Those of you who know me, know that I like to talk. If there is another person in the room, it’s hard to keep me quiet. What can I say, I’m a people person. Plus, I like to use my big vocabulary. More importantly, I like to laugh and make people laugh, (even if it’s at my own expense, which is more often than I’d like to admit).
Communication is my passion. Not only do I love talking, but I love writing too. That’s why I pursued (and obtained) my journalism degree in the first place; I want my voice to be heard.
But being heard, while it is a fundamental part of communication, is not necessarily the most crucial component. I never thought I would have to travel 4500+ miles away from home to learn the art of this critical element, (especially when I’ve had a mom leading by example all along,) but alas, I’ve picked up a new skill: listening.
This is not to say I’ve been tuning all of you out for the past 22 years. Not at all. I’d even go as far as claiming to have been an adequate listener: somewhere between a high school guidance counselor (being a 5 on the 10-scale) and my mom (being a 9.5). Not an obligation, but not a passion either.
And let me tell you… if immersion isn’t the biggest “you need to learn how to be a better listener” slap in the face ever, I don’t know what is.
I’ve willingly relocated to the other side of the equator in order to learn a new culture and language. You know, to mature my global perspective and enhance my communication skills in the macro-sense. Who was I kidding to think life didn’t have a few concealed and intuitive lessons up its’ sleeve?
Here’s what I’ve learned: you have to learn how to walk before you can run. You have to try and fail, and fail again, before you get it right. You have to live through the uncomfortable before you learn how to flourish. You have to have courage before you can accomplish. You have to learn to listen before you can even begin to understand. And after all that, that’s when your voice has a better shot at being heard.
But even with practice, you won’t be perfect. No one ever is. (I learned that one the hard way thanks to many years of nerve-wracking piano recitals.)
I never thought learning a new language would be easy. And trust me, it hasn’t been, I still have a long way to go. But if one thing is for sure, this experience is teaching me how to be a better listener. I had forgotten how essential listening is to learning.
Sometimes I compare myself to a small child, because frankly that’s the communicable stage I started at when I arrived here. Do you know what it’s like to be jealous of a seven-year-old, simply because he can laugh on cue in conversation? Believe me, it’s a silly feeling. Even after all the progress I have made, I still sometimes find myself at a loss for words. In a room full of people, kids and adults alike, I yearn to be the “Chatty Cathy” I am back home, but I know my time will come. I’m a continuous work in progress; that much has never changed.
I came here to learn a second language, hoping to expand the reach of my voice. I think my inner voice had a different goal in mind.
Accomplished and dynamic communicators are not one-dimensional. They didn’t become that way over-night either. They are experts in their field because they haven’t forgotten the basics; and continuing to diligently build onto that principle makes them stand-out above the rest. Great communicators don’t only know how to use their voices effectively–they know how to listen too.
While my comprehensive goal is still the same and in forward motion, my execution tactic has been modified.
It’s been a quiet three months. Sometimes, I’ve never felt more lonely, but that has given my inner voice some time to make itself heard. I’m learning a lot about myself–and I guess that’s the point. What better time than now?
I want to share three different videos with you that I’ve recorded recently.
1) By now you all know I teach English on Wednesday’s to Brasilian kids. Well, every now and then they invite me to attend field trips with them. On November 1, I went with the kids to Maranguape (a neighboring city to Fortaleza,) for a swimming pool splash day. Three things shocked me– First, the fact that no life guard was on duty. Second, that little boys wear speedos. And third, the amount of children that managed to cram into the shallow end of that pool was unreal. Check it out.
2) I went with the Palhano’s to Parque do Cocó for a church picnic on November 2. While there, a group from the church practiced Capoeira, a martial arts type dance. I spectated and recorded this video. (Keep in mind, this is a beginners practice session, but fun to watch none the less.)
3) I saved the longest clip for last. For those of you who want a better idea of where I am at, and what the city is like, I recorded this video while on the back of a motorcycle. (Insert gasp here.) The director at the school where I teach English took me home one day. He ended up going through the neighborhoods, rather than taking the main road (with lots of traffic). And since I felt comfortable on the back of a motorcycle due to previous experiences I’ve had here (insert second gasp,) I whipped out the camera. It’s not the best quality, but it’s worth checking out.
Chatty Cathy called. She wants her ears back.
Airplanes roar overhead, wooshing through the wind to and from the airport 11 kilometers away, making their presence known to even the heaviest of sleepers.
A nearby dog begins barking. Without hesitation, neighboring dogs echo the first, commencing a canine concert of barks and howls heard by everyone within earshot: the doggy domino effect.
Fireworks crackle close by, no matter the time of day (or night); its sound resembling a series of sporadic gun shots. Occassion: unknown. Occurrence: frequent.
Car horns honk habitually, emitting noises that convey multiple messages to the receiver: 1) traditional road rage, 2) gratefulness to obliging drivers, 3) warning of approach to nearby streets, cars, cyclists, buses, people, and 4) alerting one’s arrival beyond locked gates. The horn– easily every drivers most used and competent communication component.
Fans blowing, dishes clinking, shower heads dripping, bare feet traipsing, phones ringing, voices conversing– movement in the house reverberates off ceramic tile floors and through wide-open windows.
These sounds seep into the house, saturating my immersed ears, acquainting me with more than just a language.
And yet despite all the new sounds I’ve grown accustomed to while here in Brasil, I find most comfort in the ones that are heard in nature itself… The sounds that, when I close my eyes, it’s almost as if I’m back home… Every time a gust of wind rustles through tree branches or birds chirp in a melodic chorus, a cheerful calmness replenishes my homesick soul. No matter where I am on the globe, the smooth repose of natural noise proves to be ubiquitous.
Sometimes all you need to do is close your eyes and let your essence awaken your truths.
When Aunt Stephanie came to visit me on September 20th for five days, she brought with her a plethora of goodies. We’re talking six or seven bags of assorted candies, four huge bags of flaming hot cheetos, at least a dozen new nail polish bottles, school supplies for my kiddos at the after-school program, tex-mex supplies for a fiesta with the brasillian fam, new camera batteries for my dying Canon, some shoes and dresses I requested from my stash back home, other various necessities and of course, many hugs or muitos abraços (in all shapes and sizes and strengths, mostly sent by my mom.)
I had anticipated this mini-vacay with her for weeks. The plan was this: she would arrive on Thursday night with Edmundo (who had been in the United States living with his sister in the DFW metroplex, but who is originally from Fortaleza and would stay with his parents here until mid-2013,) and I was to be at the airport to receive them. (Insert “DUH” here.) We would be staying with Edmundo’s family during her stay–all in all, a vacation of sorts for not only Stephanie, but for me also: another home away from home, (away from home).
We had mapped out the five-day itinerary leaving little wiggle room for anything extra. After all, five days isn’t really that long when you sit and think about it. And unfortunately (infelizmente), only one of those days was reserved for the beach. Next time, I will demand two. Our outlined plan looked like this:
- Steph arrives
- Have dinner with Andressa, Ariane, Thyago, Edmundo & Isaac at Stephanie’s favorite restaurant in town–Coco Bamboo
- Grocery shop for supplies, i.e. bread, ingredients for the fiesta, etc.
- Visit Jorge’s dad & pick up Stephanie and Jorge’s car from his house (Edmundo was our driver for all five days since neither Steph nor I know how to drive a standard.)
- Hair-cuts with Andressa & Ariane
- Participate in Edmundo’s surprise party his mother was hosting at his house; (his birthday was the week before he arrived)
- Pick up Ariane and attend a birthday party hosted by Jorge’s niece
- Meet Jorge’s family
- Go the the mall (Iguatemi)
- Attend a UFC watch party hosted by members of the Palhano’s church
Sunday aka Mexican Fiesta day
- Make a tex-mex lunch with and for the Palhano’s in their home
- Spend the afternoon recovering from said fiesta
- Go to the Palhano’s church for their evening service
- Eat at a restaurant with many of the church members afterward
- Go to the beach
- Don’t leave said beach until lightly toasted
- Have dinner with Edson’s family (minus Danilo, but we Skyped him later)
- Pack Steph’s bags :(
- Go to the central market downtown that has five or six floors of vendors selling anything and everything
- Buy an outfit for Baby Eden Hentz at said market to send back with Stephanie (Shout out to my best friend Erica Hentz! She gave birth to her second beautiful baby girl on September 20th, so it seemed fitting to send back a brasilian outfit. Congrats again Hentz family!)
- Go to the airport (aeroporto)
- Hold back any on-coming tears–this is not the end
We stuck to the plan, only drifting from it when we were too pooped to want to pry ourselves from the bed. However, we never slept in past 9:30 a.m.; time was of the essence!
While I could go on and on about all the details, I’d rather show you some of our best moments in pictures. They’re posted chronologically:
Above: Watch this video to hear how Brasilians sing “Happy Birthday”
We had a great time. I’ll always cherish my many memories with Aunt Steph, both at home and abroad. Hopefully, there are many more adventures in store for us. She’s the greatest travel buddy ANYONE could ask for. And even more importantly, she has a heart of gold with an unending capacity to love and to give. I’m so fortunate to have her in my life. She is the one who paved the way for me to even have this opportunity in Brasil. (I owe you big time.)
Te amo Aunt Steph. Thanks for the American candy, the late night pillow talks, and most importantly, all the hugs you passed on from family and friends.
It’s October. Where is the time going?
I’ve been negligent with my blog. So before I begin to try and catch you up on everything that has happened to me the last few weeks, I want to send each and every one of you a virtual “I’m so sorry for keeping you in the dark” hug. You’re going to need to use your imaginations, but you get the idea–I’m sorry.
You see, I get in these moods where I convince myself writing is tedious (which it is,) and will take a long time to produce a reputable product (which it does,) and will only overwhelm me (which is always the case when I choose to procrastinate); but then I pinch myself and remember why I love writing in the first place… I write because it’s the only way I know how to express my thoughts, feelings and emotions in the most optimal and communicable way. And that can’t be done in five minutes, which might explain the proud feeling I get after spending a long time writing–I always feel satisfied.
So in part, I’m disappointed in myself for putting this blog entry off for so long. So many worth-while experiences have occurred during the past few weeks that I ought to have shared sooner. Now, I rely on my memory and risk relaying a second-rate experience to you guys. And not to mention, for many of you, my blog is the only way you check up on me and make sure I’m doing okay south of the equator.
All this to say, (long winded, I know) I’m going to stay true to my original word and produce more frequent blog entries.
So where do I begin?
I’m still teaching English to 11 and 12-year-olds on Wednesdays (às quartas-feiras). Each week, more and more students (alunos) come. And honestly, I don’t think it’s only 11 and 12-year-olds anymore; some of them look much younger. I started with four kids per class and now my classes range from 8-20 kids per class. I’ve started making worksheets for the kids so we don’t have to rely on only words in order to have a successful class. I’m not as timid as I was on the first day, but I’m still not confident in giving directions either. It’s a continual work in progress.
I’m having a lot of fun doing this. I can tell the kids are becoming more comfortable with me as I continue to build relationships with them collectively and individually. The other teachers said I could come more often if I wanted to, and that’s something I’m considering.
When my Aunt Stephanie came to visit, (more on that in my next entry,) she brought with her some candy I had requested to use as participation incentives in class. Last week I brought Dum-Dum lollipops. Let’s just say I had kids jumping out of their seats begging to answer my questions, raising their eagerly waving hands to be chosen.
Fact: candy crushes language barriers. You better believe I’m using the power of sugar to my advantage!
Before I left last Wednesday, the teachers invited me to go with them on their field trip to the zoo (zoológico) the following Friday. Of course I said yes!
A group of maybe 30 kids, six teachers/volunteers and I went to the zoo. We took a rented ônibus there–my first official bus experience. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first experience for many of the kids also.) While on the bus, many giggles, elated screams, and chatter were shared. A brother and sister who sat behind me on the ride over, kept pretending we were racing every car we were beside at stop lights. “Mais rápido! Mais rápido,” they would shout!
When we traveled over the highway on a bridge, I had memories of Six Flags over Texas, because the excitement in their voices and shouts of joy radiating throughout that bus reminded me of the sounds on a roller-coaster ride.
A wide smile spread across my face–this is what pure happiness sounds like.
We arrived at the zoológico and seemed to be the only group there. The zoo, or “large, well-groomed garden with a few cages of animals and a huge playground for kids ages 5 to 10″ as I like to more accurately call it, was tranquil and vacant. We really were the only ones there.
Gabriel, quite possibly my favorite 8-year-old of the group, told me as we walked inside that it was his first time to the zoo. I told him it was my first time too. (Well, Brasilian zoo anyway.) And just like that, we were instant friends.
The kids split into two groups, formed the best single-file lines they could, and off we went to see the animals. Turtles, foxes, parrots, toucans, snakes, sloths, emus, and monkeys were all doted on, perplexing the minds of 30 brown-eyed beauties.
But like all children ages 7 to 11, attention spans can only be kept focused on one thing for so long before energy must be burned off. We went to the playground next and spent the remainder/majority of the time there. We all took a snack break with hotdogs and sodas we brought with us. Then it was back to the bus, where sing-alongs took place as tiny hands hung out the windows, catching the ocean breeze between their fingers.
Watch this video:
Words and pictures alone can’t describe how incredibly precious these kids are, but I hope they help give you an idea of how incredibly blessed I am to get to spend time with these kiddos every week.
I want to share so much more with you, but for now I will leave you with this. I can’t wait to write about when Aunt Stephanie came to visit me, but I will save those stories for another day. You can count on seeing that entry before the end of the week. Hold me to it! Besides, I owe it to you.
I keep having dreams about going back home just to give hugs to some of you, and then I get back on a plane to come back to Brasil for the remaining four months. (I can’t believe I only have four months left here!) Needless to say, I’m missing many of you and desire to give you big bear hugs! I hope for now, the virtual hug will do.
This song describes my current attitude. It’s by one of my favorite bands who I had the pleasure of seeing in concert last March with two of my favorite girls, Kelcy Parrish and Mary-Kate Woodruff soon to be Solomon. (Miss you girls and I am sad to have missed out on seeing the Dog with you again this past week! I hope you enjoyed the concert for me too!)
Enjoy this jam: “Livin’ a Dream” by Dr. Dog
I have an 11-year-old brother. He’s weird. He’s awesome. He’s smart. He’s annoying sometimes. He’s lovable. He’s full of questions. He’s exactly what you’d expect an 11-year-old kid to be.
I know what 11-year-olds are like. I’ve had many opportunities to be around them. I’m not scared of them. (Okay, so maybe I’m terrified of the smell that comes from my brother’s room when he and his buddies come inside from playing basketball, but that’s different.)
In fact, 11-year-olds could possibly be my favorite age group, (at least until Cody turns 12). I feel most comfortable hanging out with kids this age, and I have my brother to thank for that.
So when Patrícia asked me to teach English on Wednesday’s to 11 and 12-year-old Brasilians, I didn’t hesitate. Of course I’ll teach English to them. Sounds right up my alley.
And then the reality of the situation hit me.
Umm Candice, did you forget something? You don’t know Portuguese.
Aye aye aye.
How am I going to teach native Portuguese speakers my language, when I don’t even know theirs? My brain went into overdrive and immediately played out every “worst case scenario” situation imaginable. What occurred next was something similar to what I imagine an internal panic attack to be. The result? I wanted to barf.
How do you even prepare for something like this? I sat down at the desk in my bedroom hoping “Language Barriers 101″ existed somewhere on the internet. Meanwhile, this is what I came up with:
Step one: Breathe.
Step two: Repeat step one.
Step three: …..
Okay, maybe I do need the internet.
But before I browsed the world wide web, I looked through my “Basic Portuguese for Foreigners” books with the intention of reversing their provided lessons into English. This helped a lot.
I made a rough outline of topics I wanted to cover for my first lesson: names, introductions and greetings, numbers, days of the week, and “question” words. I considered adding more topics, but I had to remind myself these were 11 and 12-year-olds I was dealing with, and their attention span probably wouldn’t take kindly to that. Plus, I only had an hour with each age group. I had to think realistically…
As I sat there planning my lesson, I began to calm down. For one, I only had to teach for a total of two hours. In that time, I would be repeating the same lesson twice; and learning their names would take up a big chunk of that time.
Also, another teacher would be in the room with me. Even though she only knew Portuguese, she could help control the kids and help explain directions as best as she could. I wouldn’t be alone.
I slept easy Tuesday night. When I woke up on Wednesday, the butterflies in my stomach began to flutter, but I wasn’t worried. It was more of an excited/anxious feeling; the same feeling I had when I would wake up for the first day of school when I was younger.
After lunch, Paulo took me to the “after school program” funded in part by Compassion, where I would be teaching English. He dropped me off two blocks away so he could continue on the main road to take Catarina and Leo to school. As I walked closer and closer to my destination, my confidence grew more and more.
I can do this.
I was greeted with smiles from other teachers. And with their smiles, my fears dissipated. Oh the power of smiles! They are a universal symbol of friendliness, and are so easy to produce! (Thanks to my mom’s advice over the years, I remembered to pack some smiles of my own in my pockets. Thanks mom. YTB.)
The kids began to arrive soon after. They smiled sweetly, too. (Hey, this isn’t so bad!) I went to my classroom to prepare my things with the other teacher, and there we waited for our first group.
Speaking broken Portuguese, and with the help of my ever-so-faithful bilingual dictionary, we both shared as much background about ourselves as we could. I then tried to explain my “game plan” for the English lessons. I don’t know if she understood, but she smiled a lot, and that was encouraging enough for me.
So when the first group of kids arrived, (two boys and two girls), I pulled out my pre-written script of instructions I had prepared with the help of an online translator. After I finished reading, I looked up to blank stares and confused facial expressions.
Note to self: don’t trust online translators for public speaking purposes. Or for anything, really. The response is almost always confusion.
Thankfully, the other teacher understood enough to correct my many mistakes. I then wrote my name on the board and began to learn their names. We spent the rest of the hour working on numbers and “question words” like “who, what, when, where, why and how.” I probably should have started with numbers and the alphabet or the days of the week, but I was nervous.
The first group was very shy. The second group, (also two boys and two girls), unveiled more of their personalities to me.
And maybe that’s because I was more prepared the second time around, since I had already completed the same lesson moments before. (I also ditched the script and free-styled my introduction, so that helped.) Maybe the first group sensed I was nervous, so they held back their personalities. And maybe the second group could sense I was more confident and ready for them, so they opened up with me.
Whatever it was, I hope next Wednesday is more balanced.
Next week, I will give each group an equal opportunity to shine– I must lead by example and believe in myself first! Then, they will be more comfortable around me.
It will get easier. This is all new to me. I’m learning, okay?
Here are some pictures:
The second group of kids (left to right): Glailson (12), Alex (12), Williane (11) and Larissa (12)
The view coming out of my classroom
Two sisters from my first group (left to right): Tayna (11) and Tayane (9)
Glailson jumping on the trampoline or “pula pula” (“jump jump”)
Williane, Larissa and me
I can already tell this experience will help me immensely. For starters, this is somewhat out of my comfort zone, but I am facing it head-on with a positive mentality. Many things in life are uncomfortable, so it’s always good to learn how to handle and accept awkward situations. Also, these kids are anxious and eager to communicate with me, so they are like my teachers too! As I teach them the basics in English, they’re teaching me the basics in Portuguese. It’s a win-win!
In fact, after class this week, one of the 12-year-old girls sat with me and asked me a variety of questions instead of playing games with all the other kids. She was patient with me when I had to look words up in my dictionary. She didn’t mind waiting on me, however long it took. She just wanted to communicate.
Now if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.
I can’t wait to go back next week. Maybe I’ll finally learn the Portuguese alphabet. :P
It’s officially been one month (um mês) since I’ve arrived in Fortaleza. Where has the time gone?
Yesterday, I was slapped in the face with a late-arriving revelation, but a revelation nonetheless: Candice, you are so lucky.
Not everyone gets to do something like this. I’m living in another country with a family who has opened up their home without any doubts or required background checks (not implying they’d need one…) with my primary agenda being this: make friends and learn their language.
No school assignments are due. In fact, school has nothing to do with this, (can I get a hallelujah?). This is an independent conquest; an individual adventure. There are no limitations to what I can do here, especially as I continue making more friends. I can honestly say I’m one of the luckiest girls in the world.
To make this short and sweet, I’m not taking the next five months for granted. “Homesick” has been removed from my vocabulary. I have a feeling time is going to fly by, and I’m not sure I’m prepared for that. (I hear the “real world” sucks, anyway.)
Okay, back to being blonde in Brasil. Saturday night, minha prima Andressa, took me out on the town. Her boyfriend Thyago, and best friend/neighbor Quetsya, also joined us. We went to a local bar near the beach where a live band played an assortment of music. Here, I learned how to dance to forró, a type of genre specific to Brasil. This is an example of traditional forró:
And here are two songs we actually danced to on Saturday night:
I won’t admit to knowing what they mean, but hey, you can get a feel for what my environment was like if you give these two songs a listen.
I think it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… I’m a terrible dancer. Against my better judgement, I did give it a try. Andressa and Quetsya will tell you I’m not bad (ruim), but they’re just being nice. I’m still recovering from Saturday’s shenanigans, no thanks to the shoes I borrowed.
As if I weren’t already tall enough, I borrowed a pair of heels to fit in with the clique. I still can’t feel certain parts of my feet. (Eu ainda não posso sentir certas partes de meus pés. ) Oh, the price you pay for beauty! The plus side? I never got lost… I was at least a head taller than everyone else there.
Here are some pictures from that night:
Unlike the bars in the United States, bars in Brasil don’t have a set closing time. I think that’s why my feet ended up hurting as badly as they did. However, I had an ótimo time with the three of them and look forward to doing it again soon.
Sunday night I went out with three friends after church (depois da igreja) to a fast-food joint called Habib’s. They serve arabic food. I ate a pastel and a kibe. Not my favorite type of food, but hey, when you’ve been raised on Taco Bueno, the standards are already set pretty high. Here are some pictures of Aline, Eliane, Isaac and me:
Last night, (Tuesday or Terça-feira), I played volleyball with the gang. I went with the mindset that I would try to not be as awful as I typically am. (It gets old, letting down your team.) I have noticed that my teammates are not as quick to scold my mistakes due to the language barrier, and that never makes me feel good.. I hate handicaps! It’s like they’re afraid of hurting my feelings, even though their faces have “you suck at this game” written all over it. It’s time they tell me how it is!
Of course, I still made lots of mistakes, but the effort I put forth last night was a major improvement. If anything, I made them proud in that sense, because by the end of the night they were giving me a hard time about my mistakes. All it took was a bit of mental chanting to get me going. “Be aggressive, be, be aggressive.” Here are some pics (sorry for the blur on some):
I’ve recently discovered how useful the “I Heart Radio” app can be. (For you old timers out there, an app is short for “application” and is something you download from the internet that allows you to access specific content in an organized and formatted way on an iPad/iPhone/android/etc. Check out this link by another blogger for a better, more in-depth description. Get with the times! ) Anyway, most of the local radio stations from back home are available on this particular app, so I get to listen to the same music as my fellow DFW pals, in real time! Cool, huh? And on top of that, I’ve discovered other radio stations from around the nation that play some stuff I don’t have access to here or on my iPod. My favorite find so far is the “Roots of Rock” station. I can’t help but think of Jeff Majors anytime I listen to it. (I hope you are well Jeff! Miss you! When I get back, let’s grab Bueno and talk music.)
My good friend Ben”jammin” Lopez made me a mix before I skipped town, and put this oldie but goodie on there. After I listened to the mix for the first time, (shortly after I arrived here,) I got homesick when this song ended Ben’s carefully calculated lyrical montage. But now when I hear it, it creates the opposite effect. And with that, I’m going to leave you with this gem:
Wish YOU were here.
Number one con about Brasil: the traffic.
And I thought DFW rush hour traffic was bad… Well, I’ve reconsidered this notion completely and have been proven wrong by the preposterous Brasilian roadways and its inhabitants. As if the pot-hole infested roads and no-left turns weren’t enough, adding Brasilian traffic to the mix makes my head want to explode. It takes forever to get anywhere… A ten-minute trip can quickly turn into a thirty-minute nightmare. Not to mention the seemingly suicidal motorists weaving in between buses, cars, trucks, bicycles, people, etc. at any given moment. My American traffic law abiding-self stresses out anytime I climb inside a vehicle.
It’s a circus out there.
If there is an empty space on the road, someone fills it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a two lane road, Brasilians cram to make it three. (And if you count the motorcycles that fill the gaps like mortar to bricks, than consider it a four, maybe five lane road.) Buses squeeze into spaces designed for Mini-Coopers. Vehicles stop in the middle of the road for no apparent reason, and apologize to no one. Taking turns does not cross anyone’s mind; they’ve got a dog-eat-dog mentality. And think again if you assume pedestrians get the right-of-way… That doesn’t exist here either.
I could never drive here: 1) I can’t drive a manual car despite my efforts, and 2) I don’t want to be responsible for my own death if I can help it. (No, I don’t think I’m being over-dramatic.)
Not once have I seen a policeman stop a car for speeding, illegal turns, illegal parking, etc. I am not sure that’s even in their job description. The only thing I’ve noticed that regulates traffic laws is a camera that records your speed at periodic stations around town. This “fiscalizaçāo electrônica de velocidade” as it is called, makes sure vehicles are going the appropriate speed posted on the roadway; if not, the vehicle is captured on camera and will be fined. However, I wonder how effective this regulating device is, because anytime we pass through one, we speed right back up seconds later with every other vehicle. What can slowing down for one minute every few miles really help? Especially if speeding repercussions aren’t immediately enforced? I’m continually perplexed by this…
So far, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to three different cities outside of Fortaleza. My worst fears have been confirmed each time; driving patterns and traffic suck everywhere in Brasil. I’ve learned to bring my iPod with me in case of mental meltdowns. Music propels my mind to safety.
This past weekend, the Palhano’s and I went to a city called Sobral. This city is known for being one of the hottest cities in Ceará (the state both Sobral and Fortaleza are in.) I was told many people compare it to Texas’ climate. (Due to personal experience, I stand by my statement that Texas is much hotter than Sobral, even though no Brasilian believes me.)
Sobral is four hours, give or take, west of Fortaleza and is in the interior rather than on the coast. I swear, four hours in a full vehicle is a sanity test. Spoiler alert: I survived…just barely.
The purpose of the trip was to attend a birthday party of a 15-year-old girl. (I never found out how the Palhano’s knew her, but I figured there was no way this party could be as bad as the last one I attended blindly, so I went with it.) Like in Hispanic culture, where quinceanera’s are a “right of passage” for girls turning fifteen, Brasilians have something very similar. Paulo had to attend because he was to speak during the ceremony. Here are some pictures from the party:
It was definitely a new experience for me. And like I had hoped, it was not as painful as the last party I attended. (Insert hallelujah here.)
Another family from the church tagged along for the trip since they will be moving to Sobral in January. They needed to check out the city, and the local school for their 13-year-old, Lucas. All nine of us stayed with a sweet newlywed couple who opened up their home; both families knew the couple prior to our arrival, so I was (once again) in good hands.
I slept in a hammock, or “rede” (pronounced “hedge-e“), for the first time. And contrary to my initial thoughts, they’re actually pretty comfy! I had imagined being stuck in a miserable concave banana shape all night, but rede’s can easily be manipulated in various ways if you’re patient with them. Here’s a photo of the set-up in the room I slept in with all the ladies. (The blue one was mine):
There was an air-conditioner in the room. The first night, I woke up at least four times afraid my toes would break off due to the rooms’ frigid conditions. I pried myself from my blue cocoon and searched for the lone pair of socks I brought. (What did I tell you about me being a master planner?) Back in my makeshift bed, socks and all, I still couldn’t shake the frozen feeling. So what did I do next? I changed the rotating fan’s settings to permanently blow toward the bed, making sure I never caught wind of it again. That helped. The next time I woke up, it was to the sound of the fan being clicked off and the air-conditioner’s remote beeping. I wasn’t the only cold one.
The next morning, after the four of us recollected an unbearably freezing night (ironically in the state’s hottest city,) we made drastic climate changes for night two. We lent the fan to one of the guys (who had to sleep without a/c in the main area) and turned the temperature on the air-conditioner down significantly. I also found a spare fleece blanket to cuddle up with. Needless to say, I slept without interruption, comfortable in rede heaven. And I’d do it again.
Here are some photos from Sobral:
This place has delicious sweets, or “doces” that are homemade by a woman named Celia.
Hotdogs! (They cut up the meat and serve it chili-style.)
You can’t help but laugh when you’re around this group. They’re fun to be around!
I wasn’t looking forward to the four hour ride back to Fortaleza, even though it meant we’d be home when it was all over. However, my iPod eased my distressed mind while my life flashed before my eyes as cars raced around each other on one-lane roads.
I like to listen to bands that I know have never been listened to on the road I’m traveling on. It’s a fun game I play with myself, and isn’t too terribly hard when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with palm trees and tall, dead grass as your only landscape. Elton John, Albert Hammond Jr., Tyler the Creator, The Chromatics and Britney Spears have all been blared on a variety of unknown roads they would have never, otherwise, been blared on.
You’re welcome, musicians.
Here’s one of my favorites:
I think of Seth Cohn every time I hear that one. (Hope you are well my friend! As soon as I get back to the states, I’ve got to see you and Massiel!)
And here’s another one, although, there is a slim chance it’s not an original to the nameless roads I traveled. Britney is popular in the most surprising places:
I can’t help but picture Spenser Watkins singing this to me every time I hear it. (Yes, I would hold it against you Spense. Ha!)
And lastly, because this one has the power to brighten up any landscape, no matter who sings it:
I’ve recently ventured into the unknown and have started listening to some Brasilian musicians. So far, I’ve liked a lot of it…not all of it. Unfortunately, I only understand 15% of the songs on average. I’m working on that. Once I understand the meaning behind some of my favorites, you can count on them being posted here.
I bought some postcards today. During the upcoming weeks, be checking your mail boxes. And if you want one, but know I probably don’t have your address, email me! I’d be happy to send one your way. (email@example.com)
Wish you were here!