Four Anti-Hunting Groups Are Doing Their Best to Bring African Elephants to Extinction

First For Hunters

firstforhunterselephantcloseupOn February 11, 2015, four notorious anti-hunting groups took action in an attempt to put an end to the most effective means of elephant conservation – U.S. importation of legally sport-hunted elephants. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and the Fund for Animals together petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for a rule to list the African elephant as an endangered species. The African elephant is currently listed throughout its range as a “threatened” species. Because of that threatened status, the FWS has regulatory authority to allow the importation of legally sport-hunted elephant trophies. If the African elephant is uplisted to endangered status, the FWS could no longer rely on rules that currently allow trophy importation. Although the FWS has the authority to issue permits for the importation of endangered species, the Service rarely exercises that authority.

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Long debate on GMOs, worth a listen

If you are a person that knows exactly what they believe or if you are one that is on the fence about how you perceive GMO’s, this is a great debate to listen to. It is a bit lengthy but gives a lot of facts on GMO’s. In our world today it is hard to figure out what to believe in or what the truth is from TV, the news, internet, social media sites, word of mouth and so much more. To have an opinion is a prideful thing but to be able to listen to another side and learn, understand and respect what they have to say has so much more value. Your life is like a book, open another page.

Back To The States

I know in my last post I said I would have plenty of time to blog on the planes and in the airport…. that obviously went well! The airports were so overwhelming. When arriving in Belo Horizante airport, I met up with everyone from the Minas Gerais tour and we swapped stories from all our wonderful adventures over the few days we were apart.

We were pretty upset when we got on the airplane and the backs of the seats didn’t have mini TV’s like our first flight to Brasil. You would have thought the world was ending! They did play The Lego Movie and Divergent on overhead televisions throughout the plane but I was so exhausted after our few days in Rio that I was out cold right after dinner!

When we landed in Miami, customs were there to greet us. Going through customs to get back into the US is a little more extensive than it was to leave, but everything went smoothly. Everyone that looked at my passport versus how I looked after riding 2 planes asked if it was really me. That made me feel reaalllllyyyy pretty, but one guy called me beautiful in Portuguese and another told me to bring him a 4X6 of my passport picture next time… success! 

Once through customs and all that jazz, I slowly had to start saying my goodbyes :(. My flight was the latest to leave from Miami to Dallas so I followed everyone around the airport all morning saying farewell to one friend after another. I want to say that I was trying to hold back the tears, but I think I was so exhausted and ready to be home at this point that the tears never came. Although nobody ever shed a tear, I met some people on my trip that are lifetime friends. I now know people from all over the states that I am incredible close with and if I would have gone to Brasil and came back with only that, it would have been entirely worth it.

My last goodbye was to a great friend, Patrick :). He and I waited around for a couple of hours after everyone else was already on their way. We sat down in his terminal and had a long conversation about the things we had learned, the people we had met and what we thought life had in store for us next. It was a fantastic conversation until I guess I passed out mid sentence from what Patrick tells me! Between Rio and all the airports and flights, it had me all tuckered out! He woke me up when they started calling for his flight so I stood up and said my final goodbye. I already miss our little group from Florianopolis, it seems like another world away now, but I have faith that we will reunite someday.

I slept on my flight to Dallas and when I got into the airport I thought that the reverse culture shock might finally hit me. I was all alone again, back in America where I could understand everything that was being said around me. I even tried to pay for a pastry with Brazilian reals in the airport. Even after all of this, I never felt it. I was just ready to be home, back to the nice, flat plains that I know will always be where my heart is. 

On my flight from Dallas to Garden City I sat by a man that was an editor for the High Plains Journal. We had a long talk about farming, his job and how blessed we were to be finally coming out of the drought. I was finally back in God’s country and I could tell.

When we got below the clouds I could see rain puddles on the road and the farm kid in me was trying to estimate how much rain they had gotten in Garden. I walked into the airport surprised by my two best friends, Mom, Dad and little brother waiting for me 🙂 I was so happy to see all of them! My mind was so full of information I wanted to tell them that I didn’t know where to start. Instead of spitting out any information about Brasil or the time I had there, I think the first thing I asked was if we had gotten any rain at the house…. what can I say, farm kid through and through.

Quick Update

First I would just like to say, I have been really struggling with blogging for my last couple of weeks here in Brasil. Every time I would grab for my computer to write, a million emotions would overcome me and I couldn’t write anything of any quality so I would put my computer away and await the next days adventures! Although I haven’t written, I have been having the time of my life and enjoying every last second here! I can’t believe my time here in Brasil is almost over, but I am finally at the point that I have accepted I am going home and I am happy about it. I haven’t wanted to leave, but I am ready now. 8 weeks was the perfect amount of time to be gone.

Currently I am in Rio de Janerio with Annie! We are staying in a hostel near Copacabana called Mellow Yellow. It isn’t the best hostel, but all we really need to do is sleep here. I think we were spoiled with our hostel in Iguacu! It has been and will be rainy the entire time we are here so we are having to be creative with our activities. Yesterday we just walked around the neighborhoods and went into any shop we had interest in. We spent a quality amount of time in a little book store. There were many people out on the street selling various knick knacks and souvenirs as well. We saw one man carving beautiful keys by the beach! It is all a learning experience here. The city is way different than Florianopolis was and its the struggle of trying to learn the buses and where everything is all over again.

Today I think we are going to a botanical garden and a park here in Rio. If the weather clears we might go try to see Cristo today also! 

My flight leaves from here tomorrow afternoon and I will fly into Belo Horizante and meet up with the group that went on a tour of Minas Gerais for my flight home. I am sure I will have plenty of time to write in the many airports I will be in and on the flights back to Syracuse :). I am excited to get back and catch up with everyone from back home! 

Until then, catch a few rays for me!

 

 

Another Best Day

It has been another fantastic week! Not a day goes by that I do not think of how incredibly blessed I am to be living on this island for the summer! 

Friday we got to spend the day at Avai! A bunch of the USAC students had the opportunity to go and practice at the stadium. We were being trained by a group of professional trainers that work with Brazilian players everyday. They had us run through drills and then play against each other. Unfortunately it was raining so we didn’t get to play on the actual field, but we did get to play on an “indoor” field. It was basically just a tin building covered on top and the sides were open but had net on them so the ball wouldn’t leave the field. It was a fun afternoon and really good for my ankle too!

That evening Kevin, Nate, Felipe and I went over to Pat and Annie’s house in Sambaqui. We wanted to get our hiking group from Lagoinha do Leste back together and have another great time, we definitely accomplished that! We spent our evening playing pool, baking cookies and walking along the boardwalk right by the ocean :)! It seriously could not have been even a tiny bit better! It was the best day!

Saturday I got up and headed to Barra da Lagoa! There was a rescued turtle being released back into the wild that I really wanted to see! I had a great time hanging out on the beach by myself for a couple hours, blogging a little and then the unforgettable experience of watching a saved turtle being released for another chance at life!

I spent that evening at home watching the world cup game with my host family and skyping with my family back home. It was so good to be able to talk to everyone and it made me excited to go back even though I am having such a great time here! It was another best day!

Sunday was a resting day. It was rainy outside and I had a lot of homework due for the next week. During the day I just laid around the house and had a day with my host family. That evening was the big finals game for the world cup! Germany vs. Argentina. I was rooting for Germany because I like them better and I think that Brasil would fall apart after their losses and then having Argentina win the cup. Annie and I were going to go to Lagoa to watch and her host Dad and Pat were on their way to play soccer so they were going to give us a lift halfway! We were supposed to meet up with some other USAC students at the Black Swan. Well they lost track of time and we thought the game started at 5 instead of 4 so we didn’t end up getting to Lagoa until the game was about half over. This didn’t bother either one of us. When we got to the Black Swan, they weren’t letting anyone else in and Annie and I had our minds set on getting açai while we were in Lagoa. So we went to the best açai place on the island, enjoyed each other company and watched the rest of the game there with front row seats (there was only one other person there). Afterwards the boys came and met us there and we hung out for awhile talking about everyones day and remembering our night in Sambaqui! It was another best day!

Monday morning Annie and I went to a beach down the road a few kilometers that we have been wanting to visit called Jurere! It was another absolutely beautiful place on the island. Jurere is in the north of the island, which is definitely my favorite. I love the rolling hills, all the vegetation, more open space, and the beaches are vast and incredible. There was a little more trash on this beach than we had seen in other places so we picked up handfuls as we walked and threw some of it away. Every handful makes a difference. The houses there are also some of the most beautiful I have seen on the island! The history goes, it used to be a swampy marsh, but years ago they imported evergreen trees and planted them in the swamp so they would soak up the water and then eventually they could build houses there. About 20 years later the swamp had dried up, they cut down all the evergreens and built houses. Now it is a very rich neighborhood. When they cut down the evergreens, the wind had carried some of the seeds into the hills. Some trees took root and began to grow. Now, the trees are killing the natural vegetation because their needles are poisonous to the other plants. Just one consequence of man destroying habitats consciously and unconsciously.   

We spent most of our morning there then headed back to UFSC because we both had class. Later that afternoon was cooking class, but instead of cooking we had a field trip to a local oyster farm in the way south of the island. It took us a long time to get there, but it was worth it! The oyster farm was really interesting. They showed us the whole process of how they get the oysters ready and how long it takes to grow them. I had no idea it was such extensive and difficult work! Those guys work 14 hour days almost every day and it takes 6 months to get ready for “oyster season” which is in the summer, although the grow them all year round. I bought 15 oysters for my family while I was there for R$10 which is about $5 American dollars. After we learned all about oysters, some of us stayed and treated ourselves to a fancy seafood dinner. It was scrumptious! We ended up having salmon, oysters, and shrimp with rice and palm slices. Then we stood out on the beach overlooking the ocean and we could see the lights on the mainland. It is easy to say this was another best day!

Tuesday morning Annie and I were set to embark on another adventure! We ended up stopping first at another beach in the north of the island, Santinho. It was beautiful there! We walked through the water down to the other end of the beach where there was a rocky area. When we stopped in the water and the tide rolled away, a type of water bug that was clear and almost impossible to see started crawling all over our feet! It was something I had never experienced before and we freaked out when it first happened. We couldn’t tell if they were biting us or just crawling on us. It was a weird sensation and they would get between your toes and eventually burrow back down into the wet sand. When we finally got to the rocks we started climbing! We got up on top of some rocks and had an incredible view of the coast on both sides of us! We hung out around there for a little while climbing on the rocks and looking in all the tide pools. I could spend a week looking in tide pools and not get bored! There is so much life going on that you don’t see at first glance. 

We climbed back down the rocks and walked through a sand dunes to get to another beach, Ingleses. We took a little trail and right before we got to the end a man was outside of his house. He told us we were the most beautiful girls to have ever come down that path and then thanked us for letting his eyes see us, or something along those lines haha. Just another example of how unbelievably nice the Brazilians are here! We walked the rest of the way and when we stepped onto the beach it took our breath away. It is definitely one of my favorite beaches I have visited! I wish we would have had more time to spend there, but I had to get back for class. We did see a live penguin in the water before we left though! That evening I played my first pickup basketball game here in Brasil! It was so much fun, but I am way more out of shape than I thought I was! My ankle is almost completely healed now too! After basketball, I went with Annie and Pat’s host family to an all you can eat pizza place. It is like a churrasco except with pizza. They bring around about 30 different flavors of pizza and you just tell them what kind you want off of the plate they have. The dessert pizza was the best! They also have a buffet of lasagna, pasta and other italian food but I didn’t try any of that. We were having a competition of who could eat the most pizza and I ate 19 slices! I won but I didn’t eat for an entire day after that. I felt awful, but it was awesome! It was another best day full of like 3 best days all in one!

Wednesday I had a presentation due for my Society of the Amazon class. Naturally, I finished it about 5 minutes before I had to walk out the door that morning. It went great! Then I had surfing that afternoon. It was my last day that I will surf here in Florianopolis and it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and it was the perfect beach day! I paddled and got more of a workout than I have any other day! I was exhausted when it was all said and done, but so happy with how it ended. If I ever have the chance to surf again I definitely will. This was another best day!

I feel like I do a poor job of explaining how incredible this trip has been for me. Every day is like the best day ever, but then the next day comes and I think it is the best day ever. I am so SO blessed to be able to spend my summer here! When I get back to the states, every day is going to continue to be the best day! There is so much to be grateful for every day, no matter how bad of a day it is! I have a car, I have a house, I don’t worry about what I am going to eat for my next meal, I have a body that is perfect and without disability, my family is supporting me in every step I take. That is a very, very slim list of everything I have to be thankful for.

I am ready for what tomorrow brings, another best day.

Life, Liberty, and…. I Found Happiness

As I write, I am relaxing on a calm beach in Florianopolis, Brasil. That, in itself, is amazing. If I were to ever write a book, this would be where I would spend my days. I sit atop a throne of the softest sand to ever touch my feet. The beaches here are pristine, beautiful and the cleanest I have ever been to (granted, living in Kansas doesn’t give me too much beach action). The ocean is a clear blue green abyss with waves rolling in endlessly. The waves pound against the shore like a musician beating on his drums. The sun beats down on my shoulders, but I am not too warm. The weather is perfect and the sun, peeking in and out of the clouds, keeps the temperature just right. Surrounding the beach are rolling hills full of trees and vegetation. The landscape is not sprinkled with houses or motels. There is no trash littering the beach. The people are not being loud and obnoxious. It is perfect.

There are just the right amount of people on the beach and a never-ending variety of activities. A couple to my left are enjoying the rays from the sun and adoring each other’s company. A family to my right plays a game I have never seen before with rackets and a ball. They are teaching their 5 year old how to play as well. My ears are filled with words of encouragement, applause and laughter. In front of me, three dogs are frolicking and chasing each other through the sand. A group of backpackers walk by. A mother bikes in the other direction carrying her baby on the back of her bike. A father teaches his son how to surf. Two boys kick a soccer ball back and forth. Sexy surfer boys walk by constantly. Out in the ocean there are children playing, a man paddle-boarding, jet skiing and people surfing as far as the eye can see. It is perfect.

Here shortly I will be able to witness a rescued turtle being released back into the ocean. After that, I am going to help feed turtles at the TAMAR Project. While on the beach, it started barely sprinkling, just enough that a complete rainbow could form with the hills in the background. It is perfect.

Life surrounds us with beautiful things that we take for granted everyday. Today, I came unprepared. I had no idea I was going to spend my day at the beach. Instead of being annoyed when I got here that I didn’t bring a swimsuit, a towel, flip flops or even a pair of sunglasses, I sat down and wrote this post. It has been such a relaxing afternoon. Life is not a thing you can prepare for, you just have to roll with the punches and enjoy all the incredibly amazing things that come your way. Look into the light instead of away from it to see all the things that it is illuminating.

Life is perfect.

The Days Are Dwindling

Everyone here tries not to keep track of the days we have left because there are so few, but it’s hard not to. We are making lists of the things we want to do before we have to leave this beautiful island. Every day is an amazing adventure and it is going to be so bittersweet when we all have to head back home.

Today, out of the blue, one of my Brazilian friends asked what my home phone number was. I told him and long story short, he eventually got ahold of my brother and my dad driving tractor and I was able to talk with them for a couple of minutes. It was the first words I have spoken to my dad since I have been here because of technology and him being so busy! As soon as we got off the phone, I was shedding tears of joy. It was so unexpected that I got to talk to him and even if it was only for a moment, it meant so much to me! I am excited to see my family again in a couple of weeks!

This week has been filled with tons of activities!

Monday was just an ordinary day. I had class in the afternoon. Society of the Amazon and Brazilian Cuisine! We made different dishes to go along with Festa Junina, which is a celebration here in Brazilian where they celebrate St. John and everyone dresses up as hicks for some unknown reason. Our group was in charge of making popcorn on the stove, so it was a pretty simple class. Next week we get to go to a huge oyster farm here in Brasil instead of cook and that should be an experience!

Tuesday was a full day! That morning Annie and I planned to go to the top of Morro Da Cruz, which is a very tall hill on the island that all the TV and radio station antennas are on top of. It has great views of the city! I had already been up there once with my family, but I wanted to take Annie to see it as well! The buses worked out really well that morning and while we were waiting for the last one, Garrett walked out of his apartment building that was right by our bus stop. He decided to go up with us as well! We had to be back for class at 1, so it was a really great morning activity! We had class until 4 then went to watch Brasil play in the semi-finals! They had a little fanfest for the college kids in a park at UFSC! It was a fun change of scenery from just watching the game at the bars. They played against Germany and it was suppose to be a really intense game….. Brasil ended up losing 7-1, the worst game in semi-final history of the world cup. People all over Brasil were so mad that they were burning flags and jerseys. They will play in a consolation game against the Netherlands for 3rd place and hopefully is goes better!

Wednesday I had class in the morning and then we went to a turtle reserve here on the island called the TAMAR Project. I love animals in general, but I thought this was incredible. The organization is constantly working to save sea turtles. A lot of the sea turtles are dying because of the garbage from people that ends up in the ocean. Sea turtles eat moss and the garbage gets covered in moss so the turtles then mistake it for food. Turtles, just like any other animal, cannot digest garbage and it eventually kills them. Another human cause of sea turtle deaths is the fishing industry. Turtles get caught in the nests and drown all the time. Sometimes performing a kind of turtle CPR can save the turtles, but most fishermen don’t take the time to try to save them or just don’t know how. The TAMAR Project works with fishermen to educate them on how to perform this CPR and to convince fishermen to use different types of nets that the sea turtle can maneuver through so they don’t get caught. The turtles that are rescued from the wild come to the resort for about 10 days where they are treated and then released back to the ocean. Saturday they will be releasing one of the turtles they rescued and I am fortunate enough to be able to go and watch! I think it will be a really rewarding experience! The next time you are thinking about throwing some garbage out your window, think twice. You’re contributing to killing the turtles and who doesn’t love a good turtle?

After the turtle reserve we went to surf class. The ocean was crazy that day! There were huge waves that were breaking all over the place and the current was incredibly strong. I was really frustrated by the end of class for not having ridden one good wave that day. I only have a few classes left!

Today, we went and visited Museu do Lixo, which is a trash museum! It was really interesting! The place is made up of things exclusively found in the trash! It is insane how much stuff they had that was usable. The museum works with thousands of groups every year to teach them how to conserve water and electricity and the importance of recycling. At the Museu do Lixo, they have workers that are constantly sorting the trash the way someone would if they recycled. They also use organic waste to grow lots of plants and trees on the property. What’s that saying, one persons trash is another’s treasure?

After the trash museum, we visited one of the local soccer teams, Avai. They had people from different departments come and speak to us about what their job is within the “club” and how much work they have to do to keep everything running smoothly. All of the information was new to me because I don’t know a whole lot about soccer. I thought it was interesting that they said they were going to restructure their whole program from the youngest to the oldest players because of the loss Brasil just had in the cup. They take their soccer very seriously here! Also, we asked if it was worth it to train the players if they just end up playing in a league in Europe. They told us that all the places that that particular player has trained throughout his entire life gets a cut of the profits depending on the time he spent with a specific club. I had no idea that was how it worked! It was a cool place and tomorrow we will have the chance to go through a professional practice with some of the trainers at the club!

When we got back to UFSC from all of our field trips a few of us hung out for a little while in the park talking. I wish we had a running quote book of things people have said on this trip. Everyone is always making jokes and tonight we played on the teeter-totters and I laughed until I was almost crying. I have met some truly amazing people here. They have impacted me in a way I never thought possible.

Kansas. My Next Adventure.

Brasil has quickly striped 5 weeks of my life from me. I have 3 weeks left on this beautiful island and there is still so much I want to do, so much I feel like I haven’t seen or experienced!

I thought that 8 weeks abroad would be enough for me. I would learn about another culture and continue on my way with life. I could not have been more wrong. Since I have been in Brasil, life has slapped me in the face not once, not twice, but multiple times. Almost on a daily basis. I have learned more about my own culture than the one I thought I traveled halfway across the world to learn about. Everyday brings about a new experience, conversation or thought that has my mind whirling for hours.

Studying abroad has opened new doors for me. An unexpected path to life that was foreign to me before and it brings with it so many new questions. What’s next? How do I live my life this way on a daily basis? Where is the future going to lead me? As much as I would love to have the answers to these and many other questions right in front of me, I find it incredibly stimulating to search for them, reaching out in every possible direction, everyday. I don’t really want all the answers, I don’t think any of us do, it ruins all the fun.

And the real answer is, I don’t know what is next and I don’t know what lies 10 years from now. What I do know is, I will consciously make an effort, on a daily basis, to explore every nook and cranny of the places around me until I have another wonderful opportunity to explore another part of this huge and beautiful world. I want there to be no corner of Manhattan, Syracuse or even Kansas that has been unseen by these eyes and untouched by my feet. Every trail, every view, every little corner store, I want to experience it all.

I think we get caught up being comfortable in the world around us. We think that there is so much more of the world out there to discover when we have been ignoring what is right under our noses. Every day is a new opportunity to see the world around us in a different light, that light is our own perspective. If we can shift our perspective even slightly, we might be surprised as to what is hiding right before our eyes.