Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
• No matter where you are, you can always see or hear a dog in Brazil.
• The little bits of Portuguese you learn in jiu jitsu is actually useful stuff. You learn the colours and how to say thank you. But more importantly you learn the importance of hand gestures and sound effects. This is apparently a huge part of the language in Brazil. Enitre conversations can take place this way.
• People don’t flush their toilet paper in houses here. Apparently it screws up the plumbing. This makes no sense, I know. Every toilet has a tiny garbage can next to it. There is also a little hose attached to the toilet. Imagine a kitchen sprayer, except it is for your ass.
• I’ve learned the layout of the town. I’ve also figured out more or less where the jiu jitsu academy is. I cannot tell you how good it has been to have a tour guide for the first day or so. We don’t know anyone here, so we figure she has saved us a lot of aggravation.
• The beach is awesome.
• Suco is juice. Acai is pronounced ah-sigh-eeee. Put them together and it spells awesomeness. Make a little motor sound with your mouth and a swirly gesture with your finger and they will make it into a smoothie for you.
I also had an amazing run today with my brother-in-law Russ. It’s been a long time since I’ve jogged and we don’t really know our way around too much. I was a little wary of the whole thing, especially when he proposed heading out near sunset. But I went along anyway.
We head in one direction looking for the path to the lake. Two wrong turns and a hundred barking dogs later, we’re on the main road. Earlier in the day Evan, our guide showed me where the path to beach started. Russ loves the beach, so I suggest we check it out. Evan only took us as far as a dirt road and said it was a little hike from there. She also said something about sand dunes and that we’d feel like Lawrence of Arabia by the time we got there.
We run past tired-looking surfers as we head down the dirt road and onto a mucky path. Straight into the jungle. The path is criss-crossed with tree roots and lit by the dappled light of dusk falling through the leaves. Then its over a fallen tree and along a series of the half-rotten planks forming a path over a swamp for about 50 meters. As we break free from the jungle, I see what Evan meant about Lawrence of Arabia. We’re standing on a hill overlooking a muddy path through a valley of sand with little oases of rainwater on either side.
We make it up the first dune and then we see it – more sand. The next bluff is at least 500 meters away. The sand around here is like powdered sugar and if you’ve ever run in sand, you know how badly our legs are burning. My cardio is worse than I thought. I don’t know how I made it up that hill.
But as we trudge to the top we hear the sound of pounding surf and know we’ve finally made it to the beach. And we have it all to ourselves. We take a couple minutes to catch our breath and reflect on the guys we saw coming out with surfboards earlier. They earned their waves.
It’s twilight, so we start heading back. As we slog through the sand again, we can hear the sounds of the night creatures waking up; the buzz of cicadas, barking of geckoes and the chirping of what we guess are little frogs. Back up the hills we’d sped down – only now we moving at a snail’s pace.
Back into the jungle. Here it’s a little flatter and we can pick up speed. But it’s dark and treacherous. Back over the fallen tree. Suddenly Russ cries out. A low-hanging vine clotheslines Russ across the chest, raising big red scratch like he’d wrestled a cat. A few more wrong turns. By now it’s getting really dark and Russ is pretty far ahead of me. “Whoa!” Another exclamation from Russ. A huge bird dive-bombs him as he navigated the tree-roots and rocks in the darkness.
Finally, we make it back to the little dirt road. I catch up to Russ, huffing and puffing and coughing and sputtering.
We decide to sprint to the end of the road and walk the last couple hundred yards to the house. Cold beer and hot pizza were the only prizes we can claim, but it was well worth it. I usually go for a run every time I’m in another country. It’s a great way to get your bearings. I’ve never had a run like this. I've never seen such a variety of terrain in under an hour.
It’s just a little thing. People probably run that path every day and don’t think twice about it. But I’ll never forget it.
This is Brazil. So far, I like it.