First off, full disclosure: I'm pretty sure I took 0% of these photographs. They were taken by adults who were around little young me during that summer of 2004.
My impressions of Brazil were varied- it was the first time I had left the United States, and we all needed to get passports before the journey. We spent an entire day in travel and customs. When we arrived in Florianopolis we drove to the house of my mother's colleague. It was the first time I had ever seen poverty and slums. We drove through a beaten down tin shack section of the city before we climbed a hill to ascend to the houses of the people who were better off. The house we visited had a full time maid, a pool, a gate- it was certainly a cut above. We sat out on the porch and I was shown the Southern Cross for the first time, but I don't know if I really saw it. I think after a while of people's pointing, I gave up and nodded, pretending I could see.
The neighborhood kids were playing soccer in the street, and I went out to join them. I was never interested in sports, but I was interested in going out into the neighborhood and this strangely foreign concept of playing in the street. Our house, however rural, was on the main highway through town. Our dad referred to it as "The River of Death." It was never safe to go near the road, where we lived. There were few opportunities to play with neighbor kids, either- just one of our neighbors had kids our age, and even then they only rented the house for a couple of years before moving to another part of town. It was novel and I enjoyed every minute of it, despite my complete failure at the game.
These are the things which stick in my memory about Brazil. These, and going to the mall down the street in the afternoons while Mom was working, and ordering the same thing at the same stall in the food court every day because it was the only Portuguese we (well, I) knew how to say: "quatro queijo massas" meant delicious four cheese pasta. "Obrigado" meant thank you. That was about it.
Actually I remember the food quite well. I remember the Kinder eggs in the shop window, a delight to me. I had only ever seen a kinder egg before when my mother brought them back with her from her trips abroad. Equally delightful was the chocolate cake- full on chocolate cake, with frosting and everything- which was served for breakfast in our hotel. I remember going to a churrasqueira, where they served meat on huge skewers from which they sliced pieces onto your plate. I remember Domini's, our favorite restaurant in Brazil, where they served pizza with the wildest toppings imaginable. Any kind of pizza you could think of, they had at Domini's. There was a whole range of Dessert pizzas, my favorite, as I've always had something of a sweet tooth. The Luna cafe (another word in Portuguese for me) served the best ice cream I've ever had.
Aside from the cuisine, my memories of most of my time in Brazil is fuzzy. I remember I was reading Perloo the Bold by Avi, and listening avidly to Alice in Wonderland and Middlesex on my tape deck. I don't think I ought to have been listening to Middlesex; I think I got some thrill at listening to something intended for older audiences. As such, a good portion of it may have gone over my head. I haven't returned to the book since my attempted read at ten years old, and I likely should.
It is strange how little any of this reflects Brazil. I remember the cows and the mongrel dogs wandering the streets. We, all three of us, loved dogs and it was hard to obey when my mother told us not to approach them. I remember a man carrying two bags of groceries home on his bicycle, steering with no hands. I remember one hike when we were resting on the side of a hill and I saw an Aloe Vera plant.
"We have one of these in our kitchen," I remarked.
Our guides explained to me that they could be used to heal sunburns, and cool hot skin. I learned that our plant was not native, and it belonged here instead of in our house in Connecticut.
I remember asking foolish questions like "When do you celebrate Christmas?" because we were there in Brazil's winter. Brazil's winter was very pleasant for me, wandering in a t-shirt and no bugs to worry about, as it was too cold for all of them. I remember thinking it was near to perfect. I also said "it gets over 100 degrees at home," in answer to a question about weather variation, and received some startled glances in return. "In Fahrenheit," I thought to add, feeling pleased to have learned something of the differences between my home and here.
As far as cultural immersion, we saw a local parade and visited the abandoned fortress and saw the sights. We ate the food and attempted (very poorly) to speak the language. I remember when Garfield was in the theater, and we almost went to see it before we realized that it would not have English subtitles. Not too shabby for a bunch of kids.
Some memories of Brazil certainly stuck with me, but they faded in time. I remember being struck in my Freshman Women's Studies class by the sudden memories of the slums of Florianopolis when we began to talk about the poor people of Brazil. It was like I'd forgotten everything until that moment, when everything suddenly came back.
I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to visit such a country at so impressionable an age. I have sworn that I must return someday, and hopefully someday soon. There's a whole continent still to explore.