OK! Two blog posts in one because we STILL don't have decent internet in the apartment and the internet I'm stealing from the neighbor is working particularly well right now!
All right. First story is that I've had a very busy week exploring our new city. It was Alexandre's second week in his residency, which means he's back to needing the car and I'm using the bus system regularly. This city actually has what seems like a decent bus system. There are a lot of lines; they seem to be color-coded; the numbers seem to represent the neighborhoods they drive through; and the other day when I was lost downtown (I've been lost almost every day this week), some old men informed me that each big stop downtown is used for buses in a specific direction. For example, stop A on Street 1 is for all the buses going north; stop B on street 2 is for all the buses going west, etc. Good ideas, right?
You probably saw above that all of my sentences are qualified with "seem". That's because neither the bus companies nor the city offer any kind of centralized information about the buses! What is the point of making a good system if you don't tell people how it works? I mean, really. How much does it cost to put up signs downtown that say things like "NORTHBOUND BUSES HERE"? Or to make a list of "how the bus system works" on their website? The first time I used public transit regularly was the AC Transit system in the Bay Area, so I've been spoiled for life because no system will ever come close! I would love to have maps that show where each line goes in this city, but I know I'm asking too much. (A girl can dream, can't she?)
I will give the city credit for making a website that allows you to plan your route and get advice on which buses to take. It's very 1998 and you really have to tweak it to get it to give you helpful answers, plus it randomly just won't load or the maps give you error messages... but it's certainly better than nothing.
Anyway, as I just said, I've been getting lost -- a lot. In the weeks in town before Alexandre started work, I continually hijacked his car and his smartphone, so getting around town seemed easy as pie. But after 3 days without his phone, walking in circles around the city center, I gave up and bought my own cell phone with Google maps. The damn thing was make-you-cry expensive, but what was I going to do? I'm not a fan of the system that 90% of Brazilians use to get around in a new city, which is: "Ask 15 people on the street how to get there and go with the best out of 5".
My quality of life increased dramatically with my own phone, mostly because the amount of miles I walked each day decreased dramatically. Oh no! I took the wrong bus again and got dropped off far away from my destination? That's OK! I have my trusty friend Google Maps to help! While walking along the street, I find myself humming little songs, like "ba da ta da! My GPS and meeeeeee!" a lá "My Buddy" or that Future Self n' Me episode from South Park.
The only problem is that my GPS lady needs some Portuguese classes. I switched the GPS to English, and it's a woman's voice. She says things like, "Turn right at Roo-uh Kwinz day Marko" (15 de Março). The poor thing. She means well, and it doesn't help that street names are unnecessarily long.
Anyway, the reason I've been all about town is because demand for my classes is really good! Word is spreading like wildfire, and I'm so relieved. I made a little website for myself, as well as a professional Facebook profile, some business cards, and some flyers. My 2 new American friends both recommended me to some students who they couldn't fit into their schedules, and things grew from there. Then, the other day, I passed out some flyers to the apartments in our complex. I only went around half the complex, and in less than 24 hours, TEN PEOPLE called me or emailed me asking for classes! TEN! Of course not all of them will end up working out, but it was still amazing. My schedule will probably be full by the end of the month.
Oh, an update for you guys is that I quit with that sorry excuse for a school (the saga continues in the comments of that post).
So yay! Hooray for smart phones, hooray for students, hooray for the great (even if it is a little disorganized) new city.