the joy of la jolla 📸 family vacation means generations x-z at the beach, around the table for dinner, and about town all week. how the humble iphone has become a constant companion to all these simple activities in the past 20 years is a frequent topic of conversation. i am the median age in the family. i’m happy to have younger cousins to run down to the beach with, phones out at sunset with not an ounce of self-consciousness about taking turns running through angles and poses. but i also remember no phones and nokia phones and feel swayed by the elders’ casual argument that life would be clearer without all the posting, posturing, and following. technology connects and divides us in ways i can’t wrap my head around. but the light of a sunset, a genuine smile, and time to eat, chill and beach together always feels like a good thing- choose any filter you like 💕
sometimes i think to ask “what is the best coffee you’ve ever had?” is another way of asking “where is your favorite place in the world?”
because costa rica or italy seems like a pretty good answer to either question, and coffee universally has a flavor profile of “bitter and slightly acidic”.
this coffee is from bluestone lane in montauk, a seasonal outpost of a national chain. i find @bluestonelane very dark, strong coffee and used to habitually choke a cup down at one of their midtown locations around 2pm everyday for the coffee’s ‘stimulating effect in humans’.
somehow, though, on a driftwood bench on the end of long island, getting to know an adorable english lab (and her harrowing survival story after chasing a fishing line), this quotidian brew become a contender for “world’s best coffee” ❤️ could just be the switch to oat milk though .
summer in the hamptons is my favorite neighborhood in new york city 🍎 when i first moved to new york, i really coveted ALL the rhony glamour and beach house invites the hamptons represented to me. i wanted to know every “hamlet”, spot, and beach there was and there weren’t enough weekends in the summer to find out!
but even if there was enough time, the hamptons is a question of access on every level- securing a house, an invite, a dinner reservation, a seat on the train! running has always given me an interesting answer to these questions.
there was the hamptons marathon, where i stayed in the absolute dodgiest airbnb in east hampton for the ‘glory’ of an almost 5 hour marathon through the wineries and sand dunes and salty train ride back.
there was the bridgehampton half where the old adage “the jitney always runs late” almost cost me a DNS. *
then the mighty hamptons tri, where the attitude of “just try” turned into a lovely late summer weekend, clips-ins be damned! *
and all the runs in between which led to the discovery of some tasty breakfast sandwiches, hither hills state park and were critical training miles beside.
all of this to say is, i’ll be moving my humble little feet for as long as i can - by walk, run, bike or other because it has always been my vehicle for discovering new places and a new side of things, even in the glossy and impenetrable HAMPTONS —
“jitney” = the nickname of the private bus service that runs from manhattan to the hamptons
“DNS” = “Did Not Start” - the official race result when you do not make it to the starting line of a race, (DNF= Did Not Finish)
Clip-ins = cycling shoes and the corresponding clip in pedals, I completed my first trip without them, making things a bit harder than they needed to be!
Can a good run change your life?
I tend to think so. When I remember the sun setting on my first Comrades marathon (it took me over 11 hours), I really had the feeling part of me died with the sun that day and I was reborn on the bus back to Durban.
I remember the first time I ran for a full hour. It was with my friend Melissa at cross country practice. Our strict coach said we could run whatever we felt like, and instead of taking the day off, we actually ran longer than we ever had and finished very proud of ourselves.
And I remember the day I decided to “run to work” from the Rockaways. I mapped out the distance, the painfully early time I would have to wake up, and the subway I would need to connect to the Brooklyn Bridge – and I woke up and did it, which felt like a fearsome adventure for a Tuesday morning. Then it turned into a habit that trained me for the Comrades marathon.
Let’s call that the first loop.
Lately, running 5 miles everyday- at any pace – feels like a big challenge. I tend to dream in point to points (think Durban to Maritzburg or Canterbury to Rome!) but some days “learning to run again” feels so daunting.
So I start out with laps around the house so I can get to a half mile while keeping the option of quitting and going home as real as possible. But by then, I am already sweating a little. I feel like I might as well make my run longer than the shower I need to take when I stop, so I go up the road. I make turns and run back, subconsciously avoiding hills, checking my phone every 100thof a mile to make sure it’s adding up to something.
By the time I am about halfway to the distance I want to run, I can starting with the “one more’s”. Just make it to the third mile, crawl to that finish line, and then it’s the 4th, you can end at the 5th.It’s okay if you stop to take a picture of the bunny (run, rabbit run!), or the sunset, just keep going no matter how long it takes. By the end, I’ve made it 5 miles running. Somehow at exactly 5.01 miles I am at home or in front of the coffee shop for a celebratory drink.
When it’s over, I look at the tangled map my GPS has made. Circles that loop and overlap and cross all over town, never too confidently venturing out. I feel the tension that has slipped away somewhere in all that huffing and puffing.
The sun is setting, it’s a run that almost didn’t happen, but it did. Is it a run at all, or just a steady jog, a sunset knot, the thing to keep my running dreams together for today.
What are some of your most memorable runs and what would you call them?
“As we passed on, it seemed those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have an end” - Meriwether Lewis
From Teton National Park, we passed into YELLOWSTONE, a place that, like most of Americans, seems to have been programmed into my first memory map of the world, although I hadn’t been until now.
Despite the vague passion I’ve kind of always had for Yellowstone as a U.S. citizen, I really had little idea before entering the park of the treasures and wonders to come.
Like when was the last time you thought about blue geysers, bubbling turquoise and sulfur smoke?
Walking through the geysers of West thumb on a wooden boardwalk felt like an extra terrestrial experience. I read each plaque posted by the park service to try to make sense of this strange world. The explanations were simple, and seemed to emphasize the improbable heartiness of the tiny, invisible living organisms -“thermophiles” that actually thrived in these boiling hot geological spots.
“Can you imagine living in boiling temperatures?” the simple text read, and really I couldn’t. It was strange to even feel the wafts of steam from the geysers that blew into my face in every direction on this cold day.
It even rained a bit while we drove out to the breathtaking Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
The plaques surrounding this breathtaking valley noted it was a scene often painted yet scarcely captured. Our own souvenir was an impressionistic one, we spent just a few minutes at the lookout point as the cloudy sky broke into raindrops.
Then the rain cleared.
The road gave way to its own attractions. Sudden traffic threatened to derail our plans to see the next scenic site on our itinerary.
When we turned the corner we saw why- a giant herd of Buffalo shared the road for half mile with the cars of gobsmacked visitors, like us, in their camper vans. It was good day.
“let me be a free man. free to travel, free to stop.” - chief joseph, nez perce
Last week, I packed my tiny suitcase and hopped on an Amtrak train bound for Boston, Massachusetts. Or as one old cowboy I later met would call it- Boston, Connecticut.
I was headed for Wyoming, in a round-about way that would take me through Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston on my way out west.
My itinerary was part of my new travel “trick”, looking for flights in a huge radius of airports, which decreases the cost of tickets by increasing total travel time. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the past few weeks - I have the time- and I love a good train ride!
(And as a practical matter, connecting from the train to the airport in Boston is very simple by public transport on the T)
So there I was, waiting for my first flight to Salt Lake City on a rainy day in Boston Logan. I watched “The Inventor” on the plane, which I enjoyed so much I started in on the book, “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou).
Then we were in Utah. The view out the window looked like “Big Sky Country” to me, although I was still a Wyoming away from Montana- but more on that later.
From Salt Lake City, I flew one hour into Jackson Hole - the most beautiful landing of all as the sunset colors filtered through the clouds and the wings of the plane teetered into the mountains.
Upon disembarking, an arc of antlers welcomed passengers to Jackson Hole airport, a tiny place that was more like a ski lodge with a baggage carousel than an airport.
From there, I caught up with one of my best friends from college and we drove into the small town, where we stopped for warm tea and soup and needled our waiter for travel suggestions - “Cathedrals” - the nickname for the highest points on the Tetons - proved a baffling one.
The next morning, we set out early - grabbing breakfast burritos, fixings for a picnic lunch, and a photo in Jackson Town Square. Then we pointed the rental car to Grand Tetons National park. Within a five minute drive, we were stunned by a first look at the Tetons.
We stopped at some amazing views, as well as landmark attractions like “Mormon Row”. a historic settlement now home to a delightful colony of prairie dogs. We tripped in the holes they made and laughed at their shrill “barks”.
Many times, we just stopped to take photos, everyplace we drove through was a picture. It was like this we came upon Jackson Lake.
But it was another lake named Jenny where we spent most of the day. We parked outside the ranger station and set off on a well-trafficked hike around the lake and up to “Inspiration Point”.
Out of habit, I took a backpack. We put our phones, wallets and water in the outer pocket. But most of the effort of carrying the pack and its weight came from the pairs of high heels I had last-minute packed in the backpack for part II of the trip (the Montana wedding).
Between a few pairs of chunky wedges, the altitude, and the uphill portion of the hike, at least I broke a sweat.
On the way back, we stopped at a massive waterfall, where I swear I saw a beaver or huge marmot dart by in the woods. The other wildlife was mostly big, prairie-dog looking chipmunks, who we ruefully forgot the peanuts for on the top of Inspiration Point.
But no matter, we had our own picnic to attend to. The provisions we had picked up in Jackson Hole had survived the car ride, and we briefed ourself on bear safety before setting up a scenic lakeside picnic.
I think it was about this time last year I was hiking to Cap Blanc Nez and taking mental notes on the windy, effortless kind of picniques the French were setting up with baguette, a bottle of champagne and a wheel of cheese.
With this in mind we had made our selections - a bit of local goat cheese, a (half) baguette (because we are not French women and can, in fact, “get fat”), prosciutto (maybe an unorthodox painting, but provided a kind of improvised charcuterie for the plastic knife set) and a bar of dark chocolate to split for dessert. In retrospect, perhaps the whole picnic shopping list was a nod to the kinds of things I ate hiking the Via Francigena - goat cheese and baguette in France, Chocolate in Switzerland and Prosciutto and tomato in Italy.
Thankfully, the most famous element of a lunch in the American West, the picnic-crashing bear (think Yogi Bear in Jellystone National Park), was nowhere to be found this time, and we made it to our next stop, Yellowstone, in fine shape.
“Surprise is key in all art.”
- Oscar Niemeyer
Today, I picked up a little packet from the local pharmacy labeled with my last name- and filled with 40 slick 4x6 photos.
Pictures- all the result of spontaneous point and shoots from a disposable camera I brought to Brazil.
Some came out better than I hoped - all dark with a little light shining on something special- a quizzical face, the brim of a hat, an electric blue skyline with a few bulbs out.
Others were a complete disaster, grainy and too dark to see anything- a collection of hands around an iphone, an unidentified nose.
The best ones reminded me of old friends. Not old friends in the regular sense, but fast friends that I made, just in Rio for a week or the end of a trip. People that just by coincidence, perhaps in relation to the density of umbrellas posted on a beach in a particular moment, became acquaintances, friends, a photograph on the 40-film roll.
The photos make me feel a kind of nostalagia- they are mostly warm and fuzzy, after all, but mostly content. For all the dark, unreadable faces and almost identical landscapes, I still feel they captured something special.
They have a certain grace that I would like to look at more things with. They weren’t shot with the precision and perfectionism of a digital camera and the benefit of a million instantly tweakable takes, they just are what they, faithful evidence to the sunny days and nothing more - that’s the magic.
“we’re in the village. you’re free! live!” marsha p. johnson
yesterday saw an unknown number of miles, because, well, my phone died, but if I had stopped to find a charger maybe I wouldn’t have reached Avenue D in time for a Wednesday night run with Bridgerunners. It has been at least a whole year since I ran with this group. It’s always a funny thing, to start a run at 7:30PM, but yesterday was a day where I saw how it would make the difference between getting a run in or not, so I followed my little voice that said G-O!
as the sun lowered on my walk to the east side, I fantasized a little bit about missing the start time and walking around instead with the perfect chunk of time to find an ice cream shop in a new neighborhood. have you ever heard of the running comic “the blurb”? i can relate.
but actually, I made fine time to join the run. I felt shy, slow, unsure, but I was already there, so it was time to try. I took of my sneakers and made some stretching motions. I wasn’t late at all.
When the rhythm of pounding pavement took over, I was in the the back. I felt right way I would be one of the slowest, but I enjoyed the old feeling of the group carrying me. I didn’t even thinking about stopping, and something naturally kept me at the back of the pack but without separating. Well, a natural pacing instinct, and the fact everyone is nice and will wait up for you when you run slowly.
The first stop was a giant mural for pride month I barely noticed passing the same block the day before. I caught my breath and smiled at the colors and the scale. We took a group picture carefully arranged to crop out the “Burger King” signs adjacent.
We moved on and stopped in a park with paper-mache looking figures. I recognized it from a documentary about Marsha P. Johnson, it was the first public monument in NYC devoted to gay activists in the history of this neighborhood. What neighborhood were we in?
The perimeter of the park was covered in pride flags. We crossed the street and were standing in front of the Stonewall Inn. Wow!
Before this year, I think I had passed the Stonewall, or maybe heard of its name in passing, but didn’t realize the significance. It wasn’t until I was in Rio de Janeiro that I realized the significance at all. A Chilean promoter was passing out flyers.
“You’re from New York?” he said.
“I’m dying to go to New York, this year is world pride and it’s going to be huge, it’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall”.
I nodded my head, but I didn’t know that, I had to google what happened at Stonewall.
When I came back to New York, I watched a whole PBS documentary on Stonewall, so by last night, I was ready.
Just in front of the bar’s facade, strung with Christmas lights as a matter of course and rainbow flags in honor of the month, was a woman speaking on camera. A small crowd was gathered around. The leader of bridge runners simply asked her to speak to us about the history and significance of the place, and this woman - the executive editor of Out magazine, also introduced by the small crowd as a community legend and clearly someone with a million places to be - did just that!
She graciously gave us an explanation of how things popped off in 1969 at Stonewall during a regular police raid, how at that time LGBQT people were literally “policed”, and how the protesters of that time started the movement that goes on today. She name checked some heroes of Stonewall - Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, for further reference. And she spoke of what’s going on today - as protestors demand answers for Layleen Polanco, a trans woman who died in custody at Riker’s Island this month.
We ran on and I began to feel some heat in my lungs - this was definitely faster than the 11-minute pacing I had been easing back into running with. We reached the highland and trotted up the stairs, ran through a Dasani campaign, and missed the sunset by a minute.
I pulled my hoodie up over my ears and walked with salty face to the train. I hadn’t even kept up for the full 6 miles, but I learned and lived a little on Wendnesday. I was not upset that I chose to run that night.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” - Thomas Edison
As the title of this blog suggests, I love to run. Figuratively and literally. The origin of the “places to run to” phrase is the song “American Girl” by Tom Petty. Who knows if Tom’s subject was literally a marathoner, but running is such a great and casual metaphor for a way of living, a state of being. Like what it means to be “running down a dream”. Or one of my other favorite phrases of all time, a quote attributed to Jimi Hendrix - “If I’m free, it’s ‘cause I’m always running”.
It seems like if my metaphorical running peaked in the past year of planes, trains, and public buses, my literal running lagged behind.
I started the Via Francigena almost a year ago, with the idea I would run a lot of it, reach Rome, and run the Berlin marathon a few weeks later.
I didn’t know what I was getting into.
I can’t say I regret my under preparedness for the Via Francigena - it’s getting out there that changes your life and there was so much magic in the uncertainty of things, so much living in the exact moment. However, my expectation that I would run long distances with my backpack was never fully realized. I’m very grateful to have finished the course how I did, with 1,800km of walking, strong arms from borrowed poles, and a little belly from loads and loads of Nutella and croissants (after all this a French/Italian way).
But I felt like I fell short of my some of my goal, and more, lost a strong sense of identity that I had with running.
In some ways, this was happy. At times my idolatry of the sport of running made me feel isolated from other people and left me wondering what I would do if I was ever laid up without the physical ability to run.
I think the fall and winter following the Via Francigena I found out. I was sometimes depressed with the rhythm I found in those few months; a sedentary job, cold weather, and mysterious back pain. I started crying again for the first time in while. But maybe unlike previous bouts with these feelings, I already knew what life could be- different.
You can always only do what you can. So since I couldn’t run or stick to a full-time schedule of sunshine and distance sports, I focused on taking care of myself in ways I didn’t when I was walking or spending all my free time running. Baths, nail polish, moisturizer, perfume, make-up, girly stuff I didn’t make time for before! Also during this time, I applied for many ESL teaching positions, and a Brazilian visa (pretty simple but with the uncertainty of something new and unknown). Even if I couldn’t run, I was determined to feel good and move forward.
I brought my skateboard to Brazil. I knew I would be in the landlocked mountains of Rio, so I imagined I would find my peace on the pavement this way. What literally shocked me was that the worst part of my old injuries - inflammation and back spasms- would flare up almost immediately upon settling into Petropolis. So running and skating on the bumpy cobblestone mountain roads wasn’t exactly feasible. I finally limped on a bus to Rio to check out the surfing. I barely had the flexibility to pop up anymore but the ocean water felt healing. I found my rhythm on the road to Rio, going back and forth on the public bus that once seemed so scary. I traveled further and made myself familiar with the airports of Rio too. My physical body could cooperate or not, I was just as stubborn and on the move as I had ever been in marathon days.
For everything that happened and didn’t happen during this time, eventually, I gained the confidence to run again.
I casual conversation over the smell of smoke and the sound of guitar rifts outside the hostel planted one seed. A girl I was speaking with mentioned how she would run 3 kilometers and feel winded after taking time off from sports. It’s weird, but I never, ever thought of going for a 3 kilometer run. Such a tiny distance, in my past life I wouldn’t think it was worth doing laundry! But suddenly, it sounded like the perfect challenge for me. So I did.
A few days later, I tested the water with 5k that felt long as hell, and sent my back into fits the next morning. I got the umpteenth opinion from a holistic French doctor- “flat feet”.
Finally, something I could work with. And recently, I have been working a bit. I have put 22 miles on my new sneakers for flat feet so far, and it feels as nice as any 26.2 so far. I know what it’s like now to have the fear of old injuries, and the frustration of things that you can’t just push through.
I know what it’s like to feel happy with an 11 minute pace.
And most importantly, when I run I remember all the good things running showed me - making a happy life that starts with just breathing, having patience and faith in the process of becoming, and the consistent happiness of being in a warm body - that is, alive.
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
- Albert Camus
Have you ever heard of a DIY- layover?
It’s exactly what is sounds like- self-electing for a short trip in an in-between city while you make your way to a final destination.
If it doesn’t appeal to you, don’t feel like this a travel tip. I just want to tell you what it was like to go from Connecticut > Montreal > Paris instead of following the traffic south and booking a direct flight from JFK.
I have always had *a little* interest in seeing Montreal. Unexpectedly, my time in Brazil compounded this interest. There are currently about 40,000 Brazilians living in Canada, and I seemed to meet a lot of people in Brazil with an affinity for our neighbor to north.
“It’s like America, without the bad stuff”
I remember someone summarizing a Brazilian perspective on Canada with a shrug.
“Luiza esta no Canada!” I understood a popular Brazilian meme enough to laugh out loud.
And in another way, I was generally inspired by the land-roving itineraries of the travelers I met in South America. Argentinians that loved discovering Brazil, their neighbor to north. Germans who took 14 hour buses or Bla Bla cars to hit a neighboring country while they were on the continent.
I never thought Uruguay and Brazil were one in the same for sharing a border, so why did I feel like I knew Quebec already because it was next to the U.S. on a map?
All of this was shifting and settling about the same time I was trying to find the most economical option to travel to a wedding in Europe.
Flight deals are so great until they’re not.
Curiously, when I played around with the options I found that flights from Montreal to Paris were roughly half the price of their counterparts from JFK.
And there was a cost-friendly (albeit very long and poorly reviewed on a travel advisor) amtrak train that ran all the way through New York state, starting at Penn Station, to Montreal. I roped in my long-time accomplice and older brother to help me make the northbound train from a stop upstate, and it was decided.
Even with my weak mathematics, I felt certain this plan was all in was cheaper and way more fun than overpaying from the flight I would typically take from JFK because I waited too late to book.
And it was!
So I boarded that train bright-eyed and 60 pages deep in a book about the history of French by two Qubecaneise authors.
My reading was interrupted by my seat mate, a painter who made backdrops for Broadway shows in a big warehouse on the Hudson River in Newburgh, New York and pointed the huge building on the water as the trained passed it.
According to my new neighbor, the Hudson Valley was underpopulated because it used be mostly divided into big estates owned by the Rockefellers and Roosevelts. Annie Leibowitz lived there now, and Chelsea Clinton was quietly married in Rhineback a few years ago.
The train passed the RipVan Winkle bridge I remembered for driving up on snowy weekends to Windham. Boats were out on the water, which I learned was part saltwater, tidal, and froze all the way over in the winter until the town broke it up for barges to pass.
The painter left, and I sat next to an empty seat for the rest of the time. I wrote and knocked off more pages in my book, The Story of French by Jean Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow.
“In a way it’s surprising that French even survived in New France...” they wrote.
I read about the strategy of French empire, the beaver trade, fur-trappers who spent a whole winter to learn to speak Algonquin, Voltaire’s famous quip about Canada being just “a few acres of snow”...
And before I knew it, the train stalled to a stop as border control officers made their way through the car to take declaration cards and check passports.
Like the “Arret” signs everywhere, the french and accents of these Canadians signaled the use of french was more vital than just a small cultural nod.
When I rolled out of the train station complex with my hand luggage in the wrong direction, a friendly “Que cherchez-vous?” put me back on track.
After traveling in Brazilian portuguese for so long, this bilingual city of my two best languages would be a breeze, I thought.
And it actually was! I used public transport to get to the hostel. My brother told me about an art gallery he knew on “the one main strip in Montreal, the old city, that’s like the one place” and actually; it was on the same street as where I was staying!”
There wasn’t real food on the Amtrak (leading me to believe maybe those tripadvisor reviewers were just hangry), so I had enough appetite to take on my first plate of poutine.
Beginner’s mistakes - digging in without a fork; letting it get cold whatsoever - when it gets cold you remember you are eating gravy and cheese curds!!
A real meal behind me, I was the first to go to sleep in the 12 person room I stayed in.
By 7am the next morning, I was eyeing Cafés on my way to the Notre Dame Cathédral.
I couldn’t tell where the entrance was at first, but I followed an open door inside. There was almost no one yet, no ticket takers, just a few odd pray-ers.
I exhaled when I passed into the sanctuary. It was nothing like I expected, all blue and gold with purpley-pink lights and, were those stars in the ceiling?
“Life is a carousel, it goes up and down, all you gotta do is stay on” - Unknown
Bahia, Bahia! It seems everywhere I went in a Brazil and beyond, the name kept coming up. I watched people’s eyes as they talked about this place, looked at their beautiful photos (on instagram, and it’s worth noting, also a real photo album) and laughed when just the name of the place made one dance a little.
Noticias de Bahia, I downloaded a song.
“The north is really special, more different to Rio and São Paulo than even a major southern city like Florianópolis.” Noted!
And finally, someone said to me, “You came from New York, what’s another two hours to Bahia?” and I found a flight on budget, and the GOL Airlines app worked just well enough, and I was on my way.
I was so excited I took one little nap and then woke up and went to the airport at about 2am for my 6am flight. I felt physically awful, the airport was empty and cold, but there I was. I found my seat in the crowded configuration of the plane and fell asleep for the two hour flight.
When I arrived in Bahia the first thing I noticed was the heat, it was hot! The airport was half under construction, with less stores and sparkle than Rio or São Paulo. I still felt a bit tired, I took a coffee and split a kit kat with my uber driver.
At least I knew where I was going. As they say, independence is really interdependence. At least I knew Tamara, from Chile, from Rio who had moved on to Bahia the week before to live for a few months at a hostel there.
Traveling friendships often are made with less spoken words. I scrolled through pictures of Brazilian everything in my phone to find it- the yellow and white booking.com screenshot where she had captured the address the hostel in Bahia.
Now the address was in uber and we were cruising. The haphazard highway outside the airport made me remember something about Bali. When we entered into the city, every corner jumped out at me with a colorful mural. My brain could hardly keep up. I wondered how conspicuous it would be in this new city to capture some portraits against the bright paint. These were instagram walls for sure, but we weren’t slowing down.
I arrived at the hostel dizzy and with some time to wait before setting my things in the room. Fine by me. I sorted what I needed into a small purse, brushed my teeth, and dropped heavy backpack in the musty luggage room. I returned the key to the front desk and went out the door.
But where was I going?
With no real city life on the foreseeable horizon (the hostel is actually in a well-known neighborhood for dancing and nightlife, but what did I know?) and a bit of travel exhaustion setting was in, so I decided to travel again by Uber. Not the most intrepid choice, but moreso than a nap, I reasoned. And the historic center of Bahia, with its storied architecture, colors, and balconies was an estimate of 15-19 minutes away with Cláudio Márcio in the white Fiat Uno.
I closed the car door behind me in a main square selling tons of Bahia magnets and t shirts out of Canal-St. style stalls. Perfect! The place for me.
I felt dizzy as I navigated the shops of percussion instruments, “sacred” beads, black cloth dolls, and cartoon capiohera renderings.
The music on the streets was wonderful. As I took pictures of the rainbow colonial portuguese architecture reaching into the gray sky, I had the feeling I was on a movie set.
I walked pass a cart on the street with grains and sage, manned by a man in a white robe.
“What’s your name?”
I instantly regretted it as the he began chanting a blessing in an unknown (to me) African language, peppered with my real name, which I had given up easily.
He starting sprinkling holy water on me, flicking off the leaves of some long green branches, was it sage?
A little paranoia asked if this was a blessing or a curse, I guess that’s always the question.
He added broken kernels of corn to the recipe and poured these over my head.
The pigeons who were swarming the cart started swarming me.
I felt the gray wing of a sky rat on my leg, and I’m sorry because I know some people feel a real affinity towards pigeons, but that was about enough for me.
I freaked out and ran away at the slight contact with a pigeon, just I did too often when I would run along the East River in Manhattan.
I got away.
And the sound of some wonderful music brought me into a shop of rare recordings and music from Salvador.
Truthfully, at first I tried to use the Shazam app from the street. But the music really was rare, I couldn’t place it.
So I did it the old fashioned way, and went into the store to spend a very lovely hour chatting with the owner and listening to discs track by track before making two purchases, the music I had heard and another I discovered.
It was a very pleasant discovery, and I was happy to have this experience related to something so cool and distinctly Bahian- the music!
It was getting late, at least past my normal lunch hour, almost 4PM, so I found a cafe and tucked into a plate of chicken, salad and farofa. It was delicious! I even took a picture.
Satisfied, I headed back to the hostel.
My friend was finished working and I could drop my bags, so we went to the roof and chatted.
Pretty soon, I couldn’t stop hiccuping. How embarrassing! I held my breath with my cheeks puffed out and sipped water, nothing worked. By a lame hour 9pm, I was tired enough to retire to my bed - the bottom bunk, with absolutely no thought of going out.
Sometime in the middle of the night I realized I didn’t just have the hiccups, I was sick. Stomach sick.
I barely left that bed for 24 hours, then moved across the hall to room where I could privately yack, sleep, and watch movies all day, for the next 24.
Was it something I ate?
Probably, the irony is that the only thing I ate tasted so good I took a picture, that almost made me sick to look at again.
By the time I recovered, my weekend in Bahia had ended and it was time for my flight back to Rio.
There was more irony in that, but the weird thing is, I didn’t “feel” it at all. I mean there are so many beautiful beaches and places in the North I was so close to, but never discovered because I was holed up in a hostel (not a place to hole up at all), trying to hold down crackers and coca cola.
There’s really no fomo when your body gives you a hard “NO”, you just slow your roll and enjoy that precious feeling when you finally come back to life.
Did I forget how wonderful it was to have the energy to walk down a flight of stairs or sit up in bed without a pounding head?
When I finally felt well again, the morning of my flight (and the last few moments I had in Bahia) I sat in the sun and remembered.
“seek and see all the marvels around you. you will get tired of looking at yourself alone, and that fatigue will make you deaf and blind to everything else” - carlos castaneda
this is a blog about arraial do cabo, which the tour company guide, as I remember, told us was one of the travel guide’s top 5 most beautiful beaches of the world.
it’s why one of the most popular activities any hotel or hostel will recommend from rio is taking a bus for an hour and half to these blue water beaches, swimming off the boat, and snapping pictures to your heart’s desire.
the first time i heard of this, i admittedly missed the boat. but the next weekend when some new friends that i made offered to add me to their trip, i was ready by 7am the next morning.
i wasn’t all the way ready, really. i switched hostels and lost my phone charger. but anyway, on 13% and 5 hours of sleep i got on the bus.
i laughed at my friends sleeping with their sunglasses covering their eyes and towels wrapped around their heads. i didn’t take a picture, because i didn’t charge my phone.
the tour came with lunch at the end, but the guide advised us we would make an extra stop basically for the bathroom but also to load up on fun road trip snacks. i was in.
the place was very clean, and had a colorful park. swings, treehouses and games that all looked built by hand and painted in primary colors.
and something i’ve never seen before in the united states, a little old cowpony saddled up in the corner for DIY pony rides.
i checked the girth. it was already secure, which i took as an indication, yes, this little pony really a playground attraction at this brazilian bus stop park.
to confirm, i asked one of the staff in broken portuguese, yes!
i tried to convince the others on the bus in my little spanish that this was a thing. it had been years but i understood how to sit on a horse, even here.
i led the pony to a makeshift mounting block and climbed on. my heart was beating so fast! mostly because the last time i was on a horse was so long ago. my head forgets but something inside me always remembers, the feeling of being bucked off by an unknown horse. and definitely never went on a horse with bare feet before, but here i was.
i took the only pictures of the scenic beach trip day here before the battery of my phone died.
the water really was wonderful, cold and blue. i dried off in the sun petting moss on the rock. i jumped off the boat first and swam back last every time.
“My life, the most truthful one, is unrecognizable, extremely interior, and there is no one word that gives it meaning.” Clarice Lispector
last weekend was spent visiting family in niteroi.
niteroi is a smaller city that looks at Rio over the water. brazil is one of the most beach-rich places I have ever been. I learned that all the waterfront belongs to the government and public interest in Brazil, there is no such thing as a private beach.
In Niteroi, I saw smaller beaches, just along the city center, where people hardly swam or laid out, but preferred to walk their dogs, run, or play soccer. Over the water you could see the most famous points in the Rio skyline- The mountain top of Pao d’Azucar, and Cristo Redentor, a monument the locals told me was designed and constructed by a Brazilian artist and not a gift from France!
In Niteroi are also beautiful beaches with fewer people. Sao sebastio was a beach break where you could sit on the steps and only occasionally scoot out of the way for a troupe of 3mm-wetsuit clad boogie boarders. Their black hair bleached orange by the sun and “Aloha” tattoos made me recall word I hadn’t heard in a while - Sponge boys! And I laughed a little while I brushed off the sand I caught in wave.
I have grown to love the endless summer climate in Rio, so after Niteroi, I took the ferry to spend another day by the sea. I reassured everyone it was almost impossible for me to get lost at this point in my travels, but still, I spent an hour trying to find the familiar subway station at Cinelandia from the ferry dock.
I avoided the shadows and accepted walking a few circles. When I didn’t want to cross a crowded boulevard twice, I detoured into Gloria / Lapa, and toured a huge modern church. The outside looked like a space station, and the inside like a beautiful light bright. On a Sunday the mass was going on, but still sight seers from the tour buses crowded in the back.
I thought I was following one of these crowds when I discovered the more animated, Pentecostal-style Christian worship service in the basement.
Teens in the back were selling pigs in a blanket for $1Real a piece. I took one in a napkin and ate it on my way out, it was a whole snack, and my meal for lunch.
I was delighted the Cristo came into view from this neighborhood, and followed the streets with open shops on a Sunday to Lapa.
I had heard of Lapa. Bright hostels played music and people were in the street. I thought about stopping, but a mototaxi stop caught my eye.
I had encountered mototaxis once before, but never took one because I had driven my own scooter! But a printed list showed a price for every destination in the city. Maybe was better than finding the metro - I could go anywhere from here!
I took a deep breath and pointed to Cristo Redentor. Nod, nod. I paused and climbed aboard the back of the bike.
I gripped the handles on the side and made sure my helmet was straight. I was scared but also excited for the ride!
The bike followed a trolley up sunny streets built into the mountains. Flower boxes, the occasional car to squirm around. The whole thing made me dizzy, I took in the Cristo from a distance as we zipped closer. The backseat was a weird place to be. I tried to focus on keeping my weight centered. I visualized how I could James Bond roll out of the inferno if one of the cars also jostling for a place on this narrow road came too close. Then, the ride was over. The lines, lunch options, and gift shops built up around the base of the Cristo Mountain felt safe and familiar. I bought a ticket and was ferried to the top.
There were more stairs and an elevator to the actual observation desk. Crowds of people hoisted their phones in the air, laid down on the ground, and in some case climbed forbidden parts of the deck to take pictures.
I liked the view from the mototaxi that I couldn’t capture, and how the image comes into sight unexpectedly sometimes when traversing Rio. But the Cristo outstretching his arms to the masses of people on the deck was for sure a sight to see...
“Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?”
On Tuesday morning, I woke up in the mountains, to the same dogs that had been barking all night plus the birds. I didn’t have plans, but by 10am, I balked at the thought of spending another day on dry land. The trip to the beach isn’t fast, but now I knew the way. I got to the bus station and bought a ticket.
The heat of Rio hit me in the face when I arrived, and I walked in Carioca to find lunch, a record shop playing all kinds of sounds I had never heard before. I arrived to the beach in the late afternoon and swam until dusk.
Then, I checked into a youth hostel by the beach (R. Joana Angélica) and chose a bed by the window which looked out onto a concrete wall.
I ate dinner by myself, and then with a group I met at the hostel! I got soaked to the bone walking back in a sudden rainstorm, and barely slept. At 8am, I popped out of bed and checked out, the only dry clothes I had left were my swimsuit and rashie. My havianas were cutting into my feet a bit but I hustled to the beach and had a breakfast of ice coffee and globo biscuits on the way.
When I arrived, the line up was calm, as promised, but the instructor I met the day before and their tent was no where to be found.
I wielded my few words of Portuguese to arrange a new lesson with the school that up and running in the morning. I met my instructor and practiced popping up on the beach.
Expectations were low, and when I stood up on the first wave they made me feel like I was surfing like Medina already.
The sections were short and most of the time I spent in the water was going under and over the salty waves, paddling as hard as I could for 5 seconds of calm water, and of course, being pushed into waves!
I felt out of breath, It had been too long.
“Are you tired?” Asked Anderson, the instructor.
A wave was coming. I happily realized that this expression translated directly, and thought how few words had actually been exchanged in this lesson, yet how beneficial it had been to borrow the eyes and discretion of a local for my first session at Arpoador.
“Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown” - Charles de Gaulle
This morning I woke up and didn’t take a shower. I wolfed down a breakfast of papaya and toast and put a bathing suit and disposable camera in a backpack. At 9:27, I walked down the driveway for the 9:30 bus. It was time to find the beach!
Living in New York I adapted the attitude that any town can be a beach town when free transfer is available by using your metro card, and after 2 weeks in the close but faraway city of Petropolis, it was time to discover my truth.
I have been developing a warm familiarity with Petropolis, the bus stops, the book store, the cathedral, the little middle-eastern food store where you can buy tumeric by the bucket. But Rio looms still. Outside one very small island in Barra, the entire city is squarely in the realm of the unfamiliar.
Then again, this is a wonderful attitude to take towards any place. Do you ever really know all its secrets?
Practically speaking though, I don’t even know the bus schedules to Rio, so I had to learn. I waited 30 minutes at the wrong stop in Petropolis before asking for help. I could barely be understood with the few words of portiguese I have learned and the heavy, clumsy accent I use them with, but one woman understood enough that I was in the wrong place. She wasn’t going in the same direction but translated my own word ask to an entire explanation to her friend, who took me wrist to the correct bus station, found the driver, and told him to make sure I got off at the bus station.
I had been to the bus station once before and had enough of an idea of my station in Rio to buy the ticket. I tried to map the directions to where I wanted to go from there, but it felt unclear. A business type with a laptop was seated next to my on the bus. So I asked for advice in English! And it turns out, all I had to do was stay on the bus for one more stop (which was permissible).
The barrio this redirected me to was much less intimidating than the northern station that I knew of. I saw someone pass with a Starbucks cup and I treated myself to the slice of home everyone thinks Coca-Cola or McDonald’s is to the American abroad. I even was given my Brazilian name - “Um Sara” - “Marcela :)”
I asked the armed guard helping empty the money from the ticket machine the train to take to I-panema, and his confused look caused me to adjust my pronunciation to E-panema until I got it right. It was just one Subway train, from the station around the corner, I needed to take the beach. Pas mal!
Just one more question to the ticket sellers and I was on my way. Because I’m coming from New York, and internationally all metros are based on the OG New York system, it’s hard for me to mess up this part unless I’m not paying attention (which could happen anywhere).
At the subway station, signs with little surfers on single fin boards pointed to the Ipanema Beach exit. All kinds of other things happened to be attacking my brain that morning, but when I saw these little signs, I smiled and relaxed. You have to be happy, you found the beach!
And when I ascended, the horizon guided the short walk from the city to the sea.
And what a beautiful beach it was! Misty blue skies, pillars of rock and otherworldly islands in the distance, the soft mountains that Rio’s most famous views- Sugar Loaf and Cristo- are made of, enclosing a beach of soft white sand.
My eyes scanned to the end of the beach. A rock jetty with waves breaking left and an an overcrowded line up. Something inside me, shaped from 1,000 hours at Rockaway beach, felt so at home.
I popped up to a tent to rent a board and a lesson. Even though, when I learned to catch my own waves and made my own friends surfing I stopped taking lessons a long time ago, I always take a lesson surfing at a new beach. I’m not that advanced! I think it’s a nice bridge into a new line up, and very practically, you need to know where the rips are and what to look out for in the water.
But anyway, back to the point that I’m not so advanced. The surf school didn’t want to take me out until the waves were smaller, so even though I felt like I could make it, I accepted this and asked them to watch my stuff while I played in the waves, no board or lesson, just me.
(Film Photos forthcoming)
“True happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life”. - William Morris
My daily life in Brazil starts with breakfast, and I have learned to love tapioca, which is made into crepes for breakfast.
The shadows of overgrown tropical plants on flat pink spray paint.
Bright boxes of juice in the supermarket. Sprays of vibrant pink flowers against the azure sky.
Cloud cover over a charming pink house on the hill.
Thick layers of trees, mountains and sky in every direction.
The time to see it.
“I have lived with many zen masters... all of them cats”
- Eckhart Tolle
Monday’s excitement led into a complete change of pace when the next morning I checked into the Pousada Barra Eco boutique on Ilha primera of Barra de Tijuca. It was far from the last day of parties in Flamengo, but a very good opportunity relax in a new place.
The islands in Barra are only accessible by water taxis- or “taxi boats” recalling a little bit of Venice (or Fire Island!). Admittedly, I first tried to put the address into Uber on dry land before realizing that.
The taxiboats are little rafts that run frequently until midnight. They have rubber tires on one end that bump right up to the docks, and somehow, everything stays in the right place when you disembark.
I tentatively stepped aboard. The sun reflecting off the water was hot, but the view upwards into the mountains of Rio was delightful. I tried to take pictures of boats, but watched them sail out of my camera frame.
Where was I again?
My stop was the first, and when I landed on the backyard dock, I felt at ease. The street lanes were wide enough for one person at a time and I could tell just by looking for the adress of the hotel I was stepping through lots of peoples backyards, as they hung laundry and cooked lunch. Gosh these little streets smelled nice!
I was a little confused about the address, but a barking dog put me straight.
Two beautiful cats situated themselves in the maze of roofs and crowded homes.
Bright flowers and plants grew freely.
The small hotel was an oasis of beige tones and mid-century modern chairs and tables.
Check-in coincided with breakfast hours, which I didn’t question, and was happy to be greeted with strong coffee and pão de queijos! Is it dough or cheese inside or both?
I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the streets, listening to the music that came out of people’s homes and following the excited tones of people enjoying the holidays or watching rugby matches. I ate grilled squid at the restaurant (lula grelhada) and some yuca tatertots (possibly a mistake).
I FaceTimed my mom from a yellow hammock and froze when a pack of marmosets (little monkeys) descended on the feeder near the patio stocked with black bananas and papaya.
I tried to end a mosquitoes life in a single clap before giving in and turning up the air conditioning.
I watched the Capivaras swim in the swampy water off the balcony with their babies.
Evem when the sun set, I felt good in the warm glow of this small place. I even discovered a new song by musicians called Grupo de lá Revelação to keep in my heart forever.
“The most valuable possession you can have is an open heart” - Carlos Santana
Yesterday I took the bus in Brazil for the first time, from Petropolis to the southwest Itangha neighborhood of Rio. As I was looking out the window at the green mountains with an occasional herd of white and brown horses passing through, I felt so happy!
I was on my way to a party for carnaval, something I also felt excited about. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I felt in a way just this feeling driving through the mountains gave me was everything and would make it all worth it.
It’s a happy accident that I came to Brazil just one day before Carnaval. In some ways it is the best time, although it also presented a challenge to arrive, get settled, take in my new city, and also make plans for holiday season!
I made one plan before I left New York. I bought a ticket to a brazilian music pool party Rio. It was just a word of mouth suggestion that there was a pool party on Monday in Rio. I found where to buy tickets online and hoped I picked the right one. I even chose a new swimsuit for the party. When I was packing, I noticed the label said “The fact that this garment is in your hands now means we are that much closer to our ultimate goal of you buying the ticket and taking the ride”.
Profundity and capitalism!
I had no idea how I was going to get to this party, actually they didn’t publish the address until 1 day before. I felt nervous to travel alone in a new country, especially Rio at Carnaval! But I knew that I had created some momentum for myself by buying that ticket in New York. I had a reason for this travel and place to go, I just had to find my way there.
Petrópolis (where I am based for my two-month program) is further from Rio than I had thought, and no one around me was really confident in my plans. Especially because there was no real address for the place.
The tickets were sold through eventbrite, an online third party that requires an address. Only “Rio de Janeiro” had been entered, and the auto-generated map showed a point in the center of the city- one of the dodgiest neighborhoods! I showed this to my host family and they advised I should not make plans that involve 5 minutes of walking on the street there...
“This is the place you want to be RIGHT NOW - definitely not on Monday”, our friends in the ESL program said when we looked at the center of the city on Google maps. The carnaval parade was passing through centro on television.
And this was a 2-day discussion that continued and put knots in my stomach. On the one hand, I was so close to Rio and Carnaval! I had a ticket, and something new to wear that literally said “BUY THE TICKET TAKE THE RIDE”.
I could make the most of sitting quietly in the peace and ease through the last two sunny days of Carnaval, but something in me was saying SEND IT!
Sunday night, the discussion got longer. The real address of the party was posted, equally as foreign looking to me and further confusing the conversation about where exactly I was going in Rio on Monday.
I felt frustrated. I resigned to my room on the tentative plans I would Uber the auto-generated location on my eventbrite ticket and pure stubbornness. Teimosia.
But even after deciding to go, something didn’t feel right. I got a new message from the source of all great travel tips, the DMs.
“Don’t worry, the party will be fine, just as long as it’s not in the city center”
And with that word “city center” the direct translation of “centro”, something in my head clicked 100% percent. I knew the address I was showing everyone on the map was wrong. There was no language barrier, no difference of age or attitude towards girls traveling by themselves, I had the wrong address.
The second address I saw posted wasn’t a further confusion, it was the real address. I zoomed in on the map. It was a beautiful little island with a pool! Next to a golf course! And an aeropark!
I found my host Marta and breathlessly updated her with this new development. Relief spread from her face to mine. The party looked beautiful and it would even be fine to take the bus there by myself! Local moves!
The Instagram fam even came through and called the customer service number for the event to confirm the right address. I was on my way!
The next day, I woke up so early and excited and got ready. My host family drove me to the bus. I had an hour and a half wait at the Petropolis station, which, like all of Petropolis, was totally chill.
I spent most of the time in the cell phone shop trying to unsuccessfully jailbreak my phone, but it didn’t work. Before I knew it it was time to hop on the bus!
I found the wrong seat, then the right one. The window- cool! I felt the good feeling I feel when I’m swimming, just happy about nothing.
Finally I arrived at my station, the last stop. I felt the heat of Rio and the grittiness of the bus station. After a few false starts, I made my way to the exit and the taxi line.
I felt more vulnerable now, now I was alone. There was another girl on my bus with lots of hand luggage and make up on. I asked her a question, she didn’t speak English but we walked together to the taxi line and as the drivers circled looking for new business, I asked her for advice through a translation app.
“Uber is cheaper” she wrote me back on the translate app.
An English speaking cab driver offered to translate between us too.
“She says uber is dangerous”. He said.
I appreciated his honest attack on a hated competitor, but still, I waited with my girl ally before jumping in a taxi. Her boyfriend came to pick her up and advised the cab would be fine and should cost no more than 30R$.
Then between the two drivers, my business was directed to the cab driver who didn’t speak English at all. He got lost twice on the 10-minute car ride. I watched the meter run up with these detours, but was able to protest enough in Portuguese to pay only the fair price of $30R to get there. Score one for the girls!
And then I arrived to the party. Which was not ready yet! I felt nerves about stepping into the party alone, and then the “What am I going to do now?” when I realized, despite arriving more than an hour after the time on the ticket, I would have to wait an hour more to go in. This limbo lasted about 4 minutes.
A group of 3 friends from New York apparently running on the same time as me (i.e. not Brazilian time) were just outside and had arrived to the same predicament. We made some jokes about the fyre festival and ubered to the beach!
After an hour or so, the party was ready. And Ja Rule jokes aside, the pool, stage and organization looked great! I promptly stepped on a giant raft with all my stuff and tried to figure out how to paddle back to the edge of the pool without getting wet. First one in the pool!
Part of me doesn’t want to admit it, but I was happy to be in this little bubble with people who knew people who went to the same schools as me, singing along to Riptide by Vance Joy. After all the warnings I had absorbed about Brazil and Rio leading up to my trip, all this familiar feeling was OK.
And as the night went on, the Carnaval atmosphere built, culminating in the live band the event was built around - DDP. I really have no concept for what kind of band this is- they have lots of parties and kind of look like a boy band but can play instruments and dance with their feet the whole time.
Anyway, they were wonderful! And I realized when everyone started singing along in Portuguese that there were probably only 4 other Americans at the party already, all of whom I knew now- which was cool!
I even spotted someone else I had met celebrating my departure to Brazil last week in the New York. Small world for sure!
But maybe my best friends at the party became a fun group from São Paulo, who told me no less than three times, be careful in Brazil, not everyone is nice like us!
“Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises”
Pedro Calderón de la Barca
Since arriving to Brazil, I have spent the past two days trying to catch the rhythm of life in Petropolis, get comfortable, and create a new program with my host for improving our language skills.
Brazil is on holiday at the moment, and yesterday was Sunday. In the morning we had papaya and a tea made of silicia (silicon?). We visited the other American who is staying in Petrópolis, and had breakfast together with her host family.
They were completely lovely, and already knew my host through mutual connections. I learned new things about Brazil, like Goldfish crackera rank with iPhones as in-demand American imports and tapioca is a must try street food in Rio! We left with about a zillion brazilian plans for the coming weeks!
Then was lunch and small lesson. Marta was interested in the correct English phrase you would use to let yourself into someone’s house, a rough translation of “com licença”. I offered up “excuse me”, but I’m not really sure I know an equivalent in American English, the “open door policy” seems much more vibrant here!
“Remember our door is always open, except when we are sleeping!” Is how the family we met at breakfast sent us off, which is basically something we say in English too- but with another level of sincerity!
Learning the words for familial relationships also seemed like a first priority, so we flipped ahead in the ESL textbook to the family tree. I learned that “parentes” in Portuguese means something like relatives, so it is a false cognate with our word for mother and father.
After this casual lesson, we went for dinner with Marta’s sister for her birthday and toured some historic sites in Petropolis by night, including the assymetrical “house of the 7 mistakes”.
We had pizza “portuguese style”, with onions, ham, peas and egg, and for me, a Coca Cola made in Brazil.
The festivities extended to the next day, when we went for lunch in Itaipava. I realized that even though I think I get the gist of what is going on, I was surprised to be seated at a table of 10 when we arrived and realIze since it was Sunday lunch was happening with all the parentes!
“To live is the rarest thing in the world”
- Oscar Wilde
Yestersay, I arrived in Brazil for an extended stay language exchange program!
I have been hoping in this direction for a while. At one moment, though, looking around a lovely walk yesterday, I realized that there are many places I can say either “I would love to go” or “I loved it there” about, but nothing is really sweeter than “I’m here now!”
To arrive, I flew at 10pm from JFK directly to Rio. I slept at least 7 hours (and pretty well!) and watched exactly one movie. It was a completely full flight including a one year old baby that was completely adorable and a real champ, as I observed from six rows away.
At the airport, I met the taxi driver and student intern representing my exchange program and we drove to Petropolis, through the outskirts of Rio and into the mountains.
The main road was closed for construction, so we bumped up and up. I learned some Portuguese words, like “cow” (vaca) and funk (a style of music made in Rio de Janeiro)
When I arrived, my host Marta was so lovely. We sat for lunch. After, we began to speak about goals for the program, of English, of Portuguese. Since Marta has a wide vocabulary in English the next level of speaking and understanding seemed to be wrestling with the different sounds each letter in English makes (or doesn’t make) when compared to Portuguese. The test will be watching movies in English without subtitles!
I think my challenge will be to be engage with Portuguese, (even if it means using a translate app a lot!) to try words and not just wait for conversations to slip backed into English. The test could be literally any portuguese conversation! And there were a lot!
Our first exercise was reading out loud the same passage 4 times, in Marta’s English, my English, Marta’s Portuguese, my Portuguese, was a good place to start exploring. We then went through the alphabet, something I had found so useful when attempting to learn Italian over the summer. Who would have thought the R sounds like an H?
After that, it was time to have coffee with the cousins next door.
I learned Gabriel Medina sounds like Gabriel Me-jh-ina, but everyone will still know who you are talking about.
After brazilian facturas, we walked into the city center to begin the evening socializing with the rest of the family until late.
And I would write more but it’s morning now, and the night ended with plans to meet more friends for 8:30am this morning!