Reifs go to Rio (and assorted other destinations) 

After months of planning, and years of waiting, to be quite frank, my family was finally coming to Brazil. When I first studied abroad in 2011, we tossed around the idea of my parents coming to visit, but it never happened. This time around, nothing was going to stop my from getting my mom and brother down here. As the first few months of my grant passed, my mom began planning, and, on November 16th, I anxiously awaited their arrival in Manaus. 

But I’ll backtrack just a little. Oftentimes, when foreigners talk about wanting to visit to the U.S., they mention plans for trips to New York, Miami, Las Vegas, LA, and Chicago all in one go. And we Americans thinks they’re crazy. Don’t you have any idea how big the U.S. is? That’s exactly the type of trip we planned. 

Our journey began in the Amazon. I knew that we would have minimal time in Manaus as a family, so I ended up going about a day and half early to see the city. It was my first time really traveling by myself, but I think I made it work 🙂 My first morning (my flight arrived around midnight), I woke up around 730 and signed myself up for a full-day boat tours to the meeting of the waters, to see some animals, and, to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what at else it involved. but I signed up anyway. In the end, it was a ton of fun! As advertised, we started our morning by visiting the famed Meeting of the Waters, where the rio solimoes and rio negro meet. Because the rives have vastly different temperatures and flow at very different speeds, they don’t mix. They simply meet. I honestly didn’t think it would be just as cool as it was. It was a gray and drizzly day, but as our boast slowed down and I poked over the side to out my hand in the river, I could feel the obvious so differences. Nature is a wonderful thing. 

  

Next, we visited a family on floating house that takes in animals for tourists. In th back if my mind, I was kind of like ” whatever, another tourist trap.” But then I stepped off the boat and saw Bea. 

   

 

Sorry to anyone I call a best friend. You were replaced (albeit temporarily) in that moment. The family also had a jacaré (caiman) and an anaconda for was to whole. Are you surprised that I was the first to volunteer to take the snake? 

Our next stop was to see the giant water lilies. I didn’t really get why we stopped, since they’d were out of season, but it was worth it simply to meet this other new friend:

  

Next we, traveled to our final stop, an indigenous ritual. Again, I felt that it was a bit touristy, but I could bel but love it. At first, I was bummed that it was too dark to take good photos, but I was later so entranced that it didn’t matter. You know those moments that photos don’t do justice? The ones where you simply want to take it in fort yourself? That’s how this ritual felt. It ended with them grabbing us to dance, and you know I can’t say no to that! 

   

 

As we pulled back into the dock, I found a super nice young couple from Curitiba who were at my hostel. We decided to walk back together, as opposed to taking the van, with a stop in the cathedral on the way. Everton and afrancine were so great! And it turns out afrancine knows basically all the ETAs who have been in Curitiba! What a small world! 

The next day, I decided to check out the opera house, the famed Teatro de Amazonas. Did you know it was the first building in Brazil with electricity? Can you believe that? An opera house in the middle of the Amazon was the fish building with electricity. I admit, I like the Teatro de Paz in Belem more, but it’s still pretty incredible. 

   

   

I spent the rest of the morning wandering around a weekly feria, our crafts fair, and frantically looked for something related to the boi-bumbá festival that I had learned so much about through Oré. I eventually found what I was looking for, but not after wandering the city and enjoying some açaí And fresh fruit juice! In the afternoon, I checked out if  my hostel and took the crazy cab ride over to our hotel to enjoy the pool. What can I say, it ws Sunday and nothing else was open! I only had one more thing to do before my family arrived: experiencing boi-bumbá for myself. I was in the wrong city (it’s from the island of Parintins, several hours uses away) and the festival is in June, but I couldn’t leave without the trying. The hostel staff were mystified: how could an American who lives in Fortaleza (not even in the North!) know about boi-bumbá? But, luckily, they knew of a place. I left my hotel around 6, ate a burger on the street (sorry Mom), and went to a country-clubs type clube where they play the music and dance every Sunday. Once again, pictures can’t do it justice. I may have been the only person in their who didn’t know the choreographed (we use official boi-bumbá music but choreography our own routines), but that didn’t stop me from trying! Viva cultura popular! 

Finally, around 2am, exhausted and sweaty, my mom and brother arrived. At that point, we were all a little exhausted, and we weren’t quite sure what time we were leaving the next t day (something unusual for us when we travel), but the trip had finally arrived! 

Since this is one of many posts wrapping up 2014, I won’t go into a detailed summary of our trip, but it was amazing. We spent four days at a jungle lodge an the Anavilhanas archipelago where we fished for piranhas, ate larvae (ok, Eric and I did), and saw more river dolphins than we could count. We ended with the same passeio on the river I mentioned before, but this time we got to “fish” for Arapaima (or pirarucu as they’re known here), the world’s largest freshwater fish. My mom was definitely the best at it!!!! Then, we spent a few perfect days in Rio, and boy, did it live up to its nickname as a cidade maravilhosa. We had perfect views from the top of Christ the redeemer and Pão de Açucar, enjoyed some relaxing beach time in Copacabana, and visited the beautiful tiled Escaderia de Selaron in Lapa. Next on our itinerary was Salvador. Our hotel was a beautiful colonial house in the pelourinho, just in front of the beautiful Igreja de São Francisco de Assis. We went on a beautiful walking tour of the pelourinho and Porto da Barra, ate delicious moqueca, and visited the beautiful Igreja do Bonfim, one of my personal favorite spots in Salvador. We wrapped up watching a performance by the incredible Balé Folclórico da Bahia and visiting Luize. It was tons of fun! Finally, we went to our penultimate destination: Iguassu Falls. throughout Rio and Salvador, my mom kept saying how much she loved it, but that at where couldn’t imagine anything beating the Amazon. That changed our first days in the Argentinian side of the falls. We wandered the trails, took a boat ride under the waterfalls, and had some interesting interactions with coatis. Our second day, we went to the Brazilian side of the falls and the Parque das Aves. It was beautiful. Our final destination was São Paulo. It was a little hectic, an definitely a culture shock for my family compared to the other places we visited, but we ended our trip with a nice dinner with my host siblings from 2011, Erika and Rafa. My mom and brother left early the next morning and I just wandered around Av. Paulista until is was my turn to go. Check out some highlights! 

   

                             

We had an amazing two weeks and I hope they come again this year (hint hint)! 

That wraps up my 2014 year in Brazil! I am so grateful for all of my experiences this past year, both positive and negative, and am looking forward to another great nine (errr eight as I write this) months in Fortaleza! Beijos

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