Since I am traveling to Ecuador over Christmas break I thought it appropriate to do some research over the Amazon. In a little over a week I will be flying into Quito, Ecuador, and hopping on a domestic flight to Lago Agrios the next day. Several tours to part of the Amazon depart from this city to different national parks in the Amazon region. I will be going on a 4 day tour to Cuyabeno Wildflife Reserve and am super excited!
The Amazon basin covers about 2.9 million square feet and nearly 40 percent of South America, covering parts of Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Peru, Suriname, and Columbia. Brazil contains most of it, nearly 60%. The Amazon basin is the largest rainforest in the world and covers most of the basin; if it were a country it would be the 9th biggest. It produces over 20% of the worlds oxygen. There are roughly 3000 edible fruits in the rainforest and there are about 6 -9 million natives. The toucan is the loudest animal in the rainforest and can be heard up to half a mile away. The Amazon river is about 4000 miles long and is home to Anacondas, the largest species of snake in the world. It can reach 30 feet and wiegh almost 550 pounds. They dont attack with fangs, rather they are constrictors that squeeze their victims to death.
One of the days of our tour to the Amazon we are going to go Caiman watching. Caimans are relatives to alligators and crocodiles and can reach between 5 and 20 feet long. Most Caiman species are endangered and are also nocturnal. They are pretty fast swimmers, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph. Their lifespan is about 30 – 40 years in the wild. The temperature of the nest determines the gender of the caiman, low temperatures general result in a female being hatched.
Antarctica has never been on the top of my list to travel to but I’ve always wanted to say I’ve been to all seven continents so someday I bet I’ll end up visiting after I’ve seen the more appealing places. Even though it seems like it would be just a freezing cold, vast expanse of snow and ice, it would still be an experience and something to learn from. I want my life to be full of experiences, and I recognize that not all of them should be good because then my perception of the world would be skewed if I only subjected myself to the pleasant and comfortable things of life. And going through bad times makes the good ones just that much better.
This year roughly 35,000 visitors went to Antarctica, there are several ways to go about traveling there. You need a permit and have to follow the Antarctic Conservation Act. You can become a villager at one of the research station, either as a scientist or a cook, plumber, etc. There are three bases on the continent operated by the National Science Foundation. The most common way to get there is via boat on a tour. The primary location to disembark from is Ushuaia in Argentina. It does require going through the Drake Passage, where the waters are famous for being dangerous and choppy.The cost of the tour is upwards of 3000 dollars and can even cost over tens of thousands of dollars. A much less feasible option for getting to Antarctica is flying. Only private operators fly, usually from South Africa or Chile. A ticket would cost no less than 20,000 dollars though.
Fun facts: There is an Antarctic marathon on King Georges Island in subzero temperature conditions. There is a post office on a British Base in Port Lockery. The penguins are not scared of people. There are roughly 4000 people that live in Antarctica in the summer and 1000 that live there through the winter. There is a hot spring in Antarctica on Deception Island.
Friday night I attended this years Angolan Culture Night. It was held at the Caf, one of my favorite places on Earth. I was invited by my Angolan friend Tony, whom I had met freshmen year. I have about 5 or 6 Angolan friends, they are very friendly. It was a cool event. Many of the Angolan students sang the national anthem and other cultural songs . The English lyrics were played on the TVs so people could follow along. In Angola the official and widely spoken language is Portuguese. There was a dance performance as well. There was samples of traditional food. I tried feijoada, which is similar to what they had at the Brazilian Culture Night my freshmen year. It was a mix of meat and vegetables on a bed of rice. As a desert there was this sweet rice, the name of it escapes me. People were dancing to the music while eating, some of the dances almost resembled Latino dances. The official name of the dance style is Kizombo.
Overall the event was fun and it was great to see my friends enjoying showing off their cultural heritage.
Today I received an email about a talk that would be given by a couple of charity workers about their experiences in Cambodia. It piqued my interest since I am interested in volunteer work overseas so I decided to go. The talk was incredibly interesting and I learned a lot. The couple giving the talk started a non profit organization called Resource Development International (RDI) Cambodia. They provide clean water and educate both rural children and adults on things like sanitation and delivering babies. The couple had sold everything they owned and moved to Cambodia after the husband had went on a week long disaster relief trip. In Cambodia they had 4 children. They claimed that the children were one of the strongest ways of connecting with the communities and were good examples of the knowledge they were trying to spread. For example, it was easier for the villagers to listen to the volunteers about not drinking unsafe water from ponds when they saw that the american children didn’t have swollen stomachs from worms like the rest.
There were many cultural things I learned as well from the talk, like that they eat porcupine in Cambodia and stuff various plants and mushrooms through bamboo shoots and boil them to make soup. There is open defecation in Cambodia and many girls drop out of school around the 5th grade because they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of menstrual cycles. Apparently speaking the language of Cambodia is fairly difficult and took the couple two full years. There are monsoons in Cambodia and periods of drout followed by floods. Poverty is rampant and parents do not tell their kids that they love them, nor are kids asked what they want to be when they grow up.
The talk was very inspirational as well. It is good to hear that volunteers overseas are able to make significant impacts by building relationships and educating the public.
Searching for cheap places to travel to, I ran across Nepal and decided to do a little research on the country. Nepal is a country in South Asia with a population of about 26 million and is 57 square miles. It is a landlocked country bordered by China and India. Perhaps the most famous thing from Nepal is Mount Everest. Nepal actually has 8 of the 10 tallest mountains (Nepal is home to the Himalayas).
Nepal can be separated into three major regions: the mountains, Hill, and Terai(southern lowland plains). Terai has a subtropical climate whereas the Hill country ranges from subtropical to alpine climates. The northern part of Nepal is home to the Great Himalayan Range.
Looking into the economy: Nepals GDP cam out to be about 18 billion for the year 2012, with about 36% agriculture. Nepal is making strides to reduce poverty; the percentage of people living below the poverty line dropped from 53% in 2004 to about 25% in 2012. Nepal sees about 600,000 tourists every year. Fun fact: only about 1% of Nepals energy needs are met by electricity (mostly comes from fuel wood).
I first got involved with IAC my freshmen year by coincidence. I casually was looking through my email and decided to read an OUMM for once. It was asking for volunteers for dancers in Bangladesh Culture Night. Naturally I decided to try it becuase it sounded both random and awesome. So I emailed someone back and just showed up at a meeting to dance. I ended up having a ton of fun! We performed a choreographed dance in Meacham and I got to wear a Sarry and made alot of international friends. Since I enjoyed participating in that event so much I decided to join IAC(International Advisory Commitee).
This organization puts on alot of events that bring together the international community. Eve of Nations is one of the biggest events where many countries are represented in sort of a fashion show. Naturally, I walked for Ecuador. I was pared with Brazil and was able to meet alot of international students and see a vast spread of different cultures and the pride that everyone had for their hometowns.
I beleive that all students should join an international organization like IAC becuase you can meet so many different people with different backgrounds and you get to experience a mix of different cultures at OU. For example, I had FroYo with one of the old officers of IAC this weekend where I was able to learn about Afghanistan. I had never met anyone from Afghanistan so it was cool to here firsthand how it was there. I would have never known about how life is there vs in the US if I had not joined IAC.
Since my mother is Ecuadorian, we go and visit family every 3 or 4 years. I love Ecuador and every time I go I feel like it is my second home. Consequently, when something devastating occurs there it concerns me greatly. Recently on April 16, 2016 Ecuador has been hit with an earthquake of magnitude 7.8(according to CNN, different sources vary). It hit the coast near Muisne and Pedernales, two small towns. Over 100 miles away in the capital, Quito, the earthquake could still be felt. This is where most of my family there lives. It caused quite a scare, but nobody I knew was hurt. The death toll was at least 500, with over 8,000 injured. The president declared a state of emergency and over 13,500 military personnel and officers were sent out on recovery operations. There was colossal structural damage in some areas and people were pulled out from underneath the rubble of buildings.
Alot of the media did not cover the tragedy in Ecuador as much as it has other things like the earthquake in Japan. It is dissapointing to see how fast the news transitions depending on what the audience wants to hear. For example , many people seem to make a bigger deal about Prince dying than those in Ecuador that died.
Hopefully as aid pours in and recovery efforts advance, the country will recuperate from this tragic event.
Today I ran across one of my Angolan friends, Miguel. So I decided to randomly do some research on the country and here are some of the things I found interesting.
Angola has a popultaion of about 24.3 million with the official language being Portuguese. The Portuguese spoken in Angola is a different dialect than that of Portugal and Braxil, but still similar enough to go from one to the other. The life expectancy is 50 years for men and 53 for women, alot less in comparison to the US.s average of 78 years. In 2002, a 27 year civil finally ended and the country has been in recovery ever since. Angola is one of Africas major oil producers. It is located on the border of the Atlantic, Namibia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is roughly a little over 3 times the state of California and has about 1000 miles along the coast. The capital is Luanda which iis the largest city at 5 million people.
I don’t remember exactly how I met my friends from Angola, but they taught me some Portuguese and I see them alot in the caf whenever I go. From what Ive heard speaking with my Anglolan friends, the Angolan people are very friendly and treat people as family. It is my desire to travel around the world and once I get to Africa, I am definately stopping in Angola.
This Spring Break I went to Cap Haitian, a city in the North part of Haiti. I went with about 10 other students, some from OU, on a mission trip. We went to a Children’s Home and helped out with random things like teaching English Classes, replacing a roof, and playing soccer with the kids. While we were there we were able to see parts of Haiti and get a grasp on the culture. It seemed to me like it was what I pictured Africa to be like, but Carribean-style. There were people walking down the roads balancing things on their heads and the homes were impoverished with roofs of aluminum. There were goats and pigs just chillin in the trash heaps, which were ubiquitous. Even though there was alot of trash scattered everywhere, it didn’t smell bad at all. The roads were unpaved and the driving was quite thrilling becuase there were no road signs and even if there were nobody wouldv’e followed them. There were definately beautiful parts of the country too, mostly outside of the crowded town. We hiked along the coast and got some pretty nice views. We stumbled along some voodoo caves as well. Voodoo is still prevelant in the Haitian society. We found a couple of cloth dolls tied to trees and a basket of goat hooves hanging from a tree as well. Some of the caves still had candles lit in them! It was fascinating but a little unnerving.
The people of Haiti were very nice and it is customary to greet everyone with a Bon Jou or a Bon Swa. They speak Kreyol there, which is a sort of simplified spinoff of french. It was fun to learn, and I can now sing ‘head, shoulders, knees, and toes’ in Kreyol. The climate was humid and pretty warm. We had to sleep with mosquito nets. most of the country does not have running water in their homes, but we were fortunate to have some in our compound. All the girls in our group had to wear past-knee length skirts, as it is more common for the Haitian women to wear skirts.
The trip was great! Haiti was definately the most different country I have been too. I made Haitian friends and will miss the kids at the Childrens Home. I really enjoyed how it wasn’t touristy at all- so you know you got the real idea of how things were there.
Latino Floavour is an annual event put on by HASA that happens in the ballroom of the Union. Last year I was a volunteer, but this year I just attended the event. The food was really good and free, which is always a plus. We were given 6 tickets to spend on 6 servings of food which we got to choose from. I loooved the rice they had, as well as some of the meat. I tried the most foreign-sounding things, but I think I liked the traditional rice and beans the best.
There were hundreds of people who attended the event, it was crowded but well worthwhile. There were performances going on, which was nice to see. Also, there was a llama cut-out. Performers wore traditional costumes and danced on stage. I ended up eating 3 plates because other people had leftover tickets. There were also llamas in the South Oval. I really enjoy seeing llamas becuase it reminds me of Ecuador, the country I visit every 3 or 4 years becuase I have family there. Latino Flavour celebrated not only the countries in South and Central America but also Spain. There was Paella, which is like seafood rice common in Spain. It was overall a very enjoyable event.