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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy December!

I just got caught in a full-on tropical rainstorm. I was about 3 blocks away from IBEU, where we had Portuguese classes, and where there are computers/internet available for free, when the skies just opened up, no warning, and it was pouring.

Ten minutes later and I ducked out from the overhang under which I´d taken shelter, squelching on.

I am now staring out the window at a beautiful rainbow over the sea, drying out my soggy bag and marveling that it is completely summer and completely December.

It´s funny the things we are so used to we don´t even question. Read More...

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Dec 15 4:20PM Depart Fortaleza
Dec 15 9PM Arrive São Paulo
Dec 15 11PM Depart São Paulo
Dec 16 1:35AM Arrive Foz de Iguaçu
Dec 19 7PM Depart Foz de Iguaçu
Dec 19 9PM Arrive São Paulo

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Children´s Games and Packages!

Wow, quite a spate of posts recently--either I´ve been too busy or not busy enough...not actually sure which!

Today´s class was primarily dedicated to children´s games. We started off talking about typical food in the US and I waxed lyrical about the wonders of peanut butter, which is a surprisingly regular occurence. I thought it was important to talk/answer questions about food for a couple of reasons:

1. Everyone here eats rice and beans at least once a day. That´s not an exaggeration. You can´t find someone who doesn´t know how to cook arroz e feijão. When food comes up, Brazilians always want to know what our equivalent to rice and beans is. I have yet to think of something similar...I think the closest might just be PB&J sandwiches...cue another chance to sing peanut butter´s praises! When I told them sandwiches are really common and talked about Turkey Clubs and BLTs, they asked me if that was why Americans are all so fat. I wasn´t sure what to say but I ended up blaming (probably semi-unfairly) Fast Food.
2. Of the Brazilians that have actually visited the States (none of whom are students of mine), the majority have only been to Disney World, and maybe the other theme parks in Orlando. So they come back to Brazil complaining about how American food is awful and expensive to boot, and all anyone eats is hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries. I wanted to correct this erroneous thinking.
3. Food is part of culture, intrinsically, and like I´ve said before, it´s funny to think about something we all need to survive changing so much from place to place.

The games we ended up playing:
-Duck Duck Goose this was definitely a favorite--people picked it up quickly and we played for a while. Incidentally, duck = pato and goose = ganzo, same as Spanish.
-WAH! Yes, all you Whiptail/BDC readers out there, I officially brought WAH to Brazil! We had an excellent time playing and by the end they really got it I think, though they definitely preferred duck duck goose.
-What time is it, Mr. Fox So I forgot the translation for Fox, so that was kind of lost, and I think I may have played it slightly wrong, but they got the general gist.
-Simon Says (Simon Diz) They really liked this one. I explained it to them and then said someone else had to be Simon because I didn´t know enough body parts yet—probably not quite true but I was tired of leading games and it got a laugh. We played that for quite a while.
-Morto Vivo We formally ended with a Brazilian children´s game they decided to teach me, and we had a lot of fun. When the leader says ´morto´, you have to squat down, ´vivo´, stand up. It´s simple but fast-paced and fun. I lasted for a long time which I was proud of.

We ended up formally ending right at 12 o´clock, but about half the students stayed after and we played ´rock paper scissors´and I taught them a few clap games.

I had by far my most fun day today, and I left in a stellar mood to head home for a late lunch, and then head over to the SIT headquarters where I picked up MAIL! A beautiful blouse and a letter from my wonderful Gran, and another letter from the Wellesley Office of International Study containing tons of news, a letter from the class dean, and (more importantly) Swedish Fish, Starburst, and a recipe for pumpkin pie— just in time for Thanksgiving! I think I might try and make something for class tomorrow; I´ll let you know how that endeavor turns out. Fátima´s oven doesn´t have any degrees or much temperature adjustment, so...well, we shall see.

Monday, November 23, 2009


After the usual questions about where I’m from and how long I’m here for and what I’m studying, it goes something like this (in Portuguese):

“So, do you have a boyfriend back home in the States?”
“You don’t?”
“What about here? Do you have a boyfriend here in Fortaleza?”
“Really?! But you’re so beautiful! I can’t believe you don’t have a boyfriend!”
“Nope, don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Have you at least kissed some Brazilian guys since you’ve been here?”
“Aw, but why not?!”
“I guess because I’m shy!”

Cue the less mandatory but still common conversation about Brazilian men and how they are happy to look at you/cat call you, but generally don’t want to buy you dinner or date you.

It gets old. Very quickly.

My Sunday Afternoon, or Why Getting Lost on the Bus is a Good Thing

So last Thursday, I got horribly lost on the bus. I guess it was bound to happen at some point. I usually take the bus line ‘Grande Circular 2’ to CUCA, but I wasn’t really paying attention, and I ended up getting on ‘Circular 2,’ which is a completely different route.

…Only it goes a while on the same route before turning into a completely different route, so I was sitting on the bus for quite some time before it occurred to me that the bus didn’t seem to be going exactly the same way as usual. I figured it was my poor memory, and it took me a bit more time before I summoned up the courage to head up to the driver and make sure that the bus was headed toward CUCA. I got a confused look from the bus driver, instructions to go to the terminal Antonio Bezerra and take a different bus from there from the guy waiting to get off, and then there erupted a small argument between him and a girl who appeared to be about my age, apparently about which way I should be going. Finally the older guy ceded and got off the bus, and the girl motioned to come sit next to her. We disembarked at UFC, the university…allllllll the way across town. She walked me quickly to a different bus stop and loudly asked if anyone was getting on the “CUCA/Barra” line. One girl, also about my age (there were lots of college students around…it is a university campus after all) said she was, and we got the bus together.

The CUCA/Barra bus took a long time to arrive, and we had an even longer time riding the bus all the way back across the city, and Joelma (that was the girl’s name) and I had a nice time conversing and getting to know one another. She’s taking an English class at the UFC and works two different jobs. We exchanged e-mails and phone numbers and made a tentative date to go watch the new Twilight together (I wasn’t particularly enthused, but it’s something to do and hang out again).

After much conversation, I ended up going to her house and chilling with her and her two sisters on Sunday afternoon. She made lunch for us to eat together (lasagna, delicious) and around 4:30 we left to walk to CUCA (it’s about a 20-minute walk from her house) to watch yet another gorgeous sunset, and then go to a Baroque ensemble concert. The ensemble was great, playing a bunch of really old stuff, but also some arrangements of Brazilian music they’d written for the group, including some great pieces composed originally by Luiz Gonzago.

Joelma and her sisters had never been to the theater before…I was taken back to the days of my youth when I’d go to some small ensemble performance with my mom at Penn and fall asleep halfway through…but either way, it was enjoyed by all. And that’s the story of why getting lost on the bus is a good thing.

But my Sunday didn’t end there! Fatima had introduced the group and is friends with a few of the musicians, and a big group of us (about 9) ended up going out after the concert for delicious pizza. I had a nice conversation with one of the recorder players who said he could procure me an oboe to play! And I’m going to an orchestra concert of his on Thursday! They’re playing some Villa Lobos.

So basically, a really solid day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tough Second Week

…Two more to go before write-up and presentation time; then it’s off to the south of the country (not exactly sure where, yet…), then…? I can’t believe the time—it’s just flying by.

The week has been particularly hard, for a number of reasons. I am really starting to miss some of those true constants: family and the ability to make it back to Brunswick from school in three hours or less; friends, both at school and at home; Wellesley, in all its ridiculous glory; and, of course, Ultimate. Our team splits into A and B teams at the end of the fall and the team list was recently posted. As I read through all the names, I realized I only recognized about half of them, maybe less!

It’s easy to get lost in this eternal summer, and think that time has stood still and everything will be waiting right where I left it when I get back. But of course that’s not the case, it can’t be. And recognizing that as I prepare for more transition will be crucial.

One of the reasons that this week has been so hard is due to my continual struggle for independence and against common sense. Don’t worry, common sense continues to win out, in the form of an armed escort to the bus stop as I’m leaving CUCA for home every afternoon. So far since CUCA’s opening there have been multiple students who’ve gotten mugged, including one girl who was robbed at gunpoint. All the professors get an escort to the bus stop, but I really hate it. I have stopped taking my laptop there, and really, it’s thanks to some good sense, and more sheer luck, that I haven’t had anything happen to me so far.

I feel like I’m treading very on a glass floor, and one wrong move, the whole thing will shatter. The only thing I’ve ever had stolen from me before was a bike, when I was 10 and living in West Philly, but somehow I feel like getting robbed here would be more mentally debilitating than anything else.

The fact that I am constantly thinking about it is probably a good thing, but I have just felt way too on edge lately.

Class at CUCA is going really well (see picture of another glorious sunset!). My students are bright and engaged, eager and curious. I’ve gotten about half a dozen invites to lunch with them, and a dozen more ‘Orkut’ (pronounced orkooch…Brazilian equivalent to Facebook) invitations.

Friday, ‘deu uma volta’ (I took a walk around the bairro [neighborhood]) with Beatriz, a 15-year-old, from my class. She has 5 brothers and sisters and lives about three blocks away from CUCA. Though I know I’ve mentioned a lot about it being dangerous above, it’s only really dangerous when you’re sozinha (alone) and when you’ve got a backpack/bag on you—that tends to draw attention. So I left my bag at CUCA and walked with Beatriz to get to know the neighborhood a bit. We went to her house, where I got to meet her mom and a couple brothers and sisters, including her 19-year-old brother, who’s deficiente—handicapped. I’m not sure exactly what handicap he has but it’s pretty debilitating. He can’t walk or even sit up without help and clearly has limited mental capacity. But he was really happy to see a new face, I could tell, and I think it meant a lot to Beatriz that I was willing to go with her. Her mom was also excited to meet me and Beatriz raved on and on about class, which was a bit unnecessary.

Beatriz warned me before that her family was poor, and I shouldn’t expect too much. I didn’t know quite how to respond to that. Even if I’m not “rich” by American standards, or anything, if she knew how much money I bring into that world, by my plane ticket alone, she’d probably be shocked. And when I met her family, her house was pretty humble—four rooms, she shares a room with three brothers and sisters, and one TV, no cable—but it was the house of a family that was living comfortably with what they had, sharing what was maybe not a ton, but you can tell they have enough, and they’re happy, and what’s more, eager to share it with whoever shows interest.

I was planning to do the next class on food, but I think I’ll save that for Thanksgiving day. One of my students had an interesting class idea, one I think will work—child games and songs exchange. I’ll teach them the ones we play in America, we can do some Brazilian ones too. I can only come up with ‘Duck Duck Goose,’ ‘Quack Diddly Oso,’ and Mafia, so if any of you have other suggestions, please let me know!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Re: Learning to Samba

I think the key is to move your feet really fast, have fun, and not care about whatever atrocity you're committing to the name of 'Samba'.

Seriously, I think I'm getting it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ahoy! I'm sitting in a grocery store that's right under my apartment, with great internet. They have tables so I don't feel really strange, only a little bit. I have gotten a couple of looks and I am the only one with a computer right now but I'm not the only one that has used this space as an internet café, so I don't feel super sketchy.

I am now officially a 'professora'! I taught two classes this week (picture = CUCA), and as far as I can tell, I think the students are really enjoying the class. We talked about United States history (one of my favorite subjects) and have had discussions about the general concept of culture, what it means, and how it can be different to each person. We've also talked about the ideas of democracy as a means of government and as an ideology...Though I don't know how well that came across in translation. My class is huge--51 people registered, but both days about 35 or so showed up. As far as I can tell, this is pretty common with courses at CUCA--lots of people register, about half of them actually attend.

Speaking Portuguese for an hour and a half (well, either that or listening to it) gets really, really tiring. Each day I realize just how little Portuguese I really know and can utilize. But there's no denying that I've been able to improve at an incredible rate. Learning languages is quite a phenomenon. And it is truly frustrating. I remember during the first few weeks of the program one of the other students said that her family has a parrot, and the parrot could speak more Portuguese than she could. I'm continually amazed when I meet little kids, and they go off chattering, speaking better Portuguese than I ever's crazy!

I'm also taking a Capoeira class at CUCA. Capoeira is an afro-brazilian martial art that started as a way to disguise battle training as music and dance. Slaves would stand in a circle (roda) singing and clapping, the berimbau and the tamborine their primary instruments, while two opponents sparred in the center. It's really popular here, and I have had the opportunity to "watch" a few capoeira games (watch is in quotes because capoeiristas don't let you get away with standing in the roda without participating) and it has truly been a privilege. People "play" with such joy and there is so much energy emanating from everyone in the circle. Everyone participates, whether it's singing, playing an instrument, or playing the game, which is a very strategic combination of reaction to what your opponent does and cunning to try and beat him. My first official class was yesterday and I had so much fun, just learning the basics! I am really sore today, all over, but it was definitely worth it. If you can, you should try and check out some capoeira traditional music, on iTunes or online. It's got a really unique sound and the lyrics are fantastic. Some lyrics are about trivial things, some about 'Mother Africa' and some about just life. One of my favorite lyrics from last night:

Vivemos aqui nessa terra lutando pra sobreviver (we live here on this earth struggling to survive)

um lugar onde poucos tem muito e muitos não tem o que come (a place where little have much and many don't even have enough to eat)

Olhando isso eu fico triste me pergunto qual é a solução (seeing this I'm sad, and I ask myself what the solution is)

estou feiliz por ter a capoeira commo forma de expressão (I'm happy to have capoeira as a form of expression)
Capoeira é uma arte e arte é obra de Deus (Capoeira is an art and art is the work of God)

nessa terra eu não tenho muito mas tudo que tenho foi Deus que me deu (in this earth I don't have much, but all I have God gave me) Read More...

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Beginning of Part III

Well, I'm back in Fortaleza! We got back yesterday afternoon, leaving three students behind in Salvador for their independent studies.

Today marks the beginning of the field study period, something that's pretty exciting. I don't know how much I've said about my project, but I'll be working at a government-funded center that offers classes for youth ages 15-29 in the city. And while doing my own field study is intimidating, it's not even the most intimidating thing about this part of the program.The most intimidating thing is that I'm going to be speaking Portuguese 24/7. There won't be american students around for me to converse with; my academic director will be communicating via from here on out, it's exclusively Portuguese, a true immersion.

The field study isn't even the second-most intimidating thing. While I'm researching the youth center, I'm going to be teaching a class there as well, on "American art and culture"--a pretty broad topic, especially for only 8 "lectures". I figured it'd be a way to give back to the organization, but I was not expecting a serious class. Apparently 50 people enrolled. So, if any of you have any suggestions on what I should include (what even is American culture?) send them my way; I'd be grateful. My first class is tomorrow at 10:30, and I already can feel butterflies in my stomach...

I know I owe updates about Recife and Salvador, and I'm going to try to get around to them this week.

As far as the computer goes, I took it in today to get it looked at...looks like my hard drive failed so I'm without my computer for the rest of the week probably. Hopefully it won't be too expensive to fix. Oh, well. Life goes on, I guess. Read More...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

O Bahia, O Salvador...

Oi! After a long span of little to no internet, I am here in Salvador at an internet cafe with quick internet and a webcam/headset, so I´m a bit more accessible and have enjoyed a few skype conversations with family/friends! Look for me online; I´d love to chat.

Salvador is a beautiful, historic city (actually Brazil´s first city and capital, founded in the first decade of the 1500s) and I´ve enjoyed my limited free time exploring the city. Though much of our time here has been spent visiting NGOs (such as Bahia Street, which we visited today), we´ve also had a good portion of time on our own. It´s nice to relax and just be on my own in Brazil, navigating a different city without a group of Americans. Yesterday we had our whole morning free, and I went to a really cool used bookstore in the Pelorinho (pictured above), the historic center. The store´s called Beringela, which means eggplant in Portuguese. It was exactly what a used bookstore should be, with old, dusty books stacked up against the walls and shelves and everywhere there was space, kind of organized, kind of not, and a really nice shopkeeper who recommended about a thousand books to me (I only bought three). It had a little snack/cafe place attached so I got coffee and read for a while.

Food here is spicy and delicious!! I have been missing spices; Fortaleza tends to be pretty bland. The dish of choice is Acarajé (pictured, left), a delicious afro-baiana dish made from fried bean paste, stuffed with sauce, spicy tomatoes and bell peppers, and shrimp (with the shells on. and yes, that´s how you are supposed to eat them). But really food deserves a whole other entry, as does a week that´s missing here--the week in Recife and Cachoiera. Entries to come, I promise, as time permits!

Saturday I´ve got a free day and I´m planning to spend it at the MAM (Modern Art Museum or Museu de Arte Moderno, depending on which language you choose), writing letters and postcards that are long overdue, and checking out the museum of course, which is free. Apparently it´s a great place to watch the sunset, and Saturday night there´s going to be dinner and a jazz concert, so I´ll stay for that. I´m pretty excited. The only hitch in this plan is that my computer broke (it´s a long and very sad story. But it might get fixed in Fortaleza. Fingers crossed.) and thus I have lost a bunch of addresses I had saved. So if you want a postcard and haven´t already e-mailed me your address, do it!! Please!

Hope this update reaches all of you well--I know it´s flu season back in the States. Special well-wishes to my little sister, Sarah (are you even reading this Sarah?) who is a bit sick but starring in Beauty and the Beast at BJHS starting tomorrow! Break a leg, Sarah, I´ll be thinking of you!!! Read More...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Packin' Up, Movin' On

Today was my last day of formal classes! I finished up my Portuguese class with a final exam yesterday--today was a field trip to a school where our oral exam was a conversation with the students.

We had our last lecture this afternoon and a briefing on the next component of our program: travel! We’re headed to Recife, the interior of Pernambuco, and a couple of cities in Bahia, including Salvador. So I’m not sure what my internet access is going to be like for the next few weeks but I’ll do my best to write updates as these days are bound to be full and very interesting.

I’m excited to explore a new part of Brazil; I haven’t done any traveling, really, since I’ve gotten here, and I’m super excited for Salvador! Apparently they have spicy food there, something I’ve been craving! Here there’s plenty of sweet stuff but spicy foods aren’t really common or popular, sadly.

We return November 8 and I start my independent field study the next day. I’ve already submitted my proposal and everything (that was why I had my laptop in my bag last night) and I’m excited to get started. It’ll be different not having formal classes but I’m looking forward to getting to know CUCA, the youth center where I’ll be doing my project.

I still can’t believe that I’m done with formal classes for the semester. It’s crazy to think that I won’t be back at IBEU, the class center, until we are finishing up and presenting. It’s been such a huge part of the first part of the program.

Today a bunch of people on our program went for a last-hurrah suco at ‘the suco place’ as we fondly call it. It was bittersweet, but I’m sure I’ll be back there soon. I got a maracujá (passion fruit) and it was delicious, as always.

Well, so long for now! Next stop: Recife!

Feeling Skittish

So yesterday, I went to an ‘intercambio’ dinner at the house of the Portuguese III professor, directly after class ended. Annede also teaches english so both classes ate and conversed together. I had a lot of fun, and we ordered banana pizza so the universe was at peace. We spoke english for about half the time and Portuguese for the other half. It was actually really neat because the students in the english class spoke at a high level, and by now, so do we, so it was fairly simple to make ourselves understood in both languages and it was fun to teach some slang!

The event ended around 9:30, but we hung around talking until about 9:50, when we finally parted ways. There were six of us exchange students there; four elected to take a cab because they lived close to one another; another student, Charles, and I went the public transportation route.

I was already a little on the uneasy side because we’d been told not to take the bus after 10-10:30 and that time was getting closer by the second, plus, I had my schoolbag on, which had my laptop in it (I had to finish my independent study proposal last night). Charles was going the opposite way from me but he decided to walk me to the bus stop. Usually, I kind of scorn that kind of thing, but I agreed to it, and I’m glad I did, because on the way there the streets were empty and Charles said that his Portuguese prof had told him last week that two students coming to visit her last week had been robbed at gunpoint on the exact same walk we were doing. She lives in a really nice area, but that’s ultimately not great since it means high walls you can’t see around, not a lot of people on the street, and it’s a vulnerable area anyways because people know rich people live there.

I made it to the bus stop just fine, and jumped on the first bus that came, but after Charles’ story I was feeling more skittish than usual. I tried to be as calm as I could--after all, I really was in very minimal danger--but my imagination got going despite my best efforts.

I was sitting close to the front of the bus watching for my stop. After a fair bit I started recognizing the area and knew I was close. I spotted the Texaco on the corner of my street and hopped of the bus...only to realize that I was definitely not at my street yet. OK, future reference: gas stations probably aren’t the best landmarkers to use.

I decided to keep walking--I knew I was close to home and I knew which direction to walk. But I just couldn’t turn off that paranoid feeling. The sidewalks were dark and emptier than usual; I was carrying a laptop, and in truth I didn’t know exactly how many blocks I still had to cover.

I walked briskly, making the next street light or bus stop my only objective, avoiding eye contact and always listening and looking out.

After an eternity, I finally recognized the street directly before mine, so I turned early, to cut off doubling back, and arrived at my apartment after walking through a much less lit area that really gave me the creeps/

I’m thankful that nothing happened. I was careless and not as aware as I should have been on that bus and when I realized I wasn’t close to home yet I should have just grabbed the next bus. At the same time, I hate how paranoid I was. I think I usually have a very healthy measure of fear walking out alone, but I hate that it limits my actions, and I can’t help feeling sometimes that it’s unnecessary. Last night I got too scared, but better safe than sorry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pictures and more food-related thoughts

I've finally found a semi-fast internet connection and I've uploaded some more photos!

You can see my photos from the MST and Canindé here, and some new photos from around Fortaleza here.

I think this blog is turning into a food blog of sorts, and I've decided it's for a couple of reasons.
1. I like to eat, and
2. I think it's interesting how we all have to eat but we choose to eat such different stuff! My host mother made a kind of egg/quiche cake with soy the other day. It was delicious; I'm going to try and learn how to make it. I'm only really missing two crucial American foods: salad with lettuce and tomato (they don't really have that here), and peanut butter. I love peanut butter. Brazilians don't have it. Margarine is not an acceptable substitute.
On Sunday, Fátima cooked a breakfast that was bem Cearense: traditional Ceará food, and I took a picture to show you just how different it is:

OK. Going from left to right: in the fruit bowl--guava and banana. On my place setting: a small bowl of soy and vegetables cooked. Pitcher of caju juice and pitcher of coffee. In the big bowl is a mixture of cous-cous and egg. But cous-cous here isn't the arabic kind, it's cornmeal! You're supposed to mix the cous-cous and the soy and eat it. It was delicious if a little strange.

And here is the caju fruit, from which we made the juice! It's in season right now so it's everywhere--sold on the streets and in the grocery store. They make cashew nuts from those black things, but they're poisonous if they're not cooked. I tried some fruit, and it tastes good but the texture is very off-putting. I prefer the nuts and the juice. I think the fruit is an acquired taste.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Sometimes it's nice to just be a tourist...

...and relax. 100% relaxation is impossible here; my mind is always turned on and I'm hyperaware of everything, I've noticed. But this weekend came close!

Fortaleza is known for its sand dunes, and I spent part of Saturday climbing them and sliding down on a sandboard! It was so much fun; there was a lake at the bottom and a couple times I made it all the way to the lake. I went with my family and two of Fátima's friends, one of whom was visiting from the Canary Islands. Climbing the dunes was really difficult, but there were small shade huts at the top and people selling coconuts and refreshments, so that was a nice reward.

There was a beautiful view of the surrounding area—hills and a lake on one side, the ocean on the other, and it was pleasantly cool and refreshing, because we'd had a rainshower just a few minutes before.

After we'd tired ourselves out sliding down the dunes and swimming in the lake, we meandered on over to yet another gorgeous beach and spent the whole afternoon there. We took a ride out into the ocean on a little sailboat and just enjoyed the sun. Also, I got more queijo asado (fried/roasted cheese)! I love that stuff, so much! It's a great beach snack.

Saturday night we went out to a really fancy Italian restaurant and ordered pizza. Do you know they have sweet pizzas here? We got a half chocolate/M&M/half banana pizza for dessert. Banana pizza, you say? I know, it sounds weird, but it was beyond delicious. I'm going to bring that stuff back to the United States for sure.

And today was a national holiday (no, not Columbus day), the day of the children (dia das crianças)! I still don't understand why we don't have one of those in the US— after all, we have Mothers' day and Fathers' day, why not Childrens' day?

We spent all day today at the beach, again, which was absolutely lovely. But tomorrow, alas, it's back to the grindstone!

This week we're doing our community projects, and I'm spending the week at CUCA, Centro Urbana de Cultura, Arte, Ciencia, e Esporte(I love how Latin Americans abuse acronyms? In what world does that equal CUCA?). It's the largest center of it's kind in Latin America, devoted to youth activities outside of school, and it's funded by the government. It just opened and everyone is really excited about it. Updates forthcoming!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I've been here for a month now...

...Which is evidenced by tan lines; a language barrier that’s rapidly decreasing; and, of course, lots of new experiences.

I really enjoyed my trip to the interior. I got to see a different side of Brazil, that’s for sure. The MST assentamento was really interesting. I got to meet lots of new people and the food was amazing! Fresh fruit, milk straight from the cow, and yes...freshly butchered chicken and cow. The last one threw me a little bit, but I sucked it up and ate the chicken soup that was prepared for us.

I also got to sleep in a hammock every night, and I’d stare up at the stars before I’d fall asleep.

I must say, though, that being back to civilization is comforting. For example, running water is always a big plus, especially in this hot, humid climate! (Aside: showers are a cultural thing here. When you go to someone’s house, it’s very acceptable and even customary to take them up on the offer. Multiple showers per day are also customary: 1 in the morning, one when you come home for lunch, one in the evening.) Even the fact that there’s not hot water doesn’t bother me anymore, since it’s so hot and sticky out the cold shower feels good.

Something happened between the weekend in the interior and now. My Portuguese just really...clicked. I find myself talking not in sentences, but in whole paragraphs. I can understand almost everything when people speak moderately fast, and even when people speak at warp speed I get the gist of the conversation. It was all-of-a-sudden. When I think about where I was a month ago, I can’t believe it.

That’s not to say that Portuguese is easy because it’s NOT. And I still grab for Spanish words that just aren’t words at all in Portuguese. It’s interesting: Portuguese has so many words—words for shades of feeling. For example, to think/believe has four different words in Portuguese; to know has two; and people can be three different words. Also, I think the language is much more formal and less colloquial than English. People use ‘the people’ to say ‘we’ all the time.

The more I learn of Portuguese, the more I realize just exactly how much I still have to learn. But I’ve made such tangible progress that I almost don’t care anymore!

PS. Pictures from Canindé and MST soon!!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A visit to the MST

Tomorrow we leave at 7 AM for the wild blue yonder, a.k.a. the interior. We're going to be spending 5 days at a settlement started by the MST (Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem-Terras), a HUGE movement here in Brazil. As many of you may know, Brazil is big on agriculture--it produces a whole lot of the world's corn, sugar, coffee, just to name a few crops, as well as over a third of the world's meat (cattle and poultry, primarily). Most of this agriculture is controlled by huge, international conglomerates--many agribusinesses hold huge tracts of land, the size of Belgium and Portugal combined. I'm not making a judgment on this fact (at least not yet; I don't know enough), I'm just attempting to set the stage.

The MST is a movement for rural landless workers, attempting through various means to secure land reform in Brazil--to fight these huge companies and try to bring back a little opportunity for communities of farmers. Their trademark 'revolutionary' tactic is to go and camp out on latifundos (big farms).

Brasileiros view the MST in various different ways, but there's no denying that it tends to be a polarizing organization--either people really love it and think the MST is doing something that's necessary and vital (maybe even noble), or, conversely, 'those good-for-nothing rabble rousers who insist on making a scene'. But many Brazilians, perhaps the majority, classify MST as the most important social movement in Brazil and perhaps in Latin America. The MST has, without doubt presented poor Brazilians with real alternatives in terms of land tenure. But MST is not only about land reform. There are important objectives related to the full democratization of Brazilian society that are of fundamental concern to MST and part of its program and strategy.

Anyways, I'm trying not to go with too many preconcieved notions, though it's beyond difficult, due to the nature of the organization and the fact that it's portrayed in so many different ways that sometimes seem to contradict one another!

What I am looking forward to, beyond a doubt, is getting to see a different part of Brazil. This will be a vastly different experience than city life (much closer to 'roughing it' :)--hammocks ('redes') outside under the stars!! The moon is sadly pretty full right now but that won't stop me from stargazing, hopefully.

Apparently the Portuguese accents are horrifically different once you get out of the city, though...shoot! Just as I thought I was beginning to make progress, something new.

Until Tuesday, over and out.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mônica, Mototaxistas, and MPB

This weekend mostly involved me getting over a cold (almost all better now, thanks to Fátima’s hideous-yet-functional garlic-lemon tea concoction and lots of sleep), so my adventures were somewhat unexciting.

I’ve spent much of my time this week/end on the couch, absorbed in a Brazilian Manga series entitled Turma da Mônica (team Monica) that my 11-year-old host sister Duda introduced me to. For those of you who don’t know, Manga is a somewhat stigmatized style of graphic novel (read: comic book) that originated in Japan. Lots of Manga have been translated into English, but I have to admit I’d never read any before. Mônica is very popular here in Brazil. She and her galera (team) of 3 friends go on various supernatural adventures across the dimensions of time and space, saving the universe—one bad guy at a time. I’ve found it’s a really great way to start reading and comprehending Portuguese, for a number of reasons: it’s written in contemporary, fairly easy-to-read language, so not only can I understand it, I can actually learn some popular idiomatic expressions from it. And furthermore, if there’s something I don’t understand, the pictures usually clarify! It is quite cross-cultural, indeed. I’d wager I’m reading more manga than my roommate (Carolyn/Hemo), who’s living in Japan right now!

I’ve also been exposed to a huge new music scene here in Brazil, mostly live, but also recorded. When I wasn’t on the couch reading this weekend, I was working at the table with my host mother, Fátima (we both have lots of work due this upcoming week). She’s kindly taken it upon herself to educate me in MPB, Musica Popular Brasileira. What a blast! It’s great, and totally different. It’s a little like smooth jazz, with rhythm and percussion more of a forefront. She’s introduced me to a whole bunch of Cearense and Fortalezense artists. Boy, am I getting cultured, eh? It really is beautiful, and the part I love most is that everyone seems to know all the songs! I don’t really understand how. I’d kind of relate it to “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Blowin‘ in the Wind” in the States, but I get the sense MPB is way more popular and universal than those songs. And instead of there being two songs of that status of universal knowledge, there are two thousand. At least, that’s the way it seems.

Unrelatedly. Did you know the Mototaxi was invented right here in Fortaleza? Apparently it’s popular all over Brazil now (maybe other places too?). That’s right, you can take a taxi ride on a motorcycle here. Not only that, but it’s wicked cheap, potentially cheaper than taking a bus. I haven’t done it yet, but I kind of want to. I’m intimidated by the traffic here (stop signs are merely suggestions; stop lights are just very strong suggestions) and I’ve never ridden on a motorcycle yet, but we’ll see what the upcoming months bring.

Was it stupid to write that paragraph somewhere my mother can see it?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Living in a tropical climate...aka how to avoid a sunburn, 101

So my Dad asked me the other day what it’s like to live in a tropical climate, and I’ve been thinking about that question quite a bit over the past few days. But it’s hard to separate what’s ‘tropical’ without writing about what’s uniquely Brazilian. I’ll attempt (probably poorly) to highlight some of the most striking things I’ve observed...while taking you through my typical day here.

Every day before school, I wake up at 6 and go for a run...on the beach! My apartment is just 6 blocks from Beira Mar, the street that runs along Praia de Iracema. So it’s an easy run down to the beach, which is gorgeously, stereotypically tropical: blinding-white sand and green-blue sea, and, of course, coconut trees. And of course, the sun is mega-strong here. I quite stupidly went running at 11:30 last Saturday...and came home with a slight sunburn, after just 45 minutes. You have to be extra-careful here. (shoot. I’ve already lost focus.)

My host mother, Fátima, made me a vitamina de mamão (papaya milkshake) this morning, which was delicious, surprisingly--surprisingly because she tossed oatmeal and granola (?) as well as the usual ingredients (milk, ice, fruit) all into the blender.

I usually leave the house with Fátima and Duda, at 7:10, give or take a few minutes. Sometimes I get a ride to school, or sometimes I’ll walk--it’s a 15-20 minute walk that’s absolutely beautiful. Right now it’s ‘spring,’ which isn’t manifested by a difference in temperature (it’s in the 80s year-round here, just 3 degrees south of the equator), rather, the flowers are in bloom! Beautiful tropical flowers, and their brilliant colors brighten up gardens, parks and balconies all over the city.

Portuguese class goes from 9-12 every morning, and then we’ve got a bit of a break for lunch. Usually I make my way to a ‘self-service’ cafeteria-type restaurant where you can choose from a number of options; I generally get rice and beans (I'm a vegetarian. do these beans have meat in them? no, I don't eat chicken. Nope, not fish either. It has hot dog in it? I don't eat that either. Sure, I guess I'll pick around the ham in the rice.) and a juice. The afternoons are spent in different ways, but usually it involves class.

I head home around 4:30 or 5, and sometimes if I leave later, the sun is already setting. There’s an 8 minute difference between the longest and shortest day here, but the sun always sets pretty early, between 6 and 6:30. Sunsets are so incredibly short, too: because the sun sinks straight into the horizon rather than slanting across the sky you can watch the sun disappear into the haze (or the ocean--some of Fortaleza’s beaches look west)

I pass tons of street vendors on my way home, selling Tapioca, a popular snack: it’s a type of pancake (not sweet) and is kind of like a fajita--cheese and other meats wrapped up inside it. I had a cheese one the other day and it was delicious!

Sidewalks are made out of cobblestones and tiles, not concrete, and sometimes when they’re missing stones they can get treacherous.

This past week, we spent our afternoons working at different Organições Não-Govermentais, Non-Govermental Organizations, (ONG/NGOs) across the city. I was lucky enough to get to work at a Creche, a day-care, located in a very poor region of the city (read: 2 blocks from a favela, a slum). I arrived during the kids’ naptime everyday, 30 brown bodies crowded on mats into a fairly small, bare room--some squirming, some completely still. The daycare showers the kids everyday and they brush teeth, because most of the kids don’t get that at home. Their happy, playful demeanor and willingness to joke and play with me reminded me that kids are kids, whether they go to Bowdoin Day Camp, Wellesley Children’s Center, or live in a favela here in Fortaleza. But it’s interesting to compare my experience working at WCC to my experience working in the day care here. Sure, kids are kids. But thinking about how different the realities of childhood can be is striking.

On a lighter note, I’ve come to the conclusion that pigeons are the same no matter where you go.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Fortaleza's incredible sweettooth

I haven't taken many photos yet, but I've finally uploaded the ones I have taken:
I learned how to eat an abacate (avocado) properly yesterday. You scoop it out into a bowl, pour an appropriate (read: incredible) amount of sugar on top, maybe some granola too if the mood strikes, and mush it all up with a fork. I told Fatima that in the States we eat it with salty food and she just laughed.

She also laughed when I told her I went out for pizza for lunch the other day. "No one in Brasil eats pizza for lunch!" she said. I then realized why we could only pick from a selection of three when there were 24 different pizzas on the menu. And why we got strange looks when we ordered.

Anyway, I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Fortaleza has a serious sweettooth. Everything here is consumed with sugar. When you make coffee, you heap the sugar into the coffee pot and then turn on the coffee maker. If you fancy more, it's completely acceptable to heap in more afterwards as well. Suco is sugary too, as are many desserts. I ate kettle corn the other day with condensed milk poured on top of already sugared popcorn. All over the place, street vendors sell Juice made from sugar cane.

It makes sense that sugar would be popular here--it's cheap and it is what a lot of people in rural places make their living doing, in some form or another. Like I said before, at least it's not refined, so I don't feel quite as awful.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Drop-Off

One of the hallmarks of SIT's program is called the Drop-Off. It takes place during the first week or two of the program, and it involves students venturing out on their own to different locations. No phrasebooks, no translators, just a notebook, $R15 (for lunch), a phone card, a map, and an address.

It's an interesting name--the Drop-Off. I immediately think of that point in the ocean where it gets really deep, all of a sudden, no warning. Actually, being here kind of has that effect--I just got thrown in, and I had very little idea of what exactly was happening.

...So. We all bussed together with Oélito to Papicu, a big bus terminal on the east side of the city, and then we divided up to go to our assigned locations.

I was paired with one other student, Tim, and we had to make our way over to Cristo Redentor, which is all the way over on the other side of the city. We visited an NGO (here it's ONG) called Acartes, involved in film production. I must say that being here makes me realize how not-standard some standards are. This program is a government-funded social exchange, in which students from Berkeley in California participate every summer. They make both non-fiction as well as fiction films about the problems of inequality and social justice here in the Northeast of the country...They have three computers for editing and they have a camera that looks like it's been functioning since the seventies. Definitely not up-to-date by any means. I think often the folks from Berkeley supplement equipment.

Anyway, Tim and I made it to our destination with minimal troubles, and set out with our map to look for a good lunch spot. We came across a spot that looked like it was serving lunch and walked up to the counter and asked (or thought we asked) if lunch was served at this establishment. The lady straight up told us, "Não." What? Ok. So we started to walk away and I pointed out to Tim that there were two people eating lunch right there. I'm ready to keep walking, but Tim thought we should figure it out, so we go back to the counter and we asked for lunch again. And she looked at us and kind of nodded her head. We ask for a menu, to no avail. Finally she points at a wall, where we see a lot of Portuguese food names written...but no prices for anything. We decided to take our chances and just order.

At the end of the meal, when we went to pay, she charged us R$7 for everything--both our meals. That's like $5 US. We felt like it was pretty low but we paid and went our way.

And that was my deep-ocean experience!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy...7th of September?

Okay, this one's late too but I only wrote it last night.

Today was Brazilian independence day and my first day with my host family! I must say now--and I’m sure this will be a much-echoed complaint--that I cannot wait to learn Portuguese. Communication is beyond difficult right now.
Yesterday night we were all waiting at IBEU, the center where our classes our held, waiting for our host families to pick us up, and mine came first--Fátima and Marcelo. Bil, the academic director, introduced us, and Fátima started babbling to me in Portuguese, and pulled me in for a hug and a kiss on each cheek--peck, peck. I was so intimidated! All of a sudden I just...kind of shrunk. and I am sure I was blushing. “Nao falo Portugues” is about as far as it goes. 

Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, I just want someone to hook up a wire to my brain that immediately transmits the language, in its entirety. 
But Fátima and Marcelo are fabulous and great. Marcelo plays the guitar and sings really well, he even has a record out. And he loves the bands of the 70s, and keeps asking me about American ones but I don’t even know them. I feel so ignorant!
When we got home I got to unpack, finally, something I’ve been waiting to do since I got here. I’m sharing a room with Duda, who’s 12 (the same age as Sarah). We live in an apartment that is an easy walk to school and in a nice mix of residential and commercial neighborhood.
Today, we went to the beach with some other families, including one who is also hosting a student in the program, Charles. The beach was PACKED. It was so much fun though! It was pretty commercial--you could buy lots of food there, and there were people walking around selling sunglasses and sunscreen. There were also vendors selling agua de coco--they would slice off the top of a coconut and drill a hole in it so you could drink out of it Fátima bought me one and it was definitely interesting. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it but I’m sure I’ll be drinking more since it’s all over the place here--people drink it as a refreshment and also because it keeps your body hydrated well (I think the concept kind of got a little lost in the translation...but I got the jist of it...). It was so much fun (though very frustrating and limiting) to talk with people and learn about them! I also tried “queijo asada”--fried cheese on a stick. Boy, was that delicious!
Fátima made this jello stuff that was really interesting. She cut up lots of jello molds into little squares, and then put one container of jello into the blender along with condensed milk and blended it, then poured it over all the cut up pieces and stuck it in the fridge. We ate it today and it was one solid mass of jello-y goodness. (This is the first thing I’ve foregone vegetarianism for.) In general, food here is definitely interesting and kind of different. Today for dinner we had TVP, rice, and steamed (?) pumpkin and sweet potato--but the “sweet potato” was not orange like ours, it was the texture and look of a smallish potato, but the taste of a traditional sweet potato. Weird. 
My favorite thing so far with regards to eating HAS to be the number and quantity of juices here. There are SO MANY fruits to make juice out of, and I just had no idea. I guess most of them come from the Amazon jungle region, but they are delicious and tropical and I have no idea why they haven’t made big bucks on them in the states yet. I’ve decided I’m not even going to try and learn the translations because I’m not going to  have to refer to them in English. The one that really surprised me was caju--cashew juice. I had no idea cashew fruit existed, but it does, and it’s wonderful. Also, avocado here is abacate (pronounced ah-bah-CA-tchee) and pineapple is abacaxe (pronounced ah-ba-ca-SHE). It gets confusing. But I’m greatly pleased with the availability and diversity of suco (juice): abacaxe, abacate, caju, guaraná, cupuaçu, maracuja, to name just a few. 
Speaking of juice, everything here is sweetened. People pour mountains of sugar into everything, especially coffee. Oh my gosh. I take comfort in the fact that most of the time it’s not refined so it isn’t as bad as it could be, but I fear that I’ll come back from Brazil with diabetes.


note- I'm posting this now though I'd written it earlier because I've had very limited access to internet for the past week
Well, after traveling for more than 31 hours, I finally made it to Fortaleza late Wednesday night. The travel experience, considering, wasn’t excruciating or difficult, just exhausting. After the plane from Atlanta to Sao Paolo was already over Cuba, the captain came on the PA and announced we’d be turning around and headed back to Atlanta due to the malfunctioning of a hydraulic engine? I don’t actually remember exactly what the term he used was, but the jist was--we were turning around. So we arrived back in Atlanta around 1:45 and they were (impressively enough) able to get us on the runway headed back to Sao Paolo by 3--all in all, a pretty quick turnaround. It did mean that I missed my connecting flight to Fortaleza, though, but I got rescheduled easily enough and landed in Fortaleza (after an added waylay in Salvador do Bahia) at 10:30...9:30 Eastern time.

            One of the program staff, and my personal favorite, Oélito (pronounced kind of like Wellington), was waiting to pick the four of us on the flight up and we headed off to our orientation house, located about 30 minutes from the airport right on the coast in Beach Park.
            The first five days of the program, all thirteen students lived together in Beach Park, our temporary home base. I must say that I think it was a great way to get adjusted to the country, and get to know one another, rather than jumping in with our host families right away. The other students are really interesting and personable, and we’ve been able to establish a strong base right from the start which I’m so glad about. I did feel a little stir-crazy and cooped up by the end, though we got to get out and occupied ourselves well. Orientation was filled with lots of discussions about subject matter and the necessary ones about security, health, and general well-being in a foreign country, a cultural differences lecture, and a ‘what to expect in your homestay’ presentation. But when we weren’t talking we were busy doing something else. We explored the beach on our free time. We got to hear a sampling of “Musica Popular Brasileira” (MPB), traditional Brazilian folk music. My favorite day was a non-stop tour of Fortaleza (we began at 7:30 and didn’t get back until 9:30) given to us by Jose Albano (Zé for short), a local photographer. We saw many interesting sights in the city, including an old cemetery, a prison-turned-market, the Centro Cultural (with really modern architecture), and other sites. We climbed some dunes on the outskirts of the city, and watched the sunset from the top of them, and then went back to his house for tea and a photographic presentation. Zé’s house is absolutely fabulous, and if I can swing it I’m going to go back there to write my final project. He built it himself, and it’s very open--pretty much all one room, with the exception of the darkroom and the bathroom. It’s got glass bottles in some of the walls filled with colored water and they let in light from the outside.
            I’ve noticed something especially interesting about Fortaleza’s architecture--screens aren’t really used at all but windows tend to be big and lots of walls have designs and openings in them straight to the outside. I guess when you don’t have to worry about it getting cold you can do that. I like it a lot.
            Anyways, though I don’t feel at all oriented, I suppose I have to be. Tomorrow is the end of orientation and that’s when I meet my host family!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

I´m here...

And so far, it´s fabulous. I´ve had a great few days of orientation with my program--we´re staying at a house on the beach a bit out of town, and we have gotten to do so many really neat things over the past few days! I´ll have much more regular access to internet after monday so I´ll plan on posting more thoughts then! Read More...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Introduction: your typical college junior

It's hard to figure out how to start your first blog post. What makes it possibly more difficult is that my introduction is similar to so many others'.

I'm a college junior, and in two days' time I'll be in the airport on my way to Fortaleza, Ceará, for a semester abroad. So for now, I'll be writing here about my experiences while I'm there. I am sure I'll have some; I just hope they're worthwhile, educational, and maybe interesting (or entertaining) for you to read. And if not, well, at least I'll have something to remember my time in Brazil by.

So, to catch you all up, here's where I'm coming from: I'm originally from Philadelphia, but now live in Brunswick, ME. I go to Wellesley College where I'm a Latin American Studies major with a bit of a random-yet-fun love for all things Astronomy. I'm on the Ultimate Frisbee team, sing in the Wellesley College Choir, and play the oboe in the Chamber Music Society. I spent this past summer in Seattle,
  where I worked for World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid organization "dedicated to helping children through tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice worldwide," according to their mission statement. And, after a summer there, I'm convinced that I can—am obliged to—work towards changing (eradicating?) the inequalities that exist in the world today.

...And where I'm going: I'm headed to Fortaleza through a program entitled Brazil: Culture, Development and Social Justice. For the first two months, I'll be in a homestay in the city, taking classes in Portuguese and an interdisciplinary seminar which focuses on those issues mentioned above. The second two months are an independent study project/field study which I design and carry out. After that—who knows? I've got some time to travel and work before I head home. Right now the plan is to work with kids in the favela (slum) in Recife, the largest slum in the world.

My biggest concern is the fact that I have yet to learn the language (Portuguese). But I am confident that I'll be able to overcome that barrier fairly quickly and I'm excited for the adventures I'll inevitably find. So for now, I'll close. Next time you hear from me, I'll be in Brazil! Until then—or as they say in Brazil,
até mais,