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.
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!
Showing some love to a toucan in the tropical bird park
Jenny, Garazi, me, Michelle, and Jessica
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.
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!