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