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!