Oi gente! Hello Everyone!
After a couple of days in Rio, I’ve finally moved in with my host family! I’m quickly starting to figure out how things go around here. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s very different. I flew in from Miami to Rio where upon exiting the plane, I immediately realized I had skipped winter entirely this year. The seasons are reversed in the Southern hemisphere so it’s summer in Brazil. It was about 32° Celsius, which is about 86° Fahrenheit. Since then it has been between 30 to 50° C (or 86 to 122° F)! I arrived around 11:00AM on December 31st in time to celebrate New Year’s, which was no coincidence. I took a taxi to a neighborhood called Botagofo to meet up with my friend Carol who goes to UF and is in Brazil to visit family. I still couldn’t believe I was actually here in Rio, in Brazil, in South American for the first time, and before I could even take it all in we were off to the beach! To get there we had to catch a bus, and little did I know you have to actually catch the bus and wave one down; otherwise, they will NOT stop for you. Also, riding the bus here is like riding a roller coaster that begins before you’ve even paid the R$2.75 (R$ = Brazilian Real or Reais in the plural form).
At the beach, it all started to feel real. Before that moment everything seemed like a whirlwind of to do lists, vaccinations, final exams and saying goodbyes as if I would see everyone in a week rather than six months. Even on the plane when everyone was speaking Portuguese I couldn’t believe that I was heading to Rio, but I was and I’m here, and I couldn’t be happier! The beaches here are absolutely gorgeous and the cold water was so refreshing. I even drank coconut water directly from a coconut!
Later that night, Carol and I along with some of her friends and family, left for Copacabana Beach to celebrate New Year’s along with the other 2.3 million people. We walked the streets of Rio to get there because buses were sold out, which I’ve never heard of happening. Just for New Year’s, Rio presold tickets to get to the beach. A concert had been going on since that morning and we could hear the music and see the stage from afar. Many people had been at the beach all day and claimed their territory with tents or by simply building a small sand wall around “their” area.
We claimed our own space and waited in anticipation. We later counted down the seconds and popped champagne at midnight to welcome 2014 as the fireworks began. I’ve never seen a better fireworks show or that many people concentrated on a beach in my life. It is truly a “bucket list” worthy experience and I feel so incredibly lucky to have been a part of it all this year.
These first five days have been nonstop. I’ve been to four different beaches (and, yes I’m sunburned), taken a taxi, several buses and the metro, celebrated New Year’s in Copacabana, slept in a hostel, moved in with my host family, bought groceries in a supermercado, tried at least three different delicious Brazilian fruit juices (including Açai, which is amazing and ten times better than in the States), learned how to rent beach umbrellas, adapted to living without A/C… sort of, met local cariocas (people from Rio), and so much more. Some of these things seem quite basic, but when you’re in a foreign country, they are things to figure out, learn and experience. I’m so excited for all that is to come in the next six months. I start orientation tomorrow for what I would call “Portuguese Summer Camp” because the regular semester here doesn’t begin until February.
Tchau for now!