So these last few weeks have been surprisingly busy! Not busy like the way I was busy in the U.S. I have had no calculus problem sets to finish, no A.P. World Lit papers hanging over my head, and no long, cold, tiring track meets. I’ve been busy with travels around the northeast of Brasil, get togethers with many different groups of friends, LOTS of beach time, attempting to learn German in Portuguese(have I mentioned this? German in Brasil haha…weird, but fun), basketball and other random athletic type activities, and the occasional rotary event. If at this time last year I had taken a look at my life now, I would have laughed in my own face if I tried to call myself busy. And I guess I’m not busy, really, but I’m definitely not unoccupied. Its funny, the thing that stresses me out the most here is when I have too many fun things to do, but I can’t do all of them so I have to pick. Seriously, for some reason this really stresses me out! I always want to hang out with as many people as possible and see all of my friends, but I often have to pick and choose which fun thing it is I want to do on a given day. Again, back in the U.S., I didn’t have time to be stressed out by this sort of thing. It’s funny how different my life here is from my life back home, in terms of my schedule. Anyways, here are some of the fun things I did end up choosing to do during the past few weeks:
I went to Natal! Twice! Natal is this city about 2 hours north of Joao Pessoa in the State of Rio Grande do Norte. The first time I went, I went with a family from Joao Pessoa that I’ve gotten to know really well, and we went over election/Halloween weekend. There was a second presidential election where everyone had to vote again, because the first time none of the candidates got a majority of votes. So, the night I got there was election night! I got to go to this huge party for Dilma (the winner of the Presidential election, and Brazil’s first woman president! Woo!) It was an election party unlike one I had ever seen before. It was complete with a live band playing all sorts of Brazilian dance music, from samba to forro to funk, and everyone there was dancing like only Brazilians can dance. Everyone was wearing red, Dilma’s color, and waving banners and signs and flags and singing Dilma’s song at the top of their voices (did Obama have a song?? I guess this also must be unique to Brasil haha). There was also churrasco. Every Brasilian party seems to have churrasco! Deeeelicious!
The second time I went to Natal I went with all the other exchange students, plus a few of our mutual friends. We left Joao Pessoa at like 5:30 in the morning so that we could get there by 7:30 to do a buggy ride on the beach and sand dunes of Natal for the whole day! A ‘buggy’ here is not like a horse-drawn carriage. Its pretty much like a jeep-convertible, although a little less sturdy. Now, this buggy trip was definitely in the top three most fun things I’ve done so far here in Brasil. We started out just driving along the beach right next to the ocean, which was quite pleasant, but then we turned onto the sand dunes! Natal is surrounded by natural sand dunes, and in the middle of these dunes, fresh water lakes have formed. It is so beautiful. We got to drive all over the sand dunes, and make stops along the way to swim in the lakes! The buggy drive was actually kind of scary, but I love a little bit of a thrill! Let’s just say that my dear friend Sonja would not be able to handle it. Our driver took us at a speed more appropriate for highway driving that for sand dunes, and the buggy was nearly vertical sometimes as we sped over the steepest of the dunes. Also, there were no seatbelts. You just had to hold on. Along the way, we made two other stops where we did something called ‘esqui-bunda’, which is like sledding on the sand. We sledded down this fairly steep sand dune, and landed in a lake at the bottom. I also got to do a zip-line for the first time! I sat in a swing attached to a wire, and zoomed across a lake, landing in the water on the other side. We also went to the ocean and swam there for a little while. Its funny how its routine for me now to have the ocean so close. When we went to the beach after the buggy ride I was like ‘oh, it’s the ocean again, nothing new there.’ Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the ocean, and I appreciate living by it soooo much, it’s just that it’s so normal for me now! Before I came here, the ocean was always something so exotic and foreign to me! Funny how things change.
A couple weekends back, I also got to go on a trip to with my host mom and her friends to Bananaeiras and Guarabira, two smaller cities in the interior of Paraiba. We first went to a farm in Guarabira and had an AMAZING breakfast with an obscene amount of food (like always). There were all of these fruit trees at the farm where we were allowed to just pick the fruit off the trees and eat it fresh! These included what I think were clementines, a large green something that looked like a coconut, but wasn’t, and acerola, which sort of reminds me of a cranberry. After leaving the farm, we went to visit my host mom’s brother, went to a museum in honor of this Italian saint that used to live in Guarabira, and went to a just-opened hotel in Bananaeiras for a lunch of typical northeastern Brazilian food. After lunch went to the University of Bananeiras, and a then to a newly developed condominium community and got a tour of the place. I enjoyed seeing some different, and smaller, cities, although they aren’t nearly exciting as Joao Pessoa. It actually made me even more grateful to live where I do. These cities were nice, but there really wouldn’t be much to do at all for a teenager living there. It helped explain why there are so many students from the interior of Paraiba in Joao Pessoa going to high school. Also, the small cities of Brasil are really different from the small cities of the U.S. For example, Guarabira has about 70,000 people, and that is considered, like, miniscule for Brasil. When I was in Guaraibira, it looked to me like there were about 7,000 or less living there! The whole town was mainly just houses and little shops. In Northfield, which has less than 20,000 people, we have 2 colleges, Target, Cub foods, Menards, numerous fast food places and restaurants, parks and recreational areas, etc. The number of people that make up a city versus what is considered a small village is very different in Brasil.
I also went to two different concerts over the past 3 weeks or so. The first one was this festival of both local bands and bands from different parts of Brazil. There was also a bunch of art on display from local artists, which was cool to see, because I hadn’t really seen the artsy side of Joao Pessoa yet. It was in this big square in the center of town, and there was constantly a different band playing typical Brazilian music. At first when I went to concerts like this I just liked to watch the crazy Brazilians dancing, because that’s a show in and of itself, let me tell you. However, after being here awhile, I’ve picked up on a few things and join in as well, although not quite in the style of the Brazilians. It was soooo fun though, just being there with all of these Brazilians, dancing and laughing, and eventually everyone joining hands and doing a sort of circle dance around the room. I really felt like I was part of this country and its culture!
I also went to a concert last weekend in the big hall where there are always shows here in Joao Pessoa. I went to see Luan Santana, whom I would sort of describe as a Brazilian combination of Justin Beiber and Jason Mraz. The show itself was pretty cool, and he was a good singer, but I was sort of iffy on the songs. My favorite songs he sang were the ones that weren’t actually his songs, but just typical Brazilian songs I knew. It was definitely a fun time though! I went with some good friends, Jani, Lana, Ramon and Saul. Shows in Brasil rarely start until after midnight, so we ate a late dinner and then got to the show around midnight, and it started around 12:30. The main portion of the audience was probably teenage girls, and there was A LOT of squealing when Luan Santana came on stage. However, I had never been to a show like this in Brasil, and it was definitely a good experience to have. Lots of dancing, singing, squealing, etc. And the show was complete with some pretty cool effects as well! Fireworks and sparklers were constantly being set off, and there was real live fire coming out of the stage! Brazilians know how to put on a show!
Well, I feel like there’s a lot more I could say, but I’ve been working on this post on and off for about a week and a half, so it’s time to wrap it up! Its summer for me now, and that means no more school, so I’m excited about the next couple of months. I’ll try to post more frequently and write shorter posts from now on…its so difficult not to ramble on! Stay warm as the snow piles up back in MN; I’m going to be looking for new ways to stay cool!
Beijos e abraços!