Where I Have Been Map

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Drinking Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain!

I looked the monster of a crab in the eyes as it stared at my from my plate on the table. Even though it was dead and cooked, I could have sworn it was smiling at me in a mocking way. I looked to the left of my plate to the rubber hammer our waiter had given me instead of a fork... there was only one thing left to do. And it wasn't going to be easy.

Thursday nights in Fortaleza are famous for Crab Night. Everyone in the city goes down to the beach and eats plates upon plates of crab while listening to live music and dancing right on the coastline! This was mine and Mary Alice's experience with Crab Night, and boy, was it an interesting one! While we waited for our crabs to come out, we both ordered Pina Coladas. This massive drink came out served in a giant pineapple that took up half our table. We weren't sure whether to drink it or cut it up and eat it, but we decided drinking it would be the best choice... and immediately regretted this decision. Instead of that coconut tropical flavor we are used to, it was made with pineapple juice and some strange fruit we had never even heard of before! It had a tangy, thick taste that kind of reminded me of cheese. We had failed in our first attempt of ordering off the Brazilian menu, and now the crabs were our last hope of redemption!

I wish someone could have taken a picture of our surprised faces when the crabs were brought to the table. I had eaten crab before at home, but these were not the big, red, friendly looking crabs I was used to! Instead they were must smaller and pale pink, their eyes popped out of the bumpy looking head and looked almost evil. I admit now that at the time, I was slightly terrified this evil looking creature would hop off the plate and attack me. But I, in fact, had the weapon. The rubber mallet was just waiting for me to pick it up and break open this little devil. The first leg I pulled off and tried to crack open with the mallet was a failure; the shell cracked and crumbled like an egg shell and got all over the meat. The second attempt was a little better... I got some of the meat out before once again crumbling the shell. The last attempt was when I gave up completely. I felt more confident in my hammering skills so I reached for the claw. Knowing that the claw is the strongest shell on the crab, I banged the hammer on top of it with all my force! It cracked beautifully! But when I looked inside the claw to get the meat, I was surprised to see it was hollow. It was then that I looked over to the table next to ours, and realized that I had projectiled my meat onto the lap of the man sitting closest to us. I sat the mallet back on the table; the crab had won.

Before I realized how evil the crab really was

Even though I had clearly been defeated, we still sat and enjoyed the live music. But soon a giant rain storm hit, and everyone scooted their tables close to the middle of the restaurant. As unlucky as this may have seemed, it was actually one of the prettiest scenarios I had seen yet in Brazil. The rain was POURING off of the roof, which was made out of dried palm leaves, and it felt as if we were eating underneath a waterfall.

The unlucky part only came when we were ready to leave! We walked out to the front of the restaurant, and it looked as if a monsoon was occurring. One of the waiters walked back with us under a GIANT umbrella that was initially made for the tables on the coast of the beach. I decided to walk behind the man to get the most out of the umbrella... bad decision. The man didn't realize how heavy his giant umbrella actually was, and as the rain continued to fall harder and harder, the back of his umbrella started to fall lower and lower. I was hunched over almost 90 degrees when I finally gave up and crawled out from under the umbrella!

That monsoon was the last bit of rain we have seen in two days, which is beyond amazing! Today we went to Morro Bronco Beach (White Dunes Beach) and enjoyed the sun to its full capacity. Morro Bronco is famous for the large sand dunes with different color sands that they use to make decorative jars of sand with neat designs and beach landscapes. We went walking through the core of the sand dunes, where they get these different color sands.

Different colors of the sand

The dunes had been corroded and the beautiful shades of orange and white were clearly visible. We walked through the crevices of the dunes, and it felt as if we were in the Grand Canyon. Some of the sand had formed into crazy looking rocks; one of which reminded me of the Lion King rock that Simba was on! I got very excited about this discovery.

Another discovery was something we began to refer to as "mush sand". We were walking through the dunes when all of a sudden our feet got stuck. We looked down to see this clay-like substance... our feet were sinking in deeper and deeper by the second. Dasha had already made this discovery and was happily smushing her feet all in the mush sand; so, we began to do the same! Next to play-dough, this might have been the most entertaining substance ever created.

Mush Sand

After slowly moving through the mush sand, we finally made it to the coast of the beach and enjoyed laying out all day by the water... without any crabs to be seen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trying to figure out how different countries view America!

I am very excited to announce that we have found yet another attempt Brazil has made to eat pizza the "American" way!!! This discovery was made while walking in the mall yesterday. While in the food court, we could see a little food stand where people where going up and grabbing what looked like ice cream cones. Since there are many ice cream stands all over the mall, we assumed that's exactly what it was. However, when we got closer... our stomachs turned. The sign on the stand read "Cone Pizza."

This crazy looking pizza was shaped like an ice cream cone with the cone part being the bread and the ice cream part being the cheese, pepperoni, or any other topping you would want. As disgusting as this sounds, Mary Alice actually tried one and loved it! Honestly, next to the cheese-flavored and corn-flavored ice cream, which are traditional Brazilian ice cream flavors... cone pizza doesn't seem that odd!

After we chowed down on some cone pizza, we went to the Mercado Central. There I bought the most random thing. I walked passed a hammock stand and asked them how much one was since I would need one for the Amazon. He pointed to something called a "hammock chair," which is a smaller version of a hammock with a back to it so you can sit and swing and said "40 reis!". Since I really had no use for a hammock chair I said "Nao obrigada" (No thank you). As I was walking away, I could hear the boy yell out "Okay, 30 reis...... 20 reis....... 10 REIS!!!!!" It was at that point I turned around and bought this random hammock chair for the equivalent of $5! I guess the only place to put it will be in my apartment! Which is slightly risky considering how many things seems to get broken in my apartment! But I guess the only thing you can really break in a hammock chair is your own tailbone!

I lugged the deal of a hammock chair back to our school because Simon, Lucy, Mary Alice, Titus and I were signed up to talk to the Brazilian kids who were learning English at our same school that night! They set the five of us up at the front like a panel and piled in 20 to 30 kids ranging in ages 6 to 18 years old to ask us questions! For an hour, the kids treated us like the most interesting and important people in the world! The really small kids just looked at us with wide eyes and keep whispering "Americanos! Americanos!" Some of the middle school kids asked us questions like what is our favorite food, what's our favorite thing about Brazil, and if we like 50 cent. These same girls became Lucy's fan club... except they thought her name was Woosie; so, they would run up to her screaming "Woosie! Woosie!" The older kids were the one's who asked us the harder questions.

One girl asked us what we thought about Obama as our new president. She asked us if all Americans knew how much our Global Relations have strengthened since Obama got into office. She continued to say that most of the rest of the world was extremely against the Iraq War, and during that time some people in other countries, including Brazil, thought very poorly of the American government. She wondered why American's didn't see during that time how the rest of the world viewed their government. And did they know even now?

After getting questions like "Do Americans like popcorn?" ... this one was tough.

We ended up saying one reason why not many Americans know how the rest of the world views us, the good views and the bad views... is because our media is very limited. Coming as a journalism major, I know that certain things in the news must be approved by the government, and we learn that your own opinion is non-existent in any article you write. This means that although the story you are getting may be completely truthful, sometimes it may not necessarily be the whole story. I don't know if it is better to know everything (including the bad) or to be sheltered from it, but after watching the Brazilian news when I got back to the apartment... I was shocked.

They started off by reporting all the news around the big cities of Brazil. Then, in the next 30 minutes, I saw news about America, Japan, Iraq, Britain, and then back to Brazil. I was amazed to see how much news they cover globally, and in fact, every single news channel in Brazil is like this. This is how a little girl at our English School knew so much about our American government. They previously showed clips from the Iraq War. Some were good showing American progress in Iraq, and some were quite disturbing showing torture to Iraq soliders, women, and even children. War is never pretty, but the fact that they showed every angle of the war was so different than American news! And even more incredible is how much even the Brazilian children know about the rest of the world when I couldn't even tell you who the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is! I do not know if it is the media to blame for not showing more Global news, or if the American public is culturally raised to not take a huge interest in seeing what's going on in the rest of the world, but after traveling to different countries... I only feel more whole as a person learning how other countries function and find it very interesting learning what other countries think of America. After seeing these different countries, and being taken out of my own middle class familiarity by seeing the rest of the 85% of the world that lives as the lower class and in poverty, it was easier to open my eyes to what the rest of the world we live in is really like. After seeing the world in the different perspectives of everyone living in it, you can then truly decide for yourself however you want to view the world.

The little girl seemed to be happy with our answer, and added at the end that all the Brazilians she knows love America! And most of all, they love Disney World! If there was such a thing as a World President... Mickey Mouse might be a great candidate.

The Portuguese/English students

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Have you ever drank bailey's from a shoe?" Nope, but I have eaten pizza with a plastic glove!

The longer we stay in Brazil, the more things we realize we are doing VERY culturally wrong! The problem is culture cannot just be taught, especially since we don't know the language. It has to be learned by experiences and observations. Normally, we can guess when we are doing things that are not similar to Brazilian culture because we get very odd looks from Brazilians. The first set of odd looks we got was when we were in the mall eating pizza with our hands like every other American does. However, in Brazil it is rude to eat pizza with your hands, and instead they use a fork and a knife.

There is one pizza restaurant Stuart told us about in Fortaleza where they "attempt" to be American. Everyone in this restaurant can eat the pizza with their hands, but there is one catch... you have to wear a plastic glove. Stuart told us that the gloves are in a box in the middle of a table and everyone grabs one and puts it on without thinking anything of it! Even the little girl that was with them put one on, and the fingers of the glove on her tiny hand just hung loosely as she happily enjoyed her pizza!

Luckily for Mary Alice and I, we found a group of people that can help us out and let us know when we are doing something that might seem very weird to Brazilians!!! We met this group while we were downstairs laying out on the patio because the building had set an overcast right over the pool area. While we were laying there in silence, we all of a sudden heard giggling. I looked up from my chair and saw a group of kids pointing at us while whispering to one another. I didn't know if they were playing a game or what, and it wasn't until one outgoing 17 year old boy name Ramori came up to us and said, "Where are you from? There is no beach here?" when I finally realized what they were laughing at. The fact that we were laying out on the patio was VERY odd to them! First of all because most Brazilians don't lay out, they get naturally tanned by just walking around everyday. And second, since we were not by the pool... it would be the equivalent to seeing foreigners back home laying out in a parking lot.

After he came up to us, a dozen other kids appeared and started talking to us! It was great to talk to them because they wanted to learn English as much as we want to learn Portuguese; so, we all got to practice! The kids ranged in ages from 8-20 years old, and they all live in our apartment complex. It's really different how the kids at this apartment complex all hang out together everyday, even with the big age gap. David is the oldest; he is 20 years old, and he speaks the most English. So, we have been asking him a lot of questions about Brazil! He is the one that told us we had been using the wrong elevator ever since we got to Fortaleza. The elevator we were using is only for maids and other services, and he told us that people would laugh every time we got in that elevator. Learning these things makes me wonder what else we have done that is funny to Brazilians since we have been here. But I have already misread a sign, gone into the men's bathroom, and screamed and startled a man coming out who looked more scared than I was... so, not much can beat that I guess.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who's a Forro?

Today was the first of our excursions! We have excursions every weekend. Most of these are trips to different beautiful beaches around Brazil. However, this particular Saturday excursion to a beach that was 2 hours away decided to become an extremely rainy day. It rarely ever rains in Fortaleza, but for some reason, the weather has been VERY unusual, and it has rained almost everyday.

The thing about studying abroad that you must remember is that it is NEVER what you expect, and therefore, you have to make the most out of whatever comes your way. Even in the pouring down rain and gray clouds, we still saw the beauty in the beach we were at and stayed there all day! We played an intense game of frisbee in the sloshing sand and body surfed in the huge waves the rain storm had caused. It was so much fun, but afterwards we were all exhausted. However, the day was far from over.

Later that night we all went out to dance "Forro". Forro is a traditional Brazilian country dance where there is a live band who plays instruments such as the accordion, drum, guitar, and of course... the triangle. When we heard about this type of dancing in class, all of us where pretty skeptical about whether or not we would be able to dance it! Much to our surprise, once we got out on that dance floor, it was quite an experience.

Amber and Dasha practicing their balance before dancing.

The very first guy who asked me to dance was not some handsome Brazilian, but an 80 year old man. I looked for a moment at his wrinkly extended hand and decided old people, especially this little old man, are cute in their own way! I was surprised to see how well the old man could dance, and from the way he was swinging me around, I was afraid I was going to break his poor hip! But he held his own and ended up being one of the best dancers on the floor! Once I learned how to dance Forro from the little grandpa, the rest of the night felt like it was straight out of "Havannah Nights" for all of us. We danced the night away and at one point sang as a group "Dancing Queen," which got some strange looks from the Brazilians! It was overall one of the best nights in Brazil so far! Thank goodness I had Social Dance class to prepare me for this! Otherwise, I might have been the one with a broken hip!

Hanging out with the Forro band after the finished playing!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I feel like Christopher Columbus!!!

Today during class we talked a little about the robbery... what we did wrong, what we did right, and how to not have it happen again. Basically, we were at a dangerous beach, and it got too late. The main problem was that none of us knew that it was a dangerous part of the city! Crazy things like this happen very rarely when you study abroad, but even after all that... all of us still in NO WAY regret coming to Brazil! The robbery was just a wrong place at the wrong time moment, and it could easily happen anywhere when you don't know the area... even some places in Nashville. So, after learning what we did wrong and laughing a little about the situation... we were back in business for enjoying Brazil!

It is so great that every student wants to move on and still experience Brazil because recently we have stumbled upon so many new discoveries! The first of which... SQUEAKY CHEESE.

The discovery of this new amazing substance happened at the very place where the worst of our trip occurred... the Futuro beach.

It all began when Amber, Abbey, and I... as typical Americans... decided to order a cheeseburger at the beach. We knew the burgers in Brazil tasted a lot different than ones back home, but nothing could have prepared our taste buds for what was about to happen...

The phenomenon occurred when I took a bite of my burger. I chewed it for a little bit... but then stopped and looked around. I had heard the weirdest noise. I decided it was nothing and started eating again, but then the strange squeaking noise came back! I looked underneath my table to see if it was someone's flip flops making that noise... but everyone was bare foot. Then I looked above our umbrella to see if some strange tropical bird had landed on top of it... but once again... nothing. I noticed Amber and Abbey looking around just as puzzled as I was. Our eyes met, and we finally realized what was going on...

The squeaking was coming from our mouths!!!!

We all started freaking out! I think Amber and Abbey were little concerned about the quality of their squeaking cheese, and what exactly was making it squeak... but I was having fun making music with my cheese!!!! We realized that the cheese never actually got any smaller... it was just kinda... there. So, we took the rest out and started poking at it with our forks!! It felt exactly like silly putty! And actually now that I think about it, it tasted exactly like silly putty, too!!! (Don't ask me how I know that.)

We were so excited about this amazing substance that I told my home stay mom about it right when we got back! She started laughing and said they call that "Rubber Cheese" in Brazil. It is just white cheese that is very thick and tends to sound like it is squeaking in your mouth. I'm pretty sure I want to bring this amazing Squeaking Cheese back to America and sell it on infomercials!!! I mean, this thing could have so many uses it's incredible!! And it is so much fun! It could be the next slinky!

Squeaky Cheese for breakfast at my home stay the next morning!

But the Squeaky Cheese was not the only discovery we made! Today we went to the Central Mercado. There are many versions of the Mercado, or Market Place. Some are outside along the beach, but this one in particular was in a 4 story building! The inside of it reminded me a LOT of our Panhellenic building back at Tennessee! Only instead of hundreds of sorority girls on every level there were hundreds of shops with dresses, bags, shoes, hammocks... EVERYTHING you can imagine for $5-$25!!! We would walk to one shop where the owner would run out and say a price, then immediately lower it if we looked uninterested. I didn't even feel bad about buying a shirt at one store, then jewelry at another, then a bag at yet another because at the end of the day I had only spend the equivalent of $20!!! I do believe I have found my new favorite place to go to in Brazil!!! Too bad I make my poor dad come with me...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Students got robbed on a Fortaleza beach today

It's crazy how right when we, as a group, started to get a little more comfortable in Brazil... something like this would happen. Two students got robbed at gun point on the beach just hours ago. Stuart's camera, $150 reis, and my cell phone all got taken, but thank goodness no one was hurt beyond that.

Earlier today, for a class assignment, we had all made maps of Fortaleza and figured out how to get to and from the beach. All of us were feeling more independent and decided to go to after class to the beach. We split up into two groups of five, and our group left first. I gave my phone to Natalie's group so they could meet up with us later. We got to the beach and noticed it was completely abandoned except for a few scattered people. Luckily, we were with Lucy, who had gone to Fortaleza last year. She told us that the less crowded beaches are probably the more dangerous ones because no one wants to hang out there. She remembered the name Sol do Americana beach from last year, and we decided it was the safest place since there were security guards around who watch the restaurants along the coast.

We stayed there for a couple of hours. At one point, Mary Alice, Amber, and I went walking along the shore... just to explore. We didn't walk very far at all, but soon a man came running up to us. We were scared at first... then we figured out it was the security guard telling us to go back to our beach because it was dangerous to be walking around. When we met back up with the group it was starting to get dark so we decided to begin packing up.

I called Natalie to see how far away their group was from our beach. She said she was right on the main road, which wasn't far at all. So, I gave her directions to the Sol do Americana beach. About twenty minutes later, we were ready to leave, and it started to worry me that they hadn't called me back. I tried calling them a couple of times and got no answer. It was when we were walking back to our apartment when my dad called me to say that Natalie's group had gotten robbed.

Apparently they couldn't find our beach... so they just went to the closest one they could find. There were no security guards there, and it was getting dark so the beach was deserted. Three students went to swim in the water while Titus and Natalie stayed at the tables to watch the bags. That is when three men came up to them and held them at gun point. They told Titus to go away and pointed the gun at Natalie while they took her ring and Stuart's bag. Titus yelled at the rest of the group after they forced him away, and they came running. When the gunned-men saw the group of guys running toward them, they pointed the guns at them and ran away with the bag.

We will have a meeting tomorrow during class to talk about what happened. But at this point, all of us are freaked out, especially Natalie. I know we are all going to be a lot more paranoid now doing anything around Brazil. It is so scary to think that Mary Alice, Amber, and I could have easily been in that same situation since we walked through a dangerous area alone. I am so glad that all that came from this was some stolen merchandise, but it is still terrifying to think about what could have happened.

Monday, May 18, 2009

... Aaaaand the vacation is over.

Well, as great of a day I had yesterday is about as stressful and confusing of a day I had today. The tropical setting, although still beautiful, seems to lose its enticement once you realize you are living and surviving in a different country, and the culture MUST be learned. Since none of us are fluent in Portuguese to have someone sit down and tell us all the cultural differences, we must learn the hard way.

Some of the cultural differences can be picked up easily by observing other Brazilians. From watching people eat, you can see that they rarely eat anything with their hands, and we get confused and disgusted looks whenever we try to. Hamburgers are eaten with a napkin or wrapper, French fries with toothpicks, and even chicken legs are eaten with a fork and a knife.

Personal space is another big adjustment. American's stand about one arm's length away from the person they are talking to while Brazilians stand about a half an arm's length away. They are also very touchy when they talk to you... grabbing your arm or holding your hand. To greet, Brazilians kiss you on each cheek, which is similar to the French air kiss. You can imagine how confused all of us students were the first times these kind of things started happening to us! Today I was standing in line, or so I thought, and I got cut by two people. I thought they were just being pushy at first, but then I noticed that although I was standing at a comfortable space from the person in line in front of me, it was not close enough for Brazilian standards, and so they thought I was not standing in line.

We talked about these cultural differences in class today and realized that we Americans view Brazilians as "touchy." But when Brazilians visit America, they think Americans are "stand-offish and cold". Neither of these statements is completely true, but it is true that there are many differences between our two cultures.

Having four hours of class in the morning is what kept me sane today. In our Portuguese class, we learned phrases that would help us start an initial conversation with people. We also learned about the different sounds, like the "t" is pronounced like "ch" in Portuguese. I cracked up when I realized that one of the students names, Titus, is actually pronouned like "Cheetos" in Brazil.

Then in my dad's class, Anthropology, we talked about the steps of culture shock and how tough of a time we are about to go through adjusting to living here. We learned that we are going to have ups and downs while adjusting, some good days seeing amazing things and experiencing things not many people get to experience... and some frustrating days with language barriers and culture shock.

Today went downhill when we went to the mall. We took a bus to get there and ended up waiting 30 minutes because we couldn't translate the bus route. When Lucy finally recognized the mall's name, we hopped on and the driver slammed on the gas pedal just as Titus stepped off the sidewalk and onto the bus. Our main goal was to find four things at the mall... an umbrella, a voltage adaptor, a beach bag, and a USB plug for my camera... so I can finally start uploading pictures to this blog. Mary Alice and I came back with just the umbrella.

I walked into the first store and tried to explain the USB plug I needed for my camera. The few words of Portuguese I knew and charades act I put on did not get me very far. After accidentally buying the wrong thing and not understanding the price they asked for, I walked out of the store very embarrassed and frustrated. The workers seemed even more frustrated dealing with someone who would visit their country and not learn the language, or at least that's what I felt they thought of me.

After walking around for three more hours of unsuccessful attempts to find our other items, we left disappointed and exhausted. Back at our home stay we ate dinner with Tay-Tay and relaxed somewhat. Now, at the end of the night, I am still feeling a little homesick, and my mind is mentally exhausted from trying to adjust to here... but I do realize from my dad's lectures that this was just a learning day, and no matter how much I miss my friends and lifestyle back home, it will get better.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I died and went to Brazilian heaven.

Right now I am sitting lazily on the couch of my home stay with the patio door open and the tropical warm breeze blowing in from a balcony that overlooks the city lights of Fortaleza, the city that never sleeps. Mary Alice and I are watching a Brazilian television program on a flat screen while a weiner dog puppy is curled up on my lap. I have laid out on a beautiful beach, sat under a palm tree while drinking tropical juice drinks, and have eaten a lunch and dinner that tasted so delicious and filled me up so much that I do not see how it is possible to ever get off this couch again. I cannot believe how lucky we are to get to stay with this home stay family for the next five weeks.

Our new family dog, Petooka.

From the moment I met my Brazilian mom, Teresa, I knew I was going to have the best time at her house. The first word that popped into my mind when I saw her was Diva. Her bleached blonde hair and tan made her seem much younger and way more fabulous than any other divorced middle-aged woman with two children about our age. She whipped out her iPhone with her perfectly manicured nails decorated with rhinestones after we piled in her car to drive to her apartment. We stopped at an ice cream shop before we made it to her apartment and chose a flavor out of 50 flavors, most of which I had never heard before. Since we couldn't decide which one to get, Teresa (or Tay-Tay as she likes to be called) being her warm and welcoming self bought a bucket of ten different flavors! The best of which I thought was the coconut flavor. Maracuja is was another flavor, and it is a fruit that we do not have back at the States. It is my dad's favorite fruit and favorite flavor of ice cream, juices... anything he can get his hands on in Brazil. I personally think this fruit is a little too sweet and extremely tangy. The ice cream tasted a little like tangerine juice doused in sugar.

We also met Ta-Ta's nephew, Matheus. Matheus is the Brazilian version of the name Matthew, but it is pronounced like the Italian restaurant back home calledMatteos. Matheus is the most fun 24 year old guy I have ever met. From the very beginning he treated Mary Alice and I as his instant best friends. I have never had a gay guy friend before but always wanted one, and now I've finally found one in Brazil! He is so into fashion, and I am very much looking forward to shopping with him in the future! He told us he owns over fifty pairs of Converse shoes... one in every color and material that he matches with his shirts every day. He also wears his hair in a clean-cut fohawk and loves to listen to American music like Lady GaGa and Rhianna.

Once we got to the apartment, which looks similar to small a resort style condo, we ate lunch. We found out during this time that the family business is in catering. The food that they cook here is fresh from their catering business and in huge portions! The group of students that lives a block down with Tay-Tay's mom had to come over just to help us finish it. The group that lives with her mom consists of Lucy, her boyfriend Simon, and Titus - who every Brazilian mistakes for President Obama.

After lunch we drove over to the beach. The beach has three different hang-out spots. The first one is a very tropical setting before you get to the sand. There is vegetation everywhere and palm trees that act as a natural roof over the entire area. There are hammocks around this area and bamboo style bars to sit and relax. The next area is right on the sand, and it is for those who want to sit in at a table in the shade to appreciate the view of the beautiful ocean. At these tables waitors and vendors come up to you and either take your order or try to get you to buy these random exotic souvenirs and goods. The last spot is the actual beach. The water at the beach is so warm and not even that salty! The water got into my eyes a couple of times and instead of feeling irritated it almost felt refreshing.

After hanging out at the beach for awhile, we went back to our house and took showers. The showers in our apartment are those ones with the HUGE shower heads that feel like you are showering under a waterfall.

Later that evening, we ate the most delicious Italian-style pasta and fruit salad I have ever tasted and ended our night in the most perfect way I could have asked for... talking to Matheus on the balcony patio about how extremely good looking Edward Cullen is from Twilight.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Me gosta de dancar!"

Waking up this morning was the most relaxing thing I could ever imagine! Our hotel room looks out into the pool area, and the windows are simply white wooden blinds that let the sun shine through and light up the entire room. There is also a fountain right outside my window, and the sound of running water puts me to sleep better than anything in the world. Mary Alice probably thinks I am narcoleptic because every time I walk into the room and hear the fountain I swear I almost fall asleep standing up.

But we had no time to sleep in this morning! Breakfast ends at ten am, and there was no way we were going to miss it. The breakfast in Brazil consists of tables and tables of bacon, eggs, sweet bread, and fresh fruit. The fruit is by far my favorite, which literally gets picked and washed off hours before we eat it. They also use the fruit to make juices called sucos. They taste a little different than American juices... they are a little more thick in texture and much, much fresher tasting! They have so many fruits here some don't even exist in the United States! Acai is a big one here. That's the fruit that Oprah is big on for it's health benefits. I think it tastes really bitter and kind of gross, and it stains your teeth purple... but if you add five cups of sugar it gets easier to get down!

The only thing that can overpower the taste of acai here would have to be the Brazilian coffee. They drink it in what looks like little shot glasses, because it is so extremely strong. I had some for breakfast and was shaking for the next couple of hours before the caffeine finally wore off. People here love the taste though because it is not quite as stale tasting as the coffee in the States.

The coffee helped with how much walking we had to do today! We walked to the mall, about a twenty minute walk in the INTENSE heat. At one point, I could have sworn my flip flops were melting on the boiling sidewalk. I will never again complain about how hot it is during recruitment week at Tennessee.

The mall itself was a very different experience. We went to the food court when we first got there and ordering was such a task! I knew how to say "Number 3" in Portuguese, so that is what I ordered! I then gave the worker a blank stare when she asked me another question that went way over my head. My dad had to come over and tell me that she was just saying to sit down, and they would bring the food to me. I have much more sympathy for anyone back home who can't speak English and tries to order food! It gets very frustrating just trying to understand simple phrases and communicate back!

The workers brought out the food to us like I had said... but the weirdest thing was that we had ordered from a fast food restaurant that looked similar to a McDonald's, where waited on service is not expected! In Brazil, apparently, fast food places are seen as a nicer place to eat. In fact, only the wealthy people of Brazil can eat there. This made more sense when we realized that there were security guards outside the mall, not for safety reasons necessarily, but to keep the poor people out. Since there are many beggars and poor people on the streets, the security guard's job is to make sure they don't enter the mall.

Even though McDonald's is seen as an "upscale" restaurant, I would rather eat at a regular Brazilian restaurant any day! For dinner we ate at a restaurant right on the coast of the beach. From our tables we could see the tide roll in and out, and since it was evening the weather was perfect.. warm with a little breeze. The food was amazing as well... everything in Brazil seems to be less greasy and healthier for you. I ate a steak, bacon, and cheese sandwich, and somehow, it seemed healthy because the bread was so fresh and the meat not greased! I tried a new suco called suco de caju or cashew nut juice. It turned out to not have been a very good idea. The initial taste was very sweet, but the after taste was as if I had just drank liquid peanuts. I don't know if anyone has ever tried liquid peanuts, but I was not very happy with the taste at all.

Later that night we experienced our first Brazilian club. We went to a Samba Club, where it was packed from the front of the bar all the way back to the entrance doors. Since the personal space in Brazil is half an arm's length as compared to our American full arm length distance from you to another person... it was very different dancing in a club where random people get very close to you and not think anything of it! The dancing was extremely fun! I still have yet to figure out if I ever danced a real version of Samba, but what I got down from the Brazilians there is it is a dance of shuffling your feet while taking quick steps and exaggerating swinging your hips!

Not only did I learn how to Samba, but I also learned my first Brazilian hand signal. The hand signal looks as if you are making a hand puppet talk with attitude, and it basically means "I am ignoring you, and if you talk to me this hand might just slap you across the face." I had to get taught this hand signal when a very creepy man came up and started to get very close to talk to me. Lucky for me, Lucy, a girl in our study abroad group, yanked me behind her and gave this signal to the guy! This worked very well because just as soon as he had crept his way up, he disappeared back into the crowd! I intend to bring this hand signal back to Knoxville and teach it to all the freshman for any creepy boys the meet at places along the strip!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Journey to Brazil! ...I think we just flew Swine Airlines

Well it's a year after our backpacking adventure to Europe, and now I face a very different environment and culture. From the moment I stepped off the plane and experienced intense heat, the fast-talking Portuguese language, and the bugs literally the size of your palm... I knew I could only be in the country of Brazil! I have been here before many times with my dad, who is an Anthropology professor that runs this study abroad program every year, but this is the first time I will be living with a home stay, taking classes, and being thrust head first into the Brazilian culture for the next three months. 

Yesterday, right before we left to the airport, I'll admit I was a bit terrified of the thought of living with another family while being submersed in a completely different culture for such a long period of time. However, as soon as we arrived at the airport excitement started building up more and more, partly because my good friend since the 6th grade, Mary Alice, was on the program with me!

Funny things started happening right away, like when News Channel 5 came up to ask us our thoughts about a woman who sued South West for arresting her after she refused to turn her cell phone off. Another student on the trip, Neil, and I both got on the news that night! Whoop whoop, I got a super important one-liner on the video clip that pretty much stated the obvious. But the best part was I got to show off my phone to all of Nashville.

Then once on the actual plane to Sao Paulo, Brazil (after turning off my cell phone, of course)... I was faced with a decision that has been haunting me for the past week. Bolt or Slum Dog Millionaire, which one to watch for the six hour flight? My mind was tormented until I finally decided to watch both, as well as Marley and Me, and not sleep at all. This was probably the worse decision I could have made, not only because Marley and Me made me cry like a baby in front of concerned flight attendants, but also because lack of sleep for me means a VERY distracted mind... which might not be the best preparation for arriving in a foreign country.

However, Slum Dog Millionaire ended up actually being a pretty good alternative for preparation! The poverty shown in that movie was fairly accurate to what I was about to be seeing 
for the next three months. Although I have seen it before, coming back at an age where I can actually understand what is going on is definitely going to be a culture shock. 

While I forced my eyes to stay open to finish Slum Dog, Mary Alice slept like a baby through breakfast. The flight attendant accidentally dropped a hot roll on her lap at one point. I thought
about leaving it there as a nice surprise breakfast in bed when she woke up, but I decided we had had enough trickster attitude from the attendant, who earlier was convinced I was Brazilian. When we told him I wasn't, he told us he was actually Irish and said "Good-day Lad" in the most Brazilian accent imaginable. The sad part was that it took Mary Alice and I a couple minutes to realize he was joking. Oh good ol' Brazilian humor... we must get use to it.

Another thing that might take some getting use to is finally arriving at the Forteleza airport and being greeted with dozens of flight attendants with face masks on. Once we saw this we all thought the presents we were about to bring back all our friends and family was a nice case of Swine Flu! Lucky for us, they were just taking precautions. And as I just wrote that last sentence I coughed... oh my...