Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good Morning and Welcome to the United States of America

I keep turning around reflexively when I hear people speak English, expecting to know them. Except that I'm in the Atlanta airport right now, so English isn't exactly uncommon. A young woman with a foreign accent just came up to me to ask how to connect to the internet, and I explained it to her -- I'm so much more helpful in English! I'm sitting right next to a coffee shop with bagels and muffins and big cups of coffee, waiting for my flight to Portland in about five hours. Since it hasn't sunk in yet that I've actually left Brazil (I still haven't felt the cold Atlanta air, much less the cold Maine air), I'm excited to be back in the United States.

While I had pumped myself up over the past few weeks about my return home by reminding myself of what would be awaiting me back in Maine (my family, friends, the cold, Christmas, food), the past few days were spent thinking about what I would be leaving behind in Brazil. There was a lot of eating and not a lot of sleeping (I would estimate about 15 hours total over the past four nights). By 6:30 pm yesterday, when I got the call from my doorman that the taxi was waiting outside, I was quite sure I didn't want to leave.

My last full day in Brazil was Tuesday, and I took a hike to a lookout point for one last view of the city I had called home for the past 23 and a half weeks. I ended up covered in mud and sweat, with a bruised tailbone and mosquito bites dotting my ankles and shins, but it was definitely worth it. Rio has many problems, some significant, but nobody can deny that it was kind of an ingenious place to put a city. It will be a change going back to boring old Providence; even Maine pales in comparison to these mountains lining the beaches.

Next on the list of last-day activities was watching the sunset at the Arpoador, which, as I mentioned in my last post, is one of my favorite places in Rio. Although we were doubtful it would be a good one, as the sky was cloudy, the sun managed to poke out near the horizon, and the clouds only made the colors more vibrant.

Our plan was to spend one last night out on the town and return in time for the sunrise and a morning swim. The night would also serve as a last chance to eat and drink some of my favorite foods and drinks. As I sipped my last Brazilian caipirinha at Rio Scenarium I already was planning for my next one back in the United States. I have a feeling the cold lime, sugar, and cachaça won't taste quite as good in the snow, but I've brought back some mortars and pestles so I'm determined to use them.

Back in Copacabana, we stopped by the hot dog van for a last cachorro quente completo -- complete with peas, corn, raisins, potato sticks, a quail egg, and of course ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. My last água de coco came at a stand on the beach, where we also shared some final fried manioc (and discussed how weird it is to use the English word "manioc" instead of mandioca or aipim, two of several Portuguese words for the same tuber). 

By this time some of the weaker members of our group were starting to yawn. We returned to Sarah's apartment to crash on her couches (unfortunately the hammock had been taken down) for about an hour and a half, and then I put on my best camp counselor/mom voice and woke my reluctant friends back up just before dawn. We were a little more lively once we got a good look at the sky over the beach and saw that it had started to change color. 

The sunrise was as beautiful as the sunset had been the evening before, and it marked the first time I had watched the two consecutively. The waves were huge and the beach still empty, and we took advantage of the abnormally warm water to throw ourselves into the surf.

There's so much more to say about Brazil, and I'm planning on continuing to blog so that I can say it. I'm sure I'll have a lot more free time now that I'm home Also, I'm convinced the 80-degree temperature drop and my general exhaustion is going to seriously hinder my efforts in avoiding catching swine flu from my mom, so I might be house-bound for a while if I succumb to it. Keep reading, I'll keep writing, and I will see many of you very soon!

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