The 3 Month Mark aka Gringa Emotionally Unloads

So many feels.

If I could describe my experience in Brazil in 3 words—which is actually impossible—these three would do a good job.

Whether it be the euphoria of diving under breaking waves on the beach, the wonder stricken awe I´m left with after seeing the view of the city from one of the highest peaks in Rio de Janeiro, or the preemptive “saudades” (rough translation: nostalgia) that hit me like a brick wall as each day comes to a close, Brazil has been nothing less than an emotional roller-coaster ride—although I must note it has consisted of 99.9% ups, and about .001% downs.

If Cariocas (the word used for people native to Rio de Janeiro) have taught me nothing else, it´s that it is a truly invaluable gift to let go of trivial concerns and live “a vontade”—doing as you please when the urge strikes, letting yourself be overtaken by the feelings of the moment you are in. It means skipping class on Friday to discover unexplored beaches, having no qualms about grabbing “gatos” (rough translation: hot boys) at blocos during Carnaval and kissing them on the mouth before saying hello, or taking a 7 hour bus ride to a tiny town in the countryside to watch a cheesy Brazilian artist play a live show. It means finishing off a two hour hike by climbing a rock wall nicknamed “the executioner” (carrasqueira, in portuguese) without a rope, just to see the view of the marvelous city below, passing hours on a street corner chatting with a friend that you happened to encounter on a run, and letting new acquaintances become good friends.

It is through this way of being that I have beyond scratched the surface of my emotional side—which culminated with me bursting into tears at our “halfway through” dinner last week—because when you live like this, you don´t stop to remind yourself that all good things must come to an end. There´s no way to describe my feelings of helplessness as I realized how swiftly time is passing by, and the fact that I am powerless to stop it. What unsettles me all the more is knowing that in a very short time I will be torn away from the city that I so quickly adopted as my home, not only by way of location, but with my heart as well.

While these first three months seem to have passed by in the blink of an eye, I have cherished every second of them. And while it frightens me to know that the next three will go just as fast, the Carioca in me is ready to wholly enjoy every second of them, without a lingering sense of hurry or panic (although  it will take some work to repress what´s left of the wide-eyed Gringa who touched down in Brazil in January ;)). 

P.S. if you´re wondering how I´m ACTUALLY doing, here´s a list of things:

  • I can actually SPEAK Portuguese now. It´s gotten to the point where I have a hard time expressing myself in English because i constantly have the urge to drop in Portuguese phrases that better fit the situation. 
  • Carnaval was the most wonderful thing I´ve ever experienced. Imagine block parties of 20,000 people dressed in costumes not tailored to any theme, consuming frozen vodka popsicles while samba-ing down the street. And the samba parades in the Sambodromo took my breath away. 
  • I´ve left Rio 3 times, once to go to São Paulo, and two other times to go to small cities in the state of Minas Gerais—save yourself the time and the trouble if you´re considering going anywhere but Rio, because nothing has come close to the natural beauty and the warmth of the people in this city. 
  • I´m still as beach-obsessed as on day one. I take my swimsuit to school in my backpack and nearly break into a run when I get off the bus on my way to the beach. Sadly—my “summer” tan from January and February is slowly fading. 
  • School more-or-less does not exist. Not only I just have class Tue-Thurs-Fri, but our academic calendar is chalk-full of vacations, and I can´t remember the last time I went to a full week of school. Prime example: I´m off from the 15-24th of April, after which I have one day of class, followed by another entire week off. 

Em fim (rough translation: to wrap it all up), I am loving every second of being here. Waking up and speaking Portuguese every day is exhilarating, and there is no place I would rather spend my days than lounging on the beach in Ipanema listening to the waves crash onto the shore and chatting with my favorite beach vendors, like the Açai super-star Marçal, who carries a megaphone and wears nothing but a sunga. 

If you made it through this whole rant, parabéns (congratulations). Tchau! 

Of all the things I could have written about, I chose a story about my haircut…

I hesitate from blogging, not because I don’t have stories to share, but because I worry about rushing my writing and producing sub-par content. But alas, the abundance of my thoughts has outweighed my frivolous self-censorship. Enjoy!

Yesterday was a big day for me. As I’m sure every woman can relate, going to the hair salon is a nerve-wracking experience. You can only imagine the magnification of my anxiety as I entered a Brazilian salon, in desperate need of a cut and color, knowing full well that the hair dressers there (“cabeleileiros”) most likely didn’t speak much English, if any at all. After accidentally asking for moons (“luas”) in my hair instead of highlights (“luzes”), I received a round of laughter from the receptionists and um grande abraço (big hug) from the cabeleileiro who met me at the door. I was put at ease his kind disposition and the free cappuccino he brought me, so we got to work. 

I decided to take a leap of faith and color over the last remaining brown pieces of my hair, which left me completely blonde (photo below). When my hairdresser Eric had put about a third of my hair in foils, he could see I was getting nervous again—unlike the treatment I’ve received in the U.S., where hairdressers hold out and refuse to reveal their final product until the end of the process, Eric led me back to the sink, rinsed the portion he had already foiled, quickly blow dried it, and gave me a sneak peak. “Coisa bonita,” he said through a warm smile. I agreed. After offering me his smartphone and putting on a playlist of his favorite Brazilian music, he got back to work and finished the job.  

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Although going places alone in a city where next-to-nobody speaks my language can be intimidating, I love the challenge! Every interaction—whether finding the correct bus to a friend’s house, or navigating through a haircut—is so rewarding. During my appointment, which took almost two hours, I was consistently chatting with Eric, and I felt myself improving and becoming more comfortable throughout the entire interaction. While I love spending time with the other Americans who study at PUC-Rio with me, it’s liberating to go it alone; it’s also great Portuguese practice!

Brazil Bucket List

I know, I know, I’m late to the game with my first blog post from Rio, I can attribute that to nothing other than the fact that I’ve been having the time of my life here and haven’t felt inclined to sit down at a computer yet. 

All I can say about these first week and a half is that Brazil is everything I was hoping for and more. The culture is vibrant and full of diversity, the beaches are breathtaking, as are the views from the various attractions we’ve made it to, the people are welcoming, and my Portuguese skills (especially speaking) are rapidly improving. It’s only been 10 days and I’m already feeling anxious about the fact that I have to leave in six months. To ease that anxiety and make sure I make the most of my time here, I made a bucket list of the things I want to do while I’m abroad.

Here goes nothing: 

  1. Attain fluency in Portuguese
  2. Visit the Tijuca Forest
  3. Walk the the Botanical Garden near my university’s campus
  4. Go to a live music show
  5. Dance the samba 
  6. Go camping somewhere for a weekend (maybe Ilha Grande)
  7. Attend a futebol game for one of the clubs in Rio
  8. Go out to well-known nightlife hot-spot called Lapa
  9. Play futebol on the beach
  10. Go up to Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar)
  11. Visit Christ the Redeemer (O Cristo Redentor)
  12. Partake in the Carnaval festivities (including going to the enormous block parties and hopefully getting tickets to sit in the Sambodromo, where the parade takes place)
  13. Go the to Amazon Rainforest
  14. Visit São Paulo
  15. Spend a day seeing the museums in the city
  16. Skinny dip
  17. Attend a World Cup game (and watch the others on the big screen at the beach)
  18. Drink a caipirinha (made of sugar-cane rum called cachaça, lime, sugar, and ice, for those of you who are unfamiliar)
  19. Eat a variety of typical Brazilian dishes
  20. Climb Pedra da Gávea
  21. Hike up Dois Irmãos
  22. Rock a Brazilian bikini on the beach
  23. Go to the weekend market in Copacabana or Ipanema
  24. Explore Centro (downtown Rio de Janeiro)
  25. Learn more about the favelas
  26. Get to know the city better and memorize the names of the streets in my neighborhood
  27. Kiss a Brazilian
  28. Go hangliding
  29. Try kite-surfing
  30. Learn the names of the fruits at the fantastic juice stands here
  31. Make Brazilian friends
  32. Find an internship or do an extra-curricular activity 
  33. Stay out until the sun comes up
  34. See the sun rise
  35. Go an entire day without speaking a word of English
  36. Go on a run around Lagoa de Freitas
  37. Rent a swan-shaped peddle-boat on the lake
  38. Watch the sun set from Arpoador 
  39. Learn to cook a great Brazilian dish
  40. Take part in the Festa Junina 
  41. and last but not least, GET GOOD GRADES…I mean, I am here for school…..

And on that note, I’m off to start on my first real homework assignment. Já tenho saudades da praia Ipanema (already missing Ipanema beach #brazilprobs)

So this is what I missed last night….

A Dream Come True

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At the end of the 2010 World Cup, of which I watched almost every game from my living room, I remember watching the broadcast announcing that next World Cup would be held in Brazil; that’s where the dream all started.

I’m going there, I told my mom. Mark my words, I repeated, I’ll be there

My dream grew during my freshman year political science class, in which my professor proclaimed the importance of the growing BRIC economies—my interest in the country of Brasil as more than just a World Cup destination was sparked. 

Then, as a sophomore at Vanderbilt, I signed up for Portuguese classes and started pestering the global education office to add a program in Rio de Janeiro, “A Cidade Maravilhosa” (The Marvelous City). After nearly a year of back-and-forth emails, meetings, proposals, and much waiting, this November, Vanderbilt finally gave me the go-ahead. Just like that, my dream had materialized into a reality. 

Starting January 3rd, I’ll be living in a homestay just minutes from Copacabana Beach (in the picture above), studying at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, better known as PUC-Rio, and taking all of my classes in Portuguese. 

Words cannot express how excited I am about this opportunity; I could not be more thankful for the chance to study abroad in the city I’ve been dreaming of for years. 

Até logo, América!

The BRIC Economies: Is the Growth Over?

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Is the fastest period of emerging-market growth behind us?

In this debate, Ruchir Sharma, head of Emerging Markets at Morgan Stanley, and Kishore Mahbubani of the National University of Singapore discuss whether or not the BRIC economies’—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—period of rapid market growth is coming to a halt. 

DEBATE: http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/1001


Photo Source: theagenda.tvo.org

On love…

Love is easy on a warm summer evening, when the busy world melts away and the soft breeze kisses upturned faces as it whispers through the trees. Hot breath passes through parted lips, and skin dampened with sheen of cool sweat welcomes the brush of the grass against a bare thigh.

Summer love is a free-flowing late night, sauntering home bathed in an easy, effervescent glow, and an early morning when the ground beneath bare feet is cool and damp and sends shivers up an eager spine.

[No, I’m not in love. This was actually inspired by a late night I spent playing soccer, hah.]

It’s easy to love a sport. A sport can be your better half and can push you to be a better person. Loving a sport makes you strong. The joy and fulfillment felt after a long night or even on instant of success on the field is incomparable to any sensation in the world. I’m thankful every day that I fell in love with soccer.

Mia Hamm once said, “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practices and coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back…play for her”.

The truth is, soccer has made me more than just the athlete that I am today; it has made me the woman I am today. Years of training and discipline have taught me not only to how to finish strong, no matter what the task, but also, to work diligently, and finish it well. Playing with people from different corners of globe has shown me that beneath our diverse backgrounds, our hearts all beat the same, and because of this, we can find a way to love one another. Soccer has taught me perseverance, to have the courage to say, “I may not have been able today, but I will try again tomorrow”; it’s given me the confidence and strength to accept my shortcomings with the mindset that every day is an opportunity to improve. Soccer has taught me what true joy feels like, and that it has nothing to do with how much money or material goods. I do remember the little girl who fell in love with the game, and every day I look in the mirror and see the woman she’s become. I do more than just play for this girl; I live for her. I live for the purity, unconditional love, and exhilarating fire instilled in me by the beautiful game.

" Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. "

Rita Pierson, TED Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion”

This talk reiterates the well-known fact that positive adult influences are instrumental to making young people and young children believe in themselves. As young-adults, we have the power to be a champion to the children around us, and by doing so, change their lives. It is important to truly invest in other people; it makes them feel like they’re worth something, which gives them the confidence to chase their dreams and be the best they can be.

Full talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion.html

What's the deal with Benghazi? Were the reports tampered with or not?

  • Republicans say: When Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012, there was a presidential election in the near future. The GOP feels that reports of the attacks were edited by Democrats to make it seem like the violence was spontaneous rather than an organized terrorist strike, for fear that a terrorist attack so close to the election would hurt Obama's chances at victory.
  • Democrats say: No way. While original reports claimed that the attacks grew out of protests outside of the diplomatic facility, the facts were later revised, admitting that no such protests had preceded the attack. The only discrepancies between what was originally reported and what we know now are a result of information learned after the attack took place.
  • Republicans say: There was intelligence before the attack that something was going to happen. Furthermore, much of the language in the reports was changed and that references to Al-Qaeda were removed, etc.
  • Democrats say (well technically, Press Secretary Carney): The only change made to the document was switching the word "consulate" to "diplomatic facility", for accuracy purposes.
  • More from both sides: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22459439, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/05/what-we-learned-about-benghazi-incompetence-but-no-cover-up/275694/

How to: Get a restaurant job. By: the girl who walked into four restaurants today, and walked out with four jobs.

Working at restaurants is a great experience, and most of the time restaurant work pays higher than retail jobs because you’ll be making tips. Not to mention, time flies by and you’re usually rewarded with food. I’ve had four restaurant jobs and landed countless others by following this process. Check it out:

Dress the part. If you’re applying to be a server at a formal restaurant, dress like you would expect your waiter or waitress to be dressed. The restaurant staff will see you and immediately register you as somebody they could imagine working for them.

Bring copies of your resume. Having a resume on hand saves you the time of having to fill out extensive applications, and it makes you look prepared. NOTE: modify your resume to include your availability and start date. Everywhere you go will ask you about it, and you’ll be glad you have it written down. 

Go to restaurants between 2-5 PM. There will be a manager there but there won’t be a lot of guests, so you’ll be the center of their attention.

Ask for the manager. Seriously. DON’T just drop off your resume. Politely introduce yourself to the host/hostess and ask if they’re hiring (unless you already know they are). Then say something along the lines of, “Is there a manager available I could hand my resume and introduce myself to?” Chances are the manager will be impressed by your initiative, and you very well may be interviewed on the spot. 

Be forward. Don’t be afraid to volunteer information like the fact that you’re a quick learner, team player, and somebody who strives for excellence. They’ll never know if you don’t tell them.

The final question. When they ask you, “do you have any questions for me?”, my go-to question is always, “what are you looking for in a waitress, and in regard to that, is there anything I haven’t addressed?“ I can’t tell you how many times this has provided me with an opportunity to seal the deal. If he/she seems hesitant to commit, go with, “what is the next step for me in the hiring process, and how should I follow up with you?”

Good luck!