28-03-2005 Reflections

The first sampling campaign has come to an end and with it a beautiful time full of new experiences: scientific ones but also all kind of life experiences. Before we started I already had the idea that this expedition would be kind of a ‘Big Brother’-experiment: a small group of people intensely interacting almost 24 hours a day. OK, not within a small area because we did pass several degrees in latitude, but at the end of the day the pick-up and the lake defined our boundaries. I am sincerely happy about how we did as a group. I saw far worse editions of real life soaps :- ).

We had quite some adventures, entering quick sand with the pick-up, getting stuck in the mud with the pick-up, getting our samples stolen, attacks by tabana’s (large flies that sting) and mosquitoes, problems with the mail, and interviews on radio and tv. In addition we discovered good caipirinha’s and delicious wines.

On the way we saw the landscape changing. In Brazil we started with rice fields, dunes, cattle and some forest. In Uruguay the landscape was dominated by cattle grazing on soft slopes and some forest. The area of Argentina that we visited was full of soy and corn with occasionally some hectares of sunflowers. Appreciation of landscapes is very personal, but looking back at my pictures; I must admit that I liked Brazil most followed closely by Uruguay.

The nicest finding was that we did not encounter a latitudinal gradient in friendliness of the people. In general, in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina people received us with a smile and gave us access to their lakes. In Argentina especially we found the lake owners very curious concerning our research and most of them were exceptionally interested in receiving the results of our analysis. Some lake owners spend the entire day with us, helping and wanting to know all the details of our work. In Brazil and Uruguay we did not come across so many interested people. Other factors such as education level of the lake owners most certainly play a role, but the difference was remarkable.

Our research also proved a perfect pre-text to talk to a lot of different people and to glance into their lives. As a tourist we would not have learned so much about people’s family history (starting sometimes centuries ago), habits, work, homes, agricultural practices, believes and world views as we did now. An anthropologist would have enough material to study. For me it was very enriching. I feel fortunate to be able to visit so many different places and to find that there are wonderful people everywhere.

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