Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Days #41, 42, & 43. Imbassai, Salvador, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

When we booked a motor taxi, I imagined it to be a motorcycle with a carriage built over the back of it. Like the ones in Peru. But nope, it’s just a motorcycle. Three of them pulled up to the hostel to take us to the bus stop. So we all hopped on with our backpacks, and off we went! No helmets necessary. My dad and Missy would kill me over this. Luckily the bus stop wasn’t far, and soon we were on a bus headed to Praia do Forte. I had a bad feeling about going there. The English girl, Kathryn, really wanted to see the famous Sea Turtle Project there. But the one I saw in Floripa made me sad. I didn’t like seeing the turtles swimming round and round in their 4x4 kiddie pools where they remained captive for their lifetimes. We got there, looked around, watched a guy from LA feed them, and left. It was just as depressing. The poor little turtles. By the way, did you know that out of 1,000 eggs only 1 tortoise makes is to adulthood?!

That evening the 4 of us girls hiked out to some rocks by the river for sunset. We took turns going around the circle, asking the most random questions we could think of. “What makes you mad?” “What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” “What do you want out of life?” Soon the mosquitoes started coming to life, so we went back to the hostel to scrape together something for dinner. We were all in the mood for something fresh, so I made the girls a potato salad and tomato salad. Simple. Then we all crashed early, seeing as how we’d gotten about 2 hours of sleep the night before.

The next day we took more motor taxis to the bus stop to catch the 1:30 bus. We waited for an eternity with no sign of that bus. In desperation, I made a sign that said “SALVADOR” in big red letters and stood by the road with my thumb out to try and catch us a ride. Lots of cars slowed to stare at the sign, but no one stopped. No one. Not even a Volkswagen van that appeared to be empty aside from the driver. So we waited some more. And finally the bus came.

That evening I strolled around town on my own, listening to music and people watching. I stopped to hang out with a group of people jamming in the streets. There were some drums, a guitar, saxophone, and flute. A flute!! First one I’d seen in South America so far. “Muito gosto flauta!” I shouted over the drums to the flautest excitedly, “I like the flute!” He smiled broadly and handed the flute in my direction, nodding and waving it at me. At first I shook my head no, but he kept insisting. So I took it and started moving my fingers across the beautiful silvery keys that I know and love so well. We jammed for a good 20 minutes before my lips just wouldn’t work anymore. It was SO much fun!! I was ecstatic to be speaking the universal language of music with these creative and passionate people on the streets of Pelourinho. It got me all jonesin’ for the old love lab jam sessions back in OB with Terry and D and all the hippies.

After that I met up with Kathryn and we went to a free reggae show. The band members all wore matching camouflage pants and jackets, and yellow/green/red striped hats that bulged out over their massive dreads. The sweet smell of herbal permeated the entire area. High-school aged boys and old Rasta men danced in the front row. One guy got lambasted for resting his can of beer on the stage. “Por favoooooor!” the sole lady in the band cried into the microphone, and he quickly removed the beer. I guess Rastafarian religion doesn't tolerate alcohol. But they have absolutely no qualms whatsoever with the herbal!! We danced until I felt like I was melting into a pool of sweat – it was sooo hot out.

In the morning, Kathryn and I decided to hit up Barra Beach along with a few others from the hostel. It was my last day! A Sunday. And lucky me – there would be a pre-carnival parade along the beach later in the afternoon. We soaked up some sun and ate ice-cold acai out of cups. I finally tried pastel, a crispy fried pastry filled with cheese. It was absolutely sinful, the grease dripping off the cheese onto my bare feet. Around 2:30 the parade started. Several drum schools marched down the street, followed by decorated trucks, singers, dancers, and large brightly colored mascot characters towering over the crowd. I would love to be in Brazil for the actual carnival, but just for 1 or 2 days. It’s amazing! But it’s also incredibly over-stimulating.

It was Kathryn’s last evening in Salvador, and my final evening in Brazil. She said we should have one last moqueca to commemorate. You don't have to twist my arm over moqueca. It was even better than the last time! Then we had my favorite dessert: passion fruit mousse. Kathryn suggested we stop at an internet café to check-in for our flights. We had decided to share a taxi to the airport the following day, since both of us had flights at 1:30 pm. I hadn’t planned on checking in, but since she was I would do it too. When I opened my e-mail from GOL airlines, I had to do a double take. Did it really sat that my flight was at 0130??? Or maybe I just read it wrong. I opened all the e-mails from GOL, and all of them said 0130. I couldn’t believe it – Kathryn had just saved me from missing my THIRD FLIGHT OF THE TRIP!!!! So instead of taking a taxi with her the next day, I actually quickly ran back to the hostel, showered, packed, and got my own taxi to the airport 2 hours later. Close call.

Now I was facing 17 hours in the Sao Paulo airport before my connection home. I’ve spent 24 hours in an airport before in London, and it was absolutely the most miserable travel experience of my life. I couldn’t bare the thought of this again. So I messaged a Brazilian friend of mine who lives back in the states on Facebook, and he gave me a contact in Sao Paulo. His friend, Alexandre. “He’ll take good care of you,” he wrote. Alex graciously picked me up at the airport at 6 am. Then he went to work while I took a long nap with his little black dog and the sweetest cat. He came home from work early and took me on a tour of the Northern Sao Paulo countryside on his motorcycle. And yes, I had a helmet this time! J We went to one of his favorite restaurants where we dined on tapioca and cheese balls with chili, dry beef in an onion broth, and fish in a tomato sauce with pickled pearl onions, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, cashew rice, and coconut falafel. Everything was beyond delicious. Apparently the 30-year-old chef who runs the place is known for his creative variations of traditional dishes. I had heard of the exciting Sao Paulo food scene, and this restaurant definitely delivered. For dessert, I ordered my 2nd favorite: flan. This flan was extra special though, topped with a layer of tapioca and toasted coconut, and smothered in rich caramel sauce. Phenomenal. Alex, thank you infinitely much for your gracious hospitality! If you ever come to San Francisco, dinner and a tour of the city are on me!!

I made it back to the airport with 3.5 hours to spare. After all my travel mishaps, I was ultra paranoid about this one and took every precaution. Definitely did not want to jeopardize my $1,000 non-refundable flight home.

Wow. The 6 weeks went by way too fast, and now I sit on a plane, thinking back on this time with tremendous gratitude.

Much to my dad’s relief, I wasn’t mugged, robbed, or kidnapped. I didn’t lose anything other than an old pair of crooked sunglasses, my yoga matt, and 2 of those bow-and-arrow type capoeira instruments that I unfortunately left behind the door of my Salvador hostel. Sorry Missy! One of those was supposed to adorn the wall of your new house :/ I’ll grab another on my next trip.

I gained 4 pairs of Havaianas, a tan, a few pounds (to be determined), new friends, a new perspective, an unexpected but delightful tour of Uruguay, burning love for Brazil, a desire to learn Portuguese, and an insatiable thirst for kite surfing, samba, and passion fruit caipirinhas.

If I were to rank the places I’ve visited so far, I would have to put Brazil at #1. This country is phenomenal. I observed the breathtaking grandeur of Rio; basked in the balmy sunshine of Floripa’s pristine beaches; kited under near-perfect conditions in beautiful Jeri; soaked in the colorful, throbbing culture of Salvador; and savored a brief but powerful glimpse into Sao Paulo’s vivid countryside and eclectic food scene.

When I boarded the plane from Sao Paulo to Miami last night, those same butterflies that I had in my stomach at the beginning of my trip came back. I felt a warmth of emotion wash over my body. I had an overwhelming urge to cry, but couldn’t. This trip has been extra special for me. It’s not that some earth shattering idea came down from the sky, or a huge life-changing decision was made. It’s just that I feel…. inner peace. CRNA school and graduation and taking boards and finding a job, all those things had made me frantic inside. After taking these 6 weeks off to immerse myself - to lose myself - in other cultures, I now feel an overwhelming sense of calm, quiet confidence.

South America, it’s been unreal. Until next time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Days #39 & 40. Salvador & Imbassai, Brazil.

After all that capoeira and dancing, I needed a day to recover. So I chilled with my friend Steph that I met back in Floripa. Again, so random. We went to a restaurant recommended by JoyAnn, a lovely girl born in Trinidad and raised in England who works at the hostel. She said they have a really good fish muqueca which I’ve been dying to try. So we ordered it. It was huge. A bubbly, steamy fish and coconut milk stew served in a hot pot. We devoured it! Except for one little piece of fish that neither of us could muster the willpower to finish. It came with rice and that awful thick gooey seafood mash that I still haven’t acquired a taste for.

Then we got pedicures. I couldn’t believe how cheap they were – only $R16 which is about $7. But once she got started, I saw why they were so cheap. I’m used to the pedicures where they soak your feet in hot water, trim your cuticles, buff your soles, massage your legs, and all that amazing stuff. But she literally plopped my foot in her lap, removed my old polish, filed just a teeny bit, and slapped new polish on really sloppily. I looked down at the nail polish smeared all over the place and fervently hoped she was not going to leave it that way. And she didn’t. At least she cleaned up the edges with an acetone-soaked cotton swab wrapped around a pointy stick. The only good thing about this pedicure, is that it would have cost me the same amount to buy the remover and polish to do it myself. I guess I’m a bit spoiled back in the states!

Around 4 pm, JoyAnn, a Canadian girl at the hostel named Angela, and myself boarded a bus for Imbassai, a 2-hr ride from Pelourinho. We had decided the prior day to check out an eco hostel by the beach whose flyer promised tranquility, yoga classes, a pool, and being one with nature. There were only a few people on board so we each grabbed our own row of seats. Until a man boarded at the next town and, out of all the empty seats, he picked the one next to me!! :( I was not happy about this at all because I planned on stretching out and sleeping. Seriously, there were FIVE PEOPLE on the bus and he decides to crowd me out. Not cool. The bus took us a few stops too far before dumping us off, and we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with our backpacks, and absolutely no clue which way to go. So we did what anyone in their right mind would do. We walked. The full moon cast an eery light on the dirt road. JoyAnn said it reminded her of a scene out of a horror film and I told her to shut her mouth and stop freaking me out!!! We finally came upon a small restaurant/bar with a really sweet owner, who offered to drive us to our hostel for around $10. “Should we do it?” JoyAnn asked, and I replied, “Are you crazzzyyy? Yes!” Our other option was to keep walking in an unknown direction to God knows where. We piled into the teeny tiny little car, but not before the restaurant owner cleared a carseat out from the back. Within 10 minutes we were at our eco hostel, having scraped every speed bump on the entire drive there, despite going over them at around 2 mph.

The hostel definitely had a nice jungle vibe going for it. There was a pool. Slightly larger then my bathtub. Haha, no, it was bigger than that. But only slightly. Lots and lots of palm trees dotted the sandy grounds, and hammocks swayed in the breeze. There was an outdoor grill and pizza oven, which was being enjoyed by some local Brazilian travelers. They were BBQ’ing and playing guitars, singing “All My Loving” by The Beatles at the top of their lungs. The coolest thing about this hostel is the humongous gazebo type structure sitting in the center of the grounds. On the bottom is the dining area, and on the top is the yoga room. It’s all open-air, the floors colorfully painted with murals. I love it! Can’t wait to do yoga!!!

We were too tired to even eat and went straight to bed. In the morning, we enjoyed a beautiful breakfast spread – including all the usual stuff but also several freshly baked cakes and tapiocas. It was already getting swelteringly hot out, so as soon as the last crumb of cake was gone, we high-tailed it to the beach. Such a pretty beach too, stretching as long as the eye could see! We bootlegged some beach chairs at a swanky resort spot and managed to hang out there for a few hours without getting caught. There was a 5x5 volleyball game going, but it was so hot out I couldn’t even muster the energy to go play. Angela was getting sunburned, so we headed into town for lunch. We found a cute little place off the main road and ordered more fish muqueca. Can’t get enough of it!! Theirs was even better then the one in Pelourinho. Much more flavorful! You can see the palm oil floating on the surface of this dish… it’s incredibly rich. JoyAnn also ordered a crab appetizer served in a fake crab shell. It was ok but every bite was crunchy because of the crab shells. For dessert, they brought us a cold scoop of freshly grated coconut cooked in condensed milk, kind of like a pudding. It… was… heaven in a bowl.

Back at the hostel, a kind Spanish lady led us in a yoga class. I haven’t done yoga in over 5 weeks! I’ve missed it terribly!! It felt soooo good to stretch. The other girls didn’t like it nearly as much as me, especially the “childbearing pose”, as the English girl called it. That’s the one where you grab your big toes and stretch your legs out in a V.

After yoga, Angela and I went to the market to see what we could buy for dinner. I looked around and immediately spotted some gorgeous eggplants, ripe tomatoes, and fresh herbs. So I was inspired with an idea – eggplant parmesan!! Angela said she’d never had it before. Amazingly, they had all the ingredients I needed. Except for breadcrumbs. But I thought I’d try the falafel powder Brazilians put on everything as a substitute. It has the consistency of panko except finer.

Eggplant parm. What a pain in the butt. I forgot how much work it is to bread and fry stuff! Especially a plate full of eggplant slices! But the falafel powder worked out great. I was pretty happy with it. In the meantime, I had a pot of fresh marinara simmering made from the ripe chopped tomatoes, onions, tons of garlic, parsley, oregano, a pinch of sugar, a squirt of lime, and some seasoned salt from a tub that the Brazilians lent me. When all the eggplant had been breaded and fried, I laid them in a beat-up metal pan that had seen better days, topped them with the marinara and loads of mozzarella/parmesan cheese, and popped it into the oven for 20 minutes. Out came a bubbling heap of cheesy deliciousness. We ate nearly the entire pan. Us and a girl from England who arrived today. JoyAnn made passion fruit caipirinha’s, which were so good, even a Brazilian man at the hostel said they were the best he’s ever had!

After dinner, JoyAnn and the English girl crashed. But Angela and I weren’t tired at all! So we walked with some others from the hostel to the town square. A crowd had already gathered to hear the local bands play. We heard 4 different bands, all with their own unique sound, from rock to reggae to traditional Brazilian. A toothless fossil of a man dressed in white twirled me all around the cobblestone square. Couldn't believe he could still move that way!!! I nearly broke another pair of Havaianas.

We went to bed around midnight. It was SO HOT in the room, and the fan kept turning off intermittently. Of course the fan is nailed into the wall in a position that is shooting straight down the center of the room and pointing at NO ONE. None of us really slept that night. Not even JoyAnn and the English girl who had gone to bed hours before us. In the morning, when we all grumpily descended our bunks, they lamented that they hadn’t gone out with us seeing as how they got no sleep anyway. Not even cake could console us. JoyAnn wanted to do a waterfall hike today but everyone is too exhausted. I guess we’ll stagger to the beach for the afternoon. I love being in nature, but I am definitely looking forward to being back in Acai Hostel tomorrow with my AC and private mini fan clamped onto the bedpost!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Day #38. Salvador, Brazil.

I am astounded every single day by the randomness of traveling. The cutest mom and her little baby girl sat next to me on the plane from Fortaleza to Salvador. The mom had red hair and freckles, but was speaking Portuguese to the baby. The baby had white sandals with bows on them, and she kept kicking me all through the flight. But she was so cute I didn’t even mind! “Sem problema! No problem!” I said to the mom when she scolded her child. Then yesterday, I was walking around an area called Pelourinho here in Salvador, and across the street I spotted the same girl with her baby, except this time the baby rode on her daddy’s shoulders. I couldn’t believe it!!! In ALL of Salvador, I see this girl from the plane. “Oi!! Chica!!” I squealed in excitement at the sheer randomness of it, and she looked over. A smile of recognition crossed her face and she waved. Crazyyyyy…..

Salvador, formerly the capital of Brazil until it was re-located to Brasilia, is a huge thriving town in the state of Bahia. Salvador is famous for its Afro-Brazilian influences, brimming with rich culture, music, drumming, dance, and capoeira. I am staying in Pelourinho, which is the historic center. The hostel – Acai Hostel – is simply awesome! Owned and operated by the nicest Brazilian guy from Sao Paulo, it has an inviting common area on the top floor which includes a big table with bright yellow chairs, a comfy couch, bean bags, and a deck where you can sit in the beautiful sunshine and watch the street life below. There is always music playing. The kitchen is cheerful, boasting a shelf with an endless supply of rice, pasta, and a few other essentials available for everyone’s use. Acai’s staff are so nice and accommodating! The owner even went out with us last night to the street samba party.

When I arrived the night before, I was told that the next night – Tuesday – was THE night to be here. The weekly samba party would be taking place, and this is definitely not to be missed, they said. I keep getting lucky! It seems like every place I go, I happen to be there when something special is going on. Like in Buenos Aires for the famous San Telmo Sunday market. Had no idea about that, but people came from all over just to enjoy it! Went to bed early that night… like around midnight haha. Hey, that’s early in South America! But first I went to a sandwich shop which had terrible service (not uncommon) and it took 40 minutes to get my egg, cheese, and salad on a bun.

Tuesday I took a walking tour with a handful of people from the hostel. A young Brazilian boy took us all over town, explaining the history behind everything. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with tightly packed venetian-colonial style houses painted in every hue of pastel. I’m not totally sure if “venetian” is actually a legit style, but I am using it. I feel like Easter is everywhere! The other really cool thing is that they are putting up all the decorations for Carnival, so there are also gaudy paper machete figurines and statues everywhere, as well as brightly colored streamers hanging over the streets.

The guide took us to a capoeira school where we played the instruments and learned basic capoeira maneuvers. My favorite instrument looks like a bow and arrow minus the arrow. It has a gourd at the bottom of it. You take a rock and hold it against the metal string, then you hit the string with a stick. You basically can only make about 3 notes out of it, but that’s all you need for the capoeira songs. We took turns “fighting”, and I got paired with a guy from the hostel who actually does capoeira back home in France. He’s really good. I definitely pulled my right groin muscle on a high kick, though, and now I am semi-limping around. Dangit, always the groin muscle!!! Anyways, we learned that you always look your opponent in the eye and always cover your face. After we were all thoroughly exhausted by this, the cute old lady with the puffy yellow skirt who ran the place taught us how to dance samba. She especially took a liking to the American boy from Michigan in our group, backing her booty up against him, wiggling it and winking while we cheered “Opa!” and he awkwardly shuffled around.

After that we went to the square and wolfed down a street-food called Acaraje, which is a big bready ball made from black-eyed peas, deep fried, and filled with various toppings such as a bean paste, sautéed okra, hot pepper sauce, salsa, and shrimp. We were all “hangry” after our capoeira lesson, so these went down fast. They were delicious and rich with flavor. The Brazilian guy in our group also ordered a weird looking flat dark meat that was also deep fried. When we asked him what it was, he replied “placenta”. Eeeeewwwww!!!!!! Almost threw my Acaraje back up in my mouth.

To end our walking tour, we went down some elevators to a humongous market in a building that resembled a ferry building. While en route, a short and very dark Brazilian street vendor basically forced a necklace onto the American guy’s neck and then walked away. 5 minutes later he came back demanding payment. The American tried to give the necklace back but the Brazilian refused it, becoming belligerent, pushing him aggressively and saying “You waste my time!!” He did this several times… refusing the necklace, walking away, just to come back a few minutes later repeating this same behavior. We were all starting to become really concerned, but our tour guide was doing nothing about it. Finally, after an especially aggressive encounter, the tour guide finally got involved and I seriously thought there was going to be a fight. But the Brazilian left us alone after that, and we all learned an important lesson: when in Salvador, you really have to watch your back (and your bag), and say “NO, NO, NO!” to these vendors. Apparently this is a pretty common practice – to force things into your hand and then try to intimidate you into buying them.

After enjoying a simple pasta dinner back at the hostel, we all went out for the Tuesday night street parties. We started at the steps, where a live band was performing traditional Brazilian music. The steps were jam-packed with people from the street all the way to the top, swaying and clapping to the rhythm. We walked around town and listened to some other bands, including a reggae one that we really liked. There are sooooo many Rasta people in Salvador, the men displaying chiseled features and thick dreads; the woman wearing colorful flowing skirts and head wraps. Finally, we ended up back on the street in front of our hostel where the actual samba party was already underway. Beautiful bronzed locals moved at lightening speed while us tourists just tried to keep up in half-time. The live band, composed of 5 guys in their 20’s, rocked it with their energetic sound. Now I know why people at the hostel were so excited about it. It was by far one of the most fun parties I have been to in all of my travels!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Days #35, 36, & 37. Jericoacoara, Brazil.

Kite surfing is my new favorite sport of all-time. It even takes the lead over volleyball, with whom I have had a long-standing love affair. My 5th & 6th days of lessons were pivotal for me in my understanding of the relationship between the wind and the tension. It clicked. Everything made sense. I trusted the kite. I leaned against it and cut the edge of my board harder into the water. I went upwind. Instead of taking 20 minutes to go down the beach downwind, it took 40 minutes. And finally, on my very last day, I learned 2 transitions. One of which was a toe-side transition. I WAS ECSTATIC!!! For the first time in a week, I felt weightless. My stiff sore body, sunburned arms, and chafed sides were no longer even on my mind. I forgot everything as I literally glided across the ocean. My first few days, I stared non-stop straight up at the kite (talk about a crick in your neck). But now, I don’t have to anymore because I can feel it. Fred and his girlfriend and mom were snapping pictures from the beach that last day on his fancy Cannon camera with the zoom lens. I haven’t seen the photos yet but am soooo excited to get them today! Marko says if I had stayed another week he would have taught me how to jump. But for now, I had to settle for 2nd best – watching him do cool tricks from the beach. John Munro, I can never thank you enough for inspiring me to travel to Jeri and try this sport!! I owe you for life! Now when do we leave for Mexico? J

In between kiting and eating, I am learning Portuguese from the boys that work at the Vila in exchange for yucca fries and bites of whatever else I am eating at that moment. I’ll sit out in the sun on a beach chair for an hour every morning memorizing phrases and words on my own from a book they have at the front desk, then I’ll spend 30 minutes going over pronunciation with one of the boys. I love to ask them nosy questions about their families and love lives while they laugh and shake their heads, sheepishly answering. Then I say in Portuguese, “Excuse me if I my questions are personal!” There is one phrase I came across in the book that’s pretty ridiculous for “basic” Portuguese, but I love saying it to them anyway just because of the reaction they give: “Wow! You’ve lost weight!” And then when Rob pulls up on his motorcycle, I shout to him “Wow! You look good all the time!” and the boys giggle hysterically. “Wow” in Portuguese is really fun to say. It’s “Nossa.”

In other news, the Germans and the Lithuanian left and that made me sad. But Yanneke and Karsten will be coming to San Francisco in March and I promised to take them to the biergarten by my house! I also moved out of Vila Prea today and into a hostel in Jeri for my last 3 nights, partly because I can’t afford the Vila anymore, and partly because I wanted to be in town which has a lot more going on. My first night in Jeri I went to a Samba party at a pousada down the road. They do this every Saturday night. The pousada has a large area in the back with hammocks, a stage, and a dance floor. At the heart of the band is a father and his teenage son, both of which are extraordinarily talented acoustic guitarists. There’s also an electric guitar, ukulele, percussion, and some others I’m sure. It was a pretty big band – like maybe 8 musicians. They played the most beautiful songs while everyone got their dance on. Two people on the dance floor especially stood out: a man dressed Cuban-style with a fedora and white suede shoes, and a beautiful tanned girl with a curly blond pixie cut. She danced so extremely well that some of us thought she had to be Brazilian, yet she looked very European!! Finally, I approached her and asked where she was from. I couldn’t believe it…. Sweden! And she completely stole the show from any Brazilian girl in the house that night.

The next evening I watched capoeira on the beach after the sunset. And the evening after that I ate the biggest bowl of acai I’ve ever had in my life at a café by the ocean. They filled the bowl first with chunks of papaya, mango, pineapple, and guava before placing a huge amount of acai smoothie on top. Finally, they garnish it with granola and sliced bananas. It was incredible, rivaling even my favorite acai in Ocean Beach, San Diego. And for those of you who have had OB Smoothie’s acai, this is saying a lot. I tried a traditional Brazilian restaurant one night and it was absolutely phenomenal. They grilled a whole sea bass over the fire, served with lots of fresh limes and the most delicious sides: rice & beans cooked with bay leaf and garlic, salad, pumpkin mashed with butter, and thinly sliced yucca that had been fried to a golden perfection – kind of like a potato chip but so much better. For dessert I stopped at a little corner bakery and ate passion fruit mousse right out of the passion fruit shell, topped with chocolate shavings. I savored every last bite of the mousse while sitting on a bench in the town square, listening to a guitar/violin duo play live from a nearby restaurant. Yet another thing about Jeri that stands out…. They have some of the best food I’ve tried in Brazil so far. And there is music on every corner.

The superbowl was last night. One of the other kite students from Germany asked me about it earlier in the day, and I was like what??!! The Superbowl is tonight?! Totally forgot about that. So I looked up who was in it when I got back to the hostel and it was the Patriots!!! My home team! So of course I found a place to watch it. Not too shabby watching it from a hammock sipping on a glass of sauvignon blanc in Marko’s living room. He lives 1 block from my hostel. And I had the best company: his French bulldog, Ze, and little white cat, Lost. To thank him, I made him… you guessed it… fish tacos J I am determined to introduce everyone to this SoCal delicacy! For dessert I made caramel, bruleed some bananas, and poured this into a crepe spread with nutella. Topped with vanilla ice cream, of course. The entire game and commercials were all in Portuguese, which was pretty cool but I missed the American commercials. Holy guacamole, what a nail-biter! I was hanging off the edge of my hammock those last few minutes. Seattle is gonna be depressed for a looooong time.

Jericoacoara is a neat place. Some people think it’s too touristy. Well, it is pretty touristy. There are souvenir, swimsuit, flip-flop, and kite shops everywhere. The famous sand dune is covered with hundreds of people every evening for sunset. But it’s also quite a charming little town. It’s built entirely on dirt. There are no paved roads within an hour in any direction. Donkeys, pigs, dogs, cats, and even sometimes cows and horses roam the streets freely. Most of the vehicles you see on the “roads” are beach dune buggies. The people there live a beautiful, simple life. A life that, for most, revolves around kite surfing. I knew Jeri was famous for this, but I didn’t realize how much of an obsession it actually is. Now that I’ve tried it, I understand. What a special place! I said goodbye to Vila Prea, Ricardo, Fred, Fred’s mom, Rob, and Marko today. There is no doubt I will be back one day soon.