Sunday, August 31, 2008

Santa Catarina and Mato Grosso

I´ve travelled quite alot in the past week. I flew from Rio to Curitiba. There I spent a few hours waiting for the bus to São Bento. This was not lost time, because right outside of the bus station was a lovely old inside fresh market, also with restuarants and gourmet cheeses, wines, and oils.

Two hours to São Bento brought me to a tiny little town of about 6o,000 people, where most of the people are of German descent. A very charming little town that has hills, a chiming bell tower, no crime, and about 3 major roads. Vivi was here staying with her family. So I stayed with her at her mother´s apartment but also spent good time with her very nice sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew. One night they had a lovely dinner party with friends. The last day there in São Bento we all went together to see some of the neighboring towns. On the fouth day we drove to the coast to Florianopolis.

First we stopped in a little town to visit the relatives of Vivi´s father. They lived close to a big lake. Wonderful lunch!

In Florianopolis, we stayed with Vivi´s brother. He has a wonderful rented house above the lake! Que linda! We drove to the South of the island and visited some nice areas. Lots of great sea food here! I ate enough oysters to fill me for the next year... I need to come back here another time to enjoy the beaches and trails more. Somewhere along this 1 week with Vivi´s family and friends, the Portuguese clicked and conversations became understandable. This was good because after Florianopolis I was on my own...

I flew to Brasilia where I stayed one night to meet with someone, then took the 14 hour bus to Canarana. When I stepped off the bus in Canarana at 10 am in the morning, I questioned my decision to travel so far into the center of Brazil. The bus station emptied quickly, and I could literally hear the leaves rolling down the empty streets in this city center. The heat was so heavy that the enormously wide paved roads shimmered, and little tornados brewed across the street medians. All of the 4 people in the bus station stared at me as I went to a bus ticket window to get a return ticket (already I was thinking about returning). Three indigenous people had arrived and were negotiating their ticket with the vender, giggling and making jokes that the vender (and I) didn't understand. I held my head up high as I left the station, trying to look confident that I knew what I was doing. I immediately went to an internet shop, hoping for an email from my colleague at UF with instructions about what to do next, and finding nothing, lingered-- writing in my face book "Arika is in Canarana and is wondering a bit, what in the world I am doing here in the middle of no where."

So I asked the woman at the counter if she knew where the IPAM office was-- the organization that my friend works for. She said sure! And she knew my friend! So she called him, got his friend, and his friend came to pick me up to bring me to a hotel and help me find lunch. Then immediately we ran into Paulo at the hotel where he was looking for another friend. Then, suddenly I had lots of friends. His group of researchers and students had come into town for the weekend to get a break from the isolation of the field station. A mix of Americans, Germans, and Brazilians. Great people! I guess in a town of 7000 people its not too hard to find who you are looking for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pão do Açucar

Pão do Açucar is that famous rock that you always see in those striking Rio de Janeiro photos of Corcovado and the bay. Wow! What a view from the top! Well worth the investment into those bondinhos. First we stayed on the beach and enjoyed beers, sun, and barbeque sausage. Then we climbed up 15 minutes up to the first rock and viewpoint. And later, took the bondinho up to the next rock to see the sunset. My second to last day in Rio.

View from the beach. Very beautiful photo day, even though the water was a bit too green for swimming.

View of Copacobana, where I have spent the majority of my stay in Rio. I've been complaining of the noise and air pollution, but I am going to miss it when I leave. I've spent two months here! Where did the time go!

On the way out

I am finally leaving Rio. I'm pretty happy about this, since big cities definitely get old after a bit. But I've been spending alot of quality time alone and its been good for me to get to know another type of Rio. This is a good city and I like it. Nice people, interesting street life, good restaurants, beautiful beaches, and great music! There is always alot to do if you have the motivation for it. I'm heading out for Pão do Açucar in just a moment. Going to go see what this famous view at the top is all about.

Here's the plan: Santa Catarina Aug 21-28. Brasilia 28-30. Canarana: 30 Aug-7 Sept. Then I leave from Rio for Florida on 8 Sept.

Here's a photo of me on the beach in Ipanema, catching the last vestiges of sun before it dropped behind the mountains:

Thursday, August 7, 2008


This is my last week in the language program. Last night I had another good night at Lapa, dancing samba (trying) and listening to a great samba band. I came home earlier than the other students, simply because after 2 am it starts to become like work for me. The next day, I had plans with a couple of the girls to go to Prainha. They didn’t show up, since they were shot from dancing all night. I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t want to go to Prainha by myself. But then suddenly, I got tired of having to wait for other people to do things with me. And I decide from then on to stop waiting for people. So I went to Copacabana Beach alone, and I met two Brazilians here-- because I was alone. This is important because I’ve found it difficult to cross the cultural (language!) boundaries. The first was a guy who asked me to watch his things while he went swimming. We chatted for about 10 minutes until he decided to continue his walk down the beach to look for friends. Later, I wanted to go swimming so I asked an older woman to watch my things. When I came back she pulled me into a lengthy conversation. She was really patient with me and spoke slowly and carefully, saying that she respected me for trying to learn Portuguese. She is retired and comes to the beach frequently. One really nice thing that she said: “I always come to the beach alone to sit here in front of the ocean. And I don’t do anything. I don’t even think. I only look at the ocean. The ocean has the power to wash your mind of worries and stress.”

It’s interesting that I used to always travel alone because I wanted to meet people and have adventures. Then somewhere along the way I got lazy and lost my independence. Maybe I’ll find it again here…

In any case, the course ends tomorrow and then I will be on my own here in Brazil. Plans are to go to Santa Catarina with Vivian to visit her family and then to Mato Grosso (Canarana) to get on the field for a couple of weeks.