Paranapiacaba | Brazil

On a recent long weekend, a new friend organized a trip to go hiking from a town called Paranapiacaba, a couple of hours outside of São Paulo. We didn't quite make it onto one of the actual hiking trails because we didn't want to follow a hike master along with about 30 other people, but we managed to find a dried up riverbed that we followed for awhile. We also spent quite a bit of time in the town itself, for which I cannot think of another word to describe other than adorable.

Embu das Artes | São Paulo | Brazil

Tucked in the hills to the west of São Paulo, the town of Embu das Artes boasts local artisans specializing in a variety of crafts. The quaint cobblestoned streets and brightly painted facades lend themselves to an ecclectic atmosphere. This charming enclave was a welcome weekend getaway from the city!

Moving On To São Paulo, Brazil

In the span of a month, I packed up my life in Asia, reorganized in Texas, hopped across the border, and moved it all to South America. For those of you that missed it, I am now teaching at Pan American Christian Academy (PACA) in São Paulo, Brazil.

Don't get me wrong, I still love living abroadand in no way regret my decision to undergo such a major life change again's just hard. I have been thoroughly grateful for the kindness everyone has shown me since my arrival but somewhere in the three years since I first moved to Indonesia, I simply forgot how hard it is to start over. I forgot about the trial of learning a new language. I forgot about having to figure out where to buy the best produce or which brand of detergent won't make your blacks turn grey. I forgot about a different version of safety and comfort. Culture shock is not so much the culprit here (although I'm sure that will come in due time) but rather such a sudden reversal of a life that had become all too comfortable.

On a lighter note, here are some initial observations, comparisons, and reflections on Indonesia and Brazil:

-Brazilians are seriously friendly. I know everyone generally says that about the places they visit but it's really true here. From what I have observed, Brazilians always greet with a one-cheek kiss and ask how you're doing; it feels welcoming but a little strange when you're meeting for the first time!

-In terms of traffic, Jakarta wins. Hands down. Yes, São Paulo has traffic and yes, it's heavy. But, it still moves. It's kind of like rush hour in Los Angeles. Jakarta, on the other hand, is pure gridlock, pretty much anytime after noon. Here, you can get across the city and back in one evening, unless you accidentally miss an exit or make a wrong turn. One little mistake could literally cost you an hour trying to get back to where you need to go.

-Driving here requires every ounce of your attention, at all times. I very much miss the Indonesian mentality of just looking forward. That line of thought would soon result in a squished motorcycle. Motorcycles drive fast here, even when the cars aren't and they don't stop for anything. That makes changing lanes during heavy traffic a challenge!

-Jakarta felt safe. I didn't have to worry about driving into the city on my Scoopy because barring a flash flood, there was a pretty good shot that I would make it there unscathed. I haven't been in São Paulo very long but with all of the stories I've heard, I frequently find myself checking over my shoulder anytime I'm out in public and generally staying home after dark. You might have noticed a departure from my typical posting style consisting mainly of photography. That's because I haven't learned how to say "take the camera, just give me back the memory card please" in Portuguese yet.

-Brazilian dogs howl louder at night than the chorus of mosques surrounding my house during Idul Fitri in Salatiga.

-FirstMedia's customer service was undeniably horrible but the internet they provided wasn't actually as bad as it felt like at the time and SimPati was the best deal around. I'm definitely missing the ease of adding pulsa at the atm which was located in my building. I finally got a new phone plan last week (thanks Jen!) but did suffer significant sticker shock while shopping around. Compared to Indonesia, the prices were astronomical!

-Bahasa Indonesia is so simple. Portuguese is not. I feel like the majority of my language lessons and classes have been spent explaining an endless list of exceptions in the Portuguese language! Some of it has come easy from my many years of studying French but the rest is a blur of nasal sounds. It's slow going but I have been attending a Brazilian church to immerse myself in Portuguese. I can now definitely relate to the lost feeling that I know some of my students experience during the school day. I have an awesome tutor online and a wonderful teacher at school who are helping me learn. I still think French is the most beautiful language to listen to but Portuguese also has its merits.

-There is so much graffiti everywhere here and it is incredible! Every time I drive somewhere, I think I end up inadvertently ignoring whoever I'm with because I am mesmerized by the stream of artwork on buildings and walls outside the window.  Architecturally, everything is very geometric and there are so many amazing patterns from sidewalks to garden gates.

I think the reason this transition has been particularly difficult is because I didn't just leave Indonesia, I left the place that had become home to me. In time, I know that Brazil will feel the same but for now, Martha, you were right, I do indeed miss Indonesia.

Los Cabos | Mexico

I made it six days in America before I missed being surrounded by other languages and the grit that accompanies international travel so Haley and I braved the cheap service of Spirit Air (which was better service than about 90% of my airline encounters in Southeast Asia) and landed in Mexico the morning after we booked our tickets. We rented a car and split our time between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, with a side trip up the coast. The water was crystal clear and the scenery, desert-stunning.