Reality is beginning to set in, and it's maravilhosa! On Thursday morning I received my housing assignment and was thrilled to discover that I'll be living in the Leblon neighborhood, which shares the same beach as Ipanema [cue the classic bossa nova song]. According to Wikipedia, a veritable fount of undeniable knowledge, Leblon is "very much like Ipanema but even more exclusive, being the home of very rich, affluent and famous people. The beach is a bit more quiet and relaxed than the hip and trendy beach of Ipanema, and the neighborhood has the highest land prices of Brazil and Latin America." Ipanema.com, a self-proclaimed online insider's guide to the marvelous city, calls Leblon "one of the best areas to stay or live in Rio." Professor Luiz Valente, the director of the Brown-in-Brazil program, told me over the phone that my apartment on Rua Timoteo da Costa is within walking distance of the university! I'm also super excited that Leblon is home to the headquarters of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, the most popular soccer club in Brazil (with an estimated 35 million supporters)! Looks like I'll soon be reppin' the scarlet and black of O Mais Querido!
In other news, yesterday I took a trip to the Brazilian consulate in San Francisco and officially applied for my student visa. It's been a difficult bureaucratic maze. I initially attempted to apply by mail through the Boston consulate, but while my documents were in transit, the Brazilian government completely overhauled the visa process. Now there's an online portion and a few more required documents, all of which must be legalized by a notary public or similar authority. After waiting in line for a while, my number was called and I handed my packet over to the young woman behind the glass. She started chatting to me in Portuguese, and I surprised myself by comfortably holding up my end of the conversation. We spoke about life on the East Coast, different places I should visit in Rio, and the Romance Languages department at Harvard. It was the first time I've used Portuguese extensively in a non-academic setting, and my facility with the dialogue made me so anxious to start my journey already! I don't mean to boast, but I felt like I was pretty much EMC.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Brazilian culture, in my opinion, is the racial mistura. In the consulate office there were two ticket dispensers- one for Brazilian citizens and one for everyone else. I watched an Asian businessman with glasses and a briefcase walk in and carelessly grab a ticket from the Brazilian dispenser. My immediate reaction was to think, "Look at that fool, grabbing the wrong ticket. Haha, he should have read the sign. A webo, that's embarrassing..." Then his number was called, he walked up to the window, sat down, and busted out perfectly native Portuguese. Oops. I eavesdropped a little and discovered that he was born in São Paulo. The next number that came up belonged to a blonde woman with blue eyes, a native of Porto Alegre. For the next half hour I inconspicuously tried to pick out all the Brazilians in the office, and it was dang hard. Unless I heard them speaking, it was impossible. It made me realize that I can be Brazilian, or at least successfully pretend! I want to shed everything "American" about me and blend in. That's true immersion, and that's the absolute best way to learn, né?
I'll return to San Francisco on Monday, June 15, to pick up my passport and visa. Mal posso esperar!