Minas Gerais, Brazil pt. 2

Now that I am back in my home country, Canada, I am really getting behind on posts about my trip to Brazil!  However, I do not want to forget any bit of my trip many years from now, so here I am throwing it back to August and continuing my stories about my journey in Minas Gerais, Brazil!

On August 12th, my second day in Minas Gerais, my boyfriend, Elder, and his uncle took me up to a farm which had a beautiful waterfall on the property called Cachoeira Maria Augusta.  It was quite a bumpy and dusty ride to drive up to the farm, but the drive had some beautiful views!  The people at the farm were very friendly and offered us food and drinks from their mini restaurant.

There were two ways to get to the waterfall:  You could drive there, but you had to pay around R$100 (if I remember correctly), or you could hike it and just pay R$40.  Of course, we decided that we could all use the workout and we walked up to the waterfall.  Personally, I do not regret taking the hike.  I do love hiking, and although there were some steep parts, it didn’t actually take us very long to get up there.  However, if you are not in good health, I would recommend spending the extra money to drive up.  I wasn’t timing the hike, but I would guess that we made it up in about 35 minutes.  It was very dusty (Minas Gerais, I found, was very dusty) so make sure you bring lots of water if you plan to take the hike!

The waterfall was definitely worth the hike!  Basically you enter into a sort of half circle shape and it is mostly in the shade, despite the fact that you were hiking in the direct sunlight.  It is a very refreshing reward for your long hike!

The water there was freezing!  Elder and I thought about braving the cold, but in the end we just cooled off sitting on rocks in the shade.  In the summer, though, I’m sure it would be a wonderful place to swim, as the water was very clean with a sand floor.  Apparently there are lots of fish in there as well, but we didn’t see any in the time that we were there.

Walking back down to the farm would have been a breeze, but we ended up meeting some people there that had driven up.  After taking some photos for them, we batted our eyes at them and asked for a ride back down.  They happily agreed, and even happened to know a little bit of English (although they were insistent on me practicing my Portuguese).  We later found out that the lady was from Salvador and lived close to where I stayed when I visited.  Small world!

When we got back to the farm, we saw a very cute little calf and an adorable little puppy!  Of course, I was overjoyed to see the puppy and the man let Elder and I hold him!  I was pretty sure I was going to be coming home with a puppy!

And that’s the end of my Cachoeira Maria Augusta journey!  Come back soon to hear all about my most touristy day in Minas Gerais (and see more beautiful waterfall photos)!

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Minas Gerais, Brazil pt.1

If you love waterfalls, rivers, mountains, and farmland, you would love Minas Gerais, Brazil!


August 10th-15th I spent with my boyfriend’s family in Minas Gerais, where they live.  Not only do I love the people I travelled with, but the place was beautiful!!

For my first full day in Minas, we visited an “Eletrobras Furnas”, which is an electric power generator.  I don’t know a whole lot about that stuff, so you’ll have to look up how it works online.  The view around the generator was beautiful, though!


After that, we travelled to the cascatinha (basically translates into “little waterfall”), where I let my inner Canadian out a little and swam in the cold water!  Apparently it is a great place to swim in the summer when the water isn’t so cold.  Since I came to Brazil in their winter, the place was under a bit of a shadow.  We also climbed up the rocks a bit to see the upper part of the waterfall.  Unfortunately I didn’t want to bring my phone up there and risk dropping it in the water, so I only got photos of the lower part of the waterfall, but trust me when I say that that upper part was gorgeous!!


After our swim in the cascatinha, we drove around the Lago de Furnas (Furnas Lake).  Remember the power generator I mentioned earlier?  When that was being built, the workers needed a place to stay.  So there was a city built for the workers, and it was called “Furnas” (named after the generator).  So this is the lake of the city of Furnas.

We stopped at a restaurant there called “Restaurante do Turvo”, where my boyfriend worked as a teenager.  We ate delicious fish sticks and fries while chatting with the owners, who are close family friends to my boyfriend’s family.  The owners were extremely nice, and their restaurant had a beautiful view of the lake!  They also own some boats which they use for tours of the lake!  We didn’t have time to take a tour, but apparently it is very nice!

Since I took so many photos in Minas Gerais, and I am way behind in my blog entries, I am going to cut this one into two parts.  Stay tuned for part 2 of my adventure in Minas Gerais!!

Brazil, From My View

Before I left my home country, Canada, whenever I told people that I was going to Brazil, they all told me to be extremely careful.  Especially when I was staying in Rio de Janeiro.


First of all, I’ve now reached the end of my Rio trip.  I have left Rio and am currently back “home” in São Carlos, Brazil.  Go ahead, mom, you can breathe now!

I did a lot of very exciting, touristy things during my time in Rio, but I’m going to talk about those in my next post. This post is about something more important to me.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I received a lot of warning from people at home when I mentioned that I was travelling to Brazil.  Especially because the summer Olympics were in Rio de Janeiro this year.

The Olympics brought a lot of hype to Brazil.  However, I heard more negative hype than positive through the media.  I’m not saying that Brazil is the safest place, of course, but don’t use the media as your reference.


While I was there, I didn’t feel any more endangered than I did in any large city in Canada…and Canada is considered a very safe country!

Of course, my friends and I still took precautions.  We didn’t walk late at night, we didn’t go places alone, we kept a close eye on our bags, we avoided public transit, and didn’t eat from places that looked unsanitary.  However, don’t we do this in all large cities that we are unfamiliar with?

Along with the “danger” of the city, another thing people warned me about were the horrible mosquitos.  But hey, I still have scars from mosquito bites that I got in Canada many many years ago.  In Rio, I got a grand total of 1 bite which wasn’t even itchy the next day.  Not to degrade the severity of the Zika Virus, it’s a horrible virus, but I heard more about it from my Canadian friends, and haven’t even heard the mention of it once in my whole time in Brazil so far.

 
Not only was I impressed with the beauty of the city and the nature around it, I was also incredibly amazed with the people that live there.  Before coming to Brazil, I already knew some Brazilians who lived in Canada to study for over a year.  I was struck by their friendliness and how much they cared for the people around them, even though they were in a country that was unfamiliar to them.  

When I visited them in their own country, I was struck again by how welcoming and helpful they were.  A surprisingly large amount of the population here speaks English to a degree, and even if they didn’t, they tried extremely hard to help you any way they could.


Brazilians are some of the most helpful, friendly people in the world.  I feel the need to defend them and their country despite the bad things we hear in the media.  Sure the water in some places isn’t clean, they have a very high crime rate, and their economy is far from perfect, but the media is magnifying these things to the point where people in other countries are forgetting the beauty of this country and the people who live here.

This trip has furthered my respect for the people of this beautiful country even more than I imagined when I left Canada.  While you may see Brazil as a poor country full of pollution, crime, and people who like to samba wearing skimpy clothing at Carnaval…I see a beautiful country full of hard-working, friendly people who are quick to take care of the people around them, no matter what country they come from.  I see confident, passionate people with a high awareness of how they make people feel.  I see people who love their culture and are quick to welcome you into their country whether that means trying to speak to you in your language or giving you directions to a good place to eat.


I could go on and on about how much I have been enjoying my trip to Brazil, and how much love I have for the people who live here.  Of course it is not the easiest and safest place to travel, but no matter where you go in the world you will need to do your research and take certain precautions depending on where you go and what you do.  

Do not let the media ruin your view of a place or a social group.  They broadcast only selected truths, and the bad things seem to make more money than the good.  Instead, look for yourself at the beauty of other places in the world, learn about other cultures, and love people no matter where they are from!

Touring Brasília

After a 3 week adventure in Salvador, Brazil, I travelled to Brasília where I stayed with my friend’s family!

Since we only spent 4 days in the capital of Brazil, on the first day there, we got straight to touring!  The friends that we stayed with have a vehicle, so that made it way easier to get around the city.


Our first stop was at the JK Memorial.  Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira (known by his initials, JK – sorry, it doesn’t stand for “just kidding.” I know, I was disappointed too) was the president of Brazil from 1956-1961, and was definitely a memorable one in Brazilian history.  He had a lot of optimism towards Brazil’s future and worked hard on improving many components of the country.

In the first two photos, you see JK standing with his hand raised on a podium.  Under him is the museum that holds his corpse which had to be transported from Rio de Janeiro where he died in a car accident…gross!  

I’m not totally sure who the statued people are in the foreground of the third photo, but we decided to deck them in our modern sun-gear which strangely happened to fit them perfectly!

I’m also not sure what the big balls are in the last photo, but they have lights inside so they must look cool at night and they make great pretend giant soccer balls during the day!

After the JK Museum, we travelled to a viewpoint of the city.  There was a long lineup to get to the elevator, but it didn’t take too long and the wait was definitely worth it!  The view was amazing!!

The city of Brasília is a relatively new city compared to other places in Brazil.  Rio de Janeiro was the previous capital of Brazil, so the creation of Brasília was very well-planned in preparation for becoming the capital.  In fact, the city is even shaped like an airplane!

One thing that I have found very different between Canada and Brazil is that most places in Canada are built in an order, whereas a lot of Brazil isn’t planned that way.  That being said, being in Brasília felt a lot like being in a Brazilian version of Vancouver!  It felt very safe and comfortable for me!

 

We had some fun playing with the Brasília sign!  It is meant to say “Eu ❤️ Brasília” but it was changed to fit the theme of the Olympics this year!  (To explain the 4th photo, “Eu” is Portuguese for the word “I”)


Those are just a few more photos of the fountain and trees around the Brasília sign!
After visiting the Brasília sign, we went to an outdoor restaurant called “Boteco do Juca” for lunch.  At this restaurant, they served pasta and feijoada!  It was basically all-you-can-eat, and costed R$30 for men, and R$17 for women.  

When you go to get your pasta, you take your plate to a counter that looks more or less like a buffet.  You decide what type of noodles and sauce you want, but don’t take them on your plate.  Then you fill your plate up with as much meat or veggies that you’d like, give it to the cook and tell him what noodles and sauce you decided on.  Then you can watch him put everything together in a frying pan, mix it around and give it back to you on your plate.  It was a very cool process and made a really good pasta in the end!  I wish I had gotten photos or videos of the process!

Feijoada, for those who don’t know, is a traditional Brazilian food of pork and beans.  In history, come dinner time, masters of homes would eat only the best part of the pork and would give the other things like ears and backs to the slaves with some beans.  Over time, the feijoada evolved into a delicious, traditional Brazilian food and people now add vegetables and other things to their dish.  This was the other food served at this restaurant.


Just as a silly side note, they didn’t have wifi in the trees at this restaurant, but they DID have outlets!


“Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida” was a very cool and touristic place to visit in Brasília.  There was even a service going on inside that you can sit in and watch if you would like to.  On the walls inside were some things in Portuguese and English, so I was able to understand a bit of the things that they had put there for touristic purposes.


As night fell on the city, we went to the National Congress of Brazil which lights up in the night.  Lining the entrance is one flag for each state of Brazil.  The place looked beautiful in the sunset!



This is the Supreme Court of Brazil.  In front of it is a statue of the symbol of justice – a blind lady with a sword in her hands.  It stands to say that Justice is Blind.


Closer to the road is a statue that stands for the workers who built the city.  It was hard to get a good photo in the dark.  I would recommend going in the day if you are going hoping to see everything, as the place is not well-illuminated.

And that’s the end of my first and most touristy day in Brasília!  I am now in Minas Gerais with my boyfriend’s family, and will try to keep updating my trip as much as I can!

The Girl From Across The World

Although I have many friends from different countries who have visited mine, I have never been “the girl from across the world”.

Recently, I travelled to Brazil from my country, Canada, to visit some Brazilian friends of mine.  When I was preparing to make this trip, I didn’t think much of my appearance as a Canadian.  Some of my Brazilian friends are white, and I knew that quite a lot of the population here in Brazil is white also.  I’ve never thought of myself as looking particularly “Canadian” other than having white skin.  Most people just think that Canadians look the same as Americans, who look the same as pretty much any other group of white people from around the world.  However, until about halfway through my first week in this new country, I didn’t realize just how white I really was.

My first few days in São Carlos, SP I spent adjusting to this new culture and new way of life.  When I walked in the streets, I focused more on not getting hit by cars than I did looking at my surroundings and watching how other people behave.  It wasn’t until the third or fourth day when I realized how the locals behaved around me.

My boyfriend, who is Brazilian, started to point out to me the way people watched me as I walked around.  I saw as drivers would double-take at the sight of me, and people would divert their eyes to me when I stood in a crowd.  It was the strangest thing for me to experience.  My boyfriend is white, and both of his roommates are white along with many of their friends.  So what made my appearance different from the rest?

After just over a week in São Carlos, I flew to Salvador to visit another friend, Jéssica.  Again, I hadn’t thought much about my appearance before making this trip.  I figured that I had adjusted to Brazilian cultures when I was in São Carlos, and that I would be well prepared for Salvador.  I was wrong.  Not only do most of the natives here have darker, or sunkissed skin, but there is also a lot of African culture here.  I thought I stood out in São Carlos, but here I really am a black sheep (would you still understand the saying if I said “white sheep”?).

After the first week here, I was introduced to someone who already knew who I was.  Seeing my surprised expression, she told me that I was “famosa” (famous, in Portuguese).  At the time, I didn’t understand.  But when Jéssica’s mom came home one day, she told me that people around the neighbourhood knew that someone new was here.

Jéssica’s mom, Janice, works as a cashier at a grocery store in the neighbourhood where she lives.  She told me that when she was at work, a customer was telling her about a strange thing that she had seen.  Apparently the customer had seen a very white girl walking around the neighbourhood with a girl who looked to be Baiana.  She said that she knew “the girl” couldn’t have been from around here, so the girl must be visiting someone who lives here.  Janice laughed at this story and explained to the customer that I was visiting her and her daughter and that I was from Canada.  After being told this story, I realized that I really was famosa in this neighbourhood!  I never thought that I would look so different that I would become something people mentioned in their stories of what happened that day.

Yesterday, I was taking a bus with my friend, Jéssica.  We casually sat and chatted in English, not making a lot of noise or drawing any particular attention to ourselves on purpose.  All of a sudden, Jéssica started giggling.  She explained to me that the little girl who was sitting behind us was talking to her mom in Portuguese, and saying that she had never seen someone from another country before!  She said that she thought it was so cool that I would come to Brazil and speak in English.  As I got off the bus, I caught her wide eyes watching me.  I gave her a smile and her smile widened into a big grin!

To some people around the neighbourhood, I may be something strange, but to this little girl I was someone different and interesting.  I hope that little girl one day gets to experience something similar to what I did.

After being in Brazil for almost a month now, I have gotten used to being “that white girl” and have people stare at me as I walk around.  When I had first began to experience that, it made me very uncomfortable.  In my mind, I was nothing more than a Canadian girl in a different place.  Although being stared at made me feel more like an intruder – like I didn’t belong.  Now that I’m more used to it, I realize that people don’t think of me as an “intruder”.  There may be some “white girl” stereotypes that come to their minds – good or bad – but I am just a different person around.  I try to embrace that difference of who I am and make it into something interesting, not negative in my mind.  Instead of shying away from the difference, I can make it mine.  And that’s what I intend to do.

Now – I bet you can’t spot me in these next few photos!