Saturday, February 04, 2006

Update on life in Brazil

Update on life in Brazil:
Well, for one I am getting a little too used to the Brazilian keyboards. Even when using my laptop (like I am now), I find myself reaching for the wrong keys. The keyboards here have keys placed a little differently to make up for the accents that are used in Brazilian words (è, ç, ã, ô, í). I have been listening to a lot of Brazilian music and watching quite a few Brazilian films in Portuguese (with the Portuguese subtitles, it helps with the speaking is fast.)
After getting what seemed like 2nd degree burns on my upper arms and shoulders after spending the weekend in Foz do Iguaçu, I’m finally starting to peel away and it’s turning into a decent tan. For the first time in my life I actually have some color on my arms and even a little bit on my legs, so that’s pretty nice.
After watching one film, 2 Filhos do Francisco, I went out and bought the double-CD “ao vivo” (live) album of one of their performances. I would almost say that these guys (Zezé di Camargo and Luciano) are like the American equivalent to a boy-band, but these guys actually play their own instruments, write their own music, write their own lyrics, so that’s pretty nice. Plus, the fact that it’s foreign and in Portuguese makes it all that much better.
For some really sweet sounds of Brazilian music, I would recommend to those who read this to buy the album “Tribalistas” (easily found on Amazon). “Velha Infância” has been fallen in love with by many students in the class.
I have been in Brazil now for what is essentially a month, and my Portuguese has gotten leaps and bounds better. Obviously after only a month of really studying the language I won’t be fluent, and likely won’t even be fluent when I leave the country, but it has gotten much better. I use English in a very limited way with my host family. The only people I speak English with are the other American students, and sometimes with the Brazilian students who are studying English at CELIN (Centro de Línguas e Interculturalidade). I hope to learn quite a bit more over the next two weeks, because then my time at CELIN will be over and then it’ll just be up to me. By seven weeks studying the language and living with a Portuguese-speaking family should provide me with enough to get started.
But, not only will my CELIN time be up in two weeks, I will also be going on a two week “vacation” (quoted because this whole trip so far has been a vacation).
On February 17th, I will be leaving at 8AM to go to São Paulo with Matt, Mica, and Laura. We will be speaking four days there and at Ubatuba beach (wait until you see the pictures from this place). I also hope to get to spend a day or two with Caio (a “paulista” friend of mine from SA) and see the city. If that doesn’t work out then it’s all good; I found out that plane tickets from Curitiba to São Paulo are only about $50US one way, so getting there is no problem. I can easily say I will never ride on a bus from São Paulo to Curitiba (or reverse) again. It was a pretty trip but seven hours on a bus is almost unbearable.
Then, after that bit of time in São Paulo and Ubatuba, we will be flying a few hours north to the incredibly culturally rich city of Salvador, in the state of Bahia. We’ll be here from Feb. 20th until Feb. 28th for the biggest party in the world: Carnaval. It is going to be insanity, and I can’t wait.
On Feb. 28th at about 10AM, I will be flying from Salvador to Recife/Olinda in the state of Pernambuco to experience the final day of Carnaval. I chose Recife because I wanted to experience a “final day” of Carnaval, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that in Salvador because of the price of tickets to get home the following two days (March 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.) So instead, I will be in Recife on Feb. 28th, March 1st and 2nd, and flying out to Rio at 7AM, then out of there to Curitiba and getting back home at about 11AM. No, I won’t get to spend any time in Rio except at the airport, but I will be sure to get back up there. That gives me essentially three full days to see Recife, which while not as much as I would like to have, is a good starting point.
Those two weeks will probably be the most expensive two weeks of my life, but money is no object to me right now when I am trying to experience this entire country and its vast diversity and culture. All of these flights combined were only about R$1200 (~$500US) which is insane to me. I believe in the US all of these flights and connecting flights and all would easily cost $1500US. Plus, we’ll be staying in student/youth hostels instead of hotels. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be spending a good bit of money on food, drinks, souvenirs, and some “bloco” shirts so we can march in the Carnaval parades in Salvador. Maybe you’ll see us on TV if some station in the US shows clips of the Salvador Carnaval.
So anyway, I will be getting back to Curitiba on March 3rd, a Friday, at around 11AM. I will then have that weekend to recuperate and rest (sleep will be minimal during the two weeks prior), because classes at UFPR will begin March 6th. This means I have to register for classes, find a place to stay during the regular semester, and take care of anything else within the next two weeks before I leave for São Paulo.
On another note, I have spoken to and emailed plenty of people back in the US, and many of them have said that I look happier right now than I have in my entire life. It’s just as easy for me to believe as it is for them to believe. The culture, “jeitinho brasileiro” lifestyle, the happiness and friendliness of everyone, the food, the drinks, everything about this country, is almost surreal to me. I know that every country has corruption and it’s own problems, but there are a few things that separate this lifestyle from that I experience and witness in the US. People in Brazil don’t work 50 or 60 hours a week, spend as little time with their families as possible, and ignore people and not make eye contact with others as they speak. It is a very “tranquilo” environment and everyone here is very relaxed and takes everything with an easygoing-ness that should be envied by people all over this world who think the most important thing in the world is working 50 hours a week and making a slightly higher salary than your coworker. They cherish family and friends, they aren’t afraid of showing their love for one another, and, at least in Curitiba, people seem to be somewhat concerned about the poor and the environment.
Another reason is because of the relationships I have developed with the other students in such a short period of time. Obviously some people will become closer to each other than the others, but I have gotten along great with everyone and have made a few friends here that I would love to remain friends with for as long as I live. Experiencing all of this new stuff in Brazil together helps to make a special bond, and I could only imagine getting together in 10 years and just reliving this entire experience. The stories would be incredible. Me dying at Ilha do Mel, me dying at the hands of Becca’s garage door, getting stung by too many bees at Foz do Iguaçu, turning into a leper because of my gross sunburn; these are all things that may have kinda sucked at the time (who wants to die twice in Brazil?) but even now looking back I can laugh at them, because their were either fun, stupid, fun and stupid, or just outlandish. I’ve gotten to be awesome friends with Matt, and while it kinda sucks he lives out there in Ohio, him and I may just end up having to immigrate to Brazil and living down here. That, or, plane tickets aren’t much to Ohio.
The connections I am making in Brazil that could help me out in the future are great, too. I almost know if I were to come back to Brazil (that is, if I go back to the states!) Miriam and Josef would let me stay with them for at least a few days while I visit around Curitiba. Samuel would probably help me out with a nice place to visit or a connection of his could help show me around a new area. Kiko at Ilha do Mel gave me his number and email and told me if I ever wanted to work in Brazil, give him a call.
In summary, I’m having a great time in Brazil and although sometimes I should write more and post fewer pictures, I almost just feel like those pictures are letting everyone know exactly what I’m doing and exactly how I’m feeling while down here in Brazil.
I’m not sure how many more trips are on the itinerary in the next two weeks before the big vacation, but there might be two more. One to Vila Velha and the other to Florianópolis. If I don’t make it to Florianópolis just yet though, no problem at all. It’s only three hours from Curitiba and I can go there or Ilha do Mel anytime I want for a nice weekend trip.
Hopefully this is a nice update for everyone back home who is wondering just exactly what it is Zack is doing in Brazil. I’ll try to write a few more things like this before I leave for Carnaval. While there I will try to keep a little journal of all the things I see and experience so I can have some stuff to type up for everyone. I won’t have my laptop with me of course, but I will have my camera and should be game for taking hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I may have to find a 1gig memory card or two before I leave just in case I use up all the space on the ones I have. Either that, or a helluva lot of rechargeable batteries.
Anyway, expect much more to come in the future. Hopefully everyone is having a great time in the United States and you didn’t feel like killing yourself too many times during Pres. Bush’s SOTU address the other night like I did, and for those reading this in Brazil:
Esse país é o melhor país no mundo. Eu sou muito feliz ter amigos como vocês e eu quero ficar amigos com vocês todo de meu vida. Eu não posso esperar até Carnaval em Salvador! Tchau gente.

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