Oh man, there is so much to say I don´t even know where to begin! I think I´ll write a list of things I´ve learned over the past week, and elaborate as I go. This will definitely be an ongoing project!
1. Endurance: I had read before that Brazilians don´t snack much, but they weren´t kidding! We eat three meals a day here. Breakfast if I´m lucky at 8am, lunch sometime between 12 and 2pm, and dinner at about 10 or later. If you´re keeping track, that means I´m going about 5-9 hours on just one meal. And, although in Canada I was proud of having shrunk my appetite down to smaller portions, it means I can barely stomach enough food to fuel me through that amount of time. So I have to shovel in as much as possible because you never know exactly when the next meal is – or else you fill up on water! The other thing is that I haven´t had more than 6 hours of sleep a night since I got here. I just finished six weeks of vacation, so it´s hard to adjust, but getting easier.
2. How to eat: Basically I am a baby here. Everyone babysits me: I can´t get anywhere or feed myself without help. I don´t know what anything is called, or even what´s in it, but I do know when it looks and smells delicious! Everything I´ve eaten has been good. They keep asking me what we eat in Canada…honestly it´s the same food (rice, beans, chicken, beef, pasta) but it is made so differently that it´s hard to explain! Etiquette is also something that takes some getting used to. People don´t just pick up their burgers and fries with their bare hands; oh, no. Use a napkin for the burger, and a fork for those fries! Put your coke in a glass, don´t drink from the bottle! The worst thing is, most of the people I´ve hung out with have never been outside of Brazil, so they don´t realize why I´m so hesitant to do anything – they don´t know any different. I, on the other hand, feel awkward leaving my tray at the table in the food court for the mall maids.
3. How to talk: This is for sure my favourite section. Even though I work at an English language school, most of the people I talk to have limited or no English. Lee, the administrative assistant, took me to Itacoatiara (Eeta-qwa-chara), and we spent four hours making small talk with extremely basic words and the aid of a dictionary. I then met Eli, my roommate and the receptionist, who is on the first English book and has maybe 30 words in English. Lee struggled to translate for a couple days while he was here, but we all had a really good time together playing ping pong and soccer, swimming, and eating out. Then Lee left. Eli and I communicate using a mix of random words in English and Portuguese, charades, onomatopoeia, and Google translate. It somehow works. Today, he pointed at the sky and said, “big moon,” and I laughed and told him he meant sun. Hilarious! By the way, Eli wants me to call him “Brad Black” because he thinks he is the Black Brad Pitt, and always reminds me that he is “beautiful.” Do you see what I mean by characters?
4. How to go to the bathroom: I had some indication that bathroom sanitation would be different here, but it´s so hard to get used to different standards of infrastructure. Especially here in Itacoatiara, the power goes out frequently, and even the water is moody. Besides that, there is no hot water, and zero pressure. The toilets are simply not equipped for anything larger than your standard No. 2, and even then, you can´t flush your toilet paper. You get to deposit it in a smellylittle garbage can along with everyone else´s used paper next to the toilet. And…this one took me DAYS to figure out…when you do go No. 2, sometimes you have to use a bucket full of water that you pour into the toilet while simultaneously pulling the chain from the overhead tank. Nobody talks to you about these things, and they´re really hard to ask! I still don´t know what I´m going to do about tampons, but I´ll cross that bridge when I come to it. There isn´t any hot water, although that isn´t any problem in the heat (since you asked mom, I haven´t been keeping track of the temperature although it´s definitely in the mid 30s, and no I´m not melting because they´re all addicted to AC down here), but sometimes the water will shut off for half a day for no reason. So much for 3-5 showers a day, and welcome to Itacoatiara!
5. How to get around: So unless you have a car in Manaus, you can take public transit – but the busses are over-crowded. Or you can take a taxi. There are two options: a communal taxi that might pick up more people on the way, or a private taxi. Maria, who I stayed with in Manaus, has a friend who drives a cab and takes her (us) everywhere. It´s kind of expensive if you ask me, but that´s what she does. Even more exciting is here in Ita: people drive motorcycles everywhere! The ratio of motorcycles to cars is probably 10:1 for the bikes. And yes, I´ve ridden them lots of times (with no helmet! Nobody wears a helmet except the moto taxi drivers…but don´t worry mom, they don´t go very fast). Likely I will learn how to drive a motorcycle while I´m here!
Okay, that´s all I have time for for now. I should say that the only thing that´s the same is teaching, so no surprises there! It´s nice to be an expert at something, even though I´m truly a baby in every other sense.