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Month: August 2012

Família, Family

Família, Family

Day 54

What a week.  This past Tuesday and Thursday it turned out that we didn’t have our regular meeting at UFRJ, but instead we went to a conference on sharing ideas about safety and emergency preparedness in Rio which Professor Orlando had organized.  There we met the sub-secretary of the Defesa Civil here in Rio who made us an invitation to visit the Centro de Operações later in the week.  This center was designed together with IBM to be a main control and monitoring center for all of the traffic, weather, crime, etc. forces here in Rio.  The technology they had there was pretty neat, and hopefully we can build up this relationship to do some really interesting work with our capstone project.

In other academic-related news, we got our first real assignment for one of our classes at ENCE.  We are studying queueing theory at the moment, and our project is to identify a problem that could be solved (or improved) with the application of queueing theory, collect data on it, anlayze that data using some statistical programming software (probably R, which we will need to learn first), and then write up a report- due Oct. 5.  In other words, we have some work to do.  I’m thinking about investigating the check-out lines at a specific supermarket here, Mundial.  People wait outside to be the first ones in in the morning, and even though they have upwards of 30 check-outs I would say, there is still a significant wait to get processed no matter what hour of the day it is.

Thursday night we celebrated our friend Luciana’s birthday by having dinner at Devassa and then going to the CS meeting.  It was also the going away dinner for Swappy, a friend of ours who is moving back to India.  The group will miss him and Leo, who is moving back to Campo Grande soon.  Kevin is also waiting to hear this week whether he will have to go back to Belgium because of the strike situation at UFRJ.  I’ve really grown to love our group of friends here, and I hope our little family doesn’t fall apart.

Luciana also invited us to her home, in a town about 40 minutes outside Rio, for an authentic churrasco (Brazilian barbeque) with her family.  We took the bus from Centro, and I expected the city to thin out into trees and countryside like it tends to do fairly quickly in Charlottesville, but the city is so expansive that I couldn’t tell where the city limits ended or where one town stopped and the next began.  We saw a different side of Rio there in Luciana’s neighborhood.  It was poorer and richer in different ways.  The community doesn’t have as much money, but it is the kind of place where everyone recognized Lu as we walked down the street and they gather and live together under the hot, hot sun.  It was authentic compared to the touristy-chic style of Zona Sul.  We went to the market to get fresh meat and vegetables.  Everyone was put to work cooking and cleaning and preparing the food.  Luciana’s uncle had a modern-day sort of jukebox where we could choose 2 songs for every 1 real we added so we rocked out and stood around eating and drinking beer from 2pm to around 9 at night.  Luciana’s mother invited us back for feijoada de camarão (shrimp feijoada) sometime in the near future, and I would absolutely love to go back.  The bus ride home killed Lu’s birthday present of a bottle of whisky and we all returned to Nayra’s to wind down and keep relaxing with friends.  Keia and I were still exhausted from the night before, so we went home early to get some good rest.  Today we are helping Joe move to an apartment outside of the pousada.  He won’t be too far away, the place is near Arpoador (the point between Copacabana and Ipanema).  Keia and I are thinking about moving out to an apartment in the next month or so as well.

Lots of love to everyone here and back home,



The wee hours of Day 48.. was when I started writing this post, but I suppose now it’s technically the wee hours of Day 49

My mom has officially booked a flight to come see me in Brazil in October!! I could not be more excited to show her this city.  Walking around today, knowing that she would get to see it all I think made me appreciate being here even more.  It’s keeping me from being jaded of all the incredible things I get to show her.  I can’t wait!  My dad has flight plans in the works too for the end of this month, but getting the tourist visa in time might be tricky.

This past Thursday we went to the weekly CS meeting on the beach.  We’ve been here long enough to know a lot of people there at this point.  It’s almost stressful trying to move 10 meters across the calçada to get to another circle of friends without getting caught up in 6 other conversations in between.  Our new roommates went with us though, and I think they had a good time.  Afterward we went to a little “boate” (aka small bar/nightclub) in Copacabana (#yesssssbarclosetohome).  There was a live band playing “pagode” music, which is like hyped up covers of popular Brazilian songs.  I imagine it would be a lot of fun if I actually knew the songs.. but I at least recognized one!

Friday after class I honestly can’t remember what we did.. so I’m just going to tell you we went to the beach and move on to the exciting part which was the samba rehearsal we saw at São Clemente!  They were practicing different songs for Carnival and picking one to perform during this rehearsal.  I feel like I almost got the hang of it, but you have to move your feet so damn fast that it’s really very tiring to even just try to dance samba.

On Saturday we met up with John, the UVA grad who was in this program 7 years ago.  He now lives in São Paulo and is working for Google.  He had some good advice on really learning Portuguese and making the most out of this experience.  We’ve been in Rio enough time now that we should start getting out and exploring the rest of Brazil.  There is so much more here to do and to see that he said we shouldn’t spend another whole weekend just staying around city.  Keia and I also made a deal to only speak Portuguese to each other and inside our bedroom from now on, otherwise for every word of English that we speak we have to pay each other 5 centavos!  We didn’t keep too close track of this today since, you know, Day 1 cold turkey and everything, but we did really well and I think every day we’ll be a little stricter (spell check is telling me “more strict” is incorrect grammar right now..) and get a little better.  That night we revisited the R$5 caipirinha lady in Lapa in front of Escadaria Selaron.  You just can’t beat ‘em.  We also tried to go to another type of boate in Copa, but it wasn’t worth it to go in after midnight since the cover goes up and we just ended up sitting around with friends drinking a couple of beers at a bar near home (#canyousenseapatternhere).

Getting up early on Sunday was a little rough, but definitely well worth it.  Kevin had found out about a classical music performance at the Theatro Municipal in Centro for R$1.  Tickets for shows there are usually incredibly expensive, but a couple of times a month they have these cheap shows open to the public and all you have to do is get in line early enough to secure a seat.  The show was at 11am, so we got up and out and in line by 10.  It was a beautiful day, and we felt all cultured and fancy walking around the city.  The outside of the building is intricate and beautiful, but it just palls compared to the interior.  The concert itself turned out to have a visual component where nature scenes were scrolling on a projector screen behind the musicians.  It was a neat idea, but I think the visuals actually detracted from the performance.  The pictures weren’t timed with the music, they didn’t match the mood, and they weren’t framed very well.  The music was up-beat and the songs were fairly short.  They played “The Girl from Ipanema” and for the opener they worked together to sound like a train starting up, going along, and finally pulling along into a station.  The percussionist played at least 8 different instruments, a few of which I’d never seen before.  All in all it was very cool.

After the show, we went to eat at a Japanese festival near Praia do Flamengo.  It was tricky to find and less than thrilling, but.. oh well.  I went home afterward and washed some more laundry by hand.  Then we heard of an event at an Indian restaurant in Santa Teresa which offered some live music, a great view, 2 types of curry, yoghurt and rice for R$15.  The place was really neat and they had a Brunch menu!  I don’t know when they serve it, but we’re definitely going back for hangover food sometime soon. Santa Teresa is like hipster Rio.  We walked around afterward and found two mansions made into museum parks of sorts that we’ll have to come back and see during the day.  There was also a really awesome hostel across the street and overlooking Lapa and including free breakfast where it would be fun to get together with all of our friends one night.  Then we headed to the main road to grab a couple drinks and even more food at a cool bar on the main drag- Bar do Mineiro.  Another place we’ll have to go again.  These nights just walking around the city, with friends and no particular commitments, just sort of stopping where we please and eating and drinking and talking about what we wish have become my favorites.

I slept in this morning since we didn’t have class until 830pm.  When I finally got up, I went to meet Nayra and Garrett at the market at Uruguiana so we could explore it a little further than the first time we happened upon it.  I found two shops that I absolutely loved (one being a real papeleria- complete with a scheduler, drawing paper, and pencil lead; the other a boutique), and I bought new sandals since mine broke recently.  We met Keia for dinner at an outdoor bar with tables in the streets down a back alley.  It felt very European.  I tried lasagna.  It did not taste European.

Tomorrow we have class at both UFRJ and ENCE so I should get some rest now.  Hopefully we’ll have our first excursion planned next time I write!

Love, Molly

Ch ch ch chaaaaaanges..

Ch ch ch chaaaaaanges..

Day 44

As for my last post, I spoke just a moment too soon!  As soon as we got home from class on Monday, we discovered that a second roommate had arrived.  She is also Brazilian and does not speak any English.  Her name is Sylvana, and  she is also extremely nice.  The four of us get along well, but it is a lot of hormones (and shoes.. and electronics) for one room.  It’s fun being about to chat with them about food, or boys, or clothes and seeing which things are different and which are always the same.  Since Sylvana and Marina moved in and since classes have started I feel much more immersed in Portuguese.

Our classes at ENCE are off to a fairly slow start, which is a good introduction for us.  So far it has been a lot of copying down formulas, mostly of distributions, most of which we’ve seen before.  There’s some new theory (of queues) which makes heavy use of probability. One class has two exams before the final, and the other has two reports, and we finish December 17th which is two days before our flights home.  There are no other exchange students at ENCE, and I get the feeling there may have only been a few in the past.  It is very small (maybe 30-60 students per year?), each class matriculates together, takes the same classes at the same time, and knows each other pretty well by this point.  In other words, we stand out a lot.  A couple of really nice students have exchanged materials with us, helped us find English copies of texts, and offered their email addresses and/or friendship in general, which feels great.  Two nights ago I sat down and did my first problem set and took notes out of our Portuguese textbook.  The longer the words get, the more similar they are to English, and the easier it is to understand, so it wasn’t too bad.  School supplies here though are expensive.  I mean R$24 for a notebook that’s barely 200 pages and is broken up by week with a weird little planner page.  College-ruled paper?  I think not.  Every papeleria has the same crap.. and it’s all pretty.. crap.

Our first meeting of Engenharia do Trabalho with Professor Orlando and the Brazilian students we’ll be working with (Bernardo “B”, Bernardo “Bernie”, and Marcos) was on Tuesday afternoon at UFRJ.  We took 3 buses (well, two buses and a van) to get from our class at ENCE to UFRJ.  If we’re going to be doing that every week I hope we find a slightly easier route.  In any case, B, Bernie, and Marcos are great guys.  They’re excited about working with us, showing us around Rio, and coming to UVA.  In these Tu/Th meetings we’ll be developing our Capstone project, which we started researching last semester at UVA.  It has to do with emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction related to urban flooding here in Rio.  This is a huge problem involving lots of stakeholders, and in order to narrow our focus we are looking into the education and awareness of children in high risk areas on these issues.  It would be awesome to do something involving data collection on demographics in these communities (mostly favelas), and there are lots of entities who desperately want and could benefit from this information.  The problem is how to get it.  We’re not sure it can be done from the outside, and we don’t have the resources to do it safely from the inside, so children and education it will be for now.  When Professor Orlando arrived, we didn’t really know what to expect because our proposal from last semester implemented a program that it’s not feasible to use here the way we had intended.  We at least found out that we’ll be working closely with the Defesa Civil here in Rio and agreed to get back together on Thursday with some new ideas for a better introduction to the work Orlando’s grad students are doing and the reality of the situation here in Brazil.  We realize that before we can even begin to define the problem, we have a lot to learn about Brazil and the way things work here.

This morning was great for that though.  Marcos, Joe, Keia, and I headed back to UFRJ (via Marcos’ car, the first one I think we’ve ridden in here that wasn’t a taxi!) and met Professor Orlando, his grad students, and a man from the Secretária at the Defesa Civil.  It would have been a lot of information to absorb in English, so the fact that it wasn’t gave our brains a good jog.  It was very broad, but we learned a lot, and I’m excited about the potential for this project again.  Afterward, we ate lunch at UFRJ (which is much cheaper than almost anywhere else in Rio) with Marcos to debrief and talk about next steps.  We have a lot of reading ahead of us and access to some really good materials now.  The coming weeks are going to be busy ones compared to they way we’ve been living so far.

Wednesday morning, in between our Tu/Th madness, Keia and I went with Joe and his roommate to try out the trainer they started going to on the beach.  He’s super tanned, middle aged, and buff as hell.  5 days a week you can go any time between 7am-noon for an hour or more and he’ll run you through a circuit of exercises that changes daily.  It was a seriously tough workout.  Running through the sand is difficult on its own.  I don’t know if I’m going to keep up with it because it costs a decent chunk of change per month, and we’d miss out on the days we have morning classes.  It was definitely motivational though.  Afterward, B (from our Capstone group) invited us to the beach in Leblon.  On the bike ride there is started to rain which was actually kind of fun.  I saw someone walking down the calçada with a UVA towel when we got to Ipanema, and it turned out to be a guy we’d been in touch with over email before we got to Rio!  This Saturday another UVA grad who works in São Paulo is coming to Rio, so the group of us are planning to get together.  After finding B and Marcos on the beach, B invited us to his house just a block off the water in Leblon.  His apartment was absolutely elegant.  We hung out at his pool on the roof and talked for a couple hours about everything that was going on.  It was a really, really nice and relaxing day.

I’m not sure what plans look like for tonight, but since we have class in the morning I imagine it will be pretty low key.  I feel like we haven’t seen Kevin and all our friends in a while, so maybe we’ll go to the CS meeting again.

Beijos, Molly

A New Routine

A New Routine

Day 41

The weekend is over and real life is taking over.

I didn’t make it to Arpoador for sunset on Saturday.  We managed to find a station with 3 bikes so we could ride to Ipanema, but we got a pretty late start and realized pretty quickly it was going to be even more difficult to find 3 getting home.  The beach is always packed on weekends like this one.  On the return, we took our time exploring Ipanema a little bit to look for a station off the beach in the hopes it would be lesser known.  Mostly we walked around and got jealous about how nice Ipanema really is.  You can sense the difference in wealth.  Eventually we gave up and took a van home, but I have hope that it’ll be much easier to use Bike Rio during the week.  What a systems problem… how many bikes should each station have?  Which stations have the heaviest traffic?  What times of day are the most popular?  And the least?  I’m sure they’ve got data on all of it.  It’s enough to make any systems engineer go insane!

When we got back home, Keia and I found out that our new roommate had arrived!  Her name is Marina, she is our age, Brazilian, and an engineering student as well.  We’re actually really excited that she only speaks Portuguese, because we’ll be forced to practice our speaking.  That night we stayed in, talked to family, and took it easy again.

Sunday was a new day to enjoy the beach.  This time we predicted the bike situation and just stayed close to home in Copacabana.  Marina joined us in the afternoon, and later on the three of us girls went to a Catholic mass at a nearby church.  It was nice that they essentially had the entire mass written out in a pamphlet they gave you as you walked in.  I could understand most of what was going on, but I think a lot of that has to do with the traditional ways Catholic masses are run.  It’s really interesting that no matter where you are in the world, they tend to follow the same pattern and have the same general prayers.  It was kind of comforting in that way.  After the mass, Keia, Joe and I went to a studio in Catete to hear our friend Luciana’s band rehearse!  She is the lead singer and they do mostly rock covers, both of English and Portuguese songs.  They’re premiering their stuff for the first time later this month, and we’ll all definitely be there.

Today I got up and went for a run and then jumped in the ocean.  Keia and I spent most of the rest of the day on the beach, and now we’re home getting ready to go to our second class at ENCE.  The rest of the week will be a little more intense, since we’ll be adding in Professor Orlando’s class on Tu/Th and will probably have homework to do.  I think it might be hard to put our noses to the grindstone again, like they are constantly at UVA, especially with the shore just 4 blocks away.  It doesn’t quite feel real yet, but I’ll check back in toward the end of the week.


Jeitinho Brasileiro

Jeitinho Brasileiro

Day 39

The jeitinho brasileiro can be a difficult thing to explain… kind of like systems engineering!  It’s a work-around, but the significance is bigger, much more broad than that- it’s a part of the Brazilian way of life.  It is usually unconventional, it is not perfect, but in most cases it gets the job done.  The solution we have found to be able to stay here in Brazil is a jeitinho.

Thursday morning, Keia, Joe and I resolved to go to ENCE to see who we could talk to and try to sit in on a class.  ENCE is in Santa Teresa but not too far from the Lapa arcs.  It’s not the best neighborhood at nighttime, but the three of us together should be okay.  The coordinator we spoke with already knew our situation, and he assured us that there was no problem with us taking classes at ENCE.  The only hold up was the paperwork the administration was going to release to us at the end of the semester to prove that we had attended and passed our courses.  He told us to come to our first class the next morning, and that everything should be resolved by then.  We came away hesitant to be hopeful, but hopeful nonetheless.  A few email chains and another bus ride back and forth and we were sitting in a university class room for our first time in Rio!

The class itself had about 10-12 other Brazilian students around our age.  A fairly even mix of girls and guys.  It was intimidating at first because when more than one person is speaking all at the same time it is nearly impossible for us to understand what is going on.  I think we all felt a lot better as soon as the professor started putting equations up on the board.  The university library has the textbooks we need both in English and in Portuguese, although we are not allowed to take them outside the school.  I’m curious to see what the other course will be like… and to buy a real notebook.  They’re very expensive here and so far I’ve been using a Hot Wheels notebook which was just the cheapest thing I could find with actual lined paper.

We are scheduled to take Pesquisa Operacional II and Modelos Lineares Gernealizados at ENCE, and they are each offered twice a week: the first on Monday and Wednesday nights, the second on Tuesday and Friday mornings.  It conflicts a bit with the one class we are supposed to take with Professor Orlando at UFRJ, and we would like to keep up with our Portuguese classes, so we are still figuring out the details.

We’ve mostly hung around Copacabana this week, going to the beach, exercising or playing volleyball, and taking some time to chill out.  I didn’t end up going to forró on Tuesday, but Keia said it was fun.  Since we went to a “Latin party” on Wednesday (surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of Latin american influence in the music and culture here, even though Latin America neighbors Brazil on all sides), we skipped the CS meet-up on Thursday to watch a movie instead.  Last night, the girls in our group of friends got together to cook dinner at Nayra’s place.  Then we met up with the boys in Lapa and just hung out in the bars and food stands on the street.  Tapioca is becoming one of my new favorite foods.  It’s cheap and it can be filled with anything you want.  Make it a meal or a dessert, but it’s not like the tapioca you would think of in yogurt or bubble tea back home.  The weather has been hot and dry and perfect for the beach…so I think that’ll be part of the plan for today.  They have a program here called Bike Rio that’s very similar to the bike program in DC.  There are stations all around the city, so once you find a station with an open bike, you call to release the bike and can ride it anywhere around the city.  You just have to make sure you drop it back off within the hour, and the program is only R$10 for the whole month- as many uses as you please.  Keia and I just made accounts, so we’re about to go exploring!

I’m sorry I don’t have any new photos today!  I might try to make it up to Arpoador for sunset with my good camera this evening.

Love as always, Molly

One More Time [think daft punk]

One More Time [think daft punk]

Day 35

Oi gente, tudo bem?  Mais ou menos.  Nós ainda não sabemos o que nós vamos fazer… ficar aqui no Rio, ou voltar para os Estados Unidos.  Entretanto, vamos explorar mais a cidade. Até quinta-feira.  Até quinta-feira.

Sunday was a lazy day.  I woke up late and only left the house to pick up my phone, which I’d left at a friend’s.  We feel asleep that night anticipating the news on Monday…

…to find that there still really wasn’t any.  More people have been talked to, and more emails are being eagerly awaited.  We went to UFRJ again this afternoon to find out what more we could do.  Answers have been promised again for Thursday.

Monday afternoon was a lot of fun.  It’s easy to forget about everything you have to deal with in this city.  We had heard of a few beautiful spots in Centro, so we explored Rio’s business district while making stops at Real Gabinete Português de Leitura and the Mosteiro de São Bento.  The first was an unbelievably beautiful library.  It wasn’t very large, but it stands 3 or 4 floors high and the walls are covered floor to ceiling with ancient books (which you are not allowed to touch).  There were desks to sit and study quietly.  The hours weren’t long, but I love the idea of studying for my classes there.  The second was a monastery and school, located up a slight hill and behind a wall, away from the hustle and bustle of the street.  The interior of the chapel was all hand-crafted and contained the most intricate wood-working I have ever seen in my life.  We don’t know whether there is still real gold in the shellac on the wood that gives it it’s sheen or if the church used to be gilded with gold, but whatever it is now gives the appearance of real gold shining and shimmering in the dim light.  Across the street, there was a futebol field on the roof of a parking garage.  We tried to see if we could play, but I guess you have to reserve the field.  There was a bar and seating area to sit, have drinks, and watch the games, but we didn’t hang out there long.  We found a really cheap cafeteria for lunch, and there was a huge, crowded street market going on around the metro station we used to get there and back home.  It consisted of mostly hats, sunglasses, futebol jerseys and electronics.  Once back in Copa, Keia had found a forró class we could try for free!  The boys were even eager to learn a thing or two, and it went really well.  We finally figured out how to differentiate the steps we’ve been dancing without even realizing we were.  Afterward we ventured by yet another bus route to Pedra do Sal for our friend’s, Stephannie’s, birthday.  Tonight there is a forró club we may visit to test out our new skills. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Love, Molly

Jardim Botânico

Jardim Botânico

Day 33… yeah I messed up the days somewhere in there but I’m pretty sure today is 33.

Yesterday we woke up late and went to Jardim Botânico.  It was absolutely gorgeous, as expected.  The dichotomy between the harsher scenes of the inner city, the favelas, and all of the broken people juxtaposed against the natural beauty, wealth, and charisma that exists here is for me what makes Rio so unique.  It is beyond intriguing.  The pictures pretty much speak for themselves in this case, so I’ll leave it at that.

After visiting the garden, our group of friends went to Catete for pizza rodizio dinner.  Rodizio is the name of the style where the waiters bring dishes to your table and you choose what you’d like them to put on your plate.  It’s all you can eat, which makes it rather like a backwards buffet.

Nightfall took us back to Gávea (near the garden again) for a “Spring Break” house party complete with poolside drinks and a live band.  We stayed out fairly late once again, but we knew we’d be taking it easy today puttering around the house and answering emails while it rains…


The Roller Coaster Continues…

The Roller Coaster Continues…

Day 31

I think the exhaustion started to set in again on Wednesday.  I finally cooked a real meal, although not Brazilian, it was fairly easy and turned out super delicious!  Keia, Joe, Kevin and I made a couple lunches and dinners of it throughout the week because things tend to go bad here very quickly even if you keep them in the fridge.  It seems like nothing lasts more than 3 or 4 days.

Wednesday night, Will invited us to another Jazz concert in Centro.  We went to meet up with the group and take a bus into the heart of the city.  We’re getting more familiar with buses lately, since they are the cheapest form of transportation beside the crazy vans that run along the coast.  It was a little tough to find the place, but when we ended up at the start of a small alley crowded with tables full of people drinking beer and eating dinner in the street, we knew we couldn’t be far.  The little club was free to enter, but in many places here they have a neat system to allow the bar to run more smoothly.  When you enter you get a slip of paper with any possible drink you might order, and as you go up to the bar they mark what you buy so that you can pay your bill all at once on the way out.  The only problem with this system is people losing that slip, so if you do it’ll cost you R$100 in most places.  The band wasn’t quite set up when we made it upstairs.  They were still tuning instruments and moving equipment around on the floating loft above the first floor.  If you were there for a more relaxed night and simply the sound of good jazz, you could also go farther upstairs to an open air seating area that was significantly less crowded.  The band began playing around 10 or 10:30pm, and they jammed hard.  It was a really awesome show, except Keia and I found we were exhausted after just an hour or so of being there.  The guys walked us to the bus home, and I think we’ll have to go back some other time to really enjoy it.

Thursday brought a normal day of class, a bit of a sore throat, and our normal Thursday outing to the CS meeting at the quiosque on the beach.  We have lots of friends that regularly go there now, and it’s a unique event in that anyone can really start a conversation with anyone else on a whim without the awkardness that usually accompanies such a bold move.  The meet-ups are always fun, but I’m starting to feel like I enjoy the hangouts with the friends we’ve made here in a smaller group more than the craziness and semi-repetitive conversations CS can be.  We left fairly early again, by most everyone else’s standards anyway.  I feel pretty lame if we don’t make it past 1am here.  On the other hand, I’m trying to take care of myself so I have the energy to enjoy everything else in Rio.  It turned out to be a good thing I saved it that night, because Friday was a shitstorm.

Joe, Keia, and I started on our way to PUC around 7:30 in the morning for an 8:30am orientation we found out we needed to go to.  We’d already missed the first day, and we figured it would be good to finalize our positions at the school.  This meant missing our last day of class at Carioca Languages, which was sad but necessary.  I highly recommend classes there for anyone in Rio looking to learn Portuguese.  When we arrived and found the director of exchange programs there at PUC, she literally had never been contacted about our situation or knew that we even existed.  We quickly realized that the accord between UFRJ and PUC for student exchange was out-dated, no one had yet spoken to PUC about the possibility of us going there, and that the chance of enrolling this late in the game was looking very very unlikely.  We went up the ladder as far as we could, made a dozen or so phone calls, and got on the bus to UFRJ at the other end of the city.  After arriving at Fundão (the island housing the main UFRJ campus), we spoke with the International Relations Coordinator, Simone, who had been informed of our situation and was helping set up phone calls between the Directors of the Engineering and Rectors or Vice-Rectors at each school.  She was direct and helpful, which I was very grateful for at this point, but she did not seem too hopeful.  At this point we had been told that we would know Monday morning whether the news would be to shape up or ship out.  Before leaving with only the hope for good news come Monday, Keia asked Professor Orlando if PUC really was our only remaining option.  We found out that there is the possibility of taking the classes we need at another federal university here in Rio.  It is not on strike, and it is called Escola Nacional de Cienças e Estatísticas (ENCE).  Not many people have heard of it.  Apparently they train people for the census there.  However, it has the classes we need.  One last trek back and forth between offices and security checkpoints plus a few more phone calls later and we are at least hopeful again that if things do not work out with PUC, we can start classes next week at ENCE.

That night our friends, Luciana and Nayra, cooked dinner for us at Luciana’s apartment.  We watched Pirates of the Caribbean afterward, and although we stayed out until the wee hours, it was a perfectly relaxed evening with good friends.  None of us have family in Rio, so we’ve sort of banded together to make our own.  Today we plan to visit Jardim Botânico together.  It’s supposed to be a fantastically beautiful botanical garden near Lagoa.  I’ve actually got to get ready and be on my way there in just a moment so that will have to be all for now, but you’ll hear from me again soon.


One. Month.

One. Month.

Day 28

Almost exactly one month in and we probably did the most gringo thing we’ve done our entire stay in Rio (other than the day tour, of course).  Monday nights are Pedra do Sal nights, the “samba bar” in Centro.  I use the quotation marks because while there is samba music, occasionally even a live samba band, the place itself and the streets surrounding it are entirely too crowded with people to ever actually dance.  This past Monday, Keia and I met up with the Kevins to head to Centro for the event after relaxing and sleeping pretty much all afternoon.  We knew a few people from a Facebook group for exchange students were going, but we had no idea how many.  When we arrived at the metro, there were some foreign students hanging around (we’re pretty easy to pick out in a crowd), and a bus full of 40-50 gringoes later we were there.  On the bus I got up the courage to talk to one girl from Rio who was surprised at the number of foreigners.  Keia and I tried again today to speak only Portuguese with a little less success; it is difficult to remember in moments of exclamation.  I’m trying to speak with as many people as I can, but I’m thinking there might need to be a day we go Cold Turkey.  Most students from the intercâmbio group had only been in town a few days to a week.   It was nice to get to know a few more people in our situation and who were on nearly the same Portuguese speaking level.  There were UFRJ and PUC students, all a bit lost like ourselves, even some other systems engineers.

As for our situation, we nearly have permission from U.Va., PUC, and UFRJ to make everything work out.  We still need to be told which courses from the ones we have found will count as our equivalents, but there are at least 3 options per course being taught at PUC with the subjects that we need.  Things are looking up.  If everything remains on schedule, classes being August 8th and end the same time they would have in December.

As for this morning, Keia and I got up to run before class.  I really should exercise more often, and I’m thinking maybe we can help motivate each other.  It was one of the students in my class’s last day today, so a group of us went to lunch after class at a nice place (with dark beer- rare) very near our pousada.  We passed the rest of the day with more mundane tasks like picking up laundry and buying groceries.  Tomorrow I plan to cook the lime and coconut milk, fish and shrimp dish my mom sent me.  This evening after dinner a few friends came with us to see Batman in theaters.  A fairly relaxing day in all.

Not sure what the rest of the week will bring, but as always, you’ll be the first to know.

Love, Molly