Based on its latitude Várzea lies in the tropics (11,36oS / 40,08oW), yet the climate itself is not tropical. The sun shines 340 days of the year. In winter (May – September) temperatures fluctuate between 20 and 30oC (68-86oF), in summer between 25 and 40oC (77-104oF). Because the air is so dry the extreme heat is bearable, and there is always a light breeze, so that 35oC (95oF) in the shade actually feels like about 27oC (81oF). However, due to the extreme dry conditions everything is very dusty (there are only a few paved roads) and if there has been no rain for months the entire landscape turns brown (semi-arid Sertão). In winter the sky is often cloudy and the humidity rises, which makes the rare 25oC (77oF) feel almost cool. Especially at night it can be unpleasantly clammy.
Várzea is located approximately mid-way between Salvador and the water reservoir Rio de San Franzisco. There are no tourist attractions. There is an artificial lake (reservoir) 6 km away which helps the area make it through the dry periods. It is possible to go swimming and fishing here, but nothing is organized. The Atlantic and the Chapada Diamantina, which are of interest to tourists, are both 300 km (about 186 miles) away which seems like 600 km (about 372 m). Várzea has about 15,000 inhabitants, including the surrounding villages. Even today there are still about an equal number of donkey carts and cars on the road, i.e. it is possible to park directly in front of the stores. There is no movie theater, no disco, no newspaper. Now and then there are “very boisterous” open air festivals.
About us and our Organization
We found this location purely by accident. A local teacher had seen a TV program about Monte Azul (Ute Craemer) and asked that someone be sent (to Várzea) in order to start a similar project there. Wolfgang Knipping (1943 – 2013), project leader, studied medicine and then practiced in his own medical office, based on natural and anthroposophical methods. After leaving his practice he spent longer and longer periods of time in Brazil and finally founded the Waldorf School Association in Várzea da Roça – Bahia. Doris Knipping (née 1954) was an Elementary School teacher for 30 years and is co-founder of the Waldorf Kindergarten in Albstadt near Balingen. She took a leave of absence to be able to stay in Brazil. Our association is Associação Pedagógica Waldorf Várzea da Roç– APWVR. Since 2005 we (Dr. and Mrs. Knipping) have stayed in Várzea several times and, as our knowledge of conditions in Brazil and our language skills grew, we finally founded a Waldorf school. The Association has 15 members, not included are parents; most of the members are teachers, some of whom teach at the school. In the workshops we are planning we intend to teach trades and, if possible, in the long term we would also like to offer more advanced training as well as create employment opportunities.
Besides the workshops we will try to create a model garden and nursery suitable for this region – ideally applying biologic-dynamic methods. All of this is still in the early stages. For the volunteer with lots of drive and initiative it has the advantage that he/she can have input into the realization of our plans. He/she can choose, based on inclination and talent/know-how, work with emphasis on farming, in the area of educating children and teenagers and lastly in training adults. It is a great disadvantage that hardly anyone speaks English in the rural areas of Brazil. Even though we live in Bahia, there are a few rules you have to observe during your stay:
Your stay is not a vacation during which the volunteer also does some work. The workday is
8 hours long . The work for each day and week is prearranged as needed and is discussed and decided upon in advance – special requests can be taken into consideration. Work begins generally between 7 and 8 am. It is light at 5:30 am and darkness falls at 6 pm, so it would actually make sense to start work even earlier.
The volunteers live in a small house in modestly furnished rooms which they have to keep clean themselves. There is also a small kitchen. The three main meals can be eaten together with the project leaders. Unfortunately we are obliged to charge 100 Euro per month for room and board to defray our costs.
Volunteers can take care of their own meals or participate in our private meals which we eat together. These meals are mostly vegetarian and we plan and prepare them together. We add fruits and vegetables to the local food which consists of rice, beans and (meat).
The assigned housing shall be used for sleeping. Brazilians are very hospitable and will offer sleeping accommodations if a visit continues late into the night. However, it is hard to determine if they really mean such an invitation sincerely. It is very hard for Brazilians to say NO. A volunteer thus cannot insist later that he had been invited. The same goes for relationships with the opposite sex of the guest country. Unfortunately we have had some bad experiences with visitors and private parties on school grounds. Therefore we allow exceptions only after thorough discussions beforehand. You have to clean your rooms yourself – there are no cleaning ladies. Laundry can be washed by hand or, for a small fee, in the association’s washing machine.
Our WiFi can be used, IF the volunteer brings his/her own laptop. Otherwise we suggest using the numerous Internet Cafés in town.
Can be used for return calls to Germany. Charges for longer calls must be paid. Otherwise we advise getting phone charge cards which are commonly used here. There are numerous public phones in town.
In order to drive a vehicle in Brazil, a German citizen has to have an International Driver’s License which can be obtained in Germany for a fee of approx. 40 Euro. It makes sense for private visitors who intend to drive to carry this license with them. We, and the Friends of the Association, do not allow volunteers to drive our vehicles.
Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are not permitted in the workplace.
Our Address in Brazil:
Associação Pedagógica Waldorf de Várzea da Roça oder Escola Anael CPNJ 09.456.155/0001-01 Rua Aramari,s/n, 44635-000 Várzea da Roça – Bahia
0055(0)74-3669-2567 Handy.: 0055(0)74-8821-5790
Please be careful, Salvador is infamous for its crime. You should avoid traveling and looking like an „obvious“ tourist! And, in an emergency, give the criminals everything and do not fight back!
Flights go to Salvador da Bahia (SSA). To continue the trip …. (from here on people understand only Portuguese, or sign language…)
- a) By bus (approx. 5 hours) from Rodoviara = Bus station in Salvador. A taxi ride from the airport to Rodoviara costs approx. 70R$. By bus (it’s best to go „semi leite“, it is a little more expensive bu the bus goes almost direct). There are two possible destinations: Capim Grosso or Mairi. The bus to Capim Grosso leaves every hour; the bus line is called Sâo Luis, price approx. 70R$ – Capim Grosso is 35 km (22 m) away from us. From there take a Moto or taxi or contact us. The bus to Mairi leaves only at 12 noon and arrives in Mairi at 5:30 pm. The bus line is called Aguia Branca, price approx. 70R$ – Mairi is 7 km (about 4 ¼ m ) from us. From Mairi take a Moto or taxi or contact us.
- b) By Mini-Bus: there are small, private bus companies in Várzea; their buses commute between Salvador and Várzea on weekdays. They pick up at the airport or at hotels and drop off door-to-door in Várzea. Price approx. 70R$. However, this does not always work out and only works if a prior reservation is made (it’s a good way to go if pick-up is on weekday mornings until about 1 pm).
If you choose this mode of transportation, we urge you to contact us in plenty of time (at least one week before and also provide us with dependable contact information). Travel time is 5-7 hours. In Várzea itself all you have to do is ask for the „Gringos“ or, of course, the Escola Anael.
Have a good trip and lots of fun!