I've been here (in Brazil) for a few days now, but not quite a week. Still, I have a few things to say about Brazil.
First, it's much different than most of the other countries I've been to. There are many people here from European decent, along with people of African, Asian, and Hispanic heritages. It's very eclectic as far as that goes and reminds me of larger cities in the United States. I actually blend in on the streets, something I've experienced in a foreign country only in England. It's also fairly obvious Brazil is enjoying a rather healthier economy than the majority of its neighbors-- houses are large, cars are new, and the streets are clean. In fact, it's almost too clean for me (those of you who have been to Rome or other Mediterranean cities will understand what I mean when I say I like "dirty" cities). Still the people are incredibly friendly and open; it feels very much like American here. Except that everyone speaks Portuguese. Yeah, that's the biggest difference so far.
Second, registering a visa isn't fun, no matter where you do it. My roommates and I went to the federal police station today to register our visa, and we were there for FOUR HOURS. It was like a demented version of the DMV. The best part? After all that waiting, I was turned away because my photos were the wrong size by a few millimeters. Ye-ah. I asked if I could just cut off the extra, but the lady (who, to be fair was super friendly and helpful) said that I couldn't do that because the image itself needed to be within certain dimensions. So I'll be going back there soon. Hopefully I get there early to be one of the firsts in line.
Third, I have a weak stomach, and even without that excuse it's hard to escape the dreaded traveler's gut rot. I have no idea what I ate, but by the end of the day my stomach was lurching. Fortunately, my host family has what must be magic tea-- after drinking one cup I felt immensely better. I have no idea what kind of tea it is, but it worked miracles.
To make things more interesting during my digestive dilemmas, my host mom cornered me while I was feeling poorly to tell me she doesn't think I'm eating enough. To which I replied (in my head) that eating was what made me ill in the first place! The first few days I was here I ate lunch with my host family; however, I've decided to procure my own food for the rest of the semester. Granted, my host father is an excellent cook and I really enjoyed eating with the family, but it appears that Brazilians eat significantly more meat than I ever do. In one meal we had grilled steak, pork, and sausage with a side of potato salad (read: mayonnaise). Now, I almost never consume red meat (as in, maybe once every month or so), and I consume chicken or fish about two or three times a week, so as far as I'm concerned I could have gotten ill from eating so much meat without giving my body time to adjust. All things said and done, I'm going to stick to my normal diet so that I stay healthy enough to try any new foods I can find here in Brazil.
Finally, I've begun to realize what a great housing deal I have here. For about $550 per month (depending on the exchange rate) I get a fully furnished room, my own bathroom, utilities, a laundry service, a cleaning service, and a constant supply of food in a kitchen I share with other students, none of whom speak English natively, so I also get frequent practice at two of my foreign languages. Not to mention, I live within walking distance to campus. Seriously? I spend $300 per month in Muncie, plus utilities, which got to be around $125 or so during the cold months, but I still had to buy all my own food, do my laundry, and clean up after myself. (Though I do have a lot more room in Muncie, and my living situation there is also a great deal.) What I'm trying to say is, $550 per month seemed steep at first, but I'm beginning to see where I'm getting my money's worth.
Tomorrow classes begin. Look for a post covering THAT coming soon!