Kia ora koutou,
As many of my family and friends now know (and as the title of this blog suggests!), my first week in Brazil was thwarted by Covid-19. I was confined to a hotel room in São Paulo between Monday, Jan 23 and Sunday, Jan 29.
But it wasn’t all bad. I had three awesome days of pre-isolation. I was also overwhelmed with kindness and support from the other students in my group, our 360 International kaiwhakaruruhau, Larissa, and Campus b coordinator, Talita (among others)! I apologise for being a bit behind with the timing of these blog posts – blame Covid fatigue! This post will recap my first ten days in Brazil.
Friday, Jan 20 – Sunday, Jan 22: Three days of bliss in Brazil!
It took more than 30 hours to get from Auckland to São Paulo. That included a 13.5-hour flight from Auckland to Houston (plus a 6-hour layover), a 10-hour flight from Houston to Guarulhos and then a 45-minute bus trip to the city of São Paulo.
The journey was long and exhausting but I really enjoyed starting to get to know the wonderful group of people I am travelling with.
Before we could crash at our hotel in Paraíso on Friday morning we were off to Jiquitaia, a traditional Brazilian restaurant, for our welcome lunch. It was a beautiful fancy restaurant and we felt a little uncomfortable presenting our dishevelled airport clothes and tired faces to the welcoming staff.
Despite the fatigue, I had a wonderful time. Highlights included trying cashew fruit juice (suco de caju) which I absolutely loved, and trying cashew fruit itself, which had a strange mouth feel but was fresh and juicy and delicious. I also had the best gnocchi of my life.
I thankfully slept for twelve hours straight that night and had an amazing second day in Brazil touring the Vila Madalena neighbourhood. The street art was spectacular and Talita took us to an awesome spot for lunch with piles of vegetarian/vegan salad options. I bought a beautiful painting from Regiany Maia (Instagram @regianymaia) at Batman Alley’s Market (Beco do Batman).
I had a scare Saturday evening as an insect bite on my leg had swollen up dramatically with redness spreading past the size of my palm. Luckily Talita was there to help! She was ready to drop everything to take me to the doctor. Thankfully an ointment from the pharmacy calmed the swelling. Shout out to Larissa’s nurse sister for recommending it via video call whilst at the gym back in NZ!
The next day was fantastic as we attended a Capoeira workshop (incredible to watch the masters perform, less incredible was my attempt at a handstand) and wandered Paulista Avenue. Paulista Avenue is 2.3km long and is closed to cars on Sunday to be filled with vibrant markets, musicians and dancers. During pride celebrations, official numbers say 4M people march down the Avenue, and unofficial numbers say 6-7M. More than the entire population of New Zealand!
Unfortunately, I slept very poorly that night due to chills and hot flashes (cue ominous music).
Monday, Jan 23 – Sunday, 29: The unlucky one
Feeling very much like a problem child, I met with Talita again on Monday morning and told her about my feverish night. She was again prepared to take me to the doctor ASAP but first sent me back to my room to rest while she waited to inform the morning lecturer of our absence.
While I was back in my room, I took a RAT test ‘just in case,’ and, of course, it was positive. Frankly, we were all just relieved the fevers weren’t caused by my insect bite. My roommates, Wynona and Margret, were so lovely and supportive and not at all freaked out about being in a room with the infected. They both tested negative, along with the rest of the group. Phew.
Larissa brought me breakfast and more moral support. Talita organised a separate room for me. That afternoon Larissa came to my room with a hauora kite from the group. They had written a bunch of well-wishes and sweet messages on the front of a large paper bag and filled it with chocolates and snacks, fruit, cold/flu medicine, bottled water, iced tea and electrolyte drinks, Brazilian reals, even a sheet mask! It was so lovely and thoughtful that it brought me to tears.
Of course, I was devastated to have to go into isolation and miss out on all the activities and lessons planned for us and lose bonding time with the group. I was so looking forward to this trip, and it was terrible to have my first week ruined by Covid.
On the bright side, everyone in the group was so kind and eager to help. My phone was flooded with their messages of support. I figured out how to use ‘Rappi’ to get meals delivered from local restaurants. I was given a large hotel room with a double bed and a good view of the city. Talita brought me breakfast every day, including fresh fruit, coffee and sweet breads.
Despite feeling gutted to have missed out on many amazing experiences and learning opportunities, I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful support network here in Brazil
A happy ending: Beautiful Ubatuba!
The group headed to Ubatuba on Saturday morning. I nearly got left behind in São Paulo, but by some stroke of luck, I tested negative on Saturday afternoon, and Gabi from Campus b worked her magic to get me on a bus on Sunday. I am so grateful to her and Amanda for helping me make it there.
Sunday evening, I rejoined the whole group for a barbecue by the beach in what was a very happy reunion with lots of laughter and kind words about the renewed sense of wholeness of our group. Breathing in the fresh salty air and swimming in Ubatuba’s clear green water while gazing at the lush forest was blissful after a week in isolation
Unfortunately, I had missed the visit to the Boa Vista Indigenous Community. However, on Monday, I was allowed to visit the Quilombo da Fazenda community. Although some of the conversation got lost in translation, I was very grateful to the members of the community who shared their knowledge of sustainable ‘slash and burn’ agricultural practices and cassava flour processing, along with the history of their settlement. I enjoyed tasting fresh cacao, swimming by a waterfall, and dancing with members of the community.
Feeling so grateful to everyone who has supported me on this trip so far. Looking forward to the remainder of the journey and hoping to avoid any more ailments!
Tchau, and thanks for reading