After my wonderful 16 days of holiday, I headed up to Aracaju in the north east of Brazil to begin my fieldwork. I had a rather interesting journey up, as I took a flight from Rio but had to change in Salvador. I was expecting to have to pay excess baggage since I have such a ridiculous amount of luggage, but at Rio they didn’t charge me. I thought myself rather lucky, and didn’t question it too much. But when I arrived at Salvador they made me collect my bags and check them in again (*sigh*) and when I got to the counter the man told me than one of my bags would need to be retagged because it had increased in weight by 20kg since Rio! I told him I hadn’t touched the bag other than to carry it from the baggage claim, and so I couldn’t see it had gained all this weight?! Clearly the woman in Rio had cheated the system for me so that she didn’t have to charge me excess, but I was surprised at how unperturbed the man at the check-in desk was about this miraculous increase in weight! It wasn’t too expensive though so I paid the fee and got on my final flight.
I arrived in Aracaju mid-afternoon and headed over to the home of my friends Hans and Becky, who had very kindly offered to let me stay for a few days. I spent the rest of the day chilling out and trying to feel human again after all that traveling. They were both quite busy that weekend so I had some time to myself to relax. They had the most adorable kitten which they had found on the street, who had most certainly learned that cute things can get away with almost anything, because he was constantly trying to play with everything – shoes, cables, my feet, and yet it was pretty much impossible to be angry with him for more than a few seconds. While I was checking my emails and generally faffing that evening, he fell asleep on my laptop cover, very cute!
The next day I did some much needed clothes washing (by hand, which made me appreciate my washing machine at home very much!) and then in the afternoon headed out to the beach. I managed to get about an hour of sunbathing in before a rather ominous looking black cloud started to approach and I decided to flee! That evening Hans and Becky took me to a party at a friends house which was really nice because it gave me a chance to socialise a bit with some lovely people and practice my Portuguese.
On my third day in Aracaju, I caught the extremely hot and bumpy bus up to the university where I met Fernanda, who had offered to have me stay at her house. That afternoon (or technically prevening, to quote Sheldon Cooper) we went to a free yoga class in the park nearby. It was really nice because the sun was just beginning to set and the air was cool and fresh, but there were mosquitoes everywhere which seemed to be relishing my exotic English skin, and it is rather difficult to follow yoga instructions in Portuguese! I also confirmed my expectation that I’m really not very flexible at all, but it was nice none-the-less.
The next few days I spent trying to organise heading south a little to a place in Bahia called Campo Formoso, where apparently there were loads of ants for me to study. Trying to find out about which buses to catch and buying tickets was an interesting experience but eventually it all came together, and I booked tickets to catch the bus that Thursday. I also got the chance to spend some time with Fernanda and her friends, watching films and drinking beer at a local bar, which was a lot of fun.
On my last day in Aracaju, I had an unscheduled and completely unappreciated tour of pretty much every single bank in the entire city. My bank card had been rejected at a few cash machines, and I’d called my bank who told me that everything was fine at their end. So we went to one bank and spoke to someone there who said to go to another bank, where they would definitely know how to help. But, of course, when we got their they said they couldn’t help and that we should go to another bank, where they would definitely know how to help. And so this continued all afternoon until eventually I tried calling my bank again, and within 5 minutes they fixed the problem. Why they couldn’t have fixed it the day before when I called with the same problem, will forever be a mystery to me.
That evening, after showering and taking a nap, we finally felt human again. I went out for pizza with Fernanda and her family, and then quite a bit later headed out to see a local band play at a bar called Captain Cook’s. Of course, before going to the bar we had to stop a petrol station for a few beers there, because apparently this is what people do in Brazil. The petrol station is the cool place to hang out! When we finally got to the bar, it was really good. It would seem most of Aracaju were there and the band was good and the beer was cheap. It was very busy and quite hot there though, and knowing that I had to catch a bus at 8am the following morning, I flaked quite early and headed home at about 2am.
I didn’t realise at the time just how grateful I would be for that extra bit of sleep, during my extremely traumatising 17 hour journey to Campo Formoso, but that is a story I will save for later!
1 week in north east Brazil: 25 mosquito bites