A study abroad experience in Brazil would not be complete without a trip to Rio de Janeiro. Our AIFS group organized a trip to Rio leaving 4am on a Thursday and returning midnight on a Sunday. Needless to say, we were all a little sleep deprived and car sick! We arrived to a sunny, warm, beautiful Rio on Friday morning and immediately went to Corcovado-more commonly known as “the place with the big Jesus”. The Christ Redeemer is situated atop Corcovado overlooking Rio and the surrounding area. Reaching the top took my breath away. I always thought people exaggerated the size of the Christ Redeemer, but no, it’s huge. The view was breathtaking! We could see the beaches, soccer stadiums, favelas, and mountains for miles.
Our hostel was a 10 minute walk away from Copacabana, the most well-known beach in Rio. People definitely thought we were crazy Americans when we decided to take on the cold water with huge waves. Beaches in Rio are very different from the Floridian beaches I was used to. Instead of volleyball, people play ‘no hands volleyball’…so basically soccer but with different parts of your body over a net. There are stalls selling souvenirs and food and some walk around selling bikinis that are hanging from beach umbrellas. Copacabana is very close to a favela and we came in closer contact with Brazilian poverty than previously in Sao Paulo. But I never felt unsafe in Rio, despite being so close to the favelas. Because our stay was so short, we only experienced a few major tourist spots such as Selaron’s Stairs (See Snoop Dogg’s video “Beautiful”). I wish we had more time in Rio but I was glad to be back in Sao Paulo, a city that I have adapted to and become a part of.
The weather in Sao Paulo was sick of sunshine and warmth and decided to give us a few days of rain and chilly temperatures. Giovanna took our AIFS group to Juquehy Beach and we were so bummed with the cold drizzle that followed us all day. Being the adventurous and brave souls we are, we still decided to go swimming and boogie boarding (a decision I am now regretting since I have a bad cold).
FAAP, our university, is also a beautiful art museum with a theater. Our business professor took us to an exhibit FAAP was hosting all the way from Qatar. The exhibition was about the history and development of the pearl industry. Here are some fun facts: a man in Qatar owns 70% of the world’s natural pearls, pearls are not formed from a grain of sand but from a parasite, the Chinese have developed a method so that each clam can form up to 50 pearls, and almost all clams that can produce pearls are extinct. Who knew the things I would learn here in Brazil?
Our Brazilian friend Rommel has taken it upon himself to make sure no part of Sao Paulo is left unexplored (somewhat impossible now that we have less than 4 days here). The most memorable experience I will have with him is a play at the Teatro Mube Nova Cultural called Noite de Reis-Unidos do Carnaval. The play was based off of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and just because I am familiar with Shakespeare is the sole reason I understood the play! The actors talked so fast and used idioms, innuendos, and phrases my elementary Portuguese brain could not comprehend. Despite the fact that I didn’t understand 50% of the play, I loved seeing the theater and experiencing such a unique part of Sao Paulo’s cultural identity.
I am now in my final week here in Brazil and I am loathe to go. I have fallen in love with Brazilian culture, especially that of Sao Paulo. Each day I see a new facet of Brazilian lifestyles and every day I wake up understanding more and more Portuguese. I am so grateful to be here and to have my eyes opened to a country that will definitely see my return!