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Month: July 2012

Wahoos and Waterfalls

Wahoos and Waterfalls

Day 26

The first time we went to Pedra do Sal, Kevin P introduced us to a U.Va. grad who is now on a Fulbright program in Rio .  Her brother was coming to visit soon, and since he also just graduated from U.Va., we figured a Wahoos abroad reunion would be a really great idea.  I didn’t realize until I got the email organizing our get together that her brother is Matt Savarese, a friend of mine from U.Va.!  This past Friday night, Kevin proposed (and we agreed) that the group of Hoos should check out the Festa Junina going on at the Nordestino cultural center and festival in Centro called São Cristóvão.  I learned that all Festa Junina parties, which are meant to represent the Nordestino culture, have this hillybilly theme where everyone dresses up in plaid and draws fake freckles on rosied cheeks to mimic the hick-like culture in the nordeste.  There are also a series of games and little stories that are always played and acted out.  For example, at every festa junina there must be a wedding scene, usually very dramatic, complete with party-goers acting out the parts of priest and angry father in addition to the bride and groom.  The center was essentially a gigantic number of booths, restaurants, and stages underneath a HUGE tent with music, food, and people absolutely everywhere.  We ate tapioca (made into a tortilla with filling- which could be anything from carne seca to coconut) and drank caipirinhas, as well as learned to dance forró.  It was a lot of fun and a late night.

Then, on Saturday morning, our group of friends woke up early to meet at Nayra’s before catching the bus to the Tijuca National Forest and hiking a trail up to a waterfall.  It was a perfect day, and before leaving we bought some groceries for a picnic.  The hike was partially on the road through a neighborhood with some of the coolest homes I’ve seen yet.  I think it is where I would want to live if I stayed in Rio for some years.  The other half of the hike was nearly straight upward, with some places we had to hold on to a chain so as not to fall off the trail or had to climb up some tree roots to get to the top of a gigantic stone.  Naturally, I had a blast since this was a close to real climbing as I’ve been in Rio so far.  There were a few people already swimming and milling about when we arrived, and more came as time passed.  The spot was absolutely beautiful.  There was a small lagoon with a 20-25 foot waterfall rushing in the background.  The water was cold, but you could actually get in and stand right inside the little cutout where the waterfall had carved a path in the rock, letting the pressure just pour down around you.  After exploring and taking a gazillion more photos, we made sandwiches and ate lunch.  Tiago brought his guitar, so he played some popular, Brazilian, acoustic tunes.  I feel like when people think of Brazilian music, it’s all Samba.  Samba is great, but this stuff was just soulful, calm, listening music like I haven’t heard here before.  I really enjoyed it, and I’m going to have to get the names of the artists soon.  Before descending, we hiked farther up the trail to see if we could reach the top of the waterfall. I felt pretty ridiculous in my sarong and boat shoes traipsing around the jungle, but I think I better understand Tarzan now, plus we got to see some wild monkeys!

When we got back into Flamengo, a smaller group of us stopped at a restaurant for a proper Feijoada.  Feijoada is the definition of a traditional Brazilian meal.  Its origins lie with the old slave population because it a stew of beans and meat made with the scraps of animals.  Not all feijoadas still contain pig ear and the like, but the authentic ones do and the flavor is undeniable.  It takes for feijoada to stew, and it is eaten with rice, farofa (a powdery conglomeration of flour, salt, and other spices), and couve (a green stringy vegetable reminiscent of kale).  Orange slices are usually eaten with the meal to cut the flavor.  The portions were gigantic, so Keia and I have some work to do on it yet.

The plan for Saturday night was a boat party… yes, think Lonely Island.  However the water in the marina was too rough, so it was cancelled.  Instead, all of our friends gathered at Nayra’s house again and we went out to Lapa.  Lapa is the heart of nightlife in Rio.  There are more places open there between the hours of 10pm to 6am than there are during the day.  So many people stand around in the streets while other sell drinks from booths on the side of the road that there almost isn’t a need to actually go into a club.  We grabbed caipirinhas (and found the tile I had helped Selaron put on the wall!) before we picked a hip hop place near the arches (giant white aqueduct looking structure that characterizes Lapa), and piled in with the rest of the crowd to dance the night away.  It was a ton of fun, and I have a feeling we’ll be frequenting Lapa more than just a few times this trip.

As for the “trip,” news on the strike is that even though it is still going on, we have been granted permission to enroll in the engineering program at PUC (a private, catholic university here).  The exchange should work roughly the same way because UFRJ and PUC have a long-standing agreement involving student exchange, and there should be no extra cost.  All of this now rides on the condition that the courses we have found at PUC be approved for credit by U.Va.  I’m hopeful again, and this week should bring with it a lot more information on this front.

Today we finally got to go to Barra da Tijuca.  Joe arrived early to surf, but was already leaving because of the wind by the time Danilo (a guy from our pousada who knows the area well), Keia and I were on our way.  Barra immediately feels more spread out and a little less crowded with people and things, think California.    We stopped first at the gigantic shopping mall there.  It was familiar.  I didn’t really enjoy this part of the trip much because it takes around 45min by bus to get to Barra and here we were wasting time in a mall that we have 3743245 times over in the U.S. when I could have been on the beach.  We finally made our way over to the shore about an hour before sunset, but this time of year that hour is just a touch too cold to really enjoy in a bikini.  We’ll have to devote the day to being on the beach there sometime, because it’s more than double the size of Ipanema, and I really did enjoy the quieter atmosphere.

Tomorrow we are supposed to see the new Batman movie!  I know this post was a monster since it’s been quite a busy few days, so if you actually read down this far, karma for you!

Love always, Molly

Aces, Aces, Aces

Aces, Aces, Aces

Day 23

Volleyball with actual Brazilians! Yesterday was a little chilly on the beach in Copacabana, so Kevin and I went to bump our volleyball around on the courts nearby.  Two little crianças (children) started blabbering at us in broken Portuguese until we realized they wanted to play too!  Soon enough Kevin and I were up against an ambitious group of kids all under the age of 4 or 5.  While the people of Brazil do seem to be naturally talented at vôlei, we didn’t think it was fair to match up against them before too long.  The girls on the court next to us had an uneven number, and eventually our whole group came to join for some 4 v 4.  Afterwards we had a few doubles tournaments, and while I’m a little out of shape for beach volleyball, we gringoes even managed to win a couple games!  It’s really nice that the courts on the beach have lighting, so Kevin and I stayed and played even after it got dark.  I’m a little bit sore but today, again, we went out to Copacabana after class and found some teenagers that wanted a match up.  It seems like showing up and looking eager is a much more successful plan for getting a game together than trying to plan a time and date to meet up for some play.

Last night, Keia and I met up with some of our Brazilian friends and Nayra’s apartment.  I finally learned how to make a proper caipirinha!  They taste pretty much like mojitos except that there are two less ingredients and you can buy everything you need for a pretty big batch of caipirinha for about $9 USD.  Definitely a drink that’s making it’s way back to U.Va.  Nayra’s friends like to make a casual night a little bit more exciting by pulling out the poker set and playing a few rounds of Texas Hold ‘Em with a R$2 buy in.  I understand the betting and hands a little better now, and I think I could hold my own with some practice.  I was mostly proud that I at least wasn’t the first person out of money.  The river just favored Kevin when I happened to have pocket jacks, so we both went all in and he got lucky.  At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Two days ago, the government made a proposal to the Sindicatos (similar to unions, I imagine) concerning the strike.  I believe that 2 of the 3 accepted- that third one, as luck would have it, being the one representing UFRJ.  In a meeting this afternoon, the 3rd Sindicato rejected the proposal, and there is talk of more rounds of negotiations starting Monday.  It’s been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions, and I am becoming less hopeful again…

Escadaria Selaron… and the strike

Escadaria Selaron… and the strike

Day 21

Today was a really amazing day.  I’m not sure if it’s the weight I feel like has been lifted off my shoulders since we’ve finally registered with the police, or the weather that’s brightened up to a perfect 65/80 every day for nearly a week now.  In either case, I feel like we have really been trying to make the most of our days here (especially now that we know they may be numbered…).

I forgot to mention that yesterday Keia and I spent the day speaking only Portuguese! … until we called our parents around 8pm anyway.  I’m really proud of us for sticking with it, except on the occasions when neither of us knew the word we were looking for in Portuguese.  It was tough because chances were that things I did not know how to say were lost on her as well.  It is really going to take more practice speaking with local Brazilians, but in the mean time practice speaking to each other makes us more confident in that too.

After class this morning Joe, Keia, Kevin and I met up in Catete to walk to Escadaria Selaron.  They are the lengthy set of steps leading up toward Santa Teresa that you can reach by going down a couple of side streets in Lapa.  They are covered from bottom to top in tiles, lots of red tiles, lots of square tiles, and lots of tiles from all over lots of different places around the world.  We took another zillion pictures here (if only I’d waited one day to change my prof pic! haha).  The mosaic steps (featured in a number of music videos from U2 to Snoop Dogg to Michael Jackson) stretch maybe 6 flights of 8-10 steps each or more up into the community with homes bordering either side.

As we were coming down the stairs to head home, some men were adding new tiles to the wall about 2/3 of the way up the steps.  I stopped to take some pictures of them working, and eventually one of them asked me if I wanted to help.  He had a large, goofy mustache, and he put a tile in my hands that a couple who had visited the steps had sent him in the mail.  He then demonstrated how I should place the tile while I squiggled out onto the ladder they were using as support.  After slopping a huge pile of concrete on the back of the tile, he helped me push it into the space where it would reside forever on the wall and slop off the excess concrete the squished out around the edges.  We took a picture with our hands covered in the mud-like putty; it was his idea to stick out our tongues too.  I asked the men how long they had worked there, adding tiles to the wall.  One of them replied it had been 22 years, and that they get new tiles every day.  He pointed to a small, open doorway nearby, which led to a gallery, and the pieces of the puzzle all came together as I realized the man with the goofy mustache was Selaron himself.  We browsed the art, much of which features a pregnant black woman and lines about life in the favela.  I bought a few pieces, which he personalized and signed for us.  I think I’m going to have to send him a tile as well!

Will called as we were loading back on the metro to go home.  He was headed to that blasted climbing gym, and I resolved once and for all to finally get to go inside it.  It was much easier to find the second time around, and while fairly small, there were a couple good rooms for bouldering practice, a nice long room for traversing (pictured below), as well as a couple of top rope routes.  It’s R$15 for the day, or R$100 for the month.  If I plan to go back often, I may get the membership and hope that it pays off by making it easy to find people there with the equipment, time, and will to take me climbing outdoors in Rio.


Earlier in my post, I alluded to the possibility that we may not be in Rio much longer.  It would be a huge tragedy, but the fact of the matter is that 95% of the public universities here in Brazil (UFRJ included) are on strike right now.  The professors are paid by the government (as it is completely free for students to go to school), and they do not feel that they are being paid enough.  It has been going on for 60 some-odd days now, and many people think that it will not end soon.  There is the additional problem that even if the strike ended tomorrow, it started before the end of the previous semester, and about 3 weeks of classes would need to be completed before the next semester can begin.  With a late start, comes a late finish, and what this means for us  in the worst case scenario is that classes in Rio will not end before our Spring semester is scheduled to start at U.Va.  In the event that this happens, we would need to come back to U.Va. for the Fall as well, unless we can figure out something special for international students or take the one course we need for our major at a private university in the area.  I don’t have a lot of other information right now.  We are scheduled to talk with faculty at U.Va. about the situation tomorrow, and I think we will probably set a D-day, by which point if things are not figured out, we will need to come home.  I sincerely hope this does not happen.  A month long vacation is just not the same as living abroad.  I will keep you updated.

Wish me boa sorte and bons sonhos,

All of the Everything, Part III (e fim)

All of the Everything, Part III (e fim)

Day 20

Yesterday started with yoga on the beach in Ipanema… we like the beach in Ipanema, if you hadn’t caught on just yet.  Class started at 9am with a group of 20-25 people sitting cross-legged on sarongs facing a young, beautiful, African American woman who was the instructor.  She placed a drop of peppermint oil in each of our palms to breathe in for the first 15 or so minutes.  It’s funny, yoga is supposed to be relaxing, but all of that breathing really takes some energy and focus.  Some of the poses were also really difficult to hold, another testament to how out of shape I am at the moment.  Apparently, there is a similar free yoga class every Sunday in different beach locations, and Joe, Keia and I decided we should make Sundays a “yoga beach” tradition wherein we go to whichever beach is hosting the yoga and stay there all day with friends and drinking suco.  The session lasted about 90 minutes, and afterward we moved closer to posto 9 to wait for Tiago et al. (the Brazilians we’ve become friends with) to arrive.

I am continually surprised by the number of people that fit on each square foot of beach in Rio.  Between the time we arrived around 1030am and the time our friends did, the crowd must have quadrupled until you literally couldn’t walk 2 feet in any direction without bumping into someone or their things.  Again, the water and waves were pure perfection.  A sandbar had formed about 30 or 40 yards offshore, and the water in between was too deep to stand.  The waves crashing on the sandbar and then rolling into shore made for perfect body surfing conditions, since you would just end up in deeper water (all the better for fixing your bathing suit and not smashing your face into the sand at the end of a good ride).  We searched for a volleyball net and got a game of 4 on 4 going until none of us could play any more from hunger.  It was a successful 7 or 8 hours on the beach (with the sunburn to prove it) before we ate a little something and headed home to wash up.

On the walk back I saw signs for Anima Mundi, the annual animation film festival hosted in Rio.  Sunday was the last day and if we hurried I thought we could make the very last showing at the theater in Flamengo.  Tiago, Leo, Keia and I met up again at the cinema to watch a series of short animated films from artists all over the world.  They were funny and strange, sad and exciting, and in all different languages (again with Portuguese subtitles).  Some were about job hunting, others about love, one about a superhero and many with monsters.  The theater was also a gallery and museum, another place I’ll have to go back when there is time.  Afterward we drank some very nice beer (somewhat rare in Rio) at a cozy bar nearby and chatted in what Portuguese we could.  Our Brazilian friends are eager to help us learn, and thankful for the exchange we can provide in helping their English.

Today Keia and I had to make our third and final trip to the airport to register with the Federal Police.  The office was packed full of people, which made my blood boil since the previous 2 times we’d visited not a soul occupied the waiting room.  It really is like a zoo: people packed together in a room, each with their own agenda, eyeing the attendants and waiting to make the move that will put them at the top of the list.  I can’t say I didn’t play the game.  Around 3 hours of bus riding and 2 hours of being processed later, we were done.

Tomorrow is a new and gorgeous day!  We may go see the famous tiled steps of Lapa (named Escadaria Selaron).  If so, you’ll be the first to see pictures.  I’ll try not to let too much time pass between posts!

With love,

All of the Everything, Part II

All of the Everything, Part II

Day 18

Where do I even begin?  On Saturday Joe, Keia, Kevin, and I were picked up at 10am for a whirlwind tour of all things both touristy and Brazilian.  It was the first time I’ve ventured to take my good camera out in Rio and I have around 200+ photos just from this day as a result.  I might change the layout of the blog to better accommodate photos soon… be on the lookout!

Our guide was a small Brazilian woman who spoke Portuguese and English, in addition to bits of French and Spanish throughout the day to accommodate all of us visitors.  First stop was Cristo Redento (“Christ the Redeemer”) on the top of Corcovado mountain.  Cristo was a gift to the Brazilian people (essentially by the Catholic Church) in 1921.  He stands 40m tall (including the base), has a wingspan of close to 30m, and lights up at night.  The drive to the statue is through the Tijuca rainforest, the largest urban rainforest in the world.  We’ll definitely have to go back sometime and hike around when we have more time because I hear that you can see monkeys (“big ones and small ones”) if you’re lucky. The place was absolutely packed, but lines seem to be about the only thing that move efficiently in Brazil, so we didn’t have to wait terribly long for a van ride up.  We decided to walk the 200 remaining steps to the top, and at each platform the view was more incredible than the last.

The next stop was Maracaná, the soccer stadium in Centro, which is currently under construction to get ready for the arrival of the World Cup in 2014.  After the stadium was the Sambodromo, essentially a gigantic strip of concrete lined with huge bleachers and used before and during Carnival for the 12 samba schools of Rio to show off their stuff.  Samba school starts in August and practice runs right up until Carnival in February, nearly equivalent to a full year of academic school.  The Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, also called the Metropolitan Church of Rio… or something like that.. was our 4th stop before we would have a churrascaria lunch in Copa.  The church is shaped like a pyramid and lights up in all different colors at night.  The outside has the same brown concrete appearance that many buildings in Rio share, but the inside has some magnificent stained glass panels high up in the sky.  At this point we were fairly starving and hanging around outside near the van where we noticed some awesome graffiti.  The lines here between vandalism and street art are blurred by the talent that all of the artists seem to possess.

Lunch back in a familiar part of town was welcomed with open stomachs.  The fruit bar was probably the best part, and maracuja (passion fruit) is one of my new favorite things.  It’s the sweetest natural thing I’ve ever tasted and makes one fantastic caipirinha.. even if the texture does kind of remind me of… tongue.  Once we were all good and sleepy we settled in for the van ride to Pão de Açúcar.  The line here was even longer than the one at Cristo, and we were worried we wouldn’t make it up in the cable car before nightfall. As we loaded into the first car the sun was just beginning to set. The trams travel on cables a few stories up in the air at a fairly rapid pace taking 65 passengers at a time from ground to mountain to even higher mountain.  The first site had a couple exhibits and places to eat plus a 360 degree view of Rio’s coastline.  The second site on the next mountain over (also the namesake) was another cable car ride away and had even more exquisite vistas.  Night came while we were taking pictures, so we really got the benefit of seeing the city during the day and at night.  I felt really lucky.

Although nearly everything we saw that day was a tourist destination, it was neat to not hear only English all day.  Tourists from all over Brazil and the world come to see Rio.  Sometimes they even pee off the top of Pão de Açúcar!  …but actually we caught one guy doing that.

On to the final installment, part III!

All of the Everything, Part I

All of the Everything, Part I

Day 17

I’m sorry, everyone, that I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I just finished the post I am about to rewrite… and WordPress deleted it.  So I’m fairly upset and back at square one to begin again the biggest upload of all uploads.  That last 3-4 days have been really hectic (in a good way), so it may take some time to get caught back up (as in.. it’s not really Day 17, but I’m going to have to work my way forward to Day 20).

Friday brought the completion of our second week of Portuguese class, which I am still very much enjoying and feel like I am learning a lot.  Joe had to go to the Federal Police that day to complete his registration once and for all, so Keia and I headed to the beach in Ipanema to meet up with the group of American students here studying Portuguese for a couple more weeks.  One of the guys, Will, is an undergrad at FSU who we realized is best friends there with some people that I graduated with from Pine View! (DJ, Vincent, and Kasey, since I’m pretty sure you’re all going to ask me.)  What a small place the world really is.  I bought a volleyball that day, so we tried to play doubles on one of the sand courts, sufficiently making a fool of ourselves next to the 6 year old kids playing futevôlei better than I can play volleyball with my hands.  The waves were huge that day and the water cold and refreshing.  Vivi- Portuguese teacher- said that this is phenomenon unique to Rio, when the air is the warmest the water is the coolest.

It turns out Will is one of the guys that had been going to the climbing gym in Botafogo with Drew, so we decided to try and make it there that day after the beach.  As our luck with the metro would have it, however, Keia and I almost missed him at the station before finding out that someone had stolen money from Will’s bank account and he needed to take care of it before meeting us that night for an evening of jazz up in a favela in Catete.  Needless to say, I have yet to go climbing in Rio.

The favela of Tavares Bastos is one of the safest in Rio. Fun Fact: Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams shot the music video for “Beautiful” in Tavares Bastos.  When we arrived at the metro, Will lead us and the rest of the group around a couple corners and down an alley to a street with a couple of white VW vans waiting to take gringoes up into the favela for R$ 2.50.  It’s the best option if you don’t want to pay for a taxi or walk the switchbacks that lead to the top of the mountain.  After reaching the top, there was a Festa Junina (“June Festival”- ironic because they are only held in July and August to celebrate winter) going on in the streets.  It was the most genuinely Rio experience I think we’ve had.  The whole community was outside together singing and eating and talking all at once.  As we wound our way up and through the twisting, winding stairwells common to all favelas, I discreetly tried to snap as many photos as I could.  The outside of the Maze was just a hole in the wall, but it opened up into a conglomeration of hodgepodge rooms, lofts, platforms, and stairways including a stage which was hosting a live jazz band and two bars, one downstairs and the other upstairs with a wall that had been left off to make way for the view.  I feel like we’ve seen so many ridiculously amazing views here that I’m becoming jaded.  We stayed until around 3 in the morning before trying to find a taxi home.  I may have said it before, but I will say it again- a defining characteristic of the Brazilian people is their knack for being opportunistic.  As the number of taxis climbing the hill to take people home dwindled, the locals started to offer rides on their motorcycles and one guy even started using his own car to offer rides into town.

On to part II…

Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends

Day 15

Another rainy day here in Rio.  Another trip to the Federal Police still ahead of us.  I think it will finally be the last one until we fly home.  Hopefully.

On the food front, Kevin, Joe, Keia, and I tried a “por kilo” churrascaria place a few nights ago.  It’s definitely the way to go!  It’s essentially the same sort of restaurant I described from Saturday with a buffet and all sorts of meats and sides, but if you don’t want to pay for “All you can eat” there’s another option.  You can pile food on a plate, weight it, and go back as many times as you please (weighing each time and adding to the cost) until you finally pay per gram/kilo you ate at the end of the meal.  I think I spent about $10 USD in the end on as much sushi, salad, and other odds and ends as I pleased.  Also, thank you for the recipes!  My next attempts in the kitchen will include Smashed Beans and a delicious-looking lime, fish, and shrimp dish from Epicurious.

Last night I dragged Keia all over Copacabana to try and play volleyball, only to find futevôlei on most of the courts.  It’s going to take some courage to put myself out there for either I think.  Everyone here seems athletic and sort of naturally talented at beach sports.  The city sort of encourages you to work out what with nice running paths along the beach, brightly-colored workout contraptions in all of the parks, and hard-bodies everywhere.  It’s really interesting: our Portuguese teacher the other day was talking about the fact that heroin addiction is pretty much literally non-existent here in Rio.  She explained it is because people want to look good on the beach, and it would be horrifying to have track marks on your arms.  There’s a semi-organized volleyball meet-up Thursday night so I plan to try again soon.

Afterward, some friends from CouchSurfing (which I think I’ll just refer to as CS in the future) met us at a quiosque on the beach and convinced us to hang out with them at a club in Ipanema that had no cover charge before midnight.  Had I not been dressed in a sweatshirt and gym clothes, it might not have felt quite so awkward.  The bar scene in Charlottesville is slightly more…. lax, to say the least.

I found some random photos on my iPhone today from the day we climbed Arpoador.  A lot of surfers hang out in the cove that Arpoador forms where it meets Ipanema.  When we climbed to the top of the rock overlooking the point where all the surfers float about waiting for waves, Joe thought he saw a little animal floating around in the water with them.  It turns out it was a PENGUIN!  Joe surfs most mornings before class now and said he sees at least one or two every time.  Apparently, there exist a larger percentage of warm weather penguins in the world than cold weather ones.  Who’dathunk?

Today I made a collage on my bed-ceiling (underneath the bunk that’s on top of me) with some photos I’d brought from home.  I don’t think anyone will find it there.  If I stuck it on the wall, I’m fairly sure I’d get a talking-to about it, and I’m fairly sick of those.  Toilet paper can’t go in the toilet here because the pipes can’t handle it, we can’t have visitors over because it endangers other people’s things, we shouldn’t be in Joe’s room because that floor is only for men… it goes on.  I miss everyone a lot!

Saturday we are looking at a whirlwind packet of all the touristy-things there are to do in Rio packed into 9 hours for about R$170.  It includes Pão de Açucar (including riding in the cable car up to the top), some museums and church tours, a churrascaria lunch, plus seeing the Cristo at Corcovado.  If we do go, I’ll pray for good visibility and might even risk bringing my good camera because the photos from these places are always amazing.

Love, Molly

The Flip Side

The Flip Side

Day 12

Friday morning brought Portuguese class, as usual, and the successful completion of the first week of our course.  That day we all eagerly anticipated our first night really going out in Rio. A group of our friends were going to a horror themed costume party in Centro near Lapa, so we joined the list too.  We met up at the apartment of the other UFRJ exchange student whom we’d met the night before around 11:30pm and realized very quickly it would be a much later night than we were used to.  The boys got zombie-makeovers and we girls just chatted in portuglish (Portuguese-English) for a while.  Arriving at the club two hours later, I thought surely we’d missed all the action and things would be dying down, but we found the place raging and packed full of people.  Downstairs was popular music from the states, so Joe Keia and I had a good time screaming “Call Me Maybe” at the top of our lungs (hey- don’t judge, that song starts to sound catchy again if you’ve been a hemisphere away for two weeks).  Upstairs on the roof was a mix of salsa, samba, and forró (another Brazilian dance style), so we got a good introduction to all kinds of moves.  Around 4:30 we walked over to Lapa, which was still crowded with people milling about in the streets.  Realizing how tired we were, we all took cabs home not long afterward.  It feels good to be making some friends.

Saturday afternoon we had plans for churrascaria (Brazilian barbecue) with Professor Orlando and 3 UFRJ students- two of whom have plans to come to UVA with us in the Spring!  The way churrascaria works is this: everyone sits down at a table together and orders sides and drinks.  There is a buffet bar with more salads and odds and ends, but the main course- the meat, sizzling off the grill- is brought around by waiters to all of the tables and sliced right on to your plate, all for a flat rate (~$22 USD).  The first one I tried, picanha (from the lower back of the cow), was fantastical.  I honestly think that was the only time in my entire life I was genuinely happy to be eating meat over anything else I love to eat in this world.  Not being a vegetarian anymore was worth it.  We tried cut after cut of cow, pork, lamb, even chicken heart (not my favorite.. but surprisingly not awful).  Lunch lasted over 3 hours.

I woke up with some sort of cold or flu Saturday morning, so by the time lunch was over the fresh shower/advil combination that had been keeping me with it was wearing off.  I slept and rested the rest of the evening and through the night while Keia and Joe went to explore Lapa with the same group of friends.  It sounds like they had a lot of fun again.  I’m still not quite 100% so I’ll be taking it easy until class tomorrow.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from our night out or from lunch!  I’m sure we’ll do both again soon 🙂





You need it to keep up with all of the movement.

Day 10

The last couple of days have been rather slow, as the middle of the week tends to be.  With the weekend on the horizon though, things seem to be picking up again and as everyone knows, an açaí a day keeps the doctor away (and your energy up).  Two days ago Keia and I spent the afternoon on the beach in Copacabana.  What with our sarongs and teeny bikinis we thought we might be able to blend in amongst the locals dotting the shore, but nearly every vendor there walked up to us to try and make conversation or sell their wares.  After a while we asked whether it was our bathing suit bottoms or the homework we were doing that gave us away as foreigners.  Apparently no one does work on the beach.  It was a dead give-away.

Yesterday afternoon we napped through the rain and then went to a small corner restaurant where we ate probably the best meal we’ve had here so far.  Simply meat, and rice, and beans, but we were just glad we didn’t have to cook it.  Slowly but surely we’ve been getting tips and making mental notes of the affordable and delicious places in town.  We met up with Kevin for the weekly Couch Surfing event at the quiosque (pronounced “kiosk-ey”) on the beach.  It turns out the event was canceled, but lots of people (including some we had met last week and another student who will be taking classes at UFRJ this semester) showed up anyway.  It was a really great, friendly environment to sit and chat and get to know people in the area, whether they were transient or not.  I recently posted to the couch surfing community about getting a weekly volleyball game going on the beach, possibly starting this weekend.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Today, Keia and I tried to find the climbing gym our friend Drew told us about.  We thought we just missed him at the metro so we ventured to Botafogo together (barrio just north of Copacabana).  People there were very friendly, and we asked about 12 of them for directions to the gym, but nobody could point us in exactly the right direction.  We narrowed in on the place and once we found it, we realized why.  It was simply a door on the street that led into a tiny little gym which happened to be closed when we finally found it.  The trip wasn’t a loss, though.  We know now that if we ever get homesick, there is an 8 story shopping mall around the corner that has a Starbucks, a Salad Creations, and a rooftop restaurant overlooking the whole bay.  Now that we know where to find the gym (and that it only opens after 5 during the week), it won’t be so difficult when we make the next trip back.

We have lunch scheduled for Saturday with Professor Orlando (from UFRJ) and a Brazilian student who studied abroad at UVA two years ago now.  Joe agreed to give us a couple of surfing lessons soon, and Ribamar promised a proper samba session on Sunday.  It was a chilling 70 degrees here today, so I hope the weekend warms up and we can make the most of the beach.

Abraços e Beijos!




Day… It’s going to be tough to remember which day of my trip it is soon..

Day 7

I seem to be in the habit of posting right before something really exciting happens that I would want to blog about!  Last night just after I finished uploading the last post we ran out to buy a few things, and there was an invitation to a live samba band gathering at a restaurant in Centro when we returned!  One of the people we met at the event is part of a group of grad students here to learn Portuguese in 6 weeks.  Keia and I met them at the metro and we walked around Centro until we found a completely jam-packed open air venue tucked away in some small alley in the middle of downtown that was exploding with music, people, and cerveja (beer).  It was really too crowded to dance much, but we did learn the basic step, the group spoke in Portuguese nearly the entire time, and we ran into our friend Kevin (one of the UVA grads).  It’s tough to meet other people (i.e. actual Brazilians) in such a large group, but the event happens every Monday, so we’re bound to go back!

After class this morning, we had to take our first trip to the university where we’ll start taking classes in early August.  To get there we had to take the bus for the first time.  They drive just as crazy if not twice as fast as the other cars on the road so it’s quite the wild ride.  Paying R$3.30 each way per day come school starts won’t be the most fun I’ve ever had, but it’s still worth it living near all of the action.  We met with Professor Orlando and Adriana (our main contacts at UFRJ), before heading to the airport to register with the Federal Police.  It turns out we didn’t quite have all the necessary paperwork, so we’re going to have to pay more fees for a Brazilian ID and make a return trip to the airport within the next 3 weeks.  In other words, we’re still in that difficult adjustment phase.

On the bright side, the weather has perked back up (although a bit chilly compared to usual, ~65 degrees F), and I heard about a climbing gym that I’m going to check out either tomorrow or Thursday.  As for Friday, Lapa is evidently the place for young people to be on the weekend.  There are lots of clubs and if you don’t want to pay a cover, we’ve heard the party spills into the streets from all directions.

Well, I’ve got to finish my homework before I get some sleep tonight!