Tuesday, January 31, 2012

At the Copa, Copacabana

After lunch we were all sitting around when we realized that we HAD to get out of the apartment and we saw that the sun was shining. That could only mean one thing-- we were headed to the beach. We grabbed our things, hailed a cab, and set off for Copacabana.

When we got there we just walked around with big silly grins on our faces because we were all so stinkin' happy to be at the beach with soft sand beneath our feet, warm sun beating down on us, and giant waves crashing in front of us. We wandered around for a little bit taking pictures and just enjoying the sunshine.

We walked on up towards the road and wandered down the sidewalk a little ways. We happened across a vendor stand/hut that was selling coconut waters straight out the coconut and knew that we absolutely had to get one for each of us. For 4 reis a piece-- that was a bargain we couldn't pass up.

Brittany, Amanda, Claire and I with our coconuts
While sitting there enjoying our refeshing tropical drinks, we had a ton of vendors coming up to us trying to sell us things. One man was selling henna tattoos, but the only examples he had were of bulldogs and kittens. I like kittens, but come on, really? Another man was really friendly! He told us all about this tour company that would take us places in Rio, but then started telling us about how he learned English because he lived in New York City and now his son lives there and stuff like that. The only other guy that sticks out in my mind was trying to read our fortunes on tarrot cards. At first he asked if we spoke Portuguese and then asked if we spoke Spanish. Claire told him that I do, in fact, speak Spanish, so he had a whole conversation with me. I got really nervous and my face turned bright red, but I did it! I had a full conversation with this strange man in Spanish which is a language I haven't spoken in almost two years. Frankly, I was quite proud of myself.

The awesome sidewalk that I am in love with.
 After enjoying our coconuts, we wandered the streets of Copacabana for awhile just getting acclimated to a different part of the city before hopping back in a cab back to OLM. We made it back to the apartment and kind of had a hard time believing that on our second full day we had got in a cab TWICE and talked to people in a different language. And ordered food. And talked to vendors. And survived. And didn't get ripped off. Goodness, I even kind of, sort of bartered with a man on the beach.

What a good day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Welcome to Rio!

What a crazy and amazing past couple of days! Friday afternoon Dad, Joey, and I set off for Detroit around 11am. Upon arrival into the city, we went to visit TJ at the Freedom House before taking him out for lunch. After enjoying some fine Mexican delicacies, we dropped TJ off again and then drove on over to the airport. Amanda, Brittany, and Claire were already all waiting there, so I just had to go get my boarding passes and then we bravely set off through security.

Dad, Joey, and I visiting TJ
We made it to the gate with no problems and just hung out getting to know each other. Finally we boarded the smallest plane I have EVER seen in my entire life. Amanda and I were sitting next to each other with Brittany right behind us and every single person who stepped onto the plane was like "WOW! This is tiny!" I'm not kidding, it was unbelievably tiny. The plane ride to DC was pretty short and we made it over there without any problems. Brittany and I went to grab some dinner before boarding the 9 hour, 9 minute flight to São Paulo. Luckily, the four of us got our seats rearranged so that we were all able to sit next to each other or we would have been pretty lonely.

Back when we were strangers.
We got to São Paulo and sat on the airport for what felt like ages. We just sat around on the plane, hanging out, complaining about how much we wanted to be off the plane already. Finally we took off for Rio de Janeiro and our flight lasted all of... 35 minutes. Which was nothing compared the nine hour flight we just sat through.

Getting through customs and getting our luggage was absolutely no problem-- which is so lucky! Melanie picked us up and brought us back to the apartment. We were here for a New York minute before going out to dinner at Porcão. This restaurant is absolutely incredible. It's located across the bay from the Sugarloaf and had panoramic views of the bay and the mountains. And the food-- oh my gosh! We got some of the food from the buffet which was exponentially better than a Hometown Buffet and then when we went to sit down they kept bringing food, such as vegetables, calamari, shrimp, and french fries, to the table. While we were chowing down on all that, the waiters brought around all different sorts of meat on a stick and then would shave it onto the plate. It was so much food. We were in such a food coma afterwards. Then Melanie drove us around the different beaches and it put all four of us to sleep, so luckily she brought us back home so we could go right to bed.

Our personal alley.
The apartment that we live in is really nice, but definitely an adjustment from the Senior Apartments that I have been living in! We had a hard time adjusting the first night, but it's gotten easier with time.

On Sunday we explored Botafogo on our own. We had our first Christ Statue sighting!! Everyone else was just walking around carrying about their business and all four of us stopped to take pictures. The day that the statue doesn't take our breath away will be a very sad day, for sure. We survived dinner and grocery shopping on our own, without a translator. All in all, it was a pretty calm day on the Brazilian homefront.

This morning we woke up and had various orientations at the school. We met so many people, I can't even remember them all. There's so much information coming at us that I cannot even begin to recall anything when I need to. We had our fingerprints scanned and our pictures taken, so now we're official!

The entrance to our school.
The superintendent, Josh, took us out for lunch at a local buffet. The food here is fantastic, I wish that everyone could eat food as wonderful as this. We don't have much on the agenda for the rest of the day or tomorrow-- fingers crossed for some time at the beach!

Being here in Brazil reminds me of Costa Rica so much!! They both have that whole Latin American feel and it feels so homey and wonderful to me.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ready Or Not.

"But I could be having a ton of fun-- I could be laughing with my kiddos, or hang gliding off a mountain, or visiting the Christ Statue, and I'll still miss you. "

I have experienced every possible emotion within the past three or four days. One second I'm over the top excited, but then the next second I'm on the verge of tears. Today is the day though, ready or not, here I come.

Alpha Delta Pi has senior retreat every spring semester, basically to just celebrate the seniors and everything they bring to the table. They hand out their wills, we have a violet circle, and each senior receives letters from people who are important in her life. After last senior retreat, Karen and I went back to our little Clayton 806 and made lists of people who we wanted letters from. That way, when this year's senior retreat rolled around, we'd know we were getting letters from all the right people. Obviously, neither one of us will be attending senior retreat this year, but we still wanted those letters, darn it. So towards the end of last semester, we began contacting the people on each other's lists. We then swapped letters right before Karen left and now we both have a hefty stack of letters to read while we are far from home and homesick. Holy cow, talk about feeling the love! It is so hard for me to not open each and every one of these letters right now. I am so blessed to have so many incredible people in my life. I cannot express what it means to me to know that so many people took time out of their busy lives to write these letters.

Love letters from home.
 I'm so blessed to have all these wonderful people in my life, but that makes it that much harder to leave them all behind.

I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm happy, I'm blessed, I'm terrified. See? An emotional roller coaster. It's only the beginning, but I have a feeling it's going to be a pretty good ride.

All set for Rio-- Cool-Aid too!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seventeen Days and Counting.

Seventeen days. I leave in seventeen days. I still don't have my visa. To say that I am freaking out a little bit would be a huge understatement.

I sent in for my visa over Christmas break and it was supposed to take ten days to process. I should have had it in plenty of time. Dad called me today and said that my visa was sent back saying that I paid too much money and had to send it back with the correct amount. Dad said that he's going to try to get it sent out tomorrow, if it gets sent out on Friday, it would arrive on the 27th. Absolutely not okay with me. I would have liked to have it ahead of time and not have to worry about it.

I guess there's not much that I can do, but I'm really freaking out about it.