Friday, November 30, 2007

Time´s a Dwindling

Well, I´ve only got about three weeks left and it seems like it´s passing really quickly! I can´t decide if I´m happy or not about that. I can´t wait to see my family but I like Brazil too and I´m loving learning the language. This is the only bad thing about traveling....leaving everything and everyone behind...on both ends. Leaving my family and friends in the states and then having to leave my friends and the amazing people I´ve met in Brazil.

Today was the last day *almost* of all my classes. I say almost because I have one more exam on Wednesday, but it´s going to be cake.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This past weekend was yet another holiday at the universities here, so i took the break as another opportunity to travel...logically. Two friends and I went to this area called Lençois. This place was gorgeousssssssssss!!!! We hiked through outstanding views, up mountains, cliffs and through, over, under and around rivers. We found crazy waterfalls hidden miles into the forests and natural springs that were perfect swimming temperatures. If I had to choose one place that was my favorite in amazing sights, it would be this place. I don´t even know how to describe everythign I saw! Breathtaking, that´s about the best i can do. haha!

Anyhow, the first day we were there, we arrived about 4:30am and got a ride to the place we were staying. We slept for a few hours and then went off with a guide on a 7 hour hike through the wilderness to search out ginormous cliffs *if that´s not really a word, I´m making it a word*, waterfalls and everything in between. We stopped twice to place had a natural slide down the side of a huge hill. it was sooo neat sliding down the rock into cool water! it didn´t really hurt either....the water had smoothed it out enough.

the second day we decided to take it easy on ourselves a little and go on a bus tour. we were brought to different places far away where we would unload, hike for about an hour or so, and then go back to the van after we saw the main attractions. one of the places we went was two this site with two caves called Lapa Doce and Gruta Azul. When we were in one of them, we had the chance to go snorkling inside the cave so, naturally, I jumped at the opportunity!!! I WENT SNORKLING IN A CAVE!!! haha how cool is that?! It was really weird though because we were broken up into pairs. Well, my friend Baird and I were paired up, but some of the people around him were kicking him in the water and such so he decided to leave me alone and go ahead by the guide. Well, that left me alone in the middle of this cave when, after he left, so did all those people who were bothering him. I was there looking at everything below when it got too deep and dark to see anything. Talk about freaky!!!! Who knows what kind of crazy creepers dwell in the 150+ meter deep hole we were swimming over! So I got weirded out and found my other friend to keep me company..haha. I know, I´m weak!

The third day, we went on another foot hike to this waterfall called Sosego. It was this amazing site with crazy cliffs and ledges all around the pond it made. Well, once again opportunity was knocking, so I decided to climb some of the ledges and jump....the highest was about 50 feet.... it was sooo scary but oh so worth it!!! Ok so I did it three times from the highest point. haha. I couldn´t just stop after the first time!!! lol

Monday, October 29, 2007

Porto Seguro

Porto Seguro, a city south of Salvador, was the site of my most recent adventure. CIEE, the program I´m a part of down here, brought us all on a trip to this city. We left on Friday, meaning I had to skip all of my classes that day to get to the airport on time to leave, and shockingly enough, the flight was delayed. Haha, oh Brazil, you are teaching me so much patience. Anyhow, we get to this city and settle down in the little posada (little hotel-like place, only where they have a yard, pool, trees, etc which make it different from a hotel which would just be a building with rooms). We all broke up to go explore the city for awhile before we went out to dinner at this little restaurant with all kinds of salads, vegetables, and other yummies. One thing I´ve noticed here in Brazil is, no matter how fancy or common the restaurant is, they will ALWAYS have french fries on the menu or, in this instance, on the buffet. Anyhow, we ate. Long story short. After stuffing our faces (i don´t know how many times we have to go to a buffet and feel disguisting after eating too much that we will learn to stop when we are satisfied instead of holding on to the american point of view of eating as much as possible in order to ´get your money´s worth´ ) we had the rest of the night to continue exploring the city or do as we choose. The city was pretty touristy, in the sense that there were little stands everywhere selling jewelry, knick-knacks, shirts, and more jewelry. When it got too dark and sketchy to continue looking around, we all returned to the posada and enjoyed the night while sitting in hammocks, swimming in the pool (ok it was mainly me, but then i got kicked out by the desk clerk, saying that the pool hours actually ended at 10pm, and i wasn´t allowed to be swimming around at 2am). Well geesh, there should have been a sign. I took that as a suggestion to just be quieter so I continued swimming at my own risk...only silently this time.

Saturday, we were all taken to this Indian Reserve, which I thought was pretty neat. These Indians, the Pataxós, were oppressed and, in order to conserve their heritage and history, decided to set up this reserve and give tours, etc to earn money to be able to afford keeping some of their land and traditions. Anyhow, they took us on a tour of the reserve, and showed us some of their animal traps. Very cool! They explained how the traps worked and set them up and demonstrated for us. They also showed different ways of communicating with eachother without actually speaking or yelling (when the person was far away). These methods included different animal-like calls and, my personal favorite, utilizing a large *about 5ft in length* leaf from a common tree that is banana-shaped to produce a loud, resonating sound. How it worked? Well, let me enlighten you. The leaf was large, as I said, and banana shaped. Well, they would hold on to the stem of the leaf while the rest would rest on the ground. They took a mallot, or a thick stick, and pounded the stem of the leaf. The stem was probably 2 inches in diameter. The impact would create a resonating, deep sound that would carry a far distance. They would have different sequences of pounds to mean different things. Three hits would be a message of `i´m over here, where are you?´. The person receiving the message would hit his leaf similarly and the two would walk a while and then repeat the message until they found eachother. If someone was in danger, they would hit the stem repeatedly over and over to indicate danger and a plea for assistance. It was really interesting. I even got to try out hitting the leaf and sending my own message! It was pretty amazing to see how much sound was created with such little effort. After the tour, they did a little ritual for us. We also sat and listened to one of them telling us different cultural customs, such as their dating ritual. I thought this was super interesting. When a boy was interested in a girl, because of certain traditions of the two sexes not interacting much during their youth, the boy would toss a tiny stone at the girl. If the girl was also interested in the boy, she would toss it back. They would continue the relationship in this way for some time, also exchanging glances through the cracks of their homes. If the boy then decided that he wanted to marry the girl, he would toss a flower to the girl. If she accepted the proposal, she would toss a flower back. Once this exchange was made, the boy would then be obligated to go through a series of tasks to prove he was worthy of marrying the girl. One of the tasks involved him carrying a wooden post the weight of the girl across a distance. This was in order to prove that, in the case of an attack or other emergency, the boy was fit enough to carry his wife to safety. If he was unable to accomplish this task, he had to start over again with the pebble-throwing, etc. which would set him back a significant amount of time in his plans for marrying.

After the reserve, we came back and went to a restaurant overlooking the beach. It was a churrascuria, which is a big buffet of salads, fruits and veggies, and the waiters bring around big chunks of meat on skewers to offer to everyone. Mmmmm so good! After dinner we were all sitting around the posada in a food coma when one of the girls in our group announced she was going to get a piercing. She was going to go alone, and I thought, hey, I´ve never seen anyone get a piercing before, I´ll go with her! She was happy for the company and two other girls decided to come too. When we got there, they said that only one person could enter the room, so they chose me because, according to them, I´m the mom of the group. haha, OK! I went in, held her hand, and half-watched them poke two holes in her ear in order to put in a bar. Ewww...I hate needles. I got a little icky feeling, but I looked at it as a step closer to overcoming my fear of needles. Slowly but surely. It was really funny, though because the other two girls were poking their heads in the room with cameras and curious, yet grossed-out faces. It was a cool experience. At one point I looked at her ear and saw two hollow needles just dangling from her cartilidge. It made me laugh and cringe all at the same time.

Sunday, we had the option of going snorkling at this coral reef a few kilometers out in the ocean. No way I´d pass up an oportunity like that! We went and it was amazing! On the ferry ride over there, there was music playing and we were dancing and singing. When we arrived, we jumped in the water, walked to the reef, and were instructed on where we could and could not go for our own safetly and the protection of the reef. We could only be there for about an hour due to the rising tide which would soon cover everything in 3-6 meters of water, making it difficult and very dangerous to stay out there. I snorkled in the major pool of water in the middle of the reef. I thought about exploring other parts, but the pool was so big and I kept finding amazing and beautiful things where I was, so I stayed. I saw tons of brightly colored fish, coral, and other sea animals. At one point I looked down and saw a sting ray! I followed it for awhile and watched its interaction with other fish passing by. It was soooo cool! Another time, I was near some coral and out of the corner of my eye saw lots of little reflecting lights. i turned and saw a school of fish just staring at me. they were all facing me and watching me with interest. It was amazing. It was their eyes that I saw reflecting and when I noticed that they were watching me, I faced them and returned the curious stare. We remained there for about a minute just observing one another until they got a little frightened and swam away. Multiple times, I saw a school of at least 50 fish gathered at the bottom of the pool exploring something. It was really breath taking. I can´t even begin to tell all of the amazing types of fish and animals I saw. I specifically remember, however, a larger (about a foot long) neon blue fish swim by me. Wow. I also saw a small black with yellow stripes fish hiding in the coral. Some day I´ll having to look up all the kinds of fish I saw to put a name to the colors and Oos and Ahs. I didn´t see any clown fish, unfortunately. It was OK though, because the things I saw were outstanding.

The tide was rising and it was time to get back on the boat, so we all boarded and began the hour ride back to shore. I ended up falling asleep laying down on the boat and woke up part way through, in a sleepy stupidness and thought to myself ``I think I´m getting burnt´´ So, I rolled over and fell back asleep. Yeah, not so smart. I really think I need someone to think for me for awhile after I wake up. When we got back to shore, I noticed that I was a little pink. `` I think I got a little burnt,´´ I thought. A little burnt was definately an understatement. Well, this is the first time I´ve had an entire body burn. Legs, thighs, butt, back, shoulders, face, chest, stomach, arms, the whole deal. I´m fried. I went home exhausted from the lack of sleep the past few days, and the energy stolen from me from the sun/sunburn, and feel asleep in a hammock. I woke up about two hours later because of the pain. It hurt sooo badly. I spent the rest of the night, including waking up multiple times throughout the night, and the next morning (today) hardly able to move, sensitive to touch and any exposure to the sun, and frequently putting lotion and aloe on. Oh mom, you´ve told me a million times to put sunblock on, and I just don´t learn...I know, I know. Well, floating on my stomach in the middle of the ocean at high noon, and then falling asleep on the ferry were not exactly two great combinations for keeping me from a burn. Out of the 21 people that went scuba diving, about 15 of them got burnt. Oh well, it was sooo worth it. Today, we left to get back to Salvador and the most common sound heard all day was ` Ouch, don´t touch me, it hurts!´ Haha. Oh, one of these days we´ll learn that the sun is a little hotter this close to the equator and when being exposed to it for long periods of time, sunblock is a good idea. One of these days.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

So much catch-up to do...and no, not the condiment

Adventures, adventures, and how to explain them. So two weekends ago, I went to São Paulo. I have some friends there that are with the same program as me, and who were in Salvador for the first month here taking intensive Portuguese classes with me. Well, anyhow, they are finishing their study abroad in São Paulo, and I decided to buy a plan ticket there and visit them and tour around the city a bit. I arrived on Thursday late afternoon, Oct. 11. The plan was a little late, and I knew that I had two friends waiting for me at the airport. I shuffled off the plane, and, walking to the baggage pick up site, I randomly looked to my left where I saw that the exit which was glass windows and doors. With his bare chest pressed against the glass, I saw my friend Josh. He was lifting his shirt with one hand and pointing to it with the other. My friend Kate was beside him. I busted out laughing, and, to the people standing all around me, appeared completely insane, because who laughs to themselves like that? Haha. Apparently, I do. Anyhow, I got my bag, still chuckling from the hilarious welcome scene and upon coming closer to Josh and Kate, realized that they had made a welcome banner for me....on Josh´s chest. And THAT was what he was showing me! Even better!!! Oh my gosh. It was so funny to see my name written across his chest, the Brazilian flag drawn oh so roughly, and all kinds of messages and welcome phrases on his stomach. What a great way to come into the city! haha. I loved it.

Well, we had to grab two busses and three subway trains (is that what you call them?...anyhow, ) to get to Kate´s house (where I would be staying for the duration of my time there). São Paulo is HUGE! It took almost two hours with all of the transportation...and we didn´t have to wait for more than 5 minutes for any of the busses nor subways. Crazy, huh? Anyhow, we got to her house, cleaned up a bit, and then went to this little japanses restaurant and had these sushi rolls. Afterwards, we went back to her house, where her hostmom had left for the weekend, and her host brother decided to invite friends over for a house party. Soooo much fun! We danced, sang, drank and played games all night. it was hilarious. The next day was devoted to sleeping (because we didn´t go to bed till about 5:30/6am) and walking around Kate´s neighborhood. We didn´t tour for long, because we met up with another friend, Talia, whose parents (real parents, not host parents) had come into town to visit and wanted to take us out to dinner. We went to this really amazing Lebonese restaurant and afterwards went to this Candomblê based dance/theatre performance. It was really interesting. you know in the circus how you sometimes see a girl wrap herself in a cloth way up in the air and do all kinds of acrobatic suff? well they had something like that too, only it was like dancing in the cloth. it was really neat. They had all these african dances too. Really interesting.

The next day, we went to this little flea market going on, which, might i add, was really neat, but i was amazing at how much they were charging for some of the used items there. it was crazy. something like 70 dollars for used glasses, purses, shoes, etc. it was crazy. i did end up finding really good priced jewelry though....yes! haha. after that, we went to a feijoada restaurant that had live samba music playing. it was so neat! there were people dancing and lots of feijoada and caipirinhas and caipiroskas....í´ll have to make them for you when i get home...oh so good. After feijoada restaurant, we went home, got ready, and then went to this club in the city. i´ve never spent so much money just to ENTER a club!!!! R$50...aka 25 dollars just to get in. Too bad they didn´t have good music and it was freaking crowded. whatever, we made it fun. We can manke anything fun! Sunday, we got up, went to this part of the city called Liberdade, where the Japanese population comes out to play every Sunday and set up these little stands selling anything and everything under the sun. It was great and i found some great things! Then, we walked around that part of the city a bit, and sadly, it was time for me to leave. I didn´t get to see a ton of the city, but it was worth the trip. i had a great time! OK, i´m about to be kicked off the internet, so i´ll have to finish the update when i have the next opportunity to get online. until then....

Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh fazendas, how I love thee

This weekend was a very eventful one. For starters, Thursday night I went out to eat with some poeple at this outstanding sushi restaurant. I don´t know if I´ve mentioned this yet or not, but I´m falling in love with sushi. Mmmmmm. Then, on Friday, I went with the program to play with orphaned kids. All of these kids have serious illnesses or defects, the majority of them having AIDS. It was a really neat experience. We brought food, games, toys, coloring books and crayons, finger paints, and ourselves. It was fun to play with them and see their reactions to everything. One girl who had a defect with her legs in addition to AIDS, ended up coloring me a picture of Shrek and writing ´Para: Erin, De: Margarete, Eu te amo´..... It was so sweet. The picture has a special place in my room. Afterwards, I went to this club with a small group of my friends and had a blast! God I love dancing! haha. We got there about 9pm and danced almost the entire time! We were still dancing when they were turning off the lights! haha. it was great. Saturday, I woke up and didn´t do a lot the entire day. It was a nice, relaxing/ catching up on sleep day. In the evening, I rented a brazilian movie with a friend. It was called ´O homen que copiava´. (The man who copied). Doesn´t sound too interesting, but it actually was really good. And, by the way, I watched the whole thing in Porguese (with portuguese subtitles, even) and understood the whole thing!!!! Ok, so that´s a personal acomplishment, but hey, this is my blog! ;P

Sunday was probably the most memorable (besides going to help the kids with AIDS). I woke up early and piled in a car with my host mom and her friends and drove a few hours inland to visit my host mom´s ex-husband´s uncle and his wife. Make sense? Anyhow, she´s still friends with that part of the family and the uncle was celebrating his 89th birthday. This man, let me tell you, was inclredibly healthy and full of energy for his age. He walks with barely any hesitation, jokes and feels great. The only thing wrong with him is that he´s a little hard of hearing. Pretty good if you ask me. Anyhow, we arrive at this farm at about 9:30am and right away they are trying to feed us. They give us coffee, beiju (this very brazilian breakfast snack made of ground up white corn, i think, and toasted in the oven). I´ll have to bring some home, cause it´s really good. Anyhow, they give us all this food, right?, and then they start showing me around the farm. This is the most amazing and beautiful farm I have ever seen. They had cows-beef cows, dad-which were really beautiful. They were the kinds that had a hump on their back and very friendly (could just be a trait of these particular cows, and not the breed, but nevertheless, they were very gentle). So, they had these cows, and chickens, and horses (which were free roaming by the way, cats, turtles, and then this OUTSTANDING huge area of all kinds of fruits and vegetables. They had mangos, three different kinds of bananas, apples, these blackberry-type fruits, green oranges, limes, these sweet (not sour at all) lemons, many different kinds of peppers, pumpkins, guava, cassava (that´s what my dictionary calls it....aipim, in portuguese), and at least 5 other types of fruits I didn´t recognize nor do I remember the names in Porguese in order to search for their English names. There were probably even more, but I just can´t remember. This place was acre upon acre of amazingness. I couldn´t believe the enormity of the trees and their offspring. It was really breathtaking. AND, to top it off, they had monkeys!!! (not as pets, but ones that lived in the trees!!!!) Talk about cool. Too bad I forgot my camera!!! :( I definately want to return to capture all of this on film. It´s a goal and I´m determined. It´s just too good to miss.

It was so amazing. And the air out there was so fresh and brisk!! I think that´s part of the reason the old man was so healthy. He´s in the midst of all this beauty and grows and raises the majority of his food, so it´s all free of preservatives and chemicals, and he´s got fresh air without exhaust fumes and pollution. It was paradise. Mom, even though it´s hot, it would have been worth it and you would have loved it.

So after looking around the property, I went out to look at the horses and the three day old colt. I told them that I had horses back home and they asked if I knew how to ride. I told them yes and so they took that as me wanting to ride....which they were right. Of course I would love to ride horses! They saddled up a couple horses and the grandson of the old man took me on a horseride into some neighboring little communities. It was sooo neat! Too bad my butt´s a little sore today since it had been so long since I´d ridden. We rode for about an hour and a half or so. It was soo great! When we went into the town, it seemed like everyone was outside enjoying the weather and relaxing in the plaza. They were setting off fireworks (a very common occurance here) and the horses kept getting spooked. A little hard to hold on, but it was fine. Anyhow, they took a break from the fireworks and we decided to stop and have a caipiroska...mmm I´ll make them for you when I get home....sooooo good! It´s crushed up fruit of your choice, ice, vodka and sugar. We met some more of their relatives who were in the town hanging out and then we went off on our way. The town was named `Nossa Senhora de Mercés´. When we got back to the farm, it was time for lunch. And boy was this a feast. They had feijoada-a typical bahian bean and meat mix, beef, chicken, goat, eggs, this egg-fish-veggie casserole, two different kinds of cake, rice, vatapá-another typical bahian dish, and a whole mess of other food that I can´t remember. They busted out some wine and we had an amazing meal. They kept trying to put more and more food on my plate for me to try it all, but I had to keep modifying the amount they put on my plate because, instead of giving me a little of each, they would put a TON of each kind on. I would have exploded if i didn´t lighten the load. We were all so full afterwards and tired from the morning that everyone laid down for an afternoon nap. When I woke up, the old man wanted to take me on another walk around the farm. He took me out to the cows and said, ´watch this´. He walked out a little way and cupped his hands around his mouth and called ´OOOooooooo´ `Ooooooooo`. Every single cow in the pasture looked up and started running towards him. He stood there and they all came to him like his little children. It was sooo cool! They came up and let me pet them and they just hung out! It was really neat. Then, we went around to the front of the house where there were a few cows roaming with the horses and there was a young one who came up to me and just wanted me to pet it! haha. I have never seen anything like that! I was petting it´s head and neck and when I stopped, it lowered it´s head to my thigh and started nudging me as if to say, ´hey, don´t stop yet!` It was so funny!. The day finally ended and I was sad because this was such a neat place that I didn´t want to leave!

Oh, I didn´t mention that the house they lived in was over 300 years old. Yeah, THAT old! It was made out of stone/clay and stayed surprisingly cool. No glass on the windows or anything. Just shutters that opened and closed into the house. I had also visited his son´s house which was smaller, but similarly made. The roof was made out of these hard clay half-cylinder shapes strategically placed to collect all of the water into hand-made gutters which ran into this half in/half out of ground enormous cistern. They also had a well outside. I really felt like I was stepping back in time with this adventure because everything was so old, yet extremely functional and really beautiful. Yes mom and dad and everyone else, I know that we have a cistern and well at home, but this was so much different. It was as if they had a cylo (only half as tall) sticking half in and half out of the ground functioning as the cister. Sooooo interesting! I love fazendas!

Friday, September 21, 2007

E aí?

So it´s been quite a while since I last wrote a blog. I don´t really know what to say, so I´m gonna wing it. Story of my life. So anyhow, lately, I´ve been keeping really busy with classes, teaching English and hanging out with friends. I´m teaching at three different places: to a school in a poor neighborhood as part of a community service project, to a little 11 year old girl that is my host sister´s relative, and to a priest. The priest just left for Europe for a month, so there goes that money, boo....but i just got asked to substitute teach for this english teacher that´s leaving for three weeks, so i´m excited. the more i teach, the more i really like it. Also, today in one of my classes, i had a group of students ask me for help on their english homework, and then they were talking about having me tutor them. sweet. not only do i like doing it, but i´ll be getting a little moolah to help pay for things here. i don´t know if i mentioned this in a differnet blog, but my two major scholarships got taken away while i was here due to misinformation given by the financial aid department. soooo, i´m a little restricted in doing what i wanted to do. i really wanna buy a ticket to go to São Paulo and to the amazon and to different parts of brazil. man would it be nice to be able to do all that!!! we´ll see what happens.

so school, i like my classes. i´m taking piano, choir, portuguese, language and communication, and cultural and artistic manifestations. the piano and choir are just for fun cause the credits i need for IU aren´t really offered here, so i´m having fun with it. I love my piano teacher, she´s helping me so much and giving me so many amazing copies of music. she´s pushing me to improve and showing me what i´m really capable of. it´s really neat. my choir class is just fun, the teacher always forgets my name so he just calls me princess. it was a little weird at first, but that´s their culture, very sweet and they give these pet names out of kindness not creepiness. my portuguese class is getting better. it started out being a waste of time cause the prof is really timid and constantly acts like she´s on something. everything is delayed. she´ll say a sentence and then just stand there for a few minutes while we are all waiting for her to finish her thought. whatever. anyhow, it´s getting better. we´re actually going over grammar and structure now, which is always good. mainly though, i´ve just been learning the language by trial and error. i talk, and the public corrects and then i learn from my mistake. it´s frustrating at times, but then really cool at others when everyone chips in to help. my language and communication class is more interesting to observe than to actually pay attention to what´s being said. i say this because the information given is pretty elementary (this is one place i see the big education gap) yet the students who are all between 20 and 35 years old react to some of the most basic information as if it were some amazing new discovery and realization hits them like switching on a light bulb. so that´s why i say it´s more interesting to observe and see how they grasp the information moreso than the information being taught by the professor. an example: we had this big text to read and give presentations on for this week and next. the text is about 30 pages or so and we were split up into groups to explain different sections. my group was responsible for the section that explained that communcation depends on more than just what is being said. so, how a person interprets the information, for example, depends on things such as their personal belief system and values, the specific situation in which the information is given, the manner in which it is given, the trustworthiness of the informer, etc etc. well this stuff, i thought, was generally known, but when the students heard this they were pretty amazed. it was almost as if they were saying ´so you´re trying to tell me that one person interprets information different than other people!?´ it really makes me realize how much we take for granted. education isn´t as advanced here, but it´s so neat to see them learn and grasp concepts that make them so excited. and they do get excited. it´s not like in the states when we dread going to school, we aren´t really excited (overall) about learning (obviously there are exceptions and people who love absorbing as much info as possible) and who moan and groan about homework, or who, when asked what they are studying, they nonchalantly make their reply. here, the students (although they leave in the middle of class for a smoke break, to talk on their cell phones *or better just answer and talk in the middle of class* and have complete and random conversations with eachother while the professor is teaching) really get excited about learning. all the people i have talked to and asked what they are studying, not only give me the basic response, but then they go into telling why they love what they are doing, why it makes them so excited, what it is that captured their interest. it´s really encouraging. i don´t want to give off the impression that the people here are dumb with my stories, because they´re not, they just are learning things at a different rate than what we learn in the states. i´ve been learning quite a bit about people here and people in the states even, just by observing and listening.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Festival de Forro

O gente. So, this past weekend was another one full of activity. My host mom, Jusse, wanted to go to this fazenda (farm) in the interior of Bahia to attend this Forro thing. If you don´t know what Forro is (which is very probable because it´s a traditional Brazilian music), let me explain. The only thing i can come up with to even come close to explaining the type of music that Forro is, is to have you think about Polka. Yes folks, polka. Forro´s main instrument is the accordion. It also has a triangle, drums, tamborine, and sometimes cowbells. I´ve only ever heard it and heard of it being sung by men, and it´s an old, traditional type of music singing about all kinds of things: love, missing someone or something, fun, partying, etc. anyhow, i wasn´t sure what i was getting myself into when i went to the interior/inland, nor did i really understand what it was we were doing. Jusse just kept saying `we´re going inland to see forro´. well, after 4 hours split between two different busses, we arrived and were driven to...a fazenda. haha. who would´ve thought. anyhow, this farm was owned by some people that she knew through her brother, who also plays in a forro band. this family that owned the farm was amazing. they welcomed us with open arms and tons of hugs, kisses, and smiles. after all of the affection and introductions, they did what all brazilian people do when they have guests. start feeding. haha. they started making all kinds of food and telling us to eat, eat, eat. oh man people, i think brazil is going to make me blow up from the stomach out. sorry if i come back a gordinha (little fatty). anyhow, we chilled and walked around the farm for a few hours. little did i know, but this farm was actually an orange farm!!!! it was awesome! they were telling me that it was pretty small farm, but it seemed big to me, especially since they collect all of the oranges by hand and do all the work like that too. wow. but anyhow, it was great. i walked through part of the orchard and saw the trees, and they showed me a beehive that was in one of the trees. ok, usually i don´t get too excited about beehives, but this was a really cool one. the bees even were really different from those in the states. they were skinnier and looked like a cross between a bee and a wasp, but they called them bees. who knows. maybe they were really wasps and portuguese just doesn´t differentiate with the two species. even if they were wasps though, they were skinnier and smaller than the wasps we´re used to. anyhow, away from that, this place was really remote and the ultimate in relaxing. it was so neat because you could tell that these people know how to live. they work with the farm, but when they relax, they really relax. they play music, sing, dance, enjoy eachother´s company and sit outside on the porch laughing. such happy, friendly and just generally heart warming people. after our relaxing day, we all got ready and went to this small outdoor (though inclosed by walls) bar. it had a small stage where all these forro bands would get up and alternate playing some of their songs. we ended up getting into the bar for free because they knew most of the people in the bands. they also knew the owner of the bar, so obviously that helped. anyhow, we sat, drank beer, and listened to the music. shortly after we arrived, one of the family members (of the farm family) asked me if i liked to dance. please. i LOVE to dance! haha. as soon as she heard that, she started telling all the different band members (who were all sitting with us) that they should dance with me, so sure enough, one after another, they would grab me and take me out to the dance floor to dance. well, forro has it´s own type of dancing, you see. it varies with the beat a little and you can kind of play with it, but in general, it´s got the same two step-like dance. it was so fun dancing with all of these people. obviously, not having forro in the states meant that i really didn´t know how to dance it, but that´s never stopped me from dancing before. i just followed along with what they were doing and picked it up after the first song. it was great though, cause every guy i danced with (don´t worry ma, they were all older-40 and up....oh wait, this is brazil we´re talking about, they don´t care about age differences....haha-good thing i do) anyhow, the guys all had different styles of dancing so it was really neat to dance with each of them and see how they varied the basic step. as we were getting ready to leave, the ladies told all the band members that they ought to give me CDs to bring back to the states and remember the being generous as brazilians generally are, they all went to their vehicles and got CDs of their bands and gave them to me!!! yea!!! now my CD collection is growing and including more brazilian music! it was such an amazing time! the next day, after trying to sleep in, which is impossible in brazil, because when someone´s sleeping, they don´t really see the need to talk quietly haha, i woke up and again got fed a crap load. i walked outside and like 6 or 7 of the band members who were at the bar the previous night were on the porch with their instruments getting ready to play! before long they started playing and I, being me, started dancing! it was so much fun! my host mom and some of the other ladies joined in too and then before long a few of the guys who weren´t playing an instument at the moment would join in too. the whole weekend consisted of eating amazing food (one dish was made with fish, coconut milk, a different red sauce gathered from coconuts, and lots of vegetables), dancing, singing and laughing. it was perfect. before i left, they told me that i needed to return and if i wanted i could bring friends too. they also told me that anytime i ever wanted to come back to brazil, including during carnaval, i should stay with them for free instead of paying for a hotel, etc. something that i think is neat here is that when people invite you to stay with them, they really REALLY mean it. they don´t just offer to be nice, they offer because they genuinely want you to come and stay with them! it´s really inviting and makes you feel great, cause they ask and then they start telling you of all the things they´ll show you and take you to and they start making plans! haha it´s hilarious! i have to tell them that i don´t know my schedule a month or two ahead of time, so we´ll have to wait and see! they get so excited though to have guests and be hospitable. i think i love brazil more and more every day. it´s hard to describe though, i wish i could just take all of you and bring you here so you can experience it for yourself.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Birthday weekend

I am having a wonderful time here doing all kinds of neat things. this weekend my host sister, her boyfriend, and one of my friends and i all went to this little city called Barra do Jacuipe. It~s this remote beach with all kinds of neat scenery and amazing waves. we stayed there from saturday morning until sunday afternoon. it was beautiful (i got a little burnt, but it was totally worth it). it´s definately my favorite beach so far. you´d be proud of me guys, i tried new things! i mean. we were waiting for the rain to stop *it´s been raining a lot, cause that´s what winter here means, more rain, but still hot* and it was lunch time, so we stopped at this little bar on the beach and ordered food. they asked me if i liked crab, and i was like...of course! i love crab! i had eaten it at various restaurants in the US...well i didn´t really think about it, but eating crab here means they bring out the entire crab! they just pluck it out of the ocean and throw the whole thing in a boiling pot of water. they brought us like 4 or 5 entire crabs for only R$2.50. which translates to $1.25 US. They taught me how to tear off the legs, pound them with a mallot and get the meat out. then my host sister grabbed one of the head/bodies and said that it was the best part. she showed me how to tear off one part, break off another, separate the top from the bottom and where to find the ´good stuff´. when i saw what the ´good stuff´ was, i wasn´t too excited. it was a greeny-brown gooey paste stuff that was located between the brain(s)-the two hemispheres were separated in the on either side. anyhow, i was like...ummm no thanks. she insisted so i stuck my finger in it and tasted it.. disguisting. never again. she laughed and then ate the entire thing. gross. anyhow, you probably didnt want to hear all of that, but it was an experience for me. i liked the legs and pinchers though. those were good. the head/body, i´ll leave for someone else. after the crabs, they ordered something else that i didn´t recognize in portuguese. it came out and it was clams! i was not too keen on trying those either, but i thought, well it surely can´t be too much worse than the crab head goo i tried, so i tried it and really liked it (once i got over the fact that i was eating something chewy like that). anyhow, away from the food aspect, the place we were at was where a river met with the ocean, and that meant that the waves were incredible. the river was coming in to the ocean with a pretty strong current and then the ocean had it´s waves heading towards the beach as usual, so once my friend, Michelle, and i got out there, we had a current pushing us one way and the waves pushing us another. it was like we were being pushed left and back at the same time. it was crazy. and when the big waves would collide with the current of the big splashes and crazy surf. it was great, but after being in there awhile i looked back towards the beach and realized we were kinda far out, so i got a little nervous and told my friend i wanted to head in. she´s crazy and really adventurous with basically no fear, so she wasn´t nervous, but i´m a little bit more of a weeny than she is, so i told her to come in. we were too far out and i didn´t want the undertow to put us out any further to where we couldn´t get back. it was a lot of fun though, and we´re all safe, so life is good. it was a great birthday weekend.

Friday, August 3, 2007

On my own

A little catch up: the other week I went to an island called Itaparica with some of my american friends here and it was awesome! So beautiful, but I ended up losing my sunglasses in the water. When am I going to learn to stop wearing those things in the ocean!? Oh well. After losing them, I was wearing someone´s goggles trying to find them and finally gave up. Right when I gave the goggles back to their owner, I stepped on a starfish! I grabbed the goggles again, went under, and picked it up!!! This wasn´t just any starfish though, it was black and cream colored with like 7 legs! it was really cool! I wanted to keep it, but they wouldn´t let me because that would mean killing it. Yea ok, I didn´t really want to kill it either, so instead, I threw it further out into the ocean. Swim my new found friend, swim!

Since then, I´ve had to say goodbye to many of my american friends from here who went off to continue studying in Sao Paolo instead of Salvador, or who were only staying here for 5 weeks. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone, but we had a blast while it lasted.

The other day I went to our regular beach here, called Porto da Barra, and was getting ready to leave when it started to rain. Not just a friendly rain, oh no, this was a downpour. I was huddled under a beach umbrella with five other people. Have you ever tried to stay dry under those while rain is coming in from all directions and being crowded by so many people?? No? Go figure. haha. It was funny though. One of those times where all you can do is laugh because the rain and wind are making you wet and cold as you´re huddled under something trying your best to stay warm and dry. brrr.. anyhow, the point of the story is that after the downpour, I looked up into the sky and saw what I thought was a tornado! It was on the coast just a little bit down from where I was standing. I looked up and said `Oh my gosh, a freaking tornado!!! This is awesome! Look at it!´ Have you ever seen one of those home videos on world´s most dangerous storms or some crazy show like that when the person is just standing there watching and admiring and then next thing you know it´s right on top of them tearing their house apart? I would have totally been that person, and I probably looked like that kind of person that day standing on the beach being totally amazed at what I was seeing. I found out after gawking that it was sort of a tornado, but not exactly. It certainly looked like one as the funnel was winding up and down to the ocean, but my friend told me it was some sort of water funnel that comes down to pick up water from the ocean. Cool huh? Apparently she had seen some in Florida before. I´ve never heard of that, but boy was it stunning!

Yesterday I went to the different campuses around the area that I will be going to take classes and then today, I got a list of all the classes offered at all of those places. OK, so I don´t know if I´ve told you about Brazil´s way of doing things, but it´s completely different from the US. It seems so unorganized and chaotic. They don´t have simple listings and descriptions, oh no. You have to look in 10 different books that are categorized differently to just find what classes might look interesting, and then look to see if they´re even offered, and then look in a different book and decipher their codes to see what day of the week and time they are offered. Well, it doesn´t stop there. The days could vary, the times don´t have to be the same each day of the week even though it´s the same class, and the prof doesn´t show up half the time. So, for example, if I wanted to take a contemporary literature class, I find it in all the books, look at when it´s offered and it could be on Mondays at 7am, Thursdays at 10:40am and Fridays at 8:30am . So, I have to remember what day of the week it is and what time it starts on that day, and then hope that the Prof shows up. Holy cow.

Tonight, I´m going to a birthday party at some bar with my host sister. I´m really excited for it because I think that it´s going to be a blast being completely surrounded by Brazilians without any Americans with me. Wait, what am I saying!? Haha, jk. It should be fine, but I hope I can speak well enough to hold their attention when they try to talk, or at least to get them to even talk to me. This should be interesting. I´ve definately hit a plateau in my language learning where I don´t feel like I´m learning anymore. I´m sure I am, but it´s hard to judge. Hopefully, I´ll have another steep increase soon. I´m kind of losing patience with myself when I can spit out what I want to say or find the correct verb tense I need to use.

Today, actually like an hour ago, I went to the post office to send a package to my mom because her birthday is the 15th of August....all you who know my mom, send her some love on that day...anyhow, I bought some silly things to send but it was going to cost like 50/60 US dollars. yeah right, that´s way more than I wanted to spend on that, so I sent a card. Sorry mom, I´ll bring it back with me in Dec. I promise. Well, gotta run!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Capoeira and Candomblé

Well, these past few weeks here have been really fun and really interesting. I´ve been doing a lot of things to stay busy and explore different aspects of Brazil. Before I came, I was really excited to see some Capoiera and boy have I seen it. I´m actually taking it too! I started taking a Capoeira class last week. I really like it, but I need to learn to be more careful because the very first day, I ended up pulling a muscle in my leg. Ouch. So as of now, I´m working on healing it before doing too much more. I tried to go to two more classes after I pulled it, but after limping for awhile, I decided that it wasn´t too smart. oh well. It´s been almost a week since I´ve done class so hopefully the muscle is almost good as new now. I guess we´ll find out when I try to play again. I´ve also seen a lot of Candomblé. If you don´t know what it is, it´s an afro-brazilian cult/religion here that has many ´gods´ which they call Orixás. It´s pretty interesting because the people have gatherings every once in awhile where they dance all night, literally. It´s not hard core fast dancing, but still, they are on their feet all night dancing. When they are doing this, in the beginning, they go into a trance where they believe they have been taking over by an Orixá. They then become that Orixá for the rest of the night. It´s crazy because as they dance, their eyes are completely closed, and there are about 6 people on the floor at once and they are all doing different things and moving about the area, yet they never run into eachother or into the crowd. Who knows. Whatever is happening, it´s interesting to watch. The beach has been a semi-frequent stop for me as well, which means that I´m getting a tan!!! Who hoo! Pastey Erin is getting dark (well for me it´s dark. for the normal human being, it´s still pretty white) lol. I know I have done a really poor job updating this blog, and I´m sorry, but I really have limited access to the internet. I´ll try and do better, but no promises. I have to go to class now, but to sum up, things are going well. I love this city, the people, and the culture. It´s very laid back and go with the flow, which is totally my style, yet it can be a little frustrating at times when I have things I want to get done, but can´t because nothing starts or ends on time. Such is life, I guess. Oh, but I have to tell you, the music here, AMAZING! Everyone loves to dance, play music and have a good time! The other day I went to a friend´s house (with his host family) where they were having a birthday party and a gathering to watch the Brazil/Argentina soccer game (brazil won, btw 3-0) and during the game, everything was fun and lively, but It got amazing. All the guys grabbed their instruments and starting playing all of these traditional songs. This wasn´t just a 10 minute show or anything. This music/singing/dancing lasted probably 2 1/2 hours! Nonstop! It was soooo much fun! They never run out of songs to play! So, like I said, bottom line, things are going well, and I love Brazil!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Salvador minha amor

I´m hhhheeeeerrrrrrreeeee! I arrived in Salvador, Brazil on Tuesday, and have been having a wonderful time. I met my host mom *my host sister will arrive on July 10th* and she is wonderful. She´s such a sweetie and is helping me find my way around by giving me a few directions and sending me off on my own. haha. It´s helping me find my own way though. Of course, she makes sure I´m safe, but gives me the directions so I can learn. It´s good. I´ve been doing a lot...going to the beach, walking around the city, etc. I also went to a club the other night...very fun! I danced with some Brazilians and they taught me a traditional dance called Forro. It was neat. Today I went to a part of the city called Pelourinho where we saw a parade and party in celebration of Bahia´s (the state) independence day. it was so neat! Lots of singing, dancing, music, costumes, and capoeira. If you don´t know what capoeira is, it´s an afro-brazilian dance that´s really interesting. google it. Anyhow, bottom line, I love Brazil, and I love Salvador! I´m having a blast. I can´t write much now, but I´ll update again hopefully soon. I´m a little limited on the internet use. Love to all,


Friday, June 15, 2007

10 days!

The countdown continues! Only 10 days until I leave. 10 days! I thought I told myself that I would start packing and organizing things two weeks before I leave.. yeah right. Like I actually did that. If my bro's wedding wasn't two days before I leave I think I would just wait until then to pack, but considering that I'll be unavailable that day, I should get a move on. I really need to learn to kick my own butt so I can get more things accomplished when I say I want them done. Well folks, I know you're holding your breath waiting for me to leave. That could be a good thing because you're excited to see pictures, or it could be bad meaning that you can't wait until I get out of here. Hey now, that's not nice. :) Since the last post, not a whole lot new has happened. I've continued to work at the country club and spend a lot of time with my family, which is always nice. My dress is almost done for the wedding, just a few more adjustments and then we'll be good to go. And now, I've gotten a little more informed about Brazil and got a small refresher on Portuguese thanks to some movies I got from the library and some of my old Portuguese books from classes I took. Man, I hope they help. Though, I'm still expecting complete confusion and astonishment when I arrive. I know I can't learn enough to fully prepare me, but I figure every bit helps. Alright fans, that's all for now.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Three weeks to go!

Well, since I've been home, I haven't had a whole lot of time to think about Brazil. Sure, I sent in for (and received, thankfully) my VISA, finished all of the paperwork and finalized many of my predeparture plans, but mainly, I've been working. Yes, I know, me?, working!? haha, I know, I know, that's all I ever do, but I like to stay busy ok? So, let me be. When I came home I right away started substitute teaching every day for the last three weeks. I taught elementary, middle, and high school kids, AND the out of school suspension and expelled students. they had me go everywhere. Many days, when I got done teaching, I would go and waitress at the country club, which I LOVE! :) I have a great time there. So, with all that money, I've successfully paid for my plane ticket already, and now I'm hoping to start paying off my bills from buying my bridesmaid dress and all the accessories and bills that go along with being in my brother's wedding. The wedding is in just under three weeks, and I leave two days after that. (I leave in exactly three weeks from today). It's really snuck up on me. I finally went shopping yesterday to get some light clothes and a bathing suit. The suit will be helpful considering I'll be near the beach!!! :D When I got my VISA on Saturday, it made things seem a lot more final. I'm really going! But, with all the excitment, I realize that I'm pretty nervous too....but more excited than anything, I think! So, here begins the three week countdown......

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My first blog

Well, the time has come for Erin to create a means of communicating to all who will listen. Yes folks, I've created a blog. I know, the queen of forgetfulness, the princess of 'oops, I spaced it!' has promised to do her best to post entries on a blog site. I did this so I don't have to worry about forgetting to add someone to an email list. Preventative action! Ha, how do you like that!? :) Well, I know I've got some time before I leave for my many adventures in Brazil, but I thought I would create this now before I 'forget'. I have exactly 56 days before I depart from good ol' Indiana en route to the land of drums, sun, and colorful culture. I don't know about you, but I'm excited! Six months seems like a very long time to be away, but I know that once I'm there, the time will seem to melt away and I will be home before I know it. Don't worry kids, the time will fly by quickly for you too, so don't fret. ;)