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Category: Back to Brazil

The Adventure Doesn’t End Here.

The Adventure Doesn’t End Here.

Day 170

I’m writing this from an airplane a few thousand kilometers up in the sky over South America on my way back to the States, and no kidding, the song “America” by Razorlight just came up on my iTunes shuffle.  Once I get in to Washington D.C. I still have a bit of traveling to do before I can really say I’m home.  Charles is picking me up at the airport and tomorrow night we’re starting the drive with his family down to Florida.  As for my blog though, this is the end of the adventure for the mean time.  I’m glad that those who have been reading it have enjoyed it.  I’ll try not to leave you with any cliff hangers at the end of this post, except for of course, the whole “okay, so what’s next?” question that I have yet to answer myself.

Just like I knew it would, the last week passed in a whirlwind of ups, downs, and all over the place events and emotions.  The beginning of the end had us focused in on finishing coursework for our most important class.  MLG had always been our most important class for only one reason: if we didn’t pass it, MLG isn’t offered at UVA in the Spring, and that meant that failing it could keep us from graduating on time.  Two exams and a project were all due within 6 days of each other, and based on the entire class’s performance on the first project and exam, we felt the possibility of failing becoming a reality.  Grading in Brazil is on a 1-10 scale, for which a 5 is passing, but for which UVA will only accept a minimum of a 7 for credit.  Since the class average on the first exam was a 3.5, we were only just hovering above 7’s with the first project, and grading in Brazil isn’t on a curve, there was no choice but to do well on these last assignments.  Needless to say, the baristas at the Starbucks with free wifi in Ipanema started to recognize us when we walked through the door.  The exam went better than we imagined, but still wasn’t quite enough to raise our averages above a 7 (which would also exempt us from the final exam happening 2 days before we left).  Everything then was resting on the second group project we had to turn in a few days after the exam.  Joe, Keia, and I were all split up and put in groups with Brazilian students for these projects.  The idea was that they had more experience with R and could edit the Portuguese we contributed to the formal report.  It was a good idea in theory, but the group I ended up working with didn’t really contribute much.   Since I needed the grade, and I guess they.. maybe didn’t?  I was sort of left to do the work and write up the report by myself.  While it took a lot of will power and determination to get through, turning in a 13-page report (okay, so there were lots of graphs) on statistical analysis in Portuguese felt like a pretty big accomplishment even before I found out the grade was good enough so that I didn’t have to take the final exam on Monday!

Joe, and Keia were home free as well, so all that was standing in our way was a final presentation and luncheon with Professor Orlando.  One might think that the presentation would be cause for more stress than churrascaria, but the lunch was taking place on our last day in Rio.  While we knew Orlando would probably be late, we got a little antsy since we couldn’t have imagined that we’d be waiting on him for more than two hours.  Marcos, Bernardo, and Bernardo were there as well, and they are unbelievably excited for their upcoming semester abroad in the United States.  I keep forgetting that they’ll be joining us up at UVA in January, and I’m so glad we’ll have a few people to keep practicing our Portuguese with.

Delicious as lunch was, we had plans to meet up at Joe’s apartment with our friends that night for one more get together and goodbye.  We had seen a few of them the night before since Lu’s band got a permanent gig at a bar in Lapa every Monday night!  They are so much fun to watch, and I’m going to miss that good ol’ rock and roll of hers.  With everyone together on Tuesday, we had planned “Amigo Occulto” (Secret Santa) amongst our friends, meaning everyone had been given the name of someone else in the group for whom they had to buy a present and could only spend a max of R$20.  When it was time to reveal the gifts, the first person started by describing the person for whom they bought their gift without mentioning their name.  When everyone figured out who it was, that person accepted the gift and then described the person for whom they had bought a gift, and so on until all of the gifts had been revealed and everyone had a present.  Gift-giving went in a circle until it turned out that I had Luciana and Luciana also had me!  We both drew pictures of our favorite places in Rio on our cards for each other, we both gave each other bracelets, and we both cried when we opened it all.  In fact, I think almost everyone cried that night.  Later on as Leo was driving us all home, we stopped for a group hug as our one last goodbye.  The taxis passing us must have thought we were a pretty strange sight, this group of people in the road all crying and laughing and hugging at 4 o’clock in the morning.  Thinking about it is sad, because I don’t know if we’ll ever have that family all back together in the same way again.  I’m going to have to get better at Facebook so that I can keep in touch.

It was late when we finally got home, and our flight was so early that we didn’t sleep.  We showered, finished packing our bags, and hopped in a cab to the airport around sunrise.  The flight to Bogotá, Colombia went smoothly, and we had booked a hostel there since our layover was going to be around 20 hours long.  At the same time that we are all pretty eager to get home, it was nice to actually have enough time to explore the city a bit.  The hostel was across town from the airport in a district called La Candelaria.  We converted our leftover reais to Colombian pesos, which are about 1,800 to the US dollar!  Money is South America is way cooler than American money from my experience so far.  We took a taxi to the hostel, which was a beautiful little place bordering the historic district we were staying in.  After getting settled, taking a nap, and finding a place to eat some Japanese-Colombian fusion type food, we still had quite a bit of time to walk around and see the city.  We bought scarves, since up in the Andes the temperature drops to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night, and hopped on a city bus to Zona T, where we heard there were a lot of bars and movement.  It was lively as we walked around, and we were appreciative of the real beer warming us up on the insides, compared to the iced down watery light beers we’d been drinking for the past 6 months.  It would be neat to have some more time to get to know Bogotá, but we headed back early since we knew we had to get up in the morning and do the same thing all over again.

We slept like babies, and woke up early to shower and return to the airport.  Things are still going fine, and it’s weird to think that I’ll be back in the United States for the first time in six months in just a couple of hours.  Everyone that I have talked to says it is a shock to go back after you’ve been away for so long.  I can’t really imagine it, just because the States is where I grew up for the first 21 years of my life.  How could I be shocked to be in my own country?  I guess I’ll see soon enough.

To wrap up this post, I’ve been keeping an ongoing list of things I have learned, things I will miss, and things that will be a part of my next adventure.  The most important things on it are here:

  • Patience, patience, patience.
  • Flexibility is adaptability.
  • Friends become family abroad.
  • Say yes more than you say no.
  • Açaí always.

Stay tuned for the next one 😉

Com Amor,

Molly

Os Finais.

Os Finais.

Day 160

With just more than one week left, we are closing in on the end of our experience here in Brazil.  All of us hope to come back one day, but none of us are sure how it will happen or what it will look like.  All of our friends hope we’ll get to see Réveillon and Carnival at the very least someday.

Last week the experiment in Rocinha well.  We took a bus into Rocinha which carried us up, around, through, and back down some of the most unbelievable mountainside architecture you could imagine.  It also did so at a much higher speed than you would think that a bus could.  We have yet to analyze the results of this experiment, and we have one last experiment to run tomorrow at FIOCRUZ.  I had been in touch with one of the developers of the UN Stop Disasters Now game that we have been having the children play.  We are interested in specializing this game to Rio de Janeiro, but the UN (who provided funding for the game) have been hesitant to search for more money for this project.  I got an email earlier in the week, however, that the UN has been receiving a lot of interest in updating the game and positive feedback lately.  The developer I am in contact with said that if we sent some of our findings showing the utility and potential for the game, it could help push the UN to agree to look for funding for further development of the game that could be specific to our project!  We’re not sure what will come of it, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

The rest of the week passed like it normally does, which is to say never in quite the same way, but I ate and slept and studied and ran and bought lots and lots of presents for everyone back home!  I felt more like a tourist, shopping around the fair for souvenirs and such, than I had felt in a really long time.  Keia and I were talking about whether we’ll feel a shock coming back to the United States.  I didn’t think so originally, but I live here now.  All of the things that we do and see every day have become the norm, but I know they are not so back home.

Since we have final exams and projects coming up and due in this next week, I didn’t really go out at all over the weekend.  Sunday, however, Joe was finishing up his “Startup Weekend” and Keia and I went to see all of the final presentations.  I was a little bummed that I hadn’t planned far enough ahead to take part in it.  It seemed like it would have been a really cool experience, and probably a unique one in the scheme of my own life, but who knows.  Afterward, Luciana’s band was playing in public for the second time outdoors at the praça in Largo do Machado.  Since the presentations ran a little long and Lu got cut off a little short, we only had time to catch the last two songs of her set.  They were the best ones though!  Alguem robaram minha garrafa de whiskey and her rendition of Livin’ on a Prayer are my favorites.  We all grabbed a chopp after the show to celebrate, which felt good since I hadn’t seen our friends in quite some time.  We have a secret santa exchange planned for the day before we leave.  It’ll be a chance for everyone to get together and say goodbyes too.  We came home and worked on our projects until pretty late into the night, and we’re back at Fundão with a full day of work and class and difficult conversations ahead of us.

Until the next (and maybe the last one).

With love,

Molly

Festas and Foodstuffs

Festas and Foodstuffs

Day 153

This week passed by like a whirlwind.  Despite the rain, I really didn’t accomplish much so I have my work cut out for me over the next couple of weeks.  I think I function better this way anyway, but I guess we’ll find out!

Keia and I decided not to participate in Startup Weekend, but we bought tickets to watch the final presentations on Sunday night.  It should be a really interesting experience, and I’m excited to go.  I think Luciana’s band is playing in public for the second time that night too, so it looks like we’ll have to get all of the studying for our MLG exam on Monday done over this week and the weekend… along with our POII project due next Tuesday.

This past weekend, there was a choppada at UFRJ on Friday.  A choppada is essentially a big, sponsored, outdoor party on college grounds (in this case, at Fundão) with live performances and free beer from late afternoon on through until midnight.  We considered this a part of our “study of Brazilian college culture” and although it took two hours to arrive (by bus during rush hour… you would have thought we’d learned by now), it was worth it to go.

On Saturday, Keia and I went to get haircuts.  I can’t actually remember the last time I had gotten one, but since I know I’d never had one in Brazil, it had to be at least 5 months.  I was at the point where I could tie my own hair in a knot and it would stay, if that gives you any idea of how long it must have been haha.  Saturday night it was the birthday of one of our friends from ENCE.  Jessica had been one of the first students to really reach out to us, and she invited us to a place called Mixtura Carioca in Lapa that had live samba music all night long with DJ breaks in between.  Our old roommate Silvana came with the three of us, and I feel like I really got the hang of samba!  We’re trying to start to collect the names of songs and artists that we like here so that we can bring them back to the States.

Sunday came and finally so did our churrasco at Leo’s house in Campo Grande!  Keia and I are becoming quite the pair of chefs lately.  We haven’t been cooking so much at home, but I feel like we’ve successfully put together a few amazing meals for a lot of our friends.  Of course this time having Nayra to tell us what to do and Leo’s Mom to make us delicious farofa… plus the guys down the street who sell ready-made garlic bread, it wasn’t that hard to turn out a delicious product.  Campo Grande is neat because although it’s about 40 minutes by car outside of Central Rio, it’s yet still part of the city proper, but feels much more like a neighborhood.  There are many more family homes there and the suburban feel that comes with getting away from the high rises of the big city.  After eating to the point of explosion and still having enough leftovers for an army, we headed back to Copacabana and I passed out fairly early last night.

Tomorrow we’ll be running our second experiment at a library in Rocinha (the largest favela in Brazil, and one of the largest in the world).  Don’t worry though, Rocinha has been pacified for some time now.  We’ve changed our experimental design a little to include an interview with the children after they have played the Stop Disasters Now game that is supposed to teach them about flooding.  It should be really interesting, and we have another experiment marked for the following Tuesday as well.  I feel like this gives us a more solid basis for our Capstone than we have had yet.  I have also started to conduct interviews and make a questionnaire for Brazilian and American engineering students and professors as a part of what I will write about for the individual part of my thesis.

Time to get crackin’!

Molly

Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never

Day 147

Thanksgiving dinner didn’t end up happening until Sunday night, but better late than never, right?  Keia and I got up and worked out on Sunday morning, planned a menu and then went grocery shopping to hunt down all of the things we would need.  Three supermarkets later we had our hands on some brown sugar, but unfortunately cranberry sauce never showed its face.

The Menu:

  • Roasted Chicken (it’s tough to get your hands on a turkey here)
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Southern Cornbread Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes and (sort of) Gravy
  • Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

Our friends all gathered at Joe’s apartment, we put some “futebol americana” on the TV and made everyone go around the circle to say what they were thankful for before we ate.  The food all turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself, and it might have been the first Thanksgiving I’ve ever had that there were NO leftovers. (That is to say we ate a LOT.)

The days after our trip and leading up to Thanksgiving were filled with catching up on schoolwork, getting back into a workout routine, and hitting the beach to watch Joe do some surfing and Ribamar in a volleyball tournament.  Joe ended up participating in a surf competition down in Barra, but Keia and I didn’t make it out there on Saturday and on Sunday the rain came.  It hasn’t stopped yet either.  We’re looking at the sky to open up on Thursday at the earliest, and then there are some more specks but a fairly clear next week.

Fortunately, I kind of like to run in the rain, which is what I think I am about to go do next before I sit down to think about the projects we have coming up.  I need a topic for my simulation project and to come up with some interview questions for my personal research.  We’ve started to learn Arena, which is really neat simulation software that is great for statistical visual modeling.  We were supposed to be running another experiment for our Capstone project today, but the organizers at the library we were going to work with in Rocinha haven’t gotten back to us about scheduling a specific time.

Coming up in two weekends is an event called Startup Weekend here in Rio de Janeiro.  This coming weekend it’s in São Paulo, and they have these weekends all over the world.  The idea is that all of the participants and organizers gather together on a Friday evening either with ideas for a startup company or the will to help start one up.  No products or formal research are allowed to be in the works yet.  Those who have ideas present them, and teams are made based on where your interests lie.  Each team is given 54 hours and some resources to essentially kick start this company, and everyone comes together on Sunday night to present demos and be judged.  I’m sure one company wins a prize, and maybe some others win smaller prizes, but I have to do some more of my own research before I decide whether I want to participate or not.  Joe has already signed up, but the weekend it’s happening in Rio will be the 3 days leading up to an exam in our MLG class, and both our simulation and MLG project deadlines.

As of tomorrow, we only have 3 weeks left here, so send your Brazilian souvenir requests this way!   On our list of things we still need to do before leaving Rio are seeing a “jogo de futebol” (soccer game- the season is ending though, so hopefully we can find tickets for this Sunday) and climbing Pedra da Gávea (preferably for sunrise, but I’d be happy just to get up there).  I’m off to run, drop off my laundry, and do some grocery shopping before I get down to work.  It’s a lot easier to get things done in this city when the weather is bad, and I can’t just say “Forget it!  To the beach!”

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving themselves, and I can’t wait to see you all soon!

Love, Molly

On the Road.

On the Road.

Day 142

What a week it has been.  We got back from our road trip through Minas Gerais around 2am this morning.  It was definitely something different, and definitely a lot of fun.  Last Wednesday before we were about to leave I realized that our car rental hadn’t been finalized.  We hadn’t thought about the fact that car rental shops would also be on holiday that Thursday and following Tuesday for the feriados, so no, we could not rent nor return cars on those days as planned.  Keia and I ended up just finding a place by walking around and grabbing the last car they had for the cheapest price.  So there might not have been any power steering, but it had air conditioning, and that was better than what our pousada can offer. There were five of us going on the trip including Keia, Joe, and myself plus Leo (resident carioca) and Nuno (another exchange student friend).  It was a tight fit in the little four door sedan, but we managed to cram all of our luggage and some groceries inside and set off for São Thomé the next morning.

São Thomé das Letras is a small, mountaintop town in the south of Minas Gerais (the inland state bordering Rio).  It takes about five and a half hours to get there… if you don’t stop for an hour long lunch and take the small dirt road the last hundred kilometers.  7 or 8 hours after we set off, lots of biscoitos, a very dirty car, and a karaoke version of The Proclaimers famous song “(I’m gonna be) 500 miles” later, we arrived safely in São Thomé.  Really it was a miracle, because our little “shortcut” took us down some roads that car should just never have been able to make it past.  Once we finally arrived, we found the pousada we had booked for 3 nights, settled in, and went to explore.  The town is known for stone mining, extra terrestrial sightings, and cachaça.  We didn’t see any aliens, but the streets and nearly all of the homes there are made out of the local stone that is mined in the area.  We found a bar on the main praça that we deemed our own.  It had the best cachaça any of us has ever tasted in Brazil.  We all bought bottles of the Pinga de Figuinho (Fig Cachaça) to bring back home to the States, and we might even think about sharing some.  The next morning – our first real day in São Thomé – we walked to the praça again to find out what there was to do.  Because of the terrain in the area, the best way to see anything is by jeep or ATV.  We quickly decided to rent a couple of quads for the afternoon and a guide to show us around.  He took us to see four different waterfalls, which was perfect since we could pick out which one we liked the best and plan to go back the next day.  São Thomé is known for having a lot of caves (“grutas” in Portuguese) too.  Day 3 of our trip, we drove out to one – Gruta do Carimbado, to the end of which no one has ever gone and which legend says runs all the way to Machu Picchu – only to find that it was closed down and we couldn’t go inside.  Instead, we stopped by a grocery store on our way through town to fill up a bucket with some beer and a bag of ice, and drove out to one of the waterfalls we had been to the day before.  The water was chilly, but the sun was hot, and we spent most of the rest of the day lounging near the cachoeira and enjoying doing nothing.  At night and in the early mornings it got really cold in São Thomé.  On the last day there, I decided I wanted to see the sunrise.  Even the view from the roof of our pousada was gorgeous, so I knew the sunrise from the pirâmide or the cruzeiro (a couple of touristy monuments that sit atop the highest points in the city) would be well worth it.  Keia agreed to come with me, so we bundled up just before 6am and made it just in time to see the first rays of light peeking over the edge of the valley.  We climbed to the top of the pirâmide and watched the world wake up for a little while, then we found a padaria with some warm, fresh bread for breakfast.  The boys pretty much refused to wake up before 11am, so we went back to sleep for a couple of hours before waking the troops and leaving for Belo Horizonte.

Belo Horizonte is the capital of Minas Gerais and the 3rd largest city in Brazil.  There aren’t a whole lot of touristy things to do there, but our friend Amanda is originally from there and had gone home for 3 weeks to visit her mom.  After the 4+ hour drive there, we were so grateful to have a place to stay and to eat some real home cookin’.  I can honestly say that Amanda’s mom’s stroganoff is the best one that I have ever had.  We took it easy that night, and the next day drove about an hour and a half outside of Belo Horizonte to a historic, old mining town called Ouro Preto (“Black Gold”).  Back in the day, it was either the biggest or one of the biggest cities in Brazil because of its natural gold resources.  After all of the gold was gone, all of the people left, as they tend to do, and now the town thrives mainly on tourism and some other less-precious stones.  It turns out that Mondays aren’t the best days to visit the city, because most of the churches and museums are closed.  We were okay with that since the boys had a strict “no church tours” rule.  Instead we found a guide who took us to a R$13 all-you-can-eat restaurant, a slavery museum down one of the prettiest roads in the city, and an actual mine that we could enter across the city toward the top of one of the mountains.  The food in Minas is more stewed meats (often served in hot cauldrons atop a bed of flames) and the beans are lighter.  I liked it a lot.  The mine was neat, although a little anti-climactic.  It didn’t go very far into the mountain, and was safe to walk through pretty much standing upright.   Every picture I took in that town could be a postcard though.  We bought some gifts at the end of the day and went up to the “mirante” (overlook?) to get a view of the whole city before driving back to Amanda’s for the night.  Back in Belo Horizonte, we went to a samba rock bar with a live band playing in Centro.  Samba rock is so much fun!  Some of the songs were like samba versions of popular songs in the States right now, and others were just edgier versions of normal samba songs.  Either way, it was a lot of fun to listen and dance to.

On Tuesday we got a late starting heading back to Rio.  The drive is 6 or 7 hours long, but with rain, hills, having to turn around because no one had cash for the road tolls, stopping for dinner, needing to get gas and find a car wash, we didn’t make it home until around 2am (~12 hours later).  Today we had to snap back to real life and hit the ground running, now that we only have one month left before we go back to the States.  Keia and I are going to try hard to quit speaking so much English, and we have a lot of schoolwork to get through before the semester is up.

I keep forgetting that tomorrow (now today) is Thanksgiving!  We three Americans might try to pull together a dinner for our friends.  I hope everyone has a good one, we’re all missing you here.

Love,

Molly

Finally Making Lemons into Lemonade

Finally Making Lemons into Lemonade

Day 134

Shout out to Keia on her birthday! (technically yesterday, because now it’s the 14th..)

I’m pretty sure that last week was more or less relaxed, as I predicted it would be.  There was a jazz festival in Leblon on Saturday and our friend premiered DJing for the first time at a tiny venue in Botafogo while Sunday was another perfect day on the beach with friends.  I can’t seem to remember out-rightly much of anything before that though, because the last two-three days have been absolutely insane.  I once again remember what it is like to be so busy that you forget you had to pee, and I also remember how much better I function at that level of activity, weirdly enough.  I don’t know if it’s because I am more productive or social or too tired to care, but I always seem to be in a better mindset when I’ve slept 5 hours a night a few nights in a row after 10 or 12 hour days away from the house.  If that’s any indication as to what kind of job I’m going to have (or should have) I don’t know, but I’m still really torn about the decision I have to make for Deloitte by the end of this month.  My offer deadline was moved to November 26, which gives me just over 10 days to make up my mind.  I feel like there are still a lot of options I haven’t considered.  I feel like I have to choose between money and security versus certain skills and newness that I want.  Speaking of those skills and newness though, we were supposed to register for classes for next semester this past week.  I am not able to just yet since I have to work out a hold on my account, but I only have two more required classes to take for my degree so I got permission to take accelerated entry level French!  I can’t remember if I already mentioned that I started listening to Pimsleur audio tapes in French, but I am really excited to learn more languages now that I’ve seen how entirely possible it is to communicate without the need to be fluent.  The fact that learning a new language opens up the opportunity to communicate with a whole new culture of people is absolutely amazing to me.

As for this week, we got up early Monday morning to head to Fundão since we had a meeting with Professor Orlando and now have to attend his class on Mondays and Wednesdays.   We talked over our Capstone project, and today we had our first chance to make contact with kids here in Brazil and test some of our ideas!  Just for a quick re-cap:  our project deals with emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction specifically related to urban flooding and landslides in high risk (generally favela) communities in Rio de Janeiro.  We want to develop a game (computer or mobile) that teaches principles of emergency preparedness to children ages 12-16.  A game called Stop Disasters Now (www.stopdisasters.org) was already funded by the UN for this very purpose, and the company that actually created the game has gotten lots of positive feedback about it over the years.  Our idea was to take this existing game in to schools and design an experiment to test whether this game actually accomplishes what it was set out to do by evaluating how much the kids learn while they are playing and what they like and don’t like about the game.  With an audience, some data to back the positive feedback, and a plan to expand the game to include Portuguese and a landslide scenario (currently only has flooding, wildfire, etc., but no landslide), we think there might be an opportunity to work with the UN and PlayerThree on this project in the future.  Fortunately for us, Bernardo’s mom is the director of the oldest school in Brazil (the emperor’s school).  She managed to pull a class for us into the computer lab there today so that we could test our plan, and it went really well.  We had to translate all of the instructions to Portuguese and print up a sort of pre-test and post-test survey for them to take.  (Printing and making copies is not only expensive here, it is difficult.  You know that when you almost cry because the guy who made your copies after you spent an hour getting them to print gets mad at you because he misunderstood you and you don’t know the word for stapler.)  We let them play the game, screen captured some of their play to analyze their decision making later, and interviewed a few of them afterward.  They all seemed to really like it and were very interested and cooperative.  We’re thinking we should probably go with less kids for the next run since our 33 was a bit much today, but it was an awesome first run and I finally feel like we are going somewhere with this project!

Tomorrow we have class with Professor Orlando and will share our results of the experiment with him.  We also have one more night class for MLG before the feriadão!  We have officially decided to go on a road trip and booked a car for Thursday through Tuesday. We waited a bit too long to book flights anywhere without paying an exorbitant amount of money, so I researched a little bit and created a sort  of loop we can take around Minas Gerais so that at least we will see something different and get to explore another state of Brazil.  The first stop is São Thomé das letras.  It is a city of stone and mountaintops and waterfalls and mystics that sounds really interesting and is highly recommended by the people I know who have been there.  We don’t know where we’ll go right afterward, but our friend Amanda lives in Belo Horizonte (the capital of Minas Gerais) and will be home that weekend so on Sunday we will travel there for stay with her.  From Belo Horizonte it is easy enough to go to the old mining town of Ouro Preto and back in a day.  On our way home Tuesday I think we’ll stop by the city of Tiradentes and explore a bit before making our way back to Rio.  We still have 3 nights of hostels to book and packing to do, but it will have to wait for tomorrow.  We were assigned a new project on simulation for Pesquisa Operacional II that we’ll need to look into when we get back and real life commences again.  Right now we just need to get through tomorrow.

Another random yet exciting occurrence is that one of Joe’s roommates will be moving out of his apartment the first of December.  I think Keia and I will probably move in, avoid having to pay a full month of rent at the pousada only to stay two weeks, get to see what it’s like being in an actual apartment for a couple of weeks, and have a laundry machine and air conditioning in-house!

I feel like I’m definitely missing some things from this post, but it      s around 4am here and we have another full day tomorrow.  I’m sorry that it’s been so long since my last one.  I’ll catch back up after the trip and make sure to include anything I forgot!

Love, Molly

A Semana Passada

A Semana Passada

Day 125

I think Sundays will always be my favorite days here.  Keia and I just got home from a relaxed dinner with live music and a lot of our friends.  Before that I woke up late and spent the better part of the day sitting in the sand on the beach in Ipanema as my friends trickled in, arriving, and talking, and kicking around a soccer ball until we all went for a chopp at one of the quiosques to do more of the same.  Our schedule’s seem to change a lot week to week, but Sundays are always this much needed reprieve that set the world straight before we begin all over again.

Classes at UFRJ, as of a couple of weeks ago, have officially started for this semester.  We’re still going to be taking or classes at ENCE, but last week we started going to Professor Orlando’s undergraduate class on Mondays and Wednesdays as well.  We’re still on track to create a game that will help teach youth who live in high risk areas about landslide emergency preparedness, but our Capstone project has a bit more direction lately.  We’ll also be assigned our final project for one of our ENCE classes this coming Tuesday, and last week we got back grades from our first exam in our other ENCE class.  The class average was a 3.5/10, and while we were right there with the rest of the Brazilians, Joe, and Keia and I are a little worried about what that means for us since we need 7’s at the very least to pass.

Summer is coming, and there have been a few difficult days without air conditioning in the past couple of weeks.  It is just going to get hotter, so Keia and I have been thinking about where we might be able to move.  I don’t think we really have enough time left for it to be worth it, but of course I’m saying that now in the coolness that comes with the dead of night.

I have been exercising a lot (running along the beach mostly – where I dropped my cell phone and cracked the screen, ugh) during the week and eating really well.  Starting Thursday with the birthday part of one of the Brazilians who will be coming back with us to the States, and then Friday with the gringo group from last week and the jazz band playing at the Maze up in Tavares Bastos, and Saturday with the dinner at Outback with the girls + Kevin, it is hard to keep to the same healthy lifestyle.

The week ahead should be a fairly calm one.  We’re still deciding how we want to use our 6 day vacation in the middle of this month.  Budget is going to be a big deciding factor for me, at least.  In the mean time I would like to start doing some interesting research to make the most of the time we have left here.  Right now though, it’s late and I’m off to bed. The time changed here a couple of weeks back, so we moved one more hour ahead of EST.  Today was “Fall back” at home in the States, so now we’re at a total difference of 3 hours apart.  I miss everyone!

Sweet Dreams, Molly

Todo mundo juntos, todos os domingos!
It just doesn’t end

It just doesn’t end

Day 118

The beginning of last week was a little tough.  I felt pretty alone with all of my visitors gone and not really much to be done for my classes.  On top of that Keia took a trip to the Iguaçu Falls with her parents, so the house was pretty quiet.  To fill up my time I went running, grocery shopping, cooked, washed laundry, and went to the beach to sketch or read nearly every day.  It’s not a bad life to live, but it all comes back to having people to share it with!  Thursday and Friday nights were better since I got together with my friends.  Couch surfing meetings have moved to a quiosque in Leme, which are quieter and slightly further away.  I hope they move back to the quiosque in Copa soon.  Friday we all trekked out to Barra da Tijuca to our friend Paula’s apartment who is always coming to up to zona sul to meet us.

Saturday I found myself at the beach yet again, but this time it was to play some volleyball and meet a group of foreigners all currently living in Rio for various lengths of time and reasons.  A Frenchman who also speaks Portuguese, Spanish and English, another American who is half French (speaks it fluently) and has lived all over the world, a Mexican who speaks Portuguese and English, and me.  We passed the day in all different languages, and the water and sun were absolutely delicious.  I went out for drinks later that night with the group, and I’m really glad to have met them.

Earlier in the week, Joe and Keia and I had been invited to spend the day island hopping on a boat leaving from Itacuruça (about an hour south of Rio) with a group of students from ENCE.  Early morning Sunday found Joe and me on our way to catch the bus to the port.  It was another gorgeous day, and when we arrived there was a beautiful breakfast laid out with all of the trappings.  We didn’t know many of the students there, but everyone was very nice and we eventually made friends.  The food and drinks from churrasco to fresh fruit and cerveja kept coming all day long.  There was music, and we played and swam in the water, took silly pictures, and talked all day long.  Unfortunately Joe and I both forgot our cameras, but I took a few on my cell phone that I uploaded below.  Hopefully some of the people we met will post the rest on Facebook soon.  We were exhausted when we got home, so I took a shower and fell asleep pretty quickly.  I’m finishing up a project now before I head to class tonight.  This week we have a bit more to do, our friend’s birthday party, and a holiday weekend coming up that we’re thinking of using to travel somewhere.  The options are Florianópolis, the Nordeste, or the Amazon… but we’ll have to see about costs before we make any decisions.  I’ll let you know!

Love, Molly

P.S.  I heard back from Deloitte, and it looks like I have my first official job offer!  The position is a Business Technology Analyst, and I would be living in Washington D.C.  I have just less than a month to decide, and I’m still waiting to talk to a few other companies, but at least we know I’m employable!

 

From the Putrid to the Devine

From the Putrid to the Devine

Day 112 (aka week 16!)

I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I updated, it’s just that Mom and I have been so busy there has hardly been time!  I dropped her off at the airport earlier tonight, so tomorrow resumes classes, meetings, laundry, grocery shopping, and all things normal life.  This week was a jam-packed one, so I’m going to let pictures do most of the talking.

Here’s the run-down:

  • Monday- Mom flew in early, and I went to pick her up at the airport, studying all the while for the exam I had that night.  We came straight back to the pousada and took a quick walk on the beach before I had a Skype interview with Deloitte that afternoon.  The interview went well (so second rounds were scheduled for Wednesday), and we grabbed dinner before I headed off to my test.
  • Tuesday- I was scheduled to have a phone call with Pearson in the morning, so mom and I had a leisurely breakfast at the house and she went grocery shopping with Keia while I took care of business.  Technical difficulties sort of broke up the call, but thankfully Pearson agreed to give me an interview via Skype the next day.  With Wednesday filling up, we figured we’d better get out and explore the city a little bit, so we headed to Jardim Botânico for the rest of the day.
  • Wednesday- My interview with Deloitte went just alright, I felt like Pearson went really well, and I’m still waiting to hear back from both about next steps.  My application for Epic is on hold until I get back to the States, so unless I start passing around my resume again, it looks like the job search is at a bit of a standstill for now.  In other news- Charles got a great offer from Microsoft in Seattle!  I’m really happy for him and I think he’ll probably accept it.  In between interviews that day, Mom and I relaxed on the beach in Copacabana and continued to just settle in and take it easy.  That night we had more churrascaria at Carretão!  It was fabulous, as per usual, and we were stuffed.
  • Thursday- Mom and I started off early to hike the trail in the Tijuca National Forest through the neighborhood of Horto and up to the waterfalls.  We packed a small picnic, and stopped for our afternoon expresso afterward in Parque Lage.  Everything in that area is just absolutely beautiful.
  • Friday- Keia’s and my friend Nayra’s parents came into town.  Mom and I also moved from the pousada to a really nice hotel very nearby.  We spent the day in Santa Teresa, and then went to meet all of my friends at Nayra’s apartment where her parents cooked us an excellent shrimp dish traditional of Fortaleza and the Nordeste, where they are from.
  • Saturday- I had never been to the island of Paquetá in the Guanabara Bay that borders a part of Rio’s coastline.  Mom and I decided to go and check it out.  It is about an hour and 15 minute ferry ride from Praça XV, and there are no cars on the island so the main forms of transportation are bicycles and horse drawn carriages.  We walked along the water until we found a nice place for lunch.  When our fried fish came out looking like someone had literally just caught one fresh and dipped the whole thing in boiling oil head to tail we weren’t sure what to expect, but it was delicious!  A caipirinha each and a full belly later we mosied over to an old fort on the tip of the island before taking the ferry back to Rio proper at sunset.  That night the Salgueiro “Escola de Samba” (Samba School) was having an open rehearsal.  Keia and I went with our parents and boy was that the fastest I think any of us has seen someone shake their bottom.  While we were there, Keia was picked from the crowd to compete against some other on-lookers for an honorary samba queen title, and I’ll have to figure out how to post the video later on because she won!!
  • Sunday- Mom and I returned once more to Praça XV, this time taking the ferry just 20 minutes across the bay to Niteroi.  We had a light lunch in the pretty marvelous bistro underneath the MAC (contemporary art museum) before taking a look around inside and then napping on the shore just down the block.  We picked up some “agua de coco” (coconut water) afterward, which was the sweetest and most refreshing of any of the coconuts I’ve tried!
  • Monday was Mom’s last day, and we had originally planned to beach it.  Since it rained a bit the night before and the morning was grey, we decided to do some shopping in Ipanema and Leblon.  Mommy bought me the cutest outfit!  We really had some good finds before the weather cleared and we got to spend an hour more or less resting on the shore before heading home and getting ready to go to the airport.

My short little description doesn’t really do the whole trip justice.  I’ll be sure to add some photos to Mom’s facebook album soon.  For now I’ve got to get to sleep and see if I remember what normal life here feels like.

Love,

Molly

All of the Activities, Part II

All of the Activities, Part II

Day 103

It’s been just a couple of hours since I dropped Charles off at the airport to head back to the States.  He should be home safe and sound around midday tomorrow.   The rest of our trip was absolutely wonderful, so I guess I’ll start right where I left off.

Wednesday we left early to head to the Feira de São Cristóvão, the gigantic center near Centro dedicated to the Nordeste (“Northeast”) culture of Brazil.  It was a heck of a city bus ride there, but what is Rio without traffic and crazy drivers?  I had been there once before on a weekend night, which would have been much more animated, but nonetheless Charles found some great goodies to bring home!  Afterward, we headed to the mercado at Uruguiana.  It never fails to amaze me, the number of vendors and people filling the streets there every single day.  It’s just incredible. When we felt sufficiently overwhelmed we took the metro home and I headed to class for my exam review.  There is a hostel in Copacabana that has a Latin American themed party on Wednesday nights, so we went to check it out, learned how to salsa dance and called it a night.

Thursday took us to Santa Teresa.  It really was a shame that we couldn’t stop and eat in absolutely every restaurant that we saw because they all looked amazing, and as many times as I have been to Santa Teresa, I’ve really only tried a café or two.  After walking all around and buying an avocado-flavored popsicle (“sacolé” in Portuguese) from the same lady I always buy from, we settled on an Amazonian themed restaurant that had soup on the menu made from Piranha!  We split the soup (piranhas are not so intimidating without teeth and it tasted like a pretty traditional version of a non-cream based fish soup), Charles ordered another Amazonian fish dish, and I asked for the vegetarian version of a traditional Brazilian stew called Moqueqa. Everything was delicious, but my soup – which had a coconut milk base and grilled bananas in it – might have been the most delicious thing I have eaten so far in Brazil.  I could not get over how good it tasted, and I could not decide whether I was sad that I couldn’t finish it all right then and there because I just wanted to keep eating it or happy that I got to take some home and save it for later.  As we sat on the deck of the restaurant, a storm rolled in and the weather turned grey and chilly.  Stuffed and happy we went to go meet my friends at a quiosque on the beach for a drink later on that night.

Friday the rain came.  It was a shame, but we didn’t want the weather to ruin our day, so we took the bus to a neighborhood named Cosme Velho and bought a van tour up to the Christ statue that stopped at a helicopter landing pad on a lower mountain before climbing the rest of the way through the forest to the base of Cristo.  It was a good thing we took the van instead of the trolley car because we had a decent view of the city from the helicopter pad, but Corcovado itself was completely covered in clouds.  By the time we reached the monument itself, Cristo was a mere silhouette and the view on all sides was just dense white sky.  On a short trail nearby we did see a monkey – and not just the little micos we usually spot; this one was big!  On the van ride down the mountain, a couple of American guys struck up conversation and asked us about our plan of action for the rest of the day.  We had decided to spend the afternoon in Jardim Botânico, and the guys ended up tagging along to the garden, Escadaria Selaron, and afterward back to Lapa for dinner (and the closest thing to decent Italian food I’ve eaten here yet).  Since Friday was Charles’ last night in Rio and Lapa is a sight to be seen on any given weekend night, we walked the streets and did some people-watching for a while before going to bed.

Breakfast this morning included papaya, kiwi, and guava fruits – two of the three of which I think Charles had never tried before.  Since he had to be at the airport by 4, we stayed relatively close by today and went to explore the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil.  The building itself is large and stands 6 floors tall with rotating exhibitions of all things art, music, and culture of Brazil.  We saw a small contemporary art exhibit and a really interesting collection of money from what seemed like every country during every time period throughout history before going to eat lunch in the plaza at Cinelândia (where the Theatro Municipal and Biblioteca Nacional are located).

The trip to the airport was seamless, and now I’m back at the pousada planning out the crazy week ahead.  I’ll be spending every free moment studying for exams and interviews until Mom arrives on Monday, so wish me luck!

Love,

Molly