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!