The MV Explorer, cruise ship turned floating campus, arrives first in Brazil. After a week of only seeing 360 degrees of waves and sky, 650 slightly seasick, disorientated students pour out of the vessel and onto the cobblestone pavement of the port in Salvador. I have a field trip scheduled, so I wait outside the ship for the rest of my group to arrive. I walk to the side of the dock, scoping out the surrounding boats and ships. How strange to see life outside my new little ship bubble. Another ship is pulling in next to mine and a rowboat of fisherman is anchored nearby. I flop down on the dock and pop my foot out to sit cross-legged when off flops my flip-flop into the ocean. Great. My first step into a new country is going to a barefooted one.
Before I even have a chance to react, one of the fishermen anchored for lunch dives away from his companions into the ocean and swims fluidly to rescue my floating flop! Tired from the swim, his strapping shoulders hoist him back onto his boat. Immediately he turns back to me, waving with a wide smile. He and his fellow fishermen mutter to one another in what I can only assume to be Portuguese.
On the way to my field trip in the bus I write, My reality is warped- where I am in unfathomable and these people are real and warm. No expectations… surreal results. Then I apologize to my neighbor for the puddle on the bus floor from my soaking wet shoe.