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!

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