Familia Brasileira

Piled in the van on the way from the Salvador airport, I just remember Tony turning to us and saying, “Okay guys, we’re going to spend a night at this house, get showered, get dinner, and cover some logistics. Tomorrow, we’ve got to get up nice and early to go to your orientation and meet your host mothers.”

Sounded fantastic: finally bathing after 25 hours of travel, getting some good Brazilian food, taking in the city for our first night…wait…host mothers?


Less than 24 hours into my first visit to Brazil, I would be shaking hands with an exceptionally welcoming lady and strolling into her house, where I was going to make my home for the next month. Oh, and I didn’t speak her language.

Only a day later, I find myself enjoying coming home to Edificio Marte on Av. Sete de Setembro, in the neighborhood of Vitoria. I still don’t speak my host mother’s language—in fact, I’m frustratingly incompetent—but I’m trying, and she’s pushing me to practice. I feel like a bit of a sitting duck, listening to her and her friends’ swap stories over mealtimes, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to listen and observe, trying to catch words I know and pick up on the jokes. I feel like one of the girls—or, at least, like I could be someday soon.

And that’s the wonder of Salvador da Bahia, from what I’ve seen so far: it’s a vivacious, animated culture, bustling, jovial, and spirited. We’ve managed to get swept into a political parade within an hour of arrival, and have a samba lesson on our first day of language classes. Music pumps from car stereos and cell phones on high volume, handshakes and thumbs up abound. I can’t wait to break down the language barrier and join them.