São Paulo (The state, not the city)
Today marks my 50th day in Brazil.
I haven't written a blog post in two weeks, so this one will be longer than any of my past posts.
I've got a lot to tell you guys.
These past two weeks I've been in Brasilía, two cities in the state of São Paulo, and João Pinheiro.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the oppurtunity to travel and experience different cities in Brazil, and it's all thanks to my host family.
Leo, my host dad, has family in Brasilía, and my host mom, Ana, has family in Atibaia, São Paulo.
After I got out of school on October 19th, some very kind Rotarians gave me a lift to Brasilía. I had just been to the capital the previous week with my host family, but when I was there I wasn't able to get my official Brazilian ID because the Federal Police weren't open due to the holiday.
So I had to go again. That was perfectly fine with me :)
That night in Brasilia my host uncle, Fabio, asked if I wanted to go to a jazz concert at 10 pm.
Next thing I know we're at the jazz concert. "Concert" isn't the right word. It was a very relaxed, low-key outdoor event with a small stage in front and food vendors dotting the area. People bring their picnic blankets and chat with their friends and enjoy the music. I loved it.
I thought it was kind of funny that most of the jazz songs they played/sang were in English. Most of the songs were good, but one song was not.
They sang a horrible rendition of Moon River by Frank Sinatra. Nobody can sing it like Frankie.
After the event, Fabio took me across the street to see Forro, a traditional Brazilain dance. Brasilia has a lot of night life with free live music and dancing, and lots of people spend their evenings like this.
I love Brazilians.
The next morning Fabio took me to pick up my ID at the Federal Police and afterwards we went to a mall to try and get my iPhone unlocked.
PRO-TIP: get your phone unlocked BEFORE you travel. I bought a Brazilian SIM card, but my iPhone was locked to my service provider in Alaska so it rejected it. The phone stores in the mall said it's very difficult to unlock a phone, it takes a couple days, and it's expensive.
I ended up asking my mom to go to my service provider in Alaska and get it unlocked. That worked. I have a Brazilian number now.
That afternoon I returned to João Pinheiro with my Leo's parents. A care package from my mom was waiting for me.
I have never been so happy to see peanut butter and pancake mix. My heart was practically exploding with happiness. But it did cost a pretty penny to ship all this stuff so I told my mom this should be my only care package. I can make it last.
Now whenever I talk to someone at the gym, I ask them if they want to try American peanut butter.
I'm the peanut butter dealer. And a candy dealer.
That night at 7, I went out to sushi.
It. Is. So. Good.
I don't know why it tastes so much better than the sushi in Alaska, but it does. They also have sushi boats, loaded down with a variety of sushi (see picture below), and sushi with local Brazilian fruits.
I also went to a restaurant called Kabanas for pizza with my host family one night.
WARNING: if you are someone that fervently believes pineapple doesn't belong on pizza, do not read the next sentence:
My host parents ordered a ham and cheese pizza with pineapple, fig, AND mango and I tried it and it was GOOD.
Rotary Assistencial Day:
On the 22nd I volunteered at Rotary Assistencial with my host mom. A couple times a year Rotary hosts an event to help people in the community by providing dental care, medical care, and other things to those that can't afford it. They rented a trampoline and cotton candy machine for the kids and set up shop in a school for the day.
I helped out with the dentist. My job was collecting the used anesthetic needles and putting them in a plastic bottle. They made sure I wore two pairs of plastic gloves so I wouldn't get poked. I also cleaned the used dental tools.
A few days later, I took Vítor and Elise to the dentist. They go to a pediatric dentist, just for children. It's close to the house, so we walked there. There was a clear contrast between what I saw on Sunday at Rotary Assistencial and the clinic.
Ana said that there is a dentist in the school we went to for Rotary Assistencial, but no one goes to see them, so for some, the dentist at Rotary Assistancial day was the only access to dental hygiene they can recieve.
This clinic my host siblings go to had colorful toys in the waiting room. The walls were white and everything looked clean. There was an actual dentist's chair instead of an office chair. There was a small TV attached to the lamp arm playing a children's movie for the kiddo to watch while the dentist was working, animal stickers, and little stuffed animals hugging the dentist's chair. It had all the power tools, and happy decorations. My host siblings look forward to going to the dentist because of this.
All this was very different from the school setup in a kid's classroom from Rotary Assistencial.
The hard truth is that money makes all the difference in the quality of treatment you recieve.
I knew the gap existed, I've just never seen it so clearly before.
A dance, a fight, a game.
Unlike anything I've ever seen.
The only thing I can liken it to is a dance battle.
I went with my future host mom and the two other exchange students in my city to see it.
Here's a description of capoeira I found on good ol' Wikipedia:
"Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, and is sometimes referred to as a game. It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants (slaves) with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques; at heart is the ginga, the back-and-forth, foot-to-foot movement that serves as the starting point for such leverage. Capoeira used in genuine self-defense situations incorporates many sweeps and low moves, whereas when played as a game there is more emphasis on high moves, demonstrations of acrobatics, full cartwheels (called au) for evasion, and flips or other exotic techniques by mestres (masters), and performing an entertaining match for the audience."
From what I saw, the description is accurate. I saw a little kid that couldn't have been older than 7 gracefully doing walking handstands, flips, and leg swoops.
I was jealous. I can't do that. I'd fall on my face.
I highly recommend searching "capoeira" on YouTube. You need to see this.
It was a loud and lively atmosphere with music and yelling and dance.
Have I mentioned I love Brazilians?
Vítor's school, Escola Moranguinhos, had a school play the night before we left for São Paulo.
Vítor was one of the three little pigs (três porquinhos). The play was a mashup of Disney characters. The plot was Peter Pan (pronounced peh-teh Pahn) individually inviting all the Disney characters to a surprise party for Little Red Riding Hood and with each invitation, the characters had their own dance scenes. To sum it all up, it was cuteness overload.
Did I mention "moranguinho" means "little strawberry"? Vítor and Elise study at Little Strawberry school. Bonitinho.
São Paulo (the state, not the city)
It was a 10-11 hour drive to Atibaia, São Paulo. We started driving at 3 am on October 28th.
Ana, Ana's dad, Vítor, Elise, and I went. My host dad stayed in João Pinheiro to run the gym.
Atibaia is the city Ana's family lives in. When we arrived we went to my host great-grandpa's house first and ate lunch and then went to Ana's parents' house to stay the night.
We drove the three hours to the beach in Ubatuba, São Paulo the next day. We spent three days there in tropical paradise. There was a lot of sunblock involved.
I still got burnt of course.
The beach we went to was the beach Ana spent her weekends at when she was younger.
To me it's interesting how differently everyone grows up. I grew up in Alaska, a chillingly beautiful state with mountains and snow and abundant wildlife. I grew up building snowmen, making snow angels, and having snowball fights. I grew up hunting and fishing. I grew up sledding and sipping hot cocoa, and curling up under a heavy blanket after a day of playing in the snow. I spent my summers in Alaska by the ocean, on a very different beach.
Ana grew up spending her weekends at the beach, playing in the sand and sun, and swimming in the ocean. In Brazil.
After the beach, we went back to Atibaia. That night something terrible happened. The night we got back, Ana's grandfather passed away. He was 97 years old.
The picture above is a magazine article about Ana's grandpa. He is pictured on the top left. He was interviewed by a college student about his life and the interview was put in the magazine. On the top of the left page the title "Corpo e mente que não se cansam" means "Body and mind that do not tire". Ana pointed out the last interview question to me:
Interviewer: What life lesson would you like to leave with people, in general?
Answer: Right, even when I had difficulties in the past, I never stopped helping those who needed help around me. Even today, I am working the land (planting and harvesting food), but for the benefit of others. I do not charge anything for my work. My biggest pleasure in life is helping those around me.
Ana's grandfather grew lettuce and vegetables and other food at his house and he would let people come and take what they needed, free of charge.
I did not know this man personally, but I can respect him and the work he did for others.
In Brazil following a death, the funeral viewing usually happens within 48 hours of death. The funeral is usually held at a velorios, a building used for mourning deceased family and friends, and aren’t typically held at a family member’s home.
The next day I went to a primary school with my host siblings for the day while Ana and her family attended the funeral. Ana didn't want the kids to know what happened.
I watched the kids for the first part of the day at the school. In Brazil kids' classes start in the afternoon, so Vítor and Elise joined a class for the second part of the day.
The trip to São Paulo was originally supposed to be 5 days, but we stayed an extra 4 days because of the unforeseen circumstance.
Other things I did in Atibaia:
- tried açaí at three different açaí places (Açaí Banana has the best açaí ever)
- Paddle-boating (my first time) at Parque Edmundo Zanoni
- rode the teleférico (basically a ski lift overlooking the city)
- went to a farmer's market
- sushi dinner in Atibaia with Ana and her brother and his girlfriend
- Sunday service at a 300 year old Catholic church
- found maple syrup at a supermarket (unheard of here) but it was R$70 and that's a lil too steep a price for an exchange student's wallet
- tried hot bananas with cinnamon (traditional food I think)
- Tried atemoia, a weird looking fruit
- Went to a mall
- went to the late great-grandpa's house a lot of times
Back to School:
I returned to school on the 8th after not having gone for two weeks.
I missed my class and I'm happy I'm back.
On the day I got back, I understood the entire math class for the first time. It was things I've already learned so I could follow along easily. My notes are below. I translated words I didn't know and wrote those down too.
But below is me when we have tests.
Oh and I finally got my school uniform T-shirt.
A Quick Shoutout to Alaska:
Enjoy the snow for me Alaska, beijos e tchau!