A perfect day in Maringá.

Just spent the last half-hour doing laundry while my co-interns, crashing at my place for a bit, mapped out our Curitiba-Florianopolis long holiday (praise be).  Taking advantage of the long break AIESEC’s giving us, we’re slated to leave Tuesday evening next week and return Monday morning the week after next, giving us a grand total of five days to discover this side of Brazilian paradise.

…Not that I haven’t discovered it already, really.  I think I might have.

Blue sky, green grass, and look!  Baby palm trees!

Yesterday was probably the most chill day I have ever had in Brazil since I arrived.  Woke up to some amazing news from my friend Dale that I had won the English category in the National Book Development Board‘s Love Letters competition that I’d entered last February.  Mixed feelings on this–on the one hand, I’m happy I won; on the other, this may mean that I am outed quite publicly as having been in love with [certain individuals who shall remain nameless], should the NBDB decide to publish said love letter.  I doubt it, but Dale thinks my winning is a sign that I should tell the person how I feel/felt, which I would consider doing…if I knew which of the three letters I wrote won the prize.
Yep, you read it right: three love letters, to three different individuals.
Mixed emotions notwithstanding, I felt that the win was an excuse to celebrate, so I promptly messaged Ciarán (Klára and Matthias being completely knackered from a late-night barbecue that ended at six that morning) if he wanted to go out for celebratory cake…at the exact same moment he FB messaged me that he was bored and was I doing anything?
The cake gods had spoken.

Turns out we both had something to celebrate–Ciarán’s family had just messaged him that they’d booked a holiday to Morocco a few weeks after his return from Brazil.  (Whereas I, around that time, will be taking my MScM Masteral Qualifying exams and basically not having any fun, whatsoever.  Damn.)  This pretty much threw a wrench into the whole “whoever’s celebrating is buying” equation–which is apparently more or less unique to the Philippines?  I think?–but we managed to compromise by paying for each other’s slices of cake.
When we could move, that is.  Literally the slice I had was so rich that by the end I felt like I had cement in my belly.  Oh well.  Die, diet.  Die!
We bummed around the food court of Maringá Park Shopping Center (a.k.a. Aspen) for a bit longer, grabbing juice at the Quitanda Sucos juice bar next to the cake shop, before Ciarán had a brainwave: he wanted to climb to the top of the Catedral.
…I never pegged him as one for religious pilgrimages but okay, I had to burn the cake calories anyway.
We left the mall and promptly discovered that we had no idea where the Catedral de Maringá was.  Finding it necessitated a bit of walking about with completely clueless looks on our faces, but eventually some semblance of a sense of direction kicked in and we managed to find it.
Exterior of the Catedral de Maringá.  The design was apparently inspired by the Space Race.

Amazing stained-glass windows!

What I assume is a confessional booth.

The altar.  In lieu of huge, gold figures, this modern church sports graffiti-esque paintings.

Panorama of the stained-glass windows.

The church’s interior was absolutely stunning, but as to the primary aim of our mission–well, it was bust.  The Catedral is no longer open for climbs to the top, or so we gathered from the rapid-fire Portuguese the church secretary spoke to us in.  Disappointed, we headed outside in the blinding sunlight, only to discover a perfect patch of green right in front of the church.
What else would my tan-deprived co-intern do but make a run for it?

And this happened.

…And this.

And this.  I call it the (un)beached starfish.

Throw all the things on the ground!

Big tree, little tree.  Reminds me of Keren Pascual.

Of course he takes a selfie.

Foot selfie.  Because I’m hipster like that.

‘kay, fine, I did take a ‘few’ actual selfies.

We ended up bumming around on the grass for more or less two hours, soaking up the sun, watching birds, and generally being nowhere near adult-like.  It was my first time lying in grass so I was a bit paranoid about grass stains–especially since I was wearing a bright white shirt–but eventually I got over it and started rolling around, enjoying the alternating warmth and breezes.
Honestly, if I could bottle a perfect day in Brazil, this may very well have been it.
Headed back to UEM at 4:40, cutting through what appeared to be a local fairground either being set up or dismantled.  
Look!  A baby Ferris wheel!

Got back to UEM at just about dusk, or maybe a little before it.  Had to rush home to pick up my laptop before my 7:30pm class, since I wanted to make it before it got dark as I generally avoid walking the streets alone after dark.  Made it in time, though: the sun sets pretty late in Brazil.  In the interim, everything is HD-vivid and absolutely gorgeous, even in a sleepy little college town like Maringá.
I’m actually beginning to get used to life here, which is a shame because I have scarcely three weeks left before I have to fly back home.  It’s strange how even calling it ‘home’ in my head feels wrong, somehow–to me, Maringá with its morning chill, blinding sunlight, and patches of grassy heaven feels more and more like “home” each day.  To be honest, I’m a little afraid to go home.  I like the person I’ve become here–the confidence I’ve gained, the lessons I’ve learned–and I’m afraid that she will fade and turn back to a shadow back in Manila, along with the vestiges of my Brazilian tan.
(I guess that’s what I’m enjoying the most: that I’m nobody’s shadow, here.)
Still, it can’t be helped, and anyway, I do miss Manila, on occasion.  It is still, after all, home to me.  But then I think about Maringá nights spent dancing ’till my feet hurt (Casa de Bamba last Saturday was in-freaking-tense!  Who knew Matthias could dance?!) and mornings spent getting woken up by the relative cold (fourteen degrees!) and I think to myself there’s nothing like travel.  There’s nothing like coming to a strange location, eyes full of wonder, and eventually finding the things you love that make it home.
It’s not heaven, but I guess it’s pretty close.

~ NC
P.S.
Going to upload a more comprehensive update on my mad weekend soon, but if you want to get a peek at it, visit my Instagram page.

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