On my third day in Sao Paulo, I moved from a hostel into my homestay. My host family welcomed me with open arms. Even their cat has cozied up with me while I work on my laptop just to show his affection. I honestly love the unique experience that a homestay offers. Throughout the next several months, I’ll compile a pros and cons list of living with a local family while abroad.
My first nightlife experience was at ò do borogodo. At first glance, you’re potentially in an unsafe area in which you should flee. Beyond this surface, once the garage doors covered in artistic graffiti open up to a small space that eventually turns into a full blown Samba club with live music fueling the rhythm of the expert Samba dancers amongst the less rhythmically talented bar goers (that was me). In other words, it’s an awesome way to get a first-hand look at a small portion of Brazil’s artistic culture along with familiarizing yourself with popular alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages and delicious bites! So far, meat and cheese pastel and a caipirinha is the way to go.
Within the first week, my two most favorite experiences were visiting Pico do Jaraguáand participating in a beginner Samba class. Pico do Jaraguá is simply amazing. It’s a great hiking area, if you’re up for a rigorous hike, and the view from the top of the mountain is amazing because you can see the entire city of Sao Paulo. However, the city is so large that even this high level view doesn’t completely capture its essence, but it comes pretty close. For the Samba lesson, I learned Samba no Pé. The class was laid back and very fun. At the end, the studio owners performed Samba de Gafieira. The fact that they’re married was adorable, but it was truly mesmerizing to see the two of them dance together with such joy. Yet another experience that served as a cultural artistic treat!
The day I moved into my homestay, my host mother showed me where shopping centers, metros, bus stops, and other stores are located. She even provided me with a handwritten list of buses that I could take to get to various destinations. Unfortunately, I was under the impression that I would have to take all the buses listed to a particular location. This misunderstanding, as my Portuguese still needs work, landed me in the outskirts of Sao Paulo. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to put money on my cheap pay-as-you-go phone, but thankfully, the team leader of my program called me. I couldn’t make outgoing calls, but I could receive them. She told me to speak with the person on the bus that handles entry payments. I asked him if the bus was going to return to the street I needed, and he mumbled angrily toward me. Once the bus stopped at the end of the route, he wobbled off the bus complaining about my confusion and found someone that could help me. My team leader ended up speaking with the bus manager via phone. Although initially confused, he was very happy to help me return to my intended destination.
Getting lost in any new place can be discomforting and sometimes scary. Every morning before I leave home, my host mother tells me, “Vai com Deus,” or “Go with God”. The morning I got lost was no different. As I saw the bus getting further and further from the familiar area, I tried to remain calm in knowing that God would send help and He did. Despite all the changes and differences I experience as a traveler, I find peace in knowing that my God remains the same.
Most importantly, when a local shows you how to do certain things in a new place, make sure you pay close attention. I simply didn’t know how to alert the bus driver to stop or even which stop to get off at because while my team leader has been showing us useful tips, I’ve been socializing with the other students in my program. Then again, getting it wrong can teach you a lot more about yourself than getting it right ever can.
My next few posts will cover more serious topics as I begin to better understand the social and political climate in Brazil. Até logo, as pessoas linda! -xo
My first day in Brazil has been very busy! I have my sponsor program, Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), to thank for such a gradual transition into Brazilian culture.
Starting from the beginning of my journey, I drove from Indianapolis, IN to Chicago, IL, where I flew to Miami, FL. The flight was just a little over 3 hours. After a comparable layover, I departed and arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil just 8 hours later. My first culture shock was experiencing a plane ride where everyone appeared to be Brazilian just by observation of their native tongue: Portuguese. My flight from Chicago to Miami had quite a few Portuguese speakers, but my flight to São Paulo was a true wakeup call as everyone spoke Portuguese. I needed to get with it, and be open minded enough to use my language skills despite grammatical challenges.
Once I arrived at the airport, I was relieved to breeze through customs and find that my luggage arrived on time. The next 30 minutes were a little more challenging. I struggled to find the host sponsors picking students up from the airport, but I eventually found my way after babbling incomplete phrases in Portuguese to an airport assistance guide who thankfully found an English speaker to help me. In other words, four semesters of Portuguese with a yearlong break just before traveling to Brazil is useful but very challenging nonetheless. Fortunately, my host mother only speaks Portuguese, so no excuses. My Portuguese will improve!
After all the students in my program arrived, we rode to the hostel. The São Paulo Guarulhos Airport was about 40 minutes from the hostel. On the drive there, I noticed tons of construction. Sao Paulo definitely exceeded my expectations. While I expected it to be a gigantic city, it's literally larger than I could have imagined. It's a very hilly city that I have found quite difficult not to fall in love with. The energy is different here, I would describe it as moving at a more relaxed and favorable pace.
In the afternoon, I ate lunch at a nearby restaurant called Segredo de Minas. I ate o Frango Milanesa, a thinly fried chicken breast served with rice and beans, and Guaraná, a popular Brazilian soda. My meal and drink were delicious!
During orientation, I was able to understand more about Brazil, which served as a kind reminder that this experience is very much so a privilege. For example, starvation is a major issue in Brazil, so it's essential that I try not to leave food on my plate whether at home or a restaurant. I was also cautioned from using my iPhone while on the street as it’s a target for thieves. However, it is fine to have an iPhone, but important to remember that iPhones are very expensive in Brazil (I’m talking thousands of dollars) and are something that most Brazilians will never have. Flashback to arriving at the São Paulo Airport, I learned not to flush toilet paper down the toilet only after clogging it first. None of these things are mind blowing to me, but have helped me understand the realities of living in a developing country on a very basic level as it’s only my first day.
I'm looking forward to what the next week will bring. Expect a post regarding my homestay in the next few days. Até logo, as pessoas linda! -xo