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,