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:




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


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


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.







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.


Nighttime is so strange here.

Last night I heard a dog yowling in pain, cat fights, and an air raid siren just like the ones out of WWII that made me wonder if I should duck under a table or toss on some camos and start scavenging for food and a good source of alcohol.

There is also of course the familiar sounds of car alarms going off, mopeds passing by, clock ticking, …MOSQUITO BUZZING smash… dammit-I missed. But there are so many stray dogs and cats that I could easily imagine that the dog was seriously injured, or the cats were fighting for their lives. Perhaps against a hungry stray dog, even. And then barking, barking, spreading in waves back and forth across the city, sounding much like two sets of Mel Brooks and Madeline Kahn arguing in the airport in High Anxiety.

Every once in a while, however, I hear sounds I can’t place. I’ve been ignoring those. Must be cats, I tell myself.

Despite the noise, I’ve been sleeping quite well. I am a New Yorker, born and (partly) bred, after all. This is all just a new lullaby to me, who grew up falling asleep to the soft music of sirens, alarms and various people shouting.

But next chance you get, hug your pets. Unless they’re fish, that might not go over so well.

Early Mornings of a Northwest Night Owl continued…

Category: Thoughts_
So, to continue. In all honesty, yesterday I was going to say that it just might…MIGHT… be possible that getting up early like that could be ok. But that was yesterday. These early mornings are starting to wear me down. I’m plain exhausted today, despite getting nearly 8 hours of sleep. And it’s more than just the early mornings…it’s the commuting. Having to commute back and forth through rush hour traffic almost every day seems to create a subtle shift in my quality of life. Before this move, I could go home for lunch if I wanted and relax on my back deck. If I wasn’t feeling well I could go home without affecting the work schedule of 2-3 other people as well.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s not so much the traffic and commute time, but the fact that I am no longer free to come and go as I please; I have to consider at least two other people as well. And that’s on the weeks when I’m driving. The other weeks, I’m essentially trapped at work.

But what’s the alternative? Spending probably a third more time in traffic, and a lot more money in gas. Considering my reduced income thanks to the taxes I now have to pay, the gas savings helps. So I don’t know…there’s pros and cons to this whole situation, and things need to settle for a bit before I can tell how much this will affect things. But until then, I’m freakin’ tired!

Early Mornings of a Northwest Night Owl

So, now my job has moved. I used to work in a nice mellow small office, a state away (well, 12 miles) from Headquarters, 2 miles from my house, where I could waltz in anytime between 8 and 9ish. From the moment I left work in the afternoons to the moment I walked in my house, never topped 5 minutes, unless I had errands to run.

But now that is ALL different. The powers that be decided that I should increase my commute time by an hour on average, take a 10% pay cut due to the fact that I now have to pay state taxes to a state I don’t live in and increase my stress level exponentially – and all for the good of the agency. Phooey I say!

Well, in defense of this, me and my fellow movees decided to form a carpool to battle the insane cost of gas and other increased transportation costs. All well and good, you say. Riiiiight. The problem is these fine people decided that they want to leave – LEAVE – for work at 6:45. AM. In the morning.


Now remember, I’m used to waking up around 7-7:30 at the earliest. And they want to leave BEFORE that. What planet are they from? I’m a night owl! I’m used to staying up until midnight, fiddling with this and poking at that, until I can no longer keep my eyes open. This is normal. Waking up at 5am is NOT.

So now it’s been two days of waking up early.

And crap now they’re all looking over my shoulder. So I’ll comment on my opinions of waking up early tomorrow….