first steps: Olinda and Recife

My adventure in South America starts in Brazil. From Bucharest I flu to Frankfurt via Berlin, and from there it took about 10 hours to get to Recife, on the north-eastern coast of Brazil. Getting through the immigration office takes forever and I later found out that the policemen can ask for a plain ticket back from the city where you landed, in order to prove that you will leave the country within 90 days. Luckily that didn`t happen, otherwise I would have been stuck in the airport.

We landed at about 16:30, but by the time I left the airport it was already 18:00.  It came as a surprise the fact that it was already dark; I found out that at this time of year the sun comes out around 5AM, but it goes down around 6PM. So I found myself on a new continent, in a new country and in a new city and it had already darkened. I had to ask people in the bus station for information and I was surprised to discover how friendly and open-minded they are. I asked a girl if I was heading the right direction and she started a conversation, she offered me an apple and she found another lady in the bus to help me get to my destination. The lady helped me with my huge backpack and she stayed with me in the bus station until the bus arrived, and then she found two other ladies to guide me. The nice ladies lended me their phones to call my Couch Surfing guest and stayed with me in the meeting point until he arrived, because they were worried that I was sleeping in a stranger`s house. One of them asked me my name and she kissed when she realized that it is similar to her daughter`s name, Simoni, who lives away from home.

So the first impression was really strong: the people are very friendly and helpful and they would go out of their way to help you. But along the way we`ve passed some poor neighborhoods that reminded me a lot of home: there were people on the middle of the road selling things that weren`t wearing shoes, I saw horses in front of building blocks and people hanging out on the streets, laying directly on the sidewalk. But I found out from my guest that the most dangerous neighborhood in Recife is actually the richest one, Boa Viagem.

I eventually ended up at my CS guests house, very close to Olinda`s centre . He`s been hosting many people over the years, so the house was very guests-friendly.The fact that surprised me about the architecture of the house is the lack of a door – the house is separated from the street only by a transparent metal grid. Living in this climate means that your house has to be naturally ventilated.  Because of the warm climate most houses don`t use hot water.

I was glad to meet there another couple from Spain who were doing a trip around the world and another couple that was camping around South America. My plans seem so meaningless and safe in comparison to theirs. But there is time for everything, I`m gonna think about this once I`m done with this continent.

The next day I visited Olinda, the sister town of Recife. The center is very small, so a few hours should be enough to see everything about it. The town that my guest called one the safest in Brazil reminded me of a bad neighborhood at home. However, the city has 22 churches, offers great views to the ocean and in the center you can find many colourful workshops.

One of my guest`s request was to cook a meal specific to my country, so I chose to make a sort of pudding. It`s kind of difficult to cook home recipes when you`re on a different continent because it can be hard to find all the ingredients. Since I couldn`t find sweet cheese I had to improvise and the result was decent, but I`m actually a terrible cook so it could have been a lot worse.

The next day I took my backpack and I headed for Recife Antigue. It was very hard to walk for hours with my 17 Kg backpack, especially because it was very hot. I enjoyed visiting the Pernambuco Artizanao, right next to the 0 Mile. It is more like a handicraft museum and it is free.

At some point I was attracted by sounds that resembled a concert of some sort. When I got near, I realized that it was coming from a church and that I could hear the priest`s voice that was singing. So their worship is much more informal. Actually everybody in the church was singing and raising their hands, it was a really strong feeling and I could feel very involved.

Because I didn`t want to be in the streets at night I arrived very early at the airport, but I killed time browsing the stores, After a three hours flight I landed in Rio at 02:35 in the morning, so I slept on a really uncomfortable chair leaning on my backpack.

It is hard to talk about my first impression here. I believe that they are very relaxed and that they enjoy life, even if life doesn`t offer them much. I learned that the neighborhoods that would be dangerous in Europe are safe here. Everything I`ve learned at home is telling me to beware and I feel that I`m constantly in danger. So I have to get used to this way of living and I`m sure I`ll see things differently in a week.

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