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 😉