note- I'm posting this now though I'd written it earlier because I've had very limited access to internet for the past week
Well, after traveling for more than 31 hours, I finally made it to Fortaleza late Wednesday night. The travel experience, considering, wasn’t excruciating or difficult, just exhausting. After the plane from Atlanta to Sao Paolo was already over Cuba, the captain came on the PA and announced we’d be turning around and headed back to Atlanta due to the malfunctioning of a hydraulic engine? I don’t actually remember exactly what the term he used was, but the jist was--we were turning around. So we arrived back in Atlanta around 1:45 and they were (impressively enough) able to get us on the runway headed back to Sao Paolo by 3--all in all, a pretty quick turnaround. It did mean that I missed my connecting flight to Fortaleza, though, but I got rescheduled easily enough and landed in Fortaleza (after an added waylay in Salvador do Bahia) at 10:30...9:30 Eastern time.
One of the program staff, and my personal favorite, Oélito (pronounced kind of like Wellington), was waiting to pick the four of us on the flight up and we headed off to our orientation house, located about 30 minutes from the airport right on the coast in Beach Park.
The first five days of the program, all thirteen students lived together in Beach Park, our temporary home base. I must say that I think it was a great way to get adjusted to the country, and get to know one another, rather than jumping in with our host families right away. The other students are really interesting and personable, and we’ve been able to establish a strong base right from the start which I’m so glad about. I did feel a little stir-crazy and cooped up by the end, though we got to get out and occupied ourselves well. Orientation was filled with lots of discussions about subject matter and the necessary ones about security, health, and general well-being in a foreign country, a cultural differences lecture, and a ‘what to expect in your homestay’ presentation. But when we weren’t talking we were busy doing something else. We explored the beach on our free time. We got to hear a sampling of “Musica Popular Brasileira” (MPB), traditional Brazilian folk music. My favorite day was a non-stop tour of Fortaleza (we began at 7:30 and didn’t get back until 9:30) given to us by Jose Albano (Zé for short), a local photographer. We saw many interesting sights in the city, including an old cemetery, a prison-turned-market, the Centro Cultural (with really modern architecture), and other sites. We climbed some dunes on the outskirts of the city, and watched the sunset from the top of them, and then went back to his house for tea and a photographic presentation. Zé’s house is absolutely fabulous, and if I can swing it I’m going to go back there to write my final project. He built it himself, and it’s very open--pretty much all one room, with the exception of the darkroom and the bathroom. It’s got glass bottles in some of the walls filled with colored water and they let in light from the outside.
I’ve noticed something especially interesting about Fortaleza’s architecture--screens aren’t really used at all but windows tend to be big and lots of walls have designs and openings in them straight to the outside. I guess when you don’t have to worry about it getting cold you can do that. I like it a lot.
Anyways, though I don’t feel at all oriented, I suppose I have to be. Tomorrow is the end of orientation and that’s when I meet my host family!