The last two weeks of my Brazilian adventure began much like the previous two – work, work and more work, with the additional strain of trying to organise a trip out to the field. It seemed everything was against me – in order to get out there I needed one professor, one technician and transport. However, the professor was on holiday, the technicians were on strike and the university refused to rent a car to me. In the end, it only took 1 full day, 2 native English speakers, 1 Brazilian student who speaks English and two Brazilian professors, to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction. The only slight problem, for me at least, was that we had agreed to meet at the university at 7am. Given the previous reliability of the buses (or lack thereof) this meant I had to wake up at 4.30am to be certain I would arrive on time.
After my absurdly long bus journey out of Campo Formoso, I arrived in Aracaju, set my ants up in their new laboratory, and headed to the house where I would be staying for the next 4 weeks, with a lady called Nice. As soon as the usual formalities were over; “this is where the bathroom is” … “this is the kitchen”… etc, I collapsed on the bed and slept for a few hours. When I awoke that evening I felt considerably more human. The evening meal proved to be only slightly traumatic, with the usual level of communication issues and no more than the expected level of showing off the exciting gringa, who had just arrived, to friends and family. Still feeling tired from my bus ordeal the night before, I escaped from the living room as early as possible and went to bed.
The weekend after my post ordeal I had planned to spend a little time relaxing, and the rest of the time preparing my equipment to being work when my student, Natalia, returned on Monday. However, the rain that began on Friday continued all weekend, which confined me to the house almost entirely, and I started to discover a rather worrying number of places where the roof leaked. On top of this, when I finally got around to doing some work and trying to assemble all my equipment which had finally arrived, I realised that one vital piece was missing – my supervisor had accidentally forgotten to include the power cable for the laptop, which would be necessary to download my data. The laptop is so old that it won’t even turn on without the power cable. This discovery pushed me to a point of total disbelief. How can so many things go wrong in such short succession? I quickly began devising a new work plan, knowing it would be at least a week, probably two, before the cable could be posted here – assuming it ever arrived!
The two weeks since my return from Salvador turned out to be the busiest and craziest so far. When I arrived in Campo Formoso we had half an hour before the shops closed, and Aline offered to take me to the phone shop to try and get a mobile internet modem to take to the farm. After a short chat with the shop assistant, it transpired that, contrary to her previous advice, it might not be possible to get one without a CPF number, the Brazilian ID card system. She recommended that I go to a nearby town, Senhora de Bomfim, the following day and speak to someone there. So the next morning I dragged myself out of bed bright and early to catch the 7:30am bus. When I arrived I met Natalia, one of the students who has been helping me, and we proceeded to spend over 2 hours in the phone shop, mostly waiting, to get a modem. Natalia was kind enough to use her ID to get the modem, and eventually we were successful. I was extremely relieved to know that I would not be completely isolated in the farm house for the next two months.
Since this year I am away for my birthday, I wanted to try and get away from work for a few days to celebrate. Because of the way my work has turned out, it happened that it was better logistically to go a little early, however, so I headed to Salvador 8 days before my birthday, to spend a long weekend in the famous capital of Bahia. A had a great hostel in the center of the historic Cidade Alta recommended by a friend, and on Thursday morning (a day earlier than planned because my host in Campo Formoso came down with flu) I packed my bags and took the 7 hour bus ride across Bahia.
At the end of my first full week of field work, one of the students I had been staying with invited me to visit her in the nearby, and slightly larger, town – Senhora de Bomfim. Aline seemed keen to get me out of her hair, so I slightly reluctantly, agreed to go. My reluctance might seem a little strange but Cleia and I had barely exchanged two words during the preceeding week, probably mostly due to the language barrier, but I felt a little awkward spending 2 full days with her. When I arrived, my concerns were initially confirmed by the uncomfortable walk back to her place and an afternoon of difficult communication which left me with the distinct impression that she was laughing with her friends, in my presence, at my lack of Portuguese.
Ah, rice and beans, the staple of the Brazilian diet, how I’ve missed you….
My journey to Campo Formoso, Bahia, began at 8am, sleepily boarding a bus to Salvador. Thankfully I had my lovely friend Fernanda to help me to get my luggage there and sort out the formalities, I don’t know how I would have coped without her! As was the case in Argentina, the long-distance buses in Brazil are really quite good – very comfortable seats which recline most of the way back, and regular stops to get food (or smoke a cigarette!), although they do insist upon over-air-conditioning to the point where I was actually far too cold most of the way. The other less comfortable aspect was the on board video. After about half an hour of traveling, they put on Legally blonde 2, badly dubbed into Portuguese. I was so tired that I didn’t mind too much because I was able to sleep through it, but when it finished, they let the title soundtrack play on repeat for about 10 minutes before finally pressing play, and making us watch it again. If this is their idea of entertainment, frankly I’d rather be bored!