When my family and I visited some friends in Belem in Brazil, we were not expecting to be whisked off to all sorts of remote locations to take part in musical events – but that is exactly what happened! Our friend Diego Carneiro is a talented musician who plays the cello. He is also the founder of AmaZonArt, a special charity which brings music and support to the poorest and most isolated people in the Amazon region.
I have already written about the school his charity helped to build on the island of Combu. We felt very lucky to be able to help bring water filters and mosquito nets (not to mention toothbrushes) to people who needed them. While we were there, Diego gave a little cello concert and we all took part, making the sounds of wind and rain to accompany his playing. For some of the children it was the first time they had ever seen such a musical instrument, and they were amazed at the sounds Diego could make with it!
The next day Diego and his friends took us inland to a small ecological farm where all the food is grown organically and waste is recycled into compost to be used on the crops. The buildings are made from local wood and dried grasses, and everyone works together to make the farm run smoothly.
First we had a delicious meal made from fruits and vegetables grown on the farm, including pineapples, papayas, rice and black beans in a rich sauce (called feijoada). Normally this traditional bean stew is made with lots of meat, but the eco farm serves only vegetarian meals.
After lunch we took a tour of the farm to see all the crops being grown, the composting area and the special dry toilet where instead of being flushed away, the waste is collected and turned into compost as well. Amazingly, it wasn’t even smelly!
Something else I learned while we were there was how a pineapple grows. I took a picture of one to show you the little bush which sprouts a single pineapple at the top. Most of the pineapples we buy in the UK come from Brazil, so the next time you see one in a supermarket you can imagine it growing just like this one in the Amazon jungle!
Another plant they showed us was citronella, which is a big bush that smells lemony. This plant is used to make natural insect repellent, something that is very useful in the Amazon. Luckily there weren’t too many mosquitos at the farm. Perhaps they don’t like the citronella bushes either!
While some of us were learning about sustainable farming, others were just relaxing in the lovely atmosphere of this peaceful place. Anna took this picture of a little boy swinging gently under a tree.
After our tour of the farm, we all got chairs and benches set up for a little open air concert. Diego got out his cello and a friend set up her keyboard to accompany him. Lots of children from the area gathered to listen, and they were very entertained by a clever story told with an oboe by another musician friend of Diego’s, Paulinho Maia. Diego then played lots of beautiful classical pieces which we all loved.
To top off the day, we all piled into a collection of cars and motorbikes and rode down a tangled forest track to the local water hole, where some of us went for a swim. I stayed safely on the shore taking pictures. Well, someone had to take care of the clothes!