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philosophise about their passion, tango. 

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has German roots and tells what it feels like to live between two cultures. 

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runs an organic cocoa farm and tells how she protects the Atlantic rainforest in this way.

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emigrated from Ukraine to Canada.  She gives us an impression of her current life and tells us about Ukrainian traditions. 

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founded an educational center for children and teens that covers all environmental topics. Because you can only protect what you know and love.

Discover the diversity of people - a snapshot with Ruth

and Alberto

February 2021

Ruth (85) and Alberto (82) live together on the ground floor of an old flat with a small garden in Buenos Aires.

Ruth worked as an architect until she retired, Alberto was a tailor.

Together they raised two wonderful girls and are now proud grandparents of a grandson and a granddaughter.

Both were born and raised in Buenos Aires. "The city of good air" shaped their entire lives. Ruth enjoyed spending her youth in the museums of Buenos Aires and Alberto loved to watch horse races.

Ruth and Alberto met on 2nd July 1967, and after two years they married in a small ceremony on a beautiful spring day in October. Ruth remembers that she was half an hour late. Alberto was already beginning to worry.

What do you think makes Buenos Aires so charming?

Ruth: I love taking walks in the parks of Palermo, a district of Buenos Aires.

Before Corona, we liked to go to a tango peña or a milonga in the evening.

At a tango peña we meet in a place, sing tango songs in pairs and listen to others singing their tango songs.

Milongas are dance halls where people dance tango. They are very common in Buenos Aires. 

What fascinates you about tango?

Ruth: I have been dancing tango since I was 20 years old. My favourite music is tango and bolero. 

Tango is like a soulmate for me. Since I was a child, I always heard this wonderful music from my radio.

I love and admire the lyrics and would like to understand their deeper meaning. We have been singing tango together since we retired over 20 years ago.

Alberto: Tango is a part of me, a buddy. I am very familiar with the songs we sing together.

What does sustainability look like in Buenos Aires?

We separate paper from other rubbish and put garbage that can be recycled in a separate container.

We never paid attention to organic products in supermarkets. We were all surprised when we heared that organic apples from Argentina are on sale in Austrian supermarkets.

Sustainability in tourism? This is the first time we heard of this, we never dealt with this topic before.

Where did you go on holiday as a child and where do you go now?

Ruth: We went to Cordoba, to Mar del Plata beach and to Tigre. These places have changed and grown a lot since I was a child. 

Alberto: I spent the summers of my childhood with relatives in a small town in the province of Buenos Aires. This town has not changed much since then.

We still go to Pinamar, a place on the coast, or to a spa in Entre Rios, a province north of Buenos Aires. We like to go on holiday.

What do you think are the culinary specialities in Argentina?

Alberto: Empanadas, puchero and asado.

An empanada is a filled dumpling, puchero is a vegetable and meat stew and asado is what we understand as a typical grilled meal.

Ruth prefers pasta and Alberto "Albondigas con pure" (meatballs with mashed potatoes).

How do you feel about the economic situation in Argentina?

Alberto: Black!

Ruth: Catastrophic!

Argentina is in the deepest multi-year recession since the collapse of the financial system in 2001/02.    

 
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Discover the diversity of people - a snapshot with Anne 

 February 2021

Anne (45) was born in the former Eastern Germany. Since almost 20 years she lives with her family and a dog in a typical Cape style house in a small American town north of Boston in Massachusetts.

Since the beginning of this school year, she is working in a kindergarten again.

How is life in Germany different from life in the U.S.?

In my opinion, life in the U.S. differs in some essential aspects from what I know from Germany. For example the social validation and the often missing health insurance. Fortunately, we have never been affected so far. I have often heard that people don't go to the doctor because they don't have insurance.

Since the childcare costs are very high here compared to Germany for kindergarten and nursery, we decided that I was going to stay at home with the children until my children attend an all-day school. My children are growing up bilingual.

With the appropriate financial security, what I appreciate about the U.S. is that people can "start over" at any time. In Germany, I felt that after school you go to university, get a degree or do an apprenticeship and work in this job for my whole life. I felt that as a 20-year-old I had to make a decision for life. At that time, it seemed impossible to me as a 45-year-old to start something new, to reinvent myself. That's exactly the step I'm taking now.

How is sustainability lived in the U.S.?

In my opinion, sustainability is still at the beginning in my region. Packaged food is still packed in plastic bags by "packers". Some plastic bags contain only one item! There is the option of buying cotton bags and reusing them, but most people prefer the plastic variety. On a positive note, according to Waste Today Magazine, there are nearly 140 towns in Massachusetts that have banned plastic bags altogether, or where people have to pay for the bags. 

Personally, I haven't heard anything about sustainability in tourism.

How do you spend your holidays?

I like to go on holiday with my family. Before Covid, I used to fly to Germany with my kids for several weeks, every year during the summer holidays. We used the time to visit family and friends. My husband visited us in Germany for a fortnight during this time.

I am looking forward to the time when travelling is possible again.

Your holiday memories as a child?

As a child we didn't have many opportunities to go on holiday. In winter we went to the former Czechoslovakia for two weeks, and once to Hungary when I was 11. We slept in holiday flats. After the Wall came down, my family went on holidays to Norway, Denmark, Austria and Germany.

What childhood memories would you like to share with us?

I grew up in a rural area with a huge garden, and we always had fresh fruits and vegetables. We processed the surpluses in many different ways in order to have a supply of fruit and vegetables in winter. In the supermarkets we only could buy seasonal food only. Once a year we could buy bananas, but only one banana per head!

I was 13 years old when the Wall came down. At first I didn´t feel a personal change. The Freedom to travel was the first step that made the change tangible.

I particularly remember the unusual and exotic smell of West German shops. Even if I was blind, I would have smelled that I was in a shop in West Germany.

What challenges did you face in your early years?

The first years in the U.S. were not easy for me. I worked as a nanny but had no place where I really felt home. When I found the courage to go back to college, I started to gain strength. There I met and fell in love with my future husband. After all these years, I still feel German, I miss the country where I grew up and I admit it, I miss German punctuality too.

I live between two cultures and I don't belong one hundred percent in one, but I don't belong in the other one either.

Personally, I have never considered applying for American citizenship.

 
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Discover the diversity of people - a snapshot with Juliana

 

March 2021

Juliana (43) was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. Since 2014, she has spent most of the year at the Fazenda Almada, which is about 40 km from Ilhéus (Bahia). She runs an organic cocoa farm and a small guesthouse at the Fazenda. In 2012, Markus Mauthe, a German photographer, environmental activist and author, visited the Fazenda for the first time. He fell in love with the area and found the love of his life in Juliana. Juliana has two daughters, Maria Helena (17) from her first marriage and Anabelle (4).

What is your family's tradition of cocoa cultivation?

A few hundred years ago, the Portuguese crown distributed land, so-called "sesmarias", to nobles and the middle classes to plant sugar cane, coffee and cocoa, among other things.

My ancestor Pedro Augusto de Cerqueira Lima from Portugal took over the fazenda in 1855 and cultivated sugar cane for the first few years before switching to the more lucrative cultivation of cocoa.

Our fazenda is named after the river "Rio Almada", which is very close to us. 

I am the sixth generation to run the fazenda together with my husband. Our goals are to produce high-quality organic cocoa, to preserve the knowledge of cocoa culture and to introduce guests from all over the world to the beauty and biodiversity of the Atlantic rainforest.


Would you like to give us an insight into your work?

We harvest the cocoa bean twice a year (from the beginning of May to the end of June and from the beginning of October to the beginning of December).

Our cocoa fields cover 150 hectares and are maintained by eight farmers. We currently employ another three people ourselves. We provide the resources (water, electricity, shelter) on our land and share the profits 50/50.

We are convinced that growing organic cocoa is the better choice for people and the environment. We want to produce food in harmony with nature and not at its expense. Through our close-to-nature cacao cultivation (we call the "cacao forest" Cabruca), the cacao trees grow according to the laws of nature in the lower tree layer of the rainforest together with many other plants and trees. We call this form of cultivation agroforestry.

This system has the advantage that it preserves all biodiversity, stabilizes the water balance and protects the soil from erosion.  

From 2016 to 2018, our cocoa was certified organic. As a small business, we did not renew the contract because the costs were too high.

What do you fear most about the cocoa harvest?

Lack of rainfall and severe storms threaten the harvest every year due to climate change. But fungal diseases, viruses and parasites have also given me many sleepless nights.

One example is the Witches' Broom disease (Moniliophthora perniciosa). The fungus causes broom-like growths on the branches. If the fungus attacks a flower of the cacao tree, it no longer produces a healthy cacao fruit.

What do you appreciate about the cocoa bean and your habitat?

I associate nature with the bean. I am very lucky to live in the Mata Atlântica. Once, the rainforest extended over the entire east coast of Brazil and reached deep into the interior of the country. Today, this complex ecosystem, in which supposedly more plant species grow than in Europe and North America combined, is one of the most threatened areas worldwide. More than 90 percent have been destroyed or turned into secondary forests. With over 10,000 plant species, over 600 bird species and 200 mammal species, it has a higher biodiversity than its colleague, the Amazon rainforest.

Does this situation make you sad?

Yes, very much, I am sad and angry at the same time. A lot of things are going wrong in my country. From politics to the destruction of our natural resources. But deep in my heart I am firmly convinced that we can turn the tide and leave a better world for our children.

One source of hope for me is the AMAP project, which my husband Markus started. AMAP (Almada Marta Atlântica Project) buys farmland on the cocoa coast of Brazil. Degraded areas are reforested with volunteers, connecting bridges are planted between the remaining tree islands to ensure the survival of animal species such as the endangered golden-headed lion monkey.


Where did you go on holiday as a child?

When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, I always went to the Fazenda with my parents during the holidays.

What do you do in your free time?

I watch movies, listen to jazz and rock music. I love bands like Nouvelle Vague, Thievery Corporation and Kraftwerk.

I like painting with Anabelle, she loves to help me cook, my second passion. I like reading and travelling and I like the development that the younger generation is very familiar with the internet.

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Discover the diversity of people - a snapshot with Olena

 

April 2021

 

Olena (42) was born and raised in Ukraine. She followed her boyfriend and current husband to Hanover, where they had a four-year stopover together before immigrating to Edmonton in 2007. In 2015, Vladimir, their son, made life perfect for the young family.

Due to a job change, the young family moved in 2019 and has since been renting a semi-detached house in Brandon, a town of almost 50,000 inhabitants, laid out in a typical American "checkerboard system", in the state of Manitoba.

 

How can I imagine a typical daily routine?

On weekdays, I work from 9:00 to 18:00 in a dental practice as a dental assistant.

Every day I spend a lot of time in the kitchen to cook. Luckily, I have my little helper to help me with cooking. At weekends, we spend a lot of time together outside in nature.

Seeing that my husband and son feel comfortable in our current home fills me up emotionally. For me, home is a nest where I feel safe and the best place in the world. If I am separated from my beloved ones for a longer period of time, it makes me sad.

 

Was immigration in Canada difficult?

Yes, very. It took years and was literally a rollercoaster ride, sometimes very emotional and often just frustrating. The bureaucracy of not getting clear answers to our questions really pulled at our nerves. On the other hand, it was not possible to make plans for the future, because we did not know where we would live in the future. 

We went to Canada in the hope of finding a good job. We want Vladimir to grow up in a safe and politically stable environment. A country with good opportunities for the future. Fortunately, we have not been disappointed so far, our perseverance has paid off on all levels. 

 

Do you feel Canadian, what cultural differences do you feel?

No, I am still a Ukrainian through and through. After all these years, the time we have lived here is still too short for me to feel Canadian, or I am already too old. We got used to the comfortable life here very quickly. A society where there is no lack of goods, everything is available and can be bought.

I feel as if Canadian life is built on pleasure and fun. When I think back to Ukraine, I remember that there were so many things we just had to do, no consideration was given to whether we wanted to or not, whether we enjoyed the work or not.

 

Where do your siblings and parents live?

My parents live in Ukraine. Before Corona I visited them once a year.

My sister lives in Italy with her family. The last time I saw them was seven years ago. She only knows my son through Skype, our inter-family communication tool.

 

Does Vladimir have a "better" childhood than you?

Vladimir is spoiled with toys, treats and activities. Maybe because I wanted many of these things myself as a child but didn't get them.

Whether my son is growing up in a better time than I did is hard to say. Only time will tell what kind of personality he will develop into. He has travelled a lot at his young age, he is growing up with technology that didn't exist when I was a child. He takes everything for granted because he knows nothing else.

 

Do you share your favourite childhood memories with us?

When I was a kid, I loved our camping trips, hiking trips, I loved playing outside, and when I was 9 or 10, I once went swimming at the Sea of Azov (an inland sea connected to the Black Sea).

My most beautiful childhood memories are associated with 31th December. In the morning we decorated the tree, then I helped my mother cook. Every year our house was full of relatives. We played together, watched films and stayed up until midnight.  We dressed up nicely, memorised songs and poems to recite to Father Frost.

For years we didn't notice that my father or uncle took turns dressing up as Father Frost. We only became suspicious over time when one of them always excused himself to get firewood for our fireplace. As soon as they left the house, Father Frost arrived with our Christmas presents.

 

What are the traditions around the new years eve in Ukraine?

The Orthodox Church does not celebrate Christmas on 24 December, we celebrate on 6th January. The Julian calendar, introduced in 45 BC by Julius Caesar, is still in use today. The Orthodox New Year falls in the Gregorian calendar on 14th of January. The day is not a public holiday.

In Soviet times, we celebrated all religious festivals quietly and secretly. My father taught at a university. If he didn't want to lose his job, he had to join the communist party. Celebrating religious festivals was a reason for dismissal at that time.

 

Vladimir, would you be so kind and tell me a little bit about yourself?

Vladimir: Sure. I currently attend a kindergarten where we play outside a lot. My favourite games are Twister and tag with my friends. You have to know that I can run very fast. I prefer more the summertime and I love to eat sweets. For my sixth birthday, I would like to have a tractor that I can drive myself.

 

Are you looking forward to school?

Vladimir: No, not really. I would prefer to stay with my kindergarten teacher.

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Discover the diversity of people – a snapshot with Maritza

June 2021

 

Maritza (37) has lived in Merida, a city on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán, since she was born.

A region that is dominated alternately by a dry and a rainy season and where the temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees.

During her elementary school years, she felt a pain in her heart when she saw her classmates wantonly torturing animals or trampling plants or breaking tree branches out of ignorance. So Maritza started to pass on her knowledge about a respectful treatment of nature and its inhabitants to her peers after school.

Her knowledge and commitment grew together with her, and in 1995, when Maritza was 11 years old, she founded HUNAB.

 

HUNAB has been with you for decades. Please tell me more about your life project.

HUNAB means in translation: Humanity united with nature in harmony for beauty, well-being and divinity. As a child, I chose the name which I derived from Hunab Ku, one of the most important Gods in Mayan culture. For us, this God stands as a symbol that created all living things on earth.

When I was in high school, I was already offering workshops in our usually very small community parks.

At university, I studied science and learned more about setting up a non-profit organisation, its laws, but also how to budget, for example.

I wanted to set up my own very comprehensive education centre for children. I received one hectare of land from the city of Merida, for which I had to pay USD 2,000 in taxes. For me as a young adult, this amount was a lot of money.

I was very lucky with the financing. In 2010, we won the first prize in education in a national competition (Iniciativa Mexico) in which about 70,000 projects were registered, and later we won the Rolex Initiative Awards. In 2013, my dream became reality: Ceiba Pentandra Park opened its doors to all children.

Since our opening, newspapers and local TV stations have been reporting about us continuously. We are omnipresent on social media channels. Meanwhile, 400 schools in 300 communities receive our teaching materials.

 

How can I imagine the education at Ceiba Pentandra Park?

Children from the age of 5 are welcome to join us. On the weekends, we explain to them, for instance, how to plant properly, how to compost, how to protect insects or how to handle pets. We inform them in a playful way about separating waste, pollution or climate change. Our two-year training is very diverse and covers all environmental topics.

One of our projects, for example, is the "Grandmother Earth" project. We explain to the children that Grandmother Earth shares food, nature, etc. with us. Every child wants Grandmother Earth to be well and healthy.

After this training, our "Little Heroes" receive an accreditation as an environmental advisor. Afterwards, many children decide to go for a more intensive training where each child, depending on their interests, chooses their own focus.

The special thing about our programme is that after the two years training, children can teach children themselves.

We have no upper age limit. Many ex-students are still connected to HUNAB, for example our current engineer also attended our training centre as a child.

 

As an Emerging Explorer with National Geographic, I was able to visit already a wide variety of ecosystems. On the Great Barrier Reef, I studied the relation between coral bleaching and global warming. I try to communicate the complexity of this knowledge in a way that is suitable for children, whether in the form of experiments or a wide variety of learning games. Our education centre is the only one in Mexico where children receive a well-founded education in environmental topics and have a lot of fun at the same time.

 

What were the challenges, the setbacks, did you have doubts?

The biggest challenge was that I was a female teenager. Men have more opportunities than women in Mexico. Authorities always looked at my age instead of my experience and the solutions I had developed over the years. It was very difficult to gain credibility. I remember an appointment at the Ministry of Environment. When the person in charge found out that we were teenagers, the appointment was cancelled. Years later, I prepared a concept for an environmental law. When I presented it to the then minister, he rejected my proposal. I was very surprised that exactly the same minister later presented my plan to the public as his idea. Unfortunately, it is not the first time that adults simply "steal" suggestions from children.

As my idea was respected by my parents when I was a kid, I value the thoughts and ideas of the children who come to us every day. I have been frustrated, especially when talking to politicians, but I have never thought of giving up. HUNAB is my life, my passion. My family conveyed values like honesty and discipline to me during my childhood.

My biggest setback was the big fire we had in 2020. A neighbor burnt his rubbish and with the wind and drought, the flames spread over our property. The classrooms at the time were traditionally built as palapas with wooden walls and quickly caught fire. We were lucky: due to the Corona pandemic, we were not allowed to hold any classes. We took the opportunity to replace our burnt palapas with an open and better fireproof construction. We hope to be able to re-open again in October 2021 and step by step completely restore all our buildings.

Where do you see problems, where opportunities in environmental protection?

In my opinion, many people act out of ignorance. I want to counteract this lack of knowledge. How can we fight climate change if we don't teach our children how to protect nature? Ecosystems know no boundaries! In Yucatán, it is still common to burn rubbish. People are not aware of the harmful pollutants that result from buring trash. Many people believe that it is enough to abandon plastic bottles to save the environment. Still far too many people forget their rubbish on the beaches of Mexico.

The solution to this problem is not to make people believe that a non-profit organization or an initiative cleans the beaches anyway. The goal is to make people aware of the importance of avoiding trash in the first place. It is exactly this rubbish that sooner or later ends up on our own plates.

Fortunately, we are moving in the right direction. Foreign companies are supporting us in our energy transformation. But the bottom line is that we also must learn to save energy, not to constantly exchange our electronic devices for new ones. A lot of education and campaigning is needed to change our lifestyle, become more mindful consumers, and buy less.

Finally, can you give us an insight into your private life?

I have three younger brothers. One of my brothers (Victor Hugo), also founded a non-profit organization. Cosmos is a humanitarian organization made up of volunteers. They help people who can't afford medicine, for example.

My parents are also involved in HUNAB. My mother has been taking care of organizational issues since she retired. My father contributes his creativity.

He is a musician, writes romantic songs and likes to sing. One of his songs is Americaribeño, an invented word derived from America and the Caribbean.

Apart from my work, I like to draw, especially comics for our HUNAB newspaper. I learn Japanese, occupy myself with "in vitro" plants and our micro-world with its insects.

I like to visit the mangrove forests on the coast, like the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, and photograph the numerous birds that come to our coast to spend the wintertime here.

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