A trip to the rainforests of Brazil sounds like a dream come true and that is exactly what I knew a trip to the Atlantic Rainforest would be for me. In New York, there is no shortage of natural beauty from the Falls to our vast woodlands, wheat fields, and acres upon acres of wildflowers, but I had never before experienced the true beauty of a tropical rainforest. I had always pictured sprawling jungle vines, colorful birds soaring overhead, and panthers stalking through the treeline but I had always gotten that information from the movies or what I had read in fictional literature. The reality was nothing at all like I had pictured it. I was stunned by the sheer size of it. We saw just a glimpse of the whole forest and the size of what we saw was nearly overwhelming, it is incredible to think of just how far it reaches and the many organisms that inhabit it. As we walked down the path I was awed at the sheer amount of green my eyes were being treated to. Each tree had a different purpose, a medicinal leaf that it grew, a home and food for ants that it housed, a symbol for rendez-vous points hundreds of years ago, and who knows how many other purposes these trees held. Everything worked together. One fact that stood out to me the most was the tree at the beginning of the trail.

Our tour guide explained to us that the tree itself produced bananas as its main fruit. These bananas and the nutrients inside the tree provide food for a certain species of ant that makes a home in that tree. She explained that the ants protected the tree from predators and threats in exchange for food and housing. The bananas the tree produces are particularly appetizing to monkeys in the area and when they take the bananas from the tree the ants attack the monkeys out of protection for the tree. This was a beautiful picture of the animal kingdom to me. It reminded me of the cycle of life and what we owe to each other as living beings. The tree provided nutrients and housing and out of gratitude and a sense of purpose or self-preservation, the ants protected the tree. As I continue this journey in Sāo Paulo, I meditate on this experience. It has given me hope for the world, especially the connections that bind us as humans – no matter our differences. 


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