Okay, this one's late too but I only wrote it last night.
Today was Brazilian independence day and my first day with my host family! I must say now--and I’m sure this will be a much-echoed complaint--that I cannot wait to learn Portuguese. Communication is beyond difficult right now.
Yesterday night we were all waiting at IBEU, the center where our classes our held, waiting for our host families to pick us up, and mine came first--Fátima and Marcelo. Bil, the academic director, introduced us, and Fátima started babbling to me in Portuguese, and pulled me in for a hug and a kiss on each cheek--peck, peck. I was so intimidated! All of a sudden I just...kind of shrunk. and I am sure I was blushing. “Nao falo Portugues” is about as far as it goes.
Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, I just want someone to hook up a wire to my brain that immediately transmits the language, in its entirety.
But Fátima and Marcelo are fabulous and great. Marcelo plays the guitar and sings really well, he even has a record out. And he loves the bands of the 70s, and keeps asking me about American ones but I don’t even know them. I feel so ignorant!
When we got home I got to unpack, finally, something I’ve been waiting to do since I got here. I’m sharing a room with Duda, who’s 12 (the same age as Sarah). We live in an apartment that is an easy walk to school and in a nice mix of residential and commercial neighborhood.
Today, we went to the beach with some other families, including one who is also hosting a student in the program, Charles. The beach was PACKED. It was so much fun though! It was pretty commercial--you could buy lots of food there, and there were people walking around selling sunglasses and sunscreen. There were also vendors selling agua de coco--they would slice off the top of a coconut and drill a hole in it so you could drink out of it Fátima bought me one and it was definitely interesting. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it but I’m sure I’ll be drinking more since it’s all over the place here--people drink it as a refreshment and also because it keeps your body hydrated well (I think the concept kind of got a little lost in the translation...but I got the jist of it...). It was so much fun (though very frustrating and limiting) to talk with people and learn about them! I also tried “queijo asada”--fried cheese on a stick. Boy, was that delicious!
Fátima made this jello stuff that was really interesting. She cut up lots of jello molds into little squares, and then put one container of jello into the blender along with condensed milk and blended it, then poured it over all the cut up pieces and stuck it in the fridge. We ate it today and it was one solid mass of jello-y goodness. (This is the first thing I’ve foregone vegetarianism for.) In general, food here is definitely interesting and kind of different. Today for dinner we had TVP, rice, and steamed (?) pumpkin and sweet potato--but the “sweet potato” was not orange like ours, it was the texture and look of a smallish potato, but the taste of a traditional sweet potato. Weird.
My favorite thing so far with regards to eating HAS to be the number and quantity of juices here. There are SO MANY fruits to make juice out of, and I just had no idea. I guess most of them come from the Amazon jungle region, but they are delicious and tropical and I have no idea why they haven’t made big bucks on them in the states yet. I’ve decided I’m not even going to try and learn the translations because I’m not going to have to refer to them in English. The one that really surprised me was caju--cashew juice. I had no idea cashew fruit existed, but it does, and it’s wonderful. Also, avocado here is abacate (pronounced ah-bah-CA-tchee) and pineapple is abacaxe (pronounced ah-ba-ca-SHE). It gets confusing. But I’m greatly pleased with the availability and diversity of suco (juice): abacaxe, abacate, caju, guaraná, cupuaçu, maracuja, to name just a few.
Speaking of juice, everything here is sweetened. People pour mountains of sugar into everything, especially coffee. Oh my gosh. I take comfort in the fact that most of the time it’s not refined so it isn’t as bad as it could be, but I fear that I’ll come back from Brazil with diabetes.