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Month: July 2012

The Dazzle Dies Down

The Dazzle Dies Down

Day 6

Okay, so the title is a little over-dramatic, yes.  We’re fast approaching the one week mark, and those things that you can ignore for a while are starting to get to us as we realize we will be living here for the next 5+ months.  There are no chips and salsa (or really very good, affordable food outside beans and rice), toilet paper is supposed to go in the trashcan, the rules of the pousada are strict (compared to the independence we had at college), strange things are expensive (sunscreen), debit card fraud is hard to deal with no matter where you are in the world, it rained for the first time, and communication is exhausting.  I don’t want to sound too negative, these are just things that come with being so far away from home.  I know it will pass.

Barra  is going to have to wait until the weekend, because the wind and the rain yesterday lasted through the night.  Instead, I got to sleep until noon, and now I think I’ve finally recovered from the traveling.  We decided it was a good day to learn a thing or two about cooking in Brazil (now that we’d done some shopping and had some food to eat).  There is lots of space in the kitchen downstairs to cook whatever we please, but there are lots of things in the house we are not allowed to use- they are only for the family (this includes the washing machine, the living room, and random other things we keep getting in trouble for using).  Learning the ropes took some time, but Ribamar helped us locate the necessities and work the gas stove and oven.  The family really does not speak hardly any English at all.  Our first whole meal was baked chicken with brown rice and broccolini, and it took about two and half hours to make, eat and cleanup.  If anyone has suggestions for ways to spice up beans, rice and meat- do please send them my way!  By dinner time we were desperate for something easy to make and discovered a closer, less crazy grocery store, albeit more expensive.  Fun fact: The main (and really only) cheese here is mozarella which Brazilians write and spell mussarella!

Since it was a rainy night we took a cab to the cinema with two other guys from the pousada, Alan and Fabrizio.  We saw “From Rome, With Love,” a Woody Allen movie with dialogue mostly in English and Italian plus subtitles in Portuguese.  I think the familiar environment of a movie theater put us all at ease a little bit, and I was glad for it.  It was a strange experience, Portuguese subtitles acting as the only way we could understand Italian dialogue- a real test of our reading skills so far, and a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the film very much over all.

This morning was our first Portuguese language class at Carioca Languages school, about 6-7 blocks from our pousada.  Viviane (Vivi, for short) is my teacher in the 3rd level, Keia and Joe are in the second.  Vivi is a thin, lively and very friendly carioca who studied at UFRJ herself.  I really like her a lot.  There are only three of us in the class right now- a Frenchman who needs to speak Portuguese for work here, and a Spanish female engineer who is moving here with her boyfriend.  A fourth (also French) student may join us tomorrow.  At the beginning of class we do work on grammar and have lecture, a break nearly two hours in, and then about an hour for reading comprehension and conversation.  The other students understand what is going on more easily than I do, which makes the class a challenge, which is exactly what I need.

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures today. This afternoon, our mission is to get SIM cards and cell phone plans. Wish me boa sorte!

From Rio With Love, Molly

Samba & Santa Teresa

Samba & Santa Teresa

Day 4

Brazilian Weddings.  Don’t worry- not one of ours, just our most recent event!  For the last 36 hours or so we heard considerably more English outside our bedroom window than per usual.  When we finally went to check it out, they invited us in, and what do you know?  The Brazilian parents of the groom just moved to Sarasota a few months back!  It’s funny that in some situations we seem obligated to talk to people, at least catch their attention, as if being a foreigner in this land far away from home allows us Americans to all band together.  The pousada next door is breath-taking, and spacious, and many things ours is not… including much much more expensive.  A great experience, nonetheless.

Rewind to the festa de Copacabana’a 120th aniversário from last night.  We heard today that the crowd pictured in my photos below was small compared to the turn out they expected.  Regardless, the three of us were impressed with the crowd, free music, live samba, and R$5 caipirinhas on the beach.  Samba costumes are… ridiculous, but also amazing.  I’m not sure how they stay on after seeing how fast those women shake their bottoms… and we think the boobs to the far right are fake too.

This morning, Joe ran ahead while Keia and I made our way to the morning exercise class we wanted to attend in Ipanema on the beach.  When we got there, we realized that 2^a-6^a (which we read on the sign) does in fact mean Monday through Friday (segunda-feira à sexta-feira), and not Monday through Saturday.  Joe bought his surfboard, and we decided to hang out for a while in Arpoador (the outcropping between Copacabana and Ipanema) so he could test it out.  I’ve been too afraid to take my good camera on any outings thus far (things get stolen a lot in Rio if you don’t keep a close enough eye), but I am going to have to get over that because the views from Arpoador are stunning.  The views everywhere are stunning, each more so than the next.

After showering up from our run, the three of us took our first metro up to Glória and walked the rest of the way to Santa Teresa, a mountaintop city steeped in art and culture.  It’s in a slightly more dangerous part of the city, closer to Centro and surrounded by a few favelas, but this weekend was the annual festival Arte de Portas Abertas (“art of open doors”).  It is a festival where the artists that live and work in Santa Teresa literally open the doors of their homes and studios, no matter how grand or how small, to let the public in for a closer look.  The streets were crowded with people all day, and there were even makeshift shops set up on the route between the homes and restaurants to sell drinks and empadas and crafts.  The people are opportunistic.  Everything in Santa Teresa seems old and worn, but it is also colorful and tiered and busy and interesting.  The only thing that can beat the architecture made up of steep cobblestone streets and sharp corners with houses built into the sides of the mountain itself, are the views from Santa Teresa.  Depending on the overlook, one can see Centro (the center of the city), Pão de Açucar (“Sugar Loaf” mountain), or sailboats in the marina.  I only bought some cheap cachaça (the alcohol used to make caipirinhas, the man offered a whole shot of the stuff “for free testing” before buying) and a small gift for my mom.  We didn’t get to half the homes in the area before dark, but wanting to be safe and leave early we capped off our festival with some homemade yakisoba and chicken stroganoff… better not to ask.  I would go back tomorrow and look for some more art.  All of the artists we spoke to were incredibly welcoming and so nice, but tomorrow is for an early adventure to Barra da Tijuca.  It is a huge beach south of Ipanema still in Rio that is supposed to be just beautiful.  It’s difficult to decide where to visit because everyone says everything in Rio is beautiful (except, maybe, UFRJ- where we’ll be going to school).  On the other hand, even the locals get really excited about this one.  So, I’m off to bed! Boa noite!


P.S. We also met another UVA grad who is now working for Visagio (a Brazilian consulting company) in Rio.  He’s only about 23, and he had lots of really great tips.  Hopefully he’ll show us around Lapa (biggest club scene in Rio) sometime.

Settling In

Settling In

Day 3

You might not believe me if I told you that there is more pizza in Copacabana than there are well… bananas.  Okay, so bananas are pretty prevalent too, but we are going to have to find some variety besides different toppings for pizza pies.  Hopefully once we get in with the locals they’ll have some suggestions for affordable food outside the lanchonetes (“lan-chon-etch-ees”), where we have been eating a lot because the beach obviously had to come before grocery shopping.  Lanchonetes (our favorite is Big Bi- “big-ee bee”) are great places to meet and chat with people from all over the place, like Marconi Macaroni.  The 65+ year old man originally thought we were french, but upon discovering we were Americans he gave us a rendition of “Hello Dolly” that honestly I didn’t even know the words to.  He’s worked in the United States and around the world for 40 years and speaks 5 or 6 languages with near fluency.  I think we will probably see him again since he seems to hang around Copa often (the locals referred to him as “Maromba”- big and strong).  I hope to meet many more people who are willing to talk to us so easily.

On our second day in Ipanema, Keia and I bought colorful sarongs from a hawker on the beachfront.  They sell everything on the beach, walking every which way through the sand and crowds of people and making all kinds of noise as they go.  One can buy a cup of beer, a purse made out of pop-tops, a sarong that zips into a beach bag, or biscoitos.  I was proud of myself for haggling down the price of one sarong from 25 reais (R$25) to R$20.  That was until I realized we had passed up a man offering them for R$20 originally who could probably have been haggled down to R$15… so the bargaining skills will need work. By the way, the real right now is about 2 reais (plural form of real- brazilian currency) to the dollar.

Last night Joe, Keia and I met up with Kevin, a recent UVA graduate living in Rio for 3 months.  He’s been here for one month already and offered to show us the ropes.  We went to a meet-up just a few blocks away from our pousada on the Copacabana beachfront where we got to meet people from Niteroi (across the bay), Rio natives (called cariocas), and even some students from UF!  It happens every Thursday, and there are apparently lots of other meet-ups that people post to the general activity board.  After 2 treks by foot through all of the people on the streets and the beaches all the way to Ipanema and back (~2.5 mi each way), we were not excited by the idea of going out to explore bars in the area afterward.  Kevin helped us take one of the shuttle vans that run nearly the same routes as the buses.  These vans hail people on the streets as much as people hail them like taxis.  It’s only R$2.50 no matter the distance traveled, and it certainly is an experience.

This afternoon, the three of us met with Vivi, a UFRJ graduate of Portuguese, about getting some more formal training before classes begin in early August.  She was wonderful, and I think we will start class on Monday regardless of what UFRJ says they might offer in terms of a summer Portuguese session.  Classes will be 5 days a week from 9am to noon, which is good because I think we are all craving a little bit of structure to our days here.

Tonight is a party on Copacabana beach celebrating the 120th birthday of Copacabana itself!  I think we will try to get a good night of sleep afterward, and explore the barrio of Santa Teresa where there will be a Open Door Festival of many of the artists in the area. Para agora, boa noite a gente!


Devastatingly Beautiful

Devastatingly Beautiful

Day 1

Flying out of Bogotá last night and into Rio this morning at sunrise were probably two of the most incredible experiences of my life.  The pictures just don’t do it justice in either case.  These cities are so huge and so much more full of life, and people, and buildings, and colors, and just everything than I could have ever imagined.

Keia, Joe, and I took a taxi to the pousada where we are living this morning around 7am.  It turns out that UFRJ did send people for us, but we didn’t get word in time.  It worked out though, and our taxi driver helped us into the apartment.  He was probably one of the nicest people I’ve met so far (although I might have said that about anybody who was willing to give us a lift after 24 hours of traveling).  We drove past the favelas on the north side of the mountains (absolutely fascinating) and got our Portuguese rolling.  I feel like we really can communicate- which is both exciting and a huge relief! The first picture in the gallery.. I think.. is a view from mine and Keia’s window.  The place we are staying is plenty safe and utterly adorable.  Ribamar (pronounced “hee-bah-mah”) is the manager of the place.  He has been running the building for 40 years; he is the nephew of Maria (the owner of the building, a sweet lady).  Ribamar loves dancing (samba lessons start Friday), perfume, and his house rules which include boys and girls remaining on separate floors.  We don’t have a count of all of the other people that live here yet, but so far we’ve met a young up and coming DJ, a few other students, and a dog who goes by Keira.  There is no air conditioning, but we’ll worry about that when summer comes.

After getting settled and shown where to catch various metros and drink the best manga (this mango juice is literally like a fresh whole mango in a glass), Joe, Keia and I left for the praia (beach).  The streets of Copacabana are jam-packed and full of movement until you reach the beach.  We walked all the way from Copacabana, through Ipanema, and to the end of Leblon.  The crowd gets more wealthy and shifts from older people to beautiful people to families and younger people as you make your way down the black and white patterned boardwalk.  Paddle boarding, surfing, and volleyball are all still on the list of “yet-to-accomplish.”  We took a splash in the water some way down and it is absolute perfection in this land of perpetual summer.

Rio is overwhelming in all that there is to look at. It seems to be changing all the time, except for the mountains which reign in and calm the water that washes up on the shores.  On the walk back we counted more shoe stores on Avenida da Nossa Senhora da Copacabana than I am inclined to believe there are in all of New York City.  There was a line onto the sidewalk (I would say out the door, but most place of business don’t have them- everything is open air) from the lotteria, which just seemed strange.  We had our first caipirinhas (traditional drink of Brazil, very much like a mojito) at a restaurant by the water at an early dinner (most people eat around 9pm) this evening.

Tomorrow the surf is supposed to be good, so we will go to Ipanema and stake out a spot to watch from the beach.  Hopefully we’ll meet up with another UVA student who is going to introduce us to some Brazilian and international friends.  I’m eager to get to know people here, for classes to start even.

Cristo Redento at Corcovado, Barra da Tijuca, Lapa and Santa Teresa are on the list of places to visit as soon as we can in Rio.  Outside the city will have to wait, there is just too much here to take in.

Love, Molly