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Rain or Shine

Alright alright alright. The partiest of people visited Brazil a couple weeks ago, and the story must be told.

It’s 8 a.m. in Curitiba. It’s cold. Rain on the horizon. Mr. and Mrs. Rolls Royce roll out of baggage claim looking slightly disheveled but mostly confused. Their wonderful daughter and her girlfriend greet them with a snack and a bottle of wine. The group catches a shuttle to the car rental place and rent a wonderful sedan, unfortunately lacking the horsepower that my father is accustomed to. They speed out of there, heading 4 hours southeast toward the island city of Florianopolis.

Now, you can imagine that a four hour road-trip might not be the most fun activity after an overnight international flight. You would be correct. In my defense, we love road trips and the beach is generally our favorite place to be as a family. Could I have flown my parents directly into Florianopolis? Yes. Did I know that when we booked the trip? No. Anywho, back to the story.

Apparently, the pass between Curitiba and Floripa is a lush green mountainous paradise. We were pleasantly surprised by the scenery, and stopped halfway for my parents' first por-kilo experience. They enjoyed the food and we were off again in no time.

Upon our arrival on the island, the rain began. In the gray haze, my parents were visibly unimpressed with the destination. But not to worry, after a 30 minute ride to the southern tip of the island, we were riding between adorable little cafes and fancy seafood restaurants in the neighborhood Ribeirão da Ilha. My parents had found their paradise.

Our AirBnB was spectacular, complete with a hot tub, bay view, and a neighborhood cat. We settled in, and then drove a couple minutes to one of the highly-rated seafood restaurants nearby. My parents were thoroughly impressed at the service we received, and the food was amazing. They ordered a fancy seafood stroganoff to share, and they were absolutely starstruck by the rich creamy deliciousness. 10/10.

A bit of context, my father LOVES oysters. Especially fresh oysters, right off the boat. Florida has oysters during the winter, but they are significantly smaller than the oyster we had in Florianopolis. Floripa is known for its large oysters and oyster farms. Match made in heaven, right?

Wrong. On the third day, we tried a more local looking restaurant, where they pulled the oysters right out of the water from the attached dock. Super cool, except my poor dad ended the evening heaving up all of the (approximately) 50 oysters he had already consumed in the first days of the trip.

Food poisoning is hard to overcome, but he did his darndest. We still visited the Mercado Municipal in Floripa, went to the Floripa history museum, and fell in love with the nearby German cafe and restaurant (after the food poisoning experience, we were not so keen on the seafood scene).

I had to use my earplugs each night because the screaming wind threatened to bring the house down with us inside. I’ve experienced many hurricanes, and the wind and rain was worse than some of the hurricanes I’ve seen. The gray and rain kept us inside, but we were happy to stay in, play card games, and drink wine. And we had a monkey visitor

The AirBnB host even brought us fresh fish on our third night, which Izzy and I skillfully fileted and cooked in a lemon butter sauce. That might be my favorite picture of the trip.

We had to take an alternate route back to Curitiba because the mountain pass had a truck blown over on it. The weather also canceled our train ride to Morretes, which was a blessing in disguise because we had the pleasure of visiting the botanical garden, a winter market with seasonal food, and a delightful Italian dinner near our hotel. We spent the day wandering, which was a nice change of pace after the 7 hour detoured car trip we endured the day before.

After the parentals departed (quite late, missed their connection, and spent the night in a shitty hotel in Campinhas. Safe to say they probably won’t be back any time soon), Izzy and I caught a flight to Salvador to experience the highly recommended nordeste region of Brazil. The nordeste (northeast) region is known for its delicious seafood, rich culture, and African influence.

Brazil imported over 5 million African slaves, more than any other country in the world, and their descendants are concentrated in northeastern cities like Salvador. Salvador is known as “Little Africa” because the culture and food are so reminiscent of western Africa. You can try the acarajé in Salvador, which is a fried dough street food filled with shrimp, okra slaw, spicy sauce, and other delicious toppings. You can get the same street food on the streets of Nigeria, Togo, and Benin in Africa.

Africans brought to Brazil were forced to follow Catholicism, as was the religion of the Portuguese colonizers. But the Africans already had their own religions like those of the Yoruba, Bantu, and Gbe, which blended with Catholicism for many centuries to become the diasporic religion of Candomblé.

The most memorable cultural experience of our Salvador experience was visiting Salvador's Regal São Francisco Church, which is intricately detailed with jaw-dropping gold designs and gilded woodwork. The scene is awe-inspiring, for sure, which is probably what they were going for. Our tour guide suggested that the mesmerizing ornate detail was used to subdue the African slaves into Catholicism. If a house of the Catholic God looks like this, then it must be true, right

I would absolutely recommend a trip to Salvador in your lifetime. The beaches were beautiful, the people were kind, the culture was fascinating, and the food was delicious.

I would like to take a moment to appreciate airport lounges. Bevs on bevs on bevs. Yes, Izzy is a skilled thief.

We are back in Apucarana for a couple weeks before heading to Brazil’s capital city Brasilia for the Fulbright Mid-Year Conference. I am preparing a presentation titled “U.S. Involvement in Brazilian Political History” which will be interesting (I hope). If any Brazilian/poli-sci friends have any recommended readings for that topic, please let me know!

Love always,

Lauren Kinsey Kuhlman


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