Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Continuing Education ??

Yesterday I had the privilege to spend some time with a few students and faculty from Kirkwood Community College and Hawkeye Community College in northeast Iowa.  The group is here on their spring break on an exchange program with the Ag department at the Federal University of Brazil.   Thanks to Luiz,  I had been invited to tag along on a field trip of sorts by the leader Juarez.  I was not sure what to expect of the day, but my life is about the experience so at least I will meet some new people with Iowa being our common ground.  I throw on my backpack and feeling like a little kid going to school for the first time,  I head for the car.
We arrive at the university and wait as they are obviously on Brazil time,  but soon the bus pulls up. Juarez greets me and I get on the bus.  The back is full of the Iowa students and faculty which I am quickly introduced to by Juarez and I grab an empty seat.   In his introduction Juarez states I am from Iowa also which sparks a little get to know you time as we begin our journey.  First stop was the Embrapa which is the equivalency to the US Ag Research Services in the states.  Today's tour was that of the rice and bean development facility located on the campus.  It began with a informative lecture style presentation that talked about rice production and what part rice plays in everyday life of Brazil.  I already knew it was the stable starch for the country but really knew little about how and where it is grown.  Since it is such a staple in Brazil, the university
spends a lot of research time on what is called upland rice.  Since traditional rice is grown in wet, irrigated areas,  the upland rice does not require these conditions.  It can be produced on non irrigated land cutting the cost of production by reducing the need for water.   They continue to look for way to make the crops more drought and disease resistant. After our educational lecture, we toured the rest of research facilities which houses many different labs. The labs are used to study rice and beans.  My favorite part was in the bean and rice recipe development area.  Here they work on different ways to use rice and beans in recipes to create different foods.  As the students went into a small room to look closer as a testing areas while I stayed back and tried out my limited Portuguese.  (yes I am still frustrated with how slow this language learning is going for
me)  In the testing kitchen there was a Brazilian lady making brownies out of peanuts and beans.  We talked a little and she went on to show me a recipe book with all kinds of recipes developed in this kitchen using beans and rice.  I was amazed at all the different foods made and they all looked so good.  Brownies and brigadeiro made from beans, pao de queijo (cheese bread) and cookies made from rice,  all with delicious photos that jumped off the page and made my mouth water.  I was happy to find out they had the cookbook available for purchase and went ahead and got one.  Now I just need to do a little translating and give the recipes a try.  I will let you know how it turns out.  As all good things must end,  the students came back from the testing room and we headed onward to different research areas.  I actually enjoyed watching the students get involved in conversations about what they were seeing.  Several of them were obviously
heading into the right career path.   Soon it was time to head back to the bus and after a short drive we turned into a field which ended up being test plots of rice.  The bus stopped about 200 meters from a mango tree where an easel was sitting in its shade. Here two people from the university spoke about experimental tillage programs currently being studied in these plots and a little about the soil in Brazil.  During the presentation I looked around an realized I was surrounded by rice fields. This was the first time I had ever been in a rice field, hmmm another new experience.  It was getting close to lunch so after a short walk around the field we headed back to the bus.

Once everyone was on the bus,  we headed back to the main agricultural campus for lunch in the cafeteria.  I had eaten here with Luiz before so I finally knew what to expect of the day.  After lunch we took a walking tour of the main agricultural campus stopping for a brief presentation about coffee roasting and watching a guy roast a batch of coffee beans.  The university used to purchase coffee from stores for the dark brown drink, but they
were spending a lot of money.  They decided to cut that cost by investing in a coffee roaster and now they process their own beans.  Transported from the southern part of the Goias (the state in Brazil where Goiania is located and the capital of) it is a great way to support the local economy, save money, and provide the employees a good fresh product.   Not to mention a smaller footprint for you "green" loving people.  After the demonstration we continued our tour and took a look at the different things being studied in the greenhouses and throughout the rest of the campus.  Once Juarez was finished with the tour it was time to head back on the bus and head into town.  On our way we made a quick stop to enjoy a small courtyard in another part of the University's campus.  In the quaint courtyard surrounded by classroom a clan of monkeys have made the university their home.  Of course since the rest of
 the group was from Iowa and you would not find a monkey outside a zoo there,  I think this was a nice stop for them and the monkeys most definitely put on a show.  This was our last stop on this campus and soon the bus drove us into into the city for a quick tour of the universities campus located in the central part of Goiania.  Not far from this campus is the central market and that was our next stop. I was excited as we entered the market and the first vendor had cajamanga for sale.  I had been talking about my favorite fruit some earlier in the day and the vendor allowed us a sample of the delicious fruit along with some passion fruit. This was the highlight of my afternoon for sure.  Towards the end of our market visit I had a couple more opportunities to practice my Portuguese.  A couple of the students asked me to help
them purchase some items in the market.  Of course I had to say yes and jump at the opportunity to practice.  I think I did alright as I deterred one student from getting a bottle of cachaca which was quite expensive at R$15,00 and I helped another one pay R$5,00 instead of the R$6,00 the vendor was originally asking for.  Not to mention helping a couple others find the price for a banana and a souvenir for someone back home.    The second opportunity came as we waited for the bus. A couple of Brazilian teenagers came up and started talking in broken English to the students so I said hello in Portuguese.  They wanted to know how to ask the students things like where they are from,  what they are doing
in Brazil, and how long will they stay.  I am sure I did not understand word for word what they wanted or respond with 100% accuracy  but in the end we both got what we wanted from the communication. At least I did and  I think they did as well.  The conversation came to an end as time came to load back onto the bus and head for their hotel.  The Iowans had invited me to join them for the evening as they headed to a foteball game.   Of course after a quick check to make sure I had a way home, I said yes.  (to be continued...)

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