Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Que Preguiça



Seeing as how it's been a while since I last posted, I figured that an appropriate title was Que Preguiça- What Laziness. For all those of you bored at work, I'm sorry I've failed to serve as a distraction for the past two weeks. Life has been full of outings and general busyness, and I'm starting to feel the pressure to take advantage of everything that has been going on in Rio for this last week and a half I have here!

The Daily Commute
When I talk to friends and family about my experiences in Rio, its usually for the purpose of giving updates or news. I rarely mention the daily rituals that have become so routine I forget they are unique to my 8 weeks in Rio. One of my favorite such routines is ironically the most dreaded part of the day for many: the morning commute to work. While the speedwalk to the bus stop is often harried and stressful (my sense of timing has always been Latin American, ie late), once I get on the bus I choose a window seat on the right side, pull my ipod out of my purse, and settle into 40 minutes of musical and visual bliss.

I stare out the window, listening to newly acquired Brazilian music like Manu Chau, that appropriately accompanies the scenic journey, or to American music like LCD Soundsystem, that brings back memories of good times had with great friends. To this soundtrack I pass by the beaches of Ipanema, where there always seem to be an abundant amount of people taking sick days, past the canal into a calmer and more elegant Leblon. The bus goes up a cliff and on to the entrance to Vidigal, a favela with one of the best beach views in the city, but a favela nonetheless. From there the bumpy ride continues along cliffs overlooking crashing waves of the Atlantic, through a tunnel and into San Corvado- a district with its own flavor, where a colonial whitewashed church plopped in the middle of condos never ceases to capitvate my imagination. After another tunnel we reach the sprawling Barra da Tijuca, where I'm convinced there exist more stores than people, and I reluctantly disembark from the bus and go on my boat ride to work.

Teeshing Engleesh
Entering into the final two weeks at Terrazul, Gaurav and I reached a turning point in our mini-internship. We are done with translation work, and the kids who participate in extracurricular programs are on vacation. We have for the most part contacted all the universities we think might be interested in sending students to Terrazul. In regards to future connections for Terrazul we are playing a bit of a waiting game as people slowly respond to our emails or demonstrate hesitant interest. Terrazul as an organization is also at a turning point: The Rede Arredores project has come full circle, and the team here is looking to expand iand renew partnerships with Uni-Med, a well as create a new partnership with Petrobras to further improve the quality of the Lake Complex.

Our coworkers are busy with end-of-the-year evaluations and strategic meetings for the several coming months, but have been kind enough to take us out on excursions all around Rio de Janeiro. I really can't rave enough about how generous and welcoming everyone at Terrazul has been. My only very inadequate way of expressing thanks to them is through more cookie-making, which will take place in the Terrazul kitchen tomorrow. We’re so lucky to get to see parts of the city that tourists never think to explore on our own. Last week we went into the urban rainforest; I felt like I could only see in different shades of green, but it was beyond beautiful and tranquil.

Recently we have been devoting most of our time to giving English lessons to our coworkers. Most educated Cariocas have taken an English course at some point in their lives, but many have never used it in practice. English classes in Brazil require years of grammar study before conversation is even taught, and as such many tire of the language before they are able to enjoy it. Teaching English has been my favorite task assigned at Terrazul, and I love seeing direct results from the work I've done. Even after only three days everyone already feels more comfortable with speaking out loud. It’s a weird sort of responsibility to teach others your own native language. I know I should be correcting people’s errors, but English with a Portuguese accent is so pretty that I’m secretly and ashamedly hesitant to try and make them sound so American. We’ve been teaching useful everyday phrases, general conversation starters, and environmental vocabulary. I think the majority of Brazilians know as many English swear words as I do. Thank you Hollywood for not letting me getting away with anything.

Aproveitando todo
The weekend before last my dad visited Rio prior to a business trip in São Paulo. As much as I love everyone I've met in Rio, it’s always great to see a familiar face, and share the place you love with a person you love. I also am not one to complain about high-quality cuisine or hanging out at the Hotel Fasano rooftop pool overlooking the beach. As Cariocas would say, I led a very chic (pronounced Sheeky) life that weekend. I’d also like to take the opportunity right now to put it down in writing that Dad agreed that to take the whole family back here for the Copa do Mundo in 2014. The next challenge is getting him to agree that purchasing a a beachfront property on Ipanema before prices skyrocket is an excellent investment opportunity. This is obviously just a completely unselfish and caring suggestion.

One of the things I’m going to miss most about Rio de Janeiro is the spark of anticipation I get before a night out commences. I never know who I’m going to encounter or what will end up happening. Rio is one of those cities where everyone is so receptive to new people that it brings out the romantic in everyone. I’ve met and had real conversations with people from the age of 16-30, who were from Bahia to Ohio to France. Who knows if tonight is the night were I meet someone who will become important in my life. Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t have a Brazilian boyfriend and I will be coming home in August…unless of course some thrilling turn of events occurs in the next week...teehee.

Some thoughts on departure
How cruel it is to be leaving Rio just as Carol, Gaurav, and I are becoming a legitimate trio, going on all-day and night excursions around the city. Maria Luiza has started to give me a daily breakfast reminder of our departure, mentioning how much she is going to miss having us around their homey apartment. It will be weirdly different to study abroad in London this fall and not having the same cozy and familial apartment to come back to when the day is over. Luckily Carol and several of her friends will be backpacking through Europe this winter, and one of their first stops in December will be London. Imagining five Brazilians and I gallivanting around London puts such a funny mental image in my head, but I'm already looking forward to seeing them there!

The other night we were out with Carol and her friends, and one of them asked me if, when I returned, it would be different for me as I now know and understand the Brazilian way of living. I hadn't thought about my return in that perspective, but I have to admit I will miss the passion for life and openness Rio brings out in people. On the other hand, I'm incredibly excited to see friends and family. I've missed more than anything American senses of humor and the giddy feeling of joking around about nothing at all while sitting at the kitchen table all night.

Beijos,
Liz

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Uma Mensagem Curta


As I sit here writing this my eyes are a little glazed over, but Gaurav and I finally have finished emailing our contact list of colleges for Terrazul! So far most of our replies have consisted of “on vacation and out of the office” auto-replies and offers to forward the information to other departments, but hopefully we will get lucky soon!

Bem-vindo a Facebook
The facebook page for Insituto Terrazu is finally up and running. If you have a facebook please “like” the page at:

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Instituto-Terrazul/133893369964785?ref=ts

I should warn you that it is all in Portuguese, but there are pictures up of the Festa Junina where the kids went around encouraging people to recycle, as well as a few other pictures and a video. At the moment the site has only five fans, two of them being Gaurav and myself, but I´m expecting a surge once the teens in the after-school programs obtain the link. The picture above is from one of the field trips we accompanied- active learning woo!

Yesterday afternoon we stayed at work an hour later than usual to sit in on a meeting of the youth production company. Discussion was heated as the group is now going to split into two units: one will film monthly news report segments called “Espremendo o cérebro” (Stretching the Brain) and the other will produce short videos and films for outside clients. To date they have no set budget or contracts that they prepare for clients, which has proved to be a problem in the past. There was actually a slight price discrepancy for the film made during the Festa Junina a couple weeks ago, and a misunderstanding about a film made in Tijuca National Park prior to this. I´m going to start working with them to get their business plans more firmly set.

Lapa and I meet again
Despite the fact that the last time I went out in Lapa I came back phoneless, tonight we´ll be making a return journey with Carol. We´ll be dancing Forró, a traditional Brazilian dance. I just youtube´d it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M2I8-63y5Q&feature=related

At least I´m no stranger to embarassment.


Beijos,
Liz

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chame-me Senhora Fields


Oi gente! Within the span of a week, I will have made four batches of m&m cookies. We made some for Maria Luiza’s birthday and have since had several requests for follow-up batches for friends and family. There is nothing sweeter (teehee) than bringing American desserts to another country. At least now I know that if all other plans in life fail I can make a killing opening a cookie stand in Rio.

There was something uplifting about making the cookies on the 4th of July. For the first time since arriving in Rio de Janeiro, I felt a little homesick for Lake Minnetonka, fireworks, Excelsior Commons festivities, friends, and barbeques. I made a playlist with assorted American songs (think Glory Days, Sweet Home Alabama, and Party in the USA) for my walk along the beach but there is something very un-American about a bunch of fit, tan people in skimpy swimsuits drinking water out of coconuts. In hindsight, this may not be a negative thing.

Words, words, words
Spending time in a country that speaks a different language forces you to constantly be thinking about appropriate word choices. As I learned in the first week, there is a sharp distinction between memorizing vocabulary and knowing how and when to use it. I wish I had taken a linguistics class before coming here. I find it so mind-blowing that thinking in a specific language can frame your worldview in a completely different way than another language, simply because each will have different ways of expressing oneself. There are some words in the English language that are so specific they’re impossible to directly translate. Take the word awkward- a word Americans (especially my generation) have adopted to apply to everything from a simple conversation that doesn’t flow quite right to a preteen girl who is just learning how to put on eyeliner and is doing so with a heavy hand- we’ve all been there: it's rough. In Portuguese, awkward roughly translates to difficult, uncomfortable, or embarrassing- but to me none of these phrases can capture a truly awkward moment. As Katie Conroy would say, some situations are just A-Q-U-W-A-R-D (sorry, I had to).

At the same time, the many Brazilians, intead of using “nos” the word for “we,” say “a gente,” as in "the people". For example, if someone is going to say we should all meet at 10, they’ll instead say the people will all meet, and you’re supposed to assume you are one of the “gente.” I think there is something about this that is more communal and inclusive than we Americans are able to convey. I can’t quite describe it, but the word puts everyone in the vague “we” on an equal level.

Joking about appearances? A-OK. Mama jokes? Not so much…
Brazilians also tend to address the appearance of those they are talking to very directly. If you’re dark, people will call you negrao- basically a much less offensive equivalent of “blackey.” If you’re fat, you can’t kid yourself by ignoring mirrors, because you WILL be called gorda. I’ve been called “branquinha” on several occasions, which is basically an endearing way of calling me pasty and reminds me that I need to start hitting the beach. This lack of political correctness was surprising at first, but it also puts people less on guard in terms of racism- what you look like is simply how you look.

Fresh off the boat… from work on the island
Terrazul is still going well- today we began emailing universities that we’ve researched over the web and are known for having strong environmental science or Portuguese programs. We’re trying to set up future exchanges for Terrazul, so they can establish contact with American universities, get more student interns, and connect their students with northern counterparts. It’s weird to think that we’ve been here only four weeks and are already essentially searching for our more qualified replacements.

I also created the beginnings of a Facebook page for Instituto Terrazul. I have yet to post any news, pictures, or links but it is all on its way. Fortunately, Brazilians excel at social networking (my home page is always full of Portuguese status updates) so I have no doubt that the page will be left in very capable hands.

Finally, today Marcos (the director) and I discussed the idea of having a “Mesa de Inglês” discussion table each week for about an hour, where people would just pick topics to discuss in English. A lot of people at work and in the community have studied English for years, but have yet been able to apply it to real-life situations. There are only so many times the phrase “John had to buy milk at the grocery store” (courtesy of Carol’s English textbook) can be dropped into everday conversation. Something tells me this endeavor will prompt me to make another batch of cookies

Beijos,
Liz

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Curtindo a Vida


Oi! It's been a while since I last posted (thanks for the reminders Mom) but it’s hard to stay inside on a computer when there are things to do and sunshine to take in. For those of you who are familiar with my OCD habit of checking weather.com every couple hours, you won't be suprised to know I've continued the trend in Rio... never before have I received such perfectly predictable results: 70's and sunny every day. I lead a rough life

News from the “office”
Work got off to another great start this week, as yesterday Gaurav and I accompanied two of our coworkers, Regina and Vivi, to a local high school. When we got there we were greeted by a very enthusiastic class of about 25 sophomores, where we gave brief presentations about lives in the US. The picture of cars parked on a frozen Lake Minnetonks elicited a great reaction, as did pictures of senior prom. One of the teenage boys asked me if prom had been just like American Pie… wistful thinking on his part. Following our presentations, the students had to analyze environmental issues while studying maps of the Barra da Tijuca area, and then brainstorm possible solutions. The students put my memories of high school science classes spent passing notes with Taylor to shame; everyone was throwing out proposals and debating ideas. They now plan to create and teach environmental education programs for elementary-school children. It was both refreshing and humbling to see all of them so passionate about what they were doing.

For the last 15 minutes of our visit we accompanied our new friends to their literature class; in this case their passion for learning was tempered. Everyone was talking over the teacher about the upcoming soccer game as she prattled on, apparently unperturbed. They only came alive when asked to spontaneously burst out in song - a Colegio Notre Dame original about the book they’d been reading, to the tune of “Baby.” Friends, it saddens me to inform you that Beiber Fever has hit hard in Rio de Janeiro.

Last week I finalized my proposals and reflections for DukeEngage: I now have a plan of action for the remainder of my time at DukeEngage. We also accompanied a different high school group to Marapendi, a lake and park area that very ironically means “clean waters” in the native Tupi language. While learning about the wildlife in the park was somewhat interesting (I'm trying to be green, ok?), the entire area reeked of “esgoto”… sewage. Big condo developments in the region have taken to ridding of their waste in the cheaper and more environmentally-damaging way, as opposed to the correct and legal way. Money isn’t just power, it kind of stinks. What is so amazing to me is that the 2016 Olympic Village is going to be situated so close to this pollution! What is the city planning to do about it? This example serves as a paradigm for one of Brazil’s biggest cultural problems: always putting everything off for the oh-so-vague future. Breathing in the putrid smell was incredibly unpleasant, but it did its job in creating a lasting memory in all those who went on the trip. Environmental urgency is easier to detect when it smells like poo.

Brazil bleeds blue
Last week Gaurav and I met some other Dukies that have been living in Brazil this summer: Amalia and Niti. It was somewhat surreal to be set up by Professora Leslie with two other Duke Laties in a setting so absurdly different from Duke’s. We became fast friends: they're fun, hilarious, and share our passion for caiprinha(s). It’s situations like this that make me gain a whole new appreciation for Duke. I’ve been lucky enough to meet tons of awesome Cariocas, but there is something indescribably comforting about meeting people who have shared similar experiences in life. It also doesn’t hurt that my sarcasm and jokes make more sense in English- what I imagine as clever in English tends to translate into nonsensical in Portuguese.

The girls have been staying at Amalia’s grandmother’s house in Santa Teresa, a beautiful artsy neighborhood set high on a hilltop with an unbelievable view of the rest of Rio. From there, all the lights in the favelas at night make the slums look like little Christmas villages (I’m apparently romantic as well as delusional). It’s one of the few hillside neighborhoods that contains nice houses, since it’s where the rich Portuguese settled when they first colonized Rio. Following dinner at the house in Santa Teresa we went out together in Lapa on Friday night. Prior to this point, whenever a Carioca asked me if I’d been to Lapa they all gave me the same two pieces of advice, which I can now attest to:

1. You have to go, it’s an unbelieavably fun street party with the biggest mix of people in all of Rio.
2. It’s super sketchy, don’t bring anything valuable.

Last week I was also able to reunite with my Kelly Williamson, one of my best childhood friends from Buenos Aires. She was on a volleyball tour in Brazil, and luckily for me the final stop was in Rio. It’s always reassuring to know that there are some people with whom you will always have fun with, no matter how many years you go without seeing each other.

Opa for the Copa
Monday was one of the most fun days yet I’ve had in Rio, as after “work” (aka a field trip) we headed home early for another great cup game. This time we went to Copacabana Beach to watch the game with a crowd of tens of thousands of people. Winning the game 3-0 made the atmosphere unbelievable. Whenever Brazil scored I experienced a sense of déjà vu for Duke tailgate, but on a much more intense level. Everyone jumped up and down, threw beer around the crowd, and hugged whoever they could get a hand on. After the game I partook in a night of celebration, cracking jokes, grocery shopping, and making fajitas in a new friend’s apartment. Sometimes Rio feels like a giant college town: if people are old and mature they are not about to show it after a Brazil victory.

Beijos,
Liz

P.S. The picture above is from the second cup game- Gaurav and I with Carol!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Faz duas semanas?!?!


Bom dia gente...
Two weeks into the trip and I'm already scheming: it can't be that difficult to pay off a Brazilian official to extend my visa, right? I'd love to remain in Rio as an expat for the unforeseeable future. My host mom, Maria Luiza, has made adjusting to Brazil a non-issue. She has the patience and mannerisms of a beloved teacher; every time she corrects my Portuguese or explains how things in their house work differently, I come out of the conversation encouraged, rather than feeling like I did something wrong.

This past Sunday I finally made it to the the beach and was able to bronze a little before the Brazil game at 3:30 (woohoo!). I kid you not, the first thing that came up on my ipod when I hit shuffle was “The Thong Song.” My questionable taste in music aside, I was impressed by the my nano's clairvoyance. As it was 80 and sunny, half the city was on the beach, and despite the fact that I was wearing my smallest swimsuit, it looked like a diaper in comparison to my surroundings (men included). The beaches by our apartment, Ipanema and Copacabana, are divided into Postos (lifeguard posts), 12 in total, which informally mark the meeting spots for different groups of people. Each post has a reputation: there's the hipster hangout, some sketchy areas, gay hotspots, athletic congregations, and family friendly stretches. The beaches are essentially a highschool cafeteria transplanted into paradise. My favorite people to watch are the old men playing volleyball who always end up screaming at each other. It may not be attractive, but it's grittily entertaining.

On the bench
Last week Gaurav and I finished our translation tasks and will be receiving more creative assignments in the coming days. Additionally, I received a pleasant surprise this morning in the form of a breakfast phone call-we didn't have to make the trek to work today, due to the fact that the whole office of Terrazul is currently out presenting their proposal for Rede Arredores (the water protection plan) to Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. I kept my fingers crossed for my coworkers today as I took advantage of the abbreviated work week by exploring more of the Ipanema and Leblon neighborhoods.

On Saturday Gaurav and I took the bus to a condominium compound in Barra da Tijuca, where we work, for a “Festa Junina.” Brazil literally celebrates holidays all year long, and apparently June is the month for small folkloric festivals that originated in the Nordeste. Traditionally, people dress up in old-fashioned costumes, stage a wedding, and participate in the Brazilian equivalent of a square dance. The Festa Junina we went to, however, was the modern sort, and I chose to immerse myself in Bahian culture by supporting their food vendors. We were there because Terrazul had a stand at the fair. The teenagers who do afterschool programs had to sport the ONG's t-shirts and meander the festival, stopping to explain to community members how to separate trash into recycling. A cooperative came by later to pick up the recyclable materials. I love the way Terrazul let's the teens take initiative at their events- it seems to lead to positive results for all those involved.

A slice of America
From the festa we walked back to our regular bus stop, and were able to see what Barra has to offer beyond our usual 100 ft. island radius. Whenever you mention Barra here in Ipanema, people tend to cringe and pronounce the name with disgust. While the buildings are undoubtedly nicer, it contains certain elements that are offensively tacky to Rio old timer's: there is a giant replica of the Statue of Liberty in Barra Shopping, one of their major malls. One of the paradoxes I've noticed while abroad is that however much people enjoy American cultural exports, many simultaneously dislike the fact that it is indeed American. Luckily people have been nothing but receptive to Gaurav and me, but I suspect it helps our case that we make an obvious effort to speak Portuguese.

Another eccentricity about Brazil that I find hilarious: Carolina and her friends LOVE the song “Kiss” by Prince. I think I’ve heard it at least 6 times in the past week- I've finally found Minnesota's selling point for Cariocas.
Beijos,
Liz

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Minha Vida, Traduzida


Frase do Dia: Vambora Brasil!*
English translation: Let's go Brazil! I'm starting easy, but it's official: I'm a World Cup convert. The only thing that could have possibly made yesterday better was a greater margin of victory against North Korea. After a powerwalk along Copacabana Beach (yeah I'm a forty year old woman even in Rio), Gaurav and I set off for a half-day at work, grinded out a few translations, and left, only to discover that rush hour hit a little earlier that day. The whole city basically stopped functioning at 2 PM yesterday, which I discovered as I stood on the bus back to Ipanema smushed between five men in suits. Pleasant. That being said, Rio's atmosphere during a World Cup game is incredible. The whole city was decked out in green and yellow, waving Brazilian flags, with various noisemakers in hand. If a store didn't have a TV in it, it wasn't about to stay open. For the actual game we went over to Carolina's friends' apartment for a churrasco (Brazilian barbeque) on the rooftop. Música, futebol, cerveja, e carne? I feel like I'm living out every man's dream.
* Obrigada, Carol!

Further Back In Time...
On Sunday Gaurav and I accompanied Professora Leslie to one of the many cultural centers in Centro to see a dance-theater performance. I was expecting ballerinas, but instead sat through 90 minutes of screeching noises and grotesque scenes done to Mozart's Requiem. Clearly I am not cultured enough, as everyone else in the audience gave a standing ovation, but I think I'm a happier person because of it. In my own very theater-illiterate opinion, the best part about the "engrossing tribute to Goya" was that it only cost $5 Reais. I'm still undecided as to whether it was better or worse than the Sammy Davis Jr. Musical I went to over fall break.

Making Terrazul Bilingual
Over the past few days we've been translating a document Terrazul has prepared to outline the plans of Rede Arredores, their Lake Protection Project. It turns out that translating technical documents is much easier in theory than in practice; it's like taking apart a puzzle and having to put back all the pieces in a completely different arrangement. Because many direct translations simply don't exist, the people at Terrazul are probably giving us more leeway than we deserve as far as propagating their material in English.

Working for a non-profit like Terrazul makes you aware of how important the need for communication and publicity is. By virtue of being an environmental NGO, Terrazul has to create an informed general public that is willing to aide in protecting the area from pollution. This may be paraphrased from one of the documents I'm translating, but hey, at least it gives me hope that what we're doing will actually help the organization. I've already grown to really respect the people who work there. They are all kind, helpful, and know how to strike a balance between accomplishing the work they want to get done while still being relaxed and friendly. If this is the Carioca professional world, I want in.

Beijos,
Liz

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cafe da Manha, Centro, e a Copa do Mundo


Boa fim de semana, hope all is well with everyone at home!

A Copa do Mundo
Ahh Sundays… the weekend may be almost over, but I have to admit I'm looking forward to the workweek. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Tuesday will be an abbreviated day at Terrazul, as Brazil plays at 3:30 PM- and when Brazil plays, working is sacrilegious. A Brazilian flag is currently sitting in my closet, waiting to be draped around my back, because even though my loyalties lie with the US, a Brazilian victory would be much more exciting (and probable).

Yesterday we went to a bar close to the apartment for the USA game, even though I shamefully didn't know a single player on the US team prior to the match (Bocanegra is now on my radar, olá!). Luckily many other Americans and Brits were at the bar, providing for a lively atmosphere. Even without our telltale accents, Americans are easy to locate; while the Brits were sitting and watching the game inconspicuously, there's nothing an obnoxious American loves more than a good USA chant, myself included.

Terrazul

Orientation day became orientation week, but I finally know what I’m going to be doing this summer. Terrazul is in the beginning stages of enacting a new project, called Rede Arredores, concerning water quality in the 5 major lakes situated in Barra da Tijuca. The way Rio’s population has geographically distributed itself over time is very pertinent to this subject. Most of the favelas lie on morros (hills), as these are the least desirable areas for home owners. The nicer areas lie in the valleys and beachfronts where the lanscape is flatter and more suitable for construction. This arrangement, however, has taken a toll on all citizens of Rio, whether rich or poor. Favelas often lack adequate sanitation and garbage disposal systems, ergo much of the neighborhoods’ trash ends up in the rivers, which then trickle down the hills into the lakes and waterfronts in the more upscale areas. Terrazul’s main goals concerning Rede Arredores is to monitor the water in Barra’s 5 lakes, improve the conditions, and implement environmental education programs so as to prevent further pollution.

Gaurav and I figure into this project by virtue of our “gringo” status. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays Gaurav and I will be translating Terrazul’s website, pamphlets, and movies into English. We’ll also be trying to contact American companies, NGO’s, and universities with an interest in funding the project, since they already have a pretty solid network within Brazil. It’s a pretty cool opportunity for us and funder’s alike; while its common knowledge that the 2016 Olympics will be held in Rio, most people don’t know that Barra da Tijuca, our neighborhood, is where the games will take place. Supporting the environment and getting some major advertising in the area where the Olympics will be held sounds like a win-win situation to me… so I guess this is my call to everyone who reads this blog to put me in contact with a company/organization who is interested in donating a sizeable sum of money. Eh, eh?

On Tuesdays and Thursdays my work is more hands on, which I’m very excited about. One of the after-school programs Terrazul offers the community is the opportunity for 16-18 year olds to run their own film production company. All the films they make have an environmental angle to them, but can pertain to anything from commercials to wedding videos. To this point, the business has been run without really accounting for a budget or a coherent business plan, so I’ll be assisting them in coming up with ideas and becoming more organized. Hopefully I’ll get to see some pretty cool films come out of this project as well.

Centro
On Friday Gaurav and I took off work to be tourists for a day with Professora Leslie as our guide. We boarded the metro and got off in Centro, the business and historical district of Rio. The downtown isn’t particularly cohesive; there are these skyscrapers from the 80’s alongside churches built in the 1600’s alongside ultramodern architectural buildings. In all honesty, it doesn't make for a particularly beautiful urban landscape. My favorite part of Centro was the historical district, which consists of a network of alley ways complete with shopping, restaurants, and bazaars that are always packed and full of people yelling and haggling. The coolest place I saw was a Portuguese library straight out of Beauty and The Beast- were it not for the people in there studying I think I would have leapt onto a ladder and begun to belt out "Be Our Guest."

Comida
Note to mom: I’ve gotten very accustomed to a bowl of fruit (with mangos, persimmon, apple, and other assorted fruits), along with a pot of coffee, French bread, and cheese being set up at a cute little table before I wake up every morning. To diminish the culture shock when I get home, this arrangement will have to continue. The food here is unreal, which is almost cruel considering that it’s a beach front city. If I keep eating brigadeiros (balls of fudge wrapped in sprkinkles), I may turn into one.

Frase do Dia:
I was going to begin doing a section on a cool Portuguese phrase I learned every time I post, but seeing as how most of the phrases I learned this weekend were some derivative of “filho da puta,” I may wait until next time. My vocabulary has extended largely due to Carolina and her friends, who’ve taken it upon themselves to make sure the two gringos know their street slang. Carolina has been pretty awesome to take us around everywhere and introduce us to all her friends. She hangs with a pretty diverse crowd here in Rio, as friend groups here are much less confined to a specific school like it is in the states. Even though the country lacks the same college scene as us, they undoubtedly know how to party. Carolina is pretty chill to hang out with; she has a sarcastic sense of humor and isn’t afraid to take authority around us, which is quite necessary given our level of clueless-ness. Whenever we arrive somewhere, we're announced as Carolina and her gringos.

Yesterday Carolina and I bonded over our common love of "True Blood"- apparently vamps are as popular in tropical climates as they are in their natural habitat. Coincidentally, it was o Dia de Namorados here in Brazil, meaning that I got to celebrate a single Valentine’s Days not just once, but twice this year. As I'm writing this I also realized that we watched "He's Just not That Into You" yesterday. Dear Lord, I'm such a cliche. I miss you all at home and elsewhere- write to me soon, I love recieving messages (hem, Kristen)!

Beijos,
Liz

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Conhece Tai-lo Sweef-chee?

Olá amigos! Having spent several days immersed in cultural exchanges (ie, struggling to explain how we do things in America), I've begun to wonder how I've performed as an embassador of sorts. Brazilians have proven to be incredibly inquisitive concerning other cultures. Consequently, I've prepared a list of C-FAQs (cultural frequently asked questions) and my responses. Any comments on how I may be misrepresenting the homeland are always appreciated.

1. De onde você é? Ahh... não o conheço, como é? Where are you from? Ah.. I've never heard of it, what's it like?

Trying to explain Minnesota to a group of people who think that 70 degrees calls for a jacket has proven to be quite the challenge, especially given my limited vocabulary. After explaining that the fair state is located in the north, contains thousands of lakes, and is absolutely nothing like Rio, I tend to find myself at a loss for words. While at school I usually fall back on the "It's paradise in the summer" argument, this route is difficult to take after explaining to a shivering group of people that our summer climate is similar to their winter. Guarav, meanwhile, gets to discuss all the similarities between Rio and Miami (a city most have actually heard of): beaches, cosmopolitan vibes, Latinos... to my dismay, Mall of America is only famous stateside.

2. Estados Unidos? Gosta de heepee-hoppee? Fifchee Cenchee? Lay-gee Gaga? Dray-Kee? Tai-lo Sweef-chee? United States? Do you like hip-hop? 50 Cent? Lady Gaga? Drake? Taylor Swift?

The United States might not have the best reputation worldwide, but our music is everywhere. I've learned to talk about artists in a Brazilian accent (as above) or I will not be understood. I'm especially surprised by how popular American pop is here, despite the richness of Brazilian music. Samba beats are infectious, but much of the population has renounced their own music for American exports. It's somewhat disarming hearing the 17 year old girls who don't speak a great deal of English enunciating "have a baby by me" perfectly. That being said, Rio has it's own musical movements going on. "Baile Funk," whose roots lie within the favelas (slums) has become an increasingly accepted form of cultural expression. By mixing samba and other Brazilian beats with pop music, "o funk-ee" attracts the dancing crowd.

3. Qual é seu curso? Que vai fazer depois da faculdade? Não sabe?!?! What are you studying? What are you doing after college? You don't know?!?!

Visiting Brazil truly makes one appreciate the American university system. After explaining that I am majoring in economics, minoring in cultural anthropology, and taking a slew of other courses, people tend to ask me what career path I'm headed towards. When I reply, honestly, that I have no idea what Im doing post-Duke (not that I'm planning on ever graduating/leaving) people tend to appear a tad dumbfounded. In Brazil, as in much of the rest of the world, students choose their career paths prior to entering university and then take specialized classes correlated to their choice of study. Even lawyers and doctors begin training immediately after high school. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the US is the greatest exporter of culture; the flexibility of our society, which trickles down to the education system, allows for people to truly explore their passions and take the time to learn about themselves. Imagine if we had the same system as Brazil in the US! if the proportion of people entering Duke and other colleges as pre-med had to remain in the field, we'd be a country famous for hip replacements and blood transfusions.

In other news...

High of the day: Being told I looked Brazilian by a Brazilian... and then I made the fatal mistake of opening my mouth and speaking Portuguese.

Terrazul's website for anyone who is interested (there should be parts that are translatable into English) http://www.redeprotecaopnt.org.br/terrazul

Beijos!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Depois do primeiro dia de trabalho



Oí! Well, June arrived and I am finally here in Rio de Janeiro! It's only been a couple days but it already feels like home- thanks to Maria Luisa and Carolina (our host mother and daughter), as well as Professora Leslie and everyone at Terrazul. There is so much to elaborate on I don't even know where to begin! I feel as if I've been thrown into an episode of the Real World: we have this beautiful apartment blocks from Ipanema, an up-and-coming job, and the city of Rio to explore- but no worries mom and dad, there will be no Real World style antics coming from me... most likely.

Terrazul:
Having always been a far cry from what one would call an environmentalist (as in shamefully unaware of anything "green"), I didn't know quite what to expect upon arriving to the headquarters of Instituto Terrazul. Actually, headquarters might be too strong of a word. The office is a tiny little house on the island of Gigoia (pictured above), a bohemian locale of 1000 inhabitants. It's just a 30 second boat right from Barra de Tijuca, a neighborhood outside of Rio de Janeiro nicknamed "Little Miami." As one can imagine, the commute is complicated. Barra de Tijuca is a beachfront community complete with luxury condos and shopping. Cariocas (native Rio de Janeiro-ans) generally don't seem to be ostentatious, but this neighborhood holds some of the exceptions. Anyhow, the fact that Terrazul's offices are so homey is slightly deceptive. Priscylla, who helps run the organization, gave Gaurav and me a two-hour overview of what Terrazul does as an organization. I can say without a doubt that there will be no lack of things to do for the next two months.

NGO's (or ONG's in Portuguese) face unique challenges down here, as much of the funding has to be private. The municipal governments that have the most power in the area tend to be disorganized and cover a large scope. While the idea of corporate responsibility is just getting off it's feet here, Terrazul has been recieving most of its money from Petrobras, an enormous part public/part private oil company. Terrazul serves as a community education center for high-schoolers around the area, as well as an NGO looking to protect a Floresta de Tijuca- the largest urban rainforest in the world, whose ecosystem has enormous effects on the entire city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro still is missing many services that people in the US consider ordinary fixtures, such as an effective recycling system. While on the one hand this is alarming given the fast rate at which the city has grown and continues to grow, it is also exciting. Rio feels like a city on the brink of greatness, full of potential and business opportunities that are literally waiting to be seized.

Today, following orientation, Guarav and I got to see the actual forest. It is absolutely amazing to travel from the beach, to urban areas, and then to a deserted rainforest all within the span of ten minutes- this has to be one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. Once we got to the forest we were abled to watch the highschool students (pictured above) make videos to promote Terrazuls projects. I am constantly struck by how friendly and welcoming Cariocas are. I spent most of the afternoon being taught slang (gíria) by the students- foi legal (it was awesome)!

More to come on the city, my host fam, and day-to-day life. Way too much to fit into one post!

Friday, May 14, 2010

3 Weeks and Counting

It's hard to believe that I'm traveling to Rio de Janeiro in just three weeks! I've decided to start my first blog to be able to commemorate the experience.

For those of you that don't know, DukeEngage is sending me to Rio de Janeiro to work for Terrazul, and environmentally-focused NGO in the south of Rio. This may seem a little odd, seeing as how I've never expressed particular interest in the environment before, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the organization is all about! Regardless, I get a two month stay in Rio paid for so there really isn't much to complain about.

The past week I went to DukeEngage academy at school following a weekend at Wrightsville Beach. It may not have been the most exciting two days of my life, but it definitely made me anxious to travel. I've already set up Orkut (the Brazilian version of Facebook) and mom bought me a useful Portuguese phrase book-uma doce de cachaça por favor!

In the coming weeks I'll be trying to keep up with Portuguese (a few posts later may even be in Português if I'm feeling ambitious), visiting friends and family in New York and Colorado, and generally preparing for what is sure to be an amazing summer.

Beijos,
Liz