Welcoming hearts of strangers in Brazil

Somehow having trouble getting motivated to write this blog. Been living the kind of slow life the last week or so, but loving it.

Back to Curitiba. Susy and Adriana warmly welcomed me into their home for a few days, and I was so grateful. There's something truly beautiful about offering a warm bed (or air mattress), home cooked meals (and Susy can COOK), and hot showers to a stranger you just met.

With Susy and Adriana

My first day in Curitiba, I met up with Joey, my friend from Singapore who I met at Iguazu Falls, and we decided to play tourists yet again and take the bus around the city. The nice thing about this bus, however, was it gave us the opportunity to get off at four destinations of our choice. Curitiba is known for its beautiful parks, and we enjoyed the green space, views, and even the public exercise equipment.

Yeah, it wasn't that heavy...


We also stopped in Curitiba's version of Little Italy, known as Santa Felicidade, for some wine and chocolate tasting.

That evening, we met up with one of Joey's friends at a local food festival where I got to try some classic Brazilian favorites of pastel de queijo (a cheese stuffed pastry) and a picanha sandwich (supposedly the best cut of meat). Brazilian food is pretty amazing overall, and I would have to say my favorite delicassie so far is something called a cozinha- basically a breaded and fried piece of dough stuffed with chicken, and sometimes potatoes and cheese. Doesn't get much better than that! =)

Pastel and picanha

Wednesday evening, I was scheduled to give a presentation on nursing in the US at Adriana's school. I was originally supposed to have a translator, but it didn't exactly work out that way. I ended up putting my “portuñol” to the test, and was thrilled that somehow the students understood most of what I said. Nursing as a profession in Brazil is not treated with very much respect, and the low salaries for nurses in Brazil reflect this attitude- kind of sad. I found it inspiring, however, to be in the presence of students who obviously seemed to want to study nursing for the right reasons, not just for job security or money, and I expressed that appreciation to the best of my ability.

Adriana had to step in a few times to make sure I was being understood...

I caught a bus from Curitiba to São Paulo the next morning. Buses in Brazil are way nicer than buses in the States and very comfortable. Most buses also take breaks at rest stops and, unlike the bathroom breaks on the buses in Peru, these rest stops are equipped with clean bathrooms, hot food, and even shopping areas that rival the well-known Buc-ee's truck stops of Texas.

I arrived in São Paulo and navigated the subway system over to my friends Anna and Marcel's house in the neighborhood of Vila Mariana. As amazing as it has been getting to know new friends on this trip, it was also wonderful to be reunited with familiar faces for the first time since I left. We had dinner at a Thai/Mexican fusion restaurant nearby (yeah, I'm not sure how those two go together but I guess it works!), and I indulged in my first pad thai since leaving the states. Complete with sticky rice with mango. Yum.

Perhaps my favorite dessert of all time

The next evening, I reunited with my friend Elaine from Iguazu Falls (I'm telling you, the hostel in Foz was a magical place, bringing together like souls from all over!). Coincidentally, in a city of 11.3 million people, Elaine lives just three blocks from Marcel and Anna's house- what are the chances? We enjoyed a quick pasta meal at her house (sometimes it's nice to save money and eat in), and took a cab down to the theater where Anna and Marcel would be performing in a production of the musical Godspell that evening. The production was incredible, in a tiny intimate theater where the actors were almost in our laps. Even though I didn't catch most of the jokes in Portuguese, I could fully appreciate the engaging acting and beautiful singing. Anna herself wrote a musical last year that was nominated for several awards here in São Paulo. We watched the video of the musical at home the other day, and it was truly impressive. If any Brazilians are reading this blog, you should check out the show “Vengança” when it returns to São Paulo for its second run this February!

Elaine and me

After the show, Anna, Marcel, Elaine and I headed out for a few beers and snacks at a local bar. If you haven't figured it out by now, São Paulo is pretty westernized, and it has actually been a bit of both a culture and a wallet shock for me, coming straight from Cuzco. The cost of living here is pretty much the same as in the States, if not even more!

Another Brazilian treat- brigadeiros (essentially condensed milk and chocolate balls!)

Also love these little cups of coffee...

Saturday night while Anna and Marcel returned to the theater for another show, Elaine and I met up with my friend Camilo, his cousin Anna and Anna's boyfriend. We met in a cool neighborhood known as Vila Madalena, full of botecos (bars/restaurants with open seating out onto the sidewalk) and night clubs. We started the evening with some beer and snacks and then searched for a place to go dancing. The salsa club we had originally planned on going to was completely empty, which actually ended up being a good thing. We decided instead to check out a club across the street called Pau Brasil. Pau Brasil was a hole in the wall type of bar with a very cheap cover charge for a Saturday night (about $4) and a speakeasy sort of feel. A four piece band played in the middle of the floor while people crowded around, dancing, drinking, laughing. The place was packed and the music was fantastic. Elaine and Camilo informed me this sort of place was “very Brazilian” and we were lucky to have stumbled upon it. It was too dark to take pictures, so there is no documentation, but trust me that it was one of the most amazing night life places I've visited on this journey.

Good times at a boteco- the beer is always ice cold in Brazil!

Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed early (not an easy feat after going to bed at 3am) to take a bus out of São Paulo to Campinas, the town about an hour and a half away where my parents lived for 4 months back in 2008. I was picked up at the bus station by more friends, Kathy, Mauricy and Phyllis. We went straight to church at 11:30. The service was actually in English- it was a church attended by a few of the many American ex-pats who live in Campinas. After a much needed nap that afternoon, we had tea at Phyllis's house, then headed out to a restaurant/bar that had a live forró band and my favorite activity, dancing! Forró dancing is more or less similar to the cumbia steps I've learned salsa dancing, so I picked it up pretty quickly, and had so much fun! =)

The picture's a little dark but you get the idea...

Kathy and I went to her gym this morning where I enjoyed a free yoga class then a trampoline class. Felt good to work out a little. It rained all day today, so I've been chilling on the couch with this little one pound creature (they say it's a dog but it's the tiniest dog I've ever seen so I call it “creature”), and trying to get motivated to finish this blog. Heading out now to hear some chorinho music- seems like most of the fun activities in Brazil are at night, and I'm really enjoying it! =) Hard to believe I'll be home in just a few weeks. More soon…

Yes this dog is about the size of my iPad...



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