First Days

Your first days in an new country are an assault on the senses. Everything is new – the sights, the sounds, the smells.

Adjusting to a new language can feel like sitting in the middle of a vast ocean, trying to pick up drops and examine them under a microscope. A wave of voices crash over me, and I strain to hear a word here and a word there until I give up and simply listen to the chorus of all the sounds rushing together.

Aside from the language, there are other differences to which I am adjusting. Some I remember from Ecuador. For instance, no one here sees the need to refrigerate milk or eggs. When I first encountered this a year ago, I panicked, but now I just shrug and figure it can’t be that dangerous. If it was, everyone in South America would be sick all the time. The biggest adjustment is to my schedule. Instead of being awakened by my alarm, the sounds of construction and the light through my window get me up early each morning. Breakfast and dinner are small, lunch is enormous, and beer is effusive. They say that Belo Horizonte has the most bars per capita of any city in the world, and I can’t decide whether or not I am inclined to test this theory.

I have decided that I have a new favorite tradition. Every Saturday now I will go out to the bars around noon, drink beer, chat with friends, and watch the world go by. As you can see, my life here has been very relaxed. This is a hug change from the utter chaos of my last few weeks in Athens, where my time was scheduled down to the minute. Aside from my suitcase which wandered off somewhere between Philadelphia and Toronto and hasn’t been heard from since, I have very few worries.

The extra time I now have on my hands is fortuitous, because it takes me longer to do everything here. Breakfast takes longer because I don’t know where everything is, and when I find it I’m not always sure what everything is. For breakfast this morning, I had peach juice, unidentifiable but delicious melon, and bread spread with something that was labeled “Queijo tipo de Cottage” but most certainly was not cottage cheese. A quick trip to the bakery yesterday took longer, because I went to buy bread and came home with a sandwhich. I’m still not quite sure how that happened. Once my Portuguese improves and I get the hang of how things are done here, I hope be able to breeze right through the day to day activities. Then I can spend my extra time exploring this marvelous city in depth.

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