Flashback…

…to Jericoacoara, of course.

So, I’ve been wanting to write for so many weeks and it just seems that my days are so full lately…

But. I need to make time for the things that make me happy, and writing all this down, keeping my memories alive, is one of them.

Let’s go back, just a few weeks. Back to Thursday the 28th of April around 22:00. I was chatting with a random Brazilian guy on Tandem (an app my friend, Karla, from Fortaleza suggested as one of the best to talk to people and improve your skills in a foreign language, or help others, by talking). I was in Manaus, at the hotel, had spent the entire day working and peeking out the window to the grey Amazonia skies, the raindrops on my window making the scenery even harder to accept… On that specific day I’d told myself I would detox from listening to my forró playlist, if only for a day! But then, I started talking to this guy, and (of course) the whole conversation turned around my impression of Brazil and what I loved the most about it. Why would I lie? It was Jeri and forró… and so we went on exchanging songs on the app… so my forró-detox was interrupted, bringing a smile on my face and a swing to my hips. Each song I would listen to would bring images of my Jeri, of me walking to Maloka or Dona Amelia, hearing the band playing live from a distance, the sounds getting louder as I approached and my excitement growing proportionately!

By the time I went off the phone it was almost 11pm but the playlist kept playing on repeat for hours.

Suddenly, I realized that I really (really!) was not happy being there and all I was thinking about was Jeri… I still had almost a week, 6 whole days(!), ahead and really dreaded spending them in Manaus. The thought of the jungle and pink dolphins and piranha fishing was simply not putting a smile on my face. So I started searching the web. Why not go back to Jeri for a long (last) weekend in my little paradise? Ticket prices were sky-high, but I didn’t give up. I would anyway spend a fair amount of money to go on a 2-3 days excursion in the Amazon, so why not spend it on the tickets? I found a flight departing on 7am the next morning, which was ideal (only one stopover in Belem – a total of 5 hours), but the return was a mess. I’d be changing 3 planes, needing to check in my luggage separately at each airport and I would arrive back to Manaus after about 14 hours with only a few hours to ‘spare’ before my departure to another 24-hour journey to Toronto, Canada. BUT. Jericoacoara was worth it. My flights were booked in a heart-beat. Still, after that single heart-beat, many more followed with me staring at my laptop screen trying to figure out what I just did and whether I would make it on time to catch the Toronto flight. By that time it was already midnight, my flight would depart in 7 hours and after a whole day working I was not absolutely sure I got the p.m. and a.m. or the time differences right. After checking and double checking for a few minutes, I went downstairs to the reception to ask whether there was any bus transfer to the airport available around 4-5am. Of course, there was none! The latest bus I could take was leaving at 2am, leaving me with approx. 1,5 hour to pack and check out. There was no time to spare. I started packing, had a quick shower and off I went to the airport (again!). I also needed to finish up a project, so the 4 hours I had until my departure were spent with my laptop on my lap, translating.

I got at Fortaleza just before noon (it’s Friday already). The bus to Jeri would leave at 15:30 so I had a few hours. My sister from another mother, Karine, would meet me at the airport to have lunch and coffee and chat a bit before I leave, but also to take my heavy backpack, which I didn’t need until my trip to Toronto and hold on to it for me for a few days. She is such a lifesaver! Anything I ever asked for, or even without me asking, she always has the solution and offers a helping hand! My dear Karine, always in my heart!

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At 15:30 I was sitting comfortably in the bus, big smile on my face, ready to hit the road to Jeri. To my pleasant surprise, a girl was sitting next to me, speaking in perfect English! This is how Funda entered my life. We spent the next 7 hours talking about traveling, Jericoacoara, men (of course) and ended up knowing quite a part of our lives’ stories by the time we got to Jeri. She had already booked her stay at America do Sul and since I was had no other plans I decided to get a bed at the same hostel as her, so we could keep on the chatting and girly fun and support. We spent every day together, went to the beach, went dancing (by Saturday she knew everything about forró – I wouldn’t stop talking about it!).

The next morning, Silvana, the girl managing the hostel, asked me (rather confirmed) I’d been living in Jeri for some time and when I said I had, she told me she’d been following my blog and had read some of my articles. I was so honored! I am always surprised when I meet someone telling me they have read my blog, I feel they know me and it is such a big thing for me to know that someone actually spent his/her precious time to read about my experiences, emotions and all the silly or serious stuff I write in here from time to time.

So Saturday I spent with Funda getting to know each other better, sharing moments and laughs and feelings. We went to Milano beach bar, Dona Amelia, had countless coconuts, caipirinhas, and even smoked weed (that was way out of my comfort zone, and got me really sleepy! My only worry was that it was Saturday, it was forró night, my LAST Saturday in Brazil, and I wanted to be in shape to dance the night away, not sleep like a log!!!). Thankfully, after a few hours on the sunbed I regained my strength and livelihood and with a good dinner and shower I was ready to go all-out and dance the night away!

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And so I did! My last forró night was actually quite different than my ‘ordinary’ ones, different men on the dance floor, still it was a night to remember. Funny enough, my last dance happened to be with the guy I danced my first ever forró with – like a nice closing to a chapter in my book. He even seemed to remember me, asked (again) whether I’d found a boyfriend already, and was surprised when I said ‘Yes!’. Was the only response I thought would get me out of this situation fast, but it ended up being an interrogation… Who is he? Where is he from? How long have you known him for? So, the best lie I could come up with was that I was dating my ex-boyfriend again. One lie led to the next and I ended up making up an absurd story, one that was at least believable.

Sunday was spent at the beach, under the sun, breathing in the air and smells of Jeri and mentally preparing myself for my departure of the next day. Caipirinhas, coconut water and macaxeira (my favorite fries made of mandioca flour). Funda went to visit Lagoa Paraiso, so I had some me-time.

Oh my, I was leaving ‘my’ Jeri for the third time.

I had already booked my ticket for the evening bus back to Fortaleza at 22:30. Again, I would leave semi-drunk, again my friends would take me to the bus and make sure I’m on it safely… But this time, there was no Funda sitting next to me! The plan was to sleep as much as possible anyway, as I had a long 3 days of traveling ahead, but I thought I’d be polite enough to say ‘hello’ to the young man sitting next to me in the bus. He spoke no English so with my broken Portuguese there was no room for conversation (nor time for that matter, sleeping was of essence). He told me he was from Jeri, his parents owned a restaurant and that he was living between Jeri and Fortaleza. At least that’s what I understood. So after a short talk I covered myself with my blanket and tried to fall asleep. It was about 2am when I woke up from his soft touch on my arm, thinking “Oh, my God, I am snoring!”. I asked him if I was snoring (in English) and even made the sound of it (as I didn’t know how you say ‘snore’ in Portuguese), and he looked at me with a silly smile on his face and said ‘no’. I didn’t quite get it, and was so sleepy I just turned my head and went back to sleep.

After about an hour, I was woken by him caressing my hand… I looked at him, moved my hand and turned the other way to sleep again. For a third time I was woken by his toes going up and down my calf! Jesus! Really, what was he expecting? I gave him a ‘killer’ look (as good as I can give one of those) and told him in a very serious tone (in Portuguese) ‘I want to sleep’!

I think that worked cause he didn’t bother me again until we arrived to Fortaleza, where he got off the bus without even saying goodbye. Men.

Here I was again, 5 am on a Tuesday morning, at Fortaleza airport. My next flight (to Sao Paulo) was at 12:30 and Karine could only meet me around 11:30 to get my backpack back and have some coffee and a bite on the fly. So, without having had too much sleep on the bus, I happily fell asleep sitting on one of the metal seats at the airport. I have to say (proudly, as I thought I’d never be able to do that) that I slept for 2,5 hours in a row on that uncomfortable bench, hugging onto my daypack and all my valuables in it. My sweet Karine went again out of her way to help me and come meet me at the airport and kept me company until I had to board my flight.

From there on it was hop on-hop off airplanes, running from baggage belts to check-in counters and then to planes… but I managed to get to Manaus again, after about 36 hours in time for my Toronto flights. The plan was to leave Manaus, fly to Curacao (where I met the one and only Greek executive working at the airport, Mr Dimitris – a kind person with a warm smile, who personally escorted me to the plane security check), then to Miami and from there to Toronto. Tough luck, weather in Miami sucked and we had to land in Nassau and stay in the plane for 5-6 hours until the weather would clear and we would be allowed to land in Miami. I had a lot of work to do, so I used up some of that time to work, but after a few hours I joined some other folks on the flight trying to get a wi-fi signal from the airport by hanging off the airplane’s door (as we were not allowed to disembark the plane). I also met a funny Dutch guy, from Utrecht (it’s a small world!), with whom we laughed all the way to Miami. We even said we’d go for drinks, if we’d both miss our flights, but I ended up being the only unlucky one.

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Hanging off the plane’s door to get a wi-fi signal 🙂

Unfortunately, we arrived in Miami at 19:00 and it took me 45’ to get from customs to Air Canada check-in and given that my flight was at 20:00 I was no longer allowed to board it. So, I spoiled myself with a very good hotel for the night costing me as much as 2-weeks stay in Jeri, but enjoyed my veeery long hot shower, the abundance of food at breakfast (although it all felt plastic) and the fresh linen on my king-size bed. Since I was on the waiting list for the 12am flight on the next day, I left the hotel quite early. The guy at the Air Canada counter was the one that had informed me the night before that I could not board my flight, so he knew my situation and was extremely helpful. He told me I should go to the gate and wait to see if a seat would be available for me, otherwise I would be put on the waiting list for the 20:00 flight.

As fate would have it (and I am so glad this happened cause it’s a funny story to tell), my boarding pass was printed with a note ‘SSSS’ – which the guy at the counter explained was a random security check to be performed on me. That was the same thing Mr Dimitris told me in Curacao, so I was fine about it. Only thing was that the Curacao security check took 1’ and the one in Miami 40’!

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At first I was very cool about it, I mean, I knew I had nothing on me so I let them do their job. Even when the alarm went off on one of my bags, I just sat there (shoeless) waiting for it to finish. It was only when I felt commotion behind me and turned to see 11 police officers with 2 dogs surrounding me that I freaked out for a moment. They started asking me all sorts of questions, and I do understand my situation could raise an eyebrow… Greek passport, Dutch address, coming from Brazil, having overstayed her visa by 12 days, traveling alone… Even wearing my UnScared CrossFit t-shirt didn’t help at that moment, lol. At some point, one of the “explosives’ unit” officers approached the officer that was checking my passport and asked her whether it was a random check. By that time, my antennas were going bananas to pick the slightest information about what was happening around me, so when I heard her tell him “No, it was not random, we got an email to check her”, I think this was the worst moment of this journey. I immediately started thinking that someone may have put something in my bags or else there was nothing there to justify all this fuss. Anyway, they performed more checks, the alarm didn’t go off the second and third time, and it turned out that it was probably a hair-styling product I had used that morning that contained some sort of substance that is used in explosives… (The stuff we use on our body and hair!!) After it was all over, the officers (who were at all times extremely polite) told me they were just doing their job and apologized for taking up my time, and of course it was not a problem. I only wished they’d allow me to take a selfie with all of them together… that would be a nice touch to this blog!

I was thankful to not have missed my flight (again) and in a way also thankful that I didn’t have too much time to spend shopping (the airport was full of temptations!!). I then realized I was again in a ‘first world’ country, a shopping paradise, where material stuff bring happiness and quantity beats quality.

Didn’t know what would my life look like in Canada, but I was somewhat intimidated. I was a girl in flip-flops, still having sand in my bags and the smell of Jericoacoara on my skin. God, I was missing it already… But I was getting again out of my comfort zone and this seems to be a guarantee for happiness lately!

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