The Unexpected

Katie LaBelle
Major: Geography
Amazonia: Culture and Environment, Brazil
Summer I, 2017

What can I say about Brazil? It’s been a week since I’ve arrived and I can honestly say it’s not as expected. Manuas is a big travel hub so I thought it’d be much more like Rio with all the nicer hotels and more tourist attractions, but the city reminds me more of a eastern European city with all the broken sidewalks made of granite and the European style buildings that look just a little off to be located in Europe. And if you even begin to think you’re in a European city worry not, the wild trees with earthy-green leafs will be that small reminder that you are no where near Europe.

The beautiful Amazonia Opera House (Teatro Amazonas) located just across the street from the hotel.

When I first got here I really thought the hardest challenges I’d be facing was the awfully hot and sticky weather, the language I can barely speak, or the constant fear of being eaten alive by bugs. No, the biggest challenge I’m facing is the currency: the Brazilian Real (ree-al). With an exchange rate of 1:3 you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “sounds like you had a ton of money” or “why would that even be a problem?” And it wouldn’t be…except for the fact that everything here is the same or more than what it would be in the United States. I found a somewhat sad and frustrating example of this this afternoon while I was touring the local market alongside my group. You know the iPhone 6, the Apple product we can usually get for around $250-$400? One down here will cost you around 3000 R$, which is about $1000 USD. I know, pricey right? Thankfully, money here is easy to get your hands on considering the line of ATMs down the road, just don’t take the 50R$ or 100R$ and you’re good.

The appropriately named “Banana Market” where you can find all different kinds of fresh produce, freshly butchered meats of all cuts, freshly caught fish, homemade foods, goods, and medicines, a stray cat or dog here or there, and tons and tons of bananas.

Another thing I’m not a huge fan of: buses. Yes, the public transportation in this city is just like any other: you wait at the bus stop, get on the correct numbered bus, pay the driver or whoever collects the money, and get off when you’ve reached your stop. Simple, right? For the most part it is, except for a few bumps here and there along the road, literally. As you wait for your bus you’ll often get screamed at by different vendors selling goods on the street and sometimes on the bus as well. The bus itself is normally a stick shift, so when I said there’d be a few bumps I meant it, along with a sudden halt scattered about, and considering the driver is most of the time going 90-100 km/h those sudden screeches can do some damage to ones back. With that being said, I can happily say I am not taking the bus again, taxis are more my thing even though they’re about 10x more expensive.

Rio Negra, its black waters could be hiding anything from a plastic bag to an electric eel.

Overall, this trip has been one of my favorites so far and I do hope it continues to be. I believe I said in a previous blog I couldn’t believe I was traveling here, well I still can’t believe it.

Our guide around the city and through one of the many secondary forests here in Manaus. This picture was taken 12 km above the forest floor just before we got caught in one of the many rain storms that hit this region.
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