Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Just Wanna Free Fall For Awhile

Is it free falling if you're attached to a parachute?

Jewel: You're sure you're up for this?
Blu: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, well it's not like we're just hurling ourselves off a mountain or something. Right?
Rafael: Actually, that was pretty much my entire plan.

Thursday was Teacher's Day here in Brazil which has the potential to be my favorite holiday ever. To celebrate, we decided to jump off the side of a mountain. No big deal. There may have even been a couple conversations that went much like the one above, from the movie Rio.

Earlier this year, Maggie and I went hang gliding with Just Fly Rio which is a company that I highly recommend. Since I had already done hang gliding (and paid a pretty penny for it), I didn't want to go hang gliding again, but FOMO kept me from wanting to stay home while everyone else went. Thus paragliding.

Just Fly Rio only offers hang gliding, so after a little bit of research, I decided to paraglide with Rio Tandem. Another company that I highly recommend. Seriously, its good to do your research before jumping off a cliff. Regardless of whether or not you're attached to a parachute.

It was awesome. A phrase you can hear me say countless time if you were to watch the video. Rio Tandem was an awesome company to fly with-- my guide was awesome and chatted with me in three different languages throughout the course of our flight (after asking if it was okay, of course), and I walked away with a video and hundreds of GoPro videos of out entire flight. Moral of that story? If you're into paragliding in Rio, there's really no other choice than Rio Tandem.

Were I to hang glide or paraglide again (which I totally would), I would like to do it somewhere new as I have now jumped off of Pedra Bonita twice. Not a bad thing, but I'd like to see some new views. #firstworldproblems

Perks of being a teacher in Rio de Janiero.

Friday, October 16, 2015

It's Bad Manners to Keep A Vacation Waiting

I'm going to go ahead and blame my love of the beach on living so close to Mentor Headlands and going there every summer (and fall and winter and spring) for as long as I can remember. In happy times and in sad times, I have always escaped to Mentor Headlands. I've slowly moved farther and farther away from my beloved beach, but have definitely projected my love for Headlands onto other beaches. 
1992, 1993, 1994, and 2014. Some things never change.

Being at a beach, any beach, instantly lifts my mood. So when talk of heading back to Ilha Grande was going around, I wasn't about to say no. I would have gone hungry for a week if that's what it took to save money to go there for a weekend. It didn't, but I would have.

The many faces of me at the beach. #shamelessselfies
I love the feel of Ilha Grande. There are no cars, so time seems to move so much slower. There are restaurants lining the beach with their tables placed right in the sand. Boats are constantly pulling up to shore to drop people off or take them to another beach. Everyone is always slightly sunburnt, barefoot, and wearing a bathing suit. Everything and everyone seems so much more relaxed. And its awesome. 

We joined the sunburnt, barefoot, bathing suit clad community for entire weekend of boat riding and beach hopping. I honestly don't think there is a better way to spend a weekend. Heaven will be like Ilha Grande, I have no doubt.

As Matt, Maggie, and I on our Spring Break Adventure, we used Easy Transfer to get to the island. I could live without the 7am pick-up, but it does get us to the island around 1:30pm. Which is plenty of time for apple cinnamon crepes, sunbathing on the beach, and caipirinhas in the sand. It's also enough time to book a full island tour for the following day, but then be told that the tour is off (and then back on) at least three times.

Our entire night of praying/ begging for weather perfect for a full island tour must have paid off because on Sunday morning, we boarded a speed boat to take us around the island. Over the course of the day we stopped at Lopes Mendes and Dois Rios (just to look at from afar) and Caxadaço, Parnaioca, Aventureiro, Meros, and Manguariquessaba (for swimming and other shenanigans.) It was an awesome day. 

In Caxadaço, we jumped off baby cliffs. Which, in retrospect, weren't that high at all. In Parnaioca, we walked to a fake waterfall which was really just a river with some small rocks in it-- let down. In Aventureiro, we saw the horizontal growing palm tree and scaled a giant boulder for awesome 360 views of the beach. Terrifying, but awesome. In Meros, we stayed in the boat because the sun went behind the clouds and we were cold. Plus we had caipirinhas to drink. And, finally, in Manguariquessaba, we saw a real live sea turtle in the wild. My life is now complete.

L to R: Caxadaço, Parnaioca, Aventureiro, Mero, and Manguariquessaba
I know, right. I live in a real life screen saver. 

And since we can sleep when we are dead, we were up nice and early on Monday for another boat tour. This time to Lagoa Azul for a little snorkeling action. We made a couple of stops before arriving in Lagoa Azul, but again, the sun was nowhere to be seen and we were cold so we stayed on the boat. #gringalife 

Snorkeling was a huge hit-- fish by the hundreds. As well as countless jumps off the boat because we could and more selfies that I'm comfortable with admitting. We also got cake because someone else on our boat was celebrating their birthday (thanks, stranger) and then saw dolphins swimming through the waves created by our boat. Seriously, how is this my life? How is this a casual weekend of life in Rio? HOW?!

And to round out our weekend, our two and a half hour trip home became a seven hour trip home because everyone else in Rio was heading back after a long week and the traffic was atrocious. It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect weekend.

See the little red dots before the green pin? It took us almost three hours to drive that far. 
Ilha Grande (or "Grand Island" as my phone so appropriately calls it) may not be Mentor Headlands, but it rejuvenates my soul in the same way. And I didn't even have to go hungry the week prior to get there.

Monday, October 5, 2015

How Do You Measure A Year?

It's been exactly one year since I started calling Rio de Janeiro home.

At the risk of sounding a lot like a popular musical melody, how do you measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets? In midnights, in cups of coffee? In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife? In five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes? How do you measure, a year in the life?

(Don't worry, I'll be here all night. )

But really. In school days, in late nights? In roommates, in caipirinhas? In meetings, in field trips, in laughter, in tears? In thirty three thousand, nine hundred and three frequent flier miles? How do I measure a year in my life?

One year ago I woke up on an airplane, cried my way through customs, got carsick on the way to my new home, and made an awesome first impression with my roommates when I walked out of my bedroom and said "Hi, I'm Caitlin. Do you have bowl or something that I could throw up into?"

(Seriously. I used to cry every. single. day. before school and usually at least once during school. I used to throw up almost every morning and would then usually stand in the bathroom at school thinking about throwing up. Every. Single. Day. To say that I was a real joy to be around is a serious understatement.)

Thankfully, exactly 365 days later, my morning started off very differently. I woke up in my bed with my pillows and my blankets, hit the snooze button way too many times, spent far too long deciding what to wear, and then ate a breakfast that wasn't served off a cart with my friends before being greeted by hugs from my students. (Because, you know, two days is a long time to be away from your teacher.)

Life has become excitingly average. In a good way. I don't wake up with the fear that I would throw up before the 8am bell rings and stepping into my class doesn't cause my eyes to fill with tears. I feel comfortable with my decision to be here and I am confident that it is where I am supposed to be right now.

Has this past year been easy? No. Has it been an adventure? You betcha. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Because despite all of the struggles and all of the tears, I really do love it here. I love my students and their crazy stories. I love my friends and their insane ways of making me laugh every day. I love the food. I love living at one of the most famous beaches in the world. I love that 70 degrees is considered cold. I love all of the hugs that I get every single day. Mostly, I love knowing that I did what was right for me even when it wasn't what I wanted to do and it actually worked out. I love knowing that I pushed myself so far outside of my comfort zone and still ended up on the other side. I love the person I became because of the struggles that I went through.

I wish I could say that I came up with this idea, but I actually got it from a friend.

A lot can happen in a year. A lot of sunsets, a lot of laugher. A lot of mate on the beach, a lot of tears. A lot of growth. Definitely a lot of growth.

Also can we address the irony that is me begging someone to buy me a plane ticket to Rio exactly 365 days before I landed here again?