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.

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