A change in energy

Hello from the USA! We all arrived safely in Omaha yesterday after two flights. While i’m glad to be back home with family and friends, I wish my time with Nisse and Armando didn’t have to be so short.

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I spent a little more than two days out at the farm, sleeping in the garage and photographing everything else my story needed. Nicky came and joined me on Friday afternoon, and we started to cover all the holes in the story.

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On Friday night, a little before bedtime Armando told Nicky and I that his heart was going to be very sad when we leave. He also told us the energy around his home changed for the better when we were there, and he was going to miss us. Things like this make me feel so good. I posted early on after my first day at the farm hoping I would leave Nisse and Armando as many memories as I would have. It felt weird not going out to the farm Sunday morning.

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Nicky and I set it up so one of our translators can show them our multimedia project when we finish it, so they can see what they took part in and hopefully create some change for the Landless Movement.

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Have a great day,

Matt

A party on the farm

Nicky and I headed out to the farm today, and little did we know, within 30 minutes of showing up Armando and Nisse’s whole family would be joining us for a birthday party for one of their grandchildren. It was amazing how much hard work Armando did for this small, modest party. First, more electrical wires needed to be spliced together. Armando crunched through a wooded area and found the right wires underneath dead leaves and twigs.
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Next, a pool was erected for the birthday boy, turning five, which meant Armando needed to reroute some of the water lines buried underneath the farm. With his heart condition and the hot Brazilian sun beating down, both Nicky and I were worried about how much work Armando was going through.

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All went well though, except the pool collapsed once and all the water spilled out. Everyone feasted on turkeys and chicken, to which I asked Nicky if i had known those animals in the previous two weeks. We decided we’ve probably photographed our dinner a few times by now. After everyone finished, Armando finished up his strenuous chores and sat down with a knife and a fork to eat.

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The whole family was receptive to Nicky and I, which made us wonder how weird the situation must have been overral. Having the kids and grandkids go home and explain the party to their friends. “Oh, it was awesome! There were these two guys with cameras that didn’t speak a word of Portuguese. I’m not really sure why they were there.” I was glad we went though, it’s the kind of event that is important to the story, even if the frames never make it into the final cut. I understand the family dynamic that surrounds these two landless farmers more and am beyond thankful they let me past their gates into the farm. Even if I can’t speak their language.

Thanks for looking,

-Matt

Staying overnight

Things have been going well on the farm. Nisse and Armando finished the fence they started on the 27th, now the turkeys stay behind the house for the most part. The small turkeys and chickens are able to make it through a hole in the kitchen wall and come in, but there’s not much you can do about that.

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Nick and I spent the night last night, and it was a good night to go. We watched as a rain storm slowly took over the nearest town, covering it in a wavy, gray blanket of rain until the storm reached the farm. Soon, all you could hear was thunder. The lights inside the home flickered on and off until the storm overpowered the electricity and the lights went out.

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The opportunity to document this story is giving me personal stories I will never forget. Last night when we all sat down to dinner on the farm. Nick was digging into his second plate, out of nowhere a chicken jumped up and sat down on his plate. Nick moved his plate around in the air, but the chicken wouldn’t budge. Eventually, Nisse and Armando grabbed the chicken and got him off. Nick dumped the rest of his food on the floor and the chickens cleaned it all up. It was absolutely hilarious and was a moment where all four of us could share in a deep laugh together.
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Time is winding down in Brazil. I’m going to be sad to leave Nisse and Armando and all their animals, but i’ll be making the most of the time we have left.

Feliz ano novo!

-Matt

From above

Last night I had the opportunity to take photographs from atop one of the many skyscrapers on Paulista Avenue, thanks to Andrew Dickinson, who needed roof access for his motoboy story.

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Being high above the streets was the first chance I had to truly grasp how huge this city is. It doesn’t matter which direction you look toward, there are too many skyscrapers to count.

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There was a light rain while Andrew and I were up on the building, so I figured finding some sort of rain feature photo was necessary. I messed around with probably a dozen different shots before taking this frame. It’s rare to go a day in Sao Paulo without rain, and when it didn’t rain for nearly two days this week, we all started to miss the rain.

Thanks for looking,

Matt

Feels like home

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As a kid, I would spend some time out of my summer vacation on my uncle’s farm in Ord, Neb. I always loved going out to the seemingly-endless fields of green corn crops and distant sounds of cows mooing. Farms are peaceful, beautiful and always interesting. The landless workers farm i’ve been documenting is no exception.

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Just getting out to this farm is an adventure in itself. From the hostel I take four different subway lines, one bus and walk about two miles along the interstate until everything gets quiet and i’m surrounded by what i love the most: lush green foliage and the smell of fresh fruit and vegetables (even though i don’t eat most of them).

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This farm always has something going on, digging holes for a new fence with a post-hole-digger, similar to the same one my dad and uncle tried to teach me how to use, although I could never dig holes nearly as fast as either of them. Chickens and ducks take up vacancy inside the squatted farm house just the same as the people who live there.

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Recently, the transformer inside the plywood and tin home quit working, causing the electricity to go out. A new one cost about 100 reals or $50, which is not in the budget, forcing the family to find a way to wire electricity from a telephone pole or any way they can make it work.

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Even though i’m on another continent, things always remind me of those summers in Ord. Farmers have always been nice and caring people in my book, and the same is true in Brazil. The work is always hard and under the scorching sun. I’m glad to have found people that spark these memories for me, and I hope my presence in their home leaves them with some good memories as well.

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Thanks for looking,

Matt

Back at the farm

I headed out to the Landless Movement farm again today to watch some planting of beans and go on a few errands with Nisse.

These people are genuinely happy where they are, and they really believe in the change they are creating. Nisse and her husband have been living on the farm for over a decade and are still fighting the government to gain official rights to the land. For now, they are happy with their simple life, a plywood home with donated tin roofs and animals roaming freely.

It’s one big family out there. All the families share everything, the crops, the animals, the resources to build and fix homes and anything else you can think of.

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Enjoy the holidays!

-Matt

The real urban jungle

Happy Holidays to everyone back home! I miss you all and hope you’re having a great winter break! Today Nicky and I went on a two-hour bus ride to find some farmers in the Landless Movement. They live on the only urban MST farm in Brazil. We met about a dozen people and nearly a dozen geese, turkeys, chickens, cats and a couple of dogs as well. One of the houses we went into to ask more questions about the Landless movement was also the home to many newborn baby chicks and they roamed freely about underneath my legs as we asked questions and exchanged phone numbers.

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After checking out what was going on the garden behind one of the small homes, we were offered lunch from the garden. The interesting thing here is, these farms are located on top of an old landfill. For 10 years these farmers have lived on this land, now claiming it as their own. The government wants it back but Brazil has a rule about squatters rights, letting the farmers stay here for now.

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Back to lunch, it was the best lunch i have ever had. My own mother can vouch that i never eat lettuce, but I had a couple of platefuls of the leafy greens with rice and beans to top it off. What was even better was the chicken wings. I had a fleeting thought in my head as to whether the chicken was hours fresh or minutes fresh. It tasted like minutes to me.

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Feliz Natal!

-Matt