the paraense paradigm

I have to dedicate an entire post to the people I’ve been spending my time with here. I owe them my every happiness right now, but the best I can do for now is a shoutout on this blog.

The people from Belém are the warmest people you’ll ever meet. Which makes sense, because Belém is a city in the northeastern part of Brazil in the state of Para, right smack in the Amazon. Where it’s always warm. It looks like this:

Yes, there are skyscrapers in the Amazon. I was surprised too.

Anyway, my friends here are all paraense, which means they are from the state of Para. Since they are so far from home, they tend to stick together in a big group, so between the ones I met during Carnaval in Rio and here, and the ones I’ve met since I’ve been here, I’ve got a LOT of friends.

When I say friends, I don’t just mean people I like to go out and have a drink with (although we do a lot of that too). I mean the kind of friends that will drive an hour and a half to the airport to pick me up and then spend 40 minutes looking for me after I give them the wrong terminal number, who will let me unpack my 3 giant suitcases in their bedroom, who will tell their boss at MTV about me (without me asking) so that I might one day get a job there, and who will lend me their CPF (a Brazilian identification card) in order to get a phone chip. These are, without a doubt, the nicest people I’ve ever met.

There’s a big list of things I love about being here, but here’s a few that are top of mind:

1. They feel immense pride at any ability I show in speaking Portuguese.

Immense. The typical reaction to any phrase I use correctly is laughter, followed by applause. Most of the time, I feel a bit like their adopted 5 year old being praised for stacking legos or getting the square peg through the square hole. But I love this feeling. Whenever I’m introduced to a new friend, they inform them that I am a gringa and that I don’t speak Portuguese, but they follow this quickly with “but she’s almost fluent.” (I’m not.) I have to argue that one of the most important steps to learning a new language is confidence, and I’m certainly getting that here.

A tip for anyone who comes across a paraense: say “éguaaaa” to them any time you would normally use “oh my god” – they’ll love you forever.

2. They love to share food.

I’m pretty sure this is true of all Brazilians, and probably a lot of other Latin cultures, but it’s going on the list because it’s one of my favorite things here.

A typical meal here: Saturday feijoada plus meat, rice, farofa, vinagrete, fries, and bread. In other words, I’m getting plenty of carbohydrates.

All meals are typically eaten “family style” (as we know it in America). I think there’s something profound about this – you feel so much more like a family when you share a meal this way.

But even if you actually are somewhere that you order separate things, everyone will pass their plates and drinks around so that everyone else can have a taste. And this is so common that when I asked my friend Caio yesterday if he wanted to try a bite of my quiche, he politely declined, and added, “I don’t mean to be rude.”

I finally live in a place where eating off other’s people plates is expected. #heaven

3. They hang out in big groups, all the time.

Back in New York, I always felt a weird sense of success every time I managed to get a large group of people to show up at the same place at the same time. Here, it seems decidedly less complicated. Granted I haven’t had to do the work myself of getting in touch with everyone, but I feel like every time I leave the house to go for dinner or go to a bar with one or two people, we end up having 8 or 10 or 12 people meet us. And if we’re not out, everyone will show up at someone’s house. This may not seem like a big thing to notice, but as a self-proclaimed social butterfly, I love this.

One-third of our dinner table at Si Señor (a Mexican restaurant) the other night. From left to right, Carol (my lovely host), me, Mariana, and Caio

4. They’re really freaking snuggly.

Seriously, if you go an hour without hugging someone or touching someone in some way, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not necessarily a sexual or even a flirty thing, everyone here just likes to touch people. Kissing on the cheek is not just a greeting at the beginning or end of the night, but whenever you feel like it, which for me is usually all the time. This does, however, blur the lines between being friendly and flirting. Either way, it’s quite fun.

5. They have cool pets.

Okay, so while I’m pretty sure that Mariana’s cat, Chica, is the most awesome cat I’ve ever met, the best pet award has to go to Roque (pronounced like “Rocky”) the hedgehog:

For the record, Roque is NOT snuggly.

It took me up until this moment to even believe my friend Mateus when he told me his roommate had a pet ouriço pigmeu.

Anyway, I want to thank all of these people (and my Rodrigo for introducing me to them all!) for how incredible they’ve made my first week here in Brazil.

Eu amo todos vocês já. 

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bem-vinda!

So here I am, in Brasil. It’s been 5 days and I still can’t believe it. Ever since my first night, I’ve been running around screaming, moro aqui!!! (I live here!!!) to replace my Carnaval catchphrase of não quero ir embora! (I don’t want to leave!). And it’s only been 5 days, but I’m pretty certain I still never want to leave.

I want to blog about every crazy experience I have here, but I don’t even know where to begin. Life here is everything I could have imagined it to be and more. My paraense friends have adopted me into their group with no question, and as one of them tells me, I’m this close to being fluent in Portuguese. This is, of course, a bold-faced mentira (lie) but I’m definitely getting better each day. I’ve already been to a bar that works like a stock market, an international electronic language festival, taken the subway by myself and met a hedgehog.

But I still don’t have a phone.

Regardless, so far, I can easily say this was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ll leave you with my exact sentiments via Kaskade:

Stay tuned for stories.

Beijos!