Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Taking on a Cause...The Need for Reform

I've been doing some thinking and I've decided that since I can't work down here (the government will generally only issue one work permit per American family in Brasil), I'm going to go all Hollywood and take on a cause. I guess the only difference is that I don't have gobs of money to throw at some problem so instead, I want to rally the troops, make somebody care, and put my time into working on some change for the better. I've been trying to be observant and notice what's going on around me in search of this great cause.

My first inclination was to take on the elevator situation here. You know how in the US if someone is trying to catch the elevator you are on and the doors start to close, you can throw your arm in the door and it will open back up for them? They thank you, everyone is on the elevator, and all is well in the land. Well, my first week here, I got on the elevator to come up to my room and a lady comes running quickly towards the elevator - just as the doors start to close. I threw my hand up to catch the door for her . . . and the doors didn't open back up! My right hand was totally slammed in the door and I couldn't get it out no matter how hard I pulled! Luckily, it was only a 7 floor ride and my hand was released from the death grip the elevator had on it. But, I had a goofy looking swollen hand for the rest of the day.

Then, this weekend, Eric and I were heading back to our room after breakfast one morning. Just as I was about to step on the elevator, the doors began to close. I tried to quickly leap inside before the killer doors attacked, but I wasn't quick enough! You know how in the US elevator doors close kind of slowly? Yeah, well, they slam shut pretty darn quick here. The good news is that when the elevator door hits an entire human body it does open back up. But it comes at you with such force that I was nearly knocked over, the water I was drinking went flying everywhere, and Eric was nearly hurt too - from laughing so hard! His response: "Elevator 2 - Emily 0." Admittedly, I was laughing too. BUT, had I been some little old lady I would have definitely broken some ribs or a hip or something! So, I could take on the elevators in a public health concern type of forum and fight for some elevator door reform.

Then we went for our walk around Pampuhla Lake on Saturday. This is a big lake (it is 18 km around the perimeter) situated in the middle of the city. There are always tons of people out there walking the trail that goes around it, fishing for their supper, and enjoying other recreational activities. Well, I just might have found my calling for a cause.

The first thing I noticed was a nausea-inducing stench. The second thing I noticed was green slimy water. The third thing I noticed was the trash all along the banks. I have taken enough water quality classes to know that clear water doesn't necessarily equal healthy water when it comes to lakes and ponds. But geez! This is terrible. I have seen lagoons behind hog houses that I would rather eat fish out of! And everywhere that there was an outlet into the lake, the water was even worse. I would feel pretty comfortable saying that there is raw sewage flowing into this thing. Eutrophication is certainly an issue and I would hate to see fecal coliform numbers from a sample of this water!

Okay, water quality in a huge body of stagnant water is a bit of a challenge, but somebody could at least pick up the trash! I didn't get a good picture of it, but the shorelines along many parts of the lake are littered with tons of household garbage. I still need to do some research, and I still need to learn more Portuguese, but I think in a city of 5 million people, surely you could find 100 or so to volunteer to pick up trash once a month or something! Hmmmm . . . the wheels are turning now.

So, here are some pictures.

This is a close up of the green sliminess.

Here's a shot of some guys wading out in the water while fishing.

If you click on this picture and make it larger, you will see all the people fishing on the other bank. There are signs all around the lake warning people to stay out of the water because it is too polluted for swimming. But apparently, we don't mind eating fish out of it? I'd rather eat the horse I used for transportation than eat these fish! Really, you had to smell this to understand maybe. E-coli is not our friend people!
So don't worry folks, I'll be finding something to keep me busy - you know, besides taking care of that ol' husband of mine. ;) I just haven't quite decided what my calling is going to be . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oh come on. That was quite a generalization about brazilian elevators. Must have been some old elevator, or some problem in the infrared system. 95% of the elevators I know have infrared to open the door if there is something standing in front of the door. Older elevators have a simpler system, with the door having a mechanism that AFTER if touches someone (sometimes abruptly, yes) it recedes. But those are more uncommon.