Saturday, October 29, 2011

One Month in Rio Begins

Disclaimer:  Before I begin this post, let me clarify that there are favelas, and there are pacified favelas.  Pacified favelas have been "cleaned up" and are patrolled by police the same as any other neighborhood. They are basically just communities which are poorer than neighboring areas.  In one favela where we work, the police are actually involved in our project and play sports with the kids, etc.

So, my project involves teaching English to a group of kids in a pacified favela nearby. The kids range in age from 8 to 14 and have varying levels of English so it's really more of an extracurricular activity to keep them busy, teach them something new, and engage them in something positive.  We have lessons twice a week and then sports twice a week (which here always means soccer).  The kids in my group are great and they are so excited to interact with us, even after being in school all morning.

The walk to my favela is through an absolutely gorgeous neighborhood of hilly streets with estates on either side that are lined with ivy covered walls and picturesque doorways and gates. The street zig-zags down the hill and there is one corner where you turn and are greeted with an unobstructed view of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Pretty spectacular. 

After project, I head to Portuguese lessons for 2 hours.  *Sigh*  This language is currently my nemesis.  I read through my phrase book before I arrived and was happy to see that there are many similarities to Spanish and was hoping it wouldn't be too hard to pick up some basics to get me through the month.  Wrong.  If I just had to read/write then maybe I could get by, but the pronunciation is so different than the written words that I am at a complete loss when it comes to conversation.  It turns out this is partly due to the fact that I am in Rio De Janerio. "Cariocas" (inhabitants of Rio) have a specific accent which apparently does not penetrate the force field around my brain. There is a couple here from Sao Paulo and their accent is definitely easier to understand.  That's great, except they are not the ones yelling Portuguese words out at me at project every day.  (It's actually kind of funny to watch the kids just yell louder when I don't understand them.)  I keep saying things in Spanish without realizing it and I receive blank stares in return.  In any case, I will figure it out and I will manage until I get to Argentina and can go back to focusing on the language I love. Yeah, I said it. I love Spanish and I don't really like Carioca Portuguese.  So there, it's out.

Anyway, on to people, food, and other good things.  There are volunteers here from the US, Canada, Bulgaria, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Hong Kong, and even from another part of Brazil.  We all had a huge dinner together at the house the other night which was pretty cool. As far as the cuisine, there are lots of beans, rice and meat...which make that walk every day more of a necessity than just enjoyable.  And along those lines, here is an amusing little observation: clothes in the stores here fit me.  Hmm...I wonder why that is...?  I'm sure most of you know where I am going with that, but for those who don't - let's just say I blend in fairly well in Brazil.

Until I open my mouth to speak, that is...

~ N

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Intermission...and on to Brazil

Stopped in the states for about 2 weeks to get my visa for Brazil, have my root canal redone correctly, take care of the various things that come up when you leave the country for an extended amount of time, and see family and friends before moving on to South America.

My first morning back I was walking through Manhattan and the city seemed completely different to me. The beauty of places I've walked by a hundred times hit me as if I was seeing them for the first time. Incredible old churches I had never noticed, parks where I've sat and read but somehow missed how beautiful they were. You'll often hear people who live anywhere in or around NYC say that they sometimes take it for granted. I've said those words, but never realized the depth of that truth. After 3 months of exploring new cities, I unknowingly walked into NYC with the same approach and was rewarded with a completely different view.  For those of you who have never been - go. For those of you who live it every day - make sure you take time to truly experience it, enjoy it, and appreciate it. It is still my favorite city in the world.

With my paperwork squared away and my tooth finally feeling back to normal, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro yesterday and got settled into the guesthouse where I will be staying for the next month. It is in Santa Teresa, a charming neighborhood at the top of a hill with amazing views of the city.  Beautiful old architecture, a working tram, cobblestone streets, and quaint restaurants/bars all add to the charm.   I have orientation in a few minutes, and then head to my project tomorrow to meet the staff and get started.

Oh, and it's 80 degrees and sunny....