Thursday, December 24, 2009


Ai familia- or rather, famiglia... Saudades for Brazil are overwhelming. Now that I'm gone I truly know what it means to miss that place. I really miss Rio. I miss the hot sun (although I can't complain about this wintry California sunshine that still lets me play soccer in shorts every day). I miss spontaneous samba circles and sidewalk barbecues. I miss swimming in the ocean and struggling to choose which suco I would buy at Sumol, the corner restaurant near my house. I miss seeing friends and speaking Portuguese.

But California has its perks. Spanish is a lovely language as well, and my friends aren't letting me forget it. In-N-Out burgers are still delicious, as are the tacos from the trucks on Sebastopol Road. It's fun to see family and long-lost amigos, to play soccer with my brother and laugh at my deaf/dumb/blind 13-year-old perrito. I had a low-key 21st birthday last Saturday, and I'm looking forward to Christmas tomorrow and New Years soon after.

Most of all, I'm looking forward to Bologna. On January 4th I'll drive down to San Francisco to pick up my student visa, and three days later I'll be on a plane headed to Frankfurt, Germany. I'll spend the night in the airport and hop on another plane in the morning to Rome, after which I'll catch the train up to Bologna and start my 2010 European adventure. My best friend and his family called me yesterday from Italy to say ciao and wish me happy holidays- I could tell through the telephone that they were having a blast! In two weeks I'll be joining them, but in the meantime I need to re-learn Italian... I'm looking forward to everything that is Italy. Storia, ragazze e pizza, HERE I COME!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More bullets, then I'm out with a BANG!

At first I felt bad for missing my weekly blog post deadlines, but then I realized that not having the time to write is a good thing. It means I'm busy, with places to go and people to see. It means I'm not sitting around in my room on the internet, counting the hours until I fly home. In addition to this blog, I keep a journal where I jot down gibberish whenever I find the time or am procrastinating on schoolwork. On June 22, before I had arrived in Brazil, I wrote this entry: "After I settle down in Rio, I want to get hella involved. I want to join a soccer team, take guitar lessons, intern with a non-profit, write for a publication, and meet friends in classes. I want to go out to clubs and meet pretty girls, lift weights on the beach and watch the sunrise at Arpoador. I want to take the bus to São Paulo and travel to Montevideo, Iguaçu Falls and Buenos Aires. I want to eat tons of delicious food and get up-to-date on the novelas. I want to take amazing pictures and post unbelievable blog stories. I want to never want to leave, and then to repeat everything in Bologna! :p"

I didn't do everything in that list, but I did WAY more. The last line is the most important, and with my plane home departing in 10 hours (I wasn't counting, I just did the math right now on my fingers!), that's exactly how I feel. I don't want to leave Rio. I could stay another week, another month, another semester and be totally content. But I am leaving, and that's a blessing as well because it means that I'm gonna come back to Brazil. Sooner as opposed to later. I have lots of reasons to come back- most of them are friends, but climbing the Cristo and Pão de Açúcar and Pedra da Gávea make the list as well. Without further ado, here are some more bullet points catching y'all up on my wild December activity...

* The Exaltasamba concert that Friday night was amazing! The venue was unbelievably packed- like barely enough room to samba- and the band's energy was contagious! I loved singing along to most of the songs with my friends and the lovely Brazilian strangers around me. I had expected to take a bus back after the show, but Daniela- a friend from my Cultura Brasileira class at PUC- invited me to sleep over at her house and just return in the morning. Since Barra is over an hour away from Copacabana and it was already 1am, I accepted. Another friend was sleeping over at Daniela's three-story *mansion* as well, which was cool. When I entered the immaculate house I remarked, "Wow, it looks like a museum!" I meant it as a compliment, but the connotations of "museum" in Brazil are very negative. I explained that I was talking about pristine American museums, and the nickname caught on. We were spending "a night at the Museum," haha. The three of us watched an Ivete Sangalo concert DVD in Daniela's home theater and then took a 3:30am dip in her pool, followed by pizza and eventually sleep. The next morning Daniela's mom made us a complete breakfast, and then we headed to the beach where we met up with Camilla, another friend from PUC, and took pictures. Daniela's mom liked me so much that she offered to take me out to lunch (at a restaurant where the cheapest prices of each dish were exactly equivalent to the amount I spend on food for the week!). I humbly accepted and we dined like royalty (ironically, Daniela's last name is "Rey"). We went to the mall after, and then to a brand new housing complex where Daniela bought a 9th-floor apartment, not to live in, but as an investment. Different worlds, huh? Sunset came quickly, and the family invited me to stay another night and return home Sunday morning. I obliged, we watched another movie, fell asleep early, and after breakfast in the morning I caught the bus home to my apartment. I hadn't noticed how modest it was before those two nights at the Museum...

* The following weekend I went on a two-day excursion with the Brown program to Ilha Grande, a big island (hence the name) around three hours south of Rio. It had rained in Rio all week, but we arrived to bright sun and white sand. I played way more soccer than I should have (without sunscreen), and got burned to a crisp. It was totally worth it though. Since every meal was paid for, I ate well and slept like a baby. The pousada had ping-pong and snooker, plus a beach ten steps from the dining table. It was a nice escape from rainy Rio, but I realized I could never live on an island like that. With the exception of scattered bed-&-breakfasts, it is completely prehistoric. I passed lots of monkeys on the trail to the main beach, and I'm pretty sure I would have found dinosaurs had I ventured a little bit more into the flora.

* The following Tuesday was a holiday, so on Monday night I went with a group of friends to see "Paranormal Activity," the cult horror flick which was supposed to be scarier than The Exorcist. I didn't find it particularly frightening, although I'm not at all a fan of scary movies and maybe had my eyes closed and fingers in my ears during key scenes, haha jk. I did find it especially entertaining however, to sit in the theater with tons of Brazilians. They have a cinema culture of yelling out during the film, and in a scary movie that instinct becomes even more pronounced. The man sitting next to me broke the tension at a pivotal point in the film by warning the main character she would most likely be killed if she opened her bedroom door. "What are you doing? Are you crazy? Watch out for the knife!! The door moved! THE DOOR MOVED!!! Aaahh lady you're gonna die." Piercing screams turned into nervous giggles, which was a nice break for everyone's eardrums.

* All of my tests and papers were scheduled for that week, but they were all easy. In my literature class, the professor showed up 29 minutes late and then the class persuaded her to let us take the final in groups and with notes. That's PUC for ya.

* On Friday I went out to lunch with my friend Julian from the Brown program and five girlfriends from our Cultura Brasileira class. It was a blast to hang out with them one last time. Afterwards, Julian and I tried to make a visit to see the Christ statue, but fog rolled in to the point that we couldn't see anything from the nearby Dona Marta hill except for whiteness. Instead, we were surprised to see the filming of a funk music video on top of the hill (read: one dude pimped out in black and white gear plus three near-naked women gyrating seductively). That night I went out to a restaurant on the lake with another group of friends from that class. I'm gonna miss all of them sooo much!!

* On Sunday Daniela invited a group of Cultura Brasileira kids back to the Museum for a goodbye BBQ, swimming, snooker and movies. Julian and I slept over, unexpectedly again, and had tons of fun with our Brazilian counterparts. I brought my guitar and serenaded the lovely ladies, and one of Daniela's friends sang along as well (she had to leave early because she was guest-starring in a concert Sunday night!). On Monday Julian and I got back into Copa at noon and headed straight to the city center to make our final souvenir purchases. I bought three DVDs for 10 reais. Don't worry, they're totally legit. Yep, totally. That evening I went back to Santa Teresa for a little bit to check out Julian's sweet apartment, which I had been meaning to see for the entire semester, and then I caught the bus back to Copa to participate in my last pizza rodizio of the year with a lot of friends. After 21 slices, I made my way with the group to the beach, where we sat at a kiosk and joked around until 1am. At that point we had to say our goodbyes, not only for the night but also for the year or longer, since everyone is flying out of Rio this week back to their respective universities/countries.

It's hard to always leave people wherever I go, but I think it's cool to have friends all over the world. I made a list of international friends living abroad so that I can travel cheaply next semester, and I discovered that I know people in thirteen different countries in Western Europe alone. Oh baby. Let the games begin.

I could probably be all sentimental right now, saying how much I've grown here and naming everything for which I'm thankful. But I'm not going to, because it's sunny and this is my last opportunity to go to the beach in Rio. My last chance to play soccer on the beach and swim in the ocean, aaughh!!!

I love you all, and if you're reading this from California I'll see you soon! Tchau gente! Valeu!!

Friday, November 27, 2009


I’d like to apologize, again, for making you all wait for this blog entry. Life is hectic down here in Rio de Janeiro. Way too much has happened since my spring break trip to write this post in my normal flowing prose, so instead I’m gonna bust it out in list form. The following are highlights and memories from this past month in Brazil. Enjoy.

* On my first day back to classes after traveling, my professors returned all midterms and papers. I was thrilled to receive three perfect scores and one 9 out of 10. I’m not entirely sure those scores were merited, but I’m not complaining. My literature teacher read my paper in front of the class of Brazilian natives as an example of an A+ essay. Haha.

* The next day, Wednesday, I decided to move out of my homestay in Leblon. It was a mutual decision, as my host mother was obviously tired of being a host and therefore I felt uncomfortable living in her house. That weekend I moved into another homestay in Copacabana, farther from PUC but closer to the beach, friends, and cheap food. I adore this new chapter of my Brazilian experience. SO MUCH.

* The following Saturday I took the metro early in the morning and explored the Cinêlandia district of Rio, famous for its cinemas and theaters. I visited the Museum of Modern Art, the Municipal Theater, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Imperial Palace and Flamengo Beach. There are few things I love more than having the free time to get lost by myself someplace beautiful.

* At 10:37pm on Tuesday, November 10, the power went out in my apartment. I was on the phone with my parents and Skyping with my best friend Martín, who was writing from Italy. The phone connection dropped, as well as Internet. I looked out my window and saw that power was out in the apartment building next door as well. And then my host mom and I learned that it was also out along the beach, and in all of Zona Sul, and downtown and in the entire state of Rio de Janeiro. Radio broadcasters quickly announced that power, phone lines, and Internet were out in seventeen other states in Brazil, as well as in Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts of Argentina and Chile. My host was really scared that it was sabotage, and she kept repeating how awful it must be for everyone trapped in elevators. She lit candles and placed them all around the apartment as I ate half of the block of cheese I had just purchased from the supermarket (no sense in wasting it, right?). I played some guitar for her and showed her pictures from my Italy trip on my laptop, which ultimately led to some nice bonding. At 1:30am, still in the dark and no longer with candles, I tried to fall asleep in the 95-degree heat of my unventilated room. Fifteen minutes later I heard tons of cheering outside my window, as if Flamengo had just scored a goal, and I knew that the power was back. Sure enough, I turned on my fan and it began to spin, sending a much-needed breeze my way. We never found out exactly what caused the blackout (“blecaute” in Portuguese), but authorities claimed that a failure at the Itaipu dam had triggered the chaos. My host mom still thinks it was terrorism. You just never know what you’re gonna get here in South America…

* The following weekend I almost went to the movies with a Brazilian girl from my literature class. We were trying to see “2012” in Copacabana, but all showings were sold out when we arrived, so instead we walked along the beach and watched a soccer game at an outdoor restaurant with over a hundred crazy fans. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening, and marked the first time since I arrived in Brazil that I hung out with a Brazilian classmate outside of class.

* My first GlobalPost article was published, the one about the last Fla-Flu. It's not the first time I've been published online, but the feeling of seeing my name and writing and a picture I took on the web never gets old. Another article will be published this week, and I expect to write one more before I leave Brazil. Watch out.

* Last Thursday night my friend Martina arrived in Rio from Italy. She is a 24-year-old hostel owner from Praia, in Calabria, and was the sweetest, most amazing person I met during my two months writing for Let's Go Italy during summer 2008. She is crazy fun, has traveled through 49 countries, and speaks every language that I'm learning, only unbelievably fluently. On Friday we spent five hours together on the beach in Ipanema, and on Saturday we went to a samba/funk concert on the Ilha do Governador, an island around an hour from my apartment. Grupo Revelação, a famous samba group, was the headliner and put on an amazing show at the crowded União da Ilha samba school. On Monday night, just as I was getting ready for bed, Martina called and invited me to a boat party. I reminded her that I had class the next day from 9am until 7pm, then she reminded me it was her last night in Rio, so at midnight we were setting sail into the Brazilian bay to the sounds of funk and reggaeton. We had tons of fun dancing and laughing at all the gringos around us (it was a hostel excursion, so everyone there was just traveling and partying it up in Rio, which explains why the boat was packed on a Monday night). Martina confused lots of people with her nationality, telling Italians she was Brazilian and Argentines she was Cuban and Brazilians she was Australian. Lucky for me, she brought me into these stories as well, which ultimately led to a 20-minute cab ride home at 5am with two Spanish-speaking Italians who wanted to know everything about my "hometown"... Mexico City. Haha, lots of memories were made that night...

* This past Wednesday I went back to Niteroi (the city across the bay with the spaceship art museum, memmer?) with some friends and played five hours of soccer on the empty beach. When the thunder and lightening came, we decided to take some sweet pictures and then sprinted to the bus stop and caught a two-hour ride back to Rio, where we had a free program dinner waiting for us with the director. He was happy to see that David and I have become Brazilian, not only because of our dark tans but also because of our wet swimsuit shorts, flip flops, soccer ball and sandy faces. I can't believe we're getting school credit for spending six months in this paradise.

* Tonight I'm going to a concert with a bunch of friends from my Brazilian Culture class. We're gonna see Exaltasamba, a famous pagode group with countless hits. They're going to be so surprised and thrilled that I know the words to most of the songs, haha. Hopefully they bring cameras so we can get good pictures, since my camera screen was destroyed on my trip... I'll let you know how it goes.

AUGHHH!!! Fewer than three weeks until I fly home! I'm excited to see family and friends, but I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE RIOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I've got it bad, so bad...

We were supposed to stay one more day in Uruguay, but we changed our itinerary a bit in order to attend a "Bomba del Tiempo" performance in Buenos Aires. This crazy drum show/party happens every Monday night, and it's quite an experience. Basically there's a group of twelve guys (and one girl) on a stage with African drums, a conductor in front, and hundreds of drunken Argentines and gringos gyrating and moshing below the stage. Like I said, it's an experience. The drummers are amazing, and as far as I could tell it was all improvised after the opening rhythm. David and I were honored that night by the surprise guest appearance of Pinche Juan, aka Anonimo Intransingente e Intolerante, aka Cone Cahuitl, best known as Rubén Albarrán, or the lead singer from the Mexican band Café Tacuba (who was in town for a huge music festival the weekend prior). He's kind of a weird dude, to say the least. Anyone who has heard Café Tacuba would recognize his unique voice immediately (if the braided pigtails, purple shirt and lime green pants didn't set him apart already). For almost two hours he invented mindlessly profound lyrics to the beat of the drums, jumping around the stage like someone possessed. Alien sociologists would mistake it for a religious experience. I had fun, but attending once in my life was more than enough.

On Tuesday David and I explored the Recoleta neighborhood on foot, visiting the Fine Arts Museum and the Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita is buried. Necessary tourist stuff for the most part, but interesting regardless. That night we went out to dinner with Emily at a divine restaurant called Cumana. I ordered the "spicy" mondongo argentino (Argentine "spicy" is like the mild hot sauce at Taco Bell) and it was without a doubt the best stew I've ever eaten. Chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and red pepper, plus some delicious mystery meat (steak?). Ahh, my mouth is watering...

We woke up to pouring rain on Wednesday, which dampened our desire to do anything at all outside. Since we'd seen most of the city already though, playing pool in the hostel was fine with me. In the late afternoon we went to the movies with a German girl from the hostel named Sarah. David and I were planning on watching the thrilling "Orphan" film, but Sarah put her foot down and we ended up watching "My Life in Ruins", a romantic comedy. It was better than I expected, but my expectations were extremely low.

I had been praying for sunshine during our Thursday trip to La Plata, and He came through marvelously. La Plata is the capital city of the province of Buenos Aires, around one hour outside of the metropolis. It's famous for its architecture and for being the home of Club Estudiantes de La Plata, one of Argentina's famous soccer teams. We arrived around 3pm and walked around the entire city in three hours, visiting cultural centers, theaters, museums, churches and plazas. I absolutely fell in love with the neo-gothic Catedral de La Plata, an enormous church with intricate architecture and soaring spires. We made it back by 7pm and I spontaneously invited Emily to see a play, since it was my last night in Buenos Aires and I wanted to do something to celebrate her birthday. We tried to see Phantom of the Opera, which had come straight from Broadway a few weeks earlier, but that theater was having a private event so we went to see Othello next door. It was my first time ever at a live play, and I was awestruck by the talented singers and the elaborate sets. I'm definitely gonna watch more plays when I get the chance. After the play we ate some midnight dinner and I walked her home. We saw another labor protest (at midnight?! Really?) and were serenaded by some gunshots from a passing motorcyclist. It was kinda frightening, actually. But God was watching over us, so we made it home safe and sound.

Our third and final bus ride of the trip left at noon on Friday. It would take roughly 21 hours from Buenos Aires to Porto Alegre, but we were ready to dominate it like the two before. This time we were shocked to be served lunch (we even took pictures) and watch three different films along the way (Get Smart, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Righteous Kill). The Argentine buses are definitely the most luxurious. Even so, I couldn't sleep this time for some reason. We pulled into the station at 9am and took a taxi in the rain to our hotel (there are no hostels in Porto Alegre, which is an indication of how touristy it is, or isn't). We napped for several hours, explored the city on foot, and grabbed some lunch. Then we went back to the hotel and napped again, planning to wake up at 8pm for dinner but instead sleeping until 10pm. We were tired, ok? For dinner we splurged at a restaurant recommended to us by the dude in the tourist office called "Tudo Pelo Social". I guess it wasn't really a splurge, at $5 each for all we could eat. Delicious. Then we walked around the nightlife center of Porto Alegre- it was Saturday night, after all- and chose a club with live MPB (Brazilian pop). I love live music. Love it. Unfortunately nausea hit me really fast and we had to go back to the hotel early, around 2am. Maybe it was all that greasy food.

On Sunday David and I had been planning to go to the soccer stadium and watch the match between Grêmio and Internacional, Porto Alegre's two biggest teams. But the hotel staff told us that it was sold out, and since we didn't have the kind of money the scalpers would be demanding, we decided to explore everything the city had to offer that morning and then end up at a lively bar where we could watch the game with the locals. We did just that, and it was fantastic. Once again, like in Montevideo, it was rather refreshing to visit a non-touristy city. We didn't hear any English at all, and that's the way I like it in a foreign country.

Our flight left at 6pm on Monday, but we had to check out of the hotel by noon. After our lazy morning of stuffing ourselves at the continental breakfast and watching soccer on the TV in our room, we packed our bags and headed out. First we sat on the steps in a main plaza for a bit, people-watching behind our Paraguayan Ray-Ban shades and simply enjoying the sun. Then we realized that people-watching for four hours is a little too much, so we found a theater and paid $2 to watch "District 9", an American film about aliens in South Africa. It wasn't my favorite, but I can't say it was a waste of money. We caught our flight with no difficulties (besides playing Snake on our cell phones and not hearing the first three times we were invited to board), and after a normal 30-minute delay we were off. The flight itself felt so short after all our bus rides; we were actually wishing it were longer. Alas, at 8pm we witnessed the spectacular panorama of Rio at night and landed softly on the tarmac. By 8:30pm we had caught our airporter bus for $4 ("No thank you, Mr. Taxi Driver, $45 for a ride home is not a good price."), and by 10pm I was back in my room, showered and ready to sleep.

It's funny, because the moment I got home I just wanted to leave again. Not because things with my host were not going well (which they weren't), and not because it was still raining in Rio (which it was). Traveling is just crazy that way. The more I travel, the worse my addiction. They call it a "bug", and I am most certainly infected with the strongest strain. I hope I'm never cured.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Whirlwind Uruguayan Weekend

The "three-hour ferry ride" we boarded at 9:30am that Saturday arrived in Montevideo at 5:30pm. There's only a one-hour time difference. Hmm. We never figured out how that happened, because we were in transit the entire day, no stops or mishaps. It's a mystery, but I'm content leaving it at that.

Right when we arrived at the Red Hostel we met two Swiss girls, Juliette and Delfina, and invited them to grab some dinner with us. The soft-spoken Uruguayan dude at the front-desk recommended a nearby pizzeria, so we took him up on that and dined amazingly well for only around $160 each.

I hope you had to read that last line twice, because we definitely did a double take at the menu that first meal. The conversion is roughly 20 Uruguayan pesos to every US dollar, but that didn't make things cheaper down there. The math was just harder. So that meal was around USD $8 each, which is relatively cheap but not Thailand-cheap. After dinner Emily, David and I walked around Montevideo a little bit. For a Saturday night it was extremely quiet, which was refreshing after Rio and Buenos Aires. We would come to find that Uruguay is just a quieter country in general. The three of us made it to the port right exactly at sunset and managed to take some gorgeous pictures (including the one above).

That night we met up with my friend Lucia, a Uruguayan girl I met at a hostel in Washington DC last Thanksgiving. In April she came to visit me and explore Boston, so I'm glad I got to reciprocate. Our next meeting will be in Italy next spring- we already have our tickets! She took us to a bar in the "nightlife center" of Montevideo, basically one street with a bunch of restaurants. It was nice to relax and catch up with her, but all three of us travelers were exhausted from not sleeping much the night before, so we went back to the hostel around 2am and hit the sack.

At 9:30am on Sunday Lucia picked me and David up from the hostel (Emily had to go back to BsAs) and drove us two and a half hours to Punta del Este, a ritzy beach town with lots of tourists and a Las Vegas-style casino called the Conrad, whose signage was entirely in English and whose gambling was entirely in US dollars. We walked around the port a little bit, took pictures by a sweet "Hand in the Stand" statue, ate chivitos and helados and churros, and made it back to our hostel around 11pm.

The next morning David and I explored the historic center of the city for a couple hours before our 12:30pm ferry back to Buenos Aires. We arrived at 3:30pm. Don't ask me how.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

BsAs FuN

Ahh, Buenos Aires. I knew I would make it there someday, and that day was October 14, 2009. Through the dirty plastic of a bus window, downtown Buenos Aires is the spitting image of Washington DC: bustling businessmen in dark suits carrying leather briefcases, elegant brunettes in black pea coats and Coach purses, and an enormous obelisk monument in the middle of an eight-lane thoroughfare. I stepped off the bus and felt the same biting chill I felt last Thanksgiving in our nation's capital. But then I heard a street musician playing tango on an accordion, saw a vendor hawking hundreds of Argentine flags, smelled fresh churros rellenos ("reshenos") and empanadas de pollo ("poysho"), and knew my BsAs experience would be refreshingly unique.

The night we arrived was the Argentina-Uruguay World Cup qualifier, and Argentina HAD to win. David and I grabbed some pizza near the hostel and then returned to cheer for Argentina (don't tell any Brazilians, por favor!). We won, 1-0, and celebrated into the wee hours of the morning with the crazy/beautiful hostel staff and a fantastic DJ in the sister hostel a few blocks away. Both of us were delighted to run into eight PUC students we knew from Rio who were also at that dance (the more I travel, the smaller this world becomes!).

The next day we went on a hostel tour to La Boca, the birthplace of Argentine tango and home of the Boca Jrs soccer team. Kinda cool, really touristy. That night David and I met up for dinner with two friends from Harvard and Brown studying abroad in Buenos Aires. All four of us ate at a delicious parrilla ("parrisha", haha that never gets old!) and caught each other up on our South American adventures. I adored seeing Emily, one of my sweetest friends and a neighbor last year in Claverly Hall of Adams House.

On Friday David and I explored the city center and San Telmo neighborhood by foot, getting purposely lost and taking pictures of all our discoveries. We watched outdoor tango, found an antique market with old toys and soccer jerseys, prayed in extravagant churches and tried calling Emily on every public phone we saw (nope, our cell phones didn't work in Argentina...). Eventually old technology proved successful and we met up with Emily to party at the hostel downtown. Between the Milhouse Hostel, where we stayed, and its sister Milhouse Avenue Hostel, there was a free party for guests every single night of the week, complete with DJ and drunken British dance partners, if desired. We had tons of fun bustin' moves to American and Brazilian hits (are there Argentine dance hits? --> if so, I never heard them...), and went to bed around 3am. Early, yes, but only because all three of us were catching the 9:30am ferry later that morning to Montevideo, Uruguay!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Guess who's back, back again...

...Mateo's back, tell a friend. And so are these long-forgotten blog posts! I'm gonna split up my trip into four entries so as not to bore you with a single epic novel. That way I can also post four pictures from my adventure instead of just one! (For lots of amazing pics, check out my Facebook albums!)

David and I caught our bus to Iguazu Falls at 1pm on Saturday, October 10th. We had made bologna sandwiches to sustain us on the 23-hour journey, which was a fantastic idea. Highly recommend it. I introduced David to George Lopez and hyphy music, and he showed me Miley Cyrus (haha, but seriously, he did) and Death Cab for Cutie. Time flew by, we slept a little, and before we knew it we were pulling into the Foz do Iguaçu terminal. We took a bus to our hostel, but since our beds weren't ready yet we decided to go straight to the Brazilian side of the falls. Iguazu is a more legit border town than El Paso because you can take a 15-minute city bus for 75 cents and end up in Brazil, Argentina, or Paraguay. So we did, in that order, one country each day.

My first image of the Brazilian side of the falls took my breath away. I know that's cheesy and cliché, but I don't care. From the entrance of the park they have buses that make several stops at different hiking trails and vantage points, and there are trees blocking the view of the falls all along the road. David and I got off at one of the early stops, pushed our way through the trees and tourists, and found ourselves at the edge of a sweeping panorama of roaring waterfalls and blue skies. For a moment I just admired the beauty. Everything seemed to fall silent around me except for the rushing water. I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and my heart smiled.

And then I pulled out my camera just like the other 200 tourists around me and tried to take a picture. Except the screen of my viewfinder was all white, and there was a crack in the middle. The camera had been in my pocket during the bus ride because I was taking pictures of the Brazilian countryside; I realized that I must have sat on it and broken the screen during the trip. For a minute I was totally crushed. This was the first day of our trip and my camera was potentially destroyed. I decided to try and use it anyway, since it appeared as though it still registered the pictures. For the rest of the afternoon, I used the old "point and click" method to snap photos, never knowing what I was taking or if the images were being saved on my memory card. Even so, the excursion was unbelievably wonderful. I had never in my life seen such an abundance of natural beauty, and I couldn't wait to see the Argentine side the following day.

Hostel Bambu was nice and homey. It had a backyard breakfast patio and a pool, which is not bad for $10 a night. The staff was really fun, a mix of Brazilians and Argentines. David and I spent our evenings eating all we could at a restaurant called "Tropicana", playing pool in the common room, and joking with the workers and other guests in Portuguese, Spanish, and New Zealand-ish (the latter is definitely NOT English).

You need a tour guide to visit the Argentine side of the falls, so David and I paid around $50 each to make the excursion through the hostel. When the van picked us up, four giddy middle-aged Uruguayan women greeted us with, "¡Hola! ¿De dónde son? ¿mo se llaman?" I got a kick out of the way they pronounced the last word "chaman"... little did I know, the Argentine Spanish quirks to come would provide WAY more comedy for my Mexican ear, haha. There's lots of controversy among travelers as to which side of the falls is cooler. Brazil's half was awesome, but David and I both agreed that Argentina's was better. Maybe it was the twisting trails literally feet from the thundering water, or the brilliant rainbows, or the Uruguayans screaming "¡QUE DIVINO!" at every single stop- I don't know what qualifies my decision, but the Argentine side takes the cake. I can't remember the exact numbers our tour guide told us, but something like 12000 tourists visited the Brazilian side the day prior, and 8000 visited the Argentine side. Por favor believe it.

On Tuesday our bus to Buenos Aires didn't leave until 6pm, so David and I checked out of the hostel early and took the bus to Ciudad del Este, a shopping wonderland in Paraguay. It's the first place I've ever visited where street vendors accept payment in four different currencies- Paraguayan guarani, Brazilian reais, Argentine pesos and, of course, US dollars. We walked along the bustling sidewalks and haggled with the pushy vendors. Both of us ended up buying "authentic" soccer jerseys and Ray-Ban sunglasses for 50 pesos, or around $13. The vendor, who was our age, tried to sell us the shades alone for 60 pesos, but he quickly found out that we weren't the average tourists. That's what's up. Haha who am I kidding, he still made a profit!

On the bus back to Brazil two federal Paraguayan agents boarded and caught two people trying to bring back lots of purchases. It was a little unnerving, since our passports weren't stamped and officially we could be apprehended too. We sat quietly, our eyes hidden behind our stunna shades, and the agents didn't bother us. When they got off, the Brazilian woman behind us said, "Wow, that was a little scary, huh? You guys are lucky, sometimes they check everyone!" It was fun while it lasted, but at 6pm we were back on the bus and starting our 21-hour trip to Buenos Aires. This ride felt a little longer since I couldn't get to sleep, but like everything else, it passed. I realized at the Argentine border that we had visited three different countries in a half-day, a cool feat I might never repeat. We had spent the perfect amount of time in Iguazu, enough to see everything and meet everyone, and were both looking forward to some Argentine escapades in Buenos Aires.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It was insane.

I'm only writing to apologize quickly to my international readership for skipping a post on this thrilling blog. If my adventures are the sole thing sustaining you, it must have been quite difficult to pull through the past ten days. Thanks for enduring.

I am literally typing this on my way out the door- in one hour I'm starting my 18-day trek through southern Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay! I might not be able to post more entries until I get back at the end of the month, but you never know...

The Friday before last Brazil won the bid for the 2016 Olympics, and there was a party on Copacabana Beach with one million guests. It was insane. On Sunday I went to the last Flamengo-Fluminense game at Maracanã Stadium until the World Cup 2014 renovations are completed. There were 82,566 fans in attendance, a record public for this season. Adriano scored two amazing goals. It was insane. This past week I had two papers and two midterms for Thursday, plus an article for my Globalpost internship. And it poured every single day. It was insane. I felt like I was back in Cambridge again. I wish I could celebrate the completion of each round of midterms up there with a three-week excursion. Then they wouldn't be so bad, huh?

Ok familia, I'm off!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rockin' in Rio

According to my internship director, I'm a boss at writing proposals. An original gangster, I think he said. I did a fantastic job with last week's assignment for National Geographic, so now we're just waiting on their official return letter!

Let's see, this is gonna be a Sparknotes entry because I'm super busy and behind schedule with these blog posts. Last Tuesday I ended a long day at school with some intense futsal competition with Gustavo at the apartment complex next door. It was hecka fun and both of us played pretty well. Wednesday was mostly spent writing the proposal, Thursday was school, and Friday was beach exercise and letter writing. On Saturday, the director of my internship rented a recording studio in Botafogo for me and two other program friends. We jammed for five hours on his three guitars and bass, and a professional drummer accompanied us for part of the time. It was SO much fun! We played everything from Johnny Cash to Oasis, Chuck Berry to Los Lonely Boys. It's been a while since I've played electric guitar, so that was sweet. After the studio session, I went back home quickly and got dressed up a bit. I walked to Ipanema and met some friends to confront the pizza rodizio once again. This time we definitely won the battle. I ate about 16 pieces, which was well worth the US$9. Somehow we were able to stand up after a few hours of stuffing ourselves, and we made our way to a housewarming party in Leme. Four girls in the program just moved in to an unbelievable apartment overlooking the beach; it belongs to a family friend of one of the girls, so they're getting it ridiculously cheap. There was loud music, lively conversation, and a table full of food that made me sick to look at for the first couple hours. I knew I was going to stay late, and since Leme is pretty far from Leblon, I just stayed over the whole night with a bunch of other people. We didn't sleep a wink. The sunrise was gorgeous, and I would have been down to take a dip in the ocean if others went, but instead a few of us caught a bus home at 6:30am.

I slept soundly for six hours, woke up, ate lunch, and headed straight back to the beach. I spent Sunday afternoon playing soccer and swimming in the ocean, then watched the second half of the Flamengo-Internacional game and took a bus home. On Monday I met my friend David at PUC to talk about our impending trip. We made some hostel reservations, so now it is totally official. Today we're gonna go to a travel agent to buy our bus and plane tickets, and then we'll be set. The itinerary is basically the same as I described in the last post, except that we'll finish in Porto Alegre for two days before flying back to Rio. We'll just happen to be there on the day of the Gre-Nal (the soccer game between rivals Grêmio and Internacional, the southern equivalent of the Fla-Flu in Rio), so we'll definitely check that out. Monday night I played pick-up soccer for a couple hours, and my team dominated those barefoot 15-year-olds. Haha that doesn't seem like a very big feat, but it is. Trust me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More "EXCELLENT" adventures!

I DID do something big this past weekend, just like I had suspected. Only it wasn't really the result of my independent exploration; all I needed to do was sign a list. More on that in a moment.

Last week was really laid-back, just how I like it. Surprisingly, however, it didn't include a single swim in the ocean! Wednesday and Friday I did my normal beach boardwalk workouts, but that was as close as I got to the water. Tuesday was spent entirely in class. Yes, I met some more Brazilians and found them on Orkut. On Wednesday night we had a Brown-in-Brazil reunion at the Planetarium in front of the university. It was really fun to see everybody again all at once, and the coordinators were thrilled by the leaps and bounds we've made in our Portuguese. While we were hanging out and stuffing our faces with appetizers paid for by Brown University, something crazy happened in the tunnel that passes above the PUC entrance. All of a sudden we noticed that every car was stopped and that people were running out of the tunnel in absolute panic, abandoning their cars and tripping over each other. Everyone at the Planetarium was transfixed on the action. Several police cars showed up, blaring their sirens, but they couldn't get into the tunnel because of all the parked cars. After twenty minutes or so, people started to make their way back to their cars and the traffic cleared. The next morning in the newspaper I read that the panic was caused by an arrastão, literally a "trawl" (that big net fishing boats use to sweep up fish). This is a pretty common and very frightening tactic that thieves use to steal from large groups. Often a bunch of delinquent kids on the beach will run as a pack through the crowds, screaming and grabbing everything they can before disappearing into the city. One of my friends from the program almost got caught in one in Ipanema a few weeks ago, and he said it was terrifying. In the case of the tunnel last Wednesday night, drivers heard what they thought were gunshots, and then saw two motorcycles driving on the shoulder in the wrong direction. The motorists stopped immediately, got out of their cars so they wouldn't be trapped, and ran out of the tunnel. Kinda exciting, huh? Just another form of Brazilian nightlife.

On Friday I played pick-up soccer for a few hours with a couple friends and a bunch of barefoot teenagers. The level of play was pretty good, and I had a blast. One of the kids knew a few English words, and thought it would be funny to shout "EXCELLENT!" after every goal or good move. He was right; it was hilarious! Especially when he got nutmegged playing keeper and all his friends (from BOTH teams) yelled "EXCELLENT!!!"

I spent all of Saturday on a field trip for the international students at PUC. We met on campus at 6:45am and proceeded to fill three buses with 130 sleepy foreigners. The trip was to the Hotel Fazenda Arvoredo, a "leisure farm" two hours outside of Rio in a town called Barra do Piraí. We arrived, ate breakfast, went on a hike through the Atlantic rainforest, paddled a raft with bamboo poles, swam in the pool, ate lunch and then had until 7:30pm to do whatever we wanted. There was a ropes course, horseback riding, a gigantic slip-n-slide, volleyball, billiards, ping-pong, and a grass soccer field with goals and nets. I went straight for the soccer, and that's where I stayed. Fortunately for me, a lot of other guys did the same thing, so we played an 8-a-side tournament for hours. It could have been the World Cup with all those languages and cultures represented! I got home around 11pm and slept as well as I ever have.

Yesterday and today were devoted to indoor intellectual work. I spent a few hours planning my trip to Argentina and Montevideo in October, which is the most exciting type of research on Earth! There are SOOO many places I want to see, but I think I settled on this: bus from Rio to Iguazu Falls, bus from Iguazu to Buenos Aires, ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, daytrips to Colonia and Punta del Este, ferry from Montevideo back to Buenos Aires, daytrip to La Plata, and plane home from Buenos Aires to Rio. Hopefully my friend David will be able to travel with me, and I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get to spend some quality time with friends in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. I'll probably leave October 9th and come back around the 22nd. What about school, you say? Ahem. What about it?

Besides making travel plans, I've also been working feverishly on a new project for my internship with Giros Productions. It is my job, by next Saturday, to write a proposal to National Geographic Television for a $3 million documentary on rainforests. I have a basic proposal in Portuguese that I've translated, and now I need to add some missing elements and spice it up. The idea is that this documentary will coincide with a National Geographic Magazine cover story on rainforests, that it will have its 100-minute premier on the Sunday night before the magazine comes out, and that it will instantly increase global awareness of the need for environmentally sustainable practices in rainforests around the world. You remember how this director told me I was already working for National Geographic when I had my interview? Yeah, now it feels real. Wish me luck! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009


Big news! I found my dream home this week, or at least one of them. Wanna know where? Wanna know how much? Well you're gonna have to read through this entire post, because I'm saving the best for last! (Alternatively, you can just scroll down. Cheater.)

This past Tuesday, just like the Tuesday before that (and the one before that), I had class from 9am until 7pm. Nothing very exciting to report, except that I'm beginning to meet and befriend some of my Brazilian classmates. I already have seven friends on Orkut, the Brazilian version of Myspace. Yeah, so there. Beat that. By the end of this week I bet I'll be in the double-digits!

I spent most of Wednesday writing my first article for the GlobalPost website. This opening assignment was supposed to deal with initial impressions, so mine detailed the hours between stepping off the plane and really realizing I was here in Brazil to stay. The surreal moments leading up to the real moment, so to speak. "And that's when it hit me..." I'm not sure when it will be published, but I'll keep you GlobalPosted.

On Thursday I went to class in the morning, wrote and mailed two long letters during my four-hour break, then watched a sweet documentary about Portuguese language around the world. Did you know that Portuguese is spoken officially in Angola, Mozambique, Guiné-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe (islands off of Nigeria), Goa (India), Macau (China), Timor-Leste (Southeast Asia), the Azores and Madeira (Atlantic archipelagos)? It looks like I really will be able to travel all over the world with Romance Languages!

Friday was beach workout day. I ran from my apartment at the end of Leblon to the top of Arpoador, around 2.5 miles. When I reached the end, I rested a bit and watched the skateboard tournament in the bowl at Arpoador. I don't know the first thing about skating besides the anti-gravity cheat in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater videogame, but even I could appreciate the gnarly-ness of those tricks. On the run home, I stopped at every post to do pull-ups and sit-ups. I'm gonna get sufficiently tanned and ripped just in time to lose it all in Bologna.

You've all been aware of my desire to explore someplace new each week, and on Saturday I ventured across the bay to the charming city of Niterói. I initially planned to just visit the saucer-shaped Museu de Arte Contemporânea designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the same architect who designed the space-age buildings in Brasilia. On the way there, I got enticed by an enormous outdoor market under the freeway across from the ferry station. I wandered for over an hour without seeing everything, feeling like I was back in Mexico. Eventually I caught the ferry and was thrilled to discover that we would pass right by Ilha Fiscal, a castle-like building that used to manage import and export taxes but now serves as a cultural museum. That was one of the places I intended to explore, but now I can cross it off my list!

When we arrived at Niterói's dock, I got deliberately lost for a while in their enormous Saturday street market, then finally found my way back to the beach and walked to my original destination. The Contemporary Art Museum is a little eerie because it's SO out of place. Perched on a cliff (see the photo above) and blinding white, it could be a forgotten prop from a 60s sci-fi movie. I ended up not even entering. Instead, I took lots of spectacular photographs of the outside of the museum, which is undoubtedly the coolest part anyway, then paid a trip to the grocery store for lunch. I ate my nutritious focaccia and wafers on the stairs of my future apartment building, with its beachside views of the museum, Sugarloaf and the Christ statue. Niterói is a tranquil city 45 minutes outside of a crazy city, just the kind of place I'd like to call home. Sitting there in the shade of the afternoon sun, I imagined myself living comfortably with a panorama like that. Especially out the window of a plush million-dollar penthouse. Once I took my fill of photographs, I caught a bus back to PUC and walked home, finishing the perfect day at an all-you-can-eat pizzeria with some friends. Oh, what a life.

Sunday and today were lazy days of drizzling rain and indoor responsibilities. I read the first 185 pages of the 400-page book due for my literature class on Thursday, prepared tomorrow's 10-minute presentation for Portuguese class and managed to write a new song (with lyrics!) on guitar. This coming weekend I'm gonna do something big. I don't know what, but I'm already feeling extra-adventurous! Vamo' ver!

Monday, September 7, 2009

More of the same...

And another week passes, just like that. Today was my 66th day in Brazil, and guess what... It was perfect. I played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean. I have only 101 more perfect days here in South America before I fly home! Gotta enjoy each and every one to the fullest!

So I did indeed do my fair share of soccer playing and ocean swimming this week- again- but let's just assume that's an uninterrupted pattern and skip ahead to the other stuff. Monday and Tuesday were pretty boring, just class and beach. On Wednesday I had to visit PUC to complete my official course registration and take my student ID photo. Supposedly we'll get our cards this week, which is sweet because students with ID only pay half price for movies, soccer games, plays, concerts, museums, parks, and similar admission-charging venues. A night showing at most cinemas in Rio will now cost me just the student price of R$6, or around US$3! Might have to take advantage of that bargain, huh? Classes on Thursday passed quickly, and I was excited to buy my first book for Brazilian Literature: A Grande Arte by Rubem Fonseca. It's a murder mystery that takes place in Rio de Janeiro; the main character mentions a gym on my street on page 11! I thought that was extremely cool, even though the girl on the treadmill is the assassin's first victim... On Friday I felt adventurous and decided to walk all the way around the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in the center of Rio's southern zone. It took me around three hours from start to finish, although I admit I was snapping photographs and working out on the pull-up bars every chance I got. Some of the pictures came out really nice despite the cloud cover and stagnant water (like the one of the Christ accompanying this post!). On Saturday night, Brazil played Argentina in an away World Cup qualifier match. I went to watch it with some friends at an open-air bar in Ipanema, surrounded by die-hard fans that have closely followed Brazilian soccer for at least sixty years each. That's exactly the kind of crowd I like to be a part of for a rivalry matchup like Saturday's! I screamed for each of Brazil's three goals, fell silent when Argentina scored, complained about the referee's calls and ridiculed Argentine legend/coach Diego Maradona every time he appeared on screen. I learned the lyrics of a passionate anti-Maradona anthem and sang along with all my peers. It went like this: "Cheira Maradona, Maradona cheira, cheira Maradona seu amor já foi embora!" ("Maradona smells, Maradona smells, Maradona smells so his lover left him!") It's way more eloquent in Portuguese, trust me. I ended up pulling an all-nighter after the game, chilling at Copacabana Beach and watching a couple movies in a friend's apartment. I finally made it home at 9am, after which I slept until 2pm, Skyped with my family, and wrote a new song on my guitar. Today was Brazilian Independence Day, and because God is Brazilian He turned Sunday's rain into Monday's sun. Since the winter temperature reached a satisfactory 91°F, Ipanema was completely packed with beautiful Brazilians and tourists alike. Needless to say, "I played-----" :D

On the way home from the beach I witnessed two amazing sights. First was a middle-aged woman walking along the street juggling a soccer ball. Since I was walking the same direction anyway, I slowed my pace to watch her. I told myself I would only follow her until the ball hit the ground. Fifteen minutes later, I was still trailing behind her, mesmerized by her incredible skill and slightly upset that I've played soccer my entire life only to have a 50-year-old Brazilian woman unwittingly show me up. Not only was she juggling with her feet, shins, thighs, chest, and shoulders, but she was also stalling the ball on her head and walking normally! After I passed her, sufficiently humiliated, I saw a man on rollerblades do a complete front flip off a curb- on purpose- and land it perfectly! I started clapping, and he gave me a thumbs-up as he skated off in the other direction. Who needs a circus when you have the Ipanema Beach boardwalk?

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I recently realized that if I'm not creative with the way I write up these blog posts, it's quite possible that they'll quickly become repetitive and evoke feelings of resentment instead of excitement in my readers, especially as temperatures in the northern hemisphere start to drop. My blog could very well read like this for the remainder of my time in Brazil:

"Sunday was perfect. I played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean. Monday was perfect. I played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean. Tuesday I went to class from 9am-7pm, then ate dinner and went to bed. Wednesday was perfect. I played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean. Thursday was perfect. I went to class from 9am-1pm, then played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean. I went back to class from 5-7pm, sandy but content. Friday, Saturday, and today were perfect. I played soccer on the beach and swam in the ocean. Check back next week for more updates on my life in Brazil."

Fortunately for both you and me, I actually did more than that this week! On Monday I had a meeting with the documentary filmmaker with whom I'm going to be interning while I'm here in Rio. He has a number of projects going on right now, but I'll be focusing on a film called "Beyond Babel" that follows language change around the globe. I've been doing fascinating research this week on endangered languages in New Zealand, Alaska, and Ireland, as well as studying how Jacques Derrida's writings on the Tower of Babel remain relevant in the midst of today's culture of globalization. While I was in the meeting, he received a call from National Geographic offering $3 million to make a worldwide special on rainforests. One more project on the table. He's kind of a big deal. On Wednesday I took the metro to the music stores in the center of Rio; two hours later I took the metro back to Zona Sul with a brand new acoustic-electric classical cutaway guitar over my shoulder. I consider it a celebratory gesture to myself for landing two awesome internships in the past two weeks. Now I'm going to spend a few hours each week writing bossa nova songs dedicated to the girls of Ipanema and Leblon. That night, at the urging of my friend David and a British dude named Nick who's staying in David's homestay, I made the spontaneous decision to attend my first professional soccer game at Maracanã Stadium. It started at 9:50pm and featured Rio's two biggest club teams, Flamengo and Fluminense (this particular matchup is called the "Fla-Flu"). The stadium wasn't full by any means, but it didn't need to be. Crazy fans from both teams were flying enormous flags, screaming incomprehensible chants, and banging African drums the entire time. There were illegal fireworks after each of the two goals (it ended in a tie, 1-1), and my voice was long gone by the time I got home at 2:30am. On Friday I spent a few hours catching up on letters and post cards (so if you sent me one, get excited!), and yesterday I spent a few hours exploring Leblon. I found an absolutely amazing nature park ten minutes from my apartment called Parque do Penhasco Dois Irmãos, with hiking trails, a pond, a soccer court, an amphitheater, sculptures, and spectacular panoramic views of the beaches at Leblon, Ipanema, and São Conrado. Apparently it's one of Rio's best-kept secrets, because it was completely empty during the two hours I was there and because nobody I've spoken to has heard of it! I've been feeling adventurous lately, so I'm challenging myself to investigate a new aspect of this marvelous city every week. I'll let you know what I find...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

School, Soccer, and Surprises

I've officially survived my first week as a student at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro. Well, not so much survived as 'blissfully utilized'. I chose my classes, as I described at the end of my last post, to fall only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This might give the impression that I'm not actually going to school down here, and that assumption is not at all unfounded. I don't even feel like I'm going to school. I'm enrolled in four courses total: Brazilian Culture; Contemporary Brazilian Literature; Society, Culture and Cinema; and Portuguese 5. The first three are normal university courses populated by normal (or rather, rich and beautiful) Brazilian students, and the fourth is the highest level language class offered for international students, which will undoubtedly cover advanced grammar and dense intellectual stuff in Portuguese. I've found the general classroom atmosphere a little unsettling here, what with students entering 35 minutes late, chatting during class, and taking only mental notes, if any. The Brown in Brazil program coordinator explained that since the students who attend PUC are generally the richest in Brazil, their sense of entitlement translates into bad manners during class. Hmm. And there are no entitled Harvard students?

There was another crucial decision hanging over my head at the beginning of this week, much more important than my classes. I'd given myself until the beginning of the semester to choose which Brazilian soccer club I'd be supporting while I'm here and forever after. Prior to arriving in Brazil, I had assumed that I'd support Flamengo, the most popular team in Rio whose headquarters are in Leblon. When I arrived, I discovered that my host brother is a die-hard Fluminense fan. Fluminense is Flamengo's biggest rival = dilemma. I decided that for a decision as grave as this, I'd have to do my own research and not just choose arbitrarily. For the past couple weeks, I've been watching highlights from all the different Serie A clubs and reading soccer articles in the newspaper. When I went to São Paulo, I saw Palmeiras jerseys everywhere and knew that God was sending me a message. I decided to support Palmeiras until I die.

*The Top Six Reasons I'm Palmeirense*

1) The club was founded in 1914 by Italian immigrants in São Paulo with the name Società Sportiva Palestra Italia. Their original uniform colors were the Italian red, white, and green. Since I'm studying in Brazil this semester and Italy next semester, Palmeiras is always relevant.

2) Palmeiras is sponsored by Adidas, my favorite athletic brand.

3) It's one of only two Brazilian clubs to lend players to the Brazilian National Team in every World Cup won by Brazil.

4) Palmeiras' nickname is O Verdão, or "The Big Green," my favorite color and one of my favorite movies.

5) The club's biggest rivals are Corinthians and São Paulo FC, two teams everyone in Rio loves to hate.

6) Palmeiras is not a huge rival of either Fluminense or Flamengo, so I won't get kicked out of my homestay and I won't lose my friends.

A couple surprises marked the end of this week. The first was the rapid drop in temperature and accumulation of rainclouds between Wednesday and Thursday. My daily beach visits have had to stop the past few days, and I've traded a soccer ball for an umbrella. The second surprise was much more welcome. Several weeks ago I applied to work as an Abroad Correspondent for GlobalPost, an online international news journal. I didn't hear back from them for a while, so I just assumed I hadn't been chosen. Wrong! I received an email yesterday morning congratulating me on having been selected out of over one hundred competitive applicants to write monthly articles on Brazilian culture and daily life. They're going to follow up with the details, but for now I'm content just knowing that my writing is taking me places! My dream to write for National Geographic seems closer every day. And speaking of National Geographic, this week I was asked to do some linguistic anthropology research for the documentary filmmaker I mentioned in the last post, the one who's produced works for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, etc. He moved yesterday's meeting to Monday, but was extremely impressed with my work and is eager to discuss internship possibilities for the remainder of the semester. Once I figure out the days and hours of this internship, I hope to contact one of the NGOs I met at the Networking Night and become involved in some sort of volunteer work here in Rio. School seems like it's quickly becoming secondary (or tertiary?), but I've realized over the years that serious learning often occurs best outside the classroom. I'm making the most of my Brazilian experience, and I'm loving every second of it!