Brazilians are the most warm and welcoming people I have yet to meet in my travels, and the people from Salvador were no exception.  For almost the past two weeks I have been staying in Salvador with the aunt and family of my friends Adriana and Mariana and it has been one of the best parts of my trip thus far.   Zequinha, their aunt, completely embodies the warmth that is such a part of Brazilian culture.  Since the moment I arrived she made me feel right at home and treated me as if I was a daughter of her own.  She is the kind of person who goes out of her way for people from the onset – like a second mother to me, she wants to make sure you slept well, ate well, and have everything you could possibly need.

The view out the window of my room at Zequinha's house - absolutely breathtaking

During the first day, I had a very difficult time understanding her since she only spoke in Portuguese.  But she was so patient and through hand motions and speaking very slowly, I now can understand most of what she says.  She has been so understanding of my batched way of speaking Portuguese – having not taken a single class, I have created my own version of the language (a Spanish-Italian combo) that she has made great efforts to understand.

The experience has once again totally re-enforced my feeling that staying with local people is the absolute best way to experience a foreign country.  In Thailand, living with a family in a small town outside Bangkok was by far the most authentic and memorable part of my trip.   In the past 10 days, I have had the opportunity to take an intimate look at the Brazilian way of life.

I have really enjoyed what ended up often being an hour spent eating breakfast every morning with Zequinha in the kitchen as she cooked.  She explained to me, again with extreme patience, everything about the typical Brazilian foods she prepared and we chatted about everything Brazilian.   She is an amazing cook and every meal has been an elaborate spread of meats (always), salads, rice, farofa, other typical Brazilian foods I don’t know the exact name of, fresh mango juice (from their family`s own mango tree!), papayas, dessert made from coconut or manioc flour, well you get the point.  I could almost taste the love and care she put into all her food.

She keeps telling me to stay for a while and take Portuguese classes because she enjoys the cultural exchange so much, and in all honesty if I didn’t still have a lease back in New York, I would have probably already enrolled.    In just 10 days, it is surprising how much Portuguese I have picked up without ever opening a book or Zequinha sitting me down to teach me.  So, if you really want to learn another language, live with someone who only speaks that language and only understands when you respond using that language (or in my case a mixture of Spanish and Italian) – it will shock you how quickly you can learn.