Yesterday I got lost on my way home from school. This is inexplicable, as school is literally a block from my house. I have no idea how it happened, but my sense of direction is not the best and I must not have been concentrating on where I was walking. I think I walked in a giant loop around the neighborhood looking for my street. It was actually kind of scary! Fortunately, I remembered the name of my street and asked a kind Brazilian woman how to get there. She told me in Portuguese, and I was glad to realize I could understand her directions!
The Brazilians are very huggy, touchy –feely people, so here, the custom is that when you meet someone, you hug and kiss on both cheeks. I have had several awkward encounters with new acquaintances where we are each going for different cheeks and meet somewhere in the middle, or I turn my head too far one way and end up getting kissed on the ear, etc. etc. Apart from the occasional awkwardness, however, I actually do enjoy how the Brazilians display affection so boldly and outright. It’s refreshing!
The fruits here are something else. Every day I have fresh mango, papaya, guava, pineapple, and other fruits of which I don’t even know the name. There are also freshly squeezed juices made from all these fruits. And when I say fresh, I mean squeezed immediately before drinking! It’s amazing. My host dad, Painho, as I call him, asked me what sort of fruits we eat in the U.S. I mentioned apples, bananas, oranges, etc. He then went out and bought a bag of apples so that I’d have a little something to make me feel at home. It was very sweet.
I have gotten into a habit of going running on the calçadinha by the beach. I absolutely LOVE running there. It is sooo gorgeous, I just gaze out at the ocean the entire time. I even look forward to going running, which I never did at home. The only thing is, I think it’s considered kind of abnormal for a girl my age to go running. There aren’t many runners, and those who do run are mostly male. The few female runners I’ve seen aren’t really running, they’re more power-walking or running realllllly slowly, and they’re like in their forties. Also, while I’m running in a pair of old basketball shorts and my grimy AP World t-shirt, for example, all the other women are in these fancy spandex jogging suits. I’m gonna have to get me one of them.
Before arriving here, I imagined João Pessoa to be a fairly affluent city. And for the most part it seems like it is. There are many ritzy apartment buildings all over the city, as well as lots of nice cars driving around. However, most cities of this size have their share poverty, and João Pessoa is no exception. On the outskirts of the city, there are areas sort of like ‘favelas’, where the houses are extremely small and close together, and I’ve seen several people driving around in carts with horses attached, sort of like rickshaws, though this is not common here. I have also been asked for money several times already, once from the smallest man I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t have been more than 2 ft tall. I don’t know what to do when I’m asked for money. I feel this extreme pity for them, but I think everyone here is really used to seeing beggars. I think they know to look for foreigners, because we’re the ones who are more likely to give them money. I’m no exception. Once when I was buying a coconut, I gave a toothless boy my change. Its really difficult to say no.
And a quick word on coconuts: On the calçadinha by the beach, there are these little stands that sell coconuts. You’re guaranteed to find one about every 100 yds or so. They only cost 1 real each, which is about 60 cents. The vendors at the stands punch a hole in the coconuts and then you can drink the milk out of them. The milk actually doesn’t taste anything like a typical coconut flavoring. It has a subtle taste, but it’s very refreshing. Also, the coconuts here look nothing like the brown, hairy coconuts we see in grocery stores in the U.S. They’re green and about the size of a melon. Hundreds of already-been-drank coconuts line the calçadinha. It’s really funny.
The driving here is really different from in the U.S. First of all, it’s practically impossible to cross the street. You have to lean out into the crosswalk and wave your arms around so that the cars will stop. In general, the streets are just more crowded and more dangerous. I don’t know if there is a speed limit or not, I haven’t seen any signs for one, and people just go whatever speed they want to. There is also a lot of weaving in and out of lanes. I always feel like we’re going to hit something. People also use their horns way more than is necessary here. Seriously, people honk all the time for no apparent reason. I think they just do it to say hello to other drivers or something.
Até mais, beijos!