Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tempo para fotos

Howdy loved ones,

Dad says he wants some pictures, and since he asked in portuguese (with fewer grammatical errors than I would have made),  I'm happy to oblige him.  There are some from right before I left New Jersey, as well as a few from Brazil.  I haven't taken as many as I would like, but...  I'm busy, yo.

 Back in Jersey, Summer made a fantastic dinner and we fed some pretty great people.  Mike Sparrow found out the previous night that I had never tried a durian, and showed up with stank in hand.  I hear people like them, somewhere in the world. I don't get it, but that's cool. 

 I left Kansas with 40 pounds of  'necessities' stuffed into an army duffel bag that dad bought out of a surplus magazine of some sort.  By the time I made it into Newark, I realized just how preposterous that whole idea was. I'm not sure why an army would design a bag so crippling to the human frame.  Maybe it was for bootcamp torture/training, and not for actual missions.  Anyhow, I was forced to go to REI, where I selected  the largest backpack available.  It was on sale, so I went ahead and bought another for the AT adventure next year with the bff.  Oopsie.   After wrestling my clothes into space saver bags, I had ample room for a bag of knitting needles and a couple of books.  Never know when the urge may strike to bust out the old yarn and circulars... There's just nothing like knitting a wool sweater on the beach to drive the men wild.

 Liz picked me up at the airport in Floripa and helped me find the house I'm staying in.  Like I mentioned earlier, my host family is super nice.  They keep a canary on the balcony, and that makes me happy.  When we went to watch the samba school 'rehearsal', I got to see downtown Floripa.  The centro has a 130-year-old tree that is just amazing at night.  My Portuguese teacher, Jonas, took my class there a few days later.  He said that newlyweds circle the tree three times together, and afterwards, they never separate. He and his wife did it when they were married. I think I will, too, when I get married. 

This is the queen of the samba school.  I don't know for certain, but speculate that she sold a little soul to get those skills.  I can't over-exaggerate how unnaturally talented she was.

Last weekend, Liz and Kerry and I went to explore the south end of the island.  We stayed in a sweet little pousada called Alemdomar, owned and operated by Paulo.  Paulo let me borrow a field guide to help me  ID the plants. That also made me very happy. 

People on the island are in constant strife to keep the vegetation under their control, but the tropical climate here seems to lend the upper hand to the foliage.  I love how commonly  ferns pop up on rooftops.

Just because you are someplace new, doesn't mean you need to touch everything you come across.  Some things don't like it.  And they have evolved to produce physical defensive structures  containing potent secondary metabolic compounds to deter you.

These are from Praia Matodeira, which translates roughly as Whale Killer Beach.

 I didn't go in too deep.

That's all the pics for now.  Today, I didn't go to class.  My host mom works at the hospital, and when she found out I hadn't got my yellow fever vaccine, she promptly made an appointment.  When I showed up, the doctor took one look at my vaccine record and started writing a list of things I was not up-to-date on.  You all know me... I immediately went into fight/flight.  I bellied up for the MMR and Yellow Fever, then told a tiny lie to get out of tetnus, and just flat fought the ambiguous syringe full of "combination".  Really, two shots in one day should be the limit. The cool thing is, I found out that the public hospitals in Brazil all give free vaccinations, even to gringos.  I've decided to get the tetnus shot when I get to Santa Maria. I had kindof a traumatic experience today.   I just need a little time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Ola from Brazil! I have just wrapped up my first week in beautiful Florianopolis.  I am spending the first two weeks here for sure, as I attend Step 1 Idiomas intensive language training.  Before jumping into college level courses on soil physics and erosion, I am supposed to have some sort of basic working knowledge of the Portuguese language.  As of this semester, Kansas State does not offer a course in Portuguese, so instead, I am trying cram a foreign language in my noggin in approximately 15 days.  They were right- it's intense. 

Step 1 is a program that incorporates total immersion into its teaching structure.  They set up home stays for all of the students, and I am staying in a little home with a nice Floripan family. The daughter has given up her room so that I may stay in it with some privacy.  The extended family owns four houses on this street, and many know a little English.  As a result, there are a ton of visitors who stop in, all wanting to practice their conversational skills with me.  It’s nice, but they are learning way more English than I am Portuguese.  The kids and dad are great, but I am a bit intimidated by my host mother who speaks very fast, and does not smile often.  She goes out of her way to do nice things for me, so I know she likes me a little.  We do a lot to avoid conversation, however, because we have, as of yet, not understood a single sentence from the other. 

In my class this week, there is a guy from Texas, a Columbian girl that I really like and understand pretty well conversationally, and a guy from Peru who tends to mumble a mixed up Spanglish-guese dialect quite frequently.  In a more advanced class, there are a couple of Tico twins that I hang out with regularly.  They are outrageously funny, like Click and Clack with super foul mouths. They have a killer act down; one that has been twenty-five years in the making.  Turns out they are also National Champions in Costa Rican tennis doubles. 

At school, the only language allowed is Portuguese.  And there is no formal introduction.  You are tossed into a class with students from all over the world, some of which are new and some of which have been at Step 1 for a few weeks. They are super strict on the whole immersion deal.  You wanna ask the dude from Texas where you can exchange your dollars for reais?  You better be using your dictionario to figure it out in Portuguese.  Ouch. 

I don't think the typical Brazileiro requires as much sleep as we Americans do. They go and go and go....  I've been here a week, and have packed so much in already. I'll try to post some pictures; no promises though.  A few nights ago, I went to see the samba school practice for the competitions during Carnaval. This 'practice' included a huge street party with 200+ drummers and 300+ dancers parading around the town square  and the population equivalent of Baxter Springs singing along in attendance. While hiking in the nearby state park, I saw some incredible new flora, birds, and insects.  I've also been to the local churrascaria to dine on roasted chicken hearts. On the southern beaches of the island, I got some sun and enjoyed huge, cheap, delicious oysters (one of my favorites and hard to come by, back home on the prairie).   I have tried the most famous Brazilian drink (caiprinha, made with sugar cane liquor and limes), been witness to the infamous micro-bikinis on Brazilian beaches, and got down on the dancefloor, with an oh-so-talented, bronzed Brazileiro. So far, I like it here, and language aside, I think I'm assimilating quite well.