I have stood on the precipice of one of the most fantastic natural wonders of the world. The magnificent roaring waters of Iguacu Falls cascaded down cliffs all around us. The cool mist provided temporary relief from the burdening heat of Brazil’s autumn. Sometimes the greatest moments of life happen thousands of miles from everything you have ever known, and right in the middle of everything you never realized you were missing.
â–º FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Growing up I was shy, and I liked to be around places and people familiar to me. I never would have thought that when I was 16, God would send me into another hemisphere to experience something I never could have imagined.
What I learned in Brazil:
1. Always coat yourself with strong bug repellent before going to bed, upon waking up, and prior to going outside.
2. Never leave the house without an umbrella, and sunscreen.
3. Looks can be deceiving. Coatis, as cute as they may be, are little thieves.
4. The OK hand sign in the U.S.A., means something very profane in Brazil.
5. Brazilians greet each other with a hug and a kiss BY the cheek.
Let’s start with number one. It’s better to use too much bug repellent than too little. Oh and bug killer and bug repellent are two very different products. If one should, by some extraordinary leap of the imagination, accidentally spray themselves with bug killer rather than bug repellent, they should proceed to shower with all of their clothes still on.
Number two: Brazil’s weather is bipolar. If you leave in the morning and it is sunny, it very well could turn into a thunderstorm of catastrophic proportions within an hour or so, thus ruining the hairstyle you worked diligently on all morning for the afternoon concert you have scheduled with your choir. Bringing an umbrella lessens the risk of frizzy hair and runny makeup.
Too much sunshine presents another dilemma feared by teenage girls on tropical vacations across the globe: the sunburn. The only known and guaranteed prevention is the sticky, greasy, white fluid that very much resembles cooked chicken fat. Sun block. Many girls go with the whole I’m-super-tan-and-don’t-need-sunscreen deal, and for them I have two words: SPF 70. Only one girl went home from the trip without a sunburn. She was the whitest one, equipped with several bottles of empty sunscreen and several more unopened, but ready just in case.
Also, consider this situation. You are hiking to Iguacu Falls with all of your friends. Suddenly, photo opportunity! You rummage through your back pack, retrieve your camera, toss the bag aside, and pose for the picture. Meanwhile, beady little eyes like those of a raccoon are watching, and just as you turn your back the thieving paws of a coati are digging through your backpack searching for whatever crumbs they can find. Rule #3: never leave your stuff unattended or a coati will likely take advantage of your tourist status.
Different cultures give different body language different meanings. When trying to tell someone everything is “OK”, we often use that hand sign. However, this means something very profane in the Brazilian culture. I don’t know what because I was sixteen, and that was a mission trip so no one told me, but I’m sure it’s not pleasant.
Lastly, when meeting people in Brazil, they will great you with a hug and often an air kiss by your cheek. When responding, make sure it is an AIR kiss. No need to be more awkward than you already are around complete strangers who speak little to no English.
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