It’s 11:30 P.M. I’m at the press, having just finished a group project in which my partner and I had to print a blue A onto a piece of paper, directly upon a red A which was previously printed there.
This, like the projects that have come before, is a long and detail-oriented task requiring setting the type, printing, measuring, realigning, printing, more measuring, more realigning, a long process of trial and error.
The first trials were way off.
But as we adjusted and readjusted, we managed to get closer.
And then suddenly, miraculously,
We got a perfect 24 pt. blue Garamond a eclipsing a red 24 pt. Garamond a.
What a feeling of accomplishment. What a beautiful little letter.
When my partner pulled our last available trial sheet from the press and said “We’ve done it” I really understood the satisfaction of printing – the hard work that creates a job well done. Instant gratification. A beautiful end product ready in a matter of moments. Perfect little letters.
After that completed project, I took to my tray full of type, left over from a previous project. I set a paragraph describing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing process. A randomly selected passage, a set of words on a page that became disassociated from their meaning as I sought to recreate them with the delicate pieces of lead type.
However, what is made must come apart, and it isn’t as simple as tearing the type apart and leaving it in a jumbled mess. Each letter, each character, each space has it’s rightful slot in it’s rightful drawer. It is our duty as responsible novice printers to make sure those letters get to their respective homes, so that those who come after us will have the same (relative) ease we’ve had in setting the text in the first place.
So I got to work, putting each letter in each slot. Slow. Careful.
I got into a rhythm. A sense of calm, where I had but one focus in the world – get the type in the right place.
By the end of it all, my hands were dirty, covered with the marks of lead and ink that had stained them previously. But I was surrounded by a calm I’d missed for a long while.
With that, I’m off for a well-deserved sleep. Thanks for reading.
Our group recently just returned from a wonderful experience in Lençóis, Bahia! The trip started on Friday morning, bright and early as it takes 7 hours to get to Lençóis from Salvador. I was asleep for most of the bus ride, but when I woke up, I realized for the first time since I entered Brazil, I wasn’t in the city. The country side of Bahia (the state I’m in) is absolutely stunning. Imagine long stretches of dry land with the occasional small town brushing the edge of the main highway or the occasional cattle ranch.
Before we arrived in Lençóis, we stopped at the bottom of the mountain O Morro do Pai Inácio. We had a short, but surprisingly hard, hike to the top of the mountain. It was was absolutely stunning. The mountain had once been at the bottom of an ocean, so the landscape on the top was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The top of the mountain overlooks an entire valley and other mountains. The area used to produce diamonds (the same kind found in Africa), so its history is full of mining with slaves (which is connected to the the name Pai Inacio if you want to look it up).
After this, we loaded up and headed to our hotel. Before we actually checked in, we visited an NGO located in Lençóis. The leaders there mostly had us dancing and connecting with music. After we had our fun, they sat us down to talk about what they really do. The NGO focuses on running workshops for children and people in different communities. The workshops for the kids focus on different things like dance, theater, music, but also things like accounting and programs to encourage students to go to college. The programs for the community focus on going into the community and empowering the community to become able to provide for itself. It was a great experience and almost all of us students were moved by it.
After this we finally got to our hotel and were free to explore. The next day, Saturday, we started the day off by heading to a cave! The entire experience was so incredible, especially for me, because I’ve never been to one. I was honestly just so struck by how huge it was. The entrance was huge, and inside was somehow even bigger. The deeper we went into the cave, the darker it became, until it was pitch black, with nothing buy our flash lights lighting the way. For a moment, I panicked because I felt trapped underground in the dark. The our guide had us turn off all our flashlights and stand completely silent. You would think that this would cause my fear to spike, but it was strangely calming. It was if all the pressure from the world above had been wiped away by the overwhelming darkness. It was beautiful.
After the cave, we visited a river so rich in iron, that it looked like it was black. Some students climbed up the small cliff next to it so that they could jump into the water, but I honestly think they were crazy as it was freezing. We then hiked up behind the river to Poço do Diabo, an amazing waterfall. I honestly can’t describe how great that was, so I’ll just post the photos.
Then, after dinner some capoeiristas came and performed Caporeira for us. Some of them were adult masters, but most of the capoeiristas that came were actually children, around the ages of 5-12. That was a great experience to see all the different skill levels and the joy and the confidence the Brazilian children get from it. One interesting thing that the master said was that he is sad when his students leave the group after becoming a master at Caporiera, but he would much rather lose them to doing great things due to Caporiera, than to lose them drugs or violence. Caporiera is obviously so much more than a type of dance.
Another fun part of the night was that one of the capoeiristas that performed for us was Ailton Carmo, the lead actor in a capoeirista movie called Besouro that we had watched on the bus ride. We all took pictures with him and he was such a great sport about our fangirling.
The next day, Sunday, we took a trip to a waterfall. On the hike there, we passed a series of natural pools that pocketed a thin layer of rock over a river. We also passed the sandstone that is famous for making the different colored sand in souvenirs. We hiked through a small forest, and eventually came to a small natural waterfall. Like the cave, this waterfall was also a first for me. The water was freezing, but I still made the slippery journey to stand underneath it. I can’t explain the feeling that I had while there. Moments like those remind me of how far I’ve come, from a poor little girl being raised in Los Angeles, to a powerful college student with the entire world at my fingertips and endless opportunities. Moments like those humble me and remind me to remember the people who have made everything on this trip possible: my parents and all their sacrifices, my teachers in elementary school who never even hinted at the fact that statistically I was less likely to achieve than pretty much any other child, my high school teachers who pushed me to be better and also supported me through hard times, my scholarship program to helping me get into my college, and finally Colorado College (especially the financial aid office who has worked with me every step of the way). To all these people and more, I am eternally grateful.
Here in Brazil, Festa Junina is in full swing. There are two different explanations for the term Festa Junina. The first explication is that it is named Festa Junina because the festival takes place in June. The other version says that the festival was created to pay homage to Sao Joao do Porto (St. John of Porto). Either way, Sao Joao plays a huge part in this festival and is celebrated specifically on June 24th. There is also a special celebration for Sao Pedro on June 29th and Santo Antonio on June 13th. Currently here in Salvador, there is a huge celebration for Sao Joao! I’ve went to Pelourinho two nights in a row for this celebration. Pelourinho is the historical center of Salvador, and is absolutely stunning on a normal day. During Sao Joao, Pelourinho is too amazing to put into words. Hundreds of people come together to eat, drink, and dance under the colorful lights strung around the main square. Live musicians play, and people dance traditional dances such as forro (pronounced: foho). All sorts of people dress up in their best festival clothes, but with a hint of a country theme as Sao Joao is a country themed holiday.
The best part of the holiday is to the see the unity and diversity of the people. Salvador has the highest population of Afro-Brazilians in Brazil, so the festival was full of Afro-Brazilians, of course. But they all had a beautiful and unique combination of features: dark skin with hazel eyes, light skin with dark, curly hair, or caramel skin with freckles and dark eyes. They also had a range of styles. Some people where what I would call, ‘hipsters’, some people went for a more hip hop look, some people were more into a mainstream look. And of course there were different levels of socioeconomic wealth represented there. Some people spent the night collecting discarded beer cans from the floor, while others flashed expensive phones while they took selfies. There were so many different kinds of people, but when the band played the right song, everyone would let out a call of approval, and would immediately begin singing and dancing. I love the way people dance here. In the U.S., dancing is from the hips, but here, dancing is all in the feet. Everyone knows the complex dance movements that has stumped most of the Americans that are on my trip. Being surrounded by these Brazilians was such a beautiful experience.
We recently got back from an amazing trip to Morro de São Paulo. The trip started at 7am at ACBEU (the school we are studying at). The Colorado College students, along with students from the University of Texas – Austin, and the University of Hawaii, loaded up on two vans and drove to a port. The port had electricity in the air. Dogs and cats chased each other and people called to each other in Portuguese. Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop myself from bouncing up and down. We were about to get on a ferry and it would be my first time on a boat. When we got on, I couldn’t help but to feel a little dizzy and the ocean gently rocked below my feet, but I didn’t let that stop my excitement. After the hour and a half boat ride, we had a three-hour drive through a beautiful, tropical forest, dotted with tiny towns. After this trip, we boarded a large speed boat, and 30 minutes later, we arrived on the beautiful island of Morro de São Paulo. Morro de São Paulo is a small village of around 1,500 people. There are no cars in Morra de São Paulo, and the only way to get to various beaches and food places is by boat or by hiking. The first day that we were there, we hiked to an old fortress where the Dutch tried to invade Brazil. From there, we hiked up to a cliff that we were able to go zip lining into the ocean. It was such a rush! For me personally, the first few seconds were the scariest. You run and jump off a cliff, and for a second you’re free-falling, with nothing but jagged rocks below you. Then the line catches you, and you realize you’re soaring past a beautiful city on a beautiful beach. For me, moments like these make me realize how beautiful the world is and how lucky I am to experience it. After I landed in the ocean, I swam to shore and watched the other students come down the mountain. After zip lining, I went to the pool our hotel had, then we had dinner, and afterwards went to explore the tiny tourist based town.
The next day officially started at 9am when we boarded what we dubbed, “The Party Boat,” to head to a clay beach. On the way, we saw dolphins catching fish and swimming around. Our boat stopped on a small beach, and we unloaded, slightly confused as to what we were actually doing on this strip of beach. Our guide, Samuel, lead us past the sandy shore and to base of a sharp cliff. Here the sand was coated with pink clay. We were shy to the clay at first, but soon, all of us students were bathing and rolling in clay. We were acting like three-year olds in mud. After we were thoroughly coated, we rinsed off in the ocean. We thought that was the end of the exfoliation, but Samuel called out to us. He was making a rougher batch. He promised “Quinze minutos, voces tem um novo corpo!” We scrubbed his gritty clay all over our bodies then waddled back to the boat while we waited for it to dry. We sure were a sight to see, people were actually taking pictures! We rinsed and everyone agreed our skin was baby smooth. After this we got back on the boat and took off to a sand bar where a river and the ocean met. This sand bar was littered with beautiful seashells and sand dollars. I spent nearly the entire time searching for them while other students played soccer, frisbee, or swam. After this, we boated over to another beach, where we had lunch. Our meat was served on sizzling platters and the rice and beans served in huge clay bowls. The evening was free for us, so I mostly shopped and slept. Some students went to a foam party! They said it was a blast, but it started at 3am, and I needed to sleep.
Our last day on Morro de São Paulo started with large amounts of rain. I went into the town to buy a disposable camera and most of the other students just stayed in the hotel and read. After I bought my camera, I went down to the beach and other places to take photos with my little camera. The rest of the time it rained, so not much else happened, until we loaded all our stuff back up, and started our trip home. I’m so grateful that I got to go on such an experience!
Today marks my 10th day in Brazil. I can’t believe we have been here for so long.
A lot has happened since my last post. First of all, I went to a Candomblé celebration. My host family asked me, “Do you want to see Candomblé?” I agreed, because honestly I didn’t want to be alone in the house for several hours. I was told not to wear any black, brown or dark colors. I couldn’t wear anything above my knees but I was supposed to get dressed up a bit. When we got to the Candomblé house, I saw that everyone was wearing the essentially the same colors: blue and white. Dress ranged from what I would say traditional African to modern dresses. People were literally spilling out of the Candomblé house. They crowded the door and leaned in on the windows. My host family kept trying to push me through the thick crowd but for a long time all I could here were the pounding of drums and hollers from inside the house. Eventually we pushed past the hoards and into the house, and what I saw was beautiful. A group of women dressed in the traditional Candomblé outfit. Some stood off to the side, but then others, and a man, danced wildly in a circle of spectators. While they danced they shouted and some actually collapsed to the ground. I didn’t know what any of it meant until the next day when we had a class about Afro-Brazilian culture. The people of Candomblé recognize thousands of spirits called Orishas. When they dance, they can get possessed by these Orishas and let the Orishas dance around here on earth. Candomblé is an interesting religion because for years it was viewed as witchcraft and people were persecuted for following it. Even today many Christian churches try to convert those of Candomblé and view it as a lessor religion. Many people believe that people who are members of Candomblé also fully believe in Catholicism and practice it side by side. This is because when the African slaves first came to Brazil, they were forced to disguise their religion under Catholic practices, so that they would be able to continue to practice in secret. This did eventually lead to a blend of religions for some people, but the current leader of Candomblé is advising her people to stop pretending to practice Candomblé under the guise of Catholicism. One isn’t allowed to take photos of Candomblé, and therefore I don’t feel comfortable inserting any pictures of Candomblé into this post, but of you google Candomblé, there are some photos that will help you to understand better.
We also took a trip to Ilê Axé Opó Afonjá. Here their were several houses given to the Orisha. Each person on Earth has an Orisha. You can only go into the house of a certain Orisha if that Orisha is connected with you. Also an interesting fact is that these houses are legally registered under the names of the Orisha. The people that belong to that Orisha make donations to be able to pay for the houses bills like gas or lighting.
Here in Salvador, Candomblé is everywhere. It permeates almost every aspect of life in Salvador and the people are very proud of their religion. Candomble has created a unique culture here in Salvador. It connects the Afro-Brazilian people here to their brothers in Africa, that still practice the same religion, just in slightly different forms. As a African-American student, I am slightly jealous of the Afro-Brazilian people because of this. Their culture is so rich and fresh, while many of the slaves in America converted to Christianity and many lost their roots to Africa. I regret this.
When most students decide to study abroad they usually chose places like Italy, France, or Spain. While these places are obviously full of culture and history, I am beyond satisfied with my choice to not travel the beaten path and travel to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
I’ve only been in Salvador for four days, but in that time, I feel like I have a new understanding of the world.For the first time in my life, I was the foreigner, struggling to understand another language. As a butchered words, received blank stares from everyone around me, and sometimes was forced to just sit silently, I was reminded of all the immigrants in the United States. Speaking a new language is indefinitely hard. Languages are not just a new set of words, but also a new way of thinking. The people in the United States who are from another country yet can understand what I’m saying and respond in “broken” English have accomplished something I and many American’s still can’t do. This brought me to a new realization. I am stupid. I, a straight A high school student on an full ride academic scholarship to a great private college, with an A- average in college, am stupid. In Brazil, when someone says, “I speak a little English,” essentially they can understand most of what I am saying and respond coherently. When I say, “I speak a little Portuguese,” I mean I know a tiny bit of scattered vocabulary and a few grammar constructions. So many people around the world can speak more than one language, and I struggle to learn one. Most Americans don’t even give other languages that much dignity. Most Americans push through their required two years of language in high school while they’re 14 and 15 years old. After that they forget about this language unless they’re required to push through more years of language in college, but like me they learn only scattered vocabulary and few grammar forms. Living with my host family, watching them talk and laugh, and not being able to communicate with them, is hard. I want to laugh and joke, but instead I sit quietly and watch. When Americans travel, we go into new countries without knowing a word of the country’s language and expect to be accommodated. When students from other countries come to America, they come fully speaking English or something close to it.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing I’ve learned in Brazil. Salvador is so alive and full of culture. The people here are proud of their African heritage and their culture is a mix of African and European roots. Catholicism and Candomble (an African religion), stand hand and hand in the city. There is no conflict, no or struggle between the two. We went on a city tour and saw many of shrines and churches of both religions.
Salvador also has huge communities called Favelas.
These favelas have been compared to slums. People come to the city from the countryside looking for a better way of life, and while they try to find a job, they find or build a ‘temporary’ home in a favela. Once they are here, they are usually stuck here, in an unplanned community. Not all favelas are dangerous, but some are and have drugs running through them. The favelas are mixed in with the rich neighborhoods. There is no separation or distance between the rich or the poor. One favela we saw overlooked the soccer stadium built for the world cup, a beautiful lake, and a beautiful neighborhood for the rich. As my professor put it, Brazil is a rick country, but it has a corrupted government, so that the money stays in the hands of the politicians and a select elite, and doesn’t ever reach the hands of the people. For me, the hardest part is to see people sleeping in tents on some of most beautiful beaches or graffiti on beautiful churches or historical landmarks. Of course there is no way to make this better or justify what’s happening, but when I open the window to my room and hear the thriving city below me and all the people rushing in their car to be somewhere, I know that this city is still fighting for it’s equality, and I have hope.
Last week, we went on two exciting excursions in class. We first visited a local river – the Arkansas, down in Pueblo. Again donning our waders and looking awesome, we took measurements and talked about stream dynamics. It was a cold, rainy day, which made sticking your arms in to grab pebbles fairly unpleasant.
From the data collected that day, we compared different sections of stream for their gross primary production to community respiration ratios. Many hours were spent grappling with Excel, and I’m reasonably sure that everyone in the class found different answers.
On Thursday, we went to the CC Cabin with the Geomorphology class! It was a funny field trip in more ways than one – we had class in a stream, on a porch, and in a thunderstorm.
With the Geomorph students, we discussed how fires affect streams and landscapes. We explored the burn scar from the 2002 Hayman Fire near Woodland Park, an area that still has ongoing repercussions from the fire which affect water flows and geomorphology. We looked at sediment transport, old stream channels, alluvial fans, and a place where you could see the black charcoal layer of soil underneath new deposits of sediment from erosion and flooding. We spent time discussing nutrient response to fires, deciding how certain features were made, calculating past stream discharge and power, and the future for the area.
It was an incredible place to be, since fires in Colorado are a prevalent issue and the effects on the sediment transport and fluvial systems will continue for years in every burned landscape.
It’s block 32 for me at CC, and I am surprisingly glad to spend it taking Water! Water is a notoriously difficult Environmental Science class, but thus far has been better than expected.
Last week, we went on a field trip to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs! Never did I ever expect that CC would put me up in cabin with hot springs access for three days – but we had a great time. There was a good amount of work involved, but we also got to soak for several hours every night and hang out in cabins and cook delicious meals together.
What we were technically doing was taking measurements of Chalk Creek. Each day we put on our waders and got in the creek, measuring width, depth, elevation of surrounding land, stream velocity, and size of pebbles. From the data we collected, we were able to calculate how much water is flowing through the stream each second now, when it floods a few feet, and when it floods dramatically. Using historical data from a probe downstream, we found an approximation for how often a certain grassy area would be flooded (my answer was every 2.6 million years – a little large but I think I did the math right!).
Our two professors, Miro and Becca, took time on the trip to get us thinking about ways to look at different streams and assess them for habitat health. We performed experiments to measure flux of nutrients or other things that might be floating in your stream. One afternoon we collected detritus from the streambed and tallied all the macroinvertebrates that were found – far more than I expected!
“Oh yeah, I’ll be there. But, what are we going to do?” I asked David Hendrickson, my 4-year academic adviser, sometime during 7th block as we wrapped up a meeting spent knee deep in deciphering a coherent direction to take my big senior tutorial paper. “To be honest, I’m not sure I want to spend my last block at CC thinking about how the world is going to end.” I admitted. “Well, that’s the point. The class is meant to give you an idea of how to survive and thrive – find happiness even – in the face of grave doom. Also, there will be golf.” What a fitting metaphor for graduation.
Smiling through the apocalypse is one of two Senior Year Experiences (SYEs) in the political science department. The some 25 students who filtered through the door on the first day made all made it here one way or another through the Video Dance Party of New Student Orientation 2011, the farewell of Dick Celeste and Jill Tiefenthaler’s inaugural ball. As a collective of 4th years we’ve branched out covered a lot of ground both literally and metaphorically. We’ve studied abroad from Tanzania to Switzerland, conducted research from observing nematode neurons in the CC lab to interviewing Tibetan refugees surrounded by the stupas of Nepal. We’ve tackled tough thesis in Math, Economics, Biology, Political Science and more and then block breaked all across Colorado back country. We’ve served on student government, started new clubs, been leaders in Greek life, and spent countless hours training as DI, DIII, Club and yes, intramural athletes – champions even. The past four years of various majors, extracurricular, adventures, passions, and interests have brought us all back through this door to end our CC careers smiling through the apocalypse.
The first few days of class constituted just that. We begin with some proper-mindset-inducing songs and movie trailer. (for class favorites see: “Naked Men Who Want Your Clothes: Arnold; Choosing the correct response” “The Winans: Question Is” and “Planetary Hook-Ups: When World’s Collide”). Admittedly, more giggles (or general awe at 1950′s special effects) than terror ensued as we explored apocalypse fear of days past. Though perhaps the recent phenomenon of Y2K, 2012 Mayan prophesied doom day, and the myriad of world ending blockbusters of the last decade all might represent a spike in apocalyptic pop culture these days, amusements aside, it is clear that sentiments of the end times have always been with us. Whether it’s the revelations of ancient prophets or the warnings of Robert Heilbroner lamenting “the ubiquitous use of drugs, the extreme sexual relaxation,” and “the defiantly unconventional modes of dress” of our parents’ renegade generation, apocalypse has been with us through the ages.
With the solidarity of historical hysteria established, and the syllabus (available here for inspection – and definitely worth a look) passed out and explained we now embark on diving in to the nuances of 21st century doom. This block will takes us through everything from pandemics to natural resource crises, drought and famine to nuclear Armageddon and global financial collapse. Will human ingenuity save the day and see the human race stretch across the universe to thrive for millennium? Are we doomed to a slow and painful extinction on an war torn Earth we’ve made uninhabitable for ourselves? our kids? our grand-kids? Big questions to ponder in our last month as undergraduates intellectually adventuring between the great walls of Palmer Hall. With, of course, a few outside fitness days and night time class get-togethers to keep it all in perspective. Because, after all, as we learned day 1 we’re all in this together. Until, you know, it ends.
You might be asking, “Where’s the RNA’s involvement?” Well, no one is really sure yet. It is accepted that RNA predated DNA. However, scientists have been unable to synthesize RNA in conditions similar to the hypothesized environment of early Earth. One interesting theory that came out of our inability to synthesize RNA is that there was a pre-RNA, an intermediary between life beginning and the presence of RNA.
RNA has a role in abiogenesis, but RNA is not responsible for the origination of life. RNA is responsible for the evolution of life, however. It is the theory of the RNA World. The rationale behind this theory is that RNA is capable of being a genetic information storage molecule, and a catalytic compound. The ability of RNA to act as a catalyst is, perhaps, one of the most exciting discoveries in the field of abiogenesis. The rationale for this is that in order for RNA to be synthesized, the components have to be joined together. This is infinitely more challenging if this process has to be done without any catalytic support. In addition, the process of replication requires catalytic energy. So, it was determined that RNA could be an ideal first molecule due to the ability to preform vital functions (evolution and replication) on its own, independent of other molecules.
However, the idea of the RNA World as the first prebiotic system of life has been replaced with a predecessor of the RNA World, aptly named the pre-RNA World. This theory came about with the discovery of molecules such as pyransosyl RNA (pRNA), threose nucleic acid (TNA), and peptide nucleic acid (PNA). These molecules are structurally similar to RNA, but simpler. The implications of these simpler molecules as predecessors of RNA is that the potential precursors would be easier to synthesize than RNA in an abiotic world.
When hypothesizing the conditions of the early Earth, four elements are thought to be dominant – methane (giving the carbon necessary for life), ammonia (giving the nitrogen necessary for life), hydrogen gas, and water. Life is thought to begin with the correct mixture of these gases as well as a “life spark.” What is interesting is that, as validated by multiple scientists, the probability of the correct combination of gases combining with the proper “life spark” is practically nil.
We all know we are stardust. But did we know we are also improbable miracles?