Friday, September 25, 2009

Living in a tropical climate...aka how to avoid a sunburn, 101

So my Dad asked me the other day what it’s like to live in a tropical climate, and I’ve been thinking about that question quite a bit over the past few days. But it’s hard to separate what’s ‘tropical’ without writing about what’s uniquely Brazilian. I’ll attempt (probably poorly) to highlight some of the most striking things I’ve observed...while taking you through my typical day here.

Every day before school, I wake up at 6 and go for a run...on the beach! My apartment is just 6 blocks from Beira Mar, the street that runs along Praia de Iracema. So it’s an easy run down to the beach, which is gorgeously, stereotypically tropical: blinding-white sand and green-blue sea, and, of course, coconut trees. And of course, the sun is mega-strong here. I quite stupidly went running at 11:30 last Saturday...and came home with a slight sunburn, after just 45 minutes. You have to be extra-careful here. (shoot. I’ve already lost focus.)

My host mother, Fátima, made me a vitamina de mamão (papaya milkshake) this morning, which was delicious, surprisingly--surprisingly because she tossed oatmeal and granola (?) as well as the usual ingredients (milk, ice, fruit) all into the blender.

I usually leave the house with Fátima and Duda, at 7:10, give or take a few minutes. Sometimes I get a ride to school, or sometimes I’ll walk--it’s a 15-20 minute walk that’s absolutely beautiful. Right now it’s ‘spring,’ which isn’t manifested by a difference in temperature (it’s in the 80s year-round here, just 3 degrees south of the equator), rather, the flowers are in bloom! Beautiful tropical flowers, and their brilliant colors brighten up gardens, parks and balconies all over the city.

Portuguese class goes from 9-12 every morning, and then we’ve got a bit of a break for lunch. Usually I make my way to a ‘self-service’ cafeteria-type restaurant where you can choose from a number of options; I generally get rice and beans (I'm a vegetarian. do these beans have meat in them? no, I don't eat chicken. Nope, not fish either. It has hot dog in it? I don't eat that either. Sure, I guess I'll pick around the ham in the rice.) and a juice. The afternoons are spent in different ways, but usually it involves class.

I head home around 4:30 or 5, and sometimes if I leave later, the sun is already setting. There’s an 8 minute difference between the longest and shortest day here, but the sun always sets pretty early, between 6 and 6:30. Sunsets are so incredibly short, too: because the sun sinks straight into the horizon rather than slanting across the sky you can watch the sun disappear into the haze (or the ocean--some of Fortaleza’s beaches look west)

I pass tons of street vendors on my way home, selling Tapioca, a popular snack: it’s a type of pancake (not sweet) and is kind of like a fajita--cheese and other meats wrapped up inside it. I had a cheese one the other day and it was delicious!

Sidewalks are made out of cobblestones and tiles, not concrete, and sometimes when they’re missing stones they can get treacherous.

This past week, we spent our afternoons working at different Organições Não-Govermentais, Non-Govermental Organizations, (ONG/NGOs) across the city. I was lucky enough to get to work at a Creche, a day-care, located in a very poor region of the city (read: 2 blocks from a favela, a slum). I arrived during the kids’ naptime everyday, 30 brown bodies crowded on mats into a fairly small, bare room--some squirming, some completely still. The daycare showers the kids everyday and they brush teeth, because most of the kids don’t get that at home. Their happy, playful demeanor and willingness to joke and play with me reminded me that kids are kids, whether they go to Bowdoin Day Camp, Wellesley Children’s Center, or live in a favela here in Fortaleza. But it’s interesting to compare my experience working at WCC to my experience working in the day care here. Sure, kids are kids. But thinking about how different the realities of childhood can be is striking.

On a lighter note, I’ve come to the conclusion that pigeons are the same no matter where you go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a highly fantastic blog. I greatly enjoy reading it. Everything sounds amazing so far and I love hearing about the food! haha. Are you doing a semester or a year? I forget.