Living in, not visiting, Rio

It’s been over three weeks since I left the United States on a flight to Brazil. I can hardly remember the biting cold of Michigan as I sit in 95-degree Carioca weather hoping my blatant sunburn will go away soon. I feel that so much has happened in these three weeks. Though I missed the first sign of snow at Georgetown, some Hoya basketball games and reunions, I don’t feel too bad about it as I sit on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema after a long day of class. Other students and I often rent a few umbrellas, buy a couple of coconuts and take turns diving into the waves. A difficult life, I know.

My comfort level has expanded in these few weeks. I know my neighborhood well enough to know which day has the best open market and which grocery stores have the shortest lines. The tiny bar in front of my apartment already recognizes and greets us as we walk in for a cheap meal. The bus and metro system are no longer sources of panic. My first day of school I was nervous about flagging down the wrong bus but now I confidently wag down the good ol’ 435 that takes me to the gates of PUC.

PUC has also become familiar to me, tucked away in the city near the Tijuca Forest and Botanical Gardens. There is even a nice view of Christ the Redeemer which reminds me of Georgetown’s own of the Washington Monument. I really appreciate that PUC is a very green campus, with a lot of outside space to relax and work on homework. However, I won’t be doing homework for much longer. My Intensive Portuguese course at PUC is already wrapping up. Our final tests are just in a few days.

For these past three weeks, I had a crash course in the Portuguese language, Brazilian music and the Carioca accent. It was nice to have this time in preparation for taking regular classes in full Portuguese especially since my last grammar class was a year ago. Our class shifts between looking at grammar rules, listening to music videos and watching Rio documentaries, helping our five-hour class period go by faster. The class, made up of students  from all over the States and world, has so far been a great introduction to both PUC and Brazilian higher education.

So far, the international students are the only students on this campus. All the normal students are still on vacation. After next week, I will be too. The festivities for Carnival, Rio’s biggest holiday, are just getting started and PUC gives us over two weeks to celebrate. The block parties with dancing and music have already begun even though it’s still almost a month away. Last Sunday, I even got to attend one of the parade practices. The practice attracted thousands of people in the big Carnival stadium. It feels more like a sports game then an open rehearsal. People cheer for their favorite Samba school. We happened to be standing in the Beija Flor samba school section and after an hour cheering and dancing with them, I’ve become a loyal fan. By the next time I write here, I will have experienced both the chaos and excitement of one of Brazil’s largest cultural celebrations.

These past three weeks here have been a time of transition. I no longer feel that vacation-high where everything is so new and you walk around with all the basic signs of a tourist. It still is new and exciting but now I am starting to settle into a rhythm and getting comfortable in the city I will call home for these next six months.

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