Journal Day 8

Fast forward seven months, and its my next trip to Brazil. In the meantime, Minha Namorada (My Girlfriend) and I had grown much closer, we spoke every day on WhatsApp (video calling is a godsend to long distance relationships), and she had spent a large part of the summer with me in Canada.

This time, I felt much more comfortable walking into her home after a long flight, smelling terrible after 24 hours of travel, and craving a shower – this was a big sign of how welcome her family had made me feel from day one of my first trip. We didn’t hang out too much at her home though, as Minha Namorada wanted me to see the Sunset from downtown and so whisked me away after just enough time to stretch my legs and say hi to her family.

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The couple just ahead of us were speaking in English – it seemed they couldn’t understand each other in their native languages, so they used English as a universal language.   

While I did get some beautiful views, we missed the sunset by about five minutes. Downtown João Pessoa is beautiful though, as I’ve mentioned. It used to be the richest neighborhood in João Pessoa, and the architecture reflects that, but large swaths of downtown are now abandoned. The rich having moved to the coast to be right next to the ocean. Being unable to resell these properties for their values, they have now been long abandoned, and an uneasiness has settled around the downtown core.

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This is not a safe place to be at night, although during the day there are still many tourist attractions worth checking out – just start early, and leave after sunset. That being said, there are still busy bars downtown, so its not all parts that are unsafe. The basic rule is of safety in numbers still applies. If you want to go at night, make sure to check with your hotel if its a night where one of the downtown bars is having a large gathering, and then Uber directly there and back.

Downtown even has a thriving Chinatown community, where everything seemed incredibly similar to a China Town in Canada that, if not for the language. My first trip, I had barely seen any foreigners other than myself, and there are definitely less in Brazil than in Canada (for example, Japanese and Chinese restaurants tend to be staffed by ethnic Brazilians), but there are still lots of expats in Brazil. This trip, my suitcase had broken a wheel, and we went downtown to get it fixed – that is another lesson I liked from Brazil, there is a much stronger emphasis on fixing things that are broken, rather than just throwing them out and buying new. For 45 Reals (about 20 dollars) my suitcase was as good as new.

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Hot Temaki – my mouth waters just thinking about it.

I also insisted that first night that we have one thing I had been craving since I got back to Canada from my previous trip – hot temaki. Brazil has taken the wonderful taste of sushi, and they deep fry it in batter similar to chicken-strip batter, and it is one of the best tasting (and horrible for my waistline) foods that exists.

Journal Entry Day 4

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Oddly, this was basically my first “beach day” in Brazil. This is because I wasn’t looking for a generic beach holiday. If you are looking to do a generic beach holiday, while Brazil is lovely, I’m not sure if it will be what you are seeking. Generally speaking, there are lots of all-inclusive destinations where you can find a hot beach to relax, enjoy good food, and free alcohol. Those can be a lot of fun, but I don’t find you really experience the cultures of the places you visit. Especially for me though, I was there to meet the family of Minha Namorada (My Girlfriend) and experience her culture. I wanted to see where she grew up, and learn more about her.

That said, the beaches in Brazil are lovely. You do have to be a bit careful as to which beaches you choose, as the water CAN have dangerous animals (read: sharks), but generally the beaches in João Pessoa are protected by Reefs that keep out the sharks and it is generally easy to tell the beaches apart – are there a lot of people swimming there? Then you don’t need to worry.

However, when going to the beaches in Brazil, I cannot overemphasize the importance of sunblock. You do not want your trip ruined by a bad burn. Minha Namorada actually bought me a UV shirt that was designed for swimming – don’t worry, lots of Brazilians wear these shirts too. As I’ve written about before, Brazilians are very smart about how to dress for the Sun.

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In the evening, Minha Namorada and I went to Praia do Jacaré (Alligator Beach), before heading out for supper. I got a very wonderful shirt that gives Inglês to Nordestinês (English to Northeasterner). While much of the humor on the shirt is still lost to me (given my rudimentary, but improving understanding of Portuguese), I still like the shirt, and it allowed me to understand how Nordestinês are viewed in Brazil. They are the equivalent of our Newfoundlanders (its easy to imagine an English-Newfie T-Shirt). This has only become more cemented in my mind as I learn more about Brazil, reading articles that mention Nordestinês in the way that I find much of Canada speaks of Newfoundlanders . To be clear, I am not suggesting it is a derogatory way of speaking (nor is it in Canada when speaking of Newfoundlanders ), it is simply an area with a different way of life, and a unique culture. That same niche that is occupied by Newfoundlanders in Canada, is occupied by Nordestinês in Brazil.

English Northeasterner Translation

After the beautiful sunset, Minha Namorada and I went to a bar because she insisted that I try a Caipirinha. This is a very popular drink in Brazil, and it is a must-have for any gringo visiting. Caipirinha is made with a unique Brazilian spirit called cachaça. Mexico has tequila, Cuba has rum, Brazil has cachaça. A Caipirinha is very easy to make, and involves just adding cachaça, ice, and the fruit of your choice (limes or lemons are the most common). Its a hard taste to describe, but well worth seeking out. You CAN get cachaça in Canada, but it is expensive here, and generally it is the low quality version.

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Caipirinha