Day 125 and I am officially home from the beautiful country of Brazil. Offically past the four month mark in my exchange as well. I got home this morning completely exhaused, dirty, starving among other things just to be introduced back into the Bolivian ways of no one being on time (I had to wait at the terminal for an hour and a half before my family came to pick me up). If you didn´t know, I went on this trip with my grad class, the "promo trip". I'll start from the beginning:
A lot of preparation went into this trip. I had to get my visa, which none of the Bolivians needed to do. So Sarah, Brodie and I had to be getting ready for this weeks in advance, running between the travel agency and the Brazilian consulate. Sarah almost didn´t make it, only receiving her passport DAYS before we were leaving to Brazil. But we made it. After having all the paperwork figured out, and packing (it was pretty easy since I threw almost everything I owned into my suitcase) we were off.
We took a train from Santa Cruz to the border, at Puerto Quijarro. It was a 17 hour train ride and pure hell hahaha. Trains are a lot of fun, but only when you´re awake. I couldn´t sleep at all.. not to mention that they turn they air conditioning up at night. I froze (I swear you could almost see your breath in the train). Then we hopped on a bus that was soon to become our home for the next two weeks. I found out that it wasn´t just our school going on this trip, but about five other schools from Santa Cruz.. all traveling more or less together (same sights, same hotel etc). We shared our bus with half of the kids from a school called Marista, since we had such a small amount of kids coming from our school (Espiritu Santo).
We crossed the border, got all our papers stamped and then were off for the crazy (overnight) drive to Foz do Iguaçu in Brasil. It was almost a 17 hour drive... the kids from Marista are crazy I might add. They love to party, and no one got any sleep on the bus. Everyone was dancing and partying the whole night, on the bus!! We got into town, checked into the hotel and instead of sleeping like we should´ve, everyone went out to the pool and had a get-together, with the four other schools. I realized that this was going to be a verrrryyy long trip, and one not involving much sleep. In the morning we packed up and were off to go see the immense waterfalls at Iguaçu. I have now technically been to Argentina as well, since we went to a duty free shop over the border, and also went on a boat through a waterfall that landed on the Argentinian side (did I mention that Iguaçu is on the border of three countries; Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay).
Afterwards, it was back on that amazing bus for another 20+ hours, yet we were almost there... Camboriú! It was another crazy party night on the bus (I swear these guys are nonstop). To almost everyone´s horror, at four in the morning before we got to Camboriú, someone threw up on the bus... which permeated the whole bus and started a chain reaction. I think we had at least four people barf before we got to our final destination and it was not a pretty smell. But we survived, after a few pitstops... and got to Comboriú and the OCEAAAAN after three days of hellish traveling.
The weather was not as amazing as I had imagined, but I was prepared for that. We had heard that there had been a lot of raining and flooding in the area beforehand and we had just barely caught the tailend. But we had a few days of amazing sun so it was all worth it. The travel agency had the whole 8 days in Camboriú planned out for us, some activities with the other schools but mostly with your bus group (we ended up getting pretty tight with everyone, including the kids from Marista who weren´t as... let´s just say they acted like you expect boys to act hahah). We had a solid three days at the beach, which involved sun bathing, drinking from coconuts and frolicking in the salty Atlantic. They took us to a giant amusement park (supposedly similar to Disneyland), to a giant waterpark (rained out on us) and to a few of the surrounding cities. There was a German colonized city right out of town that they took us to, showing us around the beer museum and all about their Oktoberfest... it was strange. Then one of the most exciting events happened. We took a PIRATE SHIP to an island, to lounge on the beach. There were pirates, and the boats were all painted up and everything. It was sooo sick! Almost every night, they tookus out clubbing. South Americans love to dance, so we went out till almost 4am every night (usually waking up at nine or so) meeting kids from Paraguay and Chile that were also on their promo trip. Sadly enough, it's such a touristy town that I never met many Brazilians!! Our last day in Camboriú was perfect. We had surf lessons in the morning, along with beach lounging all day. They then took us to a huge party with all the kids that were on their promo trips in Camboriú at the time (Paraguayos, Chilenos, Argentinos). It was a massive dance party and we stayed out till six in the morning. It was slightly painful, having to go straight back to the hotel and pack our things without sleeping though. But that´s what the bus is for, right?
After struggling to get everything together with everyone running on absolutely no sleep, we left the beautiful town of Camboriú behind at 1130am. Another full day, probably 25 hours of driving (and of course no sleeping) on the bus. I have to mention that it´s not just everyone partying on the bus (or trains) that kept me up. For some reason, they felt the need to BLAST the air conditioning at night after everyone goes to sleep. The temp drops so cold that I couldn´t sleep, even being cocooned in my two blankets. We got the border at Corumbá, crossed.. and then found out that the travel agency had got us a hotel for a few hours, to shower, swim in the pool and just relax before our train (instead of just making us sit at the train station for three hours). The bad thing was that we had crossed the border on a Sunday, and couldn´t get our passports (for the five of us with passports) stamped until Monday when the office was open.. we therefor had to leave our passports there, and are getting them mailed to us tomorrow (scary since Brodie leaves in five days).
We hopped on the train, excited to be so close to home (already back in Bolivia) yet incredibly sad since we were that much closer to ending the trip. I once again couldn´t sleep on the train... I am completely blown away with some of these kids stamena. I was so exhausted. The train seemed to be twice as freezing on the way home (I was wearing socks, sneakers, sweat pants and two hoodies and yet I still almost froze to death). After another 17 hours clickity clacking down the rails, we arrived in Santa Cruz. I didn´t want it to be over, yet I knew I needed to get some some proper sleep, a good shower and to empty out the mess that I swear was molding in my suitcase hahaha.
I am now back home, clean and ready to start back into the Cruceño lifestyle for the next five months. It´s almost Christmas, yet I don´t feel a thing. It´s supposed to be the hardest time in student´s exchange, going through the holidays yet I don´t seem to notice. There is no snow, no Christmas tree and barely any decorations. I can pretty much pretend that Christmas isn´t happening haha. Brodie leaves in five days and I don´t know what I`ll do without one of my best friends and strongest support systems on my exchange. I´m almost at the halfway mark. I need to travel more though, I realized. My family is going to Sucre after New Years, hopefully the Bolivia trip is after that, and perhaps Sarah and I will go to Argentina in a few months if possible. I can´t even tell you how much I appreciate what Cuarto Dimención and Freeway (the travel agencies) did for us to organize such an amazing trip for everyone. I finally got you your updates, and hopefully will keep them coming from now on!