WAAG Week 4: I’m in Brazil!

Tuesday

I finally got to my host family in Brazil after flying for two days. Already, it’s been quite the experience.

I had to take three flights to get to my destination in Brazil: Toronto > New York, New York > Sao Paulo and then Sao Paulo > Recife. I travelled with TAM Airlines for all three of my flights. It was a pretty good experience overall; the airlines handed out caramel candies before each and every flight, and we got served meals or snacks throughout. Food, even airplane food, will always win me over!

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The most I got to see of New York 😦 I wish we could go out and explore during layovers.

Between my second and third flight I was supposed to have a 10-hour layover, but the attendant checking me in got me into one that left 4 hours earlier instead. Upon updating my TN manager about this, I discovered that a fellow AIESECer would now be travelling on the same flight as me. By the same stroke of luck, we ended up sitting next to each other on the plane! I had made my first friend in Brazil.

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Also seen on the flight to Recife. Accounting firms know no boundaries.

But that’s where my luck ended. I had checked both my luggages, and when I got to Recife, both were nowhere to be found. I wasn’t the only one to have this happen to, so immediately tons of angry Brazilians swarmed the poor attendant behind the Baggage Services desk. Since he had to meet everyone’s demands one by one, the entire process took a very long time. He also didn’t speak English so when it was finally my turn it was very difficult to understand what information he needed from me. Luckily, at this time my host was let into the gate because it had been an hour after I was supposed to arrive, and she was able to be a translator.

I was pretty bummed out about the luggage fiasco because I had checked all of my belongings into those two suitcases. Now I didn’t have any clothes, toiletries or other products for who knew how long. Even my presents for my host family were in the suitcases!

But I was still in Brazil. Even though it was dark out, I could see that things were so different. For one, there were as many motorcyclists as cars, and none of them followed the lanes! Instead they wove in and around the lanes of cars. When I told the host that motorcycles in Canada drove in line with the cars, she got very confused. “What’s the advantage of having a motorcycle then?”

Once we got to my host’s house, she gave me some clothes to change into since I didn’t have any with me, and also showed me my room. It’s so nice!

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Despite the missing luggage, I really couldn’t ask for a more generous family to bring me in. Tomorrow I’ll have to go out by myself and meet up with the other interns to get to my workplace. Fingers crossed I’ll like it just as much as my host family!

Wednesday

This morning good news came – the airport found my luggage and would be delivering it to the house! I was very happy at the thought of finally being able to wear some of my own clothes.

I didn’t have to bus to meet the other interns until the afternoon, so I had a slow morning. I ate breakfast with N and then walked with her to her bus stop, so she could show me how to bus later on. She wrote a message to the driver telling him where I needed to go on a piece of paper – bless her soul for being so considerate!

I have to say that the food here is very different. Every meal so far has been peppered with new things:

  • Boiled bananas
  • Black coffee without caffeine
  • Jackfruit
  • Two things that taste like potatoes but are not (forget the names)
  • Cake with fruit that I don’t know
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Some cake that N’s grandmother brought me as a snack. They don’t know what the English name of the fruit used in this cake is, so I guess I’ll never know! It’s very good though.
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I had lunch with the interns here in the mall after we located each other. First “restaurant” meal in Recife!

I wish I could have taken more pictures, because we really did see a lot of cool things throughout the day, but it is not safe to have our phones out while on the street because it puts us at risk of robbery. Which isn’t to say that me not taking any pictures helped at all because…

Perhaps to counterbalance the happiness of having my luggage located, my cellphone was stolen… right after I bought a plan for it 😦 I had to get N to call the company and cancel the plan for me. We’re hopefully going to get another card for me tomorrow. Hopefully my bad luck ends here!

Thursday

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Brazil is so hot, wearing my hair down means an oily mess at the end of the day. Even though I don’t like it, I’ve had to resort tying my hair up when doing things in the house like writing this entry.

As part of the IPS week, we went to Federal University (CDU) today. N was kind enough to bus me there early (she had class at 3PM but my session started at 2PM). I got to meet all the other interns who would be starting work next week!

AIESEC Recife’s office is located in the building CFCU on campus. Since we were on school property, I felt safe enough to pull on my phone and snap a few pictures:

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The CFCU building. Apparently it is for philosophy students!
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Took this to remind myself of where N’s classes were (she is a materials engineer). Her classes are in the stout grey building in at the back of the picture.
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A view (from behind the fence) of the art’s building at school! Apparently this is the nicest one in school… which according to N makes sense because “they are arts students”

We got to the AIESEC office early. Since the door was locked, we chatted outside and were quickly joined by other interns. Most of the people already knew each other since they had been here since the first day of IPS, but since I arrived late I had not met most of them yet. I quickly got acquainted, and as N left for class we left the office and went to a classroom where our “training” for the day would be.

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A view from the fourth floor of the CFCU building

In the classroom, we met first in our projects and then in our NGOs to discuss our plans for the upcoming months. Then the ICX members taught us some Portuguese!

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I’m in school again… Portuguese school!
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My new AIESEC family in Brazil 🙂

At night, N and I went to the mall to get my new SIM card. Afterwards, we wandered around the mall a little.

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Brazilian mall!
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This store sells shoes that are made exclusively from plastic. Apparently they are wildly popular in Brazil!

Friday

Today was supposed to be my first day of work, but since I don’t work on Fridays N took me to the beach instead.

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I opted to stay out of the water (this beach has sharks! A girl died last year *shudder*) and instead just lounged around enjoying everything else the beach had to offer. There are various vendors who bring chairs and umbrellas. You pick one of them and while you’re enjoying your time in the sun other vendors walk by offering a variety of items, like fish, ice cream, beer, hats and sunblock.

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This concoction had fish, beans and quail eggs among other things! So good :Q
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One of the vendors made me a rose out of coconut leaves!

We had gotten beer before going to the beach because it was less expensive, and N was pretty indignant that I chose a 0% alcoholic beer. She insisted I try a drink called Caipirinha, which had 40% alcohol and lemonade. Don’t worry, the legal age to drink in Brazil is 18 so I’m in the clear!

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At this point in the picture it actually tasted pretty good… the after-taste was where the alcohol hit.

After the beach, N declared that I had to try some açai, so we went to some to a restaurant and got some.

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Açai with bananas and granola. This was the small size and I still couldn’t finish it!

We then bussed to the city centre and she showed me some famous markers in Recife.

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The “twin towers of Brazil”
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See that tower thing at the left of the picture? N did not know what its official name was, but apparently colloquially it’s known as “the penis tower”
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The 0km mark in Pernambuco! This is the starting point for measurement between anywhere else in the world, apparently.

Altogether, I’d say this was a day very well spent!

Saturday

Today, G took me to Instituto Ricardo Brennand (they just call it “the castle”). It’s a museum of sorts, made by the collector Ricardo Brennand.

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The road leading into the Institute is lined with… palm trees? Coconut trees? I still can’t really tell the difference.
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Statue of Ricardo Brennand

They had large displays of art…

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… as well as armour.

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Even dogs get armour!
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G and I posing next to some weapons.

But most impressive of all was the view. I wasn’t artsy enough to take advantage of all the amazing scenery around us, but it was truly a sight to behold! Some people actually have their weddings here… as we were leaving, guests were filing in!

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They actually have a moat around the castle… can I just stay here forever please

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We stayed for a few hours, but finally it was time to go. Bye, IRB! You were beautiful.

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Sunday

Happy Mother’s Day! On Sundays, N’s aunts, uncles and cousins come to visit so it made for a very lively house. It’s enough excitement for me, but today, it wasn’t the most interesting thing to happen.

When N’s relatives came over, they found a man lying in the middle of the street. Not wanting anyone to run him over, they moved him to the shade of a tree on the side of the street, and then came inside to call the ambulance. I walked into the living room as all this was going down, and it didn’t even register to me because none of the family members were remotely panicked. They were laughing, going about their own business, some on their phones, while one person was on the line talking (with the emergency operator, though I didn’t know it at the time.) N and her cousin eventually headed back outside because the operator told them they needed to perform CPR on the – what do you call an unconscious man on the side of the street? The patient? The client? The stranger? – man. They told me not to wait for them to start eating… as if I could eat knowing what was going on outside! But I figured given the language barrier that I would be more hindrance than help, so I just stayed indoors and hoped for the best.

They came back relatively quickly, laughing. Apparently the man was simply very very drunk. He had been unresponsive to their initial “Hello, hello, can you hear me?”s because he was deaf (this is why in CPR they always teach you hit the ground beside the person instead of just yelling at them #LifeguardLyfe), but once they pinched him he gave them a thumbs up. LOL.

So after that fiasco, I had lunch with the extended family and then watched some TV with them.

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Brazilian version of Korean reality television? That’s what it seemed like. Also, according to N these shows are specially catered towards poor people…?

In the afternoon, we went to Olinda, which has some of the most scenic views in Brazil. Olinda was actually the first city in Brazil!

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What people dress like for the annual “festivals” in the major cities of Brazil! The festival happened in Recife just a few months ago… too bad I missed it.

Ah, and obviously I can’t make it two days without having a drink. (For some time, I seriously debated just inventing some sort of story about my religion not permitting the consumption of alcohol so I can stop being put in these situations in the future. But the amount of research that would take doesn’t suit my laziness too well, so forget it.) I don’t remember what this drink was called, but it’s basically a strawberry milkshake with vodka. How I ended up with it in my hand was the result of a conversation that went something like this:

N: *goes up to vendor*
Me: *follows her* Hey, what are you buying?
N: This is like a strawberry milkshake. What do you want, champagne or vodka?

I tried to at once to put the two sentences she had just said together in a way that made some sort of coherent sense, and then figure out how to tell her that I really don’t like alcoholic drinks that much.

Me: Ah…
N: *turns to the vendor* We’ll have vodka.

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And here we are.

The milkshake part tasted really good! The vodka part… eh.

Oh! One last cool thing. Right before we left Olinda, we came upon a group of people doing a dance called the capoeira. It’s actually a mixture of fighting and dancing, and it was created by African slaves who wanted to practice their fighting skills in preparation for the revolution, but had to do it under their Portuguese masters’ noses. They invented the capoeira in order to disguise their preparation as dancing. Pretty neat!

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