From Florida to Floripa, and a Whole Lot of Portuñol

It’s unbelievable that it has only been a little bit over a week since I arrived in Brazil. So much has happened since, and my life before seems so far away. Well actually, it is quite far away -about 4,392.5 miles to be exact.

I currently live in Florianopolis, or Floripa as Brazilians call it, an island in southern Brazil. About the same latitude as Madagascar (yeah I was surprised to find that out too). There’s a lagoon in the middle of the island surrounded by green mountains, it’s quite a sight every time my bus drives by it or when I get to walk by the water. The island is surprisingly large, with many different neighborhoods scattered about and a decent sized downtown that expands from the bridge that connects the island with the continent. Most walls are covered with graffiti, usually colorful animals or portraits, that’s what I usually take pictures of.

I live with a host family that has not only welcomed me into their home but has adopted me as one of the family. My “Mae,” host mom, is frequently feeding me chocolate, bread, pastels stuffed with different meats and plates of fresh fruit. Today she mentioned that I’m starting to get a belly and should exercise; I found it quite ironic. My host brother is just as hospitable, though I don’t get to see him a lot since he works at night. By the time I get home from Portuguese school and leadership training he is already gone. I’ll usually have my fourth cafezinho (small coffee) of the day then, along with some cheese and bread. Then I’ll sit with my Mae in the living room and we’ll watch the news and then Brazilian soap operas, which we never miss. I’m still not sure what they are about but I pretend to follow along. I mostly communicate with what they call here Portuñol, a mix of Spanish and Portuguese, but I get by.

It’s funny that I already have a routine in my new Brazilian life. Yet it’s always the little moments, the unexpected details between the cracks of my schedule that really enrich my experience. Such as spotting a mouse in the kitchen and running to a dictionary in order to tell my family of the unexpected company, thanking God after the toilet flushed even though I threw toilet paper in it (never throw toilet paper in the toilet). Never wearing the right pair of shoes for this tropical weather, a rooster waking me up every morning at 4am and then again at 6am, getting rid of a stain in my jeans by coloring it in with a blue pen. A pair of monkeys browsing along as we eat breakfast, asking people for directions, getting lost, being called a “gringo” at a churrasco, also known as a Brazilian BB-Q. Never in my life did I think that I would be called a gringo, but that’s what I am here. At least for now I am.

It’s only been a little more than a week and I already feel so different. I wonder how I wil be after eight months.

P.S. Don’t worry mom, I floss and wear my retainer every night.