It’s 23 o’clock on Sunday evening and I’m laying on my bed in my room in the city of Aracaju in Brazil. The ventilator is giving me a small breeze to ease up the 32 Celsius heat. A few moments ago I finished today’s training at the gym that is found on the other side of the apartment complex I am living at. After the gym session I relaxed in the warm but still refreshing pool found next to the gym. Watching full moon while enjoying the pool without anybody else being present made it so surreal that I was not sure if it was really me who was there. It’s been exactly 4 months since I left my job in Finland and this is where I am right now. Could be worse, right?
So, Brazil has been treating me fairly well and due to my surroundings it’s hard to believe I have not been earning a penny in the last 4 months. Of course, it’s not all rosy even here in Brazil – the paragraph above describes one of the magical moments that happen only every now and then even when being in a tropical climate. Nonetheless, I think Costa Rica taught me a lesson about the art of not giving a shit so even though many things haven’t gone the way they should have (surprise surprise), I’m really learning to enjoy my time here.
As I had paid for the participation fee and my flights already last year, I am volunteering through AIESEC also here in Aracaju even though the experience in Costa Rica was not the most pleasant. The start here has been somewhat challenging for many reasons but there is maybe a hunch more of professionalism in the organization here than there was in Costa Rica. However, I had here bit of a flash-back of what happened in Costa Rica: on my arrival day I was told that the work would, against earlier agreement, start only the week after due to carnival celebration so I would miss the first week in the project here as well. After some conversations, AIESEC made magic happen and I was, in the end, able to enter work only two days later than expected. However, I might have been better off not hurrying with the start as so far I have been sent home – not 15 minutes but approximately 3 hours – early every day as there has really been nothing to do apart from three meetings during the two-weeks time. The hours that I’ve been at the office, I’ve mainly been scrolling social media or eating breakfast with the colleagues. We’ve also done a good job with another volunteer entertaining ourselves with non-sense conversations with a local trainee everyone speaking a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and English. Brazilian work culture is different than the one I am used to.
The same way as in Costa Rica, I am living here with a local family. Hence the privileges of a private pool and a gym. What is different now though, is that we do not have a common language. I don’t speak Portuguese and the only language the family speaks is, of course, Portuguese. I can tell you that it is exhausting to come to an entirely new place, to live with new people you are not able to communicate well with, and to be surrounded by the heat of 28-40 Celsius day and night. There is no place where to escape the language barrier nor the heat. I guess that is why I feel like I could easily sleep 12 hours every night. Nevertheless, every day my body is adapting to the heat a tiny bit more. And I have already succeeded in having two full conversations with Uber drivers entirely in Portuguese as well as made a connection with the family – mom and two school-aged children – and we have somehow shared quite a lot about or lives to each other’s already by now, so I guess no matter how hard it is, I am learning! Regardless of the language barrier, they have received me with open arms and the 11-year-old girl gave me her room to stay in. I can only be grateful and make some effort to learn to communicate with them.
Aracaju is a “small” city of about 600 000 people located on the coast in the northeast region of Brazil. As the weather is always warm and the sun is guaranteed, there are a lot beaches here, which makes Aracaju also a tourist attraction mainly among other Brazilians. I believe the pictures above might make many of you surprised by the looks of a Brazilian city. I sure did not expect to arrive in a place that looks fancier than any place where I’ve ever lived during my adulthood. Well, this is the other side of the story, the wealthy areas. Yesterday, I took a walk in the city center but I don’t have photos of that as I was not very comfortable having my phone at hand when walking alone on the street. That is to say, not all Brazil is as wealthy and clean as in these pictures but these pictures are also reality here. However, something that’s similar in all parts of the city is public transportations: it’s hard to know when the bus will arrive as on a few cases it did not arrive at all. If you actually happen to get into the bus, you will most likely experience motion sickness as the combination of somewhat bumpy streets and mad driving is a bit too much. Luckily, Uber is well affordable here at least to a Finn.
The distance from here to Sao Paulo is about the same as from Helsinki to Milan so Brazil definitely is a huge country, which makes a great contrast when comparing to the teeny-tiny Costa Rica where I was just before coming here. In Costa Rica I was able to travel almost every weekend as from Cartago you could conveniently visit almost any part of the country during a weekend. Here it’s different so I will be spending most of my time in the State of Sergipe. However, as mentioned in my previous post, I had a pitstop in Rio de Janeiro before coming to Aracaju. I had a week off between my volunteering projects in Costa Rica and Brazil so I decided to spend that in Rio de Janeiro. I had visited Rio before having a three-day stopover between flights in early 2015. I still had a feeling that I had not explored Rio enough so I decided to discover it now between the projects. Only long after booking the flights, I realized my time in Rio would be just perfectly during the week of the famous samba carnival so, of course, I had to buy the very expensive tickets (approx. 180€) to see the parade on Sambadrome.
My mom and stepdad were with me in Rio and we really enjoyed our time there. Rio is a very beautiful city (some say the most beautiful in the world) and I really felt like I fell in love with the city. The views from the Christ the Redeemer and the Sugar loaf mountain are spectacular and the different colours of Escalera Selarón just make you want to take tons of pictures! Of course, the spectacle of samba carnival gave the city the final touch streets being full of people celebrating and participating to the side events. With that the Rio de Janeiro experience was complete. If you ever wanted to visit Rio, do it!
As never during travels, not everything in Rio went by the book either. We asked several people and read the official carnival guide everybody saying that metro is the best way to get to Sambadrome and away from there. Well, once we were about to hit the metro an hour or so before the first samba school had their show, the closest metro station to us was closed for whatever reason and there was no information about that anywhere. We went to look for the next station but first could not access it as there was a parade on the street and crowd blocking the possibility to move anywhere. Once we finally got to the station, the line to get to the metro was probably 50 times longer than the metro itself so we decided not to take our chances in that. Hence, we took an Uber and as it could not take us to the door due to traffic restrictions on the area, we ended up walking around 2 kilometres around the area trying to find our way in. Logically, our entrance was not the one that said the number of our sector so we lined in twice before actually entering the area after having missed two first shows.
I hope to have discovered by the next post what it is that I volunteer here with! So, have a great week and talk to you soon!