Monday, July 9, 2012

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June 8, 2012 GOOD NEWS!! ZE DE SANTA (vice-cacique José Barbosa dos Santos) IS FOUND NOT GUILTY FOR ORDERING THE MURDER OF CHICO QUELE (Francisco de Assis Santana, conhecido como Chico Quelé). This is a significant judicial finding for the Xukuru who have undergone a process of legal criminalization for over 10 years by the judicial system in Pernambuco, Brazil. The Xukuru regained their traditional territorial lands in 2001, and since that time have suffered multiple judicial processes against their leaders in an attempt by local non-indigenous farmers, businessmen seeking to institute a cultural tourism site on Xukuru lands in the aldeia (village) of Cimbres, and the conservative judicial faction of the state who seek to dismantle their continued successful political and cultural organization. Prior to the legal criminalization of their leaders, the Xukuru endured six assassinations of past leaders, human rights advocates, and a court appointed lawyer in their 30 year fight to regain their traditional lands. The finding of Ze de Santa as innocent bodes well for Cacique Marcos Xukuru who has been convicted to ten years and 4 months in prison in 2009 by a judge in Caruaru. His conviction has been under appeal in the Supreme Court in Recife, Pernambuco. Currently the Xukuru are waiting for a rescheduled court date regarding his appeal. It is hoped that the 'not guilty' verdict by a jury of Ze de Santa reflects a positive turn in the justice system's treatment of the Xukuru and that Cacique Marcos Xukuru will also be found not guilty for inciting a riot and the destruction of property in the aldeia of Cimbres after an assassination attempt on his life. Cacique Marcos Xukuru was in the hospital after the attempt on his life, and was not involved in the revolt of the Xukuru against his accused assassin. Marcia Mikulak

Friday, June 15, 2012

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6/14/12 I’ve been back in the United States for almost a week now and at times it still feels a little surreal. When my plane touched down in Miami, I was so relieved to hear English everywhere I went, but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed with the lack of Portuguese around me because it just made it that much more evident that I had left Brazil. This really surprised me because one of the biggest things I was excited about was being surrounded by people I could understand again. I decided to acclimate carefully by not immediately rushing home; I’ve been staying with family in Fargo since my arrival in North Dakota. There is lots of activity, noise, people, screaming children, etc. here which I thought would be a good transition for me; that way I wouldn’t be going from so much activity immediately to a quiet, lonely apartment. I like to have my space but I definitely need people around me because I can get lonely far too easily. One of the biggest challenges I faced my first few days back was actually speaking English. For how little Portuguese I actually picked up on during my three weeks in Brazil, my brain sure doesn’t want to get go of it! Everywhere I go I keep wanting to say “licença,” “desculpe,” “obrigada,” “onde esta…?” My first day back I actually bumped into somebody at the store and said “desculpe;” I got a really confused stare in return. Also, I tried asking my two-year-old niece, “Onde esta sua mae?” …Needless to say she did NOT answer me. I’m finding myself missing Brazil in an unspeakable way. I miss the way time seems to stand still while soaking in the sunshine on the veranda of the house. I miss the commotion and the way people would drop by without calling first. I get a taste of that here at my cousin’s house; her sisters pop on in without a word, and it makes me smile thinking about the similarities but also makes that homesick feeling that much stronger. I even miss the food – I thought that would be the one thing I wouldn’t be sad to leave because I missed my familiar foods, but lately my body has NOT been pleased with the things I’ve been eating. I must be subconsciously making up for “lost time” or something; my brain is saying “yes” to all the junk I keep putting in my mouth but my body is screaming “NO!” A funny thing happened today while I was shopping at Bath and Body Works. I smelled some lemon-scented lotion that smelled EXACTLY like Dona Helena’s lemongrass tea… I bought two bottles AND a bottle of body wash. PROBABLY wasn't necessary. The biggest thing I think I miss about Brazil is the incredibly friendly disposition of the Xukuru people. Here, the people are such perfect Midwesterners: there is a practiced and perfected “polite stand-off-ishness.” It’s really hard to explain what I mean; I think one would already have to know what I’m saying to totally understand. Everyone here wears a smile and practices good manners (for the most part), yet there’s something about it that is just so fake. Who knows, maybe I'm just reading too much into it. There is a warm exterior surrounding most people but the warmth is not genuine; I didn’t notice this before – it took a trip across the world to fully realize the façade most people here have perfected. I’m sure by no time at all I’ll get back into the swing of things and re-master my perfected “polite smile,” but it’s definitely going to take longer than a week. -Shayla
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Friday, June 8th , 2012 Friday, June 8th, was the beginning of my journey home, to Minnewaukan, ND. A few hiccups along the way, including a giant thunderstorm over Miami, caused me to have my flight home delayed slightly in Miami. But the airline was nice enough to put me up in a nice hotel for the night. The real story though, is not my night in Sin City (which involved me watching the Mummy II on cable and re-packing my suitcase… definitely a night for the books), the real story is the way that people treated me along every point in my destination. Getting on the plane in Recife, everyone was quick to the point, probably due to a language barrier and the size of the airport. In Miami, everything was rushed and I found myself asking multiple different people the same questions because the first person had barely had time to properly explain directions to me. Other than the waiter at the hotel restaurant, people did not seem very nice at all. In Chicago everyone seemed a little nicer than they had in Miami and Recife, but they were all still pretty quick to the point. But when I arrived in Minneapolis, I had felt a little more at home. There were a couple of people who looked like I could have known them (a first in weeks) and people seemed to actually take a little bit of time to talk to me. And here’s where the real change in people’s attitudes came in, my flight from Minneapolis to Devils Lake (my last flight). These were the North Dakota nice people that I have known my entire life. The man in the seat in front of me joked with me about the flight and offered me a snack which I gladly accepted since I had my card stolen in Miami and couldn’t afford snacks. At the mention of this tragedy, everyone in my section of our small plane turned to console me and make sure that I had gone through all of the necessary precautions to having the card canceled. The people on that plane easily reminded me of people I knew back home and I could have sworn the woman in front of me was twin of step-grandmother. As much as I have learned from my travels abroad, and all of the criticisms that we all had at one point in time or another for our homes, there is something amazing about home when you get there. For me it was that feeling of belonging and of kindness. It was that small joke that you can share with a stranger. It’s when you get off of that tiny Beechcraft in little Devil Lake ND and have your little sisters hug you so hard that you think they might have broken a rib. Or getting your favorite Knoephla soup at the Old Main Café immediately. As much as I love the feeling of flying to a new destination, of new cultures and cuisines, of new people and new friends, I love coming home to my family and my little state of North Dakota. Beth
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Thursday, June 7th , 2012 On Thursday, June 7th, our prayers/hopes were answered. We awoke bright and early to the sun brightly showing over our little beach town. We all quickly got breakfast and headed out to the place where “Nedo” (our kind taxi driver) had shown us where to spend our beach day. We arrived on the beach and immediately had three or four people vying for our attention. One was the man who was gonna to boat us over to the “good” beach and another was the woman who got us water as quickly as possible and made her sales pitch to us that we should come back to her side of the bay to eat at her restaurant . She claimed that her food was the best and attempted to prove it to us by showing us how fresh the fish she had actually were by bring out a large tray for us to examine. Other random people attempted to sell us stuff and point us in the right direction, as we were the only tourists on the beach at this early hour. The man who boated us over to the “good” beach talked us into going snorkeling at the nearby reefs was the tide was down, and after getting some sun and relaxing on the beach, we took him up on his offer. And wow! I was so happy that I had! It wasn’t a very large reef but the fish were so colorful and all the other marine life was so interesting. The man was nice enough to actually use our camera and take multiple pictures of us with sea slugs, urchins, and star fish. After our snorkeling adventure, we went back to the restaurant that we were talked into and enjoyed a great lunch there and sampled Brazil’s national drink “Caipirinha”, which we gave mixed reviews. We finished the day in Olinda sampling the Tapioca and meeting up with Lulu, a man who was going to the Xukuru territory to help as well.
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Wednesday, June 6th , 2012 Today (Wednesday the 6th) is a sad day for us. We woke up early and rolled our luggage out to Paulo’s van. We said our goodbye’s to Dona Helena and at that moment I wished that I knew more Portuguese than I did. But knowing more Portuguese probably wouldn’t have helped, because I couldn’t have described how much that I would miss her and how thankful of her that I was in English. All I could do was hug her and say “obrigada” (thank you) over and over again. She had probably thought that I had gone crazy when my first few tears started to fall, but I knew that this woman was special in her own simple, grandmotherly way. She was the one who attempted to teach me the most Portuguese, pointing out food and saying the name in Portuguese , and she stayed patient with me after I had forgotten the word for rice a million times. She was always there in the morning, helping me put fresh milk in my coffee because I always messed it up. And then there’s Paulo. Quiet Paulo, whom I had barely spoken to the whole trip, gave us all big hugs at the bus station as if we were all his grandchildren. After we said our goodbyes and got on the bus, we arrived in the little beach town where we were planning to relax on the beach for a day and a half, only to find that rain that was much needed on Xukuru territory, was all pouring down at once here… hours away. Me and Erin made the most of our rainy afternoon by watching American movies in Portuguese and attempting to understand them. We sampled the local cuisine (which was very similar to the food we were served at Dona Helena’s) and attempted to converse with the couple who owned the Pousada. And before we all fell asleep, we all prayed to whatever force was out there, that it would be sunny the next day. Beth
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Tuesday, June 5th , 2012 Today (June 5th) is our last full day on Xukuru land. We woke up early and went down to the Cultural Center to meet up with Dona Zenilda for the last time. We helped load the trucks to take to the schools and distributed food to many of the schools in the Cimbres area. This time distributing food to the schools was very interesting because schools were in session (one of the times before it had been a holiday) and we visited many more than we had last time. At one of the schools, people from the community came to help us unload the heavy crates, for which I was very thankful. One of the community members made it their responsibility to help me carry the crates in. Carrying one on his shoulders, and carrying the burden of the second one with me because I could not obviously carry one on my own. This is the type of community that these people live in. They will take on an extra load just to help another person with their burdens. While driving through Cimbres, Alicia, one of the little girls that our group has become fond of , rode with us to distribute food to the other schools. She attempted to ask us our favorite colors and foods and we attempted to answer (with the help of Lee). Before Alicia left, and we said our goodbyes, knowing that we might not ever see this little girl again, I realized that I have actually been able to understand just a little bit of Portuguese while I have being here. Speaking of Portuguese and English language barriers, we met a woman from the Sao Paulo university who spoke broken English. It was so wonderful to hear our own language spoken by someone other than in our trip and we were all delighted to communicate with her. Turns out she was working on similar work with the Xukuru people. So it’s not just Americans on a field school who are working to help these people, but the people of Brazil as well. Signing our petition is just one way that everyone can help the Xukuru people, so if you’re reading this blog and you haven’t signed the petition yet, I urge you to do so!
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Monday, June 4th , 2012 Today (June 4th) we stayed inside and worked on the video that we would use to raise awareness for the Xukuru’s plight. It was really interesting to look over all of the pictures and videos that we have taken throughout the trip and to see all that we have done and learned about. We learned about herbal medicine and plants with Dona Zenilda, we participated in a march for the Xukuru’s rights, and learned about the school distribution systems. We learned about their closeness with nature and the strong community bonds that they feel for each other. As we sifted through all of our pictures and videos, we couldn’t quite find what we were looking for that what convey the feeling that we had about these people and their struggles. No pictures, videos, or words could ever completely describe how connected we will feel to these people who are a whole hemisphere away. I will miss them all dearly and will forever be changed by them. They have enhanced the way that I believe that self-sustainability is important and they have given me a reason to fight for what I believe in, because I don’t usually “try to make trouble”. I only hope that I can help them as much as they have helped me. Beth
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Sunday, June 3rd , 2012 Today (June 3rd, 2012) we watched a video about the colonization of Brazil called “Brazil: An Inconvenient History”. The other students and I have already seen this video in class (and I think I might have seen it before then as well) and it was Lee’s first time seeing it. It was very interesting and eye-opening. It discussed the details of the colonization of Brazil and the worldviews that stemmed from this colonization in a way that is not commonly heard. It is called “Brazil: An Inconvenient History” because it is an inconvenience for those in power to be reminded of this history. It very critical of the way that Brazil was colonized and does not portray the colonizers in a flattering light. It shows how some of the processes that took place have created a system of social hierarchy in Brazil that can still be seen today. Because we had watched this film in class before we came to Brazil, and again while we are in Brazil, we were able to focus on some of the aspects of the film that we had missed before and we were able to relate this information to our experiences. We discussed how this colonization had caused there to be a separation of the classes that seemed to be based on ancestry, with the African- descendents seeming to be cast lower on the economic totem pole, with people with mostly descendents from Portugal or other European countries on the top, and indigenous peoples and other mixes somewhere in between. We also discussed a phenomenon that I pointed out in an earlier blog, the portrayal of beauty in lighter skinned, European descendents in advertisements. My experiences in Brazil and the knowledge that I have gained from watching this movie go hand-in-hand to shed light on the historical and current identity and socio-economic issues that plague Brazil. Beth

Monday, June 11, 2012

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6/6/12 We left Pesqueida this morning at about 7 o’clock. Helena and Paulo were both up when we left; it was so hard to say goodbye to Helena. She’s been so amazing during our time here – she took care of us like we were her own family. I teared up while saying my goodbyes to her. Paulo drove us to the bus stop in Pesqueida so we had a bit of extra time with him. As he was hugging and kissing us goodbye I realized that we didn’t talk to him all that much or spend very much time with him during our stay, and suddenly he seemed so warm and open. My eyes watered when we said goodbye to him too – I think part of this was because he was the final link we had to the house, and suddenly the idea of him leaving without us really made the fact that we’re not returning back to the house that much more real. We were supposed to have a “beach day” today but were rained out, much to our disappointment. Instead we toured a bit of the area where we were staying, grabbed lunch, and hung around our hotel room. Today while I was sitting in the room, feelings of loneliness kept washing over me. These sad feelings would come and go without any apparent reason or trigger. I just felt like I was missing or yearning for something. I felt so homesick, but for what or for whom I’m not really sure. I miss my home, my family, and my friends, but I so badly want to go back to Pesqueida and see the people we left behind there. This trip to Brazil has changed my life. I feel as though I’ve just woken up from a very long, deep sleep – like my eyes have just opened and I’m seeing for the first time. We learn about differences in cultures in our anthropology classes but nothing can really prepare you for the experience of living abroad. It is truly a shock to all your senses. It’s as if I’ve been living in a protective bubble, safe in my small town North Dakotan community all this time, and now I’ve experienced this completely different way of living. It makes the world that I live in back home seem so small; it also makes me have a greater since of appreciation for the things I have and for the level of comfort my lifestyle offers. I’m so incredibly thankful I got to live and work with the Xukuru; what an amazing community of people! It’s my hope that I can continue to work on projects regarding this community and the social and economic issues at play here and attend future field schools here. I don’t want my adventure here to end simply because I’m finally going home. -Shayla

Sunday, June 10, 2012

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6/4/12 We spent Monday the 4th working on the video we were asked to create for the field school. A while back, Marquinho told us that it was great that we were here and got to experience Brazil and the Xukuru’s way of life, but really that our main purpose for being here was to spread the word about the Xukuru and all the problems they are facing. After opening up his home and taking time out of his busy schedule to accommodate us, that’s the only thing he has ever asked for in return. If we don’t use what we have learned to get the message out, we might as well have just stayed home. Throughout the duration of our trip, we’ve been taking plenty of pictures and videos to eventually use to compile a video about our experience here. After a few meetings about what we wanted to do, the girls and I decided to focus less on our experience here and more about a specific message we wanted to send out to the world. We decided on creating a short message about the criminalization faced by the Xukuru leaders and Marquinho’s legal battle. There are a lot of things we could have focused on, but Marquinho said it himself – if he goes to prison, what is going to happen to his people? Also, if he goes to prison, chances are he’ll be assassinated; either way, his people won’t have a leader and things the community has worked so hard at implementing would be at great risk of falling apart. For my very first video ever created, I think it turned out really quite well – short, sweet, and to the point. On an exciting note, it already has almost 70 views on Youtube! Lee had a great idea about researching some human rights blogs and writing to the authors asking them if they’d be interested in posting the video on their blogs; it would be such a great way to get more people to see it, and we want as many people to be informed on what’s going on here as possible. This is the next task I’ll be working on; hopefully word on the criminalization of the Xukuru falls into the right hands soon and the people here can wake up from this bad dream once and for all. Here's the link to the video on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVQfL-dHPWs&feature=youtu.be -Shayla
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6/5/12 Today is our last day in the house and it is a very bittersweet day. On one hand, I can’t wait to get home. I miss all of the conveniences that I’m used to – my own bed, my car, Starbucks, people SPEAKING ENGLISH to me, I could go on and on. But on the other hand, I’m already so homesick for this house and the people here that I can barely swallow around the lump in my throat. During the last three weeks, I haven’t felt homesick at all; at least not for the people in my life, just for a few of the things I just mentioned. But the pain of leaving here is indescribable. I know I’ll see this family and the Xukuru people again one day, but when? I don’t know what it is about here that I’ll miss the most. Marcos Paulo and Yuri Mateus are definitely at the top of the list. Marcos Paulo is such a special person. He is the utter definition of a little boy: most of the time he’s super rambunctious, but he never forgets to be sweet either. He is constantly telling us that he likes our outfits or that we look pretty (always on his own, never asked for), and he always gives me the tightest hugs. And I think it’s pretty obvious that we all think Yuri Mateus is cuter than a puppy in a funny hat; when he is in the mood to be lovey, it’s the hardest thing to let him go! One of the biggest things I definitely will miss is riding around squeezed in the back of the cacique’s truck, listening to blaring music and laughing about being thrown around by the bad roads. There are so many fond memories that have been created here; now that it’s finally time to leave, they make me smile and tear up at the same time. I don’t know how things are going to be or what to expect once I get home; the world around me hasn’t changed, but in these last three weeks I have, and for the better. -Shayla

Friday, June 8, 2012

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Check out the University of North Dakota's (UND) web page - it features the Brazil Field School: http://und.edu/features/2012/06/xukuru-field-school.cfm

Thursday, June 7, 2012

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6/6/12 Today, we left Santana early in this morning. We all got up, gave our hugs to Helana, and got in Paulo's van. As, we were driving away from the house we have called home for three weeks, I did a great deal of thinking. I thought about how amazing of an opportunity it was to come to Brazil and get to know the all of these amazing people on a personal level. I also thought about all of the things I have gone through in my own life over the last few years to be in the right place to be able to enjoy and grow from this experience. I know the next few days will be full of a lot of thinking, and different feelings. I will continue to write on this blog to talk about the experiences I have when I get back home. boa noite Erin
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6/1/12 Today we visited a health seminar at one of the local schools. Class for the students was cancelled today so the classroom and surrounding buildings could be used for the event. Local nurses spoke about women’s health and proper dental hygiene. We learned that these nurses travel all over the Xukuru land in order to provide checkups and vaccinations, and that over 90% of the Xukuru people are up-to-date on all their healthcare needs, which is incredible. I couldn’t imagine health practitioners in the United States travelling TO people – let alone to so many people – rather than receiving callers… at least without charging an unspeakable fee for the services rendered. In this blog we mention all the time about how the Xukuru are centered around the community and their daily lives are focused on the group rather than the individual, but I don’t think this point can be stressed enough. It’s literally in every activity that takes place here. The nurses spoke about feminine health, cervical cancer, and the importance of getting annual checkups. A big thing that stuck out to me today was the amount of men and children here for this seminar. Trying to picture men in the U.S. attending a gynecological seminar with their female relations is pretty hard to do. I was also a bit taken aback, but glad to see, the amount of children that were present and were “exposed” to such frank talk about “grown up” female issues. I’m a big believer in not hiding the sexual aspects of our humanity from children because I think to do so causes more confusion and harm than it does good. On another note, I was actually a bit saddened by the dental hygiene presentation that was given, because it was SO simple. I can remember receiving almost the exact same class in kindergarten, and the people here are receiving it as adults. The same goes for the information presented during the women’s health presentation; information was presented to adults that even I, as a young adult, have known about for many years. It made me think about the differences in education we receive back home compared to the education that the people here receive. What we perceive as common knowledge (brushing three times a day and flossing protects your teeth, sugar causes cavities, visit your doctor once a year, etc.) is in fact NOT common knowledge to all. How can this be possible in this day and age, and how are we as Americans okay with it? Aren’t we supposed to be the country that apparently makes it a personal mission to go out and “save the world?” This thought has been continuously running through my head during my stay here as I look at the living conditions, the infrastructure, the roads, the poverty, etc. that is present throughout the entire territory. It really hit me hard the sheer amount of things that we have back home and take for granted. -Shayla
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6/2/12 Today was such a great day. The whole house, with the exception of Paulo and Marcia (who isn’t feeling well) loaded up in the pickup for a field trip. Marquinho gave us a tour of the church in Cimbres, and then took us to Nossa Senhora das Graças, an incredible overlook outside of Cimbres. To get to the top, one had to climb up hundreds of stairs and a few little smooth inclines. This trek is not for the faint of heart. Marcos Paulo was determined to beat everybody to the top, and didn’t seem to find it as funny as I did when I would race him past him every once in a while. All throughout the course of the steps were religious icons, and at the top of the hill there was a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. I don’t think one can go more than five minutes in Brazil without seeing some kind of religious symbol; religion here is very open and signs of Catholicism are literally everywhere. The view from up the top was absolutely incredible and was worth every bit of effort it took to get there. Today was our last day with Marquinho; he had a meeting come up in Brasilia at the last minute so he’s going to be gone the last few days we’re here. To top it off, after we got back from Nossa Senhora das Graças he had to go back to work and didn’t get back to the house until almost ten, so it was a quick goodbye before bedtime. Though it was short, it was an extremely hard goodbye to say. He thanked us for coming here and for taking the time to learn and spread the word about his people, but really it was us who needed to thank him. The time I’ve spent here and the things I have experienced is something that cannot possibly be described with just words; it’s something that I feel in my heart and in the lump in my throat. It’s as though I’ve been asleep and my eyes have been opened for the very first time. Leaving the “safe net” of North Dakota to be completely immersed in such a culture laden with extreme beauty and pain has changed the ways I look at myself and the world I live in. The modest “thank you” that I was able to say in Portuguese will never do justice how thankful I truly am for the time I’ve been able to spend here learning from these people. The cacique is a firm believer in living with your whole heart; whatever it is one strives for in life, devote yourself to it and always give 100 percent. Don’t just go through the motions of living. This is so much easier said than done; I feel like we get so wrapped up in the trivial things that flood our lives that we miss what is actually important. My biggest goal when I get home is to do exactly that – making sure I’m actually living my life rather than just living on autopilot. -Shayla Previous Item Next Item
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6/3/12 Since Helena and her daughters made such a big meal last Sunday, on June 3rd we prepared a huge American lunch for the family. On our menu was meatballs, garlic mashed potatoes, cucumber salad, and fruit with fruit dip for dessert; Helena also whipped up a few “normal” foods for them additionally. Making lunch didn’t go as rocky as I had thought it would; I know that it is usually really difficult for so many cooks to be in the kitchen together at the same time because everyone has their own style and the way they like to do things. Making lunch was a bit of a learning experience for all of us; we had to use unfamiliar ingredients to make our familiar recipes, different methods of cooking (i.e. gas stove top vs. the oven), and learn how to work efficiently in such a confined space. The most we had in the kitchen at one time was eleven people: Helena, Isabel and Isabela, our group, and three kids. It was so nice and comforting to smell the familiar smells coming from the kitchen, and I definitely ate way more than my fair share of food. I noticed that along with our American lunch came our American eating habits. Since being here, I’ve eaten my plate of food and have been satisfied enough to stop eating. But today, I ate, and ate, and ate, and ate… and then was in a full-on food coma. I asked Isabela if the people here ate until they were stuffed and useless and she explained that it definitely wasn’t the norm, whereas I’m used to displays of gluttony accompanying big dinners like these. We were all stuffed to the brim and the family appeared totally fine. I think we could learn a thing or two from them when it comes to healthy eating habits. -Shayla

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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6/5/12 Today is our last day in Santana. This morning we went along with Dona Zenlida to distribute food to local Xukuru schools. We filled on truck up, full of fresh, local, and organic fruits and vegetables. Than we all jumped in the back of the truck. As we drove along the Xukuru county side, I tried to take in the sounds, sights and smells. I tried to take a moment to just enjoy the way it feels to have wind in your hair, and see smiling faces on the road side, because I do not know if I will be back here. This trip has been a flurry of emotions; excitement, frustration, happiness, anxiety and wonder. As, I think about leaving I am unable to put into words how this makes me feel. A part of me doesn't want to leave, but I know that I need to go home and incorperate the lessons I have learned over the last three weeks into my own life. - I will work on living in the moment, not in the past or the present - I will make time to enjoy the people in my life - I will try to change the way I eat; incorporate more fruits, veggies and rice. An important part to being healthy physically and emotionally is eating healthy. - I will stand up for what I believe in. I will fight for what I am passionate about, even if it seems like no one is listening, eventually people will. - Last but not least, I will spread the word about who the Xukuru people are and what they believe in. Erin

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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6/2/12 Our time here in Santana is wrapping up, we will be leaving for Recife Wednesday morning. I have been doing a lot of reflecting of the time we have spent here. Before I came on this trip I did not know what to expect. One thing I learned from being in Brazil is to expect the unexpected. We did not have an itinerary because we couldn't, that's not how things work here. At home I live a very structured life. I am a full time college student with two part time jobs. I have always been an extremely punctual person. If, I am not 5 minutes early for something I'm already late. I would rather be a half an hour early for a meeting and drive around the block for 15 minuets than possibly come in late. In, Brazil, people view time differently. It is more important to be around other people, and socialize than it is to be somewhere at a specific time. This experience has helped me learn that its OK to take a slower pace and just enjoy where you are who your with. Erin

Monday, June 4, 2012

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Today (Saturday June 2nd) the whole family and our group piled into the Cacique’s truck and visited “Nossa Senhora das Graças/Santuário de Cimbres”, or the Shrine of Cimbres. I attempted to keep with five-year-old Marcos Paulo who was bound and determined to beat us all to the our destination at the end of a 300-step climb that is preceded by a set of ramps. Marcos Paulo beat us to the top, where the view was astounding. We were able to see long down on the valley and the little houses nestled into the adjacent hillside. There was a shrine built to the Virgin Mary at the top of even more steps. We took pictures of our group and of the family and all shared a little smile about how out of breath all of us were before we started our descent. On the descent I decided that I would not race after Marcos Paulo this time, but hang back and stay close to his grandmother, Dona Helena. Helena is one of the sweetest women that I have ever met and has a rare gem of a personality. On our way down, she attempted to go off of the steps to smell the flowers… on the edge of a steep mountain slope. Her adventurous whim had me very nervous because even I wouldn’t have dared scale that rock just to smell a pretty flower. After smelling her flower, she safely dismounted the rock and we continued our journey down the mountainside. She insisted that we stop so that she could take a picture of me, and after a short tutorial (in which we had the camera facing her or upside down) we got a few pictures in. I am sad that I will be leaving Brazil and this wonderful grandmotherly woman soon. I will miss her so much and all that she does for me and the rest of our group. All day she prepares meals for us and when she’s not doing that she’s offering us “dulces” or sweets. She is truly a sweet and caring woman, and it is safe to say that all of us will miss her dearly. - Beth
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6/3/12 Last Sunday, Helena, Isabell and Isabella made a big Sunday lunch for us. This Sunday was our turn, to make a traditional American meal. We planed a menu, and went to the store on Friday to buy ingredients. We decided to make meatballs, mash potatoes and gravy, cucumber salad, and fruit with fruit dip. The Lee, Beth, Shayla and I, worked together to make the lunch. It was somewhat difficult, because some of the ingredients were different from what we are used to using. We also had to take into account using a different kind of oven and cooking meatballs on a stove top. In the end, it all came together, and it was great to people able to smell the aromas of good old Midwestern cooking. The meal turned out great, and it was fun to be able to share a little bit of our culture with the family. After, lunch and a little bit of realizing after all that food, I did my laundry. After this experience, I will defiantly not take the ability to use a washing machine for granted. It makes me think about how time consuming basic household chores are for so many people around the world. For example, the Xukuru teachers we met, work all day than have to come home to take care of their families. Many days, I come home and find myself complaining about not having time to do laundry or being able to cook something healthy to eat. I realize how silly of a thought this is, when I really do have the time. It only takes a few minutes to load a washing machine, and it really does not take long to make a salad or scrambled eggs. This experience truly has made me look at the world in a different way. Erin
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Today (Thursday, May 31st) we went to the market in Caruaru. Paulo drove us to the city, but we stopped many times along the way to pick up travelers. At first I was very confused as to why we were giving rides to these people that we did not seem to know. I understand that the Xukuru people are very community-based, but this just seemed to cross the line. But then I realized/was told, that Paulo’s job is to drive his van as a taxi service. How had I not known that before? I have been with this lovely family for almost two weeks now, but I am just learning about their jobs now. After Paulo dropped us off at the market, we wandered the stalls in search of trinkets and souvenirs to bring home to our family and friends. The ware that stood out to me the most throughout this whole shopping trip was a certain style of ceramic doll. This doll had the blackest-of-black skin, very kinky-stringy hair that stuck out at odd angles, huge red lips, a very large bosom, and an even larger hip/bottom area. This doll was almost like a caricature of an African woman and seemed very derogatory to me and a few others. This doll, and variations of it, were everywhere, although I have not seen a single woman in Brazil that looks even close to that description. Speaking of women not fitting descriptions. Everywhere I go in Brazil, most of the advertisements feature beautiful “white” women and men. But I haven’t seen anyone here, in Caruaru, Olinda, or Recife that look even close to that. I am not saying that the people here are not beautiful( because they are actually some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen), but there are very few people that could be called “white” here. So the fact that almost all of the advertisements represent a very minute portion of the population is very shocking and relates back to history of colonization and the processes that have happened since. I won’t be writing about that today, but if you are interested in knowing more watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUdCIfPEJdE . - Beth
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Today (Friday June 1st) we visited a school that had taken the day off from teaching the normal curriculum to teach women and children about health and to provide health services for them. A group of nurses that travel around the Xukuru territory was there checking blood pressure, testing for STDS, and teaching. They taught children about the importance of dental health and how to brush and floss properly, while teaching women about cervical health and the importance of using protection. The room was packed with women of all ages, but mostly young mothers and their children. A demographic that I was not expecting to see there was males, presumably the husbands. I was surprised to see a handful of men at this health event for women and children because at home I don’t see men that involved with these health issues. Something else that I found interesting was that a young girl handed Lee (the trip director) a baby to hold, and when Lee asked how old the baby was and what the baby’s name was, the girl said that she didn’t know because it wasn’t her baby. All of us were very confused about the whereabouts of the child’s mother but continued to care for her and hold her for about a half hour or more. Finally the baby became aggravated (probably hungry) and her mother emerged from a group of women waiting to fill out their paperwork. She took the baby from Lee and promptly began to breastfeed her daughter. The most shocking part of this whole event was not the public breastfeeding. It was the fact that the child’s mother had been across the room the whole time and had trusted a group of foreign women (and the local girl before us) to hold and care for her baby for such a long period of time. Her trust in others around her to watch her child reveals to me the trust that the Xukuru people have in their community. As many of us have probably stated on this blog multiple times, life here revolves around that community. This community is constantly improving, and this health day is just one example of these improvements. - Beth

Sunday, June 3, 2012

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During our three weeks in Pesquiera with the Xukuru I have left this blog open for my students to express their feelings, impressions, ideas, and perceptions of life with the Xukuru and of their excursions into city life in North Eastern Brazil. As readers will see, at times students have a difficult time understanding cultural differences, often as minute as ways of walking on streets, physical contact with others in public, the level of noise and movement in city centers, and the placement of a variety of shops, public venders, propaganda trucks loudly calling attention to their businesses and goods they seek to sell. No matter how much students are given to read, the number of exams or essays they write, nothing impacts them more than the actual experience of face-to-face contact with those who live differently than they do.
Notions of culture, what it is, what it does, what it means are contested by current anthropologists across all sub-fields. What is not contested is that whatever culture is, it exists, and it is all inclusive. This trip has brought my students face-to-face with themselves, the ways in which they perceive their experiences and surroundings, and the reality that what we know and understand is largely a constructed "truth." The good news is that we can and must always be reconstructing what we think we know in order to open and expand our selves to take in and give back to the world at large. It is my hope that fellow colleagues, students of anthropology, friends of my students, and others will write their comments, thoughts, suggestions, and insights about my students comments. We hope that some of you will take the time to write and share with us your thoughts about our experiences posted on this blog.
Dr. Mikulak
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6/2/12 Today, the fact that we will be leaving Santana in a couple days, has really sat in. When I came into this trip three weeks seemed like such a long time, now it seems like nothing.
Tonight while we were working on a video project, The Cacique came in and told us the news that he would be flying to Salvador and would have to leave early in the morning. This was devastating , I knew this time would come but it was hard that it came so soon. He has been amazing to us all. Opening his home, taking time to teach us about another way of life, and being patient with our language barrier while showing us unbelievable kindness and compassion. I feel honored and blessed to have been able to meet him and his family. Cacique Marcos reminds me of Gandhi, he has experienced incredible hardships, that would break many men and women. Instead he has gained a incredible amount of knowledge on living life to its fullest. He is able to be in the moment, whether he is talking with other leaders, playing with his children, or giving a speech. Erin

Saturday, June 2, 2012

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Sunday, May 27th, 2012 On Sunday we had a gorgeously displayed lunch with the Cacique’s family and Dona Helena brought us to where the sugar cane grows.
While walking through the sugar cane we had to be careful of the leaves so that they didn’t cut us because they are razor sharp. We cut down one stalk and brought it back to feed the outer “bark” to the cattle and we sampled the raw sugar cane.
During this time we learned that the cultivation of sugarcane is a back-breaking process and that work conditions are very poor. We also learned that to have the snow-white sugar that we are used to in America, the sugarcane must go through a very long process that requires a lot of work. This makes me wonder how much sugar Americans would be consuming if we all knew how much work actually went into producing our obsession with sweets; if we all knew about the poor working conditions and back breaking labor. If an individual were to cut down and process just the sugar that they personally consumed, would they continue to use so much sugar? 25.8 million people in US probably would not have diabetes. (http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/ddt.htm ) Beth
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Monday, May 28, 2012 On Monday (the 28th) during a leisurely walk, we were invited (very impromptu) to view the video-studio where some of the Xukuru youth make their videos to raise awareness for Xukuru Human Rights issues. This video studio was on the second story of the cultural center that the Xukuru had built for themselves. I was very excited to see this studio because I had seen one of the Xukuru youth filming during the mass and march the first day that we were here. We were shown some of the videos that they had made, and although I could not understand the Portuguese speakers, the videos were very moving and I could tell that they were very informative and important to the Xukuru people. The videos were well made and high quality and you could tell that they had worked very hard on these films. I am very proud of the young Xukuru people for taking a stand and working towards what they believe in. I only hope that my stay here can help promote the work that they are doing. Beth
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Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 Today (Tuesday May 29th) was an exciting day for us because we started our service work with the Xukuru schools, something that I have been looking forward to since we arrived. Bright yellow was the color that we painted the outer wall of one of the schools. The color was so beautifully brilliant that when the sun hit it at noon it looked absolutely stunning. I cannot imagine going to a school with such bright colors, mostly because the school that I attended from kindergarten to twelfth grade was made of simple red brick with very little adornment on the outside (other than a garden in later years). It wasn’t only the bright yellow outer wall that stood out to me, but how every Xukuru school is painted tan with a rainbow border at eye-level that wraps around the entire school. Not only do the schools have pops of color, but, as I have mentioned before, almost all of the houses are painted different colors that are not commonly used on houses in America. The colors used in decoration make me wonder what effects these choices have on the daily lives of Brazilians? Do these bright colors invigorate and inspire their inhabitants, or are they used only to beautify an otherwise slightly plain home? Do the colors chosen reflect upon the personality of the painter, or are they merely a decoration with very little thought put into them? These are questions that I will have to ask while I am here. But for now I know that painting the surrounding wall of the school excited the students and community members and seemed to have a very positive effect on them.
We started our work with only a few of the community members helping, and overtime more and more came to help (including the students.) When we were finished with the school one of the ladies in town made us an enormous lunch. I can see that there is a very strong since of community here because of the help that we received and the lunch that was prepared for us. It makes me wonder how much more frequently community projects would occur at home if all of us stopped to help when we saw our neighbors participating. Would there be a stronger sense of pride and togetherness in our communities if we took an hour out of our day to help paint the school or plant a few trees? These are the things that I think about at night and I strive to live out during the day.
Beth
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Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 Because today (Wednesday, May 30th, 2012) is a free day, I had the opportunity to work on this blog and invite others to view it using social networking site…. I also had the opportunity to drink coffee for most of the day. What importance does coffee have on a blog about human rights and to the work we are doing here you may ask? Quite a bit actually. On the day that Dona Zenilda brought us to the gardens and showed us all of the plants that can be used for medicinal purposes, we were shown a coffee tree, which was probably the first time for many of us. Naively, I had always thought that coffee beans were already brown when they were picked and that they grew from a plant similar to green beans or peas – one that is very short and dies every year. I was very surprised when Dona Zenilda pointed out the coffee TREE to me and the beans were bright GREEN.
I was told that the beans go from green (when they are not ripe) to bright red (when they are fully mature), and that the dark brown coffee beans are actually a result of them having been dried. We were then shown how these dried beans were prepared for the coffee ground that we know. Dona Zenilda placed them in a stone grinder, and hand ground them and then let us all try. She made it look very easy and went very quick. When I tried to grind the beans I could barely turn the grinder once. This is another testament to how amazing Dona Zenilda is. One thing that I found very interesting about the coffee in this region, is that sometimes our coffee is prepared and served with sugar already in it. I am told that sugary coffee is served this way in areas that manual labor is common because the sugar provides an extra source of energy that is very much needed. This is a great opportunity for me to tell you how hard the people here work. They wake up at five o’clock every morning, have breakfast with their family, go to work a hard manual labor job, drink sugary coffee to keep their energy high, and don’t stop working until it gets dark (which is around five p.m.). These people do all of this while still fighting for their land and fighting for their rights as human beings. This is why coffee relates to a blog about human rights, because coffee is helping these people push forward and carve out a better way of living for their community and it also provides a medium for social interaction among community members. Many times has an offering of a cup of coffee started a conversation with a local, resulting in a stronger relationship with the people here.
Beth
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5/31/12 On May 31st the entire family – with the exception of the cacique – loaded up in Paulo’s enormous 15-pac van and drove two hours to the city of Caruaru for a day of shopping. On the way there we picked up a couple people who needed to hitch a ride. I didn’t know until today that Paulo has a [not so secret] job as a taxi driver by day… so in turn, maybe he’s a superhero by night? :) I say this job is a “secret” because none of us (the girls) knew that he left during the day to do this – we thought he worked in the village with the cattle because every time we’ve seen him during the day that’s where he has been. We went to this huge market district in the city; to tell you the truth, it was pretty overwhelming. It was so packed – there was hardly any room on the sidewalks, in the stores, and the traffic was crazy. Lee and Marcia said they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary because they’re so used to shopping in Latin America, but to us it was a completely new experience.
I would use the word “chaotic” to describe the entire experience. Everywhere one turned, there was tons street noise and hustle and bustle. I’ve been to large cities in the United States before, but I don’t think even they would compare. The first time I was plowed into by a stranger, I was really surprised – no “excuse me,” or apology, or even the slightest recognition that they had run into me. I thought it was completely rude! But then I realized that this is totally the norm here – people run into each other all the time and apparently it isn’t a big deal; they just move on with their business. I’m trying to picture how well that would go over in Grand Forks (where I’m from), and I don’t think people would take to it very well. I’ve been wondering why things like this just aren’t a big deal here like they are back home, but I can’t really think of reasons why. I know that in the United States we’re uptight about a lot of things, but I can’t justify not using manners or common courtesy. I guess here they don’t consider it “bad manners” so to most people this isn’t a lack in common courtesy, but I flat out just don’t get it. I suppose I’ll agree to disagree and leave it as a clash in culture. -Shayla
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6/1/12 Today some of us went into town with Helena, Isabel and the kids. I had only been into Pesqueira two other times before today. Once during the march and last Saturday to get our hair done. The colors in Pesqueira and many of the buildings here are beautiful.
You will see building that are pink or bright green, colors that might have a problem getting through zoning laws in the U.S. Helena and Isabel took us to a couple clothing stores and a perfume shop. I was surprised again how friendly and laid back everyone seemed. The kids were running around being kids, and instead of giving their mother and grandmother rude stares, they would get head pats and smiles. People seem much more laid back and not in as big of a hurry. It is more important to spend time with other people than it is to be somewhere on time. These stores are more focused on effectiveness than efficiency. For example in the states stores are focused on getting the most customers in and out in the lest amount of time. In Brazil, the cashiers are at the back of the store. They have desks and chairs so you can sit and pay. It is so interesting how things so simple can be so different from culture to culture.
Erin

Friday, June 1, 2012

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5/30/12 We had another free day today… it was a good day to catch up on some homework, laundry, and soak up a little bit of sunshine. It’s hard to determine if time goes by slowly or quickly here. Each day seems to crawl by at a nice languid pace while one is in the moment, but come bedtime I’m surprised that another day is already over. We’ve only got one week left in the house, and I’m already missing this place and the people. It’s hard to explain the feeling of wanting to come back to a place I haven’t even left yet.
There’s something about this community that makes you feel so at ease. It isn’t like the United States where everyone seems to be in such a hurry – need to be at this place, at this time, no time to stop, always need to worry, can’t bother myself with your life because I have my own problems to worry about… things just aren’t like that here. There’s a flow in every movement of every being; everything is as it should be, everything falls into place. We learn about culture shock when being thrust into a new/strange place for the first time, but we don’t think about it in terms of coming back to our “own” culture. It’s hard to believe that one can have trouble adjusting to being back at home, but we’re not the same people we were before we left; adjusting back into my pre-Brazil routine is going to take some time and a lot of patience.
-Shayla

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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5/30/12 Today we had a relaxing day at the house. We got to play with the kids and soak up some of that Brazilian sun. It has been so fun to spend time with the Cacique's children. Marcos Paulo, the oldest is five years old and full of life. He is charismatic, animated and kind. He always makes a point in telling the women they look nice if they got their hair done or are wearing a nice outfit. He is quite the entertainer, tonight he showed us his dance moves, with his little brother Yuri Mateus.
Yuri Mateus is the definition of a toddler. He, sort of reminds me of Tommy from the "Rugrats" going on all of these adventures that us grown ups don't know about. He is a man on the move, busy playing hide and seek, and giving everybody love. It is crazy to think we will be leaving the Aldeia Santana in a week. I'm really going to miss everyone here. - Erin

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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5/28/12 Today, Marcia and Lee accompanied Marcos into Pesqueira to buy paint for tomorrow, so the rest of us had a free day to work on some homework. I spent the morning playing with Yuri Mateus; I’m glad that he has really started to warm up to me. We sat outside on the patio and listened to music, danced, took a million pictures, and snuggled in the hammock.
I like to joke that he’s my favorite in the house because we’re on the same language level (which totally isn’t true, because there’s no way I’d be able to pick a favorite… plus I think he knows way more Portuguese than me).
I’m starting to worry about how hard it’s going to be to leave next week now that I’m getting really attached to the people who live here. It’s hard to grasp that we’ve already been here for 10 days… time is going by way too fast. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately about the great opportunities we’ve had during our stay here.
We’ve been living with this family for almost two weeks and they have graciously shared their lives with us in the meantime. Playing with the children just seems so natural, even if we can’t communicate via words, and it has become a nightly routine to play in the living room after dinner until bedtime. It feels like we’re starting to become a part of this family, which is going to make leaving all the more difficult.
-Shayla
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On Saturday, May 26th the Cacique brought us to a very sacred site to his people. Apart from being honored at the fact that we were in a place that many Xukuru don’t even get to go to, I was amazed by the simplicity of the site and how close to nature it all was. The first stop on our journey to the site was at a small, simple hut built out of sticks and palm fronds and we stopped there for a while before climbing to the top of mountain to the main site. As soon as I saw the altar at the top of the mountain, my breath was taken away from me. I wasn’t sure what I had expected to encounter up there, but it definitely was not this. It was a simple, plain altar built out of the same rock that covered the mountainside making it indistinguishable from a distance. There was absolutely nothing spectacular about it in a architectural or decorative sense, but in a spiritual way, it was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen in my life. Although I have toured and performed in some of the great Cathedrals of Europe, this simple site was more magnificent than even the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I think that this is because we build our churches and cathedrals out of wood and stone which are often not native to the area, and we decorate them with stained glass, tapestries, and other adornments. Overall, it seems that we are trying so hard to impress someone, while this small stone altar was more spectacular than all of these because of its simplicity, and because it seemed to have come from the earth itself and the only decorations were simple white candles and the pink flowers that we picked on our climb. This was truly a sacred place and no words can completely describe the feelings of awe, inspiration, and something utterly spiritual that I felt at this place. It reminds me that spirituality does not have to be a show that only takes place in a church, but it can be something that can be felt in the simplest places. - Beth
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5/29/12 Today we went to a small village to paint part of a school. We all hopped into Cacique Marcos's truck, and started our journey to the village. Many of the roads in the Xukuru territory are not paved, to say they are bumpy is an understatement. If the roads seem hard to travel on now, they are almost impossible to travel on when there have been heavy storms. When we made it to the school, we all hoped out of the truck and got the paint ready. Like magic men appeared to help paint. The day started out cold, but the sun soon appeared. I have been recovering from a cold that has been going around, so needed to take a break from painting and sit down. As, soon as I sat down, I was followed by little girls.
The girls were very fascinated by me, and also fascinated by the fact that I could not speak Portuguese. As we made are way to the pack of the school, we were greeted by a couple Xukuru women, who wanted to show off their lace work. The lace work that the Xukuru women do is beautiful, intricate and time consuming. The women take a great but humble pride in their work. When we went back into the school, we were given a chicken soup. There we sat, with one of the little girls who had been following me around, like a shadow happy to be getting attention. The other people in our group continued to paint as several children came out to see these Americans painting. Some of the children picked up brushes and started to help paint. Meanwhile, I was feeling very dizzy and ill, one of the teachers noticed and asked if I would like to lie down. I followed her to her house that was behind the school. Their was something about her energy, her kindness, that made me instantly feel at ease, and trust her. She, then brought me to a room to lie down and took a blanket and covered me up. I was in and out of sleep, and could hear people talking. A strange thing happened as I drifted in and out of sleep; I was able to understand some of what was being said. I could not see anybody, to distinguish body movements, and I could not tell you what the words meant, but I could loosely follow the conversation. This has happened a few other times, when Marcos was telling a story, and when we were sitting in on a classroom lecture. Although this time was different because I was not able to see the people who were talking. After I woke up, I walked down to where the rest of our group was. Everyone, was chatting and some women came with several pieces of lacework, and would walk to and from their homes to show off their work. After about an hour, we loaded in the truck and drove for awhile, than stoped at another leader's home. Their was something very calming and relaxing about this home. The couple that lived there were kind and sat and talked to us, they had a relaxed energy about them, like we had known them for years. The women even said she feels like she has known us for a long time. She is a teacher at one of the schools we had toured last Friday. She had worked very hard to get her degree and proudly displayed graduation photos in her living room. Like every Xukuru home we have been in we were offered food. She had prepared a sort of Guava pudding, fresh orange juice, and homemade coffee. When, we were preparing to leave, we all knew that we wanted to come back and see this family again. Today, I am filled with happiness in how kind and genuine the Xukuru people are. Erin Previous Item Next Item
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On Tuesday, May 29th we went to Pao de Acuca to paint the wall surrounding the elementary school there. In December of 2011, Global Citizen's Network came to stay with the Xukuru and part of the service work they did was to move the school wall closer to the school itself in order to create space for parking and other activities in front of the school. We left the house at 7:30 and arrived around 8:00 in the morning. Cacique Marcos has arranged for community members to meet us and together we began to get all our paint materials together and ready to use. Two men from the community mixed the bright yellow paint, which Cacique Marcos selected a few days before, with water to expand the quantity of paint and to thin it out. We used paint rollers, paint trays, and a large brush to get into corners and to paint the lowest part of the wall nearest to the ground. The wall had been painted with white primer and was approximately 10 feet tall, and at its tallest points extended to approximately 15 to 18 feet where it connected to the school building's tiled roof.
Painting time to complete the wall was approximately 4 hours. We were provided with a great chicken and noodle soup as a before lunch snack around 10:30 in the morning, and at 12:30 we were taken to a local bar/restaurant to eat a feast made by the owner. The lunch included several kinds of meat, rice, beans, salads, vegetables, fruits, soft drinks and water. My students will provide details about how much food we were given and how much we enjoyed being with the community. After lunch, the women who make exquisitely intricate and beautiful lace, learned from Portuguese colonial women, arrived to show my students their work and to demonstrate how the lace is made. I've included a photo of a dress being made by a Xukuru lace makers.
The wall looks great, the color is vivid, and as we were leaving via the dirt road that wound through the low mountains we could see the bright yellow wall of the school for some distance. One of the most enjoyable and self-reflexive aspects of doing anthropological field work are the friendships made while in the field. Friendships are not a superficial experience, but are based on being open and ready to see yourself and others in new ways. As humans, we are extraordinarily primed for socialization through our evolutionary past, and we have developed the capacity to intuitively know each other in ways that surpass our cultural prejudices. Working with new experiences, opening up to new ways of being, challenging yourself to go beyond what you "know" and being willing to grasp what often appears as strange and at times frightening is what allows us to receive in some measure the world views of others. One of the best ways to achieve this is to work along side the people you are living with, and through this exchange of daily living in all its complexity, while challenging and stressful, is also what generates new insights that can lead to deeper understandings of the ways in which humans construct their sense of self and their world views; what we call culture.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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5/27/12 Today, I learned a big lesson in cultural differences and how our actions (or lack thereof) can be perceived by others. Because of the language barrier we share with our host family, we need to try to be extra careful to not put on any kind of facial expression or emit body language that could possibly be misconstrued due to the lack of dialogue that accompanies it. There are so many things I am trying to get used to when it comes to being here, and at times I have found myself forgetting that there are cultural differences at play here and that it’s too easy to get complacent. For example, the family here gets up super early, even on the weekends. Nobody sleeps in, whereas I didn’t get up today until 9, and didn’t emerge from my room until 10:30 or so. Later, I learned that Dona Helena had gone through all the trouble of making breakfast for us, and eventually put it away because nobody was there to eat it. Upon hearing this, I felt devastated. She works so incredibly hard to make sure that everybody is taken care of in every way possible; from what I’ve seen, she hardly ever sits down to take a break for herself, she is the first one up in the morning and one of the last people to go to bed, and she is constantly making sure that nobody has want or need for anything. When I had a stomachache, she boiled me a pot of special tea to make me feel better. Whenever she prepares a snack for herself, she always brings it out to share. It’s little things like that that make her so special; she always puts the needs of others before herself. The last thing I want for her is to feel like we are taking advantage of her, and I want her to know that I appreciate everything she does. Another example would be our obsession with technology and the kind of presence we emit while we’re fixated on it. We used our “free day” to catch up on homework, get news from back home, Skype, etc., not really realizing what kind of message it sends when we’re glued to our computers. I think while we are here, we’re partly using them as a way to feel a familiar connection; as badly as we want to talk to the family here – converse with them, take part in the dialogue, stories, laughter, etc. – we just can’t because we can’t follow along… and it is FRUSTRATING! So on the flip-side, our lack of involvement can be misconstrued as a lack of interest. We need to learn how to find that delicate medium so we can make sure there’s no ambiguity in our actions. -Shayla

Monday, May 28, 2012

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5/28/12 "Life is beautiful, but it can also be difficult, and its full of flowers, but it can also have thorns.." Cacique Marcos The Cacique drove four hours to Recife, for a two hour meeting and four hours back today. Every time he leaves the Xukuru territory he has to have police escorts for his own protection due to assassination attempts, so a non-uniformed officer had to travel with him. When he came home, he made a point to shake hands and greet everyone in the house. Even though he is busy and had a long day, he took time to sit and talk to all of us, like he has done before. Tonight, he talked about how important it is to spread the word about the Xukuru people, and all ingenious people in Brazil. They have a long history of being marginalized, and are often overlooked and cast aside. The Cacique became chief at the age of 21, and he believes that youth have p0wer to mobilize there community.
This can be seen in all aspects of Xukuru culture, they really believe in putting the power of change into the hands of the youth. The Xukuru put great importance and pride into education. They have created a curriculum that teaches about Xukuru values as well as empowerment and love for family, community, and nature. The Cacique is not just an idle leader who pushes papers behind a desk, he is available for people, no matter how large or small their problem is. An important lesson to learn from the Cacique is about being present in everything you do in life, doing everything 100%. If you truly believe in something and are passionate about it, that passion will not go unnoticed.......... I have been taking all of this in like a sponge, earlier this year I was accepted into combined degree program for counseling with an emphasis in rehab. I have always been interested in helping people with disabilities. I grew up going into my mothers special education classrooms, on my days off of school and playing with the children she worked with. As a middle school-er I spent my summer volunteering anywhere that would let me volunteer. In high school, I volunteered in special education classroom, joined anti racism organization and went to workshops. I was never the best athlete, or musician, or dance, but I was always an activist. After, I graduated from high school, I got a full time job at a group home for people with disabilities. I loved the clients, I worked with but knew I needed more education. After journeying through some difficulties, and getting pricked by the thrones of live, I found my way to the University of North Dakota. Where, I have been given wonderful opportunities, like this field school. I have been able to meet wonderful people, hear amazing stores, and see beauty that I have never seen before. This trip, this opportunity has been like a flower, thats helping me see the world in a different way.
Erin
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Dona Zenilda’s grandmother taught her how to use plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, but before that the people were taught by nature itself. Not only do the Xukuru have an understanding of what the plants do for the human body and for other animals, but how animals are an integral part of the life of plants. Whether it be that the animals have caused deforestation, like with the cattle overgrazing that occurred when the Fazendero’s lived on the land, or the relationship between the birds and the plants- in which the birds eat the fruit and, in turn, spread the seeds by natural processes. Our group was honored to have Zenilda and another Xukuru leader give us a tour of their garden. On this tour they pointed out all of the plants that were used for medicinal purposes, the one that were used for food, and the ones used solely for animal feed. Many of the foods grown in these gardens are used to feed the students at the schools that we visited on Day 3 and 4. By using these fresh, locally grown foods, the children are receiving great amounts of nutrients from their school food. The foods grown here look, smell, and taste amazing! The tea made from these herb are also wonderful!
Although the Xukuru had forgotten their knowledge of the earth and the food and medicine that it can provide, they seem to have gotten a large amount of that knowledge back and are executing it in ingenious ways that make a person yearn to start a garden of their own. Not only do their gardens provide fresh food and medicine, but a way to connect with the earth that fosters their relationship with the land and the spirits. A great example of this relationship is the way in which Zenilda acts toward the plants. When she was showing us a plant, she would hold it delicately and show it off as if it were an infant. The way that her hands moved around the plants and her body positions showed just how close she was to the earth. Even her face changed when she held them. I’m not saying that she gets a cheesy tinsel town smile whenever she holds her plants (or that anyone would even be able to see if difference unless it was pointed to them), but her face lights up in a certain way that makes her look younger, and she seems to be content. This relationship that Zenilda shares with her plants, and subsequently the earth, is a reminder of the Xukuru’s goals involving the treatment of the earth. Overall it was a great experience and I would love to incorporate what she taught me into my life when I’m at home! (Beth 5-24-2012)
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5/26/12 I can’t express in words how truly grateful I am for today. We woke up early and Marquinho took us to a place most Xukuru people don’t even get to experience: the sacred Pedra do Rei (Rock of the King). There is an alter at the base of the rock marking where the Xukuru first began the fight to take back their land; on top of the rock (more like a mountain), is another sacred alter. Up here is where one goes to hear and receive the encantadas (the spirits). As Marquinho explained it to us, Pedra do Rei is not a place where one goes to pray, or to ask for or expect anything. It is a place to just go and be – with an open mind and an open heart. This is the only way one could truly experience the special things that take place there. From up here we had the most magnificent 360* view of all the Xukuru territory. We sat down quietly and just let nature take over and run her course; the feel of the wind on my face and in my hair is something I’ll never forget for as long as I live. I can’t describe the feeling of being there or all of the emotions that seem to surge through you at once because no words would be enough. Because of the language barrier, all I could give Marquinho was a simple “thank you,” though I believe he knows how much more than that I meant by my humble expression of gratitude. -Shayla
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We have been visiting several different schools, in the Xukuru territory. On Monday we helped deliver food to different schools. The food we delivered was all fresh fruit in vegetables grown organically on Xukuru land. The Xukuru people put great emphasis on their childern's education, On Tuesday we visited a larger school and got to talk with the teachers and sit in on a class. The Xukuru schools put great emphasis on teaching their children about their history and values. In the class we sat through, the teacher was explaining how important it is to work as a community and share resources such as water.She put a problem on the board asking the students to divide the number of Xukuru people by the amount of land they have, and later went on to explain how important it is to live collectively, so everyone can share the resources.
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5/27/12 I must have caught the cold that has been going around the house. First the kids got it than Isabell, and now me. Although, its uncomfortable to be away from home, let alone in another country while I'm sick. The family has been wonderful about taking care of me. They have been giving me special ear-drops, that they make from local herbs, and I have been drinking Helana's lemongrass tea. It's so nice to be around a family, it reminds me of my own family. I like hearing the kids playing and running around, and the buzzing of the family getting ready for meals. As, a college student living in an off campus apartment, I often spend a lot of time by myself. This summer when I go back to Grand Forks I will be living alone. Although, I will be busy with work, and have friends in and out. I'm sure I will miss having a family around. Erin
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5/25/12 The tour of the Xukuru territory today was quite the adventure. Due to the terrible conditions of the roads it felt like we were off-roading the entire time; and, since we were four-deep in the backseat of a three-seat bench, it was hours of “extra” fun. We got to have some great quality time with Cacique Marquinho and experience first-hand how he interacts with his people. Everywhere we went he was greeted with a huge smile; the amount of love his people have for him was plain as day for everybody to see. His picture was in every school we visited – one child even had his picture glued to the front of her notebook! In turn, he greeted everyone he encountered with a hug as though they were family. The relationships people have here with each other are really special. It also became even more evident how much he cares for the people around him, even if they aren't his own people, by lunchtime when he took us out to eat at a local restaurant. Knowing that we were slightly homesick for "familiar foods," he ordered fried chicken, french fries, and Coke (alongside traditional regional foods, of course). While each of these were slightly different in taste than those found at home, everything was still delicious and it totally hit the spot - we went through two liters of Coke! It was a real treat.
I haven’t met one person on this adventure yet that I haven’t cared for. The people are so generous and accepting of us, even though we aren’t Xukuru. Today while we were touring a man’s garden, he offered each of us our own coconut so we could have fresh coconut water – complete with straw! It was just one example of the kindness that seems to flow freely from everybody here. We haven’t been made to feel like outsiders by anybody we’ve encountered, and I can already tell I’m going to miss this place terribly when the time comes for us to leave. Shayla

WDAZ TV Xukuru Research Synopsis