Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So...It's been a while. Mainly I've been doing school work (or at least acting like it) and hanging out in Rio for the past month. Three weekends, however, I left the city and the beach for something a little different.

The first trip, dont't remeber the dates but a few weeks ago, was to a small town called Bananal in Sao Paulo state. I have a friend there who's family owns a farm. Farm is a slightly deceptive word though. It was more like 3,000 acres of rainforest, with a farm house, orchard, and garden in the middle of it. And there was a waterfall 50m away from the back door to the house. Needless to say, it was pretty sweet. We spent the weekend hiking around the forest and swimming in the waterfalls, wasn't bad at all. Just wish we had more time there. I got to drive the way back (we rented cars) and thats still a highlight of my trip so far.

A couple of weeks ago the school organized a trip for the international students to a mountain resort not too far from Rio. It was just a day trip. We hiked, played volleyball, soccer, and swam. Then, about 2 hours before it was time to go, they brought out the slip 'n slide. Thats where I spent the remainder of my time. Overall the day was really good.

Last weekend I went with 6 other students to a city nearby called Teresopolis, from there we hiked to another city called Petropolis. It was a 3 day hike, although, with proper motivation, it can be done in 1. We took it nice and easy though because the park was just so pretty. The first day we ran into some complications with registering and whatnot at the bottom of the trail, after a few hours of talking and arguing we finally made it onto the trail. It was fairly easy, just a little steep and wet at times but not bad. Second day was a little different. We were around 2000m high for most of the day, and the clouds seemed to be at about that hieght too. After getting lost once or twice in the fog and poorly marked trail we made it to the camp site. The third day was much more pleasant, the sun was out and we were headed downhill the whole time. Got to town and found our way to the bus stop to get a ride back to Rio.

Also, for those of you who don't know, I am no longer living with a Brazilian family. I moved in to an apartment with 6 other students not too far from where I used to live. Its been going good. I only get a bed every other week though, since me and my roomate, Joe, only have one bed in our room. Other than that it is good.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

School started a week and a half ago, on Feb 28 I think, and its been pretty good so far. Right now my schedule has five classes which are: Mechanics of Materials, Ecology for Environmental Engineering, Collection and Disposal of Solid Waste, Fluid Mechanics, and Portuguese. I am really looking forward to the ecology class, I've been wanting an excuse to take one of those for a while now. Sadly it only meets once a week, from 7-10 on Monday morning, but we do have a field trip in April so its a trade-off I can handle. All the others are about as interesting as they sound I guess. Mechanics of Materials and Fluid Mechanics will probably be two o the easier classes because I have to know a lot less Portuguese to understand whats going on, so I should come out of those OK. The solid waste class is taught Dr. Araruna who is the professor at PUC that is part of the exchange.

When I first arrived at PUC Araruna introduced me to an Iranian engineering professor that does a lot of structural work with bamboo. He offered to let me build a bamboo bike, so I said yes. Not sure yet how its going to work out, but I'm going to his lab on Monday to meet everyone and hopefully get started sometime soon. Should be pretty cool.

I forgot to mention surf class. We meet on Saturdays at a beach about a 20 minute bus ride from me. Yesterday was the first day in the water. It was cold. Other than the cold though, it was a lot of fun. The waves weren't very good so we didn't get a whole lot of opportunities, but they were probably good for the first day.

So Rio has been going well. Its really quieted down after carnaval and its been nice to have a set schedule again. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Aight, so my outlook for Carnaval was pretty bleak in my last post. I think that was Saturday. Sunday was not much different, but Monday turned it around for me. We went to the "Sargento Pimenta" bloco, it translates to Sargent Pepper and the play beatles songs, so it was pretty sweet. We got there at noon but it didn't start till 2 so we just hung out, found people to talk to, and took pictures. I met a lady that lives like two streets down from Kennedy in Memphis. The bloco was in a park kind of in the down town area, and when the music started at 2 the whole thing was packed. It went till after 6 and surprisingly I never really got bored. They only played two songs in portuguese, but they gave us all lyric sheets before so we were ready. Those 4 hours were by far the best in Carnaval. Later that night it fizzled back out into just hanging out in the street, oh well.

Last night was Mardi Gras (not sure if they call it that here or not though), but it was about like every other day for Carnaval. That does not mean, however, that Carnaval is over. They are still gonna finish out the week and we will top it off with a trip to the Sombodromo on Saturday night. We got tickets to the parade of champions, looking forward to it. Classes start the coming Tuesday I think, not really looking forward to it, but it'll be nice to be relatively useful again.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Well, Carnaval just officially started. They've been doing a lot of pre-game stuff though the past few weeks, but last night (I think), was the first night. Its not really my thing. They have these street parties called "blocos" where theres a band thats often times on a truck, then they move down the street and the crowd follows. One of those things you kind of have to see I guess. Anyway, basically just a huge crowd of people drinking and sometimes singing and dancing.

Last night we started at one of the blocos near my house at 7pm, it was me, Santiago, and Rachel and we were supposed to meet people there. Of course phones didn't work because of the crowds, so we couldn't find anyone till I think around 11. Hung out on the beach with them from then till around 12:30 when we decided to go to Lapa. Lapa is a part of town where they have a street party everynight. Took us forever to get there because we first had to collect everyone then wait for the bus, I don't think we arrived till after 2, not sure though. Hung out in Lapa for around 4 hours. Rachel got robbed at one point, it was someone else's bag with nothing really important in it though. So that took a good chunk of the time. Two brazilians we were hanging out with help us go look for the dude, but theres no way we could have found him anyway. At that point it was around 4 or 5 I think. Before the night started we said we would stay up until a big bloco that was in the area started, at 9. So around 6 we left Lapa, to go to the area with the bloco. Got to the place and found a bench, then me and a guy named Jarrett went to walk around for a while, since we have 3 hours to kill. That little hour or so walk was probably the highlight. It was early morning in the middle of the city, a really cool time to be out since everyone was setting up for the bloco and the sun was just coming up. Before the bloco started we started talking to some brazilians again that said they would kinda show us the bloco (not that you really need someone too, but its always nice to have brazilians around) so we hung out with them for a bit, but soon decided to go off on our own. Bloco started around 9 and we we left before 10. It was just another moving crowd with music playing behind us. Got back to my house around 12.

So after getting a 3 hour nap I decided to post another entry. Overall, not a fan of Carnaval, but that probably comes to no surprise to y'all. Just way too many people in way too small a space drinking way too much. But I did speak a lot of portuguese, so that was actually really cool.

So, that was only the first night, and it goes for a week. Not so sure the rest will be that full, mainly theres a lot of waiting around and waisting time, not really my thing. And I'm not usually a fan of staying up for 24 hours. Anyway, I'll let y'all know how the rest of it goes.

And sorry about lack of pictures, my current excuse is that I'm letting someone borrow my camera since they got theirs stolen. As soon as I get it back I'm sure I'll manage to find another excuse, but one day I'll post something.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another good week. On Sunday, after being unsuccessful in finding a carnival samba rehearsal, we went to a "funk" show in Rocinha. It was, well, interesting. The place looked like a underground parking lot that they now use for a club and the music was kinda like hip hop I guess. I would try to describe the rest of it to y'all, but I feel its wouldn't quite do it justice. Anyway, it was pretty cool, probably not gonna be a repeat customer though.
Wednesday we went to watch a flamengos game. There are four soccer clubs in Rio, Flamengos seems to have the biggest fan base, and they also have Ronaldinho. Best sporting event I've been too. People are waving huge flags all over the place, everyones got a jersey on, and they all absolutely love the flamengos. They were playing a club from Bolivia to qualify for the group stages of the latin american cup. Won 2-0 with Ronaldinho scoring in the last minute of stoppage time.
The next day we had our oral exam. So now we are done with school for 3 and a half weeks.
Thursday night we went to a bar that we were told did karaoke. They had a live band that would take requests basically. You look through their book, pick your song (they had tons), they give you the lyrics and start playing. Pretty cool.
Might be going up to the statue of Jesus today, not quite sure yet. But tomorrow we're going on the sweet hike again. Then to someones apartment for a guacamole competition in which I will be a judge, then we're gonna end up, hopefully, at a bar to watch the Superbowl.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The past week's been pretty good. The first few days were just school and just hanging out afterward, but on Thursday me and some guys went and bought sungas (brazilian speedos, there the rectangle ones instead of triangles), then went out to the beach to play some soccer with brazilians. Turned out pretty good. Friday we went to "Favela Paintball", theres a guy that went to PUC-Rio last year and just decided to stay, a few months ago he helped start a paintball business in one of the favelas, so a group of probably 30 gringos were walking through Santa Marta friday afternoon to play paintball at the top of the hill. It was fun, and the view was great, the favelas always have the best views of the city since they're on the hillside.
Saturday we went to Petropolis, a city about an hour away, it was a tour with the school, so not as fun as it could have been. Its where the portuguese royal family hung out, and I think it was the capitol at one point. The also have a few breweries and drink factories. We went to a museum and ate, and thats about it. But in the museum you had to put slippers over your shoes to not scratch the wood and marble. The slippers were, well, slippery, so you could slide, so that made it at least a little more fun.We also went to the house of some dude who they claims to be the first person to fly, in 1906. One guy was a little pissed at the anti-american propaganda. Overall a pretty good day.
Today I bought tickets to watch the parade of champions during carnival, supposed to be pretty cool. Then later going to get tickets for a Flamengos game (the club that Ronaldinho used to play for) that on wednesday, then to a pre-carnival samba practice or something, not really sure. Should be good though.
This is the last week of portuguese classes, over on thursday, then start back around the first of march with real classes. Still trying to figure out what I'm doing for the break. Ill let y'all know how it all goes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Right before the last post I had my first samba experience and forgot about it. It was my host brothers birthday party, his 32nd I think. He went to a samba club in a favela pretty close by, it was pretty sweet. The took one of those caged in public basketball courts, decorated it and put in a sound system. It was pretty sweet. Two hours after we got they finally started dancing (they kept telling me they weren't drunk enough yet). It was pretty cool at first, since it was new I guess, but it was really loud and crowded so it got old kinda fast.

The week between now and then was pretty normal. Had a test on Thursday and a day off on Friday though. With the day off we decided to hike up Pedra da Gavea, i was told it was the best hike in Rio. On the way to meet a guy who lived near the base we took a little tour through Rocinha, supposedly the largest favela in South America, just looks like a crappy neighborhood anywhere else I guess. We meet on the other side of Rocinha and start walking where we were told to. Apparently there was a communication failure, the brazilians thought we wanted to go to the rock you hang glide off of. It took us a while and to figure this out though, so it was too late to go back to the original plan. We ended up checking out an ok waterfall and heading back home. It was pretty fun though.

Yesterday we did, however, make it to the right spot, with new directions. The hike was really cool, took about 3 hours up. And you can see the whole city from the top.  Well worth the wait. Kennedy, when y'all come we'll go there for sure.