Tudo Vai Da Certo.

 

It’s crazy to think that in less than a month I will be home. But what exactly is home? I was talking to my older sister and how she is dealing with her adjustments in her “home.” She and her family just moved back to the US after living in Europe for more than 10 years. It’s such an odd sensation to be back in a place that has so obviously changed while you have been away. Whether we go away for a short trip, leave our childhood homes for college or come back for whatever reasons, we come to terms that the place hasn’t changed in a sense… we have. This sensation fleetingly consumed when I came back from studying in Spain. Sure I missed the comforts: the cheap and (good) supermarket wine, the idyllic weather, the fascinating culture steeped in centuries old history… everything, but it was something that went away but I also knew I could never forget my time there. I left a piece of myself in a place that I called “home” for months and I always think back to the moments and memories I created there. Whenever I was missing Spain or wanted to be reminded of my time there, I called up my good friend Claire and we did things and reminisced about our home.

 

I’m excited to see what has changed, who has changed, what is strangely comforting and what is (still) annoying. After living in Natal for the past 8 months, this place has certainly become my home. I remember coming back from my vacation in July and I was weirdly excited to see my street despite my daily complaints about the cobblestoned road, indulge at my favorite açai restaurant, and see my roommates and just get back into my routine. It took me traveling around Brazil to fully appreciate Natal and how this city of dunes, beautiful beaches and hot ass weather has turned into my home. I frequent this one lunch spot and when I had my long braids, the manager told me that I looked like Michonne from The Walking Dead. I laughed but inwardly rolled my eyes because I thought, “we don’t all look alike and I also don’t have the vocabulary or the energy to explain this.” Needless to say, every time I walk into the restaurant he always exclaims: “Ay Ty! Tudo bem!” and gives me a hug and a kiss. (Very Brazilian.) I have created relationships here, made some cool friends and I even turned into a regular at restaurants! When I came back it was great knowing that the cashiers already had my name on my lunch slip, and I immediately felt right at home. But seriously what is home? Is it the place where you went to school during your formative years? The place where you have resided with your family or the people you may call your family? Is it the place that you know like the back of your hands—where to find the best coffee, which uneven street to avoid, you know the one that always makes your car jump or is your favorite park where you can find solace? It’s all of that and more, but it also isn’t one place. For me, it is the place that continues to expand my heart and my mind. Home is perfunctory. Home is as corny as it sounds; where the heart is.

 

I think the past 8 months have been some of the most reflective times in my life and I didn’t even realize it until I began my preparations for my return back to the U.S. I came to Brazil doing something I have never done before. I left one home for a new home without looking back. I came here and allowed myself to show my vulnerability and accept it, learn in all sense of the word, and come to appreciate and love a new culture and country. I was able to share a final reflective and awesome time with my Nordeste group earlier this month during our retreat. I doubt any of my future work retreats will look anything like this:

 

It was a special time to be around people who are experiencing many of the same things as I am and who are coming to terms with returning back “home.” It was special because this group can understand things that are distinctly Brazilian (even more so, distinctly Nordeste) and all of the quirks associated with this “home.” Here in our part of Brazil, our home is having the ability to become expert mosquito killers…accepting that once you step outside you will have a sweaty back because of the heat…running to catch buses that swear they are in the latest Grand Theft Auto game…teaching English to students who are so smart and encouraging and are the reason why you love your job…living in a country that is so confusing and rife with problems but at the same time, amazingly beautiful, welcoming and a place we can all call home. I’m grateful for my Nordeste group and happy that I will have these special moments with them forever.

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“The face you make when you realize you’re on fire.” Our first group picture in São Paulo.

 

Between the retreat, finishing up my ETA duties at the university, my research, applying to grad school, studying for the GRE, and reluctantly accepting that I am leaving, it is safe to say that I am a bit overwhelmed. I go through a mix of emotions regularly and sometimes it is really hard to cope with. No matter who I talk to or share my doubts and fears with, in one way or another they tell me that everything will work out.

“Tudo vai da certo” is one of the many phrases I have come to love in my arsenal of Brazilian phrases. This literally means everything will go right.

 

Everything will be okay.

It’ll all work out!

The universe got my back!

 

My sister gave me some great advice and said, “Why stress about the future? It’s the future. You can’t do anything about it.” I’m anxious to return back to NY and I know it’ll take some time to adjust. But then I ask myself, adjust back to what exactly? When I came here, it was only after living here for months did I finally get used to my new home and way of life. It’s strange to think that I will have to adjust back to life in NY considering I spent most of my life there, but it’ll be an adjustment nonetheless.

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Got to enjoy a World Cup Qualifier game! Brasil X Bolivia

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Successful
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I met this family from Jersey one day on the beach
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I love love love our Convo Clubs

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Halloween Convo Club!

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Worrying about the future is pointless because it is exactly that. The future. Ruminating over the past is idle as well because it already happened and what can do you about that? I’m excited to go to one home, but sad to leave another. I’m uncertain about the next part of my life but ready to see what is in store. But one thing I am sure of is that: Tudo vai da certo.

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Living.

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.

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Because they don’t know how to act.

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We were always meeting people on the streets!

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This guy was smoking a cigarette while drinking a beer. His shirt is self explanatory.

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Sunset in Niteroí.
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Rio’s views continue to amaze me.

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Some of the best Samba I’ve heard thus far in Brazil. Every Monday and Friday there is an event called Pedra do Sal where in one of the oldest black neighborhoods in Rio where they have amazing samba.

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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.

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Our main man, Santana!
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Salvador.
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Historic Pelurinho
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Many slaves arrived in this port in Salvador.

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Some of the best churrasco I have had here
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Our lovely tour guide Santana!

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My lovely travel buddy 🙂
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Some orishas in the Afro Brazilian Museum in Salvador.
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Going deep into the caves in Andaraí
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“those American girls love to drink!”
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Yummy Aracaje.

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We got to meet up with some other Fulbrighters and we had such a fun time in Andaraí

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Celebrating 4th of July with other Americans and of course beer.

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The sun hits the water for only a few hours every day and we were lucky enough to see it right before the clouds came.
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Other Fulbrighters!

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.

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So much amazing street art.

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This Peruvian food was amaaaaaazing.
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Can’t take ME nowhere.

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Sunset in Ibirapuera Park. São Paulo’s version of Central Park

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Rio de Janeiro.

This past weekend was the first time since I’ve been in Brazil that I really felt like I was in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro. What images come to mind you when you think of this city? White sandy beaches, sweet exotic drinks, intricate dances, and variations in skin colors? Rio is all of that and more. Just like in Natal, in Rio I am able to seamlessly blend in without a glance. Only difference is that in Rio, I actually feel like I belong and not out of place. The smells, the people, everything is exactly what I imagined. The culture is amazing and indescribable. ( A picture is worth a thousand words right? See Below.) It’s a pulsing city that is rich in culture. I really do like Natal, but there is nothing more than being in a large bustling city. I’m definitely a city girl in my heart. I was able to ride the subway (!!!) after 3 months of crazy bus rides, I could choose between Thai, Mexican and Italian food and it was great seeing a mix of people from all walks of life. Again, I only saw Rio from the tourist perspective and I am definitely curious to see it as a carioca…That’s why I’m going back in 3 weeks : ))))))IMG_2191 2

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Construction is always happening. I got a dope view with a cool wall as well.
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Jesus in the clouds.
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Going Down!
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The Botanical Garden is like an oasis in Rio. We walked through it for hours and it didn’t even feel like we were in a major city

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When the lighting hits you…
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Live Samba Music!
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And there He is.

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Me and some ETA’s
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Look Familiar?

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So many cool tiles!

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We made the taxi driver stop so Priscilla could take a picture with this. He couldn’t help but laugh at our excitement.

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We were able to watch some amazing dancers. This is a type of dance called Jongo which is popular in black communities in Southeast Brazil. When I watched I couldn’t help but notice the links to Ethiopian dances, caribbean soca, and bollywood. I encourage you to look up some dances!
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Greetings from the airport.
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Pão De Acucar. (Sugar Loaf Mountain)
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We met these Swedish girls in Natal, and we were able to go out and explore Rio with them before they returned back to Sweden.
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Rio was great, because I got to meet up with other ETA’s from all over Brazil.

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Always drinking.

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Breathtaking views.

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It´s My *Birthday* And I´ll Cry If I Want To

9 times out of 10 when I talk to my parents, they ask me if I miss New York or if want to come home. When I called my mom for Mother’s Day a few weeks ago, she waved some banan peze and griot in front of the screen (typical Haitian dishes) and asked if I wanted some. My Dad always plays dumb and asks when I am coming back home. (For the record, I am coming back the week of Thanksgiving…Couldn’t miss out on the FOOD!) Every time they pose me that question, I always offer the same response. “No, I’m not homesick. I definitely miss things about my life back home, but I’m enjoying my time here in Brazil.”  That answer does not satisfy them so they pry even further. “I bet you don’t even miss us.” Ahh, here is the question they were dying to ask. My sisters and I always joke that growing up in the Haitian School of Hard Knocks, we never fully expressed ourselves among other things. We never said, “I love you” on our way out the door. “I love you” after a phone call. “I miss you” after not seeing one another for a long period of time. It’s just something we never did growing up.  I don’t know if it’s the culture, my family particularly, or just something we got used to, we just never expressed ourselves. I used to complain to my Mom that my other friend’s parents would always say “I love you” or whatever and my mom would always reply: “I don’t need to tell you. Don’t you know all of the sacrifices I already made for you?!! That in itself tells you how much I love you.” I have friend who always says, “What’s understood doesn’t need to be explained.”  Without a doubt, that mantra was made for my mom.

There is a Brazilian phrase that people use when they miss something or someone profoundly or they are simply reminiscing. Eu tenho  muitos saudades. Here is the definition according to Wikipedia (don’t act like you don’t use wikipedia to find the answers to your burning questions.) This past weekend, I celebrated my 23rd birthday and I am so blessed and happy to see another year. Needless to say, tive muitos saudades. I was missing my family but especially my friends. It was the first time I was celebrating my birthday away from people who I loved and meant the most to me. My dearest childhood friends (church, family and high school friends) and college friends…y’all know who you are, always make me feel special on my birthday. I must stray away from the Haitian School of Hard Knocks and express that this year was really hard. I didn’t think it would affect me so much, but it certainly did. One of my best friends, Sara normally calls or shoots me a text at midnight; my mom will ALWAYS start the call by singing Happy Birthday, and my Dad will always joke around and will he forgot how I old I am (Although sometimes, I think he actually isn’t joking.) My friends from Massachusetts did in fact call me around midnight… but the call dropped and subsequently failed. I was trying to send some pictures to my mom, but the messages were not getting anywhere; I wasn’t able to talk to my parents until the late evening, and I was not able to receive messages and emails until hours later when I was connected back to Wi-Fi.  Despite the fact that I was sad…(so sad that I actually cried ***rolling eye emoji***) it was nice to know that even though I couldn’t respond back to calls, emails, and texts when I wanted to, I know that I am loved and I am lucky enough to have people who care about me. Wise words from my friend Olivia: “What’s understood, doesn’t need to be explained.”  This year was a stark contrast from my 22nd birthday. Even though I was not physically with the people who year after year make my day special, it is amazing to know that they are always there for me.

I am grateful for the people who did make my birthday special here in Brazil. Many of my new Brazilian friends wanted to say Happy Birthday to me in person and give me hugs, presents and well wishes because they told me it didn’t feel right over Facebook. (Brazilians are an amazing group of people) and I am really happy that I was able to enjoy it in a beautiful beach town with my co-ETA and one of my co-workers. This time last year I would’ve never thought I’d be in Brazil, and living here has definitely put things in perspective. This time last year, I graduated from college, celebrated the christening of my favorite nephew, celebrated my birthday with college friends from both UMASS and St. Johns, (lost my phone because I partied too hard…STILL trying to figure out what happened though…) It doesn’t matter if you’re partying into the wee hours of the morning with your usual crew or if you’re with new people in a new place, I am blessed to see the ripe ol’ age of 23 and looking forward to many more years to come.

 

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One thing I love about Brazil, specifically the northeast is the ABUNDANCE of shrimp. I eat shrimp as much as I can.

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Here are some pictures from my weekend.

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Trying to snag a pic before the owner came back…
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Love Beach 🙂
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My co-worker, Dany!

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Every year, I like to take a screenshot of my birthday on my iPhone. Don’t know why I do it, but it’s customary.

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Recap with pictures

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My first time trying açai!
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One of our first nights in Natal with my Co-ETA, Andrea
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And the influx of sunsets begins.
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LOL. Lesson planning y’all.
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Trying to look cool. Failing miserably.
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Beach life son.
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Good times in Recife with fellow Fulbrighters!
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Views.
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Can you imagine? This tree is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest Cashew Tree in the World. Right here, in my backyard in Natal.
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Maracuja. (Passionfruit) One of my favorite drinks here in Brazil
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🙂
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One of our first events at the university…Speed Dating! Well conversation speed dating that is.
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We tried several times for a good picture.
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Ahh, that’s better. Beautiful historical Olinda with some dope ass people
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More views from Olinda.
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#Selfie
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LOL. how ridiculous do I look?

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When you arrive to the Air b N B with and they don’t have enough sheets…
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Good Friday in Olinda.

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Everyone thought we were sisters. I remember the first time I met Priscilla at JFK, even the guy at the bar in the terminal asked if we were sisters. In my head I was like damn son can we get to the country first before everyone starts confusing the black women??!
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Pretty Ladies 🙂
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Since I live alone and I can’t and (shouldn’t) be eating out everyday I’ve been cooking. I must say, I’m getting better at it.
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My old neighbors! These women were so sweet. Invited me over for wine, pasta and dessert. I love how friendly Brazilians are
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Night out with our co-worker Renato
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Ladies Night!
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Awesome Conversation Club about What Beauty Means to You. Every week we have awesome topics.
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Karaoke Night!

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