Vicarious Voyage... BRAZIL!
By Courtney DeSchepper
Hello from Manaus, Brazil! I spent from January 31 to February 3 in the
city of Manaus. The temperature here is very warm with highs in the low
hundreds and very humid. These temperatures are very common being so
close to the equator. While we were traveling up the Amazon one evening
our Assistant Dean came over the ship P.A. just to inform us that we
would be eating dinner on the equator! Although it did not seem any
different than every other night, it was a neat experience to know that
we ate dinner at 0 degrees latitude and 0 degrees longitude.
Once we arrived in Manaus we were instantly greeted by Manaus’s
1,832,423 people. I was not sure what to expect once I arrived, but
what I saw was not anything I would have ever anticipated seeing.
Manaus is a rather large city full of a vibrant life style. At every
corner there is native music, bright colors, a multitude of shops, and
many residents with welcome arms to tourists. While wandering down town
I found it difficult to communicate with anyone. I know very little
Portuguese (only the few words they taught us on the ship), and most of
them knew no English. Most of the communication with the local people
was through acting out what I was asking and pointing to places on the
map. This was definitely a new experience for me. It was very
frustrating to want to ask something and have no one to ask, but it was
a very good experience for me also. I often take for granted that I can
so easily communicate to anyone I wish to in America.
One day I decided to just walk around the city of Manaus and get a feel
for what it had to offer. One of my favorite places was the Opera
House. This building was absolutely magnificent. The Opera House was
built in the 1800’s with many European influences in building material.
The ceiling in the auditorium was painted in the same style as the
Sistine Chapel. It was simply beautiful. While I was there I got to
listen to the orchestra prepare for their upcoming concerts; which was
almost as lovely as the scene they were performing in. Right outside
the Opera House there was an amazing monument called the Plaza of St.
Sebastion. This beautiful monument was made to symbolize the meeting of
the waters-- where the Negro River’s dark water and the Solimões
River’s muddy brown water meet in the Amazon River. It was yet again a
magnificent area in Manaus to help symbolize another aspect of this
great place. I also got to visit a museum that showed the history of
Manaus. It was really interesting to see the number of changes the city
has gone through just to be where it is today.
In Manaus I got to spend some time doing some things that I am
passionate about. First, I got to take a few dance classes from a local
instructor. It was a great experience! I think my favorite part was
when I got to take an Amazon Tribal Dance workshop. Here I got to learn
two complete tribal dances. The instructor was so friendly. Even though
he could speak no English and I could speak no Portuguese we got to
connect on a very personal level just through dancing together. We were
able to communicate through body language, facial expressions, and most
importantly through the music. I never understood what my dance
teacher, Barb Rethlake, meant by dancing could be a world language.
Now, however, I do; I was able to form a great friendship simply
through the movement of our bodies.
On the last day in Manaus, I was able to visit a school for the deaf.
It was truly one of the most inspiring experiences in my life. Since it
is still summer the students are not yet in school. I went with two of
my new found friends on the ship Destiny, who is deaf, and Kara her
interpreter. We got to interact with several teachers from the school.
It was incredible to watch and interact with the Kara, Destiny, and the
teachers we met. Two of the teachers were deaf, one knew only
Portuguese sign, while the other was fluent in Portuguese but knew a
little American sign. At first it was difficult for any of us to
interact, but it was amazing to see how hard we all worked in order to
communicate. Once we understood some of each other’s native signs it
was much easier to have a more regular conversation. While at the
school the teachers gave us a tour, which used to be an old office
building, told us about school life for the 200 students it served, and
about daily life for people who are deaf in Brazil. It was very
interesting to hear how similar and yet how different life was for
people who are deaf in Brazil versus that of America. Going on this
visit reaffirmed my passion for sign and really encouraged me to
continue to practice and take classes to hopefully become an
interpreter one day.
Overall, Brazil was an opportunity to struggle. I know that on this
voyage I will encounter other times when there will be a language or
culture barrier, but this will be one of the toughest places that this
will occur. I know that this is definitely one place that I will return
to. Semester at Sea as already given me so many opportunities to grow
as a person and as a traveler and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead.
I will be arriving in our next port, Accra, Ghana on February 13th.
Until then, feel free to check out my blog at:
Bon Voyage ☺