Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In an Instant

I've been in Buenos Aires for one week and the gut feeling I've had since I left for South America has turned out to be true - I instantly felt at home when I arrived here.  In many ways, the city reminds me of NYC... but in South America.  Each barrio (neighborhood) is unique and I find myself walking through an area and thinking "this feels like Soho", "this feels like Midtown", etc.  Following through with that theory, I am currently living in what feels like the Brooklyn of Buenos Aires. San Telmo is an incredible neighborhood and it is the reason I fell in love with this city.  Yep, I said it. I'm in love. When it comes down to it, I'm a city girl. As much I enjoy and appreciate chilling out on a beach, hiking in the mountains, or zip-lining through a forest, I can feel a city and I absolutely love that.  It's hard to explain but I know there are a few of you who understand, and the rest are smiling and shaking their heads at yet another "Nancy-ism".

So, my apartment is in the heart of San Telmo (this picture was taken from my street corner) and basically any direction you walk you will find cafes, restaurants, vintage shops, art galleries, bakeries, etc.  There are always people out and about and it has a great vibe or "buena onda" as they say here. Every Sunday the streets are closed for a huge street market filled with antiques, art, handmade jewelry, leather stuff, live music, tango demonstrations, and delicious empanadas (for the equivalent of $1 US). It is a perfect lazy day activity. I spent this Sunday with two friends from Ireland and it basically went like this: walk, browse, listen to music, stop for a beer, walk, browse, have a snack, stop for another beer, walk, browse, listen to more music.  You get the idea.

On to real stuff.  Class started this week and the first few days have been a little intense due to the fact that there was a holiday this week so we added the missed hours to the other days. Ouch.  My brain is slightly fried but it was in need of a little workout so no complaints.  The school itself is in a great location downtown right off the main square (Plaza de Mayo for those of you who know BA) and only a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Yes, the Spanish is slightly different here but... less conjugation - yay!  I am sure my Spaniard friends will chastise me for not speaking proper Castellano when I see them next but I secretly love the fact that it is a little easier to learn.  Or maybe not so secretly considering I just posted it on my blog. 

~ N

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Adeus Brasil

It's amazing how fast a month can pass. The second half of my stay in Brazil was gone in the blink of an eye.  It was rainy for a decent amount of the last 2 weeks which made things tricky.  My last day of project was raining which meant my kids didn't come to class (Cariocas don't like rain) so I didn't really get to say goodbye. I did make it to Sugarloaf on a relatively clear day for sunset and a fantastic night view of Rio, and I had one final sunny day before I left to see Escadaria Selaron. Wow. Absolutely amazing. I met the artist briefly as he was working and I spent some time talking with his co-worker who is from Argentina. I could spend half this blog post writing about this staircase, but just google "Escadaria Selaron" or "Jorge Selaron" if you want the background story.  (For my hip hop heads...does this picture look familiar? Name that video.) 

It is basically a continually changing work of art and I was blown away by how many tiles I connected with.  The first winery I toured in Porto when I began my trip... a favorite painting that I finally saw in person for the first time in Spain... the lizard at the entrance to Gaudi's Park Guell... the Camino de Santiago in Spain which many of friends have done and one is currently walking, etc. It was a series of flashbacks and connections of my travels and memories of home. I spent an hour there just taking it all in. I was really happy that I was there on the last day of my stay in Rio because it brought it all together for me and reminded me that moving on means making new connections and memories.

I did get to escape Rio last weekend with a few friends to a little coastal town about four hours away called Trindade.  Although it wasn't sunny, it was a great few days of relaxing and leaving the constant buzz of the city behind for a bit. It also served as a transition of sorts for me because I was returning to Santa Teresa for just 2 nights before heading to Argentina. 

As always, leaving was bittersweet because as excited as I am about moving on, it means leaving behind some great people.  Fortunately I headed out to the airport very early this morning and you guys know how little I process in the AM so it didn't really hit me at the time.  Then I got stuck in Uruguay because all flights to Buenos Aires were being delayed or canceled due to volcanic ash (that's not something you hear every day) and it hit me a little bit more there.  I did finally get out of Uruguay and by the time I touched down in BA the excitement that comes with each new place had settled in.  I'm here, I'm happy, but I do miss my Brazilian family. I really hope you guys all make it out here over the next few months.   

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States!

Georgys - it will be a difficult day for you, not because you will be missing me, but because it will be the first time in years that my sausage cranberry stuffing will not be on the table.  It's okay, I understand. I mean, it is really good stuffing.

Avenel crew - throw some pictures on twitter/facebook for me of the deep fried goodness that I will be missing at Ann's and have a High Life for me. 

Missing you all.
~ N

p.s. I will get my pictures from Brazil up this week.  Really, I will.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Difference A Day Can Make

A quick story from this week:

My class is usually about eight kids of a similar age. The other day I randomly had thirteen kids...ranging in age from 5 to 14... several of which had never come before... five of which were 10 year old boys. Needless to say, it was a challenging day.  I was trying to keep the older kids from getting bored, while keeping the younger kids entertained, while keeping the attention of 10 year old boys who basically just want to run around.  Have I mentioned that I still don't speak Portuguese?  So yeah, it was an adventure and pretty much just one step below chaos.

I left the favela feeling a little defeated. Just as I was about to reach the main street, I heard "Cheecha, cheecha!" (In Portuguese, the letters te are pronounced che so Teacher comes out Cheecha.)  The littlest boy from class that day came running up to me and gave me a piece of candy and hugged me.  Okay, okay, I get it. I need to remember that what they get out of our time together is not necessarily about learning English.  Still, that was only one little boy and I felt like I had let the others down.  I had no idea how to handle the class going forward if it was going to be this large and varied.

The next day, I walked over with slight trepidation and was relieved to find that I had only six students, all around the same age, who I know by name. We had a great class, and in conversation (if you can call it that), one of the little boys asked me when I was leaving.  I told them that next week would be my last and to my complete surprise they all yelled "No!" followed by a lot of Portuguese I didn't understand.  He slowly explained to me that they all like me and want me to stay. Wow. Definitely didn't see that one coming. 

So that's my feel-good story for this week. Kind of corny, I know but it made me smile.

~ N

Monday, November 7, 2011

Santa Teresa and Beyond

Hard to believe I have been here for 2 weeks.  In some ways it feels like I just arrived, but at the same time this neighborhood has a way of making you feel like you have been here forever.

Santa Teresa lives up to its reputation of being a "can't miss" stop when visiting the city of Rio de Janeiro.  It's a very artsy neighborhood and I am enjoying soaking it all in.  Just down the street from the house there is live jazz every Tuesday night so a few of us headed over last week to check it out. Absolutely incredible.  It is definitely earns a spot on the list of favorite nights so far.  The place (where coincidentally I will be staying for my last few nights in Rio) is a huge colonial mansion that has been restored and converted to a small hotel.  It has a funky, eclectic vibe and is the perfect venue for a jazz night.  The house was built by the family of a Brazilian novelist/journalist/playwright and the aim of the current owners is to keep that spirit alive by having local musicians play there once a week and local artists display their work there as well.

Speaking of local artists, I stopped into an art gallery that I pass on the way to Portuguese class every day and ended up chatting with the artist whose paintings of favelas I had been admiring in the window.  The two pieces that I love were unfortunately too large but he had just started a small one so it was deemed mine upon completion.  So cool.

This place has a really great "small neighborhood" vibe as well.  The other day while a few of us were sitting at a small cafe on our street - the jazz singer from Tuesday night walked in, one of the managers of my guesthouse was at the restaurant across the street, and a former volunteer who has now moved to Brazil walked by.  It's a really nice to be able to enjoy a small town feeling in a city as large as Rio de Janeiro.

So as far as touristy stuff goes, I've been up to Corcovado and the statue of Christ the Reedemer (the opening picture of this post is the view of the city from the statue), and I finally went to the beach at Ipanema yesterday for a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon.  Planning to head to Sugarloaf Mountain for sunset one day this weekend and then I will get some pictures up on the blog.

So sorry to hear about the snowstorm disasters last week. Hope everyone's power and downed trees are all sorted and things are back to normal now.

~ N

Editor's note: It was brought to my attention that the list of countries in the last blog post was incomplete.  To my two great friends from the UK and Israel - my deepest apologies for the erronous omission. (Leigh, does this earn me a gengibre...?)