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