Manaus: Amazon Capital
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With the memory of the Olympics still fresh in our minds, coupled with renewed passion for the great games, thoughts, quivering with anticipation, turn to the successor nation and 2014 World Cup hosts: Brazil. Manaus: Brazil’s industrial hub and capital of the Amazonas, home to a near 3,000,000 inhabitants and one of the host cities for both events, is a place of huge international interest - economically, environmentally and socially. When I was offered the opportunity to take up a two month placement with the trade union of Amazonas Journalists in Manaus, I quite literally jumped at the chance. The idea of being in the middle of the Amazon in Brazil was an offer I could simply never refuse. Despite being completely unsure of what I was expected to do there, and called ‘crazy’ by everyone from the till guy at Tesco’s to my ninety-year-old grandmother, I eagerly packed up my things, did some internet research on the world’s deadliest animals - felt comforted at the thought that most of them decided to make their homes in the Amazon - and went on my merry way. Disappointment and frustration can never exist without expectation. The expectations I had of Manaus were, I soon came to realize, numbered and unrealistic. When you hear the description “capital of the Amazonas, Brazil” with care to not be exaggerated, you imagine some sort of city which reflects being in the middle of the world’s largest rainforest. The constant and insistent international interest in preserving the Amazon contributes further to this image of the ‘capital’ of the Amazonas being a place where city meets nature, industry meets sustainability, man meets restraint and acknowledges the limits of his environment. I was completely taken aback when I quicklyrealised Manaus was not this, is not this - if anything it appears to be the opposite. I have been in Manaus for almost three weeks, and have been chartered with the task of creating a project which will socially and culturally benefit the community. There is no shortage of choice for such a project. The city is impoverished, highly polluted, ravaged with crime and despondency, and an infrastructure which is crying out forrenovation.
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