Friday, October 26, 2007

The Jequitiba-rose tree

The Forest is a mysterious and majestic place. On Sunday, Camillo and I drove from Friburgo down to
Cachoeira de Macacu to take pictures of the (springtime) flowering trees and because he had something he needed to show me.
Just north of Cachoeira in the state of Rio de Janeiro's Parque Tres Picos, there is a tree - not just any tree, but a fine, very fine example of the Jequitiba-rosa tree.
After a very bone jarring ride up a dirt road, you can park in a grass covered 'parking lot' and take a short walk through old forest, to see this tree. Everyone, especially those with children, should visit this tree at least once and if possible once a year, just like going home to Grandma. It will inspire instant love and respect for the forest. 40 meters (120+ ft) tall, 19 meters (62.3 ft) around and estimated to be 1000 years old, it brought tears to my eyes and a feeling of joy to my heart.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Spring is here, I know it is because there are 'spring sale' signs in the windows of the shops in Rio. Just like everywhere else in the world (Well, in the northern hemisphere the signs say 'fall sale' but the concept is the same), when all else fails to give us a sign, the new clothing lines are a sure indicator for a change of seasons.
Now that spring is here, I am waiting for the spring showers to bring the May flowers. Only here it is spring showers bring November flowers. Now that spring is here I am waiting for the smell of warm air mingled with freshly mowed grass. Of course, I wait in vain, there is no smell of freshly mowed grass here. But I can dream can't I?
In one of our pines, just off the patio, there is a "soon to be mama" bird, waiting. And the "soon to be daddy" bird, waiting. And I am waiting for it to feel like spring.

Friday, October 12, 2007

third world operation - first world objectives

Camilo coined the phrase "third world operation with first world objectives" and I love it for describing the recycling system in Rio. I don't know if other areas of Rio have this same process, but I know that this is the way recycling works in Ipanema and Leblon. These men with carts go into the commercial areas and pick up cardboard boxes, old or left over construction material, old refrigerators, defunct computers - nothing is too large or too small. for their wooden carts. When full, they pull the carts through traffic, down along the canal to the Logoa. They wait in lines to offload onto a truck owned by a cooperative. The goodies from the cart is measured by weight or volume and they are paid on average of R$40.00 per load. (WE stopped and ask how it works) Then they turn around and go for more, they can often collect 2 or 3 loads per day. This is hard, hot, backbreaking work - but they own the cooperative. They don't beg or steal, they provide a much needed commercial and environment service.

Monday, October 8, 2007

the forest, dry season and fires

Camillo and I returned to Friburgo this weekend after 7 weeks of social commitments in Rio, special assignments for the class at PUC, and travel to Spain. We found it so dry here. The aggressive greens of the forest have turned to droopy browns. The underbrush is deep brown and very crispy looking. Last February we had so much rain that the resulting mud slides left the surrounding hill sides scared and bare. It was common to have boulders just break loose from the wet soil and roll down onto the roads. Now it seems that the dryness is causing the same type of slides.
We keep a 3 meter firebreak cleared around our property's
perimeter but we have had in other, less dry years, fire right up to the edge and this year is much more dangerous. Lucia (the maid and source of local gossip) says we haven't had rain (measurable amounts) in six months. As you can see in the photos, the hillsides are now scared with burned sections of forest. This bit of fire burned all day yesterday, not moving quickly but definitely out of control (unsupervised as no one lives there). You could tell that the smoke had crept over the top - a result of smoke and flame the day before on the other side. Incredibly yesterday afternoon someone was burning (from long habit and lack of smarts) trash on the road just below us. Any amount of wind would have swept it right of control. To top this all off perfectly, Lucia also said the the locals who tap into the surface water, don't drill wells or have city services, do not have water at all in their homes - bottom line - there is no fire prevention or fire fighting capability in place. Pray for rain.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Just like they tell you, when flying internationally . . .

. . . arrive 2 hours before departure. For years now, I have thought 1.5 hours standing in line or sitting in a waiting room was plenty of time despite their warnings . . . . Then, we burned up 30 minutes lugging four-70 pound suitcases to the ticketing line. One hour was not enough for them to resolve my ticketing irregularities and get me to the gate in time. As they waited for supervisors to respond in person and on the phone they passed the cutoff time for printing my boarding pass. They needed to reissue my ticket for the following day. Had I arrived earlier they would have admitted their failure and issued the ticket and maybe other perks without cost. Certainly it was their fault? Certainly they could have arrested me for acting annoyed (apologies to Ed Munch) at their incompetence?

Instead, I had to lug my suitcases back to my son`s new home and I had the privilege of paying an extra $150 for today's ticket. They told me they were doing me a favor because it could have been $1500 more. Well, I guess $150 is better than bail.

Exceedingly irate Delta Airlines traveler