Thursday, January 28, 2010

Petropolis, Jardim Botanico, Bureaucracy, and Futebol

This Saturday we went to historic Petropolis, the city where the Portuguese emperor stayed for some time. It is in the mountains so was very beautiful and we saw some great museums and old churches. On Sunday my friend Lauren and I explored the gorgeous Jardim Botanico near where I live. It's a huge urban park and inside you almost feel like you aren't in such a huge city. It will definitely take a couple of visits to completely explore.

Large, Catholic Church in Petropolis. Long live colonialism!

Jardim Botanico, absolutely gorgeous.

I have now officially registered with the Brazilian Federal Police! As many of you know, last semester I learned to strongly dislike and distrust bureaucracy, but I have now realized that Pacific's bureaucracy is NOTHING compared to what it is here. I should have known because of my visa craziness, but oh well. Another cultural experience. To cut it short, it took 2 days and 10 hours to finally have my passport looked at for 10 min and approved. And I will have to leave Brazil in July to get a new visa for my second semester. Fun times.

On to more exciting things... The insane thunderstorms have calmed down and the sun is out again. Which means lots of beach time and exhausting games of sandy soccer, consequently why my foot is now swollen and purple, but it's worth it! I'm one of the only girls that plays, even in our group of foreigners, and that definitely gets some laughs and catcalls out of the Brazilians (not that really white gringos trying to play soccer isn't funny enough already!)!! This Sunday is the classic game between two Brazilian teams, Flamengo and Fluminense, in Maracana stadium. Maracana stadium is the huge soccer stadium in Rio that will be the centerpiece of the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. This is THE GAME TO SEE!! And we got tickets for $20 Reais (about $13 USD)!!!!!! I am so so SO excited.

Samba jam session on Ipanema Beach with instruments, singers, and dancers.

Portuguese classes are over next Thursday and then begins the craziness of Carnaval and real vacation. Plans are being formed to try and go to Argentina, but we will see how that goes. My friend Melissa and I found an adorable little cafe and bookstore today that made me think of school and Olympia. Too bad books here are crazy expensive! Oh yes, and I tried cashew juice...a very strange and bitter experience. Also, there are these evil little ants here that get in EVERYTHING! No food or glass is safe. You have been warned.

Friday, January 15, 2010

First Two Weeks in Brazil: SUCCESS

This is Rio from the top of Sugerloaf Mountain. The mountain to the right is the Christ statue and I live to the left at the foot of it. Such a beautiful city!

Today I finished my second week of Portuguese classes and had my first written exam. And got robbed! It was inevitable and I'm actually surprised I made it two weeks. My friend Lauren and I were walking in broad daylight around the lake near my house and four teenage guys ran up, surrounded us, and pulled out a knife. We handed over our phones damn fast and they ran off. We were a little shaken up, but we're fine. It's a good experience to have had and now we know what to be aware of for the future.

My Portuguese has gotten a lot better and the heat isn't quite as stifling. I've been kept very busy with Portuguese classes Monday through Friday, which is really tiring, and then taking advantage of being in such an amazing city. My university took us on a city tour of some popular tourist destinations, which was fun, and then I've been exploring the beaches and parks some with other students (alone too, but that might end today).

Maracana Soccer Stadium. Home of Brasil!

Historic downtown Rio de Janeiro.

Sambodrono, where the famous Samba School parades happen during Carnaval.

One thing I love about my bus ride to school, and Rio in general, is the amazing graffiti. It's on almost every wall and some of serious works of art. There's political, social, gang related, and just drawings. I will try to get some pictures up soon. It definitely brightens up the already beautiful city.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eu não falo Português.

And so begins my semester at PUC-Rio. "I do not speak Portuguese." I appear to be one of the only international students here for the intensive Portuguese program who has not studied the language at all, ever. I tested into level 3 of 5 with the online test (Portuguese and Spanish are similar), but the oral test put me in level 1 as my pronunciation and actual knowledge of Portuguese is pretty nonexistent. It's a strange position to be in, but I am loving it!

Today was orientation so I met the 130 other students who will be here this month. There isn't as much diversity as I would have liked, at least half of the students are from California! Mostly from UC Berkeley, UCSB, UCLA, and a couple of other UC schools. Apparently PUC and the UC system are very close; they even have an official representative with an office on campus! Other than that there are numerous other undergraduate students (the majority), grad students, entrepreneurs, army wives following their husbands, and travelers.

PUC is only a 15-20min bus ride from my house, which is convenient. The campus is beautiful, though pretty empty now as the school is on vacation. Classes start Monday and are Mon-Fri from 8:30am-1pm.

I definitely have much more freedom here than with my host family in Ecuador. I have my own key to the house and no real restrictions except boys aren't allowed to spend the night. I am truly enjoying myself so far and just need to get some more reais out of the bank, buy a cell phone, and learn to speak Portuguese!

Tchau! Maya

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I arrived in Brazil this morning at 6am in insane heat and humidity. I met two other international students from my program, both from France, and we managed to communicate in a weird Portuguese/English/Spanish dialect. There was some confusion about family living situations which left me homeless for a couple of hours, but now it's sorted out and I am in a different house than I originally thought. I am living with a woman named Erminia who is a psychotherapist and has had many other students from my university stay with her. She informed me matter-of-factly after I arrived that I was now her daughter forever, which is fine with me! We live on the 9th floor of an apartment building close to a huge lake, 15-20 minutes from my university by bus, and about 30 minutes to Ipanema beaches. Tomorrow I have an orientation beginning at 9am in my university and Portuguese classes begin on Monday. Crazy exciting!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years and Salinas

We got back from Salinas, a beach town, yesterday after passing the weekend there in a borrowed house with my Ecuadorian family and three aunts and cousins. It was chaotic and crowded, but thus is life in a huge Ecuadorian family.

We spent New Years Eve in the house with mostly immediate family. At midnight it is tradition in Ecuador to burn paper mache dolls, called año viejos, to represent the passing of the old year and welcoming the new one. Every house on our block contributed a doll to our huge exploding bonfire of paper mache, firecrackers, and gasoline. It is also a tradition to eat 12 grapes in one minute and say a wish for the coming year for every grape you eat. My younger sister Caroline fulfilled another tradition by running around the block carrying a suitcase, representing her desire to travel in the new year. After that we had a family dance party and ate a huge dinner of pig.

We spent the weekend at the beach swimming, eating shrimp, bartering with street vendors, and dancing in a beachside club. And tomorrow I go to Brazil!!