24-Hour Tornado

Get ready for the longest entry ever. Or close to it…

Wednesday morning marked day seven for us, which also meant laundry desperation. We had checked out a lavendaria the day before, recommended by our teacher. But to fit it into our day, we had to get up at six so we could start laundry right at seven when they opened. So, freshly showered and half-asleep, we stumble into the laundromat. The woman behind the front counter was *super* nice. With lots of fast, repetitive Portuguese and lot of gesturing, she showed us how to use the machines, where the little sqaure token goes, etc., and we got everything going. We pulled out the remainder of our homework from the night before, but shortly thereafter a wave of nausea swept over me.

Doctor & Laundry Keeper?!

Nausea has been commonplace in the mornings, and no, I am not pregnant. I ´m pretty sure it ´s the doxycyline that we take as a malaria preventative each day. Our doctors told us to take it just in case, even though this is a non-malarial area. After I realized that was what was making me sick, I decided to wait until we head to the jungle areas to start taking it. Anyway… to cure my nausea, Pat got me a soda while I walked around clutching my stomach. When I sat down to drink it, the woman from behind the front counter… (a very sweet, 30-something woman who reminded me of a Bavarian grandmother) bustled over and asked me… well, I don ´t know exactly. Probably asked me if I was sick. Then she grabbed my hand and started massaging the fleshy part by my thumb while instructing me about something. Then she pointed at my orange and (I ´m pretty sure) told me it was bad to eat when I was sick and instead I should have something sweet like my Sprite and also something salty. Then she grabbed my other hand and started talking to Pat… I think explaining to him how to do what she was doing. Suprisingly, my nausea disappeared almost instantly. The amazing world of pressure points! Next, she must have said something about how to fix headache, because all of a sudden she grabbed my head, pulled it tight againt her bosom, and started pressing her palms against my skull, the whole time talking talking talking… maybe to Pat. Or maybe to me. Then she sat me back up and grabbed onto my ears and started slowly tugging on my earlobes and then pulling up on the tops of my ears. Then, in more mid-speed Portuguese, she said something else, pointed at her stomach, and then bent over and poked her finger into the opening in the side of my sandal and started massaging the arch of my foot, the whole time going on and on about… ??? Finally she moved back to my hands and told Pat to do each hand for five minutes. Then she said, “Ok?” And we said, “Sim. Muita Obrigada!” (Yes, thank you very much!) and she left. You ´d think I ´d be totally weirded out by a stranger coming up to me, grabbing all different parts of my body and speaking (what was to me mostly) gibberish, but it helped so much that I could only laugh and be grateful.

Our laundry took much longer to dry than expected, and we left with only 20 minutes to spare. We knew we ´d be late if we walked, so we decided to take the subway. *big mistake* Because guess what everyone else does on Wednesday mornings. *Bingo!* They take the subway,too! It was jam-packed, and we were carrying a big bag of laundry… so funny. We always had to wait at least one round to get on the car, and there was mad traffic everywhere. We ended up being half an hour late to school and probably walking the same distance as if we had just walked directly from the laundromat. C ´est la vie!

Our classes are really unique, because the school doesn ´t normally have two crazy Americans show up on their doorstep wanting to take a week-long crash course in Portuguese. It ´s very personal, which I love. For example, on the laundry day, when we finally got to class, I dumped out the clothes we had crammed into the laundry bag and spent the first half of class folding laundry while going over our homework. Also, we got to go to lunch, as I mentioned, with the director and our teacher. It was really delicious! We got to try the typical Brazilian dish – feijão – a black bean and pork mixture over rice. It was good, but definitely not healthy. And it was really nice to finally be at a restaurant with people who can understand and answer our questions. We definitely picked up some valuable information about eating and food in Brazil.

Wednesday afternoon, we got an email from the bookstore guy saying he ´d be there at six if we wanted to meet him, so we headed to Fnac after class. We shared beer and peanuts and talked for a few hours. He ´s a really cool guy, and it ´s super helpful to listen to him form sentences in English, because then we understand the proper way to say things in Portuguese. For example, in Portuguese, you don ´t say, “I am 36 years old.” If you did, people would look at you funny. You have to say, “I have 36 years.” It ´s very easy to be misunderstood when you don ´t know little things like this.

Thursday was our day off from school and we got to sleep in before we went to the park. We spent part of the morning bickering somewhat. It ´s so much harder to be patient when you ´re in a place where the stress of the unfamiliar is almost constant. Like Pat was saying the other night, travelling like this is basically a game of non-stop problem solving. Both of us spend all day trying desperately to be understood and to understand others, so when the one person who should easily understand you says, “Hmmm?” for the sixth time in ten minutes after you ´ve said something really simple in ENGLISH like, “Are you hungry?” it ´s sort of like the straw that broke the camel ´s back. But, that which doesn ´t kill you only makes you stronger, right? Aside from that, Pat and I have been getting along fabulously.

Friday was the inspiration for this blog title. The day just got crazier and crazier! We moved our afternoon class up an hour, because I guess people don ´t really study on Friday ´s here. So the school was open, but only so parents could come and conference, etc. During our lunch break, we went to a place to get notarized copies of our passports, which we decided later was entirely unnecessary and a waste of money. I just hope they come in handy later on. We also went to the supermarket to buy more bread (50 ¢ for an Italian round!). Out of curiosity, and because I know “Nacho Cheese Doritos” taste nothing like the U.S. version in any other country, we decided to pick a brand and flavor of potato chips to try. Here, the ruffles flavors are turkey, shrimp, and barbeque. We chose the BBQ so we could compare it to the stuff back home… it was *nothing* like the BBQ we ´re used to. The chips looked like plain old Ruffles (no colored powder) and tasted like smoked pork. Weird!

Brazilian Ruffles! I couldn’t find a picture of the weirder ones… like shrimp flavor…

Our afternoon class was pretty funny. We were practicing restaurant scenarios with our teacher, with him playing the role of the server. Well, when it came around to dessert, Pat ordered ice cream. Our teacher asked him how many scoops he wanted and then asked me if wanted dessert. I ordered ice cream as I normally would, but I wasn ´t sure how many scoops to get. I mean, if it ´s a big scoop, then I only want one or two. But if it ´s a little scoop, then I want three or four. Because I don ´t know how to say, “what size are the scoops?” I just asked if they were big or small. Well, our teacher got this kind of freaked-out/ confused look on his face. It took a few seconds and a little explanation (“You can ´t ask that!”) for me to understand that the word for scoops- “bolas” -doesn ´t actually mean “scoops.” And because the verb conjugation for “you” and “it” are the same, “are the `scoops ´ big or small?” could easily be interpreted as “are your `scoops ´ big or small?” I laughed for a two minutes straight!

Friday after class, we decided to run around and do the chores we had left to do in the city. The major one was going to the shopping mall to inquire about a buying a hostel card (if you have one you get a cheaper rate at affiliated hostels, but it ´s only worth it if you use it at least ten times) and finding a swimsuit for me (it ´s been years since I ´ve owned one. Who needs their own when you ´ve got a mom, two sisters, and plenty of friends?)

We got directions from our instructor and set out on the 2-3 mile walk to yet another new area of the city. We decided just to walk because (1) riding the bus costs money and we ´re on a pretty tight budget, and (2) we don ´t understand the bus system. We ´re afraid we ´d get on a bus and end up in Costa Rica. After walking at least two miles, we decided to ask someone if we were getting close. She said (in Portuguese of course), “Oh, yeah. It ´s just a few more kilometers. (!!!) Go over the bridge and just keep going down the street.” Well, the bridge had several exit points, so we asked another woman once we were on it, and she told us, “Oh, yes. Just take a bus right down there.” Since the last woman had said it was still at least another mile or two, we decided to spring for the expense. However, we just got on a bus that had the shopping mall ´s name on it and didn ´t let the attendant know where we were going. You see, you don ´t have to tell them, but if you ask “Does this bus go to Eldorado?” when it clearly says “Eldorado” on the front of the bus, then they are likely to realize you have no idea what you ´re doing and are just a crazy, helpless tourist, and then they let you know when to get off. So, while being smushed and bumped in the packed, standing-room-only bus, we frantically consulted eachother about just what the hell we were doing. In case we had already passed the mall, which was entirely possible, we didn ´t want to ask someone where the mall was and therefore let it be known to the entire bus that we were clueless tourists (read: crime targets). So, we decided to just get off and ask someone on the street. Fortunately, the spot we chose to squeeze off the bus was only 1/4 of a mile from the mall, and our stress level plummeted back towards normal.

However, once we were there, problems began again. I couldn ´t find where I had written down the name of the hostel information booth, the shopping mall was huge -five floors, and we had no idea where to begin. By some miracle, we found the hostel booth, bought some pretzels, and managed to get a recommendation for a store that sold swimsuits… all in Portuguese!


I knew before I even set foot in the swimsuit store that it was going be a misadventure. You see, the top half of me is considerably larger than the bottom half. So, in the bra/bikini department, I spend hours trying fruitlessly to get something to fit. In broken Portuguese, I started looking at suits with a girl who finally asked me what languages I spoke. When I said English or Spanish, she ran to get a guy who spoke English, which ended up being a huge help. The first suit I tried on barely even covered my bum. I felt like I belonged at the Sturgis rally. When I stepped out of the dressing room and said, “Ummm… I think it ´s too small…,” the attendant said, “No, it is like this in Brazil. I think you won ´t find bigger.” And he was right! This country brings new meaing to itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-bikini. After 70 minutes and 17 different combinations and styles, we finally found one that would pass. I don ´t know if I ´ll be able to brave a public pool in the U.S. wearing the scraps of fabric I bought, though.

brazilian bikini, brazil bikini, bikini butt

This is the most butt-coverage you’ll find in Brazil. You don’t want to see the least! – photo: wikipedia

New bikini in hand, we headed to the Casa da Pão de Queijo (House of Cheese Bread!)for dinner before once again braving the bus situation. After about fifteen minutes, we finally found a bus to the centro, and I was smart enough to double check with the attendant this time. We got dropped off really near our hotel and started cramming homework the minute we walked through the door.

What a night!

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