Day 9 was pretty mellow. School, lunch, nap. After waking up we went to purchase tickets for a classical concert we planned on seeing Friday night. Then we came home and decided to go on a bike ride…..oops!
The bike ride was fine, for a little while. I’ll confess right up front that I’m a major clutz. Ask anyone that knows me; it’s ridiculous! By the grace of God I haven’t managed to trip and fall of some random cliff since being here because that’s the kind of luck I’m prone to having. So anyways, the bike ride was great, until something went very wrong. I still haven’t figured out quite what happened, suddenly I was laying on the pavement, I couldn’t breathe and my bike was on top of me. People we sticking their heads out of their cars and yelling to me in Portuguese, but I was too dazed to really notice. I somehow managed to pull myself out of the road, Jess was half-laughing at me, half concerned. Everything hurt…and I mean everything! My hands we bleeding, my face bloody, and the wind was knocked out of me. (upon closer examination later, I have giant bruises all over my legs, my shoulder, my knees are scrapped up, my forearm, as well as my face and hands bleeding) I was mostly embarrassed, I felt so stupid! There had been a car coming at me, and I was watching it, but when I turned to face forward there was a giant pothole (that I’m sure I would’ve died in!), and I must have panicked and braked wrong. I was propelled forward, flipped onto the pavement, and my bike flipped on top of me. I ride my bike A LOT at home, so this was a first for me, thank goodness I wasn’t seriously hurt. My clothes were ruined, I looked terrible. I was picking straw and bits of garbage out of my hair, I was sweaty, bloody and a mess so Jess suggested we walk into a pet store and ask to use their bathroom so I could clean up. There was a strange incident there. For some reason, the owner’s son must have thought my frazzled bloody dirt coated self was very attractive because he was very intent on talking to me and wanted me to know it was his birthday and how It wasn’t happy anymore, because of my crash. It was very strange. I can never tell when someone is actually hitting on me, or if the guys are just being regular Brazilians because they’re all super friendly.
“Ok, happy birthday” was my confused response to him. Jess couldn’t stop laughing about it later. This was going to be my new husband, forget vegetable man, I could have bird man, and have little angry bird children! Goodness the girl is crazy, but I’ll admit the whole thing was really ridiculous. I think maybe the birthday boy had had a drink or two before I showed up;)
At the house it was a lot of fussing and then laughing at me and my clumsy ways. I was lucky I wasn’t seriously hurt though. Just another day in Brazil!
School on Monday and I have a new instructor (I will be switching every week) Elizete. I felt very at ease with her as I had already spent some time with her on my first day of arrival, she was in the trio that picked me up. Her style of teaching was very different from Professor Flavio, Elizete was much more fast paced. I think the biggest thing I struggle with is I never get to review the material. I read something once, or repeat it to the instructor until they’re satisfied and then it’s on to the next section and I can’t process it that quickly. I’m fine in the classroom, but nothing is sticking in my head, I feel like an idiot, nodding and smiling and saying thank you about a hundred times a day; it’s frustrating. Doing homework at night is an interesting challenge as well; needless to say my Portuguese hasn’t much improved since my arrival. I know different words, and if I hear something I can usually remember, but trying to pull them out of some remote recess in my mind in an actual conversation is a feat I’ve yet to accomplish. However, Elizete is a marvelous instructor, and is relaxed and friendly in the classroom. For our break Elizete, compassionate soul that she is, suggested we get coffee with Chris and Caio so together we got our caffeine fix.
After school I went on a bike ride with Jess. It felt great to get outside and roam around. Riding bikes is such a wonderful way to see the city, but the traffic is a little crazy and It can get dangerous for bikers at times (more on that later!) and we stopped in at the park and fooled around for a bit. Fun fact: they have gym equipment in the park! It’s as normal to have ellipticals as monekybars and swings!
Later Jess and I helped Fatima prepare dinner for Elizete and Chris who would be coming to dinner. Dinner was very good, Fatima out did herself. There was TONS of food, but everything was wonderful. After dinner (which consisted of way too much food for me to even list off) Jess and I hung out and listened to some music while I edited some photos.
It was a holiday so no class! We spent the morning visiting relatives, everyone was very kind and it was an honor to meet more of my host family’s loved ones. After our visit we stopped at a vegetable stand, as Fatima has made sure that the table is always stocked high with veggies for me to eat! Also, when you’re a foreigner people are automatically more curious about you, so as soon as people realized that Jess was by my side translating the stares increased tenfold. It can get uncomfortable, but no one is unkind. Mostly, they’re just curious and I can’t fault them for that. I ran into this at the vegetable stand, where a woman and the few guys that were running the stand were watching me and talking to Antonio about me. You can’t do anything except smile and look apologetic about not being able to answer their questions.
And apparently, I had an admirer at the vegetable stand….and now Jess has decided that this will be my new husband and I will have little vegetable children! It’s now a running joke: me and the vegetable man. Jess even put a picture up on my Facebook with a painting of a man made out of vegetables! She’s a lot of fun and we get a long really well. I wish I could do more for her, I always feel like they’re taking care of me and I can do so little in return.
After that we went to the Zoo with Ciao’s family and Chris. It was very crowded with the holiday, and I, having already been there, was a little less aggressive with my camera than the previous trip. However, it was a beautiful day, and the zoo is a lovely place, it’s certainly a place you can visit more than once so it was nice.
Later, Jess and I went on a walk and I met another one of her friends. He was very nice and spoke English really well. He’s a very interesting person and it was fun walking around the city. At home we had more girl time: music, nails, and bed!
No school! It’s the weekend and that means sleeping in! We spent mid-morning to early afternoon with Adilson, his wife Fabiana, and their son Joan, and walked around the market. Things are set up very different here than in the states, it reminds me a little of going to a county fair (except there are no rides 🙂 ) We also stopped in at the Americana fire station and were given a tour by one of Aldison’s friends. The afternoon was lazy, we watched TV and talked. Later, Jess took out her instruments: she plays the violin and a kind of whistle. Her friend Ademar, who speaks very good English came over to the house and we all went to Festa Junina! It’s a celebration they have for the month of June, and they often have it in July as well. There was a lot of food, music, dancing, fireworks, and Jess, who is miss popularity, pointed out many of her friends. The festival is a lot of fun, because everyone dresses up like hicks! Cowboys hats, plaid, flannel, straw hats. I was right at home because as coincidence would have it, I was dressed in a plaid flannel shirt! I am after all, a country bumpkin at heart 😉 There’s also a large bonfire that the children play around, and I laughed as the children tossed firecrackers and ran away shrieking and giggling as the exploded. Once one went off right next to me and I nearly jumped out of my skin! Jess and Ademar laughed hysterically, I clutched at my chest in exaggerated fear. My favorite part is always observing people. I loved the children especially, laughing and dancing, and I watched Fatima, and Antonio dance like young lovers….It was so sweet to watch. At one point Jess pulled me up to dance, and I nervously agreed. Somehow, I was transferred over to Ademar, and he tried to teach me some very basic steps while I clumsily stomped on his feet again and again. Poor boy, he probably couldn’t walk very well the next day! Jess was snapping pictures while we danced, they’re embarrassing to even look at! It was fun though, Ademar is very nice and wants to come to the states next year, I told him to look me up when he arrives.
The next day we went to Piracicbah for a festival that was going on there. Lots of food, lots of street vendors, it had some beautiful scenery! I was again fascinated by the light, the trees are tall exotic and the shadows they create are breathtaking. I’m always noticing the quality of light, it’s one of the things I love most about photography. For supper that evening we had Brazilian pizza, and it had palmeto on it! Palmeto is the name of the vegetable from the inside of the palm tree, it’s kind of salty, like olives. It was a long day, but I wasn’t ready to go to bed, the next day I had Portuguese class in the morning and I so was dreading waking up!
I’m afraid it was official, I was sick. After breakfast and getting ready for school (an effort in and of itself!) we stopped at a pharmacy where Fatima bought me some medicine. My head ached, my throat was swollen and painful, and my nose was stuffed up. Basically, I felt awful. I went to Portuguese class and hoped I wouldn’t have to make a lot of sounds that are required in speaking the language; the sounds put pressure on my throat and it hurt a lot. Flavio had called early at breakfast and requested that I bring in my computer, knowing that I was under the weather. I walked into class and he was immediately sympathetic, and had brought me special snacks to try and a box of tissues. I stuck it out in class, I couldn’t afford to not give 100% because quite frankly, my Portuguese is terrible! I have the vocabulary of a 10 month old child and I’m sure my pronunciation is much worse.
After class I was told that some faculty members had organized a pizza party for Chris (a worker from GCC who had arrived) and I. Flavio urged me to consider my health, even though there was a bike ride planned for after the party. I went up and said hello to everyone and apologized for not feeling well and left. I felt terrible, I still do, but I knew I needed rest. I went home and slept until supper.
When I woke up from my nap, I was feeling much better, but I was still sick. Jess showed me some of the music she liked and we painted our nails, and danced and acted like silly girls at a slumber party. I’m really going to miss her when I leave, I’m already sad just thinking about it. Later, her friend stopped by with a movie, which we watched in Portuguese with English subtitles for me. After her friend left we spent more time talking and then went to bed.
The mornings are usually the same; breakfast and school. Flavio, my professor is a wonderful man and a very patient teacher. I feel like I have a few phrases down and ten minutes later it’s as though they’ve all fallen out of my head. It’s frustrating because I don’t feel like I’m making any progress most of the time, but I guess I will just have to spend more time studying! During our break, Flavio and I walked down to what’s called a Feira, it’s similar to a farmers market, there’s little stands set up with carts of food and clothing. Here, I was introduced to Pastel. Pastels are a thin piece of dough filled with cheese, or meat, or vegetables, and then folded in half and fried. They’re wonderful! I drank Quarana, which is a drink made from an Amazon fruit.
After school I was picked up by Fatima, Jess, Fabiana, and Joao and we all went to the zoo. The zoo was absolutely gorgeous! It’s set up more like a park. It’s completely free, and families go and walk around, and older people play cards in the center. It’s really lovely. I was entranced by the way the light filtered through the trees. I played in the slivers of sunlight with my hands creating new shadows and shapes as we walked along. One of my favorite parts of the visit were the monkeys. Yes, there were monkeys in cages, but little monkeys live in the trees in the zoo and are as normal to see here as a squirrel might be back in New York. Many of the animals weren’t separated, and live together in the zoo the way they might in nature. I got some wonderful shots of the animals but mostly I just enjoyed the day out with the family.
The afternoon was a little less busy after the zoo. For the most part it was just a time to relax. Later, Jess came into my room and said she had a few friends that wanted to hangout. We walked down with the group to McDonald’s for some food. We had a nice time. Even though I couldn’t communicate, it was fun to watch the boys interact with each other, some things are still the same no matter what language you speak. We walked home and Jess and I stayed up late talking (we use the Google translator if we need to) and I noticed that my throat was beginning to hurt. I didn’t sleep much that night. I was worried that I was getting sick, unfortunately, I was right.
I woke early to the sounds of Fatima, my host mother in the kitchen. I showered and prepared for my day not really sure what to expect and wondering if how I was dressed would be ok. Breakfast consisted of papaya, coffee, cereal, juice, toast, and yogurt all spread out like a buffet. Jess,my sister, sat down with me and showed me the names of the different foods in Portuguese. Then it was off to Fatec, the school where I would be learning Portuguese. I walked all over the school on my first day, and was introduced to so many people that I thought my head was going to explode. I don’t remember a single persons name, isn’t that terrible?! My professor for the first week of classes if is professor Flavio. He’s a wonderful person with fantastic English and I enjoyed my first class with him a lot. We spent much of the first day doing listening exercises to train my ear and went over the origin of Portuguese. Mid-morning there was a special surprise for me, one of the other professors from the school, Flavio, and one of the secretaries, prepared a mid-morning snack and mini party for me. Everyone is so kind and thoughtful here, I don’t even know how to respond. It’s so unlike the states where people tend to be more focused on themselves. There is such a giving and loving attitude here, it’s hard to describe.
After school, we visited a shopping center and had some lunch. Afterwards, we went downtown so Fatima could buy her new washing machine. Jess and I wandered around downtown, looking at the old train station and the church. Jess wanted to show me the library so before we left we stopped in there. Inside we met the most wonderful man who lived in the states for two years and went to school in Boston; his English was flawless! I loved listening to him speak about the states from when he remembered it, back in “the golden years”.
After the library, we went to visit Antonio, my host father at work. He works in an apartment space that people can rent out for parties and events. The building had the most spectacular view from the top. I stood staring at the beautiful city of Americana, and thought to myself I’m really here I think that’s the moment when it all hit me.
After saying goodbye to Antonio, Fatima dropped Jess and I off at the supermarket to buy some ice cream. I was lazy until dinner, after dinner Jess and I did the dishes and talked. As we talked, Jess repeated the word “oil”. It’s one of the few English words that she can’t seem to get right; she makes the funniest face when she says it! Her face scrunches up, and her tongue is halfway out of her mouth. She’s such a little darling, I just love her! Fatima took over on dish duty and Jess and I went to the gym where I was introduced to more people. Everyone wants to meet me, and sometimes I feel a little like a prized pet being paraded around 🙂 But it’s alright, everyone is wonderful and I’m flattered that they all want to meet me. We walked around for a bit and then came home and went to bed.
So i’ll admit to being terribly negligent of this blog for the past few days. I suppose my problem is everything seems worth recording, but I certainly can’t stay locked up in my room working on my blog all day long. However, I’ve made a promise to myself to be much more disciplined about writing my blog so I’m going to try my best to post two every nights. I left off in the airport of my last blog, so I will pick up there.
After being greeted by Elisete, who would be one of my Portuguese teachers, Caio, who worked at the school I would be studying at, and Jessica, my host sister I was taken by the arm and guided away from the airport. Walking to the car I felt very at home with these people, as I looked around I observed the morning mist that hovered above the rain-soaked ground. It was cool, but not cold. I was told that, “today is English day” my only day where everyone would speak in English to me, but that tomorrow It would all be in Portuguese. The car ride was two hours long, I was tired, but I didn’t dare sleep, as I stared out the car window watching the beautiful scenery of Brazil unfold around me. We stopped at a convenience store and I tried my first cup of Brazilian coffee, It’s the equivalent of an espresso, and I welcomed the dark brown liquid’s smooth decent down my throat. Jessicia, my host sister (here everyone just calls her my sister) took me by the hand and we explored the racks of treats both Brazilian and American, and I tried my hand at the Portuguese names.
After we left the store, it was only a short trip to Americana. When we arrived my host mother came out to welcome us. I met the entire family, all except Jessica’s brother, whom I met the following morning, and we ate lunch together. My first meal consisted of rice and beans, tomatoes, lettuce, a kind of vegetable from the inside of a palm tree, bread, and cauliflower. It’s possible there was other foods as well, but that’s all I seem to remember. I spent the rest of the day getting settled into my new home. I was given my own room, and bathroom, and was told to think of their house as my home. “This is your home.” Jessica told me. “I’m your sister.” Fatima, calls me her daughter, and acts like an affectionate mother, always doting on me and trying to feed me. I’m so overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of these people. I feel so blessed to be here. I can’t express how full my heart is. Even though I don’t speak the language, I feel like part of the family. I wish with all my heart I could repay the kindness they’ve shown me since my arrival, but I feel that perhaps there are some debts that can never be repaid.