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!