port of chicken

Viola swung by my room late Saturday night and said something about a praia and manha. YES, I said, and then sorted out the details. Where? Maraicipe, near Porto de Galinhas, a beach town south of Recife. How? A Brazilian friend was driving (very chic-e, arriving to the beach in a car). Thirty minutes, and we’re out of Recife: rolling hills of sugar cane and all the sky that was hidden behind skyscrapers in the city. Green fields and clean white houses lining the waterfront. An hour later, and we’re meandering along a beach, wading through a estuary, floating in warm water.

Porto de Galihnas—port of chicken—is said to be named thus from the days when boats of slaves arriving from Africa, in order to circumvent restrictions by the Brazilian government, would announce a new arrival of galihnas—chickens. Now that the slave trade has been abandoned, cartoon roosters adorn the town in homage to the cock-a-doodle-do. It’s an adorable town, walkable in scope, with cobblestone roads and artistians and colorful storefronts. We browsed and and wandered around for awhile, and then settled on a sufficiently inexpensive restaurant.

Word of the day: truco—change. After lunch, I somehow ended up at the cash register with the bill for the group. I handed over 100 reias for a lunch of R$70, and received R$10 in change. There was a hullabulo, and I got very overwhelmed, and then it was resolved, in a way quite unbeknownst to me. I have taken for granted in travels past (in Spanish speaking lands) what it means to have a basic level of communication, and so I assume I have this, that I can ask for R$30 in change when the moment comes.

Struggling with Portuguese is teaching me, if nothing else, how to go with the flow, to be happy tagging along for the ride. This is because I often have no idea what the ride is: where were going, what were doing, who’s going to be there. I’ve been thrilled with how quickly I’ve gone from understanding no Portuguese to understanding a fair amount of Portuguese, but… this still leaves a lot of ground uncovered. It requires a total attitude shift, being okay with whatever comes, being comfortable in the unknown. It’s frustrating and also completely wonderful, to just follow the crowd, to nod and say, yup, I have literally no where else to be, I’m doing what I came here to do (listening to you speak Portuguese), and I’m up for anything, even if I’m not sure what anything entails.

Sunday evening, I arrived back from the beach famished, and ventured out to find food with Josie. We walked to his family’s house, a few blocks away, and he made slices of sweet potatoes topped with cream cheese, and queijo quadrado—square cheese, fried in butter. Lovely, lovely, and I attempted to chat with his family, and I was measured (185 cm.), and then it seemed like we were leaving, to go back to the apartment, I assumed, and then we were driving, and then it seemed like we were dropping off his family at a pizza place, and then we all went inside, sat down and were handed menus. Given that I thought I had already eaten dinner, I didn’t fully understand that his family was going out for pizza—and more importantly, that I, too, was going out for pizza—until I was sitting at the table drinking coca-cola and eating more cheese. And, I’m happy to be along for the ride.


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