The Say HI team has understood what the big fuzz about the North East of Brazil is. The people are really animado (Portuguese for excited), and dance and sing almost anywhere. There are nice beaches all around and the sun is always greeting you with its presence. We got the pleasure of ending our stay in this region at Aju Hostel in Aracaju.
Every year Hostelling International Brazil has an annual meeting. This year it was this hostel turn to host it. At this meeting the network gathers to discuss the year that has passed, future plans, choosing of a new board as well as having tons of fun. Because, if there are anything Brazilians are brilliant at – it is having fun!
We arrived a few days before to get to know the host of the conference – Aju Hostel and its owner Rogério. He is a person very engaged with sustainability and bring these values into his hostel. Teaching at the local university and spending the rest of the day working and managing the hostel, he is a hard worker. We quickly picked up on his work pace and was put to work ourselves. The hostel makes their own compost, and as he stated, “If you want to learn you have to do it in practice”. And that’s how Eirin, for the first time since arriving to Brazil, had to pick up a shovel and start shoveling dirt. It was really fun and educational learning about how to make compost from start to finish. We even got to make our own compost mix which we used for the plants at the hostel.
The opening of the HI annual meeting Brazil was celebrated in real north-east style with lots of dance and song. Aju had invited a local forró band to perform, and hostel owners from all over Brazil showed just why Brazilians are known as some of the world’s best dancers. It was a wonderful opening, and very powerful seeing the Say HI logo being actively used for the meeting. This shows the engagement Hostelling International Brazil has committed to being sustainable as an organization. The following day Rogério and Aju Hostel also showed the connectiong Aracaju has to Forró. They had arranged a city tour for the participants to get to know Aracaju a bit better. How was this conducted? In a Forró bus. Meaning, this was a bus who had a forró band playing while we drove to important places around the city. Forró is very famous in this region and we really got to experience it firsthand. Really funny driving around the city with a live band performing in the back of the bus!
We had a lot of fun during the meeting but promise we did some work too, as the rest of the days were filled with interesting presentations from different hostel owners and the HI board. The say HI team had the pleasure of both attending these presentations as well as presenting our own project. Not only did we present our project, we did it at the coolest venue we could think of. Namely, Projeto Tamar Aracaju. Surrounded by marine wildlife, we presented the important findings we have discovered throughout the year of visiting hostels all over Brazil. Some things we have noticed with Brazilian hostels is their engagement with the local community and their creative ability to reuse old materials making it into something “new”. It has been wonderful learning so much from the Brazilian hostel owners and managers and it was very rewarding getting to present it to them.
The cherry on the top was definitely being able to officially announce Hostelling International South America’s first HI Quality and Sustainability certificated hostel. This is a certification made by Hostelling International to ensure that hostels have impeccable standards regarding these topics. Adrena Sports Hostel in Belo Horizonte passed the certification with flying colors and we could finally give them their certificate at the annual meeting. It has been a great experience working with this as well as a fun journey for the whole network bringing this certification into Brazil for the first time. We know that several other hostels in the network are soon to follow Adrena. Still, we couldn’t ask for a better pioneer for the Quality and Sustainability certification.
Like that wasn’t enough, Projeto Tamar had made a grand ending to the day of presentation at their facility. We would all get to participate in a releasing of baby turtles. These had been rescued and born just a few days before and was ready to depart to the grand sea. To our excitement we got to see them off and it was a really special experience seeing the turtles charge for the sea for the first time. Projeto Tamar explained very carefully the whole process and that we had to keep our distance not to interfere with the baby turtles. Statistically only 1 out of 1000 of the baby turtles gets to become the age of 30, when they first can lay eggs. This is much because of human interference with their lives. Luckily for them and us, Projeto Tamar does such an incredible work to make this statistic change for the better. We have our fingers crossed that these cute creatures will have a long life ahead of them.
After days filled with inspiring talks and activities the meeting were coming to an end. However, Aju Hostel had the perfect ending to a great event. They had invited local small businesses, singers and poets to come to the hostel. Here they offered space for them to sell their stuff as well perform poems and songs at a stage. We got to see the performance of powerful poetry and songs. In the hallway you could find anything from delicious brigadeiros to beautiful homemade jewelry. The whole hostel was made into a celebration of locality and culture. Showing how a hostel can bring so much to their community. Being a project actively working with sustainability, such events warms our hearts and show us that we have so much to learn from Brazilian hostels. It was a great ending to a great weekend. It is safe to say that the attendees left this event filled with new inspiration and energy to make the Brazilian network thrive. The Say HI team sure did!
Written by: Hanna Jacobsen and Eirin Heddeland
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