Wednesday, December 30, 2009

And They All Lived Happily Ever After...

Well, I'm back in the U.S.A. Coming back involved lots of complicated feelings, of course. Mostly I was really happy to be able to see my family and friends. But not speaking Portuguese is pretty strange, for sure.

In some ways, my time in Brazil passed by quickly, but it wasn't just like a vacation: I wasn't just a tourist there. I had a regular old Brazilian life: I went to school every day and I came home at the end of it. I had Brazilian friends and a Brazilian family. When you're a tourist, you come back after having seen the country. But I did more than see the country: I also lived the life of a Brazilian, and somehow it's harder for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I will never be back there in that exact situation again.

Either way, I had an amazing semester, full of learning and growth. I'm glad I did it, but I'm glad I'm back. And, since I'm back, I guess there's no more need for this blog. I'm contemplating keeping an ultimate-related blog up (we'll see what happens with that) because I enjoyed writing while I was away and it'd be fun to keep it up. But otherwise, this is it! Tchau, Brazil, tchau, Brazil Blog!

...and for those of you who are curious: I can samba. Maybe not too well, but I can't say I didn't learn.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Touring Sampa

So I'm here in São Paulo (Sampa if you want to abbreve), and I am really enjoying it, despite quite low expectations. Everyone who I talked to before coming here warned me: it's not a tourist city. You won't find much to do there. But I've had three pretty full days here:

Sunday was not actually all that full. I woke up late, had a leisurely breakfast at my hostel, and wandered around Vila Madalena the whole day. Vila Madalena is a really pretty neighborhood, it reminds me a lot of Wallingford in Seattle—kind of hippie/young and full of fairs and parks and street art. I spent a fair bit of time at the fair and a really fun bookstore right nearby, and then I walked to the Tomie Ohtake institute, a really cool-looking building with a modern art museum inside. It was nice to relax and the museum had great exhibits.

   I've been staying with a Wellesley alum (class of '90) and her family (husband, 3-year-old twins, 2 labs) since Sunday night, and her house is really nice. It's in a neighborhood called Alto de Pinheiros, right near Vila Madalena, and on a bunch of bus routes—fairly convenient to getting in and out of the center.

Monday was spent on a walking tour of the city center. The Lonely Planet guide has a 4-hour suggested tour and I stuck almost completely to it. It started at Praça da Sé, where the city cathedral is located(pictured). The coolest thing about the very center of the city is about half the streets are people-only: no cars, which is pretty rare in this car-filled city.

There is also a ton of really neat architecture, and lots of cool little praças with these HUGE rainforesty trees...They seem to pop up out of concrete, it's impressive.

In the afternoon, I checked out out Av. Paulista (very Manhattan-y) and Rua Oscar Freire (=5th Ave). It was fun to window shop and see all the holiday decorations and stuff. Between my walking tour and the afternoon, I did a TON of walking. I made it back to a park closeby the house, Parque Villa Lobos, around 5PM, and walked, wrote, and rented a bike, and ended the day with sushi with the Wellesley alum and her husband, which was great!

Today was a museum day. I spent the whole day just north of the centro, in a neighborhood called Luz. The train station there, Estação da Luz, is completely out of place with its surroundings. You feel like you've been transported to England!! It was built in 1901 in full Victorian style, complete with all its materials actually shipped from Great Britain!It was funny to see this very British train station in the middle of Brazil...but I should stop being surprised at things...I'm in Brazil: most anything happens here.

My first stop was the Museu da Língua Portuguesa: the Portuguese Language museum. This museum was actually fascinating (especially if you're a linguistics person..which I'm not). It's actually inside part of the Estação da Luz. The museum documents the rise of Brazilian Portuguese as distinct from the European (or African) and had a really cool special exhibit on a Brazilian poet, as well. I spent a long time in there: there's a timeline that goes from 4000 BC to the present day, and a ton of interactive features where you can here different accents or slang from different places.

After that, it was on to the Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo's oldest art museum (built in 1909). The building kind of reminds me of Wellesley's science center, actually—it's this old building that has been through some cool renovations and the inside looks nothing like you expect it to be. There's a great collection of Brazilian art there, especially contemporary, and I really enjoyed myself.

I spent some time walking around the Parque da Luz, which has tons of modern sculpture (but not over the top—very tasteful!) and wrote a bit/just relaxed.

The third museum of the day was the annex of the Pinacoteca (more contemporary art and a really cool exhibit of random stuff from a collector that donated his collection to the museum) and the Memorial da Liberdade, which is dedicated to memorializing the period of the Brazilian dictatorship. It's housed in the cells that were used to imprison and torture political dissidents, and though it was simple it was a powerful and educational experience.

Brazil's dictatorship lasted from 1964 to 1985, and though not as brutal (nor as well-known) as the Argentinian or Chilean ones going on around the same time, it was still a repressive, non-democratic regime. While I've been here, I've only had one conversation about the dictatorship, and I haven't really read anything about it, so it was really good to find out more history and actual details. But the most powerful was the one cell they had restored to its original condition, what it'd looked like during the dictatorship. Complete with scratchings on the walls and matresses on the floors and the thing that was supposed to be a "bathroom" but was really just a hole in the ground.

I knew it happened, in theory, you know? But that museum made me realize (as stupid as it sounds) that it actually happened. And it involved real people, people who were so desperate to document their lives that they etched their names on the wall, for fear they'd otherwise be forgotten forever.

It was a heavy way to end the day, but it was definitely worth it.

Tomorrow: Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Museu da Imigração Japonesa, Parque da Ibirapuera/Museu da Arte Moderna, FLY HOME!

I can't believe time here is really coming to an end...

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I have finally, finally, arrived at my hostel in São Paulo. I say this because I left the airport at 9PM. shoot. after grabbing my luggage, putting the big bag in storage til I pick it up the 23rd, then taking a 2-hour bus across the city, then a 2-hour CAB RIDE (yes, it was expensive) back across (at least it seemed that way) I am finally here in Vila Madalena...except now I don't want to even go out, I just want to go to sleep.

There was a wonderful view of the falls from the airplane as we left right before sunset, a great way to say goodbye to the city--just a river turning into mist turning into cloud.

Can you tell I am tired? I think the quality of these blog entries must be going downhill...sorry--I guess I am too tired for this.

Anyway. Suffice it to say that THE TRAFFIC IN SÃO PAULO IS HORRIBLE. Absolutely the worst. Of course, what would you expect from a city of 20 million? but still.

Tomorrow: explore, eat lunch, meet a Wellesley alum who lives here, maybe, maybe find an ultimate frisbee game?? I don't know if that last one will be possible. I have heard vague rumors that ultimate exists here...but who knows if I will actually find it in a city this big??

Yes. Tired and overwhelmed. Until tomorrow, internetland.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Foz do Iguaçu!!

Well, I left Fortaleza with more hecticness than was necessary, mostly due to forgetting my camera at the house and realizing it when I was in the ticket line at the airport. whoops.

The situation was resolved by Fatima sending the thing via mototaxi, which was expensive but not as expensive as airmailing it to iguaçu...which would have meant I would have spent the first day without the camera.

Thank goodness that didn't happen. I got into Iguaçu at like 2 in the morning, and woke up early (ish) the next day, had breakfast, and headed to the Brazilian side of the falls. Oh, my goodness. It was wonderful. Iguaçu falls are wider than Victoria and wider and taller than Niagra...And hiking on the Brazilian side, the whole majestic falls were just absolutely stunning, spreading out in front of me and curving back around. We got pretty close to a part of them, and I took a boat ride right into the middle of them!!!

Yesterday was the Argentinian side. Argentina owns more of the actual falls but you can't get the panoramic view the Brazilian side gives you so you kind of have to do both. We got really close-up to the falls on the Argentinian side, and there was a lot more hiking/walking available which was nice.

Unfortunately by the end of the day my nose was running horribly and my throat was quite sore, and I woke up this morning feeling really terribly. But I spent most of the day in bed, with the exception of a short walk to and from the farmacy...On the way I stopped at a juice bar and got acerola/orange juice which has the highest levels of vitamin C. It helped a bit but I think sleeping helped more. And now I am going to go watch a movie and sleep some more, with the hopes that I will feel better tomorrow. I am planning to go to a national rainforest/bird park tomorrow and then hang around town until my 7PM flight to São Paulo!! Here's to more adventures, and hopefully to getting better. Sorry if this post is ridiculous...I am hopped up on dayquil and now I am tired again. But Foz do Iguaçu was definitely an amazing experience, for sure.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I think the weirdest sensation is no longer being able to fully express oneself in just one language.

The best one-word example of this is the word Saudade, which actually has no translation. It's a feeling, that expresses loss. So if you say you're going to feel saudades, it means you're going to miss them, only like times 13249847549832749. "I miss you" doesn't cover it. But I didn't really realize that until I found this new expression that conveys so much more than "I miss you". It's not really certain when Saudade came about, as a word. But it really developed when the Portuguese found and began settling Brazil...families split apart, people left their homeland, never to return...That's saudades--missing the place AND the people. It's how you feel after a long implies emptiness and loss.

Needless to say, I'm going to feel a TON of Saudades for this place, Fortaleza...Brazil..and even more for the people. But the whole time I've been here I've missed home. So how exactly am I supposed to be happy again? If you have the answer, let me know.

Yesterday, Fatima and I had a celebratory dinner, just the two of us, at home. It was more Italian than Brazilian--we had lasagna (soy and eggplant) and garlic bread and a glass of Argentinian wine. It was really nice--just the two of us, and very tranquilo as the Brazilians say...See what I mean about expressing myself in only one language?

Despite feeling pretty sad about leaving Fortaleza (I've cried once this weekend thinking about it and so has Fatima...) I'm really excited to start this new part of my time in Brazil!! IGUAÇU FALLS HERE I COME!

Until later, Fortaleza. Até mais.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Quem bebe desta agua...

...vai voltar."
whoever drinks the water from here is going to come back. It's a popular saying around here and after three and a half months here I believe it.

Just a quick entry to reflect on the fact that I'm all done with my program and I am headed out on TUESDAY, which I do NOT believe. Tomorrow is the host family party and Manu Chao/Roberto Sa (haven't decided which) tomorrow night. Sunday is free, Monday is last minute packing, and then...Sayonara, Fortaleza!! I think I'll write a more reflecting entry on Monday, but Tchau for now! I'm off to CUCA for the last time, to present my research to the staff there.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I just handed in my ISP. 49 pages. Four weeks worth of existence in one academic document. It is all nice and prettily bound with a photo on the cover and footnotes and a table of contents and acknowledgments and everything.

No more Fall Semester.* Crazy.

*Well, I still have an oral presentation. But I like to talk so that'll be easy