My name is Sherise Dionne Alexis. I will be 18 starting on August 4th and I am honored to be one of the gap year students for Rotary Youth Exchange US outbounds of 2008-2009. In other words, I’ll be finally graduating from my high school after what seemed like an eternity and then volunteering myself to jump into another one. Of course, it will be in Japanese, or Italian, or Spanish, or Danish, or whatever Uzbekistan speaks (6990 interviewers will understand that one ;-P ), or wherever I get sent to.
Oh well, in any case it will be fun. It will certainly be a change from being at little old Northwest Christian Academy for about…15 years. It will be different all right! But some change is good.
It will also be a change from being in Miami. It might be hard since I was born and raised in this city. My inherent "Miami-ness" becomes particularly evident when it drops below 60°F/16°C and I’m FREEZING. And I don’t care what anyone says 50°F/10°C is not refreshing, it’s COLD! That said, I think by some twist of irony, Siberia is in my future…
Anyways, don’t blame me. I come from a very tropical heritage with both of my parents originating from the Caribbean. My mother was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, while my father is from Grenada, St. Croix, Trinidad, and seems to have lived all over. So, as a result, I have my Caribbean heritage to share in addition to the US culture. Of course, those with Caribbean and/or Latin American heritage is not at all uncommon in Miami. So much diversity is exactly what gives the city such flair!
Now for a little more about me specifically…
My interests include: drawing, fashion, graphic arts, traveling, planning to travel, drama, and volleyball.
My dislikes include: roaches, giant Florida roaches (aka our state bird), saying goodbye, packing light.
My non-mainland travel includes: Trinidad with my mom for weddings and visiting relatives, Costa Rica for a church missions trip, St. Croix for a Christmas vacation and to visit relatives, and most recently England for a Leadership Camp.
All-in-all, I am very excited for this opportunity to go somewhere new and spread more happiness and “Sherise-ness” around the globe.
August 8 Journal
Webmaster's Note: With just a few hours remaining before her departure, Sherise provided this journal, recounting the last ten days of an almost-there exchange student.
The Big 1-0
I officially have 10 days left until I leave to Brazil. Who would have ever thought that this would be happening?
The big question that everyone keeps asking is “Are you ready?” It’s a very clichéd but safe question, and nonetheless I certainly appreciate the concern. And the short answer is yes. After all, if I could even venture to sign up for such a program, then I was certainly ready from the start. However, the long answer is no.
It’s ironic how the “long” answer is the shorter word, but it lengthens considerably when you count the interrogation that is sure to follow! So no, I am not ready. I don’t really know that much Portuguese or Spanish. I’m not sure what to expect. I am not packed. I couldn’t even grab any old bag and hop on a plane since I don’t even have my passport, visa, and ticket! I have no idea why it is taking so long, and I would be lying if I told you that I’m not worried or that I am in some state of zen-like peace with everything!
I’m freaking out!
However, as much as I am unhappy with dislike detest AM CURRENTLY PISSED OFF with the current situation. The most I can do is sit and wait…and wait…and wait…
I would be ecstatic if I at least had my visa! Jeez! Bureaucracy loves to torment me so…
In any case, I’ve been getting ready. I’ve gotten all the clothes that I want to bring for sure! Now I have to get my electronics together and some gifts.
I do have my pins. (For those who don’t know, it’s a tradition for exchange students to put pins on their Rotary blazers. And as we meet each other and things, we trade pins and other stuff, and so by the end of the year our blazer weighs about 50lbs/23kg and it’s covered with just about everything! And not even necessarily pins.)
Well now it makes 9 days that I have left. As usual, I woke up this morning at noon (a nasty habit I should get out of since summer is almost complete). And then as I shuffled out of my room at a groggy pace of 1 mile per hour I saw it. I spot the familiar purple and orange of a FedEx envelope, I walked towards it wondering if I had forgotten that I ordered something, but whoa and behold, it was from the Eastern US travel agency for Rotary, Bokoff-Kaplan! Que legal! Meu visto!!! AQUI ESTÁ!!!
In any case, I’m happy.
Also, today was my last choir practice! The choir director and her husband are going to leave soon to go to China, since they are adopting a baby. The baby shower is this weekend. I’m so excited for them! I couldn’t wish a baby to a better couple, they’ve already been parents to everyone else, so they deserve a child of their own! Furthermore this process has been so long and hard, it’s been about 2-3 years since they started, so I’m happy for them that they finally got through.
Aside from that, I went to my last Bible study with Pastor Summers. It was good, it was part of the multiple-part series he is doing on Daniel. And now he is going to Tennessee for vacation, but before he and his wife leave, they have invited me for lunch tomorrow, I better get my theological convictions ready! He’s a very smart man!
Ah! Well now this makes eight days left, and now people, I am finally glad that I can say YES, I have packed!
I made a list of summer goals, and one of them was that I must have all my clothes packed by August. So at least I did one summer goal…YAY!
Hmm…7 days left…
Despite 7 being my favorite number, I really didn’t do anything today, I was just lazy and I sat around.
I’m sorry, I’ll do better next time…
Okay, well I stayed up really late to change my blog layout. It took ages and…I don’t really like it…Ah well, but at least now it looks like it actually has something to do with the blog, so that’s an improvement.
In any case, as I put the finishing touches on the layout, my phone buzzes and whistles annoyingly–indicating that I have a text message…at 5:58 in the morning…weird… Anywho, it was my friend, Kyle, a fellow Rotary Youth Exchange student and District 4550 inbound from District 7150 New York or something like that. He’s awesome, if my state in Brazil weren’t so large we would so be drinking buddies…except…without the drinking since there’s the whole 4-D’s and all. Anywho, he calls, we chat, and I fall asleep until 5pm and basically waste my whole day.
So basically, so much for doing better today…Desculpe…
Well, today made it officially 5 days until I leave.
Being Sunday, I went to church. But before that, I got a surprise when my best friend Priscilla showed up with this huge cake that her mom baked. A delicious strawberry cake! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! It is because my birthday is tomorrow.
But I didn’t have time to dwell on that, since I had to get ready for church. It would be my last service at Northwest Baptist Church for a long time. However, the pastor wasn’t there since he went out of town to visit Tennessee, so the Youth/Associate pastor filled in for him today. He did a really good job, especially considering that he’s leaving to China in 4 days to go and pick up his and his wife’s newly adopted daughter!
I know they’re very excited!
In any case, it was a day of lasts. The last time I’ll be in that church, the last time I’ll see Dave and his wife Kathleen without their newly adopted daughter, the last time I would be up there on stage playing the Alto Sax in the orchestra, and forgetting to unstick the G# on my weird ole sax, the last time I’d be singing 2nd soprano in the choir next to my mom, the last time I’ll babble with my friends before and after church, the last time I’ll be sitting far up front and center, and the last time I’ll figure out how to play the sax with the big ole billowy choir robes in the way.
Lots of lasts. Oh, and it was the birthday of a friend of mine. Besides church, we went to do some last minute shopping, mainly toiletries and presents and stuff, and then we headed back to church for evening service (That’s right, two services in one day! I’m just that hardcore!)
Happy Birthday to Me! With 4 days left…
It’s my birthday! However, since it’s a Monday, it means I sit at home eat cake, and get fatter. It was basically like the rest of my summer…except I’m 18 now, and I have cake…
Mom went to work, dad stayed home, the cable lady came to install a new phone line, since my father is hell bent on running up long distance while I’m abroad, instead of simply using skype.
Oh and as I realized that Barack Obama and I share the same birthday, I realized that I haven’t registered to vote yet…oops…I’ll just do it at the consulate after I leave since there’s no way it would come in the mail in time before I leave.
Anywho, besides answering a few phone calls, reading through texts, and all my birthday greetings on Facebook and Orkut (it’s like myspace/facebook but with a lot of Brazilians and Indians) I have basically done nothing all day.
And I’m fine with that! People don’t truly understand the art of laziness. I’ll clean/pack/whatever tomorrow for sure!
3 Days and I’m being nerdy…
Well I’m trying to mess with my blog so I can be all up and ready to go for a year and not worry about it. Who knew that automatic crossposting would be such a pain? Especially, since the php codes in the wordpress plugins seems to keep disabling each other! Gah!
Vox and Myspace need to get a real api…
Well, I do believe it is FINALLY starting to sink in. I’m leaving.
I felt queasy all day. I’m not sure if it was nerves or malnutrition from living off of cereal and kool-aid for the past two weeks (especially since my dad figures that the house doesn’t need food since everyone’s leaving soon since my parents are vacationing in Grenada.)
I spent the day meticulously combing through my travel documents and important e-mails, making sure to follow them closely. After all, I don’t want to get into more trouble before I even leave…
Then, I put the finishing touches on my packing. And now I wonder how petite little 5 foot me is going to carry all that through the airport. But I can’t lighten up, much since one of the dumb bags, itself, weighs 15 pounds when empty, and it’s too expensive to buy some new luggage right now, so I’ll have to work it out. Then the third leg of my flights I might end up paying overage fees since TAM supposedly only allows one, according to the travel agent. I hope I have enough money, since I’m not sure how much it costs since both the site and phone representative were VERY confusing…
Besides that, I did some more nerdy blog stuff and updated my Myspace. I try to cover all my bases.
Anywho, I really should be working on my Powerpoint presentation that I’m supposed to do for when I get there. But I seem to be doing everything but…
And then there was 1…
Well….This is it I’m about to leave in about 10 hours.
I’m so excited that I can’t even sleep!
In any case, my dad left this morning to Grenada. My mom will join him on Sunday. So I had to say goodbye early once for each door we passed. One by the bedroom, one by the front door, one by the gate, and one for the car door. Whew! Well at least I know I’ll be missed!
Other than that, I went to my Rotary Club today. It was fun, I loved being able to say “oh I’m leaving tomorrow!” The power in that “tomorrow”…so cool!
Also, I decided to put in a “happy dollar” today. (Happy dollars is this thing that my club does where they pass around the pouch and people can put in donations as small or large as they want and as they do it, they can share something with the club.) So, I decided to take the opportunity to brag about leaving and saying that “I won’t need dollars anyway, I need reais!”
Sure enough, the Brazilian members took note and suddenly produced 2 reais! So now it shall be my lucky reais.
Also, I got to see the lady who’s picking up Supas Sheth after the meeting. That was pretty cool since I had been speaking to him on Orkut. So I gave her an extra business card of mine to give to him. It’s too bad I’ll miss him as he comes in, but I have things to do!
In any case, after the meeting my mom I took the scenic route home and I was snapping pictures like crazy. I really don’t have enough pictures of Miami the city. So I was trying to get some nice skyscraper shots as we drove down Biscayne Boulevard. Interestingly enough, there were a lot of strikes happening too. I suppose there’s trouble in paradise…
Finally, I got home, changed into some drab clothing and went to get my hair and eyebrows done. After all, I wouldn’t want to go to Brazil looking all messed up. I already have 27 hours worth of flights and layovers to do it for me.
When I got home, my best friend, Priscilla surprised me with a visit. It was great. My cheeks are hurting from laughing so much! I’m glad we got to see each other. I’ve always been so busy lately…But I can’t believe I had to say good bye. I gave her a Hallmark card and a pin to remember me by. I’ll miss her…
Then my godmother and godbrother dropped by to wish me goodbye and give me a birthday gift of a gorgeous leather journal! Very nice!
I also have gotten goodbye calls, texts, and facebook messages. Yet, I haven’t gotten all blubbery yet, maybe I am still in disbelief…
Oh well, I better finish packing…the flight is in hours….
August 12 Journal
It was finally here! The day of my departure! Of course, I was not able to savour it as there were a lot of last minute things to do! So I fought all night with iTunes in order to get it to sync some movies to my iPod. After all, I had a loooong flight ahead. And to my horror, the sync was not finished in time when I had to leave. So, grumbling and cursing Apple for condemning its consumers with the most fussy mp3 player ever, I cancelled the sync, ejected, got my stuff, and left.
Now that I was at the airport, I was unusually calm, which is more than I can say for my family. My aunt, mother, sister, cousin, and nephews were there. And my aunt and cousin were fussing over the fact that I had my purse open and telling me all the stuff I already knew as if I had never seen an airport before (Mind you I have traveled plenty of times both domestic and abroad—INCLUDING by myself with none of that silly “unaccompanied minor status” and I’ve fared quite well so far.) Nevertheless, they insisted on giving me packing tips while IN the airport and already checked in. Then they proceeded to tell me all about how I will get robbed because I left my purse open for two seconds even though I had it safely sitting between me, my huge football player sized nephew, and a semicircle of doting relatives. Give me a break...
In any case, I finally left, and of course my mother cried as I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and went through the security gate. I sat for a moment and then it was boarding time, I was off tooo....
No, I am saying it right. I flew from Miami and UP to D.C. to go to Brazil. But don’t look at me, that was the travel agent’s doing, I’m not going to question their judgment...But to satiate everyone’s curiosity (seriously, every single person that I tell jumps back in horror), I just say in a matter-of-factly tone, “to meet the other exchange students, there’s about 50 of us flying together from what I heard.” There. End of conversation, sure they could have flown to Miami, meet me and THEN go to Brazil, but, like I said, I not questioning it. I’m here, and wishing that I didn’t have to sign a contract condemning me to the exact route back despite the fact that TAM has a direct flight to Miami every Sunday, as many (seriously, many) enjoyed informing me.
But who really cares? It’s Brazil!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Rotary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But I digress, so I was in the airplane now. The flight attendant was a former exchange student with Rotary. She recognized the characteristic Rotary blazer. I entered further and I heaved my overweight carry-on overhead, thanking God that I didn’t have to weigh it. I took my seat and asked some guy behind me how long the flight was. He didn’t know, but fortunately a middle aged couple sat beside me. A white lady with too much mascara and a tall black man with a cool-looking hat. I greeted them. Mind you, that this is very significant, as I almost never talk to strangers unless prompted (a fact that earned me a $#^& you ^$%&!!! the day before from some rowdy perverts when I walked home in Miami the other day.) In any case, they didn’t know the time the flight would take either (not like it mattered). I found out that they were on their way to Rome, and they traveled frequently. It was about then that the pilot hinted that something in the plane’s navigation wasn’t working and that they were going to fix it quickly in about 10 minutes, but its okay since they budget minor delays like this into the flight time.
At that point, I turned on my iPod to listen to my music, and to my horror there were no songs since it decided to delete everything, and the new movies did not sync. I reallllllly hate Apple and its amazingly inefficient iPod Touch syncing. (That’s right, I said it! I only bought the wretched thing because it had WiFi and I wanted to get a new nice cell phone after I returned, so go cry fanboys and fangirls! Steve Jobs is officially on my list...)
So, music-less, I sat squirming in my seat with nothing to distract me until the pilot announced that they didn’t have the part and that they were going to ask Jet Blue to borrow it.
Minutes later, he said that they didn’t get it, and then the flight attendant tried to do some damage control and encouraged us to wait. Everyone started grumbling and I chatted with the couple some more. They were worried since they only had a 2 hour layover in London to begin with and the plane has been grounded for 30 minutes and counting. As about 40 minutes passed, people began to leave to try and get rebooked on other flights. I sighed and went into my huge carry-on since I remembered that I brought my old mp3 player so maybe I can practice some Pimsleur...no luck...so I gave up and listened to some FM radio built-in to my ooooold mp3 player as I wondered why Apple consistently refuses to add it when iTunes sucks so bad. Eventually, I got bored with it as the couple going to Rome got their things together. It was an hour now. I wasn’t worried about the delay since Bokoff-Kaplan (the travel agency) sets really long layovers (bless their very intelligent hearts)! However, the plane was about three-quarters empty, and when I asked a flight attendant about the possibility of cancellation, she muttered an extremely vague answer and then muttered something unknown thing in Spanish. Not very encouraging...
I sat down twitching and looked at my phone. The chipper girl in front of me who was on standby in the first place and probably the only person on the plane without a connecting flight was starting to annoy me. They had to fly in the part from San Francisco! Things were not looking good... I called my mom who may have been hiding happiness at the prospect of me coming back, hung up, went into the overhead and pulled out my overweight carry-on bag of doom, then and went into my handy-dandy exchange binder to try and track down the number for Bokoff (which I later realized was on the departure packet in my purse). So, I called and told the representative about my dubious flight, but she advised me to wait it out and if it got cancelled I would have to wait the next day. I hung up horrified at the prospect of making a bunch of long distance calls in broken Portuguese to explain my rescheduled flights, and went on to call my mom again and tell my sister—who lives in D.C. with some mysterious chemistry job for the government—that I would have to rain check on that free lunch she was going to take me on during my formerly long layover. I hung up praying that I the flight would be only delayed after all, and sure enough, the flight attendant told us that we were changing planes! This was announced while I was talking to my mother, to boot! I’m happy it was then since that meant that I only had to hold my cell phone to the plane speaker and she heard everything, so I didn’t have to re-explain.
With a sigh of relief I gathered my things and made my way to the new gate trying not to lose the tiny ticket stub that’s supposed to grant us entrance. I got in the line and started chatting with a girl while simultaneously updating my status on Facebook and the Cultures-Shocked website. We laughed at the irony that the new plane was delayed as well. Eventually the flight attendant finished (their excuse was “cleaning”) and we boarded. Lo and behold! Who sits next to me but the enroute to Rome couple! Their connection was shot at this point.
With new flight, we got to D.C. painlessly. I got off and made my way to D-1 to check-in with the Rotarian, Mr. Wilcox. He said that they were looking for me, and asked to see my ticket, that stuff out of the way, he said I could drop my stuff there and walk around. Having nowhere in mind to go, I dropped my stuff beside an empty seat and sat down. Then two friendly boys introduced himself. One advised me to change some money into reais (Brazilian currency), and then when I asked how far down it was, he offered to walk with me. (Exchange students are so nice!)
So, we went down to the currency desk with a small gaggle of exchange students. My escort and I had a laugh at the mini personalized license plate one girl had on her back, and I said I thought it was cool, and then I suddenly recognized the girl and the other one she was talking to. It was Tess and Sarah from Central New York! (I couldn’t come to the last orientation in Florida, so I did a make up in New York.) So I tapped them on their shoulders and we had this whole “OMG! You’re here and I haven’t seen you in forever” moment in the airport and then my escort took an opportunity to escape (Geez...were we that bad? Haha!).
So, they waited for me to change the money as the poor, overworked lady tried to hunt down some reais to handle all these exchange students enroute to Brazil. But we me freshly armed with $60 USD worth of reais, the Central New York girls and I went our merry way back to D-1. As I got there, there were a few more students. I looked back and suddenly hear my name as Florida’s own Lauren Keister aka “Tangerina” (her capoeira name) waves. And no sooner when I see her and run up I spot Zazu, who calls me Ruby, and she quickly points out Adrienne and tells me that Suzy is around. Those last few names probably meant nothing to you, but other than Lauren, I met those girls through an exchange student website called Cultures Shocked. They are all from New Jersey and they were handled with Bokoff Kaplan as well. Then of course, I saw Asia and Becca from Florida. To my surprise, Andrienne and Lauren already knew each other, but then I realized OF COURSE they do I since already introduced them on Orkut (think Facebook/Myspace but with Brazilians).
On that note, I waved at Kyle from Buffallo, New York who’s actually going to the same district as me, but a different city. And then I asked a girl from Bermuda about Capri Wilson from Bermuda as well who is coming to my district. She would be going to Lauro de Freitas which is just north of me. As a matter of fact, her school is closer to my house than my own school! At this point, I went back to poor Sarah and Tess who sat amazed at my ability to know like half the students already.
It just goes to show that I don’t have to be freakishly outgoing to make friends in exchange-student-land, just be lucky and have Facebook/Orkut.
So, then I go to my bag and pull out my trusty custom pins. I swear that exchange students can smell them! As soon as I did, about 20 heads turned at the jingling sound, and as I handed one out, everyone went mad. I was like, whoa! Who knew they would be such a hit? So, I jumped-started the pin trading a bit. And apparently, people really love me and are quite willing to wear it on their blazers!
It was time to board, and so we made the long trek to our actual gate. My arm was very tired from that overweight carry-on. But at last we were there and boarded. We sat there chatting amongst ourselves as we waited, and I made fun of the Canadian, since she really said “eh”! It was cute! As a consolation, I let her make fun of my “yall.” In any case, it was a joyous occasion, we were on the plane to São Paulo, and I had two seats to myself!
Well...except, about 15 minutes later a tired looking boy, named Keith, shuffles through the ailse and stops beside my seat. So much for my free seat... In any case, as an extension of goodwill I start the applause off (since I make sure we applaud when we find missing students), and I offered him a business card and his choice of pin. But he’s greedy and chose the sketched AND the ”I love/Eu amo Sherise” pins. But hey, at least he asked nicely.
I found out he’s from Long Island, New York and going to São Paulo, making him one of the lucky few with no more connecting flights... (Although I can’t complain, some kids had to actually change airports!)
I watched a movie on the personal TVs, amused myself with the XM radio, and then watched Kill Bill which was the only thing still left on my iPod. So now “Bang Bang” from the opening credits was stuck in my head all night—even at about 3 am when I checked the map on the TV and saw that we were over Guyana. After 9 endless hours of very uncomfortable chairs, and accidentally turning our seat neighbors into pillows in the middle of the night, we FINALLY reach São Paulo. I have never been so happy to go to customs in my life! Well…except for when the Rotarian that’s supposed to be watching us gets detained, and leaves us all standing there dumbfounded until he came back. Oh the irony!
Then we finally go through. It was so cool as the border patrol person said “Vai!” and understood it. (And believe me! At my level of listening comprehension in Portuguese this IS exciting...) So I move right along to baggage claim. I grab a cart and quickly collect the huge blue suitcase. Then I sat there in apprehension waiting for my red duffle as the huge crowd dwindled until it was just me and two other exchange students. Together we form the lost baggage club with Keith leading with BOTH bags lost which totally overshadows mine and the other boy’s one.
In any case, we filed the reports and the man assured us that it would be mailed to us. Apparently, mine never left my first airport. But at least the man was nice enough walk with me and he even taught me some Portuguese as I waited in the customs line. “Eu perdi minha bagagem.”
On the bright side of all of this, I only had to heave one suitcase through the airport to check-in.
With that out of the way, the remaining students that didn’t run off somewhere, stayed together, so I met some more people and gave away some more pins and cards. There was an outbound Brazilian who thought we were her group, and then another girl who got to say hi and bye to her host family. It would seem that her family was on the way to the U.S. that day and leaving her with a temporary family.
A few of the students went on an adventure to buy coffee and we were amazed by the real glass cups, until they had a spaz out moment figuring out that they give them directly back to the counter. Then I gave my pins to the student that I don’t remember seeing before, and one complimented the one I drew. Yay! Flattery! Oh and there was a guy with his violin. How brave! I couldn’t imagine putting an expensive instrument through this journey.
Eventually I had to make my leave. I made my way to the gate, well, until the lady watching up ran up and told me I was going the wrong way. So, making my way through security, I go to the correct gate...well at least it was the one on the ticket...As I reach to the gate it was boarding time, but I saw neither line, people, or even plane! I asked the man at the desk if he spoke English, but I wasn’t that lucky. Fortunately, asking “Onde????” and showing him the ticket was enough to get the point across. Evidentially, there was a gate change. So going to the right gate, I got on the right plane and it had no problems.
What a relief...
I was happy to see a man speaking English on the first row (I sat diagonal to him on the second row). He was from Las Vegas and visiting his fiancé in Salvador. Nice guy. He wasn’t an exchange student, but he fell in love with Brazil when he did the Semester at Sea program in college. We had a nice chat through the flight when I wasn’t cooing in broken Portuguese at the cute little toddler in the front row. Then as we walked out and toward the baggage claim, there were people waiting with bracelets and this instrument thingy that made a cool sound. Mr. Vegas said, “There go the Baianos!” so I guess that’s what they are called.
I got my bag, happy that it arrived even though is was a struggle to handle, and made my way out. Now it was time to meet my family. I walked out slowly, and tried to close my jacket a bit to make the Rotary logo more visible since it was open as the button decided to pop off earlier in São Paulo. (Uh-oh, am I getting fatter?) As I reach the end of the line, I hear a soft “She-ree-see?” I look and see a dark haired woman and a blonde little boy. This is my host mom and host brother!
I’m here! I’m really here!
My host mother went somewhere quickly, leaving me standing with my new brother. He said something, and I didn’t understand a single word. Yipes! Outsmarted by a 9 year old! Let’s restart this, I explained that I didn’t speak much Portuguese, and then asked what his name was, it took about 20 tries to pronounce it right.
Then my host mom came back and we were off to the car. On the ride home, I tried to hold a conversation with my limited Portuguese. It was very hard, but I got through! My pronunciation sucks! It seems books will only take you so far. I think I did well, especially since verb conjugation book, and big dictionary were in my other luggage that vanished, and I completely forgot my crutch…err…I mean phrase book!
My host brother is sooooo cute though. I never had a little brother before. I have nieces and nephews but they’re old enough to have more attitude than I can handle especially since they’re American :p.
When I got home, I was so pleased to see that the house is gorgeous! And there’s a hammock in the living room! I met my host father as he was building an amario? (closet with drawers?) In any case, I was tired, so I unpacked, took a shower, and went to sleep. The next day we would be going to the family’s other house.
In any case, what a day! Getting there is certainly half the fun!
And the moral of the story is that exchange students are nice but, bring nice pins and they will jump you!
Beijos, ~ Sherise or Shereesee now...I guess silent e’s don’t exist here...even words without e’s seem to get e’s at the end as shown by my brother’s attempt to say “cook”. He says “Cookeh” Soooo cute!
Day 2 I woke up, at about 6. My host cousin and roommate had arrived sometime during the night. But I just lay there in bed until the sun rose and then I got up and greeted my host mother. “Bom dia” is pretty to say. I should wake up before noon more often.
I took some picture of the house and host mom let me take a walk around the condominio. It is a nice place, a woman was up early taking a power walk. We are also next to a park and some empty area that they were using for a “festas” the night before. So I suppose Brazil was singing my arrival!
I walk around the whole neighborhood. There weren’t many people out since it was still pretty early. Also, it is a very guarded area with a automatic gate at the front, and a electric fence and/or a wall with broken glass on top surrounding the whole thing.
When I came back, I found out that it was father’s day here. I wish I had a good gift!
I wished him father’s day in in the Portuguese my little brother taught me moments earlier. Then we ate breakfast, and my host dad found my broken Portuguese and my host mother’s broken English very humorous. Afterwards I relaxed on the hammock and Leo (my host brother) wanted to show me something. I still have no idea what is was, I just smiled, nodded, and said yes.
Then I watch a bit of the Olympics until it was time to go to the beach house. It was very pretty like a home out of a magazine, and there was even a maid. There was a little black boy with about 6 years named Paulo, who I later found was adopted. He kept staring at me. I guess maybe because I look normal, but I speak so weird.
There was also 15 year old girl who goes to the school next to mine, and later came a young boy and a girl at 16 and 17. Also there was a woman who spoke English, since she was an exchange student to Minnesota. I feel bad for cheating, but she turned into my translator.
The highlight of the day was me eating an octopus and my host dad asking if I like it. Well it wasn’t bad, but my brother’s explanation that is was like bubble gum was a bit unsettling.
All the adult went to take a name while Leo and Paulo disappeared to the beach or something, leaving me with all these teen. It was an interesting and desperate conversation. Somehow despite their lack of English, they managed to ask me about George Bush.
Later we took a walk to the playground. And my host mom decided to go on this tire on a cord where you slide down. It was funny until the security guard told her to get off, then it was even more hilarious.
We came back and it was time to go. Leo fell asleep on me during the car ride, soooo cute! And now here I am typing three days worth of journals.
I hope my bag comes soon. I want my phrase book, real journal, and Bible. But I guess the fact that I got so far without my books is a feat in itself. Now, my next adventure is to figure out why this computer doesn’t like my digicam.
Well, até logo!
August 14 Journal
It was my first day of school today, so that meant I had to actually get up early for the first time all summer. So, to be safe, I got up even earlier than the suggested 6:15, so I think I got up at about 5:30! Since I took a bath the night before, I only had to just throw on some clothes and I was ready in about five minutes. So, with my extra time I went on the computer to go and find some more information about my school and bus route, but, of course, I can never stay on track when I go on the computer, so I just messed around until it was time for breakfast.
Soon enough, it was time to go. I thought that I had to take the bus, but I misunderstood. Fortunately, it would appear that either my host dad or host mom will be driving me to school in the morning, but I have to take the bus back.
Thankfully, spared from the walk and the nervous dread I would have to face in finding my stop, I hopped into my mom’s car and we were off. To my surprise, we stopped by a friend of Bianca’s, named Caline. I didn’t know we were making that stop, and I was wondering why we were going the wrong way!
Anyways, Caline is in Bianca`s class and she lives close, so I was simply supposed to follow her all day. Nevertheless, my host mom told me to pay attention in case I need to make the trip alone.
When we reached the school, we went inside and directly into the lion’s den classroom. I looked very lost, as I stumbled in quietly and hesitantly after Caline. The other students seemed pretty uninterested and didn’t pay me much mind other than a curious and brief glance as I passed by.
I tentatively took my seat, and sat there squirming with apprehension all the while. It was irritating. I like to be reasonably in control of things, but I’m here in Brazil—a country that I know very little about other than some shallow knowledge gleaned here or there from various sources before I left. But ultimately, I didn’t really know what to expect!
From what I heard, Brazilian school kids are loud, outgoing, immature, crazy, and unruly during school…yet here I was sitting with a bunch of quiet, well-behaved students, who were sitting pretty calmly and paying attention to the teacher and everything! Not really expecting that! Then suddenly, the teacher asked me something. I was not really paying attention, since the overload of words I had never heard before was going straight over my head, so I couldn’t even try to piece together what she said since by the time I realized she was addressing me, she was done. But apparently the timing was humorous since when I said “que?” it set off a round of boisterous and over-the-top laughter, and just like that I was thrust into the spotlight. If no one realized the intercambista was here, then they certainly knew now!
Nevertheless, it was not nearly as crazy as I had been led to believe. However, the incident set off a fuse.
We continued onward through the Portuguese lesson—it was something about poetry. The teacher handed out copies, and pretty much read from it, verbatim. It was then that I noticed that no one seemed to be bothered about bringing books. It was a relief, since I had no idea what classes I had, and all the books in Bianca’s room looked quite burdensome to carry.
In any case, I read a little, and I think I got the general idea of it, but not completely, since there was apparently a composition we were supposed to do. Fortunately, I was excused on account of how clueless I was! Eventually that class ended and well…remember the fuse metaphor? Well, one of the girls gestured for me to come outside.
It was all a big blur. I was being pulled every which way, introduced, hugged, kissed asked my name repeatedly and it was all very crazy. All the class breaks afterward went similar. And there were a lot of questions about celebrities and Britney Spears. Even the classes were like this, most of the day I was surrounded by a group of girls trying to meet me.
The chemistry teacher spoke English, so she kept saying something to shut up the class before turning around and proceeding to talk to me, which I found ironic and funny. But she was nice.
After that there was another break and I got the grand tour. It's a nice school. It has sports, music, dance, a stage downstairs, a recording studio, a pool, a food court, a shopping center, a university, and even a travel agency!
Back in class there was a quiz on some book or story called “Minha querida canibal”. I never heard of it , so while I understood the questions somewhat, I put out all kinds of nonsense answers like “Falsa, Europeans don’t eat people.” And “Eu nao sei!!! J Desculpa!”
Then there was lunch break. I didn’t want anything because I have little money left and I could always eat something at home for free. I met some more people like Bianca’s devoted boyfriend (he even wears a necklace with her name on it, how sweet!). Then a group of us hung out in the library a bit. Conversing was a mess, but at least I understood something every once in a while.
Oh, and my nail polish got a lot of compliments. I didn’t realize, pinkish-purple was such a hit! And they liked my watch too.
The last class was quick. They told me that the teacher is very sexy, and then others told me that he is gay. Of course, not that it matters to me, he’s not my type anyway. (But if he’s gay, then I’m CERTAINLY not his type, lol!) Anyway, I’m not sure he realized that I was even in the class. It was very noisy and crazy, and I don’t think he bothered teaching. He just kind of sat down. I was laughing to myself because the girls were moving their desks up close to the front. The boys stayed in the back and just talked and the remaining girls that were not infatuated just sort of sat back and played on their cell phones or iPods.
School ended and while out front, I handed out some business cards I had in my wallet which earned remarks of “Oxente!” and “que lindo!”
Then after buying my school shirt, I took the bus home with Caline and Flavia. I got a little more Portuguese practice, since she doesn’t know that much English.
After such a tiring day, I got home and took a nap!
Of course, I got up later and called my mom for the first time since I got here since my parents left for vacation in Grenada about the same time I left for Brazil, and they were pretty unreachable the whole time.
August 18 Journal
My second (Friday) and third (Monday) days of school were good considering that a bit of the initial novelty wore off a bit. But only a bit! Even on my third day I was still meeting teachers since they have some crazy block schedule. And then when the teachers finally note the existence of a kid they have never seen before then the whole class, doesn’t hesitate to yell out about how I’m American, so the teacher should speak English. Then at this point, the teacher usually sends this girl named Goas to translate, but usually, it was something so simple that it didn’t need translating.
Apparently, people like to introduce me as if I don’t know a single word in Portuguese. Oh well, then it just makes it impressive when I spit out a badly formed sentence. It gets really annoying though. A pet peeve of mine is being patronized. I’m not stupid. I do know a little bit of Portuguese, so stop introducing me like if I don’t even know how to say hi! All it is doing is making others scared to talk to me unless they speak English.
And those English speakers are hunters! They’ll find me in the darkest recesses of the school to say “Hi! Hower areh youu?” I hope I don’t have to take English class, that last thing I need is every single English speaker finding out that I’m here. I would rather take Spanish. Plus, I was learning a little in the US. My friend says it’s probably a differently level, but I don’t care, EVERYTHING here is on a different level! I’ve never seen a Philosophy class for 15 year old teens!
Nevertheless, I’m doing okay. I can read a bit, but listening to teachers is very difficult since I can’t seem to process all that Portuguese fast enough, so listening in class is a mess! And in conversations, I really am starting to get quite annoyed with talking to English speakers, when I ask them to repeat or talk slowly in Portuguese, they just say it in English so bad that the Portuguese was easier to understand!
Oh, in other news I went to a party on Saturday. It was really fun and I danced a lot. I danced a lot at the beginning, because it was a little bit dull since the party was just starting, so everyone was playing shy, so I hopped in the middle and started dancing to jump start things a bit. Then I found my new Spanish speaking dancing friend. Afterwards, more people got to the dance floor, and then all these cool songs in Portuguese with specific dances started coming on, and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing! However, it was still fun! I got away with it because I’m just the cute and clueless Americana. That came in handy since there was some dance that I did with some random boy with my class, and it turned out really, really bad! Hahaha! Then there was a random game of hide and seek thrown somewhere in there. I played, because you’re never too old for hide and seek! And running barefoot in the dark while wearing a dress? What’s the worst that can happen?
Anyways, the next day, we went to the grandparents'’ house. They are really nice. There were some other family members there and also, I got to see Joanna again, and she brought her cute little gerbil.
Well anyways, I think I’m adjusting pretty well. I know where the store is, and I know what bus to take home from school. I can figure out where everything is on the computer, and I know where all the keys are hiding on the keyboard! Now to get back to the Portuguese-speaking world!
November 2 Journal
It has been about three months since I made those first tentative steps into the world of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. I have had my high and low points over these last few months but I still would not trade it for anything. I love being an exchange student. Or better yet, I love being an intercambista!
Then again—I’m still working on my transition into Brasileira. Most people would say I already have the look down. Brazil has more people of African descent than most people realize or the media shows, and then on top of that, I was sent to Bahia with the highest percentage of people of African descent since Salvador was formerly one of the main ports for the Portuguese slave trade. Also, Salvador was the original capital of Brazil. It is a city full of history and culture. I took a wrong bus once, and I got to see the fascinating views of the colonial buildings with the mix of the modern people bustling up and down the streets to conduct their oh-so-important business and once in a while stopping at one of the Afro-Brazilian women in the traditional Salvador dress who serve this food called Acarajé.
Even with my ability to blend in, it has still been nothing short of an ongoing adventure with my “great” Portuguese. Especially, when people ask me for directions—this seems to happen without fail. And then I usually don’t realize that they are talking to me until they finish the sentence and are looking at me and wondering if I’m deaf or retarded. I’ll usually ask them to repeat, thinking that my accent would give away that I’m not from here and they’ll go away, but no, I look like a Bahiana therefore I simply MUST be a Bahiana! That’s all there is to it! It’s a hit or miss, sometimes I can answer their question, sometime I can’t, sometimes I can’t figure out what they’re saying and they’ll get fed up and run off. One time, this lady repeated about 5 times before saying (in Portuguese, of course) something along the lines of “My God! What’s wrong with you, it’s like you speak English or something!” Followed by her grabbing her bag and friend and stomping off in a dramatic fashion.
And I still don’t really understand my host brother—but I don’t think anyone does. All I know, is that the annoyingness of a little brother can transcend language barriers.
In any case, most of my time here involves school. I wake up early every day, but it is in vain because my host parents run on Brazilian standard time which is a bit like normal time, except at LEAST an hour late. When I finally do show up, it is still very difficult. I don’t really understand much of the lectures, and then things like Physics or Chemistry completely elude me no matter what language it's in! Furthermore, it has been quite an adjustment—I knew I’d be in a class of younger people. Previous exchange students warned me, but I didn’t expect 15 year olds! I think they are even more immature than American 15 year olds! And class regularly descends into pandemonium (and they love to laugh—loudly.). It makes me wonder where they get the time to learn anything and pass their tests especially when school ends at noon, and they still get an hour long break during the day to eat. But I suppose it’s not so bad, although the boy/girl-craziness can really drive me insane. They seem to be in love with being in love!
The school itself is pretty cool. Every week there’s a live concert where we eat lunch. Also for the science classes, sometimes we get to put on these fancy lab coats and go into the adjoined University (Faculdade Jorge Amado) and do experiments. Although, I’m a bit nervous trusting some of those crazy boys with chemicals and acids during the Chemistry labs. Also as part of school we are required to do a sport. Originally, I wanted to do capoeira, but since they didn’t offer it this year, I opted for volleyball. We are terrible but it is still fun.
Outside of school, I still managed to do some capoeira lesson. I go to the same place as this other exchange student from Eugene, Oregon. I’m not that good yet, but the little I know looks pretty cool in my opinion.
I’ve also joined the Interact club which is a community service type deal. Me and the other two exchange students that go (Greg from Canada, and Kevin from Germany) are always so lost in the meetings and the Portuguese and clanging bells (Rotary loves those bells!) completely goes over our heads
Recently we had the Interact Forum in Lauro de Freitas (city just north of Salvador) and it was so fun! I got to see the other exchange students from this district for the first time since orientation and also got to see the late newcomers. In addition to that, there were all the other Brazilian Interact members too, so it was a nice large crowd of people to meet. And at some point I ended up dancing in front of everyone and getting a standing ovation. Ah! Good times! There were also the presentations that I tried to help the newcomer exchange student from Michigan understand (she only arrived in Brazil the night before), but it was more like the blind leading the blind. And then my favorite part was the Festa de Brega which was some tacky clothes party. Tons of fun! My new friends Flávia and Rafael got to teach me the Brazilian dances of Funk, Arrocha, and Forró. I miss that weekend!
Besides that, I haven’t done much with them yet, since most of my adventures are in trying to get there in the first place since it’s pretty darn far. But I’m used to that. I’ve been living in bairro (neighborhood/district in Salvador) of Stella Maris, and EVERYTHING is far from me except the beach. We don’t even have our own post office so I’d have to go to the next bairro over to Itapuã. Furthermore, I use the bus, and that leads to so many adventures…
Aside from that my life isn’t thaaaaat busy. Sometimes I go to a festa or a show, but it’s hard since I can never get someone to drive me, and I’m not crazy enough to use the bus in the middle of the night here. Salvador is great, but I still have to be careful.
Anyways, that’s all for now.
In the words of a popular song, “Tchau, I have to go now, I have to go now! Tchau!”
Shoreesa? One day, I’ll be plain old Sherise again.
January 28 Journal
I’m quite alive and well and I have survived the holiday season away from my natural family—but that is not to say that I didn’t miss everyone like crazy! I was with “saudades” as we say in Brazil (Which is like “longing”). Throughout all of this I certainly have had a bit of extra time since I am on Summer vacation at the moment with the lovely reversed seasons under the equator. So, I filled my days with laziness around the house, walks on the beach with no particular aim in mind, bus trips, hanging out with friends, going to the mall and being broke with about 10 reais left in my pocket (which is about $5 US at the moment).
But Thanksgiving was certainly hard. It was the first Thanksgiving away from family, turkey, and all the mouthwatering side dishes. I was perfectly homesick that day and home alone on top of that, so I couldn’t resist whipping out the headset and taking a little Skype trip to my family in the US—all the while hoping the internet would not randomly die again. To everyone’s delight, I got through in all the webcam glory and I got the chance to show off my newly acquired Brazilian dancing skills (which are actually quite horrid by the way).
But after my little Thanksgiving regression, I was back into my life in Brazil. And by the end of the month, my district had the interviews for the selection outbound exchange students for 2009-2010. And to my surprise, my fellow inbounds in Salvador and I would be the ones asking the questions. The poor kiddies were so nervous, and it was so weird to interview some of my own friends! But during that, me and the Rotex (who was former exchange student to Australia) were certainly having fun. Including an attempt to get at least one of the more confident interviewees to charm us with a solo. Overall, we learned a valuable lesson about giving me and an equally crazy Rotex authority and putting us in the same room. But in retrospect, if we are going to use the same questions in English from the Rotary website, we should have probably translated ahead of time. Apparently, the word “role-model” does not translate well to Portuguese.
Shortly afterward, it was time to change houses. How weird after I got so used to my other house. I didn’t move very far from my original location, though. I was still far from the main city area—technically, even farther. In any case, the family is very nice. Their eldest daughter is currently doing an exchange in Michigan, and their youngest daughter of two years is sooo cute! Although, I guess this means no more epic samurai battles with my host brother from the first house. I’ll be trading in my karate for tea cups and Barbies. The parents are nice—pretty goofy at times too. My only complaint is their most unfortunate adoration of olives. Yuck! But besides that, really cool, and the dad’s going to teach me how to play the guitar…this could be interesting, or potentially dangerous for that guitar.
Oh, and my name changed again. Now it’s something like Cheh-rees since my dad is determined not to just pronounce it the Brazilian way. I never thought my name would be so complicated! Sher-ise. But I’ll answer to them all. It’s all a lot better than my nickname at school—“Xorica” which is basically “Public Display of Affection” in Portuguese (it wasn’t an earned nickname, by the way! Just a play off the pronunciation of my name).
After finishing off November and the beginning of my vacation, I found December to be a very busy month. It started off with more volunteering with the Interact Club. We were planning a Christmas party for an orphanage and it was really fun when the day came. Although, I managed to get tackled by a bunch of kids, and told that I make a scary clown after making the mistake of letting Alexember do my make up. That aside, it was a major success and everyone was deeply touched by my impromptu solo of Jingle Bells and giving complimentary German lessons with the student from Germany (sure…I don’t speak German, but that’s beside the point!)
Then I went on to take two trips out of town back to back.
The first was to Lençóis in the hilly interior area of Bahia. Our group consisted of 7 exchange students and 2 Brazilians. It was a ton of walking and hiking up hills, and to cliffs and water falls, but the views were amazing! And considering that I’m not very nature-y, that’s saying a lot. My favorite part was to actually swim in the waterfalls. Some of us took the extra initiative and found some nice high rocks to jump from. It was such a fun week! After all that hiking and jumping from rock to rock while hoping I didn’t fall into some dark abyss, I was so tired! But I had to force myself to find some more energy anyway, to explore the small town during the evenings. By the last night, me and one of the German exchange students were so tired that we plopped down at some restaurant in the town center, and refused to budge the whole night—instead opting to order more drinks and explore the tropical juice menu so that the restaurant wouldn’t kick us out. The other members of our group came and left various time usually amazed by the fact that we were still there. Eventually, they got so fed up with our sitting that they conspired against us and dragged us away kicking and screaming. I can imagine what a sight that must have been to the poor unsuspecting Brazilians. Especially, since the German and I coincidentally look the most Brazilian of our group, so it must have appeared quite strange to the locals that these gringos were randomly assaulting some Brazilians. I’m sure the waiter was the most confused since we didn’t even order anything alcoholic, but alas, exchange students are always weird.
But anyways, it was beautiful!
When I finally got back to Salvador, it was only long enough to wash my clothes and pack again. This time it was with my host family to my father’s home town of Nova Canaã. It’s a very small town more inland again. So, early morning on the 24th of December, I was shoving my recently washed clothes right back into my bag. And at about 9 we left, but not before a humorous session of “where are the keys?” Then we embarked on our journey which took about 9 hours in total. It would have been shorter, but we stopped to buy oranges, buy a table, eat a full sized Brazilian lunch (which are huge, by the way), run out of gas, and when my poor little sister got carsick. It was quite a change from my usual road trips with my mom and dad back in the US. Especially, since my real dad doesn’t stop the car for ANYTHING, leaving me to learn that I should not eat, drink, or even dream of him stopping the car until we reach our destination, or he will speed off from a gas station without me (again…)
In any case, we got there in time to celebrate Christmas Eve and we spent Christmas and New Years there with his quite sizeable family. It was definitely a real small town. Everyone know everyone and the favorite pastime of everyone seemed to be going to the town square. Almost everything was in walking distance since anything further was farmland. But if you didn’t want to walk, there were plenty of motorcycles, and a waiting fleet of moto-taxis, instead of regular cabs and city buses I had become so used to seeing in Salvador. In addition, it was not an odd sight to see someone walk by on a horse, it was a pretty rural area after all with plenty of farms and ranches. I got to see plenty of horses, cattle, chickens, and the like. I even got to ride horses a lot, which was really fun! During the evenings I usually got taken to the town center, and one time to the neighboring town Iguai. There was a show going on at the time, so I got to watch a little. I saw another two shows in Nova Canaã since they were having this big party/concert thingy. So I got to make some pitiful attempts at Forró (which is a dance) - maybe one day I’ll stop sucking at it, but seeing how little improvement I’ve made on that during 4 months, it’s doubtful.
In any case, it was really cool being there too. And I think we stayed about 15 days. His family was very receptive and made no hesitation to drag me around places. Oh, and the views were great! The hilly horizons made for a very picturesque scene as my father, uncle, and I rode horses through the area.
And some of you are probably wondering how holidays work in Brazil. Well, for Thanksgiving, no one really celebrates it. The big holidays are Christmas and New Years! Although, it was a change of pace to not have a tall live pine tree, like I usually do back home. But they usually at least set up a little tree in the living room. I saw a lot of Christmas lights all over, though. By Christmas Eve, I was in Nova Canaã, where we celebrated by singing the very long Brazilian version of Happy Birthday, and then eating.
For New Years, we ate some more. It was the first time I didn’t do a countdown, but I don’t think anyone had an accurate watch, and we couldn’t countdown with the rest of the country on the TV, since Bahia has a different time zone. After many attempts for people to explain, I still cannot grasp why, so I’ll just go with “Bahia felt like being different and confusing travelers.”
Eventually, it was time to leave and make that lonnnngggg drive back to Salvador. But this time we took a detour and took the ferry-boat from the Itaparica Island, which is an island between the main peninsula area of Salvador, and the rest of Bahia. So we parked the car on the boat, and then we could go walk around on top as it headed to Salvador. It was great timing since the sun was setting, so I got to enjoy that view of orangey clouds and the cityscape. I just wish I had my camera!
When I returned to Salvador, I slipped back into my summery lifestyle of beaches and relaxing, as well as hanging out with some of the other exchange students that I hadn’t seen in months despite being in the vicinity. We even got to meet up with one of the big groups of exchange students that were currently touring the Northeast of Brazil. It was great, I even saw a girl who was on the same huge flight as me. She recognized me because all those months ago I gave her one of my increasingly famous “I love/Eu amo Sherise” face pins. Then I got to hear all their adventures on the bus, including some freaky rash. All in all, it was really cool to see other exchange students from all over Brazil. Hopefully, I get to take the big tour of Amazon and get a bunch of bus stories too (minus the weird infections as I will be stocking up on sanitizer and watching out for lice. Ick!).
Anyways, that’s all for now. See? I’m alive! And on my way to a big show called Festival de Verão at the end of January and then Carnival in February.
Pictures coming soon when I find an internet connection in Brazil that likes me.
March 11 Journal
Well, this isn't so much a journal, but a photo dump of 40+ pictures with my commentary.
Teacher: Now let’s move on to the Revolution that occurred in Russia. Here’s a picture depicting—
Random Student: Carnaval?
I couldn’t make these moments up if I tried…
And also let me take this opportunity to explain Carnaval in Brazil which is the infamous huge week long party that happens in Brasil each February.
Carnaval in Salvador is actually the biggest in the world and consistently gets the Guinness World Record. The Carnaval in Salvador is nothing like the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro—that more foreigners know for the large and colorful floats and competing samba schools. Rather, the Carnaval Salvador is about the people participating instead of just watching and going "how pretty" like other places *cough*Rio*cough*. As a matter of fact, walking around during Carnaval, one can find many people from other parts of Brazil—especially Rio. I can even quote some Cariocas (which is the name for people from Rio) who say they prefer Carnaval in Salvador.
In Salvador, Carnaval takes up miles of street where people and large trucks go slowly down each day partying into the wee hours of the morning before resting up and starting again. The trucks are called “trio electronicos” and on each of them there is a different singer or band that performs all night, every night.
People have these options in Carnaval Salvador.
1. Run away. This is not for the faint of heart. That is why this is a set aside holiday including days off from school. Quite a few people take this opportunity to vacation in other, calmer parts of Brazil.
2. Stay home. Others that don’t want to leave the city, but are not the partying type or don’t feel up to the traffic and crowds can always just stay home. Carnaval is broadcasted live on the local channels, giving people a chance to see without descending into the madness.
3. Camarotes. People can stay in camarotes which are the set aside sections high up and away from the Carnaval revelers. They’re pretty expensive, but safer, so that the people who can afford them can safely watch the action from above. Not the best option if you want to dance, since it can get crowded towards the front, and people get mad if you move. This is really preferred by the people who want to sit far away from the action but still say they were there…they probably should have gone to Rio.
4. Blocos. People can also join a bloco, like I did, which is the roped off section of people that walk by the trucks. When you join this you get a t-shirt called an “abadá” for each day. But since these shirts are so huge and ugly, people usually get creative and cut them up, which helps since it gets SO HOT in the middle of the crowds. There is usually a different performer for each day so people usually buy the abadás for whatever bloco has their favorite singers or even mix-and-match different bloco days, but since I had to go with the Rotary group and only got to go 3 days, I didn’t get to choose. But it was fun anyway. We start from the beginning of the route and walk beside the truck as it slowly makes its way up the route. All the while everyone is dancing as whatever singer is on that truck is performing. Wear sneakers! They keep going until dawn. But if you pay a little extra, you can get the VIP shirts that give you the option of going on the trucks, and partying from there. (Or you could just “know a guy” and get in free like we did.) In my opinion, the truck is the best way to roll, especially with the performer right there in front of you!
5. Pipoca. Finally, you can be in the pipoca which are just the rest of the crowds that gather around without being in a bloco or camarote. It’s just as fun, but even more dangerous, since basically all bets are off. Moving through the thick crowds is a task, and when you see the crowd parting quickly, it is time to move since that means the Carnaval police are coming, and if you don’t move, they’ll move you. You don’t want to upset the Carnaval police, but at least they’re effective at keeping the peace even though, ironically, they are hardly peaceful. It reminds me of the storming of the castle during the Russian Revolution too…