I’ve been known to put a lot of emphasis on milestone events in the past, so what better way to celebrate the one year anniversary of the blog than by spending some time in a faraway location, taking a second to acknowledge everything that has happened over the last 365 days, and exploring a culture completely different to the comfortable bubble I grew used to in Cape Town.
At the moment, I’m in Alfenas, a small town in the South of Brazil, with a population of around 70 000 people. The townsfolk are calm and timid bunch, community oriented, and I enjoy the energy here. Foreigner stares aside, I have felt very welcome here, and also, have learned just how far I still have to go with my Portuguese lessons. I think I realised I wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped when I didn’t understand much while people around me in the boarding queue at the airport were talking to each other. I made it to Brazil regardless, which is good!
Last week, I took the week off from work, in order to explore São Paulo (which is massive, and features some of the most intense traffic jams you will ever see in your life), as well as some of the other towns in the Minas Gerais area. One of these towns, Varginha is renowned for its alien sightings, even going as far as showcasing a “UFO” (like, a real life one, you would expect to see in a Hollywood movie) in their city centre. I snapped a quick pic and had a good chuckle at this. I’ve heard it only took two people to see the alien for it to become a thing, and who am I to question this?
In fact, I’ve experienced quite a few extraordinary things while being here, like spending time in a public university library exploring local literature, visiting an art exhibition for one of Brazil’s most famous contemporary artists, as well as having dinner at a bakery (strange to think about, I know) that serves the most delicious treats you can imagine and sells them off as meals. I’m trying all kinds of interesting local cuisine, thanks to my partner (a Brazilian native), who I am travelling with at the moment, and of course, I’m having a cappuccino wherever I can. This is part of a personal mission explore the myth around Brazil having the best coffee in the world. So far, so good. I particularly love that they enjoying adding chocolate and cinnamon to their cappuccino’s, which is something I want to start doing when I make coffee at home.
Caffeine aside, I recently also got to experience to most incredible bookstore I have ever been in, which featured different sections, each with a unique ambiance (the art section, for example had a unique feeling, when compared with the history section, not only based on how the books were cataloged, but also in terms of the music they play in the section and how you experience the particular part of the store). I loved this, and found myself particularly impressed with the fact that the store featured so many local writers, which is not something you would traditionally find back home in South Africa. Brazil is a nation of great cultural diversity, with writers from many different backgrounds, so I am curious to know more. I’m particularly enjoying learning more about Clarice Lispector, an early 1900’s writer, who is very well known across the country.
This week, I’m doing a little less traveling, in order to focus a bit more on work, finishing up a new episode of the podcast, and naturally I’m doing a lot of writing (I’m already a few poems down, and have picked the title for my next anthology, launching in July). I think it’s a good idea to take it a bit more easy this week, as in the past ten days, I’ve covered over 10 000km between car trips, flights, Ubers, bus trips and walking. It’s certainly been a memorable journey so far, and I’m keeping an open mind about the next 10 000.
– Conrad was here.