Friday, July 22, 2011

Arrived in Brazil

I'm in Brazil!  

Notes on the trip from Panama onward (edited to add photos and comments):

The gate area in Panama International Airport, which had been mostly empty, really filled up just before boarding.
I was sitting right over the baggage door, so I could watch the guys loading baggage.  The guy in yellow was doing all the heavy work of lifting and loading the bags, and the guy in orange was just scanning the bagggage tags and wiping his brow again and again as though HE were doing the tough job!
On the flight to Porto Alegre, two Brazilian young women sat next to me.  They chatted with me in a mixture of English, Spanish and Portuguese, and by the end of the flight I was feeling very welcome in Brazil, even though my toes hadn't yet touched the ground.

Here are some photos from the flight.
For those readers who may not have flown in an airplane, I took a video of the takeoff and the receding landscape as the plane rose to the sky.  (No, there is nothing wrong with your computer, that is the real engine noise when one sits behind the wing.)

In the airport, immigration and customs were easy.  After exiting, I couldn't find my taxi driver right away (turns out he was in another section of the airport), but another new friend from the airplane kindly used his cell phone to call the driver and tell him where I was.  The drive to Santa Cruz do Sul was fine, if a little chilly - the nighttime temperatures are a bit colder than I had anticipated and the driver didn't use the heat.  I couldn't see much out the windows except to note that outside of towns, there is less light pollution in Brazil - they don't put streetlights or house lights on all night when it's not necessary.  (This was also very noticeable from the air.)  Since it was 1:30am and there was nothing to see, I closed my eyes and slept much of the way.

Arrived at my little cottage around 3:30am and could not figure out how to operate the flash heater for hot water in the shower, and it was quite chilly in the cottage, so I just skipped it. I went to bed around 4:00am and slept until someone knocked on my door at 10:30 to tell me to come across to the school for "orientation".  Otherwise I could probably have slept all day.  

Orientation consisted of spending several hours with Fabiane, a Portuguese instructor and secretary at the school.  She is very nice, 33 years old.  Her great great grandparents came from Germany and her boyfriend's grandparents came from Italy. This place is as much of a cultural "melting pot" as the USA.  She says some of the older shopkeepers speak German. Maybe I will be brave enough to test this someday. ;)

First there was some paperwork and information about the school - to my surprise, I will be teaching a few classes next week so I have got a schedule already.  Then she took me to lunch at a cafeteria style restaurant and a little walking tour around downtown.  Now we are taking a break and she will pick me up again between 15:30 and 16:00 for more errands (get money, most important, and maybe buy some food). 

The Brazilian monetary unit is the Real, and the paper money is beautiful!  On the backs are different animals.

The school is just a couple of blocks from the downtown, which is tiny and old.  It has a little park in the middle and the courthouse - it looks like the downtown of a very small town, to have a population of 100k; I guess this town has grown "out" instead of "up" as there are few large buildinjgs.  There are trees and tropical plants everywhere. Some of the birds sound like monkeys.   The supermarket, which is very modern, was a couple of blocks the other way.  I have yet to discover the farmers' market - possibly tomorrow.

It's colder than I had anticipated, but I suspect that like when I arrived in China, the cold weather will only last about as long as it would take to receive some warmer clothes from home and then it will be getting hot.  The little cottage is cold, but there is a tiny space heater which I put in the bedroom last night. I'm usually quite warm in the classroom teaching (due to adrenaline, I suppose), so it will probably be ok that my work clothes are not so warm.  There is also a heating/air conditioning wall unit like the one I had in my apartment in China, which I have finally figured out how to operate this evening.

There are several kitties on the grounds.  I've met two of them and the Siamese, Josie, climbed into my lap for petting and then followed me into my cottage!  The furniture is already full of claw marks, so I guess the prior foreign teacher occupying the cottage must have let her in too.  I'm not sure it would be possible to keep her out!

I wasn't expecting to begin teaching until August 1, but it turns out that I will have 10 teaching hours next week, 8 of which are private lessons (up to three students) and the other two hours are a grammar class with 6 students.  The school is currently in its winter between-semester intensive period, so I'll have this schedule for two weeks, and then the next semester will begin.  There are a total of five foreign teachers; one is staying on and the other four will be new, of which I'm the first arrival (hence the classes right away).  Working sooner means getting paid sooner and meeting more people, so it's all good.  

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