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Zoe Barnes - Brazil


September 26, 2015

Exactly one week ago I left my temporary home in Curitiba. It was here where, athough I ultimately really enjoyed spending time with my host family, I experienced my first “low,” (clearly shown in my previous post). Luckily, almost immediately after posting, I made it out of the trough and began to feel much more comfortable in my new setting. My temporary host family, Elaine, Julia, and Henrique, lived in an apartment building in an area of Curitiba called Cristo Rae. They were amazing and really welcomed me into their family. I experienced various new, Brazillian things, including my first feijoada, a huge gathering of extended family and friends with a ton of food. The actual feijoada is rice and black beans cooked in pork, with various different toppings and peeled oranges on the side to help with digestion (that’s when you know). It’s a big tradition in Brazil, and one of my Curitiba family’s favorites.

Although I ended up having a relatively positive experience in Curitiba, I was definitely ready to move to my permanent community, get out of the city, experience new things, breath some fresh air, and live freely. I was ready to start my life as I will know it for the next 7 months. My life in Imbituba, Santa Caterina, Brazil.

My house is on this big hill at the southern end of Praia da Ribanceira, a beach about 5kilometers north of the town of Imbituba, Santa Caterina. The neighborhood in which I live, called Vila Esperança, is situated on both the hill and the sand dunes, and is home to about 1,000 people. My host parents, Anne and Laureci, both grew up in this village and all of their family members live on the hill with us. In Vila Esperança, if you’re not family, you’re friends. Everyone knows everyone, something completely new to me after having lived in such urban and suburban settings my entire life.

Everything’s different here.

  1. My family speaks absolutely no English whatsoever, so it’s 100% Portuguese all day everyday.
  2. Sleeping until 7:30 is considered sleeping in and going to bed after 10:30 is relatively unheard of.
  3. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and it’s usually eaten with extended family and friends (especially on Sundays). We have coffee in the late afternoon, and rarely have dinner.
  4. Our house is literally 4 rooms: my bedroom; the bedroom that Laureci, Anne, and Dyllan (my 9-year-old host brother) share; the kitchen and TV area which is one joined room; and the bathroom.
  5.  There are bugs. Everywhere.
  6. The beach is right outside my front door.
  7. There are more cats and dogs than mentally possible to keep track of.
  8. When you look down at the ocean from up on the hill, or when you drive on the road along the beach, or basically any time you look at the water, there are whales. Without fail.
  9. Everyone eats a ton of seafood.

I love it. The papaya and coffee every morning for breakfast. The walk down the hill to the beach, followed by runs along the beach, followed by sitting on the wooden whale-watching platform built off the side of the hill above the water, followed by the steep, thigh-killing hike back up the hill and back home. The random visits made by various family members. The tiny bananas. The seafood risotto.  The nighttime drives along the beach with Anne, Laureci, and Dyllan, blasting and singing Dyllan’s favorite (North) American music like Timber and Whistle. He knows all the words even though he has absolutely no clue what any of them mean. It’s all so great. Even the fishing. When Laureci asked me if I wanted to go fishing for shrimp (camarão), he didn’t mention that it entailed going thigh deep into this lagoon separated from the ocean by a sand bank…when it was an hour after sunset and raining. Oh yeah, shrimp only come out at night. I didn’t know that until I was knee deep in water. Literally.

Anyway, long story short, I’ve absolutely loved my first week in Vila Esperança, Imbituba, and feel so comfortable that I can’t believe it’s been only a week. I can’t wait for what the next six and a half months brings, and whether it be ups or downs, I’m so ready to take it head on and let it change me for the better.

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Zoe Barnes