Friday, June 15, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 8:00 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 7:57 PM
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 7:56 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 7:55 PM
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!
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 7:55 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 7:48 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 7:47 PM
Monday, June 11, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 6:13 PM
Sunday, June 10, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 5:02 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 4:58 PM
Friday, June 8, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 10:45 PM
Thursday, June 7, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 9:33 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 9:29 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 5:11 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 5:04 PM
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 12:34 PM
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 8:18 AM
Monday, June 4, 2012
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 9:23 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 3:15 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 3:12 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 3:01 PM
Sunday, June 3, 2012
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 12:50 PM
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 9:19 AM
Saturday, June 2, 2012
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 4:00 PM
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
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 3:41 PM
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 3:39 PM
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 3:31 PM
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 2:53 PM
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 2:43 PM
Friday, June 1, 2012
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.
Posted by Marcia Mikulak - Associate Professor, University of North Dakota Dept. of Anthropology at 4:11 PM