It has been a busy week! Since Wednesday, I have gotten sick, gone to the hospital, recovered, celebrated the Brazilian Independence day, went to the sand dunes for the sunset, attended a Beyonce concert, and had two days of Portuguese and seminars.
Wednesday night I caught a bad food bug and spent all of Thursday sleeping, being sick, and taking meds. Friday I still was too weak to go to school even though I was starting to eat again, so my program's assistant insisted that I go to the hospital. I got some blood work done and lots of IV fluids and was good to go for Saturday.
Saturday was the Independence day, so there were plenty of parades and protests, often that went hand in hand. The protests in Fortaleza are similar to the occupy movement; there is a wide variety of participants that are generally dissatisfied with the government's corruption and expenditures that do not benefit the majority of the Brazilian society. My program and I avoided these protests and spent the day visiting tourist destinations with Jose Albano, a retired photographer with an awesome outlook on life. We visited an old, gothic cemetery, a jailhouse turned shopping center for souvenirs, a wharf with a lookout point, the fishing market, 50 sabores (like 31 flavors), the sand dunes, and Jose's (Ze's) house. It was a fun and exhausting day, but very rewarding. Ze lives in a commune with his closest family and friends in houses that he built himself. Friends frequently come from around the world to stop for a while and post up a tent. It is still in the city of Fortaleza, but just far enough away from the bustle and noise to feel safe and peaceful. It was a breath of fresh air after being in the city for almost two weeks, despite the fact that one of the students was robbed early in the day. Luckily another student grabbed her camera back from the thieves. Sadly, it is very rare to get your belongings back when you have been robbed and theft is extremely common here.
Sunday I went to a Beyonce concert in the new stadium for the world cup. It was a 12 hour event because of the traffic, protests we had to avoid, waiting in line to enter, waiting for the show to start, the two hour show, and the traffic after as well. I can home exhausted and sore, but Beyonce's performance was unforgettable. It was the largest and biggest scale concert I have ever been to.
Monday and today I have been in class learning Portuguese and attending race and violence seminars at one of the local universities. It has been very busy, especially as I make moves to figure out my plans for November, when I will be studying and living completely on my own.
I don't really have any free time because of the demanding program schedule, but when I do I spend it relaxing with my home family. It has been challenging getting used to the lack of a sense of security and living with a (very) protective mom, but I think I will have a better system as I get more integrated.
Fortaleza is the sixth most dangerous city in the world and theft (along with other crimes) is extremely common. As a blonde and blue eyed girl I stick out like a sore thumb. I cannot go anywhere alone unless it is within a few blocks. Even walking that far is a sketchy endeavor and I have to take as many precautions as possible. I try to avoid traveling with a bag or anything noticeable of value like my camera or phone. I cannot go out after dark unless I am with friends and I have to take a taxi no matter how close I am staying. I am looking to spend November in a smaller town with less crime and risk, but safety changes largely on how you react, so changing my habits has helped a lot.
I also have numerous names already. My fellow students and professors call me Shawn, but my host mom calls me Ningina (a name of her own creation that she said means dear one or pretty thing). I often introduce myself as Andrea to Brazilians (which is my middle name) because they will call me Chao if I tell them my name is Shawn. Chao is portuguese for floor. Another popular nickname I get from Brazilians is Barbie, which I am not fond of.
All in all, I am healthy and safe for the most part. I am getting more and more used to life in Brazil, and the food is amazing. I love the beach and the students and can't wait for our little trips coming up to places like Canoa Quebrada, Salvador, and hopefully Chapada Diamantina.
More pictures can be found on facebook or email me!