Cidade Baixa means the Low City. It’s where I live for the next two months with a young Brazilian couple, Ana and Alexandre. There is a lot to say about them, how Alexandre is super enthusiastic and I pretty much do lots of listening and expanding my Portuguese vocab in the midst of conversations with him. How Ana is so good at cooking, but I really think she doesn’t know it. When I asked her if she likes to cook she said, “I prefer to eat.” You wouldn’t think that with this type of mindset we’d be eating the best homemade lasagnas, juicy steaks, and rice recipes regularly. But let me talk about Cidade Baixa. It’s a neighborhood with all the bars accompanied with music shows and cover bands, Xis restaurants where you eat a sandwich resembling a burger that was multiplied by three and slammed into a rectangular form. It’s a neighborhood with too much noise at night…your American grandparents would not like it! Maybe you wouldn’t like it. Lucky for me it pays off in the benefit of only requiring a 10 min walk to meet friends at night for a show or a drink; way more comfortable and cooshy than using the mysterious bus system. The Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) has 4 campuses. From my apartment I wallk 10 min to arrive on campus central where there’s assistance for the foreigner and a $3 delicious lunch. Okay…there’s classes too, but that part we will get to.
From what I am writing, you would think my living situation is a reflection of how smooth the trip has been this far. Truth be told, when you plan for a study abroad, you imagine that you can customize and control your experience. Try doing that when 1 month before classes start, the professors decide to go on strike. The clerical workers that deal with all the important documentation processes get a tingly feeling, and do the same. From there, you wait and you change your mind. Your experience is in the hands of time.
For me, this strike has proved to be a great thing. I have had less time constraints and pressure to get official things done. I have relied on people’s curiosity with me as a foreigner and their hospitality when I visit their homes to pass the time until classes begin. Recently I visited a city called Estrela in the interior of the state. My friend Jonas and his parents and brothers who live there have become my ” Brazilian family”; the equivalent to what I use to have when I lived in Gainesville and would go home to my family in Tampa to get away from the real world for just a bit.
I am loving Brazil. Here, flexibility is important. What I have learned so far.