The beginning of last week was a little tough. I felt pretty alone with all of my visitors gone and not really much to be done for my classes. On top of that Keia took a trip to the Iguaçu Falls with her parents, so the house was pretty quiet. To fill up my time I went running, grocery shopping, cooked, washed laundry, and went to the beach to sketch or read nearly every day. It’s not a bad life to live, but it all comes back to having people to share it with! Thursday and Friday nights were better since I got together with my friends. Couch surfing meetings have moved to a quiosque in Leme, which are quieter and slightly further away. I hope they move back to the quiosque in Copa soon. Friday we all trekked out to Barra da Tijuca to our friend Paula’s apartment who is always coming to up to zona sul to meet us.
Saturday I found myself at the beach yet again, but this time it was to play some volleyball and meet a group of foreigners all currently living in Rio for various lengths of time and reasons. A Frenchman who also speaks Portuguese, Spanish and English, another American who is half French (speaks it fluently) and has lived all over the world, a Mexican who speaks Portuguese and English, and me. We passed the day in all different languages, and the water and sun were absolutely delicious. I went out for drinks later that night with the group, and I’m really glad to have met them.
Earlier in the week, Joe and Keia and I had been invited to spend the day island hopping on a boat leaving from Itacuruça (about an hour south of Rio) with a group of students from ENCE. Early morning Sunday found Joe and me on our way to catch the bus to the port. It was another gorgeous day, and when we arrived there was a beautiful breakfast laid out with all of the trappings. We didn’t know many of the students there, but everyone was very nice and we eventually made friends. The food and drinks from churrasco to fresh fruit and cerveja kept coming all day long. There was music, and we played and swam in the water, took silly pictures, and talked all day long. Unfortunately Joe and I both forgot our cameras, but I took a few on my cell phone that I uploaded below. Hopefully some of the people we met will post the rest on Facebook soon. We were exhausted when we got home, so I took a shower and fell asleep pretty quickly. I’m finishing up a project now before I head to class tonight. This week we have a bit more to do, our friend’s birthday party, and a holiday weekend coming up that we’re thinking of using to travel somewhere. The options are Florianópolis, the Nordeste, or the Amazon… but we’ll have to see about costs before we make any decisions. I’ll let you know!
P.S. I heard back from Deloitte, and it looks like I have my first official job offer! The position is a Business Technology Analyst, and I would be living in Washington D.C. I have just less than a month to decide, and I’m still waiting to talk to a few other companies, but at least we know I’m employable!
I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I updated, it’s just that Mom and I have been so busy there has hardly been time! I dropped her off at the airport earlier tonight, so tomorrow resumes classes, meetings, laundry, grocery shopping, and all things normal life. This week was a jam-packed one, so I’m going to let pictures do most of the talking.
Here’s the run-down:
Monday- Mom flew in early, and I went to pick her up at the airport, studying all the while for the exam I had that night. We came straight back to the pousada and took a quick walk on the beach before I had a Skype interview with Deloitte that afternoon. The interview went well (so second rounds were scheduled for Wednesday), and we grabbed dinner before I headed off to my test.
Tuesday- I was scheduled to have a phone call with Pearson in the morning, so mom and I had a leisurely breakfast at the house and she went grocery shopping with Keia while I took care of business. Technical difficulties sort of broke up the call, but thankfully Pearson agreed to give me an interview via Skype the next day. With Wednesday filling up, we figured we’d better get out and explore the city a little bit, so we headed to Jardim Botânico for the rest of the day.
Wednesday- My interview with Deloitte went just alright, I felt like Pearson went really well, and I’m still waiting to hear back from both about next steps. My application for Epic is on hold until I get back to the States, so unless I start passing around my resume again, it looks like the job search is at a bit of a standstill for now. In other news- Charles got a great offer from Microsoft in Seattle! I’m really happy for him and I think he’ll probably accept it. In between interviews that day, Mom and I relaxed on the beach in Copacabana and continued to just settle in and take it easy. That night we had more churrascaria at Carretão! It was fabulous, as per usual, and we were stuffed.
Thursday- Mom and I started off early to hike the trail in the Tijuca National Forest through the neighborhood of Horto and up to the waterfalls. We packed a small picnic, and stopped for our afternoon expresso afterward in Parque Lage. Everything in that area is just absolutely beautiful.
Friday- Keia’s and my friend Nayra’s parents came into town. Mom and I also moved from the pousada to a really nice hotel very nearby. We spent the day in Santa Teresa, and then went to meet all of my friends at Nayra’s apartment where her parents cooked us an excellent shrimp dish traditional of Fortaleza and the Nordeste, where they are from.
Saturday- I had never been to the island of Paquetá in the Guanabara Bay that borders a part of Rio’s coastline. Mom and I decided to go and check it out. It is about an hour and 15 minute ferry ride from Praça XV, and there are no cars on the island so the main forms of transportation are bicycles and horse drawn carriages. We walked along the water until we found a nice place for lunch. When our fried fish came out looking like someone had literally just caught one fresh and dipped the whole thing in boiling oil head to tail we weren’t sure what to expect, but it was delicious! A caipirinha each and a full belly later we mosied over to an old fort on the tip of the island before taking the ferry back to Rio proper at sunset. That night the Salgueiro “Escola de Samba” (Samba School) was having an open rehearsal. Keia and I went with our parents and boy was that the fastest I think any of us has seen someone shake their bottom. While we were there, Keia was picked from the crowd to compete against some other on-lookers for an honorary samba queen title, and I’ll have to figure out how to post the video later on because she won!!
Sunday- Mom and I returned once more to Praça XV, this time taking the ferry just 20 minutes across the bay to Niteroi. We had a light lunch in the pretty marvelous bistro underneath the MAC (contemporary art museum) before taking a look around inside and then napping on the shore just down the block. We picked up some “agua de coco” (coconut water) afterward, which was the sweetest and most refreshing of any of the coconuts I’ve tried!
Monday was Mom’s last day, and we had originally planned to beach it. Since it rained a bit the night before and the morning was grey, we decided to do some shopping in Ipanema and Leblon. Mommy bought me the cutest outfit! We really had some good finds before the weather cleared and we got to spend an hour more or less resting on the shore before heading home and getting ready to go to the airport.
My short little description doesn’t really do the whole trip justice. I’ll be sure to add some photos to Mom’s facebook album soon. For now I’ve got to get to sleep and see if I remember what normal life here feels like.
It’s been just a couple of hours since I dropped Charles off at the airport to head back to the States. He should be home safe and sound around midday tomorrow. The rest of our trip was absolutely wonderful, so I guess I’ll start right where I left off.
Wednesday we left early to head to the Feira de São Cristóvão, the gigantic center near Centro dedicated to the Nordeste (“Northeast”) culture of Brazil. It was a heck of a city bus ride there, but what is Rio without traffic and crazy drivers? I had been there once before on a weekend night, which would have been much more animated, but nonetheless Charles found some great goodies to bring home! Afterward, we headed to the mercado at Uruguiana. It never fails to amaze me, the number of vendors and people filling the streets there every single day. It’s just incredible. When we felt sufficiently overwhelmed we took the metro home and I headed to class for my exam review. There is a hostel in Copacabana that has a Latin American themed party on Wednesday nights, so we went to check it out, learned how to salsa dance and called it a night.
Thursday took us to Santa Teresa. It really was a shame that we couldn’t stop and eat in absolutely every restaurant that we saw because they all looked amazing, and as many times as I have been to Santa Teresa, I’ve really only tried a café or two. After walking all around and buying an avocado-flavored popsicle (“sacolé” in Portuguese) from the same lady I always buy from, we settled on an Amazonian themed restaurant that had soup on the menu made from Piranha! We split the soup (piranhas are not so intimidating without teeth and it tasted like a pretty traditional version of a non-cream based fish soup), Charles ordered another Amazonian fish dish, and I asked for the vegetarian version of a traditional Brazilian stew called Moqueqa. Everything was delicious, but my soup – which had a coconut milk base and grilled bananas in it – might have been the most delicious thing I have eaten so far in Brazil. I could not get over how good it tasted, and I could not decide whether I was sad that I couldn’t finish it all right then and there because I just wanted to keep eating it or happy that I got to take some home and save it for later. As we sat on the deck of the restaurant, a storm rolled in and the weather turned grey and chilly. Stuffed and happy we went to go meet my friends at a quiosque on the beach for a drink later on that night.
Friday the rain came. It was a shame, but we didn’t want the weather to ruin our day, so we took the bus to a neighborhood named Cosme Velho and bought a van tour up to the Christ statue that stopped at a helicopter landing pad on a lower mountain before climbing the rest of the way through the forest to the base of Cristo. It was a good thing we took the van instead of the trolley car because we had a decent view of the city from the helicopter pad, but Corcovado itself was completely covered in clouds. By the time we reached the monument itself, Cristo was a mere silhouette and the view on all sides was just dense white sky. On a short trail nearby we did see a monkey – and not just the little micos we usually spot; this one was big! On the van ride down the mountain, a couple of American guys struck up conversation and asked us about our plan of action for the rest of the day. We had decided to spend the afternoon in Jardim Botânico, and the guys ended up tagging along to the garden, Escadaria Selaron, and afterward back to Lapa for dinner (and the closest thing to decent Italian food I’ve eaten here yet). Since Friday was Charles’ last night in Rio and Lapa is a sight to be seen on any given weekend night, we walked the streets and did some people-watching for a while before going to bed.
Breakfast this morning included papaya, kiwi, and guava fruits – two of the three of which I think Charles had never tried before. Since he had to be at the airport by 4, we stayed relatively close by today and went to explore the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. The building itself is large and stands 6 floors tall with rotating exhibitions of all things art, music, and culture of Brazil. We saw a small contemporary art exhibit and a really interesting collection of money from what seemed like every country during every time period throughout history before going to eat lunch in the plaza at Cinelândia (where the Theatro Municipal and Biblioteca Nacional are located).
The trip to the airport was seamless, and now I’m back at the pousada planning out the crazy week ahead. I’ll be spending every free moment studying for exams and interviews until Mom arrives on Monday, so wish me luck!
Day 98… is when I originally wrote this post, however the internet was a bit wonky that day and so it’s coming to you all a bit later than expected.
This week is certainly a busy one. I finished and turned in my project for Pesquisa Operacional on Friday before going to Nayra’s house with all of our friends for dinner. Charles arrived on Saturday, so of course we went almost immediately to the beach! He tried a traditional feijoada for lunch, learned how to say “obrigado” (thank you) and “arroz” (rice) among a few other things, came to dinner for Ribamar’s birthday, and met all of my friends that night. All in all, it was a very Brazilian and enjoyable day.
Sunday we woke up and went to the hippie fair at praça General Osório in Ipanema, and I finally bought a beach bag! Something you would not think it’d take me 3 months to buy here.. but nonetheless is a really great one. We headed back to the beach and then raced to catch sunset at Arpoador before going out to Barthodomeu in Ipanema for dinner and drinks that night. We got açaí that day so that Charles could try it for the first time, and I swear it is the BEST açaí I have ever tasted. We are both officially addicted.
On Monday I wanted to take Charles up the Trilha de Dois Irmãos that I had done with a group just a few weeks ago, so we got some “suco de manga” (mango juice) for breakfast and headed to Vidigal. At the bottom of the favela, we hailed a couple of moto-taxis to take us up to the top where the trail starts. It was a hot, hot day, and the driver on the way up warned us jokingly that that kind of weather brought out the “cobras.” I didn’t take him too seriously, but on the way up we saw a small green and black snake, a giant black lizard and a few smaller lizards, although not a single monkey. The trail has a lot of spots to just stop and take in the view on the way up, but still nothing compares to the vista once you reach the top. It only took us about 45 minutes climb the mountain, and then it is just all of Rio at your fingertips. It feels like standing on the edge of the world. We ran down the mountain and ate lunch before I had my first phone interview for a full time job after graduation with Epic (a healthcare software implementation and consulting company in Madison, WI). It went well, and I have another phone interview with Pearson (very large educational materials and publishing company) tomorrow morning as well as one next week with Deloitte (business/technology consulting). I am not too sure where any of this will lead, but practice makes perfect, right?
This morning we went to Copacabana to try stand-up paddle boarding before I had to head to UFRJ for a meeting about our thesis project. Paddle boarding is tougher than it looks, and unfortunately we don’t have any pictures, but we did get the hang of it by the end of our session, and it is definitely something I would try again. I was gone for most of the rest of the day, but had promised to take Charles for a churrascaria dinner sometime during his visit, so when I got back from my meeting we went to Carretão in Ipanema. It is a restaurant of the same chain where I had churrascaria for the first time in Copacabana, and we left more stuffed full of food than I could have imagined (but with enough space left to at least share an açaí, of course). I think Charles was in heaven with the overwhelming cuts of fresh beef, pork, turkey, and chicken that the servers continue to bring around to all of the tables for hours.
Tomorrow we have plans to go explore Centro and the mercado at Uruguiana (if São Cristóvão isn’t open during the week). I have class tomorrow night, which will hopefully be a review for the first exam we have on Monday in Modelos Lineares Generalizados – which is also on the day that Mom arrives here in Rio. On the list for the rest of the week are a hike up Pão de Açúcar for sunset, exploring Santa Teresa, going to see Cristo and walking around Jardim Botânico.
It turns out my English class this week got cancelled, and that my phone interviews aren’t until next week- which was all a little disappointing. It gave me a little more time though to organize the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and going to the bank parts of my life. Ribamar is generally impressed by Keia’s cooking and general home-making skills. This week though my sausage, eggplant, tomato, green pepper, garlic and onion recipe for pasta sauce impressed him, and in his words I am finally, “pronta para se casar,” (ready for marriage) haha.
Yesterday turned out to be a surprisingly patriotic day for this young American in Brazil. I have been registered to vote for a while now, and I went through the process of applying for an absentee ballot since I knew I would be abroad during the upcoming election. After receiving the materials via email, I finally decided to take the time to sit down, look it all over, do some research and try to make a difference. It is overwhelming, the world of politics is! On top of that, I was notified by the American Consulate here in Rio that there would be a few events surrounding the election this week, so last night Keia and I went to the Mariott hotel on the beach here in Copacabana for a Presidential Debate viewing party. We talked briefly to a couple of other college students, and some foreigners there to watch the spectacle unfold. I managed to pay attention long enough to realize not much was getting accomplished by either side, but I think I’ve formed enough of an opinion to at least feel good about throwing my vote in ring. Now the only challenge is mailing it to the States in enough time to actually be counted…
I’m sorry that I didn’t give the heads up last week that I would be heading out of town once again for the weekend. Keia and I had dinner with our friends on Monday night, and they convinced us to get a move-on on our projects so that we could join everyone for a weekend vacation in Ilha Grande. Ilha Grande (which literally means “the big island”) is a little more than a 2 hour drive south of Rio and then a little less than a 2 hour boat ride out to reach the island. We worked our butts off (and will be continuing that trend for the rest of this week), and took off with our group of 15 in a van Friday evening.
The last boat out to Ilha Grande leaves the dock regularly at 10pm. Of course everyone was just a little bit late and on top of it we hit some traffic leaving Rio, so we ended up missing the last boat from Mangaratiba by about 10 minutes. Lucky for us, there are always a couple of fishermen waiting around for the lost or late gringos to charge them a little extra to give them a lift. We piled into what we thought looked like a decent-sized and sturdy vessel and headed out to sea. About 2 long hours later, a little weathered and a little drunk, we piled onto shore and headed straight for our hostel. All of the little hostels and pousadas are adorable and gathered together at one small port on the island, leaving the rest of it in an almost completely natural state. We stayed at the Hostel Holandes (a part of hostelling international, one of our recently new favorite organizations it appears), which was beautiful and included free breakfast. We took a walk down to the beach and sang while Tiago played the guitar for a couple of hours before settling in for the night and going to bed.
Saturday morning we woke up to eat and buy boat passages (similar to the ones in Búzios) to a few of the different beaches and lagoons around the island. Our ship wasn’t too crowded, and the weather was perfect as we headed away from the dock to our first destination. We jumped into the water with noodles and fish abounding at Lagoa Azul (sort of a natural – and blue – saltwater lake formed by the rock formations in the cove). They gave us about an hour to swim around and goof off, and it turned out John (who we’d just seen in São Paulo) was at the same stop off on a different boat when we got there! The second stop was windy and too difficult to dock so we skipped it to dock at yet another different beach for lunch. After filling up on rice and beans, we headed back to our little port near the hostel, played some volleyball in the courtyard, showered and got ready for dinner. Since we had come prepared with groceries, everyone pitched in to help cook and clean, and we only left the hostel to explore the little square near the dock later on in the evening. There was some live forró and lots of people milling around the streets. A little later still, we sat around a bonfire by the ocean and listened to some acoustic reggae before heading in to go to bed.
Sunday morning we got up and out early (and by early, yes I mean the same time we always get up and out and it is around 10am) to hike a trail to a beach called Lopes Mendes. It is about a two and a half hour hike over a mountain pass or a 40 minute boat ride around the horn of the island to get to Lopes Mendes. Part of our group bought boat passages there and back, while the rest of us hiked the trail and joined the other part of the group on the beach to take the boat just one way back. The first hour of the hike was mostly uphill, and then after a ways of going back down the mountain we came upon a beach that we thought surely must be the one we were looking for! About 3 times, we happened upon quiet, sandy patches of beach before realizing our friends weren’t there and we hadn’t yet reached the end of the trail. We stopped for popsicles and watched people feed some micos (those tiny monkeys we see everywhere – including outside my bedroom window last Wednesday!) before we finally made it to Lopes Mendes. It was much bigger than the other beaches, and the sand might have been even whiter and finer than ours at Seista Key. Unfortunately, we only had about an hour to spend there before catching the boat back to port so that we would make it on time to take the ferry off the island and back to the mainland. The sea was getting rough on our boat trip back to port, so much so that I thought we really might tip over in the wind and waves. It turns out it was just preparation for the ferry ride later on…
When we got back to port, packed up our suitcases, and left to catch the last ferry to Mangaratiba for the day, we barely made it and had no place to sit but in the very back of the 500 person capacity ship. The ride was calm until about an hour in, when I heard the driver kill the engine and we crashed over a huge wave that rocked the entire boat and everyone in it. People started getting seasick and freaking out a little bit in general, but an hour later we made it safely to shore, ate some dinner, and took our van home to Rio. All in all, I’m very very glad that we went along – Nayra is already planning our next vacation in November and I’d really like to go somewhere in the Nordeste, so maybe we’ll see Fortaleza or Recife. Foz do Iguaçu are still high on my list as well. I brought my nice camera with me, and combined I think Keia and I snapped over 500 photos. Some of them are posted below, but I’m taking suggestions for a project I can do with all of the gorgeous pictures from this trip so that they don’t just sit in a file on my computer for decades to come.
The rest of this week is for getting down to work. I’ll be teaching my first English class, taking a couple of phone interviews, and finishing this school project before Charles arrives on Saturday! His visa came this afternoon, and I couldn’t be more excited.