I’m almost at the three month mark.
They say that’s when it really hits: the realization of a dream, of being abroad, of living your life in a completely new way.
I apologize to those interested in reading this blog for the 2-month delay in posts, and I appreciate your patience (thanks, Mom).
The past 8 weeks have been about exploring, discovering, learning, growing, surviving, not getting hit by cars, and reflecting. I’ve made mistakes, learned from them, made a few again just to be sure, and found some clarity. I’ve traveled, made new friends, substantially improved my Portuguese, and solidified the fragile bond I have with myself. It often takes a few hard hits for me to realize that I should be confident and happy with me. As a good friend of mine likes to say, in a slightly different context, you are your own most loving, long-term, monogamous partner. In other words, take care of yourself.
Sometimes, this moment of clarity, the realization that you are a strong, capable, real human being (“and a real hero…”) comes to you as you bounce along in the truck bed of a woman you just met while she drives you to a trail head in the middle of a national forest, and you recognize the serendipity in it all. Sometimes it comes to you when you are robbed late at night by a young man with a gun, and through all of the stress, the caring woman you live with reminds you that he is the victim, not you. And sometimes it comes to you as you lie on your back, watching the full moon rise over tall mesas, listening to the small river babbling over the rocks next to you, chatting with your friends about life.
I am learning to be steady. To let go of the stress I generally keep pent up in my shoulders and back. I am learning that some of the most beautiful moments (and people) come to you when you least expect them. I am learning to relax.
I am thrilled to have this opportunity for an entire year. It’s odd to hear many of my friends talking about leaving in a few months. For me, the adventure is just beginning. And I’m choosing to engage. To make myself part of something; part of my own life. To stay present.
A few friends and I just got back from Chapada Diamantina, a sprawling national park in the interior of the state of Bahia, about 6-8 hours by bus from Salvador. This trip warrants its own post, but I mention it here because it brought all of these realizations and self-discoveries full-force. On Friday, I leave for Rio de Janeiro for about two weeks, and I couldn’t be happier. Sometimes I just need to keep moving, and right now is absolutely perfect.
For the sake of catching-up, and of list-making (and by the power of the Transitive Property, for the sake of my own obsessive-compulsiveness):
1) Imbassaí: An adorable little beach town in Bahia, around 2 hrs away by bus, where I escaped with Lara, Miriam and Aja after Carnaval. We relaxed on the beach, lounged in hammocks in our beautiful tucked-away hostel, made friends with a kitten we dubbed Simba, played cards with Europeans, and I learned how to surf with a German woman named Svenja and our enthusiastic teacher Fernando.
2) Praia do Forte: Another awesome beach town a bit closer to Salvador, on the way to Imbassaí as you head north along the coast. This began as a program-related day-trip and turned into another hostel adventure, full of home-made meals (thanks Abbie), beaches, and random jam sessions with other hostel-goers and staff (Wesley é o cara, claro).
3) Chapada Diamantina: Backpacking trip with Erica, Matt and Abbie. Ridiculously fun, and like I said, warrants its own post.
1) Rio de Janeiro: Leaving on Friday, gone for about 2 weeks, partially with the program. SO EXCITED to explore this beautiful city!
2) Foz do Iguaçu: Epic waterfalls on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Heading there April 16-19 in between two stretches in Rio and absolutely stoked.
THINGS I’D LIKE TO BE BETTER AT:
1) Keeping steady
2) Blog posts
3) Sending postcards/letters
4) Writing my thesis
Até a próxima vez, queridos. Beijão.
Salvador da Bahia, Brasil: Paraíso urbano (urban paradise).
The past few weeks have been extremely packed with getting to know São Paulo, which was a great place. Perhaps I’ll talk about it later in this blog, about the great friends I made there and the cool things I found in the city, but right now, I’m in love…with my new home in Salvador.
I moved here on Monday, February 6th. My 21st birthday. One of my best friends in the program also turned 21 on the 6th. Multiple times throughout the day, from when we flew out of Guarulhos airport in SP to the first time we sat on the beautiful Bahian beaches and swam in the cool, calm water, we’d turn to each other and say, “Happy birthday, man. Happy birthday.”
For those of you who are not familiar with Salvador, these are photos I didn’t take of the beach that I live one block away from: http://world-beautiful-places123.blogspot.com/2011/06/porto-da-barra-salvador-brazil.html
Here is a list of things I’ve done in the past 2 days in Bahia:
- watched the sun set over the ocean, twice (check out a map, we’re in the bay and we actually face west where I live… confusing). Also, everybody starts clapping when the sun goes down here. It’s super cute.
- moved in with a great new host family
- drank beer on the beach (every day)
- hung out on the beach
- worried about how the hell I am ever going to get any work done this year
- stopped worrying, because I was at the beach
- ate fried cheese on a stick, with oregano and honey (you judge now, but you really have to try it)
- went on a run along the beach with girls from the group at 7am this morning
- had an impromptu festa on the beach with a mix of locals and people from my program after the sun went down
- jumped off a cliff (type thing) into the ocean. twice. just today.
- swam out to a big boat tonight and tried to make friends. first failed attempt, but there will be more.
My host family here is ótima (awesome)! I adore them. My mom, Arlinda, is probably in her early fifties, and she’s super chill. Arlinda told me today that she’s been to 26 different countries… amazing.
Her granddaughter, Leticia, also lives with us because her mom is studying elsewhere. Leticia is a precocious five year old that I think I will become good friends with!
(as anyone reading this blog should expect nothing less of me)
There has been a police strike going on for the past week. There’s a lot of hype around it right now, but they say it’s going to end soon. It’s actually not that bad for the day-to-day where I live.
Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-16899708
Today has been incredible. The best feeling is to wake up feeling like you are exactly where you need to be in the world, right at this moment.
E aí, boa noite.
One week. That’s all.
It feels like I’ve been here in Brazil for at least a month. All of the new people, places, foods, sounds… This is a lot of mental stimulation.
The program kicked off in the Caesar Business Paulista hotel on the most famous avenue in São Paulo: Avenida Paulista. Littered with shopping malls, eateries, and fancy hotels. Just avoid having cara-de-gringo (“gringo face”) and getting taken out by a speeding bus/taxi, and you’ll have a great time.
Our orientation at the hotel was a great time to meet the 80+ other students in the program, half going to Salvador da Bahia next month and the other half staying in SP, and rest while learning the initial lessons of Brazil.
1) Do not speak English loudly in public. This is considered rude, and you may get a telling-off from and old woman (happened once).
2) The plumbing in Brazil involves very narrow pipes. You may not flush paper. There are trash cans. This was difficult for us.
3) Do not slam doors in buildings or cars. They close quite easily here, and many Americans do this without noticing. Taxi drivers will yell at you.
4) Pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) is God’s gift to man. Consume whenever possible.
5) Baladas, or nightclubs, are ridiculously fun, and the caipirinhas are ridiculously strong. Be careful. Wait, just kidding. You’re in Brazil. Go have fun! Now what was I saying??
6) Racism and homophobia are rampant in Brazil, and Bahia is home to some of the worst racism.
We had an incredible lecture about racism and homophobia in Brazil from a professor who teaches in SP. He is amazing. This is an incredible topic (each on their own, and their intersections), and if anyone reading this is interested, please, let’s talk about it.
Now I live in Jardins, an affluent neighborhood in the center of everything in SP, with an adorable host mom (Deni) and her partner (Felix). A friend of mine from the program, Ai-Lien, lives here as well. The four of us enjoy hanging out and eating meals together, which usually last about 2 hours because we talk so much.
Favorite foods so far:
- feijão com arroz (beans and rice; eaten with all lunches and dinners at home)
- o caldo de cana (sugar cane juice, fresh, with lime)
- suco de melancia (watermelon juice)
- pão de queijo (!!!)
- cerveja (beer. It’s just that good here.)
- frutas (fruit, eaten for dessert after every lunch and dinner)
- massa (pasta; big Italian influence here in SP)
Now I’m taking a Portuguese language class and a Brazilian culture class. They’re great, and I’ll talk more about them soon.
THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED HERE:
1) Você escolhe (you choose)
This is something one of the program staff people says all of the time. She has lectured us twice now on this topic. It is a powerful message, and one I hope to always carry with me. We have the power to decide what purpose we have in this life, and what we choose directly impacts where our lives take us. The night after Chela said this to us for the first time, we were deciding whether to go out and explore the SP baladas, and I heard multiple students say, “Well, você escolhe, né? Let’s do this.”
2) Você sobrevive (you survive)
This goes hand in hand with the first lesson. You learn, you adapt, you thrive. But first, you have to choose.
Here we go. I’m about to board the first leg flight on my journey to São Paulo, Brasil. It’s been an incredible year already, in preparation for this trip. I’m stoked for the adventure; the thrill of being displaced, overwhelmed, and captivated by a new culture.
I had a taste of this once, a few years ago, in Ecuador. I’m a one-hit addict.
A dear friend recently reflected on the few days before her study abroad in Scotland, and told me she wished she would have taken note of her impressions and expectations before she landed. I think one of the most alluring aspects of traveling this way is the concept of the unknown.
What I do know now isn’t much, but it’s exciting nonetheless: my host mom in SP, Deni, is a seasoned vet in the realm of educational exchange. She has even hosted another student from Portland. Her family lives in a premier upper-class neighborhood in the heart of SP; a quick jaunt through Google Earth opens up a world of music shops, parks, beautiful murals, and sunshine. Deni and I have been emailing back and forth, and she sent a follow up email last night in which the primary subject was food, healthy food, and she signed with “Mãe Deni,” or “Mama Deni.” I love my Brazilian mom already.
During my layover in Dallas, I’ll have the chance to meet up with a few other students in my program. I’m a sucker for conferences, so the impending program orientation in a beautiful SP hotel has my attention. I arrive at 9:40am tomorrow morning SP time, 6 hrs ahead of PST.
Those of you who made these last few weeks so great, thank you. My parents, my love, and my best friends: you all are fantastic! Big thanks to Emma, Daniel, Alex and Cassie for throwing a sweet going away party.
I’ll update as much as I can, and try to post pictures when I’ve taken a few. 2012 is going to be a great year.