Tuesday, July 29, 2008

breakdancing, forest, and more beach

Another fabulous night at Lapa (last Thursday). Breakdancing showcase. Great crowd. The cultural events in Brazil are always top class.

Saturday we went to climb to the top of a peak in Floresta da Tijuca. Big group walk. No chances in seeing any animals in a group like that. Anyway, at least I got out into the forest.

Sunday, the surf bus didn´t come :( I missed my weekly dose of Prainha, so I may go crazy by the end of the week. Instead we went to a local beach next to Pão do Azucar. It was still nice, since it was local and we could interact (a little bit more with Brazilians). I have to stop being afraid that they don´t want to talk with me-- with my horrible Portuguese. I also finally found a nice crew to hang out with in my program: Jack, Melissa, and Abby are all really chill and we move at about the same pace.

Abby and I

I had my first real conversation in Portuguese with a random Brazilian today! I´ve been going to these lectures at the Museu do Indio. One guy I´ve been noticing because he didn´t look Brazilian-- I thought that he was European. So I went to ask him if he was Brazilian, and he was. I would have never had the courage to talk to him if I thought that he was Brazilian. We talked about research, travel in Brazil, field work, and indigenous people of Brazil. If there is one topic that I want to be good at talking about, its my research work.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rio night life

Last night we went to Lapa-- the party part of town. I've been there twice before, but it always astonishing to see it. Its like a massive street party that is happening almost every night. With tons of bars and live music. Dancing in the street, drums, food etc. Mixture of black consciousness, hippies and tourists. Its remarkably tame though. No hassles from people. Men just say Hi and then leave. Every now and then there is a bad fight-- but I haven't seen one yet. Brazil appears to be either good or bad. No middle ground. People are either super nice, or super shady. Last night I am pretty sure that I saw some thieves fleeing the scene. You can tell bc they are running as fast as they can, dodging cars. The Brazilian way is to keep an eye out for trouble and leave as quickly as you can at the first hint. Anyway, we went there to see some African drumming. Great music and lots of people dancing. Today we are going to Prainha (beach) for fun in the sun again.

Yesterday we went to Corcovado. You know that big Christ statue that overlooks the city? Its a great view from up there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lapa and botanical garden

I’ve survived one more week in the big city. Highlights of the past week were a night out in Lapa at Scenarium and today’s trip to the Botanical Garden. Somehow I manage to spend way too much time wandering about in the streets—that’s pretty much how I use up most of my time here in Rio outside of classes.

I went to Lapa the week before but we just wandered around in circles for 2 hours. This time we went with a few Brazilians to hear the band of one woman’s husband. Outstanding! The leading musician played the violin and the band ranged from samba to forro. The venue itself was beautiful. Like a restored old hotel lobby/saloon. It was filled with antiques and I was told that these antiques get changed frequently—either because they are rented or they get sold. The area is an antique district during the day.

Today I missed my program’s bus to Petropolis—a historic city in the mountains—like an idiot. So I stuck around town again and me and Patricia went to the Botanical Gardens. Its really a lovely place and maybe one of the nicest botanical gardens that I have been to—not because it has more diversity or infrastructure or anything. It just had a really good feeling and maybe I was really relieved to finally get away from all of the cars and the traffic. We even saw some wildlife (toucans, monkeys) which reminded me how close Rio is to some beautiful and rich forest.

View of the mountains and favela (?) outside of the gardens.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rio de Janeiro

I am in a homestay about 4 blocks from the famous beach of Copacabana. Really amazing to be here in Rio and again, standing in a place with so much history and famous reputation. I went to Ipanema on the first day here— I have to admit that like many other extranheiros, I’ve romanticized it based on “The Girl from Ipanema”. The family that I am staying with is wonderful. Marisa and her daughter Jennifer (23 YO); Patricia is another student from Boulder, CO; and until recently, Kendra was here as a tourist as well. It is a lively, friendly and comfortable house to stay in. I was pretty nervous about it before arriving since it’s a bit weird committing to stay in a family’s house for 6 weeks, but Marisa loves to chatter and treats us all like her children so I felt comfortable immediately.

Marisa and I.

A typical day for me: Breakfast at 8am with coffee and ham and cheese sandwich and fruit. Arrive for class at 8.45am and study Portuguese in my class of about 10 students. Then home for lunch—big lunch! Then sometimes back again to the school for lectures—the cultural component of the course. If I am free for the afternoon, then I explore the wonders of Rio de Janeiro with one or two girls from my house.

Yesterday Kendra took me to Santa Theresa—a small bohemian and artistic community surrounded by favelas. We rode the Bonde there, which was the most sketchy form of transportation that I am ever encountered. Maybe it was because when we arrived it was full, so we rode on the outside of it. The concrete along the sides of the tracks was brushing my pant legs as we went over the overpasses of the highway. All I could imagine as a pant leg getting stuck on an outcropping and me tumbling down to the favelas below. Besides that it creaked along like an old rollercoaster and often seemed to be on the verge of a breakdown. The kids were killing me as well, because they liked running along the bonde- jumping on and off and dragging their feet along the road as we moved along. Santa Theresa was quaint, charming, beautiful and a breath of fresh air for me- since the busy-ness of Copacabana has been a bit difficult for me to get used to. We had a lovely caiparinha at a hillside restaurant with some small food before leaving on the rickety bonde back into the downtown of Rio.

Kendra at the house.

Santa Theresa