Friday, November 27, 2009

Boas Festas!

Thanksgiving dinner outdoors is not something I ever expected to experience. However, the spring night with temperatures in the 80s turned out to be a perfect setting for a feast. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but the fact that I was sweating off all the liquid I consumed made me feel like I had more room for solid food, and the light summer dress I wore certainly rid me of the need to loosen my belt or unbutton my pants. 

I wasn't expecting much from this Thanksgiving, but the fact that it didn't actually feel like it should be Thanksgiving helped me forget that I was missing out. There were hints of it, though. When I Skyped with my family I noticed that they were all wearing sweaters and that there were no leaves left on the trees -- it actually did feel like Thanksgiving in that part of the world. When I made the green beans I was bringing to yesterday's potluck, I remembered how at home the job somehow always falls to me to cut off the ends, though I usually get away with doing it in front of the parade or football game. So maybe it felt like Thanksgiving, if only a little bit, since my green beans were about three times the size they are at home. They didn't even fit on the cutting board.

In any case, my green beans and my Thanksgiving turned out wonderfully, though like no other Thanksgiving I had experienced with my family, where we always have the necessities and only the necessities (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie) and where my brother and I get quizzed on Thanksgiving history. This feast included quesadillas with avocado, two different kinds of rice, lentils, açai sauce, and Korean BBQ-ed beef. However, there was stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and apple crisp, among many other delicious dishes, and we all said what we were thankful for before digging in, and there was even a hand-turkey drawing contest, so it was about as Thanksgiving-y as we could manage. I left stuffed, after seconds of both dinner and dessert, and that's really what Thanksgiving is all about, right?

When I finally waddled back into my apartment building last night, I noticed that there was a small, lit-up Christmas tree in the lobby that I could swear wasn't there when I left that evening. I would say that this signified the beginning of the Christmas season and the arrival of my holiday spirit if I hadn't already been bombarded by Christmas decorations for a month now. Whoever complains that Americans start advertising for holidays too early has never been to Brazil. With no Halloween or Thanksgiving to pace them (though we have had plenty of other days off, for holidays that no one seems to celebrate), Brazilians just leap right into Christmas in October.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas songs, and Christmas movies, and Christmas lights, and Christmas trees, and Christmas-themed hot drinks, and everything to do with Christmas. So I should love that stores were proclaiming that "Christmas has already arrived" as early as last month, right? Well, no. It just doesn't feel like Christmas when it's the sunscreen advertisement in a store window that is decked out in Christmas paraphernalia.

Or when the Celsius temperature could just as easily be in Fahrenheit near a similar display of Santa and snow back at home. (There are kids building a snowman farther down on the display. Many people here have never seen snow before and probably would have no idea how to go about building a snowman.)

Oh, and that was taken just after I had been discussing with my friends how it was a cool day. A cool, 86 degree F spring day.

I haven't listened to any of the Christmas songs in my iTunes library yet, nor do I have any desire to, and it hasn't even crossed my mind to watch Love Actually. All that will be saved for as soon as I step out of the airplane in Portland on December 17 and feel like my plane has been rerouted to the North Pole. I will pack the following week as full of Christmas spirit as I can, since I certainly am not feeling any here. Although I won't be able to go to the beach on Christmas at home, at least it will feel like Christmas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Theater, Film, Literature -- Look How Cultured I Am!

I'm a very thrifty person -- sometimes to a fault. This can lead to my mother complaining that I am not eating enough, or that I'm walking too much instead of taking a bus or a taxi, or anything else about my lifestyle that she can think of from 5000 miles away. However, last week I saw a play and two Brazilian movies for a grand total of 5 reais (almost 3 dollars), and I don't think there's anything worth complaining about in that.

The play was called Além do Arco-Íris, or "Over the Rainbow." Despite the fact that I am taking a translation class and learn for about four hours per week how words are polysemic, I was translating this in my head as "Beyond the Rainbow." It wasn't until the first notes of the song started playing that the beginning of the play that it all came together for me. 

Nothing to do with Dorothy and Toto, this play was about a woman whose husband has just died. For much of it, she just sat around on stage and told us how sad she was, and reenacted their first meeting, and sniffed his shirts. Pretty cliché stuff. I thought I wasn't going to be able to take it anymore when the stage went mostly dark and she started reciting "Funeral Blues" ("Stop all the clocks...") -- in Portuguese, of course. 

But then the pieces started coming together. There was the revelation of a secret abortion, an affair, and of course some fraud. If you think that's melodramatic, you ain't heard nothing yet. The big kicker came right at the end. We figured it out right as the main (and mostly only) character did (spoiler alert): she's actually dead too! Yeah, I didn't see that one coming. Unfortunately any mystery the play still held was quickly destroyed when the other character, who had been mostly clearing out the apartment until now, answered the telephone and said, "Unfortunately, the lady of the house died yesterday in a car accident." So that was a little abrupt.

I did enjoy it; it really wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to seem. The actress was quite good, and I was proud of myself for being able to laugh at the Rio-specific jokes. Plus we brought cookies.

The next day a Brazilian cinema chain was having a special day for national films, with each playing for only two reais. I skipped both of my classes (ok, I guess there's something for my mom to object to -- but it's not like I missed anything important!) and went straight to the theater.

The first film I saw was called Tempos de Paz, and it was about a Polish actor who comes to Brazil in 1945 hoping for peace, but who instead is almost sent back on the next boat by an immigration agent who suspects him of being a Nazi. It all takes place within a couple of hours, with the actor learning that things aren't so idyllic in Brazil and the agent learning about the importance of theater. And me learning about Eastern European immigration to Brazil during and after the Second World War.

I really liked the film -- though I distrusted the fact that the actor spoke such grammatically correct and fluent, though accented, Portuguese, despite never having been to Brazil before. I left the theater impressed and went to buy some chocolate before my next showing.

The next film was Besouro, about capoeira in 1920s Bahia, less than 40 years after slavery was abolished and before capoeira was legalized. The movie seemed to me to be kind of a Brazilian version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There was a little bit of flying involved. While very beautifully and fantastically made, I thought the characters could have been developed a little more. The love story was settled and over, as was the film, before I even realized what was happening (though I guess I did manage to finish my whole chocolate bar...).

After that I decided not to go home right away because the air-conditioning in the mall was heavenly. So I did some shopping! I haven't bought any Brazilian clothing yet, besides bikinis and my Flamengo shirt, of course, so I thought I'd look for some souvenirs. Brazilian clothing tends to be kind of weird though, with lots of flowy shirts with weird straps and no backs, so I didn't end up getting anything.

Instead I went to the bookstore. I was looking for a book by Fernando Pessoa, which I didn't find, but I ended up buying O evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ) by José Saramago, a contemporary Portguese author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998. Harold Bloom called him "the most gifted novelist alive in the world today," so I figured I might as well try to read one of his novels, although they are known for being extremely difficult. Paragraphs are an average of a page or two long (the first chapter is all one paragraph) and individual sentences aren't much shorter. I haven't gotten very far yet, and it's definitely hard, but I found that if I read very, very slowly, I can kind of get the gist of what's going on!

The reason I haven't gotten very far is this: the next book I bought was Harry Potter e as relíquias da morte... aka Harry Potter number 7!  I haven't read it since the week it came out over two years ago, and it's really fun to read in Portuguese. When else would I learn a word like "The Burrow?" (A Toca). I'm not even a quarter of the way through, though, and I'm already sad knowing that it will end soon. We will see if I cry as much at the end as I did when reading it in English.

Books in Brazil are kind of expensive (and people here don't really read! It's a vicious cycle....), but I think my mom will be glad to know that even if I end up spending my last month surviving on fried eggs and pasta and walking the 3.5 miles to school every day, at least I will be reading.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


"O Brasil Apagou," read the headline of a newspaper I saw this morning, a picture of a single candle in the darkness taking up almost the whole page. Brazil turned off. It was slightly overdramatic, but the melodrama about the blackout that affected much of the country last night wasn't limited to the media. In my Portuguese literature class, the professor was talking this morning about the rise of the bourgeoisie and the materialism that was a part of bourgeois culture. The girl sitting next to me started to say something but stopped short. "Go ahead," my professor said. The student hesitated, saying that it had nothing to do with the short story we were discussing, nor with literature at all, for that matter. "Go ahead," my professor told her again.

"Well, the power outage last night," she began. "It really makes you think. We have all of these things, but when you really think about it, they're nothing." She stared wistfully off into the distance, perhaps contemplating ridding herself of at least one of her cell phones (tons of Brazilians have several, weirdly enough) or maybe her laptop. "Nothing," she repeated.

I won't say that last night's blackout changed me so profoundly. However, it was fun to compare it to any of the many power outages I have survived in Maine (email from my mom: "hope you told everyone that you live through much longer power outages in Cumberland all of the time").

It started a little after 10 o'clock. I was sitting at my desk when suddenly my computer shut off (I didn't have the battery in it) and my light started flickering and dimming. I went to the door and found my host mother, Glória, fumbling around for one of her cell phones (she has at least three) in total darkness. The light in my room was completely out by then but I nevertheless found my (singular) cell phone and turned on its flashlight to help Glória. That's right, it has a flashlight! "Tá ótimo, o seu celular," she and Ariadne, the other woman I live with, kept repeating all night. Damn right my cell phone is awesome -- the cheapest one in the store, its light still managed to beat all of Glória's super chique phones... combined.

Ariadne had been in the shower (I was planning to go after her, so thank goodness she didn't finish just a little bit earlier!) and was still soapy when she came to stand next to me and Glória at the window that looks out onto the street. I tried to get some info on what was going on and why, but once it was clear that they didn't have any answers, we just stared down at the street and observed.

There was still some light on the streets, since cars were passing, but the lack of street lights was eerie. Even the lights at the Copacabana Fort were out. "Os bandidos vão aproveitar," Glória kept repeating (She's big on repeating things -- usually it's "That's just how life is."). The criminals are going to take advantage of this. And that was the first difference between a power outage in Rio and one in Cumberland.

The next was that we didn't have any candles! Or flashlights! Completely unprepared, we were relying on just our cell phones and therefore did not do anything the whole night besides stand by the window and chat.

I tried to tell stories about Maine winter power outages, such as the epic ice storm of '98, but I think I fell short in describing the real extent of the situation when I couldn't remember the word for "heating" (and why would I have used that word here?). Or "fireplace." Or "ice storm" (tempestade de gelo?). It's amazing what Portuguese vocabulary I lack simply based on the weather here. And vice versa -- for example, I know all about surfing in Portuguese.

"Do you think anyone is trapped in the elevator?" Glória suddenly asked. Ahh! I hadn't even thought of that. It never was a problem on Field Road. "The doorman is going to have to stand at the door all night," Ariadne pointed out, since the door-opening button requires electricity. Another power-outage casualty that had never crossed my mind. Glória then told me a horrific story of a girl getting trapped in an elevator for a week while her parents were on vacation; it was only when they returned that they found her dead. So I was not only glad that I hadn't been on the streets or in the shower, I was also very thankful I hadn't been in one of the several elevators in my building.

Some things I learned during the blackout:
  • The description of what to do when in a car accident in Rio that we discussed in my Portuguese class back in July was pretty much right on target. At one point last night there was a loud crash: a taxi and another car had crashed in the intersection we were staring down at (No traffic signals! Glad I wasn't in a moving vehicle! Or the metro! I didn't even think of that at the time.). There was a lot of screaming and honking, one car drove off (no information exchanged, of course), and the taxi driver pushed his cab to the side of the road and made a lot of angry phone calls. No one, not even one of the many police cars who sped by, stopped to help him.
  • There are tons of bats who live in the trees right under my window. This doesn't have to do with blackouts at all; I'm just saying. I have had enough experience with bats in my bedroom for one lifetime.
  • My host mother is a compulsive liar. She got several phone calls from friends, and she tried to convince each one that we still had light. The story began that our whole neighborhood had light, and by the last friend she talked to, she was saying that it was just our building that still had light because we were chiques and it was only the poor people who were left in darkness. She even told this friend that the door that the friend always came in was actually the service entrance and that the social entrance was a lot nicer and around the corner. While this sounds exactly like something I would have tried to get away with, I'm suddenly worried that I have been putting too much faith into what she tells me.
  • Fish can survive in aquariums without a electricity for the filter or oxygen circulation for up to five hours. The thing Glória said she was most worried about was her "peixinhos," and she made me hold my cell-phone flashlight up to the aquarium for her so she could make sure all her little fish were alive. Thankfully, one of her friends told her they had five hours (though I'm guessing that was just an arbitrary number, as I had been thinking of making up my own prognosis just to get Glória to stop worrying about them). After that, however, we should just fry them up.
  • "Blackout" is spelled "blecaute" in Brazil. I loved being able to say "blackout" with a Brazilian accent the whole night and this morning, and hearing others use the word always makes me laugh. I didn't actually learn how it was spelled, though, until this afternoon when I was able to use the internet again and finally read the news.
  • Which brings me to one thing I didn't learn: why? OK, there are some explanations (it all started with a hydro-electric dam on the border with Paraguay) but I'm not going to lie, I'm still a bit suspicious, and nobody seems to be giving clear answers. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but if people can't seem to agree on where and when it was raining yesterday....
Anyway, after over an hour of standing at the window, we all decided to go to bed. I stayed up for a little longer and started the seventh Harry Potter book, which I had just bought in Portuguese. I was sweating without my fan, not shivering by the fire, and I was reading by the light of a cell phone and not a candle, and there was no Central Maine Power outage line to call for information, nor a hand-cranked shortwave radio for access to the outside world, but in the end, as I read about Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the dark, it didn't feel all that different from a power outage at home.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You Look Lost.

I figured I had better finish up this chapter of my adventures before I go off on too many more. (I realized yesterday though that six weeks from right now I will be on my way back home. Crazy! I will have to stuff in my last batch of adventures.

After a wonderfully calm morning at the beach in front of our pousada, Sarah and I went to the front desk to check out and to make sure the bus back to Recife came by when we thought it did. The man there told us that it came by around noon at the square where all the vans leave from. We hurried up there.

That was when things go confusing. First of all, we had read that the bus left Maceió at 11 so it couldn't possibly get to Maragogi by noon. Also, we doubted it came through the town center, which was made up of a jumble of narrow streets.

However, no one was much of a help. Everyone we asked gave us different answers to our questions. The van drivers told us that we would have to take a van to Barreiros and catch the bus there, but we weren't sure if they just wanted us to pay for their vans. After much standing around in the sun and lugging our stuff from place to place, we made it up to a main road, where there was an actual bus stop. There, a trustworthy-looking young man told us that the bus did indeed pass by, but maybe not for a while, and it would be faster just to take the van to Barrieros where more buses come through.

So we finally did. In the van, we sat up front with the driver, who played us Eminem and told us how happy we was to live in such a paradise. He dropped us off at the bottom of the hill leading to Barrieros and told us we could either get a bus or a just slightly more expensive car there.

We sat in the shade with another young man who asked us questions until he suddenly sat up straight and whistled. A bus was coming by, and we ran to it, got on, and I promptly closed my eyes. It had take about a dozen people to get us on the bus to Recife, but we had done it.

We had plans to stay in Recife with Carolina and her family, whom we had found on We planned to go straight to her apartment from the bus station, but guess what? The bus didn't take us to the bus station. We go out in some unknown corner of Recife and had no idea where to go. I guess we must have looked lost, though, since someone came up to us and gave directions without us even needing to ask. This happened again when we got off the city bus in Carolina's neighborhood but didn't know where to go from there. It's a fool-proof technique: just look lost, tired, and sweaty, and someone will come help you!

Carolina wasn't home yet, but her mother and sister welcomed us into their apartment and gave us some water and snacks. While talking to them, we finally understood what we had slowly been realizing over the course of the week: in the Northeast, people's accents were next to impossible for us to understand! We had no idea where we were going, but we soon got into a car with Carolina's brother, who neither looked old enough to drive nor seemed to care about the basic laws of physics (there was a lot of needless acceleration and some screeching tires).

After a nice evening with Carolina and her friend in Recife Antigo (which is where we finally ended up), I was happy to go back and get into bed.

The next day, after a delicious breakfast, Sarah and I headed off to Olinda, a small colonial town right next to Recife. We went to about a billion churches and I took way too make pictures of colorful buildings. The views from the tops of the hills were gorgeous, though, and we found our way up to a lighthouse identical to the one we had visited earlier that week. The one actually had a padlock on the gate, unfortunately, and someone was guarding the entrance.

Mysteriously, after a much needed coconut water, we made it to the Museum of the Man of the Northeast, which we had tried twice to visit earlier in the week but had failed. It was very interesting and worth the trouble and confusion it took to get there (I think I asked more people for help and directions on this one trip than I have in the whole rest of my life).

Back at Carolina's apartment, we met up with some of her friends and siblings to go to a sushi rodízio. First of all, rodízios are the best thing ever: all-you-can-eat food. I had been dying to try a sushi one, and the restaurant we went to was absolutely delicious. I especially couldn't get enough for the strawberry sushi. i just ate lunch, but I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it now.

The next day we had been planning to visit a city in the interior, but our plans didn't work out. instead we visited a random castle in Recife, with an even more random collection of medieval armor, as well as a collection of art from the Dutch-influenced period of Brazilian history. Both the art and the museum itself were beautiful, and I learned some stuff about Brazil that I had never heard about before.

After a final dinner at a restaurant with foods typical of the region, we headed to bed for a few hours before our flight back to Rio.

That night, however, happened to be the night when Brazil moves to summer hours. BUT not all of Brazil, which we hadn't realized -- just the southern half, so Recife wouldn't be staying in the same time zone as Rio. What we didn't know was whether our flight would be leaving on Recife time or Rio time. After some clever research on the airline's website, we figured it out. And the flight wasn't even late! We soon made it back to Rio, where the sun was miraculously shining (though not for long).

And that was my trip. Recently in Rio, the sun has been shining quite consistently, but I'm about ready for some rain again. I tried to go to the beach yesterday and only lasted 30 minutes. You don't want to hear about the quantity of sweat I produced just lying there, reading my book, so I'll stop here....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Training For The Appalachian Trail

Before we return to our regularly-scheduled programming, I'd like to remind you all that I am now three hours ahead of the East Coast. Over the past year, I've lost three hours, one at a time -- one in the U.S. last spring, one when I came to Brazil, and the last two weeks ago when Brazil switched to its summer time. When I fly home in December, I'll be regaining my three lost hours all at once. Weird, huh? I don't know how I feel about this. Time zones confuse me.


We arrived at the bus station with the goal of going south and a vague idea of some of the towns we wanted to visit along the coast. But when we mentioned some of these names to the guy selling us tickets, he didn’t seem to know any of them. “Do you have a map?” I asked. But of course not – why would he? He did, however, manage to pull out a list of towns that the bus does go through, and when we recognized Maragogi on the list and remembered the pictures of its crystal-clear water that we had seen on the internet, we decided to go there.

The bus ride was scenic but uneventful – perhaps too uneventful. The bus would randomly stop and pick people up or drop them off without anyone announcing where we were. There was next to no signage either, so when we got back to the coast and started seeing signs referencing Maragogi, we figured we must be there.

Except that the bus didn’t stop. When it seemed to turn away from the coast and we stopped seeing pousadas (small inns/ bed and breakfasts), we realized frantically that we had missed it. By now, however, there were no more seats left on the bus and people were crowding the aisle, and it took us a while to make it to the front. Sarah asked if we could be let off there, the bus driver practically screeched to a stop, and we got out. In what was pretty much the middle of nowhere, Brazil.

So we started walking. With all of our bags. In the hot sun. In order to cheer ourselves up, we pretended we were training for the Appalachian Trail. (Though if/when we ever do hike it, we’ll probably bring hiking backpacks and boots and leave the duffel bags and flip-flops at home.)

We finally made it to one pousada, faces red and sweaty and looking like the two biggest gringas Maragogi had ever seen. It was way out of our price range, though, so we kept walking, until finally we heard a honk behind us and found ourselves being passed by a old white VW bus. We waved it down and ran to catch up with it.

Vans are an integral part of the transportation system in Rio, so we had ridden them before. They’re often crowded during rush hour, and some people have to awkwardly stand in between the door and the seats. This van, however, was approximately 40 years old, maybe two-thirds the size of a normal van in Rio, and took “crowded” to an extreme. From my position squeezed amongst three large, hot (in terms of temperature and not attractiveness, unfortunately) Brazilian men in the back seat, I could count the van’s every occupant – and at one point there were 19 of us.

While I was marveling at the capacity of the little old van to keep put-putting down the road, dodging potholes and sliding over speed bumps, Sarah was near the front, grilling the guy who takes the money about cheap pousadas. We had originally told him we wanted to go to Maragogi, but he steered us toward São José da Coroa Grande – little did we know that this was because we were actually going in the complete opposite direction of Maragogi.

We were dropped off in the center of the town, a small but bustling fishing village that was probably the least touristy place we could have gone to. We walked around for a bit, still lugging our bags, looking for the mysterious pousadas the van-guy had told us about. People all around us were wearing swimsuits and cangas and walking to and from the beach, which was exactly what we wanted to be doing. So when we finally stumbled upon a colorful building called the “Hospedaria Shalon Mayim,” complete with a Star of David on its sign, I told Sarah that I was counting on her Jewish cred (her dad is Jewish), we practiced our “Baruch atah Adonais,” and we went in.

A young boy was manning the desk. And he had a room for us! Cheap, and complete with a fan! However, without windows. And one of the walls was actually a padlocked garage-door-like contraption that led outdoors. And the tiny TV had an antenna that had to be knocked every once in a while to clear out the fuzziness. But the biggest surprise was probably the “Exclusive Property of the Lord Jesus” sign in the open space outside the rooms. (In retrospect, this should not have been a surprise at all. Why would there be a need to lodge Jews in São José da Coroa Grande?)

We finally made it to the beach and then to seek out some food. Yet somehow the town had none. We found some bread and what turned out to be the worst cake either of us had ever eaten. Our hunger was finally sated, however, when later that evening São José da Coroa Grande turned into a par-tay. We each had a delicious cachorro quente completo – a hot dog with ALL the toppings – and a “Swiss” crêpe (I have no idea how the Swiss really make their crêpes, but these are simply crêpe dough on a stick with a small candy bar melted in the center). We watched little children play in the center square and enjoyed the feeling of being the only gringos in the whole town.

After some unsuccessful searching for internet and a successful morning at the beach the next day, we decided it was time to move on. We found another van, told them we wanted to go to Maragogi, and were surprised to find that the actual town was significantly farther from where we had gotten off the bus the day before. Oops. But once in Maragogi proper (where we were actually happy to find other tourists), finding a pousada was a lot easier. We found a beach-front one with internet (!) and cable TV and a bountiful breakfast for about twice the price of the previous pousada – but it was definitely worth the splurge. I have taken very few more welcome showers than the one I took that night.

We decided that snorkeling was a must. After managing to talk down the price by using our sick bargaining skills on a young boy who soon became our new best friend (i.e. we shared a lot of thumbs-up after we kept good on our promise to tell NO ONE on the boat about the price he had given us), we shipped off to the reef that lines the coast in those parts.

Wow. Snorkeling was pretty awesome, and as I told my brother, I felt like I was living “Planet Earth: Shallow Seas.” The water was clear, the fish were cute and colorful, and it was cool to watch the waves crash against the reef, several kilometers out at sea.

After we returned after sundown and enjoyed several cups of much-needed hot coffee, we set out on a trek that would lead us to our second best friend in Maragogi. The waiter at the one open restaurant that looked like it was for the local folks and not tourists sat us down, mumbled the available dishes in the fastest Portuguese I have ever heard, and then chose for us when we stared at him blankly. We ended up being served carne de sol and some big hunks of mandioca, which is kind of the local equivalent of steak and potatoes. It was good, if a little lacking in excitement (or vegetables).

The next day, after a breakfast for which I have no words (it was that amazing), we decided to explore some of the other towns in the area. We took a van to Japaratinga, home of a beautiful and deserted beach, and asked around for the way to a couple of the other towns we had read about. We wanted to visit a lighthouse and see the manatees, but everyone we asked seemed to be borrowing the Maine saying, “You can’t get there from here.” We decided to set out by ourselves and prove them wrong.

With sunblock breaks every half-hour or so and plenty of water, we walked about six miles through paradise, only coming across a few fishermen and youngsters playing in the water. We thought several times of stealing one of the many fishing boats lying around, or perhaps one of the horses we passed, but we never went through with it. After all, we were still training for the Appalachian Trail.

After finding the mysterious balsa (small ferry) that we had heard about all morning, we arrived in Porto de Pedras and enjoyed the most refreshing coconut water I have ever had. We had made it, but we still needed to climb up the impossibly steep hill to the lighthouse that was had seen from several miles away and used as inspiration for our trek. We ignored the “entrance prohibited” sign though we were unsuccessful in our attempts to break into the lighthouse itself. The view from the hill it was on was beautiful enough for me, though.

The way back was about a million times as efficient: we took moto-taxis! It was the first time I had ever ridden a motorcycle and I was kind of scared to death as I had nothing to hold on to and my driver kept spinning around sandy curves and hugging the curb to avoid speed bumps (though going over the speed bumps when he couldn’t avoid them wasn’t actually any better). I gave up my dream to marry a moto-taxi driver and decided that it might be better if I were the driver myself, as I would have more control. Unfortunately I have no plans to move to the northeast of Brazil to do so, as the heat there almost killed me.

After another dinner at our friend’s restaurant (He chose our meal again for us: fish and salad, this time. And of course more mandioca, which, though unbelievably tasteless, was actually growing on me.) and of course some ice cream, we went to bed, absolutely exhausted but ready for more adventures the next day.

To be continued! One more episode left!