My Brazilian Family…

…isn’t very Brazilian at all.

My dad and my older brother.

So apparently, when I mention a boy or boys eighty-five million times on my blog, one of two things can happen. Either a) I will fall madly and devastatingly in love with them, or b) I will somehow ‘adopt’ them as an auxiliary family member. As it so happens, this time around, it’s the latter. Sometime during our five-day vacation in Curitiba and Florianópolis, we four interns managed to transform into an adorably dysfunctional family complete with overprotective German father, laissez-faire Czech mother, snarky British son, and perky Filipina daughter.

…I smell a sitcom in the offing.

Dad, Mum, and my annoying older brother monkeying around in one of Curitiba’s tube-shaped bus stops (this one is under construction).
I really don’t have a clue how this whole family tree started growing in the first place, but by now it’s pretty much in full bloom–I can’t call Matthias anything but ‘Dad’ anymore, even in public–which is making it harder and harder for me to face the brutal reality that this is the last week of Project TALK.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Flashback to one week ago. Finished my run with Klára and was off to a really good start in the groups with Matthias, a.k.a. Dad. At first, our sessions consisted of the same battle-of-the-sexes banter I’d grown used to with Ciarán, but eventually that settled into Matthias being the more dominant and organized “voice of reason,” and I being the bratty and occasionally adorable live-wire. From there, it wasn’t such a quantum leap to the scarily father-daughter dynamic we have now.
Part of that leap was, as I mentioned, made during the five-day vacay we had in Curitiba and Floripa (the other name for Florianópolis). We left Maringá nearly midnight on Tuesday, on a seven-hour bus ride (I think I’m getting used to long-haul buses.), and arrived at half-six (or was it half-seven?) on Wednesday morning, when we proceeded to hike up rolling hills–what is it with Brazil and hills?!–to our hostel, which Ciarán found. Leave it to him, of course, to book one with a naughty name–Motter is apparently a variation on the British slang for…well…I’ll let Urban Dictionary tell you.
We deposited our bags at Motter Home Curitiba Hostel for check-in later, and after some handy instructions (and a tourist map that would soon become the most beat-up thing in existence) from reception, headed off to Curitiba’s historical center.
The historical center was mostly closed when we got there, but we managed to snag coffee (the first of three steaming mugs I’d have that day) and some snacks at a nearby café before walking through Curitiba’s municipal park in pursuit of the Linha Turismo, or special double-decker green tourist buses. We ended up literally having to flag one down–long story–but eventually we made it on and proceeded to make our carefully-planned stops. See, the way the Linha Turismo works is that you pay for a bulk ticket that allows you to get off at four of the myriad of tourist stops along the line. Some strategy–i.e. planning to walk–is required in order to make the most of it, but thankfully some of the places we wanted to see were within walking distance of each other, so we could get two sites in one stop.
We first went to the Museo de Oscar Niemeyer, also known as the Museo do Olho or “Eye Museum” because of its unusual shape. It’s a modern art museum, and while I did take three units of Fine Art appreciation in Dragon U, I’ll confess to most of the exhibits sailing over my head. I did very much enjoy the special M.C. Escher one, half out of a love for Inception and the other half because of my Labyrinth fangirling.
Me and dear old Dad in an Escher trick-room.

From there we caught the bus again to the Opera de Arame, or Wire Opera House, built in the remains of a stone quarry. Literally built out of steel wire (like a birdcage), the Opera de Arame was modeled after the Palais Garnier in Paris…though honestly I couldn’t see the resemblance at all. Definitely I couldn’t imagine Erik coming to spirit a Brazilian soprano away–there was no place for him to hide!

No phantoms at this Opera.

Had coffee in the downstairs café (second and third cups of the day) before walking (uphill) to Parque Tanguá, which is supposedly the most beautiful park in Curitiba, according to my roommate Fernanda who’d just been there the week before. As parks go, it was immense, and because we were lazy and it was a lovely sunny day we ended up lying around in the grass–check my Instagram for evidence–instead of exploring. We did manage to catch one of the major highlights though: a quote-unquote Túnel that’d been dug through the hill on which part of the park stood. It wasn’t so much a tunnel as it was a long rock arch, but I definitely needed the exercise.

Exhausted, we caught a bus back up topside, which took us past all the manner of memorials commemorating Curitiba’s immigrants–Italian, German, Polish, etcetera. I fell asleep on the bus though, so I didn’t get to see much of it, but Ciarán filled me in through photos. We ended the day at the Panoramic Tower, owned by Oi, one of the mobile service providers in Brazil. The view was not a patch on Victoria Peak’s panorama of HK/Kowloon, but it cool nonetheless.

From the tower we walked back to Motter Home, showered and napped for a bit, then ended the day with a late dinner in the historical center at a restaurant called The Farm.

Day Two in Curitiba was pretty abbreviated, since we had to catch a bus to Floripa. After a good start–I smashed a plate, yay–the family headed to the Botanical Gardens accompanied by Cooper, an American hailing from Memphis who struck up conversation with us around the time I broke a plate at breakfast. He’d apparently been living in Brazil for quite some time, and could speak pretty good Brazilian Portuguese, better than Mum and, of course, definitely better than my brother’s exuberant exclamations of “Muito [insert random Brazilian word here].”

Family photo at the Jardim Botanico!

The main attraction, the French-style main greenhouse, was closed (although it was tiny, so you could pretty much see everything from the outside), so we ended up meandering around a bit before calling it a day. I’m pretty sure if I was traveling with a bunch of teenage/early twenties girls though, we’d have ended up spending more time there–the gardens are perfect for impromptu fashion shoots, esp. if wearing summer dresses/Gossip Girl Hamptons chic.

Checked out two of the main commercial streets–Rua das Flores and Rua 24 Horas–before having lunch in the Spanish Square (due to the strong immigrant population, Curitiba is more European than Brazilian, down to the cobblestones) and wandering around the Historical Center one last time before catching our four-hour bus ride from Curitiba to Floripa. Bonded with Dad during the trip, talking about life and human psychology and occasionally being interrupted by Ciarán, who wanted to learn more German words he could shout in a Christoph Waltz-esque accent.

Arrived past midnight in Floripa, to our dubiously-scented room in Backpackers Sunset hostel, wherein we promptly fell asleep.

Our grand master plan for the beach-bound leg of our vacation (three days, two nights) was to visit as many of the famous Praia as possible, but in the end we only got to see four: Praia da Joaquina, Praia Mole, Praia da Barra de Lagoa, é Prainha. We began with Praia da Joaquina, famous for its huge, white-sand dunes and the sport spawned on them: sand surfing. According to Ciarán’s “holy book” (read: Lonely Planet Guide to Brazil), these dunes are, and I quote, “huge sandy mounds perfect for fast and dirty rides.”

A desert in Brazil?!

…Make of that what you will.

We were supposed to take one of those “fast and dirty rides” but the moment we made it over the dunes and spotted the beach, the thought of sand surfing totally fled our minds. Despite my pride in the Philippine beaches, I have to admit that Praia da Joaquina was like nothing I’d ever seen before–miles and miles of white sand beach disappearing into ridiculously clear azure water, with waves dramatically crashing into the shore every few seconds or so. We picked a spot on the beach, rubbed ourselves down with sunscreen (SPF 100++ for me, SPF 15 for everyone else), and after letting that settle, hit the surf with a vengeance.

Even on the beach, the selfies never cease.

Learned how to bodyboard, or boogie-board, with Ciarán, and though I nearly drowned twice (got caught in the curl of a wave) I had lots of fun and probably burned an insane amount of calories. The tide was strong even if technically we weren’t that far out to sea, so treading water to get to the better waves proved to be a Herculean effort on both our parts. I got smacked in my face with my board more than a few times, but in the end the ten reals we spent on a hour’s rental was totes worth it.

Photo of the kids having fun, as snapped by a doting(?) mum.

We ended up spending the whole day at Praia da Joaquina, even though our plan had been to decamp to Praia Mole, the beach near the hostel, earlier on in order to spot the “beautiful beach bodies” that Ciarán’s “holy book” had promised. We did visit Mole Beach (a really weird name for an otherwise really lovely strip of sand and surf) eventually, but by then it was past dusk and only a few surfers were left catching the last of the strong evening waves. They were wearing wetsuits though, so I couldn’t tell if they were hot or not (LOL).

Back at the hostel, the consequences of SPF 15 were revealed: Dad (Matthias, for those who are getting lost.) and Ciarán were burnt beterraba red, and Ciarán had to park himself in front of the electric fan since none of us had After-Sun. I didn’t escape unscathed either though: dehydration from the saltwater, coupled with the heat beating down on my head all day, left me dizzy and with a headache, so I opted to stay with Dad at the hostel while Ciarán and Mum (Klára) went out to some Louisiana Funk club to party.

…Okay, it’s really weird how I’m getting so used to calling them Dad and Mum now. My actual mother may get jealous. Don’t worry, Maman! No one can replace you!

By Day Two we were still plenty exhausted, so instead of heading to Jurere, where our student suggested we go, the lot of us interns ended up decamping to the nearer Praia da Barra de Lagoa instead, where the gentler waves meant easier swimming and potential basic surfing lessons for the ambitious. Unfortunately, a change in the weather spoilt our plans of hang ten glory: we managed to get in the sea only once before the cloud cover and wind chill factor essentially spoiled our beach day. Instead, we walked along the shore, built impossible sand structures, and generally snarked at each other the way families do. Matthias had thought to bring a sun umbrella from the hostel, but the wind quickly dispatched that as well, snapping the stem neatly in half and causing him to have to hold on to it to keep it upright for the rest of the day. He even had to chase after it a couple of times, which was hilarious, to say the least.

Building a sand mountain, complete with cable car and hydroelectric dam.
Inventing a beach version of the Brazilian street game “Bats.”
Family picture at Happy Hour!

By the end of the chilly beach day we were all pretty destroyed, but it was nothing that a shower and some food couldn’t cure. From there, it was straight to a true Floripa party–we ended up going to a hidden samba club overlooking Prainha, accompanied by two Aussies, a Chilean-American girl, and two Brits, all of whom we’d met by socializing at the hostel. Had a bit of a late-night misadventure heading back to the hostel after the bar closed, but in the end we all got home okay.

Our last day in Floripa was…


Despite the cold and wet, we braved sightseeing for a bit, but it wasn’t long before the ‘kids’ started getting cranky. Ended up taking refuge in a museum–one of the few buildings that were open that day; even the churches were closed–where we mostly took pictures of each other doing silly things (so much for sophisticated tourists, right?), before moving on to a supermarket. Nothing much happened by way of “exciting sightseeing,” and by the time we caught the 7:30pm bus back to Maringá we were cold and wet and exhausted and ready to go home. The bus ride was insanely long, but no surprise there: Maringá to Floripa crosses state lines. Got home just in time for Ciarán and Klára to prep for their morning class, whilst Matthias and I collapsed in our beds.

That pretty much sums up the family vacation. Today was the last set of actual class days for Project TALK, and tomorrow (well, technically later today) will be the first of two “Global Village” days where I have to once again “market” the Philippines and sing some OPM stuff while playing guitar, then it’s goodbye parties and then my family heads of to Rio without the NYC-bound me.

…I can’t believe it’s all nearly over. I’m actually getting really emotional about it, but that’s a topic for another entry.

~ NC


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