Deflated

January 7th, 2017

I’m lying in bed in the middle of the afternoon for the first time on this trip (it’s actually the 10th though). I’m tired, but not just physically. My throat isn’t sore, but the muscles under my tongue are tight. I asked the all-knowing John for his opinion on the matter. He reminded me how extensive the lymphatic system is in our throat and in the mandible—my body is literally struggling to process this place at this point. Everyone has been complaining about their throats, too. We are all having a tough time adjusting not just to air and food and such. On that note, I’ve also been having the opposite problem to a lot of people on this trip. I am most definitely not constipated if you get what I’m saying. I have lost so much weight since I have been here. The freshman fifteen I gained on my back, arms, and belly during the first semester has dramatically decreased from a combination of the diarrhea, perpetual sweating, and sporadic meals (not complaining about the last two).. The salt is definitely not affecting me as much as everyone else for whatever reason. I haven’t felt or been this skinny in years. But I am sun burnt to a crisp after frolicking in the ocean all throughout the morning on the ninth, even after applying two coats of sunscreen. I think the UV index is around 11 or 12 in the joints? Rio has been a total detox that I was not expecting at all. But this isn’t the first time I don’t just feel relatively exhausted from a combination of Rio’s climate, food, culture, and problems, but a little defeated.

I don’t even know where to begin. I think I will start off by saying how grateful I am to have been allowed and able to come on this trip. I hyped up coming to Rio to study inequality and activism in my head a lot. I told myself and thought that if I could handle this, maybe I would have a shot at the life I dream about having. Being able to be thrown into any environment to adapt and learn about that place and its culture is something I value for myself right now and for the future, but I am wavering here. Other than Dr. Theriault’s class, Understanding the Global Community, I haven’t had a lot of exposure to anything even remotely close to the ideology of this class. I am not having difficulty understanding concepts we focus on most in class, but I think I am coming to realize that a lot of it has never been my cup of tea, in the sense of capturing my attention before this or having that motivate me to act upon anything. Of course I had an idea of poverty, and I think (and hope) it was one of more than just skinny black children reaching out for food, but I did not realize until coming here and being surrounded by a whole new world how many things, ideas, and practices I was just simply not aware of. That scares me for two big reasons. #1 How do people tromp around living a day-to-day life without ever knowing atrocities that are so indelibly and discretely stamped onto our lives. #2 How have I tromped around living a day-to-day life without ever knowing atrocities that are so indelibly and discretely stamped into my life?

Take the negative ramifications of photography, for example. What are the limitations to photojournalism in a context similar to what this class is exploring? Am I considered a photojournalist or a tourist in this context? Can I be considered a photojournalist instead of a tourist just taking photos by not only the people I want to document but also by my peers and instructors? I just posed a question to Parker and Lily about how I don’t completely understand why it isn’t always respectful to photograph and document the favelas, besides the danger that it would pose to our group and to respect the people who would be photographed. They both said things along the line of how it can be degrading to the residents because my photographing of them and their conditions make them, and my peers, feel like I am making a spectacle, a zoo of sorts, of their lives. Is there a way for me to show or prove that cheesy tourism shots and “wow”-factor photography isn’t my “game” with carrying my camera everywhere I go?

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