I have been spent the past couple weeks trying to think about what to write for the blog. There has been so much that has happened this past month during my Rio study abroad. But none of it is actual studying.
No studying, not because I am too lazy or too busy but because I haven’t had any school for the past month! After my month-long Portuguese bootcamp, I have had over three weeks vacations due to the very famous month long holiday of Carnaval. February in Rio de Janeiro is interesting because every weekend is a build up to the official five days of Carnaval which “ended” this past Wednesday (there are still celebrations going on). Tourists both Brazilian and international fill the city, businesses change hours or close down altogether, streets are blocked off to traffic to allow for the massive amounts of costumed people that attend the blocos all around the city. It was honestly was a little overwhelming for this small-town Michigan girl.
But besides the excitement and chaos that Carnaval brought, my three weeks of vacation have been filled with relaxation and fun. I am proud of the fact that I spent seven consecutive days at the beach. I also played tourist in Rio, exploring its old churches, hiking to the top of the Two Brothers mountains and biking around the beautiful Lagoa on a sunny afternoon.
My “summer” vacation hasn’t just been about laying at the beach though. I feel that this second month in Rio has been more impactful on both my language skills and cultural adjustment than my first. During my first month, it was about navigating the city, bonding with other international students and fighting off some feelings of being lost and homesick. I am still doing those things but now I am starting connect with the both the language and the culture through my everyday activities and interactions.
I hadn’t spoken much Portuguese my first month here besides in class because all of my social interactions were primarily with other international students. Because class was out and the students dispersed to do their own vacation activities, my conversations started shifting to Portuguese. Whether it be with the bread guy at the supermarket, the manicurist at the salon across the street or the lady sitting next to me on the metro.
Overall, I have found that strangers are way more friendly here than back home. I have formed relationships with my neighbor, my doorman and even the guy I rent my umbrella from. We usually talk about why I am here in Rio, what I like about it and why in the world am I studying Portuguese. People offer suggestions for what to do and see while I am here or teach me new words when I ask. My favorite encounter thus far was with a cute old man named Gerald who told us his life story of moving around Brazil and at the end bought us pasteis (equivalent to delicious fried hot pockets).
The smallest of conversations like these brighten my day as people take time to listen to my slow messed up Portuguese and help me out by sometimes repeating what they’ve already said three times. The patience and willingness to engage in conversation by the people around me has been one of best qualities of the Brazilians around me. I hope to make this a habit when I go back to the States.
That’s just a little snapshot of my past month in Rio! By the next time I write, there will definitely be more “study” in this study abroad:)