You got Dengue? You’re a real Brazilian now!

Dengue—It’s a Killer

It could be because you study at UESC and this place is a cesspool of gossip, because you saw my horrific rash pictures on Facebook, or because you heard my agonizing cries for help and more medicine all the way from Brazil, but I’m sure you already know. Everyone I know—and even people I don’t (like the people who work at the post office…)—know that I had dengue.

Dengue fever, cleverly named the breakbone fever, is a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses. These viruses are related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever. Don’t worry Mom, I just got my yellow fever shot.



It is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person with dengue virus in their blood. You can tell that a mosquito is infected because it turns black and white and has stripes similar to those of a zebra.

Infected Mosquito

Infected Mosquito

These mosquitoes usually bite during the day (particularly in the morning), but that does not mean it is impossible for them to bite at all hours. That seems to be common myth around these parts.

Where dengue exists

Where dengue exists

Instead of simply listing the symptoms I chose to retell my experience with the virus. I’m hoping for a couple “oh that poor thing” and “lord have mercy on her” type reactions here 😉

Because we had school holidays I decided to go visit a local Cocoa farm for the week. To my surprise, I woke up on the second day there with an insane migraine and severe pain behind my eyes. The Brazilians there chalked it up to the fact that I was a foreigner and that being outside for one whole day in the sunshine was just too much for me. I also heard things like, “It must be because you don’t speak Portuguese very well and hearing it all day is stressful and a workout for your brain” or “Do you eat homemade food at home? It might be the natural food here”. I know they were trying to be helpful and help find a solution to my pain, but being told that you can’t move your eyeballs because of Portuguese is a little frustrating.

Each night got worse and by the last day I wasn’t sleeping or eating at all. My body ached (I thought it was maybe the bed with 3 functioning legs that I was sleeping on) and my patience was gone. I decided to leave early because of how uncomfortable I was.

Saturday morning I woke up at 5 AM to make sure I could catch the 6 AM bus back to Itabuna. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even stand up to wait for the bus. I was overjoyed when it finally arrived. Sadly, within 10 minutes I started to feel extremely car sick. I tried eating an apple to settle my empty stomach but all that did was making me vomit in the bus.

At this point I was devastated. I promised myself in that moment that after Brazil I would go back to the US and never travel again. I figured I was getting too old and grouchy for traveling and that my body just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I arrive in Itabuna where Andre kindly picked me up at the bus station. He never said it, but by the look on his face I could tell I looked like shit. I just wanted to sleep! As soon as we got to his house I stripped down to my skivvies and that’s when we saw it. My stomach and legs were covered in tiny, bright red bumps. Andre shook his head and informed that I had dengue.

The spots

The spots

That night I came down with a horrible fever and spent most of the night tossing and turning in agonizing pain. They aren’t joking when they call it breakbone fever. I have never felt pain like that before! It started in my back and shot down my left side all the way to my ankle. I couldn’t touch my hip without bursting into tears.

Sunday was even worse. Light was unbearable and every time I tried to open or move my eyes the pain made me nauseous. The fever was so bad that I felt compelled to lay face down on Andre’s kitchen floor. It was the only thing that I thought could cool me down. I don’t remember a lot of what happened after that because I was in and out of consciousness.

However, the one thing I do remember is bawling on the living room floor and yelling at Andre telling him I would leave if he didn’t give me something more than Tylenol for the pain. Really…I though I was going to pack my bags and walk out the door when I couldn’t even pee without his help?

When you have dengue you can ONLY take Tylenol. I believe that my dengue turned into hemorrhagic dengue because I was taking 1,000+ mg of ibuprofen a day before I knew I had dengue. Apparently that’s the worst thing you can take and it has caused far too many unnecessary deaths from dengue. I got the dreaded blood nose on Monday.

By this point I hadn’t slept in 4 days, I had only eaten a couple bites of soup and I my body had given up. I remember laying there and thinking that dying would be OK as long as I didn’t have to feel like that anymore. And for those of you out there that are skeptical right now… I am not being dramatic. This virus is the virus from hell.

By Tuesday I was able to walk around and I no longer had a fever. The bleeding had stopped and only the itchy red bumps remained. I thought I was in the clear and decided to go home on Wednesday despite everyone urging me to go to the hospital or stay at Andre’s house where I could be looked after. Sorry I’m so stubborn. I learned my lesson

Wednesday night I experienced heavy bleeding from some areas I won’t mention. I was terrified and was finally convinced that I needed to go to the hospital. Sarah and Geraldine rushed me to the emergency room at the regional hospital where I was scared out of my mind and trying to hold back tears. After all that and I still felt the need to look a little tough. My platelets were low but not low enough to have to stay in the hospital.

My boss was gracious enough to give the entire week off so that I could fully recuperate. I think I drank close to 20 gallons of Gatorade and Pedialyte while abusing my Netflix subscription.

I am happy to say that I have completely recovered and that no one needs to worry anymore! So thank you to all of you who sent me concerned emails, called just to make sure I was doing ok and especially to those of you who were by my side the entire time. Andre—without you I would have taken a lot more medicine, never taken a shower and starved to death. Thank you for being there for me the entire time, even when I was screaming about pain killers. Fran—Obrigada por me visitar e trazer lanche. Amei nossa conversa. Sarah—thank you for picking up slack for me while I was gone and for looking after me when I got home.

Kill all mosquitoes

Kill all mosquitoes

Morale of this story:

  1. Kill every mosquito you see
  2. Don’t take ibuprofen if you have dengue
  3. Don’t get dengue

Feijoada: Brazil’s National Dish

Feijoada: Brazil’s National Dish 

Upon arriving in Brazil I was bombarded with several Brazilian facts, urban legends and local traditions. Every person I met had something different to share, but the one story they all had in common was the story of how feijoada became Brazil’s national dish.


Feijoada is a delightfully tasty meat and bean stew that is normally served on the weekends and at big parties or family get-togethers. While each version of the story may slightly differ, the resounding commonality is that it was once a dish of the slaves.

Slaves_resting_by_Rugendas_01For those of you don’t know, the importation of African slaves in Brazil began in the 16th century when the “indigenous labor force” was no longer enough for the growing Portuguese settlements. Slave labor was the driving force behind the growth of the sugar economy in Brazil, as well as the coffee plantations and mining districts. It is estimated that more than 2 million Africans were sold into slavery in Brazil up until the “official” end of slavery in 1888–making Brazil the last nation in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery. Most of these slaves were first taken to and “broken” in Salvador, Bahia (my state!) before being sent to work elsewhere in the country. Today, Bahia is known as the “African Capital of Brazil,” thanks in part to its mainly black population, while Brazil in general contains the largest African population outside of Africa.

Like in the United States, the slaves became the backbone of the country and contributed to the local culture and lifestyle. This is evident in my state.  Everywhere you go in Bahia you witness the beautiful afro-brazilian culture. So back to the feijoada….. 

Per the many Brazilians I have spoken with, feijoada was the “poor slave’s dish”. In that time the African slaves were given only rice and beans to fend off hunger. Since this was usually not enough the slaves would scavenge for, beg for or be rewarded with unwanted cuts of meat (usually pork–skin, snout, ears, feet and intestine). While this may seem disgusting to us, these cuts of meat added vital protein to their diet and flavored the  mundane rice and bean meal.

As the story goes, it wasn’t until the 19th century when feijoada became popular and “urbanized”. Instead of being the dish of the slaves, it was now the dish of the elite (with better cuts of meat of course). How ironic, right? Chefs in Rio de Janeiro began perfecting the dish and thus it became the unofficial dish of Brazil.

Quite the romantic story, no? Well some skeptics out there don’t believe it. They claim that  feijoada is actually cassoulet, a popular meat and bean stew from Portugal. The only main difference is that the beans used in feijoada are black beans (black beans did not exist in Europe at that time). But who am I to doubt so many Brazilians who are so passionate about the story of how feijoada came to be? If they believe it, I believe it. I think in a way it represents the story of Brazil and there is nothing more beautiful than being proud of that story.

Cassoulet for Portugal

Cassoulet for Portugal

Anyways, two weeks ago a few friends and I decided to have a dinner party. Felipe, an amazing LEA student promised he would teach us how to make feijoada. I LOVE this dish, and couldn’t wait to learn how to make it. I had heard that it was pretty difficult to make and I was too scared to attempt this colossal recipe on my own. I was amazed by how well it turned out (probably the best one I have ever eaten) and wanted to share it with you!

Let’s Get Cooking! 

The Ingredients

The Meat

The Meat

1 bag of black beans

3 large linguiça (Brazilian sausage)

1 large cut of juicy bacon (skin probably still attached)

3 salted pig feet

1/4 kilo of paio (a type of smoke sausage)

4 OnionsOnion and Garlic

5 cloves of garlic

4-5 Bay leaves

Salt, pepper and cumin

Step 1- Pour out your bag of black beans on a towel. Go through and pick out any stones, branches or ugly/discolored beans you see. As Felipe put it, “it’s a bean beauty contest”.

Sarah picking out the ugly beans

Sarah picking out the ugly beans

Step 2- Let the beans soak in water (follow instructions on the bag) while you begin preparing the other ingredients.

Step 3– Cut your onions and mince the garlic. Saute them until translucent.

Step 4– Cut linguiça and add to pot. As Felipe pointed out, it is important to cut it on a diagonal so that the meat itself has more contact with the broth, giving the stew a stronger flavor. Continue to cook and stir the onions, garlic and linguiça on medium heat until the meat beings to brown.

Garlic, onions and linguiça

Garlic, onions and linguiça

Step 5– While you are waiting for step 2 to finish cooking, you can start boiling the pig feet in water. Usually the pig feet come extremely salted and need to be boiled twice. So, boil the feet and dump the water. Boil the feet a second time in new water and also discard that water. Your feet are ready!

Boiling pig feet!

Boiling pig feet!

Step 6– Chop the bacon and paio and add to pot. At this time you can also add the bay leaves, black pepper and cumin.

Add bacon, paio and spices

Add bacon, paio and spices

Step 7– Add the pig feet and continue to stir. Make sure that all meats are getting even cooking time and exposure to the spices you just added.

Step 8– Add the soaked beans (beans and water).

Add beans and water

Add beans and water

Step 9– Because we were starving and couldn’t wait to eat the feijoada, we cooked it in a pressure cooker! This way we only had to let it cook on high for about 45 minutes. If you use a regular pot, it takes from 2-3 hours…..So really this step is just waiting while you are taunted by the delicious smell. You can use this time to prepare the rice and vinaigrette.

Step 10– Drink some cachaça and have fun with friends while you wait!


Step 11- Once the stew is done cooking in the pressure cooker we cooked it a little longer in large pot while we stirred it. I think it was to thicken it up.



Step 12– Eat the amazingness that is feijoada! Don’t forget the farofa!

Mestre Felipe in all his glory

Mestre Felipe in all his glory

The finished product

The finished product

The finished product

The finished product

Cockroach, and Beetles and Monkeys! Oh My!

I have been in Brazil now for almost three months. During my time here I have encountered some interesting creatures (and no I’m not talking about Brazilian men). I’m writing this blog post for my little cousin Connor, who I miss very much! I know he would have a blast seeing all these strange animals and insects I find in my house. I also know that he would probably shoot all of them with his nerf gun! I love you Connor and Alexis!

The Lizard

In Mexico there were lizards everywhere, so when I saw a chubby little gecko scurry its way up my wall I wasn’t surprised. I was however shocked when I realized that one of them was living under my bed! Family, meet Bart.


My other lizard friend is Samuel, but unfortunately he is no longer with us. I found him mangled on the bottom of my washing machine the other day 😦 He must have been hiding in my dirty clothes pile.


The Cockroaches

Most people know that I am terrified of cockroaches. Not just scared—terrified! Brazilian cockroaches are giant and seem to be on the prowl for small children.


One night I woke up to a tickle on my thigh, the tickle of a ginormous cockroach’s hairy legs making its way up my leg! I have never left my window open since then.


Word of advice to people who are going to visit Brazil, be careful walking with flip flops at night. They seem to have a craving for toes!


At UNL we have a group called Nebraskans for the Upgraded Treatment of Squirrels. Every time I see a monkey running around town or on campus I chuckle and reminisce about all those times I got attacked by those crazy squirrels at UNL.

Instead of squirrels, we have monkeys in Bahia. The monkeys play on the telephone wires, dart out in the middle of the road and their tiny agile bodies allow them to joyfully play in the treetops just like squirrels.


I secretly want one as a pet.

The Slug

After a late night of class planning, I woke up to this on my wall right outside my bedroom door. In my normal disoriented state of just waking up, my first thoughts were, “why is there poop on my wall”. After close inspection I realized that it was in fact not poop, but rather a slug.


When I came home from work he had made it halfway down the hallway wall. Where he came from, who knows? Where he went, not sure.

The Beetle

While teaching I noticed this little guy sitting inside the window. 5 feet away from me…creepy!

beetleThis  Rhinoceros Beetle was bigger than my hand! Can you imagine having to teach with this thing waiting to fly in your face!

Hope you enjoyed this Connor.

Salvador: The First 3 Days

Day 1 

While this post does not represent my overall feelings for Salvador, these are a few words that represent my first day in the city.

Overwhelmed. Scared. Lost. Shit show. Ugly. Dirty. Rainy. Really Scared. Wet. Frustrated. WTF. Did I mention scared?

I love traveling but unfortunately I get extremely “car sick” on all types of transportation.

The city the boat leaves from.

Bom Despacho: The city the boat leaves from.

My trip to Salvador included a 6 hour bus ride to Bom Despacho through a handful of small, Bahian coastal towns protected by an excessive amount of speed bumps, an hour long boat ride across the Bahia de todos os Santos and then another city bus ride to the ‘house’ we thought we were staying at. In an attempt to avoid getting sick on the bus, I loaded up on ginger pills, ginger and honey candy, and ginger mints. I’m not sure if it is possible to overdose on ginger, but if it is, I did! I was also armed with saltine crackers and diet Sprite. While I defeated all feelings of nausea, I was overwhelmed by the daunting migraines,  feelings of exhaustion and the urge to punch anything that came within three feet of me. Needless to say, I was ready to get there and relax. Hah….like that would happen.

Follow my Havaianas to Salvador!

Follow my Havaianas to Salvador!


Before leaving for Salvador a student of mine told me that her son lived on Salvador and that he would be more than willing to host us during our stay. Free housing? Ummmm yes! I spoke to Danillo (my student’s extremely handsome son) before arriving and assumed that our set meeting time was exactly that…set. How American of me.

Nightfall was quickly approaching as Sarah and I wondered around Salvador reeking of public transportation and fear. After an hour or so and about five failed attempts of contacting Danillo, we found the “house”. I say “house” because that’s what I was expecting and that is exactly what we did not get. Danillo lives in the co-ed university house of UFBA. It is a gigantic plantation style house that sits on Corredor da Victoria (a main street in Salvador) and the ocean. Because Danillo was not there, we were forced to wait in the commons area until he returned. When Brazilians say that they will be back in an hour or two you should expect them in 3-5 hours.

The Room

After a while, the security guards and other students began to take pity on us and invited us to stay in their room. It was already 11PM and Sarah and I were exhausted and out of ideas. They were friends of the son of one of my students…..close enough connection, right?

We got to their room and that’s when I knew our trip had just gotten a lot more interesting. The overwhelming scent of marijuana and boy stench flooded my nostrils. The walls were filled with drawings, proverbs, Polaroids and messages from previous students and travelers. We plopped our stuff down on our new bunk bed and hashed out our plan for the next day. Even though I was beyond terrified to be staying in a room with two men, in a city that hadn’t been that welcoming with someone who was just as lost as I was, I still managed to fall asleep. Hopefully  the next day wouldn’t be as bad.

The Room

The Room

Day 2 

After a tediously long day of Portuguese courses, a samba dance class and a what seemed to be never ending trek through a terencial downpour, Sarah and I finally made it back to the Residencia Universitaria da UFBA–our home for the week. Tired, soaking wet, and yearning to sleep in my own bed, I was slightly anxious about going to bed in our shared room. I had already survived one night, but what if that was their plan? What if they loured us in with kindness and then planned to rape and kidnap us. Yes, this is where my mind goes when I am left alone to think about things. But surprisingly, what started out as unknown, terrifying territory was in that moment my sanctuary. As I was lying in bed translating Portuguese verbs in the subjunctive one of the boys serenaded us on the guitar while another friend, Oscar, sang and occasionally read poetry to the light batucada Samba beat.

My private show came to an end as my thoughts and worries floated away on the soothing lyrics of Novos Baiano’s Misterio do Planeta. Today was slightly better.

Day 3 

Like I mentioned before, Sarah and I took a class at a Portuguese language school called Idioma. At first I wasn’t sure if a week of classes was worth so much money, but during our second day of class I started feeling confident in Portuguese for the first time. We attended class from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM with quite the diverse group. Our cohert consisted of a German that never showed up, a Colombian girl, a Polish who speaks 6 languages, a Dutch girl and a Kiwi.

On this day I was determined to get out and see the city, but it of course rained again. Did I mention there was a McDonald’s down the street from our house? Sarah and I, satisfying that American beast the resides in all of us, shared a few meals there during our time in Salvador. It’s strange how much you start missing things just because they’re American when you’re abroad. During my last year in the United States I maybe ate at McDonald’s and/or Burger King three times. Here in Brazil, I have eaten McDonald’s every chance I get. Maybe that explains the three noticeable kilos I have gained these last two months.

All day Brazilians had been telling us about the famous concert they have every Tuesday night in Pelourinho. So Sarah and I set out on our own despite the less than pleasant weather and the fact that we had no idea where we were going. On the bus I asked a semi-safe looking man where we should get off. He happened to live in Pelourinho and was heading to the same concert. He walked us through Pelourinho all the while telling us that we were crazy for coming here on our own…..that seems to be the common reaction from Brazilians.

Suvaco da Cobra

Suvaco da Cobra

The concert was cancelled because of the weather (stupid rain), but little did we know that our night was about to get a whole lot better! We ended up at a local, underground samba club called Suvaco da Cobra. The Cobra’s Armpit. It was fantastic! I love samba! I love listening to it, dancing to it and doing everything else that can be done that perfect samba beat. A blog post on samba’s history and the joy it brings to my life coming soon.

I danced all night and even ran into a friend from Ilheus. Fausto! What seemed like a ruined day turned out to be a fantastic experience of what Brazil and Salvador really have to offer–Unexpected friendships, intense cultural experiences basked in Brazilian history and opportunities for personal growth.


Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog! The last half of my Salvador story coming soon!

Samba at Suvaco da Cobra ❤

Would you like to experience sending a package to Brazil?

Now is your chance!

Here are my Amazon and Walmart wishlist. One these lists you will find yummy foods from the US that I really miss, food items that the Brazilian students want to try (I will use them for cultural events), useful things that aren’t sold here and games and supplies that will help me teach my classes. There are a lot of things on the list (sorry), so I have made a list of the top 10 things I need.I would love to get everything though 🙂 Generic is fine! I love generic.

1. Febreze Fabric Spray (everything is musty!)
2. Aunt Jemima syurp
3. Shout gel or spray
4. Sour Patch Kids, Twizzler, lemon heads, swedish fish, sugar babies (movie theater candy) Any candy really haha
5. Tide pods (laundry detergent pods)
6. Jalapeno seeds and canned jalapenos/rotel
7. White chocolate reeses
8. Corn and flour tortillas
9. Spot it (the game) and Jenga (the game) Scrabble (travel sized game)
10. Green salsa/Salsa verde
Registered under Loni O’Grady

If you are planning on sending me something please let me know so I can take it off the list. Thank you so much!

The school address is (it is safer to send things here)

Departamento de Letras e Artes – DLA
Campus Soane Nazaré de Andrade
Rodovia Jorge Amado, km 16
Bairro Salobrinho
CEP 45662-900. Ilhéus-Bahia

The Cup

And how it represents Brazil and Brazilian Culture 

The CupThey say there are three stages to living abroad: Culture Shock, Anomie and Adaptation. I recently experienced all three of these stages with the simple use of a plastic cup. Before I explain why this cup, in my opinion, represents Brazil and Brazilian culture, let me explain the three stages.

Culture shock, as many of us are familiar with, happens when the traveler becomes disappointed, unpleasantly surprised or turned off by the new culture and surroundings. We often begin missing the simplicity of our home life and crave the comforting elements that we left behind. It’s not uncommon at this stage to feel resentment towards the new culture, as we tend to feel like outsiders.

Anomie begins when you let down your guard and begin to accept the differences. You no longer see these differences as a hindrance, but rather a part of life. Surprisingly, you begin to appreciate the new culture as well as begin to see life through the eyes of your new culture. During the anomie stage reflection becomes a huge part of everyday life.

Adaptation occurs when you learn how to fully appreciate and enjoy your new culture and surroundings. You are now able to efficiently navigate social encounters and everyday occurrences, and the new culture is no longer “new” to you. Personally, in the adaptation stage, I begin to take on a new persona–I begin the process of assimilation. At this point you are often able to successfully step back and reflect on cultural beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of both the old and new culture, while holding on to the best aspects of both worlds.

Now the cup…..

While restlessly waiting for the live samba group to set up on stage, our waiter began to rattle off the daily specials and beer choices. Even though it would have been ideal to ponder about the many beer choices and make my first Brazilian beer experience a good one, my overheated body and shriveled up taste buds could have cared less. I wanted the coldest and cheapest beer! I ordered a litro of Skol and excitedly awaited the arrival of my giant, sweating bottle of refreshing goodness. Before I could wrap my greedy hands around the 40 ounce bottle, Sarah (American but Brazilian at heart Fulbrighter) swooped up the bottle and began distributing it in tiny plastic cups. Wait hold up girl…..ok maybe it didn’t come out like that, but I was going ghetto on this girl in my head. When I inquired about the sharing of my beer she looked at me like I was the crazy one. “It’s what we do here” was her response. She went on to explain that when you drink in a social setting, each person buys a beer on their ticket (another ridiculous Brazilian thing that I will address later) and shares it with everyone. Well that’s stupid–This is where the culture shock set in. I like to stay on a budget. I am fine with substituting quality for quantity (especially when it comes to drinking), and I am not the quickest of drinkers. In that moment I felt like I was forced to chug my beers in order to get what I paid for.

At my first official party in Ilheus I encountered the Cup once again. It had been a long day, and like the samba club, I was ready to get my drink on.  As usual, I went over to the cooler and helped myself to a can of Skol. After a few minutes socializing with the infamous LEA students, Kali (Brazilian who acts more like an American Machista surfer dude)  just looked at Sarah and I and chuckled. “You guys are so American with your cans”. As I looked around, I noticed that everyone had those same, stupid plastic cups. WTF mate?!? Kali went on to explain that when you drink from a can instead of sharing and using a cup you are setting yourself apart from the community. He also addressed the issue of Americans being so individualistic–I quickly scanned the group and realized that he made a good point. I stand out enough as an American, so holding a can when everyone else has a cup makes me look even more “different” and somewhat selfish. However, I also noticed the amount of discarded cups and cans scattered across the yard and decided that would be my excuse as to why it is perfectly fine for me to drink out of the can–less trash! Considering Brazil has taken many steps in order to clean up their environment and lessen “plastic pollution”, I thought my point was quite valid. Nevertheless, I accepted the fact that the Cup would now be part of my weekend routine and unconsciously let the anomie stage being its process.

Since drinking in a social setting is a daily occurrence here, I was provided with several opportunities to practice my “cup use”. Two days ago was the first time I realized that I had moved on to the adaptation stage of my assimilation process. At this party I was offered some beer (which was generously poured into my cup) and then the foreigner next to me was offered some as well. Without thinking, she grabbed the can, said thank you and began to slip the beer. The Brazilian and I exchanged surprised glances….wow that chic is weird….wait that was me 3 weeks ago. So there you have it, my moment of glory! After resisting and judging I was finally thinking like a Brazilian, and it was a natural response. I had adapted and become a part of this secret Brazilian community. Even though I stand my ground on less pollution, I can proudly say that I am an avid plastic cup user and do so without thinking twice.

Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz

Or Just UESC

As many of you already know, I am lecturing and giving classes at the state university here in Bahia. The university itself is not located in Ilheus, but rather 30 minutes inland. It sits in between Ilheus and Itabuna and a not-so-consistent system of city and private bus systems shuttle teachers and students to and from campus.

The campus itself is a lot bigger than I thought it would be. All of the colleges have their own building and commons and the medical college even has its own medical garden. I have yet to venture off and explore the other buildings–I have only been in the LEA/Letras, library and administration building–but I am trying to work up the courage to go meet other people. I love LEA and Letras, but I see these people all day, everyday!

At the moment I am giving four English language classes, lecturing once a month for PARFOR and hosting cultural events . Besides that I also have “office hours” which really means I sit out in the commons and students can come and chat with me in English or get help with their English homework. Of the four class I am teaching, one is beginner, two are intermediate and one is advanced. I will also be co-teaching one of the intermediate classes with Sarah (the other Fulbrighter in Ilheus). I am very excited about having the opportunity to co-teach. I believe having this class will allow us to offer something new and exciting to the students as well as provide a sense of security and creativity for both of us. That’s another plus of being placed at the same university as another Fulbrighter. Sarah is always there to help whenever I am stumped and need advice or ideas. I can also get honest and constructive feedback from her–so far the feedback/advice from Brazilians has been lacking and/or quite negative.

The students here are wonderful! They have been so welcoming and helpful. There are a few in particular (Shalon <3) who have made this transition a lot smoother by picking up slack from above.

When we arrived, Sarah I were told that we were getting a new coordinator because ours would be moving soon. While we were excited to meet our new coordinator, this seemed to be the start of a long stretch of confusion, frustration and cultural misunderstandings. Universities–education in general–do not function like those in the US. Luckily, things have started falling into place. It could also be that Sarah and I have started learning how to deal with the “system” and laugh when NOTHING goes the way we have planned.

More about educational bureaucracy and Brazilian students soon.

Bureaucracy, the Federal Police and pinky promising a man carrying an AK47

A Never Ending Tale

I was all prepared to write a long and very angry post about the Federal Police and all the hoops I had to jump through in order to register and get some form of identification. Well, I am sick of thinking of them and talk about them, so you get the shortened version.

First attempt– Realize we both need to print out the forms and pay the ridiculous $200 fee at Banco do Brazil. We have no idea were we need to go, and by the time we figure it out, it is already past 11 AM (this is when they stop serving foreigners)

Second attempt- After more than an hour and a hot, sweaty and packed city bus, we get to the federal police station and guess what….they are on strike. No one is working and we are turned away. I made the police officer pinky promise me that they would be open and working on Monday. I never thought I would pinky promise a man holding an AK47.

Third attempt- We are finally able to get in the office and talk to one of the people in charge of registering foreigners. He sits me down first and then walks away to find the checklist since he obviously has no idea what is looking for or doing. After about 20 minutes he comes back with the paper. He starts listing numerous problems with my documents and tries taking papers away from me. I told him that unless I was getting my new protocolo today, I needed to hold on to my visa application from the Brazilian embassy. Instead of helping me and simply telling me what needed to be fixed,  he said things like, “I don’t care who your coordinator is and why does she think she knows how we work here” or “how could you be so dumb and not realize that your dad’s name was spelled wrong” (it was misspelled by one letter). Needless to say, I started crying. It was a mixture of built of stress and extreme hatred for Brazil, the heat and the man sitting in front of me. He did the same thing to Sarah. This man was and has been the only Brazilian to treat me like this.

Fourth attempt– The asshole was gone! I thought I had a chance. I made all the necessary changes (expect for the mistake on my visa) and was hoping the wouldn’t notice it today. Sarah went first and got hers! It was about 10 o’clock when it was finally my turn (remember I only have until 11 o’clock). She asked me to stand at the desk and get all my papers ready. She then disappeared. Since this happened last time, I assumed she would be back soon. I was delighted to see her walking back down the hallway after only five minutes, but my heart was soon crushed when she shut and locked the door. I asked Shalon what was going on. He said he didn’t know but that everything would be fine. We waited…..10:20…and waited…….10:30…. and waited……10:45 we asked the man at the desk and said that she had to leave because there was a dead body discovered on a boat that had just pulled into the harbor. Meu Deus! Apparently no one else at the federal prison knows how to look at official documents and a passport and take my finger prints, so I am turned away once again.

Fifth attempt- After waiting for an hour and almost having a heart attack while they looked over my papers, I finally get registered with the federal police.

…..I get home and realize they spelled my name wrong on the card.

Moro no Pais Tropical

My First Impressions of Ilheus

As I boarded my plane in Sao Paulo I was flooded with a mixture of emotions. I was thrilled to finally see my new city in person and excited  by the fact that I would soon be basking in the sun and splashing in the ocean again. I was anxious about meeting Shalon, Taty and Isaias. I had been in contact with them over the last few weeks, but I had no idea who they were, how they would receive me and if they would like me. I was ready to move into my new apartment and get settled–I had been living out of suitcase for about 3 weeks at this point I was ready to unpack and feel at home again. I was scared that Ilheus wouldn’t be what I was expecting and that I would regret choosing that city. Then I was angry when I thought about how I just paid $800 dollars for my luggage on TAM airlines and my euphoric moment was ruined.

IlheusSarah and I nervously chatted during the entire flight. She had the same fears, preconceptions and expectations as I did. This was reassuring for me. I was glad to know that I wasn’t alone on this journey.

As we stepped off the plane my body almost went into shock. My nostril were flooded with warm humid air, and my body began to sweat like it had never sweated before. Even though we were in the “airport”, I could still smell the ocean and sense the taste of salt in the air. I had arrived in Ilheus—tropical, hot, paradise-like Ilheus. As we walked into the airport the first person we saw was Shalon. His kind smile and adorable sign was exactly what I needed in the moment. No matter what adventures, mishaps or confusion was in our future, we had a Brazilian there to hold our hand through the process. To our surprise, Patricia (a gorgeous and loving professor at UESC) was also there to pick us up with Shalon and Isaias (our new coordinator). They took us to our apartment where we haggled a better deal and verbally signed our new rental agreement.

Donkey cart picking up trash

Donkey cart picking up trash

Our neighborhood itself is not at all what I pictured. Pontal is supposed to be one of the, if not the safest neighborhoods in Ilheus, but it seemed very rundown and nothing like I had imagined. I knew Ilheus was a beach town and assumed that it would be more touristy and well kept. Parts of my street actually remind me of Haiti and some of the rougher parts of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Besides the run down buildings, the beaches are gorgeous! I can see the ocean from my balcony and the beach is only one block away. One block! There are palm trees everywhere ❤ To the

The love of my life!

The love of my life!

North we have Playa da Concha which is a small hidden beach with almost no waves and a gorgeous view of the bay. To the South, we have Praias do sul where everyone goes on Sundays. This is a long stretch of beach that eventually reaches Olivenca where you can surf, play fresco ball, join a soccer match or just enjoy an ice cold beer or coconut. I am not ashamed to say that I will soon be a beach bum.
Anyways, that evening, we had a wonderful dinner with Tatiany (the old Fulbright coordinator at UESC). The dinner was delicious and her family was very welcoming and kind. I was grateful to spend my first night in Brazil with a family and a home-cooked meal.

At Taty's house

At Taty’s house

We spent the next couple days getting to know the city (and the horrible bus system) and trying to get some important paperwork down with Shalon. On one of those occasions, Shalon came home with us and waited while we showered and searched for the endless number of “official documents” that we needed to take with us. I told him that he could watch TV in the living room or use my computer while he was waiting for us. To my surprise, I came out of my bedroom, showered and ready to go, and instead of sitting in front of the TV or computer, he had taken one of our chairs out on the balcony and was just sitting there. Perhaps he was looking at the ocean, or watching the neighborhood children play in the street, or maybe just lost in his own thoughts. But whatever he was doing, I wanted to do it too. He looked so calm and at peace, and so Baiano (all the Bahians sit on the sidewalks during the day engaging in neighborhood gossip, chatting about the weather and news or just watching the daily commotion on the street). He was living and relaxing in the moment–a trait that I very much admire. It was then that I realized I had been placed in Bahia for a reason. If I make any changes in my life or achieve any personal growth, I want it to be like that. I want to be at peace. I want to be at peace with myself , with the world and the moment. I often get caught up with sulking in the past and dreaming in the future. It’s time I start living in and enjoying the present. I mentioned before that this is Brazil’s moment in history, well, this is also my moment too. So I’m letting Bahia run it’s course in my life and hopefully I’ll come out a better, more relaxed and tanner version of myself.

Not all those who wander are lost.

Not all those who wander are lost.

My Arrival and São Paulo

São Paulo

As well traveled as one may be, there is always that moment of insecurity, that moment of “oh man, what I am I doing here?” That’s pretty much how I felt as I stepped off the plane and into my new life. My life in Brazil. It wasn’t long before I was overcome with worries about whether or not my luggage had made it, where I was going to withdraw money, which bus was I supposed to get on and where. Soon those things wouldn’t matter, and the only thing I could think about was why in the world had I worn my winter jacket and where was the nearest place I could strip down to my swim suit.

After hours in line and meaningless conversations with strangers I received my stamp. I was really in Brazil.

Unexpectedly, my bus ride turned out to be quite pleasant. I sat next to another ETA who had also flown in from Atlanta. We divulged stories of ex-lovers and our travels while enjoying the air conditioned bus and mini tour of São Paulo. It was quite bittersweet knowing that even though I was already becoming great friends with Karen—as I would with many other ETA’s—our time together would be short and swept up in the whirlwind known as Fulbright orientation.


On our first day we were graciously greeted by Patricia and Luana—some of the most amazing women I have ever come in contact with. We were then loaded up like school children on a guided bus tour of the city. Our first stop was Catedral Metropolitana de São Paulo. After living in and traveling through almost every Mexican state, I have seen my fair share of cathedrals, and didn’t really expect much when I heard we were heading to a cathedral. I was wrong. The Catedral Metropolitana de São Paulo towers over downtown São Paulo and is surrounded by water features and enormous palm trees. The whole area is rather picturesque—as long as you ignore the large groups of seemingly homeless men gawking at every woman that walks by.

Our next stop was the Mercado Municipal. Again, assuming that this market would be like any Imageother market I had previously seen in Mexico, Guatemala or Ecuador, I wasn’t prepared for anything special.The Mercado Municipal of São Paulo is the cleanest, classiest market I have ever stepped foot in. All the stalls are perfectly grouped by the products they sell and all the goods are lined up nice a tidy, waiting to be purchased by the next passerby.

We were instructed to either try the pastel de bacalhau (ginormous cod empanada) or the mortadela sandwich (described as a bologna sandwich). Because of the horrible description of the Mortadela, I decided to go with the pastel de bacalhau—a decision both my stomach I would later regret. I later found out that Anthony Bourdain (my old man crush) ate that same mortadela sandwich at that same exact stall in that same market……ugh.

Then came the fruit. Anyone that knows me knows that I am obsessed with fruit. I was in heaven in this market! There were so many different types of fruit, fruits that I never seen or heard of before. The sellers were not shy about handing out free sample and I took advantage of that. When it was time for that awkaward “they expect you to buy something but I just wanted free fruit” moment I simply snuck away to the next stall while my fellow ETAs dealt with the pushy salesman.

Museu da lingua portuguesa We ended our tour with a stop at Museu da lingua portuguesa. I was impressed with their creative manner of “displaying” the history of the Portuguese language and slightly creeped out by the interactive language show at the end—one of those you had to be there kind of things. The museum itself is actually attached to the estação da luz which sits directly in front of the art museum and parque da luz. I would highly recommend this area to anyone wanting to enjoy São Paulo for an afternoon.

Overall, I was surprisingly impressed the city of São Paulo. Before arriving, I had heard so many negative things about the city and expected nothing more than a giant industrialized, filthy and rundown metropolitan area. But São Paulo won me over.

The day ended with me falling face first into my hotel room bed around 8 PM. Who knew being a tourist could be so exhausting?