Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Visit from Rio and the US!

This past weekend my roommate from Rio, Marina, came and visited me!! It was marvelous to see her, catch up on our lives, and use her as an excuse to do some touristy stuff in Salvador. Also, a completely unexpected surprise from an old friend, Avery Welkin. He and I grew up in the Olympia Quaker Meeting, but I had not seen him in years! It was great to see him and catch up on about seven years of each others lives.

Pictures to come!

Happy Thanksgiving! (I made sticky buns today with Danielle! If you don't know what those are, you are seriously missing out and need to visit my grandma to learn her art. I'm still learning.)
Love!
Maya

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chapada Diamantina

November 12-15 I went to a National Park called Chapada Diamantina (Diamond Plateau), inland from my city of Salvador. It was beautiful and wonderful to get out of the city. Unfortunately, due to lack of infrastructure and park development, you have to pay guides to take you almost everywhere and can't just go wandering. There aren't maps or marked trails most of the time, which made me realize how much I miss the national parks and trails in the states! However, I had a great time and swam in waterfalls, hiked, explored caves, avoided caterpillars falling from the sky, and saw some breathtaking views. I would really like to go back sometime with all my backpacking gear and go on a trip! Not enough time or money this time...

Entering the cave Gruta da Lapa Doce
The view of the main valley from the top of Pai Inacio
Hiking through the Gruta da Lapa Doce
Crazy caterpillar, one of HUNDREDS on the ground, falling from trees, crawling up my leg...
On top of Pai Inacio
Our group! Gabriel, Cosme, me, Antoinette, Maria
Cosme, me, and Antoinette at Riberão do Meio at sunset

Our 14 year old guide on Saturday, Ricardo
DELICIOUS breakfast at home. I will definitely miss this about Brazil!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Salvador Peculiarities

It was another successful weekend here in Salvador that left me giggling quite a few times. Here are some of the peculiarities I encountered:

Since Brazil does not celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving, there are no guidelines as to when Christmas decorations can go up. So starting the last week of October, red, green, and brown decorations have gone up. Trees, candy canes, snowflakes (no matter that the majority of Brazilians have never seen snow), and reindeer. And today, ladies and gentlemen, Papai Noel (Santa Claus) came to Salvador!!! I saw him myself. And he was white.
Danielle and I in matching Santa outfits


video
Santa dancing Rebolation!
Brazilian bras do not have cup sizes. There's just one number, completely different than from the states where I'm a 34, here I'm a 42. I have no idea what it's measuring and the cups are hit and miss. Needless to say, I will be waiting until my return to the states to buy more sutiãs.

The HUGE industrious ants in the grassy place by the road in front of my house have created permanent pathways through the grass. Their routes never change and I have passed many people worried about my sanity as I leap and bound on tip-toe through the ants in order to not get bitten. Those things are DANGEROUS! My foot swelled up so big once from an ant-bite I couldn't walk!

I have to do a presentation (in Portuguese) for my political science of a minimum of 45 minutes comparing the governmental systems of China, North Korea, and Cuba. (I only write in my blog when I have tons of school work to do. Extremely bad habit!)

Love to you all! I'm excited to see you when I get back!! January 2nd in Olympia!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Itacaré! pure beauty.

I had a long weekend this week with no classes on Monday or Tuesday. Danielle and I took advantage of these five free days to go to Itacaré, a small coastal town about six hours south of Salvador. My friend Ryan told me it was great so we caught the bus at 5am on Friday morning to go. It was beautiful!! An amazing combination of many beaches, rainforest, and interesting people. We stayed at a hostel with a great group of people: 3 Brazilians, 1 Frenchwoman, 1 German woman, 2 Australians, 1 Argentinean, and us, the 2 blond girls from the states. We swam, hiked, ate delicious food, cooked, talked about world politics, played cards, discussed Brazil's societal and political problems, laughed a lot, danced on the beach, trespassed on private property to find waterfalls at 6am, experimented new foods, and made wonderful friends.
Dinner day 1. So nice to be able to cook for ourselves for a change! (all of our food in Salvador is prepared for us by maids.)
Day 2: Praia de Resende (above) and
Praia da Tiririca (below. we were cold...not good since there will probably be snow in Washington when I get back!)

Day 3: Prainha (the BEST!) with Perrine, from France
Hike to Prainha
Prainha (above)
Day 4: trespassing at Cachoeira de Tijuipe (above)
Day 4: our last sunset in Itacaré at Praia da Concha
My future home!

It was wonderful to spend so much time out of the city and outside. Danielle and I thought it was hilarious that they expect everyone to hire guides to bring them to the farther beaches (about a 1 hour walk from the city center), especially two gringas. There was no way we were going to pay someone to walk us along a clearly marked path to the beach, but everyone we asked for directions told us we needed a guide. How I miss national parks in the states! It is difficult to enjoy being back in Salvador now with classes, pollution, and violence to worry about. It was the perfect relaxing trip though and I wish I could go back again before I leave!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The COUNTDOWN begins

So not much is new here in Brazil. The second round of elections for Brazil's new president are Sunday so we'll see how that plays out. Things have become very routine here for me, so I forget what interests you all back home. But here are the highlights from the past couple weeks:

I finished midterms today!
Black Eyed Peas concert!
Guitar jam sessions on the beach with Brazilian friends!
Gorgeous, sunny beach days!
Amazing Political Science professor (he studied abroad in Chile during the military dictatorship there)!
Dancing to music blasted from car speakers in a parking lot on the beach in the rain!
Package from home! (chocolate chips for chocolate chip banana bread!)
Reading books from my childhood in Portuguese with the children in the library where I volunteer!
Best Mexican food in Salvador!
Riding along the coast on a motorcycle!
Learning how to make brigadeiro! (traditional Brazilian dessert. condensed milk, butter, chocolate. YES)
Showing a Polish volunteer around the city!
Planning my future! (Nicaragua? Washington DC? Ecuador? Berkeley?)

Registering for classes back at Pacific for next semester and looking for a place to live have me missing home a lot! But two more months and I'm there!!

Love to you all!

PS. Movie you should ALL watch: Onibus 174. It's about a bus hostage situation in Rio in 2000 and gives the social background and reasoning that this event occurred. You can find it on Google Videos with English subtitles. I highly recommend it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

OCTOBER!?

Well time flies on study abroad. I now only have three more months in Brazil! But I have been loving it so much and living it up recently! I am currently procrastinating on large amounts of school work to write you all, never good, but sometimes necessary for my sanity.

I have been learning cooking secrets from Lucia and will hopefully not be such a failure in the kitchen when I make it back to the states in January. I am going to be meeting up with my parents and Sierra in Ecuador for Christmas and New Years with my host family there!! I am extremely excited and will cook something delicious for everyone. I have dance class every Saturday and I have been dancing a lot outside of class as well. It's been wonderful and so much fun to actually know the steps now as well! My dance group had a fundraiser on the 26th called Forro dos Sonhos (meaning dance of dreams). We combined it with my friend Marco's birthday party and I danced for five hours straight. The pictures below are from that day.
My friend Tauá, amazing forro dancer and friend from school who introduced me to the group where I take classes, Forrozeando.
Friends from dance class (L-R): Luis Pedro, Danielle, me, Marco (the birthday boy), and Fernando (one of the dance teachers)
Pedro, Marco, and I at Forro dos Sonhos
I went to my first pagode and axe concert last Friday, popular music from my state of Bahia. It was CRAZY dancing, full of beautiful people, and great music. This made my third weekend in a row of more than six hours of straight dancing!! I will definitely miss all of that when I get back to the states. I feel like the northern hemisphere has yet to realize how dancing can be a great way to enjoy life.

My internship is also going very well. I am helping coordinate an essay writing contest for children of African descent, organizing the placement and arrival of a volunteer from Poland, and various other projects. It's become very apparent to me how difficult continuity and organization is with an organization run by volunteers coming in and out, but I'm staying on top of things as best I can and balancing it with school work.

Classes are great, but the next couple weeks are actually pretty stressful. Academics in another language is complicated, so we'll see how I manage to figure it all out.

I love you all and hope that things are good state-side for all of you. I have been following the attempted "coup" in Ecuador closely as well as the disturbing number of suicides in the states. It's scary and complicated to be a young person and I hope that we are able to band together in order to show support for those trying to understand their lot in life and find a place for themselves to grow and love in safety.

Take your light out from under the bushel basket!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Epic Weekend

This weekend was wonderful. One of those that makes me remember why I love being abroad and never want to go home. I spent Saturday morning painting the inside of the library where I am doing volunteer work. It was a great relaxing and community event with loud music and kids running in and between the stacks of books. That afternoon I went to my first official forro dance lesson. Forro is a type of Brazilian music very popular in Bahia. The lessons are given by university students and it was a very fun and relaxed group of people, not to mention I love forro music and dancing!
Here is a link for one of my favorite forro songs.

That night I went with my friend Danielle to a party run by a European exchange group and met a bunch of people from Spain, France, Czech Republic, Portugal, and Brazilians (of course). It was a great group of people and reminded me so much of my times in Rio!
Danielle and I
Sunday was the 9th Annual Gay Pride Parade of Bahia. I didn't stay long, as it began to rain, but what I saw was impressive. There were at least ten big buses turned into floats with music and people dancing on top. The crowd was relatively diverse with people of all different colors, orientations, levels of costume, and age. I felt like I was back in San Francisco!
9th Gay Parade of Bahia! Homophobia out of here!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Highlights

Updating my blog is obviously not my top priority, so here are some highlights of the last few weeks to keep you all connected!

University is in full swing now here. It took some time, and frustration, to figure everything out but now I'm set! I am taking introductory Political Science, an anthropology class called Race, Class, and Gender in Bahia, Portuguese, and a capoeira class. Capoeira is a sort of martial arts dance, fight, art form typical to Brazil. It is a mixture of African slave influence in Brazil with the hierarchical presence of the Portuguese, representing the underground struggle in Brazil against slavery. I encourage you all to look up some videos of it online if you have no idea what I'm talking about. It's rather amazing! My class is interesting as well because we're doing history, culture, technique, and practice of capoeira so it's like part anthropology and part physical education. I love it! My professors are all great and the workload is manageable, considering it's all in Portuguese.

My host sister left for the states August 28th so now it's just my host mom Ana Helena, the maid Lucia who lives with us, and me. Lucia is an AMAZING cook and I'm going to try and bring some of her skill home with me! A couple weeks of Friday morning cooking lessons and I should at least be able to master something delicious!

My friend Dan, from southern California, is a great jazz musician so I have been going to some of his musical expositions around Salvador. He's played with Italians, Brazilians, and other Americans at bars, open air music halls, and art museums. It's been a wonderful connection to have and a great way to meet non-creepy Brazilians.

Last Thursday, September 2nd I went to a play with my anthropology professor and some other students at the slum closest to my house, Calabar. It's the same place I have been doing some volunteer work, but I haven't been there recently and never at night. It was put on by a theater student from my university here and was in a tiny house on the edge of the slum. It was a play by a famous Brazilian author called Dois Homens e uma Noite Suja (Two Men and a Dirty Night). It was quite powerful and overwhelming, telling the story of two extremely poor men in Brazil and their different reactions to poverty and desperation. It involved a loaded gun, physical fighting, and complete male nudity all within a tiny room about a foot in front of me. Wow.

September 7th is the national independence holiday of Brazil so I had a wonderful long weekend. I went to a city in the interior of the state of Bahia called Cruz das Almas. It's a small city where my host mom was born and raised her kids before moving to Salvador. I LOVED it! Small town, huge farmer's market with crazy produce, friendly people, safety, open spaces, trees, hills, gardens, grass, mud between my toes, animals, bird song. You get the picture. I promise you all that this living in a big city thing will not happen again for a very long time!! I am a child of the rain and trees and desperately need them in order to be happy. As many of you know, I got a tattoo right before leaving Rio de Janeiro of a basic Evergreen tree on my right ankle. I love it and now everywhere I go Washington and my childhood surrounded by nature comes along with me! People of the cities of the world have no idea what they're missing. We also went to Itaparica Island, which is in the bay across from Salvador, where my host family has a hosue. It was beautiful with deserted, white sand beaches and warm water!
Danielle and I
Lucia (my host family's live-in maid), me, and Lucia's daughter Stephanie
Danielle, Stephanie, and I

I'm thinking of everyone back home now and wishing you were all here with me! It rained here today, but you can tell that summer is on the way! I only have three more months in Brazil and I hope to make the most of it!
Love to you all,
Maya

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sugary sugar, Religion, and Graduations

A new week of adventures under my belt! My friend Danielle and I attempted to make chocolate chip cookies but, ignorant of the intricacies of sugar, we used unrefined Brazilian cane sugar that made our cookies into solid sugar balls instead of what they should be. Oops! Who knew that Brazilian sugar was more sugary!? Later that week my host sister and I made a very successful strawberry cake however. Much more delicious.
This week I also visited one of the most famous churches in Salvador, the Church of Bonfim, and went to an interesting religious ceremony in the city of Cachoeira (which means waterfall in Portuguese), about 2 hours from Salvador. The church has a room full of wax body parts. These are offerings representing illnesses people are asking to be cured. Some of them were very elaborate and the room was a little bit creepy. The gate around the church is full of ribbons with the church's name. These ribbons, also used as bracelets, are used to make wishes. Each knot tied is one wish and when it falls off the wishes are supposed to come true. We'll see!
Wish ribbons on the church fence
Wax body parts hanging from the ceiling
Overlook at a fort by the Church of Bonfim
The ceremony in Cachoeira was a celebration of the ascension of the Virgin Mary, but a combination of Afro-Brazilian cult and Catholicism tradition. The Brotherhood of Good Death is the name of the group who perform the ritual. They are a group of older Afro-Brazilian women who practice candomblé, which often mirrors or includes many Catholic traditions because of Portuguese influence in slave traditions.
The statue of Virgin Mary entering the church at the head of the procession

I also attended a graduation ceremony for the Administration department at my university. Graduations here are VERY different than from the states. It was a private ceremony, not sponsored by the university, and those who chose to participate had to pay about $2000 USD. Needless to say there were not very many participants. It was a huge ceremony with everyone in very formal attire and the most european-looking Brazilians I have seen so far. It felt like a social status parade or show. Very interesting to see the differences from the US and Brazil. The family is the center of the ceremonial traditions here.
My host sister Luize and I in our apt before leaving
The stage

Well that's all I have for now. Again, send me an email or comment. I would love to hear from everyone back home! Many of my friends from Pacific are leaving for their year abroad this month and it's so exciting watching them prepare. Studying abroad is such an enriching and amazing experience. Good luck everyone! Much love from Brazil!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brazilian birthday, Rainy adventures, and School!

Well hello world!

It continues to rain here in the southern hemisphere where we are currently experiencing winter! There have been a couple beautiful days, but my cold has kept me lazily indoors. Unfortunately, because of my hesitance to bring my camera around with me and seem like the average gringa, I have no pictures to go with my stories yet, but I will search for some from friends.

I attended the 15th birthday of one of the girls from the community library in Calabar on Saturday the 7th. Turning 15 is a coming of age for girls in most of Latin America and the parties thrown reflect that. Me and two other Rhythm of Hope volunteers were invited to the celebration which was held in the community center above the library. The orixá god paintings on the walls from the capoeira class that usually meets there were covered, as this was an Evangelical birthday party. The ceremony and tradition was much like that of a Mexican quinceñera. The room was elaborately decorated (for very poor people in a slum of Brazil I was blown away by the obviously huge amount of time and care put into the decorations) in pink with excessive amounts of delicious food and sweets. The birthday girl was in a legitimate white princess dress with hooped skirt and tiara. People danced for her, sang, cried, and then her dad came out to lead her into adulthood by taking away the symbolic doll she was carrying and putting on her a pair of high heels. Usually they then dance, but as it was an Evangelical no-dancing-unless-religious type of party they skipped that part. I had an amazing time surrounded by happy Brazilians and a lot of the children from the library who all helped out with cooking and decorating for the party. It was an amazing community event to take part in.

I have been to more of the organizations with Rhythm of Hope and the summer intern left so now it's just me. I'm uncertain as to what my role is going to be there. It seems like a great way to get involved here, but there is a lot of work and organizing required. I may need to wait until I figure out university business before I throw myself into it.

Speaking of university... I am attending UFBA (Federal University of Bahia) which is a public institution, unlike the Catholic university I attended in Rio. The education system here is very different than the United States and I think both require development and reform before they can truly serve the people. The public universities are completely free for students who pass the entrance exam (they are shocked to hear that public universities in the US charge!). That said, it is almost impossible to get into a free public university (which tend to be much higher quality than private institutions) without a very expensive, private elementary through high school education. Therefore the poor who attend public schools before college and generally cannot afford a private university are excluded from the universities they could afford because of their inability to pay for a quality education. A very interesting cycle of social exclusion.

Today was supposed to be my first day of classes at UFBA, but as is custom the professors and students did not show up to class. My friend Danielle and I decided to use this time to explore the campus, which is spread out all over the city. We walked a LONG way, usually in the wrong direction, in intermittent rain dumps but eventually found all of the buildings we were looking for. It took all afternoon. We did manage to make some new Brazilian friends and unlock some of the scheduling mysteries of the school (NOTHING is online. You have to go to each individual department/building. But if you don't know where that is and the campus is spread out all over the city...it poses some problems.) This week I am shopping around for classes, but I'm considering some anthropology, gender studies, and political science.

I love you all and let's talk again soon! I love it when people write back, if you can find the time. Interactive blogs and journals are much more fun and make me want to write more!

I'm trying to keep balanced here in my new world of Salvador. Remember that wealth and status aren't all that matter! The world is full of beautiful places and people that will survive without capitalism, profit, and new business growth. Please save a free, clean, public beach for me!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week One: rain, dancing, and volunteering

The rain has been cramping my exploration style, but it has noticeably gotten better this week. Every Saturday night there is live jazz at the Modern Art Museum, right on the bay. I went last Saturday because one of my gringo friends was invited to play. Despite the rain, there were plenty of people and musicians to make the venture worth it.

The next day I went to a dance lesson in the historical center of Salvador, called Pelourinho. The class was of orixá dances, the gods of candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion combining bits of Catholicism and African traditions. Each god, or orixá, has its own dance and during ceremonies members become possessed by the different gods and how they dance indicates what orixá is possessing them. It is much more common in Salvador than Rio.
Candomblé ceremony in Rio that one of my friends participated in so I got to go!

Tuesday night we went back to the Pelourinho to see the popular Bahian singer Gerônimo sing with another gringa from my program who was invited to sing with him. It was a great show and it hardly rained at all!
Gringos at the Gerônimo show
I have been walking and running around my neighborhood and discovered some great stores tucked away! An artisan ice cream shop and Mexican restaurant! I have also gotten in contact with an NGO that works with Brazilian community organizations within Salvador. Check them out at rhythmofhope.org. They help struggling groups network, brainstorm, fundraise, and find volunteers. I have gone to a couple of their organizations with the current intern and it looks like a wonderful program! Hopefully I will be able to get more involved as I settle in. I visited a capoeira class for street children and a community library that was hosting a poetry reading. I am going back to the library today, it's in a favela about 5 minutes walking from my house.

Coming to Salvador from Rio shows me just how diverse Brazil is! I'm so glad I took the opportunity to get to know to extremely different parts of the country. So much is different here: food, music, favelas, language, buses, people, universities, etc. I am trying to pick it up quickly and thank goodness I speak Portuguese already!

Normality does not exist.

To Do (for all of you): Read Half the Sky. I finished it in Chile and it was absolutely eye-opening and inspiring.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Goodbyes and Changes

I have made a new semester resolution: WRITE IN MY BLOG MORE! This should be easy because I have internet in my new house. So no excuses!

My semester in Rio de Janeiro ended July 7th. It was hard to say goodbye to all of my new Brazilian and international friends, but hopefully I will see everyone again someday, somewhere. July 11th I flew to Santiago, Chile for ten days in order to get a new visa. It was extremely cold, especially after 6 months in Rio, which may have permanently weakened my tolerance of the cold. I returned to Brazil on the 21st and moved to Salvador, Bahia the next day.
In Pichilemu, Chile (3 hrs from Santiago on the coast) wearing EVERY layer possible to stay warm.

I am now living in Salvador, in NE Brazil in the state of Bahia, with a nice Brazilian mother, daughter, and empregada (live in servant). The program here is very different from Rio, more like the one I participated in in Ecuador during high school. Much more cultural and experience based and only 25 students from the US, in comparison to over 500 international students in Rio. The academic director is an anthropology professor! I start classes in the beginning of August at the Federal University of Bahia, though I have no idea what classes I will be taking yet. Everyone else has been here a month already, so I have entered as the sort of late comer who already knows Portuguese and a lot about Brazil. It's funny to see all of their reactions to things that I now consider normal and don't think about at all!

So far I have been recovering from my trip and not seen much of the city. I live in a relatively ritzy part of the city called Barra, about a 10 minute walk from the main beach. All my meals are provided by the family so I get to eat some DELICIOUS Bahian food! I just have to avoid gaining over 15 pounds like I did in Ecuador... Today we went to a percussion lesson in a social organization in a favela that provides percussion, circus, and art classes for kids in the community, as long as they prove they are attending school regularly. It's very interesting for me to compare the favela dynamics here and in Rio, as well as tons of other things. Studying here was definitely a good choice and I'm really excited, though I miss Rio and everyone there a lot!

Lots of love to everyone! I miss you all and hope you haven't forgotten about me!
Beijos.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter and rain

So this has been a rather eventful last week or so for Rio. We got a long weekend for Easter, one of the advantages of living in a Catholic country and going to a Catholic university. On Easter day I woke up at 5am and went with a group of friends to an island about an hour from Rio called Paqueta. We rented bikes and rode around the island for a couple of hours. There were beautiful views, beautiful houses, and great parks. You can only get to Paqueta by boat, and there aren't any cars on the island so the only transportation is horse-drawn cart and bike.
The girls!
After we took another boat to a city across the bay from Rio called Sao Goncalo. I have a good friend (Brazilian) from my university who has family there. They live on the outskirts of the city in a very poor neighborhood and welcomed us into their home for Easter. My friend's aunts fed us the best meal I have had so far in Brazil. There was fried chicken, chicken salad, pasta salad, roast, two rice dishes, flan, homemade jello, and chocolate cake. We all ate SO MUCH and had great conversations and laughs with his aunts, uncles, and cousins. Many jokes were made at my expense, as the only blond-haired and blue-eyed person in the group, but it was all fun. After lunch we played soccer with some of the neighborhood kids before starting the 2 hour, 3 bus trip back to Rio. On the way though we enjoyed a tumultuous bus ride along a dirt road and made friends with two ADORABLE Brazilian girls, Joyce age 4 and Jessica age 6, who even shared their Easter chocolate with us. It was definitely one of the best Easters I've had.
The whole group

So now for the rain. Rio is currently experiencing the worst tropical rainstorms in over 60 years. Tuesday the 6th was the hardest rain I've ever seen and it continued all day and night. My apartment was out of power and water for 20 hours and the streets all around us were under at least a foot of water. When we finally did regain connectivity to the outside world, we found out that almost 100 people died and the city had completely stopped. The rain is supposed to continue all week. Classes have been canceled at all institutions for the week and many businesses were closed for at least a day or two. I finally ventured out of my home today and there is mud and sand washed all over the streets from the hills. All of the people who died were in the hillside slums, called favelas, in Rio and the surrounding cities. When natural disasters hit, the poorest suffer the most damage and loss while the wealthy watch on their televisions and complain about the inconvenience.

This is a link with some great pictures of the flooding. Many of them were taken right near my house in places I pass everyday!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Almost 2 months in 1 post...Take a deep breath!

Dear friends and family,

I am alive! And it has become clear that I will never be an avid travel-blogger, but I will attempt to fill you in quickly and keep up better now that I have settled into a routine here in Rio.

Carnaval was a great experience. Not quite all the glamour I was expecting, but definitely full of glitter, samba, sun, cheap beer, and very little sleep. Rio fills up with foreigners for carnaval and all of the cariocas (Brazilians from Rio) flee to other, more remote cities. Carnaval in Rio is characterized by street parties called blocos that include heart pounding drum lines and samba singers. There were over 100 blocos everyday of carnaval, all over the city. I LOVED the drums and went to multiple blocos everyday of carnaval. Many people get dressed up in costumes and it is a great excuse (not that Brazilians need one...) to make-out with random people in the street.
Dancers from the samba school Salgueiro, last year's winners
Partiers at the bloco Suvaco do Cristo (Armpit of Christ)

Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires, Buses
Immediately after carnaval, I left with four friends to Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires. We spent two days exploring the Brazilian side of the falls and then another day on the Argentina side. The pure mass and strength of so much water was overwhelming, one of the most awe-inspiring things I have ever seen.
Iguazu Falls!
We then bussed to Buenos Aires and spent six days being tourists in a wonderful city. We went on a city tour, spent an afternoon in La Boca listening to tango and admiring artisan crafts, went to a tango show in the oldest tango club in the city, visited the Eva Peron Museum, rented paddle boats, wandered around the city on foot, visited a planetarium and an old Jesuit church with underground tunnels, explored the port, and went to a soul shaking drum show at a popular cultural center, as well as ate large quantities of bread, steak, and dolce de leche. We also met people from all over the world and had an AMAZING trip. Even though we did almost no pre-planning, the trip went perfectly and was one of the best times of my life. Oh yeah, and my friend Garazi and I saved $200 USD each by taking the 40 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires back to Rio. It was actually pleasant and definitely worth it!
Jesuit tunnels used to protect the city
La Boca
Plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada
Showing some love to a toucan in the tropical bird park
Jenny, Garazi, me, Michelle, and Jessica
University
I started classes at PUC March 2nd. This has thrown off my feeling of perpetual summer, but I'm thankful for that. The bureaucracy and inefficiency of PUC's administration has been very frustrating to deal with, from copy houses with hour long lines to manual registration with two+ hour long lines!! I am taking one Brazilian anthropology class in English that is providing the opportunity for some great fieldwork. The rest of my classes are in Portuguese, including Portuguese level 3, Community Development, Photojournalism, and futsal (indoor soccer). I am enjoying all of my classes immensely and it has proved to be a great way to meet Brazilian students, though the size of Rio makes it difficult to meet up with them outside of school.

Volunteering
Today was my first day of volunteering in a public school in the favela Vidigal, near my university with a program called Educari. Twice a week I will help an English teacher with 10-12 year olds and co-teach a Spanish class to 13 year olds with a friend from my university. I think this will be very challenging and take up a lot of time, making curriculum and lesson plans, but I am very excited! The school has a unique history. It used to be a private school for the very wealthy families that lived in the area. As Vidigal grew, the wealthy families moved away and the private school was turned into a public school for children from Vidigal, in one of the nicest buildings in the area.

I miss you all back home, but am having a wonderful time here! If there is anything you would love to hear more about, let me know! Sitting down to write about my experience can be overwhelming, since so much is new. So give me direction on what you want to hear about!
Love you all!
Beijos,
Maya