Monthly Archives: October 2010

And so it goes…with Conservation

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when I think about what’s going on in the world. I don’t just mean world politics or poverty or climate change, though of course all of those things worry me. But when I sit down and look at beautiful photos of wildlife, especially tigers, I feel such a rush of emotions that I can’t even describe. It’s like these amazing creatures are only here to exist and to exude strength and beauty and humanity is out to destroy their habitats and limit their lives.

WWF recently released a report on the discovery of one new species every 3 days in the Amazon, and reading that just makes me awestruck. To know that these species, and who knows how many others exist that we don’t even know about – and then to think about the rapid rate of deforestation and destruction in the Amazon, (and other amazing forests like it,) that is destroying countless lives and species…it’s just feels like such an overwhelming burden to have the knowledge of why it’s all so wrong.


Ranitomeya Amazonica found in Peru - Photo Thanks to WWF


I personally believe that that the tiger is the most amazing creature in the world. WWF and countless other organizations work day and night to try and combat habitat destruction and senseless killing (human/animal conflict and the sort) of these unbelievable creatures, and yet they are still disappearing at alarming rates and fighting for the survival of their species.

Sumatran Tiger - Photo thanks to WWF

How can so much manpower and money and effort go into the process without yielding the desired results? It’s still amazing to me until you realize that it’s not those with the most education, (and therefore knowledge about how actions impact the environment,) that are doing the most harm, but it’s those with the least recourses and most necessity who are destroying forests for money and destroying species and habitats along with it. I’ve read about all the work that Panthera does, an NGO that looks to set up wildlife corridors to save the world’s 36 species of wild cats, as well as the work that WWF does in many places in the world – which is working from the ground up to educate and communicate with indigenous LOCAL groups to get their cooperation in protecting the forest.

The world of Conservation recognizes its limitations, particularly when it comes to the destruction of forests and it is because of this that REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) has come into action. REDD+ was established with the idea that it’s the people who manage forest resources that should be rewarded accordingly for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, if people are looking to cut forests to earn money, they need to be compensated with money for preserving the same forest. This new system being put in place all over the world gives at least some hope that perhaps we have the answer to the problem of cutting forests after all, money.

I have to be hopeful that REDD will at least begin to help answer the problems of deforestation and with the Green Movement sweeping the world, hopefully people really are becoming more conscious of where their products and goods are coming from, rather than just buying whatever looks nice regardless of its sustainability. Raising awareness is only the first step to saving these amazing creatures from becoming extinct.


Falling for Iguazu

After exploring all the Buenos Aires had to offer, we made our way back north to visit Iguazu Falls. This is probably the most spectacular place I have ever been. I went about 4 years ago with my Mom, while I was studying in Buenos Aires and she came to visit. We were both awe-struck by its beauty, and I was excited to relive the same experience. I must say that Iguazu does not disappoint, no matter how many times you visit. I think I could just sit in one place for endless hours watching the cascading falls and the birds, monkeys, and coatis that roam the park.

Spectacular Doesn't Describe It

Cascades to Dream About

Known as the Devil's Throat at the Falls

Aleks and I taking it all in

Paraguay Has its Hero

Lucy and me at a tree planting event in the Atlantic Forest

Something amazing happened right before I left Paraguay for a 3 week vacation at the end of September, my boss and the Director of WWF Paraguay, Lucy Aquino, was recognized as a a Global Hero of Conservation and was invited to a conference in Washington D.C. along with 5 other remarkable women. I cannot think of a more deserving person for this award and feel so honored to be able to work in her presence everyday.

The event was hosted by the Alliance for Global Conservation – a partnership of Conservation International, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund. The invitees were inspirational women from around the world who are doing critically important, but lesser known, work in conservation. The distinguished list of invitees included; Dr. Wangari Maathai (Founder of Green Belt Movement, Kenya), Suzan Baptiste (Chairman and Founder of Natureseekers, Trinidad), Sangduen “Lek” Chailert (Founder of Elephant Nature Park, Thailand), Mary Mavanza (Manager of TACARE Program of the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanzania), Habiba Sorabi (Governor of Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province, Afghanistan), and Annabell Waititu (Executive Director of the Institute of Environment and Water, Kenya).

The Alliance for Global Conservation focuses on the impact of environmental degradation specifically affecting women and children around the world. They invited female leaders in conservation to come to D.C. to share their stories and their unique models of conservation with other women and U.S. thought leaders. While in D.C. the participants had the opportunity to participate in a number of briefings with policymakers and the media, as well as a special audience with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, to tell the compelling stories of the roles they have had in conservation around the world.

Lucy was selected for this very distinguished honor for her life’s work protecting Paraguay’s natural environment. Her work with WWF over the last 10 years has marked encouraging changes in the views of conservation throughout the country, and continent. Through her dedication, Lucy was able to spearhead Zero Deforestation legislation in Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest, WWF Paraguay’s primary target zone. This legislation, and the work that accompanies it, not only benefits the natural landscape of Paraguay, but also provides a more hopeful future for the indigenous communities and families living within the forest remnants who still depend on the forest for their survival. It is with this type of dedication and conviction that Lucy has been able to carve a new path for conservation in Paraguay, inspiring others to do the same and earning her a place among the Women Heroes of Global Conservation.

Springing Full Speed Ahead

I am down here in South America springing full speed ahead, but wishing so badly to be falling back along with family and friends in the northern hemisphere. There is nothing quite as beautiful as New York in the fall – with leaves turning shades of gold, orange, and crimson (my childhood favorite descriptive word for fall leaves!) I miss hot apple cider and pumpkin picking and fall-weight sweaters. I miss pulling out my leather boots for the first time and September baseball. I miss playing in the leaves with my dog and apple picking with my friends.

These are some of the things the remind me of fall…

Up the Bear Mountain Parkway in NY State

A gorgeous home sporting Fall colors in upstate New York

Beautiful Cooper frolicking in the fallen leaves

My two big cats spending the afternoon in a Pumpkin Patch

Tasting My Buenos Aires Querido

Being back in the land of the Porteño was a feeling of cultural and culinary bliss I don’t know if I can do justice on paper, err the blogosphere. The boyfriend and I stayed at an apartment we rented in Palermo SoHo, one of the hippest, chic-est neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. We were within 2 blocks of delicious restaurants, bars, shops, and wineries.

Our first night we wandered about 10 blocks down the road to La Cabrera Norte, where we waited for about an hour staring through the window and salivating while we watched others chow down on massive amounts of unbelievably juicy looking meat. After some breadsticks and complementary champagne we were at last guided into a back room of the restaurant and seated. It wasn’t a difficult decision of what to order, Bife de Chorizo – which, thankfully, the American expat sitting at the table next to us informed us that one order was more than enough for two people. He was absolutely right. We started with our plate of chorizo which was soon followed by a few huge cuts of meat and a platter of different sauces and toppings to go alongside. We also began our week-long ritual of a bottle a day (sometimes two) and enjoyed a delicious Argentine Malbec.

Nothing wrong with being a wino.

Our first meal was awakening…reviving…rejuvenating. Could things get better from there, or had we peaked on our first day? We soon learned, things could get a lot better, which is hard to do when starting at the number one restaurant in a city and working your way backwards. I might argue that Miranda, in Palermo Hollywood, had the best rib-eye I’ve ever sunk my fork into, or teeth for that matter. Juicy, tender, flavorful, delicious. Or that their Dulce de Leche crepe was O worthy.

That is one hell of a meal.

We even had dinner one night at a great, but not the best ever, restaurant and headed to an old favorite of mine (where I celebrated my 21st birthday) Xalapa – and ate the most delicious Tres Leches cake in the world. Yes, my friends, I have traveled the world in search of a flavor that good ever since that fateful birthday (or about a month before when I first had the cake and determined my birthday had to be celebrated ONLY at Xalapa so I could taste that deliciousness once again,) and it simply does not exist!

I cannot say our waistlines were not affected by this constant admittance of food down our gullets, but ever drop, (and every pound, as it were) was worth it! Aleks permitted me as much reminiscing as I myself could handle, and we ate our way through the city – one Pizza Bum (Napolitana Pizza with Hearts of Palm on top), Freddo (see prior post about ice cream – and see drool trickling down my chin), and Mundo Bizarro (strange “bizarre” bar with great drinks), at a time!

Nothing beats Tomato, Ham, Tons of Cheese, Hearts of Palm and an Olive per Slice

**Helpful hint for any Hispano-Hablantes traveling to Buenos Aires in the near future – is a complete food guide to the city, complete with neighborhoods, type of cuisine, and reviews!

I Scream for Ice Cream!

I didn’t realize until I moved to Paraguay that I was such a “dulcetona” or person who loves sweets. Ok, so that statement is only partially true; I love dessert, I love chocolate, I love fruit – the sweeter the better – and I love cookies, (oh, and brownies and pie and banana bread…) but I guess I didn’t realize it was an actual problem and potential health hazard until I arrived here.

Since my first day at WWF we have had dessert in the office at least twice a week, sometimes four or five times. My first week there were sweets to welcome me, someone’s birthday, then my birthday, etc and the list kept growing. Ice cream, cakes, cookies, mousse, and anything with dulce de leche was brought in as a “small treat”. Those small treats add up over time, but who’s counting, right?

I have to say, aside from the unbelievably delicious alfajores and other dulce de leche filled sugar cookies, the one thing I cannot get enough of is ice cream. Ice cream in all flavors served creamy and delicious in a cone, piled high with a spoon to make sure not even a melty drip is wasted. The flavors range from Dulce de Leche to Chocolate with Dulce de Leche and Cookies to Sweet Cream with Berries to Mango. The flavors go on and on and the more heladerias (ice cream stores) that you try, the more flavors you discover!

Carving out my masterpiece of creamy delight!

While in Buenos Aires most recently, I recounted, salivating, the ice cream flavors made by Freddo from the days when I lived there in college. I told my boyfriend that we would just have to try out all of the ice cream “parlors” in the city in order to ensure we had truly had the best! The choices were Freddo, Volta, Persicco, Munchis, and the list goes on… We experimented with Passion Fruit Cheesecake, Tramontana (Sweet Cream with Swirls of Dulce de Leche and Chocolate), Dulce de Leche Granizado, Banana Split and even cigar-shaped ice cream filled cookie and chocolate crust Cubanitos. In the end we determined you couldn’t rule out one ice cream place over another since they were all too incredibly delicious and deserving.

My happy place

If you’ve never tried Argentine Ice Cream, (or even Paraguayan which comes in at a close second) you can’t even imagine the deliciousness that you are missing out on. I have been craving this sweet creamy cold flavorful amazing helado for the four years since I’ve been out of South America and truly don’t know what I will do when I return to the northern hemisphere and have to make due with Carvel or Ben and Jerry’s or even Pinkberry as a substitute!

Fear not, however, as this dulcetona will certainly find a way to keep her heart happy by way of stomach.

The Monthly Affliction

Returning to life as usual after a vacation is one thing. Returning to the foreign 3rd world country where you are currently exercising your independence, freedom, and personal growth after a dreamily romantic vacation with someone you love who you will not see for an undefined period of time is quite another.

I can chalk my emotions and and heavy heart up to loneliness or homesickness or even unsatisfied hunger. Or I can pick my usual route and check my horoscope to find out what in the stars could be causing me to feel this way.

Now I have never been a firm believer in astrology. My childhood was filled with horoscopes and readings and charts and numbers and I always just brushed it aside when it came to relating it to my life. As I got older, say about the time I was a senior in college, I began to open up to the idea that maybe the stars could have some sort of effect on me.

It became an unintentional pattern that I would pay closest attention to the stars whenever it was “that time of the month”. And no, I don’t mean that time of the month, but rather the full moon that hovers above silently and quietly torturing me once a month, twelve months a year. I am always unaware of its unavoidable presence until I feel a strange body of emotions welling within, with no place to go and no reasonable explanation for where they might have come from.

Hello, old friend.

I am pretty self aware, so I can safely say that when I feel an emotion, be it sadness, happiness, love, excitement, sorrow I can usually easily identify it and understand its roots and how it came to be that I felt that way. However my self-awareness doesn’t quite reach as far as to know and memorize the lunar calendar, so every month, (without fail) when I begin to feel a tug of inexplicable emotions and feel on the verge of tears at something as simple as struggling with a key in a lock, I have to ask myself, “How long has it been since the last full moon?”

Today was much the same. I returned from my Luna de Miel, as my coworkers insist on calling it, and my boyfriend hit the high seas back to Europe last Saturday, leaving me to finish out my last two months here in Paraguay. My heart has been heavy with longing, but a corner has been left open to be filled with the appreciation that I still have two months left to learn and make a difference. My emotions have been running relatively on high, it may or may not have been that time of month in the most commonly understood sense of the phrase, and I have been struggling to jump back in at work as my mind is still in another world.

But yesterday someone seemed to call out “Earth to Amanda” and to bring me back down to start writing my lists and checking them off, (one of my favorite pastimes!) Today marked an accomplishment in not just my patience, frustration, and learning curve, but also in my professional career. I completed a relatively modest grant proposal requesting 30k British Pounds to cover various project costs for WWF Paraguay.

After almost 36 hours straight of work, worry, and nail-biting at the thought of the proposal, I made the final edits and sent it out to be judged (and hopefully loved and subsequently approved) at 4 pm. Rather than leaning back with the satisfaction of knowing it was a job well done, I felt a familiar burning sensation in the back of my eyes and realized with horror I was about to cry. After about 5 seconds of anticipation I caught on and said, what the hell could possibly make you cry right now? I righted myself and called upon the appropriate emotions – satisfaction, happiness, and relief – and called it a day.

Later this evening, feeling a similar uneasiness, desire to eat massive amounts of spaghetti and tomato sauce or pizza, and life is overwhelming emotions, I realized it was time to check up on Astrology Zone and find out what was up. Lo and behold – the full moon falls on October 22 (today.)  And thus another month of 1 day’s craziness passes as I patiently and ignorantly await the next.

Looks easy enough...