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