July 7, 2012 Accessibility Key (rating accessibility/accommodations in and around Rio de Janeiro, June-August 2012): >:P phbbbbt = mau (bad) :| straight face = mais ou menos (so-so, ok) :) happy = bom, ta legal (good, great)   **(Highlighted writings below refer specifically to accessibility issues) The Rio Group’s second field trip took us outside Rio de Janeiro for the day.  We traveled to the Pousada Fazenda (Coffee Plantation) Ponte Alta in the mountains of Barra do Pirai. The day was beautiful. We enjoyed both a delicious breakfast and lunch on the farm and drank lots and lots of coffee! The land, surrounded by lush, green hills, palm trees and lakes, was very beautiful, peaceful, quiet and calm. After a most interesting tour of the fazenda factory, slave quarters, and mansion, I rested in my wheelchair.

Matthew and Guida at Pousada Fazenda Ponte Ata, RJ 2012

The other students walked around the plantation for an “ecology walk.”.

Rio Group takes Ecology Walk.

Ecology Walk Beauty

Sunset at the Ponte Alta Coffee Plantation

This farm is a ‘living museum.’ This means that visitors learn about the history of the farm, watching the guides as players demonstrate the history of the place. The staff dress in costumes of the nineteenth century. They tell stories about the colonial past and how the farm was operated by slaves.

Fazenda 19th Century Family Living

There is a slave museum, that shows the torture instruments used on run away slaves, and other things such as cooking utensils.  Also, the guides show the colonial life of farmers. Everything is not what it seems. The colonial life seemed too formal and boring. I imagine if I had lived back then, I would not have liked this style of life! Farmers tortured slaves. Also, they probably beat their wives and their children, and raped the women slaves.  Things are never as idyllic as they seem…

My Rio Program ‘Family’ at Fazenda Ponte Alta 2012. These Young Ones Really Inspire Me and Give Me Hope for this Planet’s Future. Wonderful People!!

Guida with ‘son’ Drew and ‘daughter’ Yuri

Guida with ‘Sons’ Matthew and Drew

Accessibility Nineteenth Century Style Pousada Fazenda Ponte Alta proved to be the most challenging field trip for me during my time in Brazil.  It was an adventure, to say the least! Fortunately, the young men and women in the Rio Program were real troopers.  I really got to know my peers during this day-long field trip, and I feel I forged some lasting relationships during our 12 hours at the coffee plantation.             >:P phbbbbtThere was absolutely NO accessible tools of any kind at the Fazenda.  :) happyBut the staff seemed well-prepared and experienced in dealing with wheelchair users.  The kids learned quickly and took over in transporting me up and down steep stairwells and into buildings with no ramps or elevators.

The Young Ones Preparing to Haul Me up a Stairway at Fazenda Ponte Alta

Here We Go!! WHEEEE!

OK, Just Sit Back, Close My Eyes…and RELAX! Let the Boys do the Hard Part…

          Some of the Accessibility Transportation was more more challenging than others…

This Stairway was Long and VERY Steep…I Closed my Eyes on this Trek…and Prayed Hard all the Way Up

          Some was actually quite easy…

Drew and Matthew Transporting Guida Down only Two Stairs…EASY compared to 13 Stairs!

          The secret?  FLEXIBILITY and a grand sense of humor!  Having a sense of adventure helps, too.  When traveling abroad, always be ready to be very flexible.  Accept people’s help, as there will be many times a person with a disability will not have the luxury of having a ramp or elevator close by.  For me, the most challenging part of this 19th century accessible adventure was dealing with the UNaccessible bathrooms, a whole chapter unto itself! Bathrooms, 19th Century Style              >:P phbbbbt My worst nightmare became reality during this ‘passeio.’ Having fractured my right kneecap four months earlier, I dreaded the day in Brazil when I would find myself in the most awkward position of sitting on a toilet seat unable to stand up because of my painful bad knee.  So here it was–moment of truth–me, in an 1840s-style bathroom at the coffee plantation, sitting on a toilet that seemed one foot off the ground, pants down, most ungracefully, around my legs and I’M STUCK.  AAUUGGHH!!  I can’t get up.  There are no grab bars, not even a small table next to me, so I can push myself up, and the sink seems 10 feet away…what to do?             :) happy As if someone was reading my screaming thoughts, a kind-looking woman opened the door a tiny bit and asked in Portuguese if I needed help.  Whew!  No embarrassment, just a huge sigh of relief.  Flexibility sure came in handy in that moment.  Throughout the day, that wonderful woman always magically appeared out of nowhere right when I needed her assistance out of one of those old bathrooms.  By the end of the day, I was able to figure out a way to get off the toilet, by inching my hand backward and up the wall behind me–dar um jeito!  This trick would save me in future compromising situations in bathrooms across the city of Rio de Janeiro during my six-week stay.  But Graça Adeus–thank God–for that sweet woman at the Fazenda, July 7th, 2012.          :) happy That day was a milestone for me in overcoming obstacles I dreaded happening during this trip.  I had read about the importance of being flexible and relying on people-power when traveling outside of the USA.   But for me to experience, first-hand, how absolutely wonderful people can be, in time of need, was inspiring.           :| straight face Later on toward the end of our program, I missed out on another field trip to some 18th century forts in Rio/Niteroí.

I–Niteroí Fortaleza Field Trip that I Missed

II–Niteroí Fortaleza Field Trip that I Missed

             Program coordinators thought it would be too challenging and inaccessible for my wheelchair.  I wish they had talked to me, and let me make that decision.  The other students told me afterwards that the inaccessible areas at the forts were much easier to maneuver than at the Fazenda (Many, many thanks to Matthew for taking these photos of the Fortaleza and its accessible ramps).

I–Niteroí “Inaccessible” Field Trip–HAH!*

II–Niteroí “Inaccessible” Field Trip–HAH!*

Fortaleza Accessible Pathway, Niteroí

**Therefore, I recommend to future students with disabilities who plan to travel abroad, be sure and find out what field trips are planned during your time in another country.  Encourage–no, DEMAND–that program coordinators inside and outside the USA include you in the decision-making process of what you can or cannot handle, accessibility-wise.   Open communication and inclusiveness are essential in the pre-planning stages of your travels, as well as during your stay abroad. NEXT:  Ipanema and Accessibility Observations…


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