Thursday, April 16, 2009

Technical Difficulties Technically Not A Problem

It has been an intense week and a half at Sitio São Francisco, a permaculture site in the Quantinga Valley about 2 hours outside of São Paulo city. Besides a day trip to the nearby city of Mogi das Cruzes, I´ve spent the whole time communing with nature in a house in the middle of the woods without electricity or running water. I´ll spare you the details of the banheiro seco or my lack of a shower, but the butterflies don´t seem to mind the natural aromas-

This little guy hung around for a few minutes.
The number 88 is dinstinctly marked on its wings. Crazy.

Despite the unappealing details I´ve been really enjoying the experience. The first few days involved intense manual labor cutting down Eucalyptus trees, dragging them down a narrow wooded path then over a hill, stripping them of their bark, cutting them to size with a hatchet, and finally nailing them in place. The structure below (on top of the existing concrete building) uses materials found on the site or recycled from trash. The only materials bought for the building are the nails. An interesting side note that won´t make my mother proud, Felipe (the owner/only permanent resident of the site) and I dug out some useful materials from a city garbage container in downtown São Paulo last night that included carpet and a bamboo laundry basket. The creativity and resourcefulness here continuously amaze me.

Eucalyptus frame with bamboo poles running laterally along the roof

This bamboo pole is now on top of the building in the background

What has been so incredible is the diversity of opportunities to learn new practical skills while actively participating in creating something new or improving something that most have given up on. Watching your efforts become something of tangible value holds such a deep sense of satisfaction. On top of that, the physically demanding days (and absense of city noise, i.e. passing cars or crazy people with slabs of concrete yelling at passing cars) make for some of the best sleep I´ve had in a long time.

Group from the weekend permaculture/Tai Chi workshop building a solar oven
with materials found at the site. More on that later.

We are now in São Paulo city while Felipe collaborates on various projects utlizing his knowledge of permaculture. In the last two days we have met with a family opening a cultural community arts center based around their Capoeira school, a neighborhood reclaiming an unused area to create a park dedicated to education about the African diaspora in Brazil, and the municipal government of Carapicuíba (basically part of São Paulo but not technically) renovating a public park and looking to implement ecologically friendly ideas from permaculture. I happened to stumble upon the most intense and diverse experience one could have in Quatinga...

We are heading to the federal capital of Brasilia next week to meet with an important federal government official. I can´t tell you who...not because I´m not supposed to, but because either I forgot the name or that part got lost in translation. Regardless, my time here is proving to be much more exciting than I imagined. A small glitch that occured tonight is the refusal of my computer to do anything. Luckily we are in São Paulo and Toshiba has an office here that might be able to help. With the way things are progressing, though, it will be nice not to worry about computer details and focus on the more immediate details of how I can be useful. Perhaps my computer crashed to help keep me connected to reality rather than cyberspace.

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