I had a week of vacation between finishing the January Intensive Portuguese term and starting the regular semester at PUC-Rio. Rather than hoping on that first plane to São Paulo or Buenos Aires, I took this time to just… relax. January was full of non-stop activity and I was looking forward to sleeping more. The first couple of days I did just that. I slept, went to the beach, played soccer, and did some back-to-school shopping for more of a Brazilian style. I also checked out the lake in Rio that I still hadn´t had the opportunity to see. I went at night with some friends that wanted to play basketball. I am not very good at basketball and wasn’t in the mood to try and improve. Instead, I ran the path around the lake. During this run, every drop of stress, annoyance, tiredness, or nostalgia I might have had disappeared. The view was incredible. I could see the famous Christ statute lit up above the city, thousands of lights emanating from the nearest favela (slum), and people playing various sports. Some of these sports I had never seen before such as what looked to be like a cross between polo and hokey on bikes. Every light reflected off the water that was as smooth as glass. All of this and a great Brazilian radio station motivated me not only to complete the 7.2 kilometer run, but also to increase my speed with every step. Just to put that in perspective, I have not run in over a month (so I am not a regular runner), and when I do run I run less than 5 kilometers or about 2.5 miles. When I started, I did not think I would make it all the way around. I felt so incredibly happy and proud of myself when I sprinted to the finish.
For the second half of my vacation week, I traveled to Búzios, which is a small city located about three hours from Rio. I went with two of my American friends and we stayed at a great hostel (Lagoon Backpackers) located only 10 minutes from the downtown area. Clearly, most people would prefer to stay downtown, but on a student budget only 10 minutes away saved quite a bit of money. In fact, the hostel only cost R$28 a night, which is equivalent to less than US$15. There, we met a lot of interesting people from different regions of Brazil as well as some people from Portugal. Here’s the view from the hostel balcony:
Búzios is known for its over 20 beaches and its nightlife. To take advantage of the beautiful landscape, we went on a boat trip or barco that went around a couple of the islands. It felt so great to be out on the water, relaxing and listening to Brazilian music with the occasional American song that was slightly inappropriate if it were not for the fact that the children on board didn´t speak English. Exploring the town center was nice too. For anyone familiar with Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, that is what I would compare it with except on a bigger scale. There are a lot of great restaurants with a upscale, tropical atmosphere. One of the well-known places we visited was a crepe place called Chez Michou Crêperia that has an extensive menu with any type of sweet or salty crepe you could ever imagine, and then some. It also has a great ambiance with a crepe bar, live music, and happy people! I would recommend it to anyone in Búzios!
The day we planned to return to Rio we went to a smaller beach called Praia de Ferradurinha. We went on our own little excursion and climbed through the rocky landscape to go find our own private, mini beach. Wildlife circled all around us and I enjoyed watching the black crabs, the birds, the fish, and the occasional sea turtle. As you can probably guess, I returned to Rio rejuvenated and ready for classes to begin!