Well, here I am in Viçosa (I think), and it is Saturday (I think), and a lot has happened so I had better keep you posted!
Reading on the Hot-ometer: 100%
Number of showers: Bazillions
Number of mosquito bites: Nil! :)
I made it to Rio de Janeiro in one piece yesterday lunch time, after a bit of an ordeal with the slightly less than helpful American Airlines people. My first experience of the Brazilians on my second flight from New York was not great. There wasn’t enough room on the tiny plane for the enormous hand luggage that each of the Brazilians had brought, and a massive yelling match ensued right over my head. One lady refused to get off the plane to check in her bag and called the cabin crew names I had better not translate, and then tried to sweep me and my fellow passengers up into a protest march off the plane. I did my best “I’m a pathetic helpless gringa impression” and thankfully we eventually took off.
Once safely in Rio and with Jan and Phil (my mentors), we went to their daughter Becky’s house (where we were staying) to drop off the bags, have a much needed shower and something to eat. I found it strange that the mulata maid, Teresa, didn’t speak to us or make eye contact with us, and when I suggested helping with the washing up I had obviously committed a blasphemy. Later, we managed to navigate the metro and have a wander along Copacabana beach, which is beautiful. Rio is a real city of contrasts... a mish-mash of graffiti, street-corner traders, slums and luxurious hotels. It smells of fish, tyres, coconut and glue. Everything is so strange and different, that I got weirdly excited when I saw a pigeon. A tiny scraggy slice of home in a foreign land!
The coach ride to Viçosa was stunningly beautiful; the countryside is breathtaking. Brazil is so much more colourful than I ever imagined, it feels like I’ve been viewing the world in black and white and have just switched to colour TV. The school itself is simple and secluded, but lovely. I have a dormitory to myself for the time being, and have managed to nest a bit and make everything less strange and unfamiliar. I was quite pleased that I would have some private space where I could go and cry from time to time (which I definitely needed this morning)... but really there’s no such thing here in Brazil! Everyone has their doors open and is in each other’s room drinking a cafezinho.
The girls have been great at including me in things and showing me the ropes, although we’ve had quite a few communication problems with me being so tired all the time. They find my England-Portugal accent hilarious. I spent most of last night meeting and greeting and "helping" with making a pizza (apparently my sausage-slicing skills are not up to scratch).
One of the guys here, Joci, (pronounced Josie) has a slightly unfortunate lisp... and we spent an uncomfortable ten minutes or so in a circular conversation as I tried to find out how to say his name! I hope I didn’t offend him too much! His son, Sebastião is one of the most mischievous 2 and a half year olds I have ever met. We didn’t understand eachother at all, but hide and seek and “let’s drop things on the floor for Heather to pick up” seem to be universally understood games.
This morning when I went to the market with Phil, and Lícia, my next door neighbour, everything became a bit too much. There wasn’t a single thing on the market I recognised, and I didn’t have a clue what to buy or how to cook it in our tiny, very basic kitchen, or how to ask for it. It was hot, I was tired, and I am feeling like I don’t know anything or anyone. I know things will get better, but I suddenly feel like a helpless child. I hate asking for things all the time, when I feel like I should be the one helping others. It will take a while for me to settle in and start doing what I’m meant to be doing, but so far it feels like everything is being done for my benefit... that this is all for me, and not for the one I came here for.
I have rambled on long enough, and I think I have understood that it is my turn to clean the smelly bathroom (*shudder* - I’d forgotten you can’t flush toilet paper down the loo in Latin America!)
Thank you for your prayers. I will try to make my next update a little cheerier!
X x x