Olympic Stadium in Berlin

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I really wanted to go see the Olympic Stadium where “The Boys in the Boat” rowed to their victory and Louie Zamperini(Unbroken) ran in the Olympics in 1936. If you haven’t read both of these books you should-very inspirational stories. I loved them both. The history that they both cover about this particular Olympics and it being in Berlin is fascinating. Arriving in Berlin, during the summer of 1936, Olympic athletes like Zamperini saw swastikas flying everywhere.  The “Juden Verboten” signs – forbidding entry to Jewish people – were temporarily out of sight.

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The stadium has been all revamped since then, of course, and they use it mostly for their soccer team and games.

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I found the plaque for Jesse Owens’ wins. Pleased with the performance of German athletes, and with the games in general, Hitler was nonetheless distressed by the numerous victories of Owens, a talented African-American who dominated his events.  Winning four medals, Owens did not win-over a prejudiced Hitler who – according to Albert Speer – was upset about Owens’ accomplishments:

Each of the German victories, and there were a surprising number of these, made [Adolf Hitler] happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens.  (Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich.)

Louie Zamperini did not compete against Jesse Owens.  Instead, he ran the 5,000 meters – a long race that was not his forte – against a group of Finns who’d been winning the race for years.

Biding his time, he initially misjudged how fast his competitors would run.  When he realized he needed to move more quickly, he kicked into high gear, finishing in 14:46.8 – the fastest 5,000-meter time for an American in 1936.  He finished his last lap in 56 seconds.

Later, when he met Hitler, Louie was surprised that the German leader remembered him.  “Ah,” he said.  “You’re the boy with the fast finish.”

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This is the plaque for “the boys in the boat”-” achter” is  the eight man boat. Out of the depths of the Depression this is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

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Harper Lee-new book at 88 years old????

Bush Awards Presidential Medal of Freedomproxy

Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist widely known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning  To Kill a Mockingbird which deals with the racism she observed as a child in her hometown of Monroeville,Alabama during the depression. It was published at the height of the civil rights struggle. Though Lee only published this single book for half a century, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Lee has received numerous honorary degrees, and declined to speak on each occasion. The book was also adapted into an Oscar winning film starring Gregory Peck.

One morning late last summer, Tonja B. Carter was doing some legal work for this prized client when she found herself thumbing through an old manuscript of what she assumed was “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The characters were familiar, as they would be to millions of readers — the crusading lawyer, Atticus Finch, and his feisty daughter, Scout. But the passages were different. Atticus was much older. Scout was grown up. The story unfolded in Alabama during the racial turmoil of the 1950s, not the Depression of the 1930s.
Confused, Ms. Carter scanned the text, trying to figure out what she was holding. It was a novel titled “Go Set a Watchman.” It may be one of the most monumental discoveries in contemporary American literature.
“I was so stunned. At the time I didn’t know if it was finished,” Ms. Carter recalled in an interview on Saturday, her first extensive comments about the discovery. She went to see Ms. Lee and asked her if the novel was complete. “She said, ‘Complete? I guess so. It was the parent of “Mockingbird.” ’ ”
The recovered manuscript has ignited fierce debate — much of it speculative — about why Ms. Lee waited so long to publish again, whether the book will stand up to her beloved first novel, and whether the author, who has long shied away from public attention, might have been pressured or manipulated into publishing it.
Residents of Monroeville gossip that Ms. Lee is mentally infirm these days, doesn’t recognize old friends, couldn’t possibly have signed off on the publication, never wanted to do a second book. But those who are closest to her scoff at such conspiratorial theories, saying Harper Lee, now 88 and admittedly frail, remains fully capable of making up her own mind.Her comment?:Mockingbirds don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

     Descendent from Robert E. Lee, the Southern-

Richmond, Virginia

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I had one very busy day in Richmond a few weeks ago, but I learned and saw a lot. Most interesting to me were the statues of soldiers on horses all the way down Monument Avenue. There are several statues but the one of General Robert E. Lee is the largest and was the first installed along Monument Avenue. If a statue is facing north, the soldier died in the Civil War; if the statue faces south, the soldier lived, as in the case of Robert E. Lee. No other city in the world has statues commemorating a war that it actually lost,which is an interesting fact!

Richmond was the Capital of the Confederacy, a commercial center for the slave trade, and the site of several major battles – in fact, the entire downtown was burned to the ground, days before Abraham Lincoln walked the streets. Richmond, Virginia was “ground zero” during the Civil War. This makes it a rich and powerful region to tour, and the ideal place to begin a multi-state Civil War and Emancipation immersion.

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The Jefferson Hotel was supposed to open on November 1, 1895, but at the last minute it was realized that November 1 was a Friday, and it was considered bad luck to start anything on a Friday. So the hotel was opened on Halloween, 1895 instead. The staircase in the center of the hotel is the one said to have been copied for the “Gone With the Wind” scene later in the movie, where Rhett Butler carries Scarlett up the grand,beautiful staircase.

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In his autobiography, The Moon’s A Balloon (1972), Academy Award-winning actor David Niven described a trip from New York to Florida in the late 1930s, when he decided to spend the night at the Jefferson Hotel. Niven said that, as he was signing the guest registry in the lobby, his eyes snapped open with amazement when he noticed a full-sized alligator swimming in a small pool located six feet from the reception desk.The alligators at the Jefferson became world famous. Old Pompey, the last alligator living in the marble pools of the Jefferson’s Palm Court, survived until 1948. Bronze statues of the alligators now decorate the hotel. Its restaurant, Lemaire, has a theme of alligator motifs.

The Favelas in Rio

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We visited a favela one day while in Rio-pictured above is the one where Michael Jackson filmed his video described.

A favela is the term for slum in Brazil, most often within urban areas. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). This was the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many former black slaves moved in.

Even before the first favela came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from the city and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities. Unable to find a place to live, many people ended up in a favela. Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about 6 percent of the population lived in slums in Brazil.This means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people that lived in the country resided in areas of irregular occupation definable by lack of public services or urbanization, referred to by the IBGE as “subnormal agglomerations”.

Michael Jackson connected with Rio in 1996 when he shot part of the “They Don’t Care About Us” video in the Santa Marta favela in Botafogo. The event assumed huge significance for the community, as José Mario Hilario dos Santos, president of the Santa Marta residents association, explained; “There are a lot of fans in the community. Everyone loves Michael Jackson and you could always hear his music here. He could have chosen any of the communities and it means a lot that he came here.”

You can see the video:

Michael Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us – YouTube

excerpts from Wikepedia, article about Michael Jackson, YouTube

Rio de Janeiro

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Standing atop the Corcovado Mountain with his arms spread out, this enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) has been embracing the people of Rio since its inauguration in 1931. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the imposing structure of soapstone and cement provides panoramic views of Rio beyond compare.

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Named after the traditional sugarloaves used long ago, the Sugarloaf Mountain is a tall peak rising at the Guanabar Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. At the top you have magnificent views of the sparkling Rio beaches, statue of Christ the Redeemer and the green forests. Although most visitors arrive by a cable car ( which takes 2-3 minutes) others can test their enthusiasm and energy by climbing the mountain.

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I found out where Copacabana and Ipanema are!

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Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival capital of the world. The Rio Carnaval is not only the biggest Carnival, it is also a benchmark against which every other carnival is compared and one of the most interesting artistic events on the globe.  Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.

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This colorful tiled stairway is the work of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron, self-taught. Having traveled the world, Selarón moved to Rio in 1983.There are 215 steps that he entirely covered with majolica collected in urban areas of Rio or donated by visitors from all around the world. Since 1990, Selarón  laid over 2000 tiles, mainly red-colored: unique pieces representing a “tribute to the Brazilian people”.

 

The Amazon-some Facts or what I learned while there….

Aside from the sheer vastness of the Amazon and the Rio Negro and the incredible vegetation, there were a few things I took away with me that I learned about while there. One is the fact that a lot of the vegetation is merely buried during the rainy season-in the very least,a  lot of the trees were covered up to half of their height. The roots of tree can be extremely large-leading one to believe they are hanging on for dear life!

The trees are worse off in the rainy season, when many leaves die but relatively few new ones are produced. In the dry season they thrive; far more new leaves are produced than are shed, allowing the tree to benefit from the season’s increased sunlight. It appears that the trees anticipate the dry season, putting out leaves earlier, suggesting that they have evolved to take maximum advantage of the light.They have deep roots and are able to tap water deep in the soil.

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I also loved seeing the pink dolphins.

Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)

The Amazon River dolphin averages about 6.5 feet in length. They come in all shades of pink, from a dull gray-pink, to rosy colored pink, to a bright pink like that of the flamingo. This color variation is due to the clarity of the water in which the dolphin lives; the darker the water, the pinker the dolphin will be. The sun’s rays cause the dolphins to lose their pink pigmentation. Murky water helps to protect the dolphin’s bright hue. These animals are also known to flush to a bright pink when excited. There are several anatomical differences between the Amazon River dolphin and other types of dolphins. For one, Amazon River dolphins are able to turn their necks from side to side while most species of dolphin cannot. This trait coupled with their ability to paddle forward with one flipper while paddling backward with the other helps them maneuver when the river floods. These dolphins will actually swim up over the flooded land and their flexibility helps them to navigate around trees. Additional characteristics that set these dolphins apart from other species are molar-like teeth that allow them to chew their prey and bristle-like hairs at the ends of their snouts that help them search for food on the muddy river bottoms.

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I was also fascinated by the Brazilian rosewood.Brazilian rosewood is endemic to the coastal Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.  Of the over 8,000 plants species that grow there, Brazilian rosewood is one of the largest.  It can also be recognised by its dark branches that grow in zigzag patterns and by its feathery leaflets.

The tree is able to withstand a broad range of climatic conditions from tropical lowland forest to sub-montane forest.  Nitrogen fixing bacteria and fungi in its roots allows the species to survive in nutrient deficient soils. Throughout a short period between November and December its flowers are pollinated by insects, mainly bees and it produces fruit from January until September.

Like all rosewoods, the species has a strong sweet smell reminiscent of the fragrance of roses. The high oil content of the wood also makes it desirable for use as an essential oil for fragrance cosmetics (Chanel no.5 for example) and for use in medicines.

Its timber is heavy and strong, making it highly resistant to insect attack and decay. It is therefore much sought after in local markets as a building material for use in flooring, structural beams and wall panelling/lining. Worldwide, its timber, being highly resonant, is also used to make musical instruments such as guitars.

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excerpts from articles on Brazilian Rosewood,the Amazon, National Geographic on Pink Dolphins

The Amazon and Rio Negro

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A few weeks ago, we went on a fabulous trip with some friends. We flew into Manaus,Brazil and stayed there one night. The next day we took a private bus to our lodge which was 100 miles northwest of Manaus. We stayed for 4 days  at a wonderful lodge called Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge. We had a tour guide that took us out every day on the Rio Negro which is a tributary of the Amazon. Even that was about 18 miles( where we were) across to the other side with over 400 islands in it!

Here is more information,as we learned it,about the Amazon and Rio Negro:

Rio Negro is the largest left tributary of the Amazon, the largest backwater river in the world, and one of the world’s ten largest rivers in average discharge. It has its sources along the watershed between the Orinoco and the Amazon basins, and also connects with the Orinoco by way of the Casiquiare canal in southern Venezuela. In Colombia, where the Rio Negro’s sources are located, it is called the Guainía River. Its main affluent is the Vaupes , which disputes with the headwaters of the Guaviare branch of the Orinoco, the drainage of the eastern slope of the Andes of Columbia. The Rio Negro flows into the Rio Solimões to form the Amazon River South of Manaus, Brazil.

Rio Negro is navigable for 430 mi from its mouth  in the dry season, but it has many sandbanks and minor difficulties. A small portion of it forms the international boundary between Colombia and Venezuela.

In the wet season, it floods the country far and wide, sometimes to a width of 19 miles, for long distances, and for 40 miles upstream. During this time, from April until October, it is a succession of lagoons, full of long islands and intricate channels. The foothills of the Andes begin just before reaching the Vaupes . At this point, the Negro narrows and is filled with many large rocks over which it violently flows in cataracts, rapids and whirlpools..

 While the name Rio Negro means Black River, its waters aren’t exactly black; they are similar in color to strong tea. The dark color comes from humid acid from incomplete breakdown of phenol-containing vegetation from sandy clearings. The river’s name arises from the fact that it looks black from afar.

Much has been written on the productivity of the Rio Negro and other blackwater rivers. The older idea that these are “hunger rivers” is giving way, with new research, to the recognition that the Rio Negro, for example, supports a large fishing industry and has numerous turtle beaches. If the Negro was empty of Indians during the 17th century, introduced exotic diseases and warfare are more likely causes than low river productivity.

About 700 fish species have been documented in the river basin, and it is estimated that the total is 800–900 fish species, including almost 100 endemics and several undescribed species. Among these are many that are important in the aquarium trade, including the cardinal tetra.

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