The Daily Grind

I’ve started to fall into a routine here in Rio. And, as “cafezinhos” have become a central part of my life, I couldn’t resist the above coffee reference. Sorry, not sorry.

Every morning, when my alarm goes off at 7:30, I get up to turn it off and then get back in bed for about ten more minutes, checking Facebook and email (because my host mom has wifi, which is amazing!). Eventually I get up and get ready, which takes way less time here than it does back home do to my limited clothing options and my now minimal to no make-up use. I gather up my school supplies and then join Jô at 8:00 for “café de manha.” We eat the same thing every day, but always with options. Toast, butter, “requeijão,” jam, Nutella, banana, apple, mango, turkey meat, cheese. And, of course, the delicious coffee.

We chit chat over breakfast, which may be hard for anyone who knows me back home to believe. They understand exactly how much the term “morning person” does not apply to me. “Como você dormiu?” (“How did you sleep?”), she asks me every day when I sit down. “Bem, obrigada. E você?” (“Well, thanks. And you?”), I reply. Usually I’ll tell her what I have planned for the day and she’ll offer some advice or tell me a funny story. Without fail, I finish eating and get a kind, “Vai embora, filha.” (“Get going, dear.”).

After saying “tchao” to Jô, I take the elevator down eight floors and say good morning to the doorman. I have befriended both the “porteiros” who work in our building and I like to think that they find my eager to please smile and halting Portuguese endearing. Last week, one of them patiently explained to me the differences between “bom dia,” “boa tarde,” and “boa noite” and now he quizzes me every time I come and go.

I walk to school on autopilot, always startled by the bright sunlight that hits me as soon as I step onto the street, but I still never bother to bring sunglasses. Class starts at 8:30, but I usually run on Brazilian time and get there a few minutes late (to be culturally appropriate, obviously…). We get a break at 10:15 for “cafezinho,” which consists of coffee (see the developing theme?), various fruit juices, cake, sandwiches, and fruit. Then it’s back to class until 12:30, which was admittedly hard to get used to but I’m getting my attention stamina back as time progresses.

That’s it for our language class and then we get an hour for lunch before the culture lectures. Initially, I opted to buy lunch every day. Rio is home to a large community of Lebanese immigrants which means, luckily for us, there is an amazing Middle Eastern and falafel restaurant just a block away from school. The food is amazing and the portions generous, but the price makes it a treat and not our standard go-to spot.

The go-to spot would definitely be one of Rio’s many convenient and affordable juice bars. These small eateries, which can be found on nearly every corner, offer any kind of juice you could ask for, including fruits that can only be found in this region and which don’t even have English translations. The most popular is the acai, a sweet, nutritious drink with the consistency of a slushie.

If we’re not in the mood for juice or need something to make a meal out of, the juice bars also serve, “doces,” “salgados,” soft drinks, and (you guessed it!), “cafezinho. “Doces” are typically cakes and candies while “salgados” can be anything savory. Some of the most popular “salgados” are “pão de queijo” (cheese bread), “pasteis de carne” (meat pastries), “quibes” (crispy, Turkish-seasoned ground beef), and my personal favorite “coxinhas de frango” (fried balls of chicken and cheese). While I love the juice bars, I also love my beating heart and my semi-full wallet, so I’ve now opted for bi-weekly trips to the grocery store and making sandwiches to bring to school.

After lunch, it’s back to class. When we finish, around 15:30, I usually head to a kiosk bar or to the beach to watch a World Cup game with friends or head home to do some homework (which we have A LOT of).

Jô usually serves dinner at 19:30, which almost always contains potatoes and rice, along with some form of protein and vegetables. It’s always delicious! I’ve had some new and different things for “sobremesa” (dessert), but her standard is fresh fruit, which is always fine with me. Admittedly though, in the dark hours of the night, between finishing my compositions and hitting the hay, I’ll creep into the kitchen to satisfy my sweet tooth. Yes, I can find the Nutella jar even in the dark.

So that’s daily life for me as of now. I’ll have to write about the nightlife sometime in the future! I’m absolutely loving it here in Rio and I can’t even think about leaving. I’m making friends, figuring out the money, memorizing the streets, and learning lots of new words! As far as excursions go, I’ve been to see the beautiful views of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), visited the immense Jardin Botânico (Botanical Garden), and gone with friends to the local theater to see “A Culpa é das Estrelas” (“The Fault in Our Stars”). Tomorrow is July 4th and for the long weekend, six of us are headed off to the isolated paradise of Ilha Grande. We leave at dawn! (Actually, well before dawn…). New reports soon to come!


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