Day 1 – the first 40 hours
Day 1 is a bit of a misnomer – it primarily consists of travel over two days. Seattle to Chicago, then Chicago to São Paulo, Brazil. Drive 90 minutes to Viracopos airport (this was a cheap ticket). Fly to Brasilia. Fly to Barreiras, Bahía. What day is this again? Drive 5 hours to the town of Curimatá in Piauí, a desert-like area of scrubland, sand, and multiple diverse biomes. The highway is bordered on both sides by tall grass and bushes, an impenetrable wall that encroaches on the road sometimes by 1-2 feet per side. At least we thought it was impenetrable, until a horse walked through it, appearing suddenly in front of our car and giving us a much needed boost of adrenaline for the rest of the trip! The rest of our evening drive was pretty uneventful, unless you count the various turtles, donkeys, cows, strange bouncing creatures (think inspiration for Pooh’s Tigger), nocturnal birds that sit on the road, random pedestrians and a more than occasional car-sized pothole.
A little sleepy as we approach Curimatá, but looking forward to the next day, which promises to be quite interesting. We’ll visit a Buriti cooperative that Beraca actually helped organize, meet the leadership and families involved, and learn more about how the Buriti is used locally – it is much more than a simple fruit from a palm tree. We’ll also visit some areas where Beraca is helping to drill wells and provide water treatment in partnership with local communities. This is an area of the country that might get rain 2 or 3 times per year, and access to water that is safe to drink often involves a walk of 3-4 kilometers through difficult terrain in what can often be 100+ degree weather.
We meet Salvador, who manages operations in Piauí for NCCV, a non-profit based in São Paulo, and a long-time partner of Beraca. Salvador is an ex-teacher who seems to have a bit of a soft spot for youth, and two teenagers of his own, and I am looking forward to his perspective on this trip as I think about how to incorporate the non-profit Tiny Purple Fishes and provide opportunities for youth in the US to help others. But first, something to eat before we turn in for the night, and Salvador knows just the place…