This last week I had some serious fun. On Wednesday, I left on a 4 day trip to Fortaleza with the other exchange students and the swim team here in Joao Pessoa. I’m not actually on the team, but the manager of the team asked us exchangers if we wanted to go, and of course I want to take every opportunity to travel, so I went! Fortaleza is about 12 hours north of Joao Pessoa in the state of Cearà, and it is the 5th largest city in Brazil. We took a bus there and drove through the night, arriving around 9 in the morning, so the journey seemed shorter than I expected. I slept very little (which is normal, I can rarely sleep anywhere but a bed), but when I got there I was excited enough that I could run on not much sleep.
On a quick side note, travelling in Brazil is really different from travelling in the U.S. For one thing, the roads are a lot less developed. You get thrown around in your seat a lot, and forget about trying to go to the bathroom while the bus is moving. Its close to impossible. We got a nice bus though, I was worried that we were going to take one of the rickety little city buses I see driving around Joao Pessoa all the time, but the coach bus we took was at least as nice as the ones we have in the U.S. However, the bad thing about the coach bus was that it was well equipped with air conditioning, and Brazilians positively blast the air conditioning! I don’t know if it’s something to do with the fact that it’s always so hot outside, so they want a taste of cold, or if the air conditioning doesn’t have a low setting, but I am always freezing whenever I’m riding in a bus/car. It’s weird, being from MN I feel like I should be able to handle a little air conditioning when I’m used to -20 degree windchill, but I was shivering my face off wrapped in a blanket and sweatshirt while some of the Brazilians were wearing just a T-shirt and didn’t seem to feel a thing! I guess Brazilians are just resilient people!
We stopped for breakfast on the way at a churrascaria. We also stopped at 7 in the morning, which is a little early for churrasco I thought. However, there was semi-normal breakfast food here, and it was all delicious! Some of the weirder things they had for breakfast were pizza and cachorro quente (which is like sliced up hotdogs in some sort of meat sauce). I steered clear of the hot dogs, but pizza is delicious at any time of day! When we arrived in Fortaleza I discovered that our hotel was basically ON the beach, which was great. The beach in Fortaleza is even prettier than the one in Joao Pessoa, and we went for a long walk there right away. The water was the most perfect blue I have ever seen! Ahhhhh I adore the ocean. For lunch, we ate sushi, which was also great because I have discovered a new love for sushi since I arrived in Brazil. They have it at basically all churrascarias and even at the supermarkets. I only paid the equivalent of $5 for a deliciously generous portion as well.
After lunch we hit the town! Fortaleza has a large downtown area with all of these little boutiques that sell super cheap clothes, sandals, Brazilian bikinis, etc. It was fun to see the difference between this shopping area and the ones in the U.S. There were just soooo many more stores here than there are in similar areas in the U.S. I didn’t really realize how big the area was until we left. There must have been several hundred little stores crammed onto the streets that make up the downtown, and all of them were selling the same things for the most part. When we got back, we went to Pizza Hut for dinner. This is the only American restaurant that I’ve been to since I got here, because for the most part I want to eat Brazilian food when I’m in Brazil. It was also one of the most expensive! I think all American fast food restaurants are expensive here. For example, a Big Mac is 15 reais, which is like >$8. Your standard hamburger from McD’s is like 12 reais, around $7. I’m not sure, but I think you can get that type of burger in the states for like 99 cents. Granted, I hear McDonalds is much better here, and ironically its one of the few restaurants that actually is expensive relative to the product. But anyways, back to Pizza Hut. The pasta that I had was probably better than any pasta I could get from a Pizza Hut back in the U.S., even if it was expensive. Later that night we went to the Ferrinha, which is basically like a flea market. It’s right on the beach and opens only at night, so we spent basically every night we were there perusing all the little stands.
The next day, we went to this huge waterpark in Fortaleza called Beach Park (and pronounced Beachee Parkee by the Brazilians. Haha they add an ee sound to basically every word ending in a consonant. I am usually Beretee or Berechee here). It was EXTREMELY awesome! There were like 20 different waterslides, so we never got bored. There was this one super tall and steep one called ‘Insano’ that I went on, and it was definitely the scariest. I was in freefall for part of the time, and not even touching any part of the slide! Scary stuff. The park was also right on this beautiful beach! There were huge waves so we could body surf and play in the waves. It was a great day, and gorgeous weather like always. When we got back, we went to the beach by the hotel again and had dinner by the ferrinha. We ate this delicious pastry type thing called acaraje. It is fried dough stuffed with shrimp, some sort of green legume, and with a sort of peppery, spicy sauce. It was delicioso! I love trying new foods from here. I honestly have had only one thing I didn’t like so far, and it was a fig. And I don’t really think figs are all that common in Brazil anyways.
The last day we were in Fortaleza we basically just spent at the beach, swimming and sun bathing and enjoying the beauty of Fortaleza. Of course, we had to eat some açaí too, which is probably my favorite food from here. It is the açaí berry ground up into a sort of ice cream/sorbet type thing, but without any sort of milk or dairy product. It is topped with granola, honey, nuts, raisins and bananas. I eat açai at least 5 times a week here! I think it’ll be the food I’ll miss the most. The journey home went smoothly and we arrived in Joao Pessoa very early in the morning on Sunday. My parents here are pretty much insistent that I go to school no matter what so I was verrrry glad it was a weekend!
On Tuesday, it was Brazil’s Independence Day! This meant no school, which was great. Sept. 7th here, the date of their independence, is not nearly as big a deal as July 4th is in the U.S., as far as I could tell. At least there were no more Brazilian flags than usual, and no one dressed in national colors, no parade, nothing really out of the ordinary. This struck me as odd, because Brazil normally has some of the most pronounced national pride of any other country I’ve seen! I think they actually just celebrate in year round instead of on this one particular day. But anyways, we did get school off on Tuesday, so I got to have some fun! I went with the other exchange students and some Brazilians to do this thing called picozinho, which is basically like snorkeling! We rode on this boat out to this coral reef a ways out from the shore, and swam around with the fish and looked at them with goggles. The water is always super warm, which was nice, and we got to stay out there in the sun for a couple of hours just swimming around the reef. I love that I can do this kind of thing here and its normal. I mean, its kind of a big deal to me, but to the Brazilians its very routine, which is so cool! After we got back, we went to a small restaurant and ate tapioca! Tapioca is probably my second favorite food after açaí. I think I might have already described this previously, but I’ll do it again because it is nothing short of delicious. Tapioca is kind of this rubbery, salty substance that, when cooked, is shaped like a tortilla/crepe. You can order it with any number of things inside, nearly all of which are delicious. My personal favorite is coconut, cheese, banana, chocolate, and leite condensada. I could eat tapioca everyday. I actually had it twice yesterday and once today. I’ll say it again, I LOVE the food here! Anyways, I’ve rambled on enough for one post, so até mais, muitos beijos amigos!