Maceió.

I landed in Maceió at nearly 2am this morning, exhausted from a long day of maneuvering through the occasionally mystifying Brazilian bus system from São João da Boa Vista, to Campinas, to São Paolo and Guarulhos Airport. I arrived at the airport with hours to spare, so I went in search of sustenance.

It’s amazing how hungry you can get when you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language. I found myself searching for places where I could just grab something and pay for it, instead of trying to order, then try to understand what was being said to me quickly enough to come up with appropriate responses – half the time I would just nod or say ‘sim’ and hope I got something remotely close to what I was hoping for.

Case in point: I order some cheese bread and a drink: ‘pão con queijo e suco de fruta por favor?’. The cashier asks me a question. I respond ‘Sim’. She looks confused and asks again, and I can tell it’s a ‘do you want [this] or [that]?’ but I understand exactly zero of it. Do you want cheese bread with yummy cheese or cheese bread with the brains of goats? Hungry and confused, I say ‘não entende?’ at which point she reframes the question. Desperate now, I say ‘Sim’ one more time, hoping that she will just take some of my money and give me some bread and juice. I’m starting to feel like the accused before the Spanish Inquisition.

I get bread. No juice. But I detected no goats brains, so I call that a huge win.

I did meet a lovely group of people in the airport while I waited, however. I see what they mean when they say Brazilians are friendly! We chatted (in English, thank the lord) for at least an hour, talking about dogs and kids and travel, and at the end we exchanged email addresses and I was pressed to contact them if I needed anything. Not sure what they could do, as it’s a bit of a big country and I was about to fly 1000 miles away, but still it was a great start to the next part of my stay.

So I arrive in Maceió (emphasis on the last syllable, in case you’re interested) and it’s raining. I chuckle a bit at the irony. Its not raining hard, but everything is wet. My skin looked at the rain and braced for Portland cool air, but no! The air was literally *thick*. Now that is what I call humidity!!! The temperature was in the mid 70′s (which is apparently very cold, I would find out later) so I didn’t feel strange wearing shorts. What did feel strange was that I was the *only one* wearing shorts.

Huh. Well no, wait, there’s an older lady over there wearing shorts too. Ok.

I meet my ride, a very nice taxi driver with my name on a a piece of cardboard who drives me to my host Tania’s house. By now it’s easily 2:30am, so I cringe a bit as he calls her phone outside the door to her apartment parking garage. But she’s up, and lets us in, and is very kind and genial. At this point I would at least try some bread with goats brains for a chance to go to sleep. She shows me to my room, we attempt to stumble (err make that *I* attempt to stumble) through a short conversation about breakfast and bathrooms and then I gratefully collapse on my (very very hard) bed. (I like hard beds, what? I’ve just never lain on one *this* hard!)

A lovely sleep later, and I’m up at 9am. I discover that the letter I had noticed the night before in my room is a letter from the school, Fast Forward, welcoming me and explaining how they specialize not just in language but in cultural immersion, which makes me feel really good about my choice of schools. But let’s get to the good part, I know you’ve all been so good and that you patiently read through all that other crap to get to the pictures…

Tania’s lovely apartment building, complete with stinking cute puppy visitor:

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The school where I’ll be portuguesing – 1 block from the apartment, in the opposite direction of the ocean:

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My first view of the ocean…2 blocks from the apartment:

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A Praia!! 3 blocks from the apartment. THREE. BLOCKS.
I’ll just say this: the sand is the softest I’ve stood in and the water is the warmest Atlantic Ocean water I’ve ever had the pleasure of standing in. And you could wade out for nearly a quarter mile at high tide and it would never get over your head.

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I have never been a morning person. Not ever, not no matter how hard I try. But right now, I seriously feel like I *need* to get up at 6am every morning and go for a run on this beach. Will it happen? Who knows! Check back tomorrow and find out. My first day of school starts at 8am tomorrow, and I’m feeling strangely tired even though it’s only 7pm.