I thinks I said this in a previous post updating about my hiatus, but it’s still unreal to be back in Brazil. In fact, I’ve now been back for almost two and half months, yet I still have to pinch myself every so often as a reminder that it’s real.
I didn’t write about my time back right away because, well, I thought the blog had been abandoned. Then, I decided to resurrect it, updated on the end of the year and my trip with my family, went away for Semana Santa, and then drifted off again. But no, this time it’s real. I’m reaffirming my promise to myself to update twice a month.
So, what was my first month back like? Crazy, amazing, slow (but not bad), wonderful, and a whole slew of other adjectives. I spent a whirlwind 36 hours in Fortaleza to store my stuff before flying off to meat the other nine mentors for our “retreat.” Now, I put retreat in quotes for really one reasons. Yes, Fulbright encouraged the mentors to arrive early and settle in, and yes, we did actually use the retreat pretty productively to work on our programs for orientation. But, let’s be honest here, the retreat was mostly just an excuse to hang out. Coming back this year, I considered myself good friends with three other mentors (Michell, Kelci, and Abbott), really liked three although our interactions were limited (Stevie, Pat, and Erik), and had never ever met the other three (Connie, Charlie, and Shane). On some level, we were all connected: Kelci was super tight with Shane last year and I was super tight with Kelci. I knew Kelci, but Michell didn’t, etc. The second we arrived in Ubatuba (a beach town in the state if São Paulo), the anxiety melted and we immediately fell into a cohesive rhythm. In fact, you could barely tell that some of us had never met. Those few days in Ubatuba were amazing. We relaxed on various beaches, swam in beautiful waterfalls, and took a million selfies. I don’t really feel the need to detail our day today. I can only reiterate that our few days all together reminded me just how lucky I was to be here again and how great this year would be. Check out some pics of the family all together
After our few short days together, we split up again. Connie went back to her how at city from last year for a grad party, Charlie went to his former host city to see friends, and Pat and Abbot had plans. And then there were six.
Stevie, Erik, Michell, Shane, Kelci, and I hopped on a bus to Paraty, a beautiful colonial town in the state of Rio, where we spent two days before heading back to São Paulo. Our first day, we wandered to the neighboring town of Trinidade, where we took a short hike to this amazing tide pool. It was beautiful. Our second day, we went on a passeio where we visited an alombique (or cachaça mill) and three different waterfalls. Two had rocks we could jump off of and one was a natural water slide. It was perfect
We then left for São Paulo for some free time before orientation. Michell had plans to meet up wing friends, so we were down to five, but it didn’t matter. We spent a morning exploring Liberdade, the historic Japanese neighborhood, while eating our weight in dumplings and fried food. Then, we hopped on the metro back towards Vila Madalena and wandered around the beautiful Beco de Batman, an alleyway filled with ever-changing street art. It’s one of my favorite spots in São Paulo.
Finally, it was time for Orientation! We began working with Fulbright commission on some of the programming earlier in the year and we had been meeting with our groups via Skype since December. Now, we would finally get to meet our mentees in person! I was, admittedly, a little nervous. Talking about pre-departure info is easy. orientation is easy too. But would I be a good mentor? I guess we’d find out. On top of that, the ten mentors were reunited again. Even though we had been apart for only a couple days, it was really nice to be back together again. There was lots of snuggling involved.
Orientation was amazing, or, at least, I thought so. As a group of 120 granted, we come from incredibly diverse background and have different experience in Brazil. This, combined with everyone’s general excitement for the grant to finally be starting, led to a number of productive and meaningful sessions. We also finally got a formal time to meet all as a group! My gatinhos nordestinos, a name I’m recycling from last year, are amazing. I am so thankful for them and am looking forward to the rest of our time together. All in all, I left orientation sad to leave my friends, but excited for the year at UFC. Moreover, it left me super excited for our mid-grant conference in July.
And now we’re back to Fortaleza. The first few weeks were a little slow to start, but this was something I’ve come to expect (and love) about this beautiful northeastern city. My co-ETAs have been great from the start and I could tell right away that we would work well together. Our first few weeks back at UFC were mostly spent planning. Planning activities, scheduling events, and brainstorming new ideas. We arrived about month into the semester and there were amillioannholidays in March (not that I’m complaining), so we decided to start everything after Semana Santa, the first week in April.
Along with the time working, I got the chance to show Allyson, Natalie, and Charlie around the city, we enjoyed beaches, ice realm, and even a delicious churrasco in the mountains with Charlie’s host family.
I’ll stop for now, and leave Semana Santa as a separate post. If you can believe, we’re already having yet another holiday and I’m getting ready to leave for the airport. But, I promise I won’t wait another month to update you! Check back soon for posts on my trip to Chapada Diamantina over spring break, the start of our activities at UFC, and a recent trip to Pipa with some other ETAs.