Since the end of June I have been traveling throughout Brazil. (Hence the crickets on this blog.) Traveling is great however when you are traveling, it is hard maintaining a routine, keeping in touch with your family and committing to your daily grind. Despite all of the things I was not doing, one thing I certainly was doing was LIVING. Having 2 of my friends visit me was nothing short of amazing. Prior to their visit, I was dealing with a family tragedy and it was tough. What made it even tougher was the fact that I was grieving here in Brazil while all of my family was together in NY or Haiti. Senseless acts of violence are tough, but dealing with it alone was really hard. A few days later after this terrible death occurred in my family, my friends came to Brazil and it’s like the universe knew exactly what I needed. My friend Denise came to Brazil for about a week and my friend Jazz stayed for 20 days. We started in Rio and lived. We lived the first night when we felt the pulsating samba weaving throughout our veins and danced all night. I had yet to have a full night of dancing here in Brazil, and boy was it needed. Having my friends here definitely reminded me of what I am capable of and the Turn up Queen emerged from a long slumber. Our first night in Rio was epic. The sounds of a bar down the street from where we staying lured us in and we danced till we dropped. What was great about Rio, specifically the neighborhood we were staying in (Lapa) was that everything that we needed and enjoyed was close. The music was down the street from our place. The sounds were there and real. We joked that once all 3 of us came into the bar, that’s when the party started. I can’t count on my hands how many times I heard throughout our trip this phrase “those American girls know how to party!” or “those American girls can drink!” LOL. I don’t want to toot our own horn but we were a good time. Rio was awesome. Between the partying, the culture, the sights and food, it was an enlightening experience for me, specifically since it was my second time going and I was with my friends. These are just a few pictures from our trip in Rio.
After saying goodbye to Denise, Jazz and I flew to the capital of Bahia, Salvador. I felt like Salvador was waiting for me. I felt like I was right at home. Everything just felt right. Before coming to Brazil, I honestly did not know much about the country. I knew that there was a huge Afro-Brazilian population and that was about it. I eventually did more research and read about the country through books, podcasts, listening to music and watching YouTube videos. One book in particularly that I enjoyed reading and I recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about this amazing country and its complex history is A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb. This book is a fascinating account of Brazil’s history written in narrative form and the author explores all of what makes Brazil, Brazil. It’s delectable cuisine, intriguing and morbid history, mysterious religions and political chaos. I read this book before I arrived in Brazil and then once again when I visited Recife, Pernambuco. Reading this book a second time just only emphasized the concept of Living. Reading about a place and LIVING in a place are two completely different matters. Experiencing the city was something special. This was the first time since I have been in Brazil where I was among so many black and brown bodies. Everywhere you looked, I saw Bahianos with kinky curly hair, wide set noses, skin the color of chocolate, contrasting with a sister or mother who had skin the color of your favorite toffee candy. It was amazing. Jazz and I were again consistently mistaken for Brazilians but once we started talking the jig was up. We were able to blend in seamlessly and it was welcoming.. Our first day there we met this man who graciously brought us to the bus station after we explained to him that we were trying to buy a ticket to go to the country side. He not only directed us and showed us to the correct window to buy a ticket he served as our impromptu tour guide throughout Salvador and he showed us all over the historic center and brought us to the best Churrasco (Brazilian Meat Restaurant) I’ve had thus far in Brazil. He was funny, weird, friendly, and kind of sketchy at times but the best random tour guide I’ve ever had. Jazz and I had so many chance encounters throughout our trip I could not even possibly begin to write them all down. Salvador was awesome. I attended my first live concert in Brazil, (Check them out! Your soul with vibrate with this musical goodness) we were able to check out more of the diverse landscapes of this country when we visited a small town called Andaraí in Chapada Diamantina which is a beautiful national park and an eco-tourist’s dream.
Last but not least on the trip was São Paulo. What a difference 4 months makes. I remember when I flew into São Paulo in February I was nervous, excited, worried and ready for my time here in Brazil. We had a mandatory orientation with the Fulbright Program in São Paulo with all 80 ETA’s and program directors. I remember not wanting to leave the neighborhood because I was terrified of my lack of Portuguese skills. Because our days were so packed anyway with orientation activities if you wanted to explore the city you could’ve but so many of us were tired that we didn’t. I left São Paulo for Natal thinking that I would be back and next time I was back in this city I made a promise to enjoy this city and see what it had to offer. When talking about Rio and São Paulo Brazilians often compare the energies and pulses of each city to Los Angeles and New York City respectively. After visiting Rio and Salvador I kept saying, “I love this city! I could totally live here!” but after traveling to all 3 cities and spending time in each distinct place I will say that if I had to live permanently in Brazil, living in São Paulo would be the best option for me. I immediately felt at home with the bustling city. The tall overbearing skyscrapers comforted me. The deliberate shuffle of footsteps in the metro, the tight sidewalks filled with commuters, families, tourists and the like and the options! The assortment of restaurants, cultural activities, parks, neighborhoods, energies, museums, ethnic groups was all just so calming to me. It felt like home. São Paulo has been my favorite city thus far in Brazil and I would be remiss if I did not enjoy the city before I go back home. In São Paulo I was able to live.