I spent the first few days of an 11-day trip in Araraquara, Sao Paulo, where a friend of mine lives. It’s only a couple hours by car from where I currently live, so not all that much different in terms of climate or landscape, but a city isn’t just its climate and landscape.
Even though Araraquara is about half the size of my city of 400,000, I appreciated how easy it was to get around (nearly everything is within walking distance) and how safe it was (walking home at 2am was nada).
I met my friend’s friends, who were a refreshing mix of students from all over the world. I was impressed by a lot of these people’s gall to move to a country where they don’t speak the language. By the time I met them they’d all been in Brazil for at least two months and had absorbed so much. They inspired me to make a more concerted effort to study Portuguese, as we all know I’m not one to be outdone.
We went out with everyone to a ‘snooker’ bar filled with motorcycle men listening to the Linkin Park CD that came out my freshman year of high school. I ordered a drink made of vodka, cognac, beer and lime and about puked downing it. It did the job, and we ran around the streets laughing and ringing people’s doorbells at 2am like 10-year-olds. We saw a fight, which broke out into a second fight after a drunk college kid stole a homeless man’s warm, half-drunk beer that was sitting out on the sidewalk. My friend got sloppy and yelled several times at some restaurant people to bring her bread hours after their kitchen had closed, thinking maybe a jeitinho was in the making. It wasn’t, so we ate gross side-of-the-road hamburgers instead.
I told my friend I wanted to get my crotch waxed like a true Brazilian, so we went to a salon to pop my crotch-waxing cherry. I truly believe gynecologists and crotch-waxers know women better than their lovers do. There’s nothing like spreading your ass cheeks at the command of a complete stranger. The coos of ‘coitadinha’, the equivalent of ‘you poor little baby’, from my crotch-waxer didn’t help any.
Every once and a while I decide to smoke cigarettes, and this is one of those once-in-a-whiles. It’s a hard habit to break not because of the biological dependency, but the behavioral one. I love going outside to sit, breathe deeply, get a buzz and think about things. During one of these times in Araraquara I was listening to the palm trees around me rustle in the wind, and I thought back to when I was in high school and my family used to go on vacation to Florida. It was the highlight of my year because I loved the ocean beaches and the palm trees, two things non-existent in the midwest. I told my parents when I was 13 that when I grew up I would live in a place that had palm trees because they make me that happy. I used to watch the maids at the hotel we’d stay at and be so envious of them for being able to live in a place so warm and beautiful. At the end of the week when we’d drive home I would watch the last palm trees disappear from view at the Florida border.
Speaking of dreams, I made a dream board when I was just starting grad school. I printed pictures off the internet and glued them to this board that listed all of my goals. The one signifying the goal ‘go to Brazil’ was a big picture of Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo. The other week when I was in Sao Paulo walking down Avenida Paulista I thought about that picture and felt grateful for dreams realized.