Minas Gerais and Itacaré

In the state of Minas Gerais, just a few hours away from Belo Horizonte, lies the old colonial capital of Ouro Preto.

Founded in the 17th century after the discovery of gold, Ouro Preto grew exponentially as people were drawn to the city with the promise of new riches.

Those stories of wealth were not over exaggerated either – at its peak, it’s estimated that two thirds of all the world’s gold in circulation at the time had once originated from this city – leading to Brazil’s literal golden age!

Once extracted, the gold was transported from Ouro Preto to the coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Paraty along the “Caminho do Ouro”.

Officially 800 tons of gold was exported out of the country. Unofficially, it could have been 3 or 4 times more… after all, any gold which was logged publicly in the records also had to be taxed and, if there’s anything the rich know how to do well, even back then, it’s avoid taxes.

With the great influx of wealth into Ouro Preto, the construction of many beautiful churches in the city were commissioned – one of which, the Basilica of Nossa Senhora do Pilar is decorated with over 1000 kg of gold and 500 kg of silver.

However, the story of Ouro Preto has a dark side as well.  

In the period that the gold rush took place, slavery was commonplace. As the conditions in the mines were so horrible, it was seen as necessary to use slaves for this kind of work and, as more gold was found, so to increased the demand for these slaves, triggering a vicious cycle.

Even worse, as adults were too large to fit through the small tunnels and crevices of the mines, children were often used to do the work instead.

Whilst visiting one of these mines, our guide explained that the children were seen expendable in the eyes of their owners – and those that eventually grew too large to fit inside the small passages, were not longer useful and were left to die. Most of the children never lived past the age of 12.

After a week in Ouro Preto, I travelled back to Belo Horizonte.

Belo Horizonte “BH”, overtook Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais in 1897. Even though it is a huge city with over two and half million people, there is a funny expression in the city that BH is an egg – meaning that it’s a small place – one where everybody is in some way connected through a friend or relative.

For me, Minas Gerais is like Brazil’s own version of Yorkshire. In the UK, Yorkshire has some of the best farmland in the country and, all around the UK, you can buy Yorkshire puddings, Yorkshire sausages, Yorkshire cheeses – it’s simply known for having good quality food. In the same way, there are restaurants all around Brazil where you can buy Mineiro food (food from Minas Gerais). The entire state is full of farmland and it’s widely accepted that it’s the state with quality authentic food – whether it’s cheese, doce de leite or pao de queijo.

Similarly, like how people in Yorkshire have their own accent and expressions; such as nowt for no, aye for yes, ta for thanks and tarra for goodbye – the people from Minas Gerais have their own sayings which aren’t used in any other part of the country. For one, they call anything and everything a train (a trem), whether it’s a bottle of water, a microwave or a tree – even a plane can be a train in Minas Gerais!

One of the highlights of Belo Horizonte is, without a doubt, the Inhotim Museum.

Built in 2004 by Bernardo Paz, as part of a private collection, the museum was only opened to the public in 2008.

Spread over a massive 5,000 acres, the museum feels like the owner tried to recreate the garden of Eden. It has over 4000 species of plants, indoors and outdoors displays, and over a dozen uniquely shaped galleries from artists all around the world.

It’s honestly so big that we actually needed a golf cart to travel round from one exhibit to the next.

The name ‘Inhotim’ is also strange in that it’s not Portuguese or from a native indigenous language.. it’s kind of made up. The story goes that a British engineer used to own the land before it was purchased by the owner of the museum. This original landowner went by the name of Mr Tim in English – but, as the locals weren’t used to speaking English, they called Mr Tim, ‘Senhor Tim’ which later turned to ‘Nhô Tim’ and then Inhotim. I think the new owner found this funny and decided to keep the name for this reason.

Shortly after this trip, I then went to the beach town Itacaré to spend Christmas and New Years. This was only a short trip and, after having lockdown in the UK in March – which lasted for over 100 days – and also working continuously through this year without any breaks or holidays, it was nice to be able to have a chance to pause before returning back to work a few weeks later.

I have now been back in Florianópolis since September. As I was living here before Covid happened, I’ve had a chance to see how things have changed in the city from before the pandemic through to today. Honestly, if I were to compare my experience in the UK to what I’ve seen here (in the south of the country anyway), the people here seem to take the restrictions more seriously than what I experienced in London.

Whilst beaches and natural trails are more relaxed… on the streets, nearly everybody wears a mask – temperature checks are mandatory when going into supermarkets and you would not be allowed to even enter a building if you don’t have one.

Hopefully this trend will continue and 2021 will be a better year with the vaccine rollout going well.

Florianópolis

On October 13th – the day after one of my best friend’s weddings, I was on a plane back to South America, heading to an island city in the south of Brazil – Florianópolis.

Florianópolis - Lagoa da ConceiçãoFlorianópolis, nicknamed as the ‘magical city’ by Brazilians, is a pretty extraordinary place to live.

Despite being an island, it is anything but small – driving from one end to the other would take over 2 hours on a good day. If you’re Brazilian (or American for that matter), this might not sound like much but, coming from the UK, this is pretty huge! For us, it would be just as quick to go from London to Cambridge and back as it would to make this same journey.

Because of this size, the island is fantastic to explore – it has dozens of hiking trails, mountains paths, sand dunes and 42 beaches all around. And, if you go to one of the beaches in the northern part of the island, you’ll probably even get a chance to spot the odd pirate boat hanging around!

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Ignoring the occasional pirate, Florianópolis is actually one of Brazil’s safest and more developed cities. I had first heard about it when working in the hostel in Salvador 5 years before and, since then, whenever I have asked my Brazilian friends where in the country would be their favourite place to live – they have all almost unanimously said Florianópolis.

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Being a southern city, the climate is much cooler than the rest of the country with an average temperature ranging from 22° to 30°C in the summer or 13° to 21°C in the winter.

Temperature aside, the south is surprising in other ways… to understand why, you need to first know that the majority of the population in the south are actually descendants from Germany, Austria and Italy rather than from Portugal or Africa like the rest of Brazil. Due to this, the ethnicity of the population is entirely different to what you would normally expect – with many people having blond hair, blue eyes and, believe it or not, might even be whiter than me!

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Some places even look like they are straight out of Europe – seeming to imitate the architecture of traditional German towns. And, because of their heritage, quite a lot of Brazilians in this region celebrate the same German customs and traditions.

Shortly after I arrived, there was even an Oktoberfest celebration in the nearby city of Blumenau – it was no small celebration either… I was told by one person there that there were over a million people attending and it was officially the 2nd largest Oktoberfest in the world.

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After a few months living in Florianópolis, my dad came to visit. Over the next week, I introduced him to some of the more iconic Brazilian foods like Pão de Queijo and Açaí, we went kayaking, had a proper Brazilian Rodízio (barbecue) and a big variety of chopes (beers).

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After a week going around Florianoplis, we took a 15 hour night bus north to see the waterfalls of Foz do Iguaçu. The highlight of which was “The Devil’s Throat” – La Garganta del Diablo on the Argentinian side of the falls

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We then travelled to Rio de Janeiro where I was able to take my dad around to all the top sites like Christ the Redeemer, Pão de Açúcar, and even the neighbourhood where I used to live a few years before.

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Rio de Janeiro - Dois Irmãos

After this quick escape, I returned back to Florianópolis to spend my last few months. I began taking Portuguese lessons again in January and ended the trip in the city of Natal to celebrate Carnaval.

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One of the coolest things on the border of Natal was ‘Cajueiro de Pirangi’ – the world’s largest cashew tree. It’s 2.2 acres across and produces over 60,000 cashew fruits each year!

Natal - Cajueiro de Pirangi (Largest cashew tree in the world)Natal - Cajueiro de Pirangi (Largest cashew tree in the world)It felt like something out of a storybook.

Overshadowing the last few months however was the growing threat of Coronavirus (or COVID-19). Fortunately, I had already bought plane tickets to return back to the UK on the 15th of March as I had planned to return for work. However, as the weeks went on, more and more of the conferences that I was scheduled to attend were being cancelled until there were absolutely none left.

After some thought, I decided that it would still be safer for me to return. However, there was then an even bigger worry at this point that the airline that I was flying back with might go bankrupt… this same airline had cancelled over half of its international flights so the risk was very real. Fortunately, no announcements like this were made and I was able to fly home without any problems. The timing actually couldn’t have been luckier as, the day after I got back, both Florianópolis and the greater state of Santa Catarina went in a state of full lockdown.

I’ve now been in London for just under a month. Returning at this time has been surreal to say the least – right now, nobody knows what the future might hold or when everything will return back to normal – all we know is that this can’t last forever.

Hopefully, if the situation does improve before the end of the year, I will be able to return back to Florianópolis but, whether this will actually happen or not… only time will tell.

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Rio de Janeiro – Part 2

So… it’s been a while since my last post and it seems like so much has happened since I left Colombia.

I flew back to England near the end of June depleted of all energy and entirely spread thin. I think if there was ever such a thing as a traveler’s wall, I definitely hit it. It was a point where I simply got tired of moving from place to place and just wanted signs in English, a decent Guinness and my own bed (not sharing a room with 7 other people was definitely a plus).

After being back for a couple of weeks, I felt pretty underwhelmed. Only a few things had changed but it wasn’t (or didn’t feel like) the same place as I remembered and was not what I had hoped for. With a bit of time however I started to appreciate being home and began to feel more like myself.

London prices caught up with me pretty quickly so I began looking for a job. I was lucky to be hired for Uber and have now been with them since July. I really like the team I’m with and was quite fortunate to be given permission to work abroad whilst I study Portuguese. With the go ahead, I planned my trip to Rio and left in November. In all honestly, my journey to Rio was strange, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was ready for another trip but I also felt a need to keep moving forward.

All in all, I’m now glad with the decision that I made. I’m currently renting a house in a cool neighbourhood called Glória. There is an occasional bout of torrential rain and a giant hill to climb every day, but it’s good exercise and pretty interesting. We also have two dogs and three cats which definitely adds to the appeal.

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As I had already been to Rio before, all of the key touristy/gringo things were checked off my ‘to do list’ but I slowly branched out to visit the other less well known areas of the city.

 

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I think Parque Lage was one of the coolest places to visit in the day and one of their parties was also featured in Snoop Doggs’ video, “Beautiful”.

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The journey up the Dois Irmãos was also incredible albeit a bit complicated. To get to the top we first took a motorbike which raced us up the favela, “Vigidal”. After this, we then hiked through a big chuck of the mata atlantic rainforrest to finally get to the peak. Probably not the best idea to do this in the summer during the middle of the day but the view at the end made it all worth it.

Whilst living here I also took some side trips during the six months to see the rest of the state such as Buzios and Paraty. These places definitely lived up to their reputation although I was mistaken as an Argentinean in Buzios more times than I’m comfortable with!

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And lastly… a picture of a duck with the coolest hairstyle I’ve ever seen.

DSC01025I’m now back home shortly for my sister’s wedding and will then return to Rio after for another six months. I have no idea what I will do after this point but I’m looking forward to it no matter what happens.

Annnd whilst I’m posting, huge thanks to everybody that I got to know or who I saw again over this time, it’s been incredible! 😀

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Cunha

After spending such a long time in São Paulo I desperately needed a break from city life. I headed to a little town a few hours away called Cunha and landed in a spiritual community nearby.

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The community itself is very big and situated in a beautiful valley which had plenty of mountains, waterfalls and lakes. These were incredible and we were able to go exploring through most of them during our free time thanks to a resident there that was nice enough to take us on small treks.

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During my stay we had the opportunity to work on a lot of different projects. For some reason I spent a lot of my working time cutting grass but I also helped in the construction of a house by putting the roof on and cementing the walls. The community also has an outreach program which attempts to improve the living standards of the wider community; they help by building houses for the poorer families and even bring volunteers in to the local schools to tell them stories about their countries and share cultures. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to work on this during my short stay, I was really impressed by their involvement in the work that they do.

As a spiritual community, my time here very peaceful and it felt like it gave me the space I needed to organise the rest of my trip and even catch a second wind. It also gave me a lot of space for reading and I made a good dent in reading War & Peace (well a good dent ≈ 14%, but a good start at least!). I also got to try a few new activities; the place offered lots of free classes such as Kung Fu & Chi Kung, different holistic therapies and horse riding and I even got to try yoga for the first time. It was an extremely nice place to live in and I think it’s definitely a place that I would like to return to in the future – if even just to meet the amazing people living there again.

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My visa for Brazil is now approaching it’s expiry date. I now have 6 months that I have to spend outside of the country before I can return. During this time I think I’m going to try to visit the other countries in South America that I haven’t been to before. The problem with this is that they all speak Spanish.. seriously Brazil, why did you have to be so different?! It’s going to be hard switching languages all over again but that’s just the way it has to be.

Okay, my next stop will be Uruguay where I will spend a month and then I’m off to Argentina straight after. Tchau Brasil, see you in six months!

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São Paulo

I don’t think it would have been possible for me to live in Brazil without at least staying in it’s largest and most developed city. São Paulo has a population of close to 12 million people and it is the business capital of South America. In my mind, São Paulo is analogous in Brazil to how New York is to the USA. As I flew into the city I saw tower blocks after tower blocks all along the horizon; it was an impressive sight and I was really looking forward to my stay.

However, after being here for roughly a month, I can’t say that there is much that I truly liked about the city. There were a few really cool areas and really interesting people but it really felt that the city was lacking the same flare that I have come to love about Brazil. It’s pretty hard to explain and some people would disagree but I really can’t see myself living here again unless I needed to work professionally.

At the same time however, there were a few things which perhaps made my experience worse. For starters, it seemed to rain non-stop! – This is actually extremely good for the city as there was a huge drought before I came and the water supply was at dangerously low levels. After speaking to a lot of the locals, it seemed that this was a strong topic of discussion as many people felt passionately that the drought was linked it to the corruption/inefficiency of the city politicians and the city’s poor planning.

I also don’t think I was very lucky in the place where I stayed as they seemed to have had a different motivation as to why they were accepting volunteers. With time, it became apparent to me that they weren’t accepting volunteers out of choice but they had to resort to it due to the lack of finances to pay full-time employees; for this I think they also slightly resented the fact that they had to use volunteers. The lack of money in the hostel really showed by how the facilities kept deteriorating and wasn’t properly maintained. After I realised that I didn’t like it in São Paulo I spoke to the manager and asked to leave 5 days earlier (giving over two week’s notice). In response, he changed my work schedule so that I would work 7/7days, all through carnival, and working 8 hours shifts. I simply refused as I felt that the amount of work was extortionate and since that point I felt that the atmosphere of the place really changed. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way as well, 3 other people left early and the remaining staff are talking about leaving soon.

But despite this, there were lots of things I did like about the city and I did have a lot of good times. What I most liked most about São Paulo was it’s art galleries and, because of the rain, I went to quite a few of these. The first gallery that I went to was in the MASP (São Paulo’s Museum of Art). It was relatively quiet even though entrance for that day was free and there were pieces of art hanging on the walls from some of the art-world’s greatest mavericks (Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, Turner and Monet). It was really cool.

There was also a really interesting exhibition on in Ibirapuera Park around the theme of food.. just my cup of tea. There were heads made of sugar, popcorn rocks on the floor and there was even a painting made out of coffee beans to symbolise Brazil’s history and growth due to it’s coffee industry.

However, I think the best gallery I visited was in the Pinacoteca which had an exhibition on by the sculpture Ron Mueck. It was simply breathtaking. There were hyper-realistic sculptures in the museum of all sizes and the level of detail was extraordinary! There was even a video which demonstrated how the whole process was achieved which really added to the visit.

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But above all of this, the other volunteers were just fun people to know and hang around with. They also taught me a lot. I really happy to learn that two of them were even professional cooks. Because of this, I spent nearly every day cooking and they kept on giving me tips on how to prepare and cook different dishes, they explained what type of meat is the best type to buy and the reasons why and what herbs and spices are best for each situation. It was like every day I had the opportunity to have a private cooking class, definitely useful for the rest of my journey.

Key things I’ve learnt:  How to make the perfect dish with steaks 😀

Chapada Diamantina

The Hippy culture is booming in Chapada Diamantina!! On the day we arrived we were told about a eletro/reggie/art rave happening that night in the jungle. So after predrinking in the hostel, a bunch of us decided we’ll go and check it out. It was mad, there were hippies everywhere on lsd and mdma, really loud music and, as the stages were set up in natural caverns, it was unlike anything I have ever seen. I think we all got back around 3 or 4 in the morning – really not the best idea when we had to go hiking early the next morning.

Over the next couple of days we travelled to a lot of mountains, waterfalls, lakes and caverns. Cachoeira da Fumaça was amazing; it’s a giant waterfall which blows all of the water into the wind before it has a chance to touch the ground. When we were first hiking up to it, we thought that it was starting to rain (even though there were no rainclouds in the sky) and then we realized that we must have finally reached our destination as the breeze was blowing the water over the top of us.

Cachoeira da Fumaça

Gruto de lapão was also really interesting; you start of walking into a cave but it’s so large that you keep walking for around 30 minutes – all the way through the mountain – to the other side. At one point, when we were deep in the cave, we all turned off our torches to see what complete darkness is like. It’s a really surreal feeling, my brain kept trying to find a piece of light to focus on but it was impossible.

Besides this, I think I’ve learnt not to trust my camera with some people. When we went to Cachoeira do Sossego, I asked my friend Diarmuid to take a photo of me standing next to waterfall. It was only when I got back that I realised that there was only two photos taken..

And the day before this my friend Andrea went to take a photo of me sliding down a waterfall in Ribeirao do Meio

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… I think she decided that the photo needed somebody else in the foreground to make it better.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m starting to see what the hype is all about with selfie sticks!

My trip was shorter than I expected as it was ridiculously expensive in Chapada. I’ve now returned to Arembepe to catch up with my friends here. We had a great day yesterday where I said my final goodbye to Diarmuid who will stay Salvador for another couple of months as well as a few others. I’m now ready for the next stage of my journey to start. Next stop São Paulo.

Salvador

I have spent the last 5 weeks living in Pelourinho, the historical centre of Salvador, in Bahia… and it’s definitely been a unique experience – entirely different to the rest of my time in Brazil.

I think most people believe that the soul of Brazil, it’s passion, comes from Bahia and, more specifically, Salvador. Pelourinho has inspired lots of artists and music over the years and definitely has a rhythm of it’s own. Due to the large number of slaves brought to Brazil during the 18th and 19th century to work on sugar plantations, there is a huge influence of African culture reflected in everyday life; the religion of Candomblé, the clothes people wear as well as the music and style of dance here. Nearly every day a drum band called Olodum assembles at the top of the Lago do Pelourinho and play for hours on end. They’re really popular, you can see them performing with Michael Jackson in Pelourinho in his music video ‘They don’t care about us’.

Because of all of this, Pelourinho is the place where all of the tourists (aka the gringos) go. However that’s not really a good thing. It’s really a stroller’s paradise during the day, with lots of museums and beautiful baroque churches and even live Capoeira, but at night the vibe changes entirely as some of the people that live here view the tourists as wealthy and easy targets to rob. Because of this, I think Pelourinho is the most dangerous part of Salvador.. there are robberies all the time and I don’t think I went a week without hearing about a couple of people being held at knife point. I was fairly fortunate that nothing happened to me during my stay but I also think I was being really careful; I always tried to go out in groups, I only went to place I knew were safe and I never took anything valuable with me. More than this, I think I may have been slightly lucky.

My first day in Pelourinho pretty much set the tone for the rest of my stay. I arrived on a day called Terça do Benção (Blessed Tuesday) which is weekly event where the churches in the area give food and gifts to the poor and homeless and consequently the town erupts into a giant street party. Seriously, every week there was a big stage set up on the hill with samba music playing and people drinking and partying in the street until around 4am. I really can’t even imagine this happening in the UK with the amount of laws we have. Also, because I was working in a hostel, it was pretty much parties (or at least drinking and drinking games) nearly every night. It’s safe to say that my health this month has just dropped and the free caiprinhas haven’t helped in the slightest!

The biggest party night of the year came on the buildup to New Years day. There was an enormous free festival set up about 15 minutes from our hostel with tens of thousands of people tightly packed in front of the stage. The humidity in the centre of the crowd, with everybody dancing, was too much!! There were lots of great acts that came on during the night. For me, the highlight was when Bob Sinclair came on as at this point we were at the very front and dancing like crazy in a circle with a load of Brazilian friends we had just made. It was awesome.

While I really enjoyed my time this month, I was also a bit disappointed by the progress I made with my Portuguese. I was surrounded by English speaking people in the hostel and I never had much opportunity to practice. To get around this I had to force myself to speak to as many Brazilian people as possible (but there were times when I was lazy and spoke English instead if I knew they could speak English). But, all in all, the Brazilian people I have met here have been some really great people and I have made a lot of cool friends. They’ve also taught me a lot of slang words and expressions which is really interesting and definitely useful here!

For New Years, I was invited to go camping in a place called Moreré on the Island of Boipeba by a friend I met. I think I was feeling pretty crazy by accepting the invite as I didn’t really know any of them and they didn’t speak English. However, after a while, I decided that it would be an interesting experience and an adventure no matter what happened and it would help me with my Portuguese.. so I summed up the courage and went. However, to get to Moreré was a giant mission. I arranged to travel with my friend’s friend as she knew the way to the place but this friend didn’t speak a word of English and we had never met before. In total, our journey went from a taxi ride – to a ferry boat – to a cab – to a bus – to a river boat – to a tractor!! I left at 6am and arrived around 8pm! :/ And not only this, the friend was taking the mick out of my accent the entire time. It turns out I can’t even pronounced the colour green correctly or even Brazil! Aeey

But that night was incredible, at midnight the fireworks went off at the beach and we partied and sambaed (attempted to samba) until there was a sunrise! There were only a small group of about one hundred people on the beach, but that was enough. When the sun rose everybody went into the shallow water and then danced to the live music playing. In Brazil the people believe that wearing white is a symbol of peace for the next year.. so imagine the view of all of these people dancing in the sea wearing white during the sunrise; it was pretty magical.

The next few days flew by, we went from tropical beach to tropical beach. It was paradise. After a few days of camping I said my goodbyes and returned to Salvador.

I really liked with my stay in Salvador but it has also been really hard. It’s difficult when you make some good friends who are travellers and, just as you are getting to know them, you realise that they are leaving the next day. Even worse is when you have friends that you are leaving behind. It sucks. It’s a feeling of unfulfillment – a mix of an expectation for something that you thought might happen but understand never will. But you have to accept these things.

Bit of a long post this time, I’ll try to make the next one shorter! I’m now off camping for a few weeks with my friend Diarmuid (aka Thomas) from home and some people we met here.10893853_746581302092676_34576592_n

Key things I’ve learnt: How to cut limes and make Caiprinhas!!!

Arembepe

After a great month living along the ’Estrada do Côco’ in Arembepe I am now starting work in Salvador.

My time in Arembepe though was amazing! I stayed in a ‘natural park’ called Sítio Folha d´Água. It offered workshops for Meditation with crystal bowls, Yoga, Tai Chi and lots more activities which was very relaxing to see and even be part of.

I initially spent the first couple of days helping to make furniture and maintaining the place but after my third day I offered to help develop the website for the Sítio and since that point I was working on the site every day.

I found that there was quite a lot to do in Arembepe… there was another preservation project ongoing here, but this time with turtles so I was able to see all the different types of tortoises in the region. I was actually surprised at the size of some of them – one of them was huge, even bigger than me.

Besides this, the woman who owned the Sìtio had a lot of dogs; 16 in total, all of which were her pets! It was insane and really fun to watch them all of the time. After a day it was clear to see the pack hierarchy and mentality. There was an Alpha male which all of the dogs followed and a matriarch which was the oldest female dog – which was tiny but treated as powerful by dogs twice her size. It was really interesting, but when they barked and howled as a group, wow! It’ll be some time before my hearing gets better.

Key things I learned: When working with code, backup everything and do this frequently!

João Pessoa

After a two and half hour delay from my flight from Rome, I was rushed through security and customs and luckily caught my connecting flight when it was on it’s final boarding call. A short while later I landed in João Pessoa; a newly developing city at the eastern most point in Brazil – where the sun is the first to rise in the Americas. Staying in a nearby town called Conde, I was introduced to and lived with a really nice family and helped the owner of the land construct a natural swimming pool (lots of digging!) as well as a few other projects he had going on.

I feel like I was really thrown into the deep end with this trip (especially at first) as none of the family can speak English and, even now, I think my Portuguese is pretty limited. However, the family itself were extremely friendly and really approachable and throughout the weeks I slowly learnt more and more and met countless brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandmothers and so on, that I began to feel like part of the family. I also met a few of their friends which spoke English and, with a group I met in the first week, I travelled North for an hour to Barra de Mamanguape for a weekend break. These are some of the photos from the weekend.

It was really cool, the area was very beautiful and there was a local project being undertaken to save the manatees (peixe-bois) in the region. For a really cheap price we were taken out in a small boat to see the manatees and was even this one that followed us and kept rocking our boat!! Being able to speak English on this trip, even for a little while, was a breath of fresh air after two weeks in and helped me to return me a bit to normality. In the evening we played a game similar to pool with the locals in a bar and then went back to the house to play Uno! Very fun In the house where I stayed in Conde, there were lots of different types of animals; some of which seem very strange at first like this ugly red headed duck called a Muscovy duck.

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All in all, there were two dogs, three cats, this monster and a 45 year old turtle. One of the cats became pregnant during my stay as little by little we saw that her belly was getting bigger… until one day we realised that she suddenly lost weight?!

It was only during the next day that we realised where she had her children.. I opened my cupboard in the morning to find three little kittens quietly sleeping in the bottom drawer. Very big surprise!

New mother

 There were lots of really cool beaches in the area, one of my favourite was the stunning praia de coqueirinho. I was pretty lucky as there was another beach just 5 minute drive away and there was also one I could get to by kayaking from the house (although the journey took an exhausting two hours and was pretty treacherous)

Staying with a Brazilian family has really helped add to the experience, one I don’t think I’ll have again as I’m now going to start working in hostels and hotels soon. The family have introduce me to a variety of new foods and the owner of the place makes so many different types of juices every day based on the fruits grown here (like Açaí, Mangaba and Cashew)… some of them are so sweet and delicious that I want to take them back with me when I return! Normally, I work about four hours (five days a week) at the end of the day feels like a great reward to have one of these and then I have the rest of the day to relax. Now that five weeks are up, I feel sad to be leaving, the time has flown by and I feel like I’ve settled into a nice routine here. I’m now travelling down to what looks like a hippy town near Salvador called Arembepe; hopefully I’ll be able to find a reliable internet connection in this place. I desperately need it. DSC05133 Key things I learned: No matter how much mosquito repellent you put on, you’re still gonna be bitten! Pular doesn’t mean pull and puxar definitely doesn’t mean push!!