeps hitting their legs against the bed post when entering/leaving the rooms. I believe we all have battle bruises on our legs from it. Later that night we hung out and had some bonding moments while playing cards. To top the night off, we received good news that we would be able to go on one outside excursion which entailed going swimming with the dolphins the next day. We are all so fascinated by the Amazon that we were excited to see what the next day adventures would bring us.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle

We were exhausted from the previous day’s activities and from our own proclaimed motto “no sleep till Manaus”. With little to no sleep we hit the road once again, leaving our hotel at 430 in the morning. There was little to no traffic at that time in the morning and we made it to the airport in a breeze. We have been very fortunate to have wonderful guides, as Angela our guide from Rio quickly and efficiently checked us into TAM airline. We said our goodbyes to our exuberant guide of just one day, to begin the long journey ahead.

 Finally after waiting at the airport we boarded our flight at 730 am. At this point we were exhausted and antsy to reach our destination. We were surprised to see some familiar faces of the flight attendants that we had once before. Without breakfast in our stomachs or adequate sleep it was a grueling flight. We traveled first from Rio to Brasilia and then from Brasilia to Manaus. The airline offered a selection of toffee candy and some crackers and jam as snacks. We were hungry to no avail. Once we reached Manaus we were met with hot, sticky humid weather. We quickly scrambled to change into appropriate clothing such as tank tops and shorts. Not too long after we decided to try Bob’s Burgers for lunch. The have been in business for 50 years and I would describe them as the Brazilian McDonalds.The language barrier was evident as we tried to order our food. I ordered a series of burgers, fries and shakes for the group. I know what you are thinking “how can they be eating hamburgers and fries on a trip to Brazil?!” but I assure you after a long and arduous trip, it was much needed. We were greeted at the airport in Manaus by representatives of Ariau Towers which was to be our hotel for the remainder of our trip. We made our way by bus to a nearby hotel where we had to wait for a boat to take us to our final destination. Our boat was late and we waiting for another 2 hours.

During this time a stray dog befriended us and I named her Bonita. Finally as the boat arrived and ourselves and luggage were on board, Maria asked the driver “how long will it take to Ariau?” he responded 90 minutes. We all laughed as we thought it was a joke, turns out we would spend the next 90 minutes aboard the pantera negro. The ride was smooth and the breeze blew through our hair. Sunglasses on, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for a nap. The rest conversed over a scenic trip through the amazon waterways bordering the rainforest. When we arrived at the hotel, it was nothing we could have expected.

Ariau hotel is an eco-hotel which is comprised of 8 towers directly on the Ariau River which means “Potato River” in Portuguese. However there was one of the worst floods in 50 years and the first floors of all the towers were flooded. The towers themselves constructed of wood, looked like giant tree houses directly on the water. Because of the flooding there are planks situated to get from one area to another. The main tower houses the cafeteria, check in and shops. Some of the other towers house hotel staff and the rest are for guests. There is a boatman on call that ferries people across the river from one tower to the next. There is also a yacht located near the main tower which boasts a TV, pool table and sun deck. As Joe pointed out we were MILES away from any roads.

 The landscape was amazing, like a scene from a movie and felt surreal. The hotel laid out a buffet for dinner and to go on our first excursion soon after. We met with Mike our tour guide after dinner, and there was something very familiar about him. Turns out that Mike is the same ethnic background as I and has been living in Brazil for 20 something odd years. I was immediately intrigued and delighted to see another Guyanese person in the middle of the Brazilian amazon. At around 730 at night we set out on our first of many adventures “Caiman Hunting”. It was night and we set out by boat manned by 3 men, one our guide, another who held a spot light and the other the driver. We rode through the amazon waterways in darkness. No light just the water, and the water splashing lightly in your face. The sounds of insects and animals filled the air and the sky was clear enough to see the little and big dipper. Intermittently the sky would light up with a streak of lightning. We came to a small clearing, in which the guy with the spot light jumped out of the boat. We were instructed to be quite and still. He reached into the water and pulled out a small Caiman, whom is a relative of the alligator. In the boat which was now in the middle of the river, in complete darkness except for the spot light we gazed at this amazing creature. Interesting Fact: Caiman’s tongues are attached to the bottom of its mouth and it has a protective layer over its eye to help it see in the water. We had the opportunity to touch and hold the Caiman and I was excited and the first to hold this Amazonian creature. Anne and Maria hesitantly held the Caiman as well but were not looking too thrilled. After we all had the opportunity to hold the Caiman, Mike released her back into the water and darkness of the Amazon.

We continued back into the night at times ducking under low branches back to the hotel. Exhausted yet invigorated we retired back to our wooden rooms. With no outlets, frequent power outages and the amazon right at our feet, I feel we are in touch with nature and will have the most valuable experiences of the trip right here at Ariau Towers.

Greetings from Ariau!

I just wanted to write a brief note and tell you that there will be a delay in posting only because the wifi is spotty. Hope to keep you guys updated soon.

Stay tuned!

Day in Rio: Bonding at its finest.

We said good-bye to the city of making money to the city of spending money promptly at 4:45am. This early morning adventure led us to meet a gentlemen driving drunk and jamming out to Avicii’s “Levels”. This man not only was drinking beer while driving a stick shift, he managed to sing along with Samra (who had his window down) and even offered him some of his drink. Remember this was all in the safety of the van. This beginning we declared there would be ‘No sleep to Manaus.’

Check in at the airport went smoothly, due to our lovely “eye brows assistant” – Emilia. The only encounters included Emilia’s flats caused a ruckus with security and no McDonalds. The gang’s mission to eat McDonalds still remains top on the priority list, so this morning’s  breakfast include chocolate items for some (one of the only things found in the terminal).

We touched down in Rio, excited, tired and hungry! As we retrieved our luggage, there was a mini-power outage – nothing is more inviting than a black out – Welcome to Rio! The group proceeded and met our escort for our time in Rio, Angela. She is truly a cheerful, energetic, knowledgeable woman. “She just warms your heart” – Nicole. 

We went directly from the airport to Petrobras, the largest oil company in Brazil. We met Izeusse Braga, who gave a lovely presentation on the company. He introduced to us the social responsibilities initiatives and explained the future of the company for the next 15 years with their new explorations passed the salt line. All group members received a “goodie bag” that held packets and booklets of information in regards to the financials, social responsibility and more. Mr. Braga also gave Samra a flash drive that entailed the PowerPoint slides used. Overall, the visit to the company was very informational and provided valued-added knowledge to understanding the oil industry in Brazil. 

Upon departure of Petrobras, we walked over to The Catherdal. This amazing structure captured the hearts of the group, but not our stomachs.  The group’s increased need to consume food, “if I don’t eat soon I might punch someone” – Mike. Luckily our amazing tour guide made us quick reservations to a buffet style restaurant while we waited for our rooms to be cleaned and prepped.

Along our transportation travels within Rio, we learned a great deal about the cultural in the area and interesting facts about the area. Angela explained all the sites along the way as everyone took pictures enthusiastically in order to capture all the moments spent in Rio.

After stuffing our faces, we made our way to our next adventures of site seeing. We were very fortunate to have Angela with us because she had all the right hook ups. Our first stop on the adventure list was to the Corcovado - Jesus Christ statue; a truly breathtaking site. We took a train up the mountain side the provided gorgeous views of the city below.  Fun fact: locals who live on the hill may ride the train up and down the mountain for free.  At the top of the mountain (2300ft above sea level) stands the statue overlooking the city.  For our group photo with the amazing monument, Angela laid on the ground in order to take such amazing photographs.

Our second stop was to the Sugar Loafs, across town. During our trek across the city we entertained ourselves with group singing and future home purchases. Joe and Kevin plan to buy the Palace in Rio, where we would all visit, but unfortunately Emilia’s accommodations will be a tent pitched outside.  Along the ride, world-renounced scientist, Joe P, explained the Earth’s tilt to explain the reasons for early nightfall.

We arrived at the Sugar Loafs with five minutes to spare to make the next cable car up the mountain. Angela got us in and persuaded them to let us up the cords to the top. As we reached the top of the moutain, we broke out into song this time, “I believe I can fly;” An appropriate classic for the moment as we dangled over the trees below. In our second adventure up this mountain provided more breathtaking views of the city below in the evening time. The lights illuminated the sky and provided epic photos (for only Joe’s & Samra’s cameras).  As we looked down upon the city, each of us reflected on various points in our lives along with missing their loved ones at home.

Amongst our travels, we learned the about the famous drink, Caparihas, which contains sugar cane and vodka. In preparation to consumption, Kevin recorded Angela pronouncing the drink name to make it easier on us to order. We continued to practice the name and Maria nailed it by the end of the night. We also learned that if the levels of intake: 1 Drink: You’re okay, 2 Drinks: You’re good, 3 Drinks: You can speak Portuguese, 4 Drinks: You can samba, and 5 Drinks: You are too hot for clothes.

Our third stop of the evening was to the market, where the group purchased souvenirs for family, friends, and themselves.  After the shopping trip we walked along the street to find a delicious meal. We ended up eating at a restaurant overlooking the bay, consuming a meal of salt with a little bit of meat or pasta. The massive amount of meat consumed at dinner was mind-blowing. Mike and Joe expanded their stomachs by eating seven types of meats.  “We did not know the meat extratravagza we were about to encounter. Meat included: pork, sausage, chicken, steak, octopus (Maria’s  order), crab and salmon. So much meat! And let’s not forget the dog food?  Our order also consisted of more French fries and “catchup.” The review: good but salty.

The night did not end after dinner, the group went back to the Hotel, showered and decided to go to the beach and hang out. We all admired the waves and took fierce pictures. The time spent on the beach was calming and entertaining (slap hand game, wave races, etc). The group parted with the sand around 2:00 am and went back to the hotel and slept for roughly an hour to an hour and a half. We had to be ready by 4:30am!.... and we woke up again to start our next adventures.

Low lights: Car Accident, Milleara pills

High lights: Hotel located on the beach, Samra's dinner stories and Angela!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sao Paolo Day Two: The Subway Strikes Back

Upon waking up at 8:15, when the group was leaving at 8:30, I ate my breakfast at a pace not seen before at any point in my life; nothing short of inhalation.  On the treck to BOVESPA, I was charged with the quite enjoyable task of choosing who was to blog on day three; undoubtedly setting the stage for quite an exciting adventure. 

Apparently due to a strike on part of Brazilian subway workers, traffic was almost unbearable.  Amidst the sound of horns from motorcycles and scooters quickly passing through traffic, with such grace only seen in Broadway theatre, traffic was at an almost standstill; with only cars and brake lights being seen for what appeared to be mile after mile.

Before I dive into what occurred at BOVESPA, it should be made known what occurred the night before.  Although Dr. Samra had contacted Marina (a representative at the exchange) months prior to coming to Brazil; he received an email late Monday night stating that unless we arrived an hour earlier than originally planned, we would not be able to have the tour.  This, on top of the fact that the subway strike caused a total of 210 kilometers worth of traffic in Sao Paolo, made our activities for the day seem impossible; however, Day two somehow still proved to be as eventful as planned.

Once we arrived at BOVESPA, our tour guide Eduardo somehow finagled our group into the exchange; even though our group was more than an hour and a half late.  The first part of the tour process was to watch a film on both the history, as well as the services offered within the exchange.  Asides from being simply an equity index, BOVESPA had merged with BM&F in 2005; a market for derivatives such as forwards, futures, options, and swaps.  BOVESPA is currently the largest stock market within Latin America, and is the fourth largest equity index in the world in terms asset value; also using proceeds from asset trading on the part of the exchange to invest in projects that are Eco-friendly, and ensure the longevity of the plant.  Another note that should be mentioned: our tour guide Flavio Pacheco da Silveira was the best English speaking Brazilian we’ve met in Brazil thus far, and if you ever need investment advice; contact him.

Immediately following our tour of BOVESPA, we headed to Banespa, a bank that has been referred to as Empire State Building of Brazil.  The view atop the pinnacle of the tower was absolutely breathtaking; with the majority of Sao Paolo within eyesight.  Much to Kevin’s discontent, he neglected to bring his camera; which I’m sure he’ll regret for a while to come.  Sorry Kevin.

Next was the United States consulate, located next to the financial district of Sao Paolo.  The presentation made by Thomas Hansen, the representative in charge of commerce relations between the United States and Brazil, contained a great deal of interesting information.  The power point contained a great deal of information in regards to growth of business within Brazil; stating that in terms of GDP, Brazil is now fifth in the world, recently surpassing the United Kingdom.  Essentially, the purpose of the commerce department of the consulate is to help facilitate both foreign direct investment by other companies hoping to invest in Brazil, as well as helping Brazilian companies invest in foreign companies; an extremely important role in development of economic growth within the country.  This meeting definitely contributed to both my understanding of how foreign direct investment truly works, as well as allowing me to see the role that the United States plays within assisting the Brazilian economy gain a foothold as an economic powerhouse. 

Finally, upon return to the hotel, it was immediately decided that dinner should be obtained, as lunch had been skipped (thanks for letting us starve Dr. Samra!).  After an attempt to find the restaurant our tour guide had recommended (which failed due to the neighborhood being a bit on the “scary after dark” side) we decided to try the mall, only to discover that we did not want to eat at a food court while in Brazil; so we settled in at the hotel restaurant.  Dinner was fantastic, and we all finally strayed from the French Fry diet we had somehow grown accustomed to.  After about an hour and a half quite entertaining banter, we all decided to call it quits; and thus here I am, writing this blog to my immense amount of followers.

Stay classy United States,

Michael Farrell