You may find it interesting that I haven’t yet regretted coming here! I’m sure that feeling’ll come sooner or later, but having been here soon a week makes for quite some first impressions at least. Perhaps the biggest so far has been how nice people are when I talk ear-bleeding Portuguese and then stare back at them like a destitute monkey when I understand about 0.1% of what they replied.
Don’t get me wrong.. I have managed to do quite some things already by just talking funny and gesticulating! Other things that have struck me as being very different, although not entirely alien, is a slight decrease in “luxury” as compared to the places I’ve lived before. Again, don’t get me wrong, I like that it’s different and I really don’t have high demands for a good life. Walking around can be quite an adventure, though! Better watch out not to trip over a hole in the pavement, or trample a stray-dog, or misjudge the height of the curb, which is very different everywhere. This doesn’t apply to all of Brazil, mind you! This city, Viçosa, may need a little more maintenance than in many other places, but it has its charm too!
So anyway, the first day (July 28th) here (not including arrival day) I got introduced to the city and the university campus by my friend, Maurício. I know him because he was in my university in Holland for a year. He mainly showed me around campus, which is absolutely humongous, at least to me. It’s apparently one of the biggest in Brazil. Now that I’ve walked there and around there a few times it seems much more manageable, but it did seems pretty endless at first! That day I also met with a professor, Ricardo, which I also met in Holland before, and had an interview with. Then during the day I walked around campus a bit on my own, which was quite busy due to “farmers week”, meaning you could find plenty of agriculture equipment there, as well as animals, nice cars (apparently farm owners here are rich) and handicrafts. I also had my very first Brazilian lunch that day -Stroganoff, although made quite differently than I remember from Europe. It was some sort of chicken in sauce mixed with rice and tiny French fries which were more like chips in consistency. I didn’t take a photo, so POIDH me.
The following day, 30th, I had not much to do except discover the city and buy stuff I need for my room in the apartment. That’s when the terrorising began. I needed to find a blanket and some bed sheets, which was difficult because I had totally forgotten all the terms for things pertaining to beds. After about 30 minutes I had learned the difference between lençol em cima (duvet cover) and lençol casal (bed sheet), and managed to get a suitably-sized blanket (“cobertor”). It’s winter here and it gets pretty chilly at night. The first night I didn’t have much and I was freezing my ham off. Yes, freezing in Brazil! I didn’t expect that, to be honest! In addition, I managed to snail my way through understanding what to do to get a prepaid SIM-card, which was way more difficult than anywhere else I’ve been. Had to fill in a form, show my passport, VISA, state address, call numbers and enter numbers, and some more. My wrist watch needed fixing so I got it fixed too, plus had to describe (in a “thousand pieces” shop -that’s what it’s called) that I needed an adapter for electric outlets that fits European plugs. Lastly I found a good pillow (“travesseiro”). That was an adventurous day. Maybe not for you when reading this, but having to struggle your way through to get a blanket is one for the records! File this under “stupid things I have done”.
Then, on the 31st, I went to the university to officially register for the Masters course, which didn’t take very long. I also tried to get a bank account that day, but I needed some kind of evidence that I live here. More bureaucracy, yay! Apparently it’s enough with a friend (in this case Maurício) filling out a form and attaching his ID card and a bill to the apartment. Could be easily faked or have nothing to do with me, but yeah. Afterwards I went to a restaurant, “NaMariah”, and had one of the best pastas ever. Was kind of a DIY where you choose ingredients and the chef makes it right away in front of you. That cost me €2.50 or so and was even too much for me to finish! Not expensive considering and comparing.
Then on Friday August 1st I was quite lazy until the evening when I went with Maurício and Robert (one of my other housemates) to campus where the last day of the farmers week took place. There were a lot of people there. I also met some more students from the same programme I will be studying, and spent the majority of the evening avidly trying to follow their conversations in Portuguese. I didn’t really understand most of it, but picked up here and there enough to know what the general subjects were. They all spoke English to some degree though, some more, some less, so every once in a while the conversation switched over to English. I also hear the Portuguese in Minas Gerais (this state where Viçosa is located) can be particularly difficult to follow for beginners, but challenge accepted! During the evening I tried a Brazilian delicacy (or however you define it), called “cocada”. It’s coconut something something which is really sweet and mine was with passion fruit. Looks weird but tastes all the better!
And now for some food spamming:
I think that’s all from me for now! Tomorrow I will have my first class. Gonna break a few legs! Tchau!