Leaving Rio

January 13, 2006


Rodrigo finally got me to shave my head. Actually, we just buzzed it. And to be honest, I was all for shaving it once we started, but he said this would look better. So far, its cooler, no sunburn, and easy to keep up. I´ve even been getting good comments, so I´m all for it.
I´ve been with my friend Priscilla for about two hours now, and it´s about three hours til we have to leave for the airport. No sleep for me… 🙂 I can already glimpse at the frustration and how much I´ll improve, as Priscilla cuts me no breaks and speaks only rapid Portuguese. All explanations in Portuguese too… She studies in English sometimes, as her field is Neurobiology, and its hard to get all books in Portuguese… but she I don´t think she likes to speak.
She helped me cut down my bags from like 10 shirts to 5, and we took out a bunch of other stuff I didn´t need. She is the packing champ, since she´s only taking 5 kilos, and I´m taking about 12 or so. But I´m also leaving for 3 times as long… so there.
It was kind of sad leaving Rodrigo´s house, though I know I´ll be back. His family was so nice to me, I can´t quite explain. I was immedietely treated as one of the family. I hope I can duplicate the same hospitality in my house one day.
I´m also a bit nervous about the trip. It´s my first time outside Rio, my Portuguese will really be tested, and I just found out the North is actually just as dangerous as Rio, which is the opposite as to what I had thought. I´ve been living in Niteroi, outside Rio, which is “mais tranquila” or safer. So I´m going to keep both eyes open at all times. Thankfully, I´ll be with Brasileiras for the first two weeks.
Also, it´s going to be hotter, although I´m not quite sure how that is possible. And our plans of camping have me a bit timid, as I´ve been able to escape to air conditioned rooms until now.
I´ll be offline for a while, I think, but I will hopefully keep my thoughts on paper, and transcribe later. Até logo.

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Almost a Week… A quick recap.

January 11, 2006

My host family is amazing. There are so many things to get used to, and they are making it so easy.

  • Food. Lunch over here is by far the biggest meal of the day. Everyone sits down to lunch and the food and conversation is non-stop. Dinner, is much less of an affair. Most times it’s squeezed in between the beach and going out somewhere, so you grab whatever is around or fix something up quickly. I’m enjoying the food immensely, as Rodrigo’s mom is a fantastic cook. Black beans and rice are a staple, along with a meat dish are normal. Salad and Farofa (a type of flour cooked with butter, I think) are sometimes present. Fresh squeezed juice (lemonade, mango, orange, and other fruits that don’t exist in US supermarkets) and dessert are a constant. Yum.

Parties. Of course, my first week here is somewhat atypical (I think). Rodrigo is on vacation from studying for his test to become a judge. (Get this… people study for years for this test, just to get into the school. You pretty much have to know everything to get in, and then once you’re in, you’re kind of ushered through.) So the days have mostly consisted of the beach and going out. Tonight is my first night in, because I chose to go to dinner with some other friends, and skipped out on the ”show” or concert. I think I’ve been averaging sleeping at about 5 or so. Average. It’s a good thing I’m not an 8-hour or else type of person, because Brazilians don’t seem to run out of energy during vacation. Relationships. Men here are distinctly different here in their relationships with each other. I like it. There is much more camaraderie. They are more physical, which I think is healthy. An embrace or pat on the chest is normal when you greet someone (for women, it’s always kisses on each cheek). I went to a churrasco, or barbecue for a friend’s birthday, and upon meeting Rodrigo’s friends, was immediately invited to soccer games, carnaval, and general nighttime activities… I noticed with groups of people talking, and when dancing, people didn’t really couple off, despite the party being mostly couples. It was more the guys all dancing in a big group and yelling, singing and dumping beer on whoever ended up in the middle. The girls had their own groups, which were less rowdy.

  • Beach. The Rio “Carioca” culture of the beach is something I’m getting used to. I’ve darkened quite a few shades already, and I’m sure it’s just the beginning. My family is not really the tanning type, for obvious reasons, so I’ve never been used to just lying on the beach. People here love it. And the beaches are beautiful. You go there to meet friends, to hang out, to have something to eat. Sometimes you take a dip in the water, sometimes you don’t. In the US, it’s popular to read or listen to music. I haven’t seen much of that here. People juggle soccer balls like hacky sacks, or play this racquetball game that is much harder than it looks. Mostly, they sit and talk. I’ve been bringing my Portuguese textbook. After a while, my head is spinning from trying to follow the conversation, and it’s easier to read. Obviously, I definitely haven’t gotten rid of the “I need to do something productive” mentality yet.
  • Running. Well, so far it’s been less than fantastic, as I’m living in a city. I have to leave the apartment, and fight traffic, run a half mile through a tunnel before getting to the beach. Thankfully, it’s easy to run at the beach. The first day, I took a longer route and fought with cars and sidewalks that seemed to end whenever they felt like it. The first day, I argued with Rodrigo and his mother before leaving, as they’re not really used to someone going running. I was forced to carry money and their address, which I guess was not a bad idea. Now they’ve gotten a bit more used to it, but I swear I turn down food at least a dozen times before I can get out the door in the morning. The heat is something to get used to. Luckily, the bedrooms are air conditioned (although not all the time), because coming back from a run in the hot Brazilian sun (there is very little shade at the beach) and riding in an elevator smaller than most closets is quite a feat.
  • Water. I’m quite used to not drinking from faucets in other countries, so that hasn’t bothered me much, but I am fighting to get remember to drink enough liquid, as I’m losing it all day. It doesn’t help that cups here are only slightly larger than shot glasses. 🙂 I guess we live in the world of large things in the US. Supersize me please.

Quiet time

January 10, 2006


There is a silence that only comes when you are surrounded by people speaking another language. It comes when you know you won’t hear your mother tongue, and you tune out the voices around you. I was thinking about this yesterday, when I was in the middle of a group of friends, and I got mentally exhausted of trying to understand, and I tuned out. It’s strange to be surrounded by so much sound, but for it to feel so quiet. In English speaking areas, words pop out that interrupt my own thoughts, but here, so far, I can tune out without that happening too often. I’m sure it will go away, as I’ve been here three days, and I can now have full conversations with Rodrigo’s mom, who doesn’t speak a word of English. We get stuck every other sentence, but I can explain it (usually) in Portuguese, and she can do the same. This morning was really the first time it happened, as we were alone. Most times, Rodrigo can explain, as he has studied English for some time now.

I like it… this quietness. It’s a bit like what I feel when I’m running. But I’ll be happy to exchange it for being able to completely follow conversations.


Lessons in Patience

January 7, 2006

I have been in Brazil for a little over 24 hours, and so far, there have been many lessons in patience. I got off the plane in Sao Paulo, and the instructions by the flight attendants were a bit unclear, but I understood that I needed to get my baggage to go through customs. First, my bags didn’t come, and then I was told that the only exception to the customs rule is for passengers going to Rio, and so my baggage was going straight there. Then I was directed up an escalator and out some doors, which put me out of the security area, and I had to pay the airport tax ($36) to get back in to the international terminals. Upon hearing this, the righteous American in me rose up in my chest and I started to voice my displeasure. Then I realized that it’s only in the US that we have this righteous idea of how things should be (or else!). The lady helping me was kind, and seemed pleased that there was a solution at all. I paid, and was on my way, though it took 45 minutes for me to stop lamenting about it in my head. Something tells me the lessons in patience are going to cost me more than $36 before this trip is over.
When I arrived in Rio, I spent nearly 2 hours dragging my bags around Terminal 1, because I my Brazilian friend was mistakenly waiting in Terminal 2. The sad truth was that in emergency situations (I forgot his telephone number), my Portuguese didn’t carry me too far.
Since being here, my head has been spinning with the rapid Portuguese that surrounds me. Living with a family makes a big difference because I am talking and listening all the time. I know I will improve, as I can feel it already… but I want to understand everything now. I am not the same person here, because I can’t make jokes, and I certainly don’t understand many of the ones told. Patience.

In other news, I was out til 5 am yesterday, at a concert of Barão Vermelho. Oh, and it was at the top of Pao de Ascucar (Sugar Loaf)… the picture at the top. After the concert there was more music, which turned the place into a nightclub. There were also these huge pillows set up, where people could lay down. Most people live with their parents, so I think the culture is much more catered to couples being outside the house. Today, I was at the beach, turned several shades darker, and have plans for a churrasco (barbecue) for a friends birthday tonight. This country is magical.


On My Way

January 6, 2006

On the plane to Sao Paulo. The Portuguese on the plane, which includes the conversations around me, as well as all the instructions from the air hostess, are entirely too fast for me. I wonder if that will change by the time I get home. Right now I can only get bits and pieces and words at the end of the sentence when they slow down. I love the way it sounds though. Vaguely familiar.
I finally got rid of my nervousness. I’m a bit anxious now, but only with the excitement of arriving. I was nervous all yesterday and today. I think it was mostly on account of my relationship with my girlfriend, rather than the trip itself. Am I leaving at the wrong time? Am I going to mess something up that is not easily repairable? I talked with her from Dallas, and everything seemed better after that.
There are so many more barriers to leaving your life behind to travel than you would think. It’s incredible how they continue to creep up. But I’m determined to do this.
I finished transferring all the ideas from my index cards during the past year into my journal this morning. I wanted to take everything I could from those cards with me to Brazil. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure a reason will present itself. After all, this trip is largely about self reflection, and so are those cards. The beautiful part of removing yourself from life at home, is the objectiveness from which you can view all that you left behind. I am always more in touch with myself when I’m abroad.


Getting Ready to Leave

January 2, 2006

It hasn’t really hit yet. I expected it to, but it hasn’t. In three days, I’ll be leaving the US for Brazil, not to return for another 4 months. I started packing today, and for a moment, I got a surge of excitement, but for some reason, it was fleeting. I even talked to another friend in Brazil, who said her and her sister would be taking a vacation around the east coast of Brazil, and she invited me along. It sounds like I’ll be doing some heavy duty planning as soon as I get there. Everyone asks what I’ll be doing in Brazil, and I keep telling them the truth. It’s really hard to plan volunteer opportunities from the US. I’m going to wait until I’m there to figure things out. It will also be a lot easier once I can get my Portuguese up to speed.
I’ve been through a lot in the last two months. Quitting my job, Moving out, Moving in to Brandon’s place, the Cross Country Road Trip, Meeting Friends, Hanging out with Katie, saying goodbye to Katie, New Years in Toronto, and now I’m finally home, with 3 days to get ready for Brazil. My Portuguese is horrible. Talking to Priscilla on the phone was painful, as her English is rusty at best. She’s getting her PhD, and has to write in English, but she never speaks it, and is better at writing.
I have a list of things to do, and people to call, before I leave, and plus, there are people here in Louisville that want to get together. Always things to do…