Archive for the ‘Chris in Brazil’ Category

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Chris: One hell of a month (part 2: Iguassu Falls)

December 7, 2010

Hello ‘Merica:

So continuing with my story, it was Tuesday Oct. 12, super early in the morning that I headed to Iguassu from Rio. I was ready for some adventure, so Iguassu presented a great way to see nature, bro-out with my friends Luke and Dana, and just have an overall great time. This was also going to be my first time seeing one of the great natural sights of the world.

It was weird being in a rural area. I mean Salvador isn’t a particularly big city, it has between 3 and 4 million people, depending on which cab driver you ask. Iguassu is really in the middle of nowhere, with a completely different feel that Salvador. Imagine, for a way to contrast it, going from New Orleans to South Dakota.

I stepped off the plane with an excitement that I haven’t had in a long time. For those of you who know me, I have seen a few things in my day. At (almost) 22 years young, I have gone piranha fishing, bungee jumped and taken part in the slaughtering of a wild pig, but every time I embark on a trip, I am still as excited as my first one. Plus, I was getting to see my friends Luke and Dana.

Luke and I had planned on keeping this trip to just the two of us, but Dana was able to successfully invite herself onto our bro-liday. So of course we had to put Dana (a girl btw, I know that that name can be ambiguous), through her bro paces. It is here that I need to give Dana a shout out: she was able to put up with our dirty jokes, flatulence, mockery, and us making her cook us dinner, like a champ. Therefore, here on my blog, I would like to officially, in writing, give her the title of BRO! Congrats Dana! Not may girls are awarded this title. I hope that after a ripe old age, your obituary will read: Dana, caring friend, loving mother and first and foremost, a BRO.

So the first day there was spent hanging with my old friends. I was a little nervous, as I always am before I see people I haven’t seen in a while. I mean, I was close to Dana and especially Luke this summer, but you never know how a new context will change friendships and even bro-mances. But that first day there was amazing. We chilled at the hostel, had a few beers, and went on a really short hike to the river.

The river sat close to the hostel, which was located in the middle of the fields, far from any large buildings or a McDonalds. Once we got there, we were able to hang out, swim and have an great time until sunset. The water was brown, but whatever, I mean that’s what we have immune systems for.

After the river, we went back, had some cervejas, cooked a dinner I can’t remember, and spent the evening in the best way possible: slightly buzzed and living in the moment.

The next day, we went to see the Argentina side of Iguassu Falls. Now I know that the majority of my readers probably haven’t been to Iguassu, so I’ll do my best to describe it. Iguassu is a chain of waterfalls on the boarder between Brazil and Argentina.

Now I have mentioned that I am skeptical of tourist traps. And Iguassu is defiantly that, but it was still sweet. I mean the falls are really something special to see. If anyone happens to find themselves in Brazil or Argentina, with a weekend and a few hundred dollars to burn, go.

The Waterfalls are spectacular. I mean there are not only a ton of them, but there are tons of falling water. I have been to waterfalls before, but I have never seen anything quite like this. There is just so much water, you see it, hear it and feel it. The park is ok, I mean it has well marked paths—everyone and their grandmother could see the whole park. No real hiking or anything like that. My pictures don’t do the views justice, so I guess what I am trying to say, is if your grandmother is looking to take you on a trip, take her here.

There is this one fall called Devils throat. It is amazing. I mean seeing all the water, standing on top of it, looking down at the valley below.

The next day was more of the same. We went to the Brazilian side of the falls, left Dana at the hostel—she was tired and BROed out. After the falls, we wen to a the Iguassu Falls Bird Park.

The bird park was amazing. We saw all kinds of toucans, parrots, humming birds, just to name a few. Now I like birds, I like them a lot, but I am by no means a bird fanatic. I would imagine that for a bird fanatic, it would be heaven. They best part is that they let you get up close with the animals. You enter a room full of humming birds and butterflies flying everywhere, the next is toucans, and another for parrots. It was awesome. We got to touch toucans, it was sweet.

And like that, before I knew it, the trip was over. Three days, and one hell of a trip, but in the end, all I have are memories. Like all amazing experiences in life, it was too short. And here I am, more than a month later, struggling to capture the details of the memories. But enough of that EMO tangent…

Be good ‘Merika

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Chris: One heck of a month (part 1: Rio de Janeiro)

December 2, 2010

Over the next couple of posts, all of which I hope to have published by the end of this week, I am going to go over what I have been doing for the past month, which I promise has been a lot. I am afraid that I wont be able to remember it all, but I can try to get the highlights, post a few pictures, and do the best I can. Just to give you all an Idea of what I have been up to, here is a brief list:

  • The CIEE trip to Rio
  • My trip to Iguassu Falls
  • Black Eyed Peas Concert
  • Stumbling into the ghetto with Jeanette and Ron
  • Back to Rio with my Parents, then showing them Salvador
  • Halloween at Vo Flor
  • Sao Paulo
  • Thanksgiving

So needless to say, that is a lot of traveling to do in a month, and throw in the usual beach life, hanging out, reading and sleep that I have in my normal life here, it has been crazy. The past month is a huge blur, but I think that the best way to go about it is from the beginning, so here we go. About a month ago today, CIEE took us on a trip to Rio, the “marvelous city,” and needless to say I was super excited about it. The first thing we did when we landed was go to an All you can eat pizza place. Brazil is famous for “Rodizio” which is a type of restaurant where they take the food from table to table and serve it to you. It is all you can eat, and if you are me, you take that as a challenge. The food was amazing! I mean I love pizza as much as anybody, so of course the more the merrier. But once we got to the dessert pizza I knew that I had had one to many.

Anyway, after nursing my way back to health after too many chocolate covered pizzas, I was off to see the town. One of the most famous parts of Rio nightlife is the famous area called Lapa. Which, I really have no other point of reference to compare it to. It is like a large street party, with an amazing number of bars, restaurants, and beer/food tents on the streets. It has live music, street music, clubs, and everything else that a young man, such as myself would want on a Friday night in the famous Rio de Janeiro. So anyway, my friends Ron, Manny, Lorena and I take a bus there, and we know that it is going to be a good night, there was a type of electricity in the air, and it let me know that a good time was to be had.

As I am writing this a month after the fact, let me just summarize the most memorable event of an admittedly foggy memory. I remember shots of Tequila on the street from a random street vender; I remember eating a hotdog with a quail egg on it, and dancing to reggae, but not normal reggae. Let me paint a word picture for you. So we are all standing there, after a few shots of street tequila, attracted by the sound of street music. It sounds good, I mean it was reggae, and sounded just like all reggae sounds, but as I got closer to the music with my friends, I noticed that there was something a little different about their instruments. As I got closer I noticed that the music was being played with garbage! Like literally things that must have been taken from rubbish bins, there was an old trash can, a broken key board, and other plastic and metal bins. This is all happening under a viaduct in Rio. I had a moment that happens only on occasion in my life, and mostly when I am drinking and traveling, I realized that I am actually really content with my life and where I am at this current moment.

Now that is not to say that I am not a happy person. But there are times, when I am in another country with my friends, that I realize that I am not worried about the future (something that I constantly worry about) and that in the here and now I am happy with where I am in the world and with my life (now that is a run on sentence, but I’m ok with that).

So on to day two in Rio: it was a Saturday, and we had a tour of the city planned and a trip to the famous Jesus Statue and Lapa steps. Unfortunately it was cloudy, so the amazing views of Rio from the Jesus were a little less breathtaking than the postcards, but it was still pretty awesome!

I’ll be the first to admit, that at times I can be a snob and scoff at the usual tourist attractions, and the Jesus was no exception. I figured that it would be lame, one of those things that is completely overhyped by tourism departments. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when the Jesus was in fact truly impressive. The statue itself is huge, like I mean truly impressively big… Looking up at it, picturing what it must have taken to build something that big, out of stone, it makes one wonder about the men and women who help to construct it. Then add that to the fact that it is placed on top of a mountain, with a spectacular view of the city, and I was amazed. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel in Ipanema, from Copacabana.  We were supposed to go to Mangueira, where all the Samba schools in Rio get together and dance. It is pretty amazing.

Sunday, October 10, was a free day, and we spent the day pretty much just walking around the city. We started at a Hippy fair, and people got gifts for their families. I walked around, looked at stuff, but in the end I decided that me coming back home would be enough of a gift for my family.

Monday, everyone went off on his or her own adventures, and I got dragged around shopping with Nora, Jeanette and Juliana. So I was allowed a LOT of time to meditate and mentally get ready for my trip to Iguassu Falls.

Stay tuned for more updates…

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Chris: Brazilian friends, the slightly EMO version

October 5, 2010

So this week I am going to do things a little differently, with regards to what I write about. Usually I make a list of the things that I have done since my last post, and then write about the most poignant events. This week, I think I’m just going to write about what is on my mind, and see what comes out.

I know that I have been writing a lot about what I will be doing in the future, instead of what I have done. There are several reasons for this, one is that I have a super eventful couple of months ahead of me; the other is that I have had super tranquillo months up to this point. That’s not to say that I have been bored. Between the beach, the orphanage, and teaching English, I have had some fun and character-building experiences. It’s just not eventful in the sense that I have been only in Salvador. I was expecting to do a lot more traveling early on, but instead my travels have been pushed back. This has me worried.

You see, on the mountain of things that I wanted to accomplish while in Brazil, the most important one was make Brazilian friends. I know that this seems like it would be easy. But it has proven to be more difficult that I had initially thought. The funny thing is that this also happened while I was in Venezuela. I mean I ended up just hanging with the gringos. I know that this is a problem faced by many study abroaders. Don’t get me wrong. I have made some amazing friends in the process, but I was really hoping that I would meet some Brazilians that I could become lifelong friends with. It has been hard to do in class, and right when I started to get in with a group of Brazilians, I had to drop the class, through no fault of my own.

Instead I am going to have to become friends with the “ficantes” of my girl friends from the program. The worst part is I knew that this would happen. I will do what I can, but I am starting to freak out, since my stay here is coming into the home stretch. The traveling won’t help either, but it will be amazing.

My upcoming trip to Rio promises to be amazing. I will be going for something like 10 days with a 3 day trip to Iguassu Falls. Rio, from all that I have heard, is one of the most amazing cities on the planet. And to be honest, I am getting a little stir crazy in Salvador. That is through no fault of Salvador itself, but I am ready to mix things up a bit. Plus I figure, how many times will I get to be there in Brazil, and bum around for a few months. Well, knowing me, maybe quite a bit, but still, once I graduate, it won’t be the same. So I really need to make the most of it. Needless to say, my next post, from post Rio and Iguassu, should be amazing, and full of photos.

Once again, I want to apologize for the lack of photos this week. It turns out that CAASA, the aids shelter I work at, does not allow photos to be taken of the kids. This does make sense, but they are so fun and cute.

Anyway, see you post Rio!

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Chris: Glass half full

October 1, 2010

So I know that it has been a while since my last post, and I guess that is because I have not been up to that much. I have been chilling a lot, hanging out with friends, and trying to save money for my trip to Rio. From what I have seen and read, it is such a fun city! I will be going with the group of CIEE—Salvador students, then meeting up with my friend Luke in Iguassu Falls. There are however two poignant events that I would like to briefly recall to you all right now. The first is one that took place in an AIDS shelter, and the other a life lesson that I still have not learned quite yet.

So, as you all know, I have been volunteering a lot. It is nice, because here in Brazil it is so easy to volunteer. For example, I had to tell our coordinator here, Matt, that I would like to do some volunteer work, and he took me right out. It is truly the highlight of my week. So anyway, last week I went with some friends to a place called CAASA. It is kind of like a shelter for children who are born with AIDS.

At first I was a little nervous. I mean, these kids have a terminal desease. I really didn’t know what to expect. So I walk into this house, and I am greeted by children coming up and hugging me. I was a little taken aback, I mean not only did I not know these kids, but I thought that they would be sick and in bed. I guess that just points to my own ignorance, but the greatest surprise that I had, was that these kids are just like regular kids. We colored, we played games, I was able to pick them up and all the things that I do with normal children. I guess that if anything this just points to the human nature. That these kids, who have a terminal desease, are still fun-loving, curious, and energetic kids. By the end of my time there I forgot that I was at an AIDS shelter at all. I don’t know what I expected. I knew that they wouldn’t all spend the day sulking in their rooms, but I thought that there would be something more melancholy. I left in awe of the experience and hope to post pictures soon.

Another thing that I have been thinking about today, was another reason that the the third-world and the US are so different. I was listening to this week’s “This American Life” segment called “Cry Babies”, and it had a segment on disabled people who made a living by starting law suits against businesses that are not 100 percent up to code. Some of the issues were that the mirror was too high in the bathroom, or that the coat rack was not low enough. The person in the story would then sue the company, many times without warning. I understand that it must be tough to be disabled and not have equal access to every public space, but something in this story seemed wrong to me. In Brasil, something like this would not happen. I guess maybe the culture is different, but there is no way people would sue each other over a parking space. There are just bigger worries in life. I invite you to listen to the episode and tell me what you think.

The third thing I want to touch on is that I have not made the most of my time here in Brasil. I guess I have been trying to save money, which is indeed important, but I have stayed in a lot. Then this past Saturday I went to a really cheap Jazz show at the Museum of Modern Art. I have been meaning to go ever since I got here, but haven’t. Then I went, and it was awesome. I had a great time, it was fun and cheap and something that I wish I had been doing this whole time. It made me reevaluate my priorities a little, and I hope that for my next month I am able to take advantage of every opportunity.

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Chris: Happy Birthday Brasil!

September 8, 2010

Yesterday was the independence day for Brasil. And yes I could go on and on about the historical significance of Brasil separating from Portugal and becoming a future economic powerhouse, but I don’t know much about that stuff, and if you all are interested, there is Wikipedia. Instead I am going to talk about a party I went to, and more about the orphanage I work at.

So onto a funny anecdote from the previous week. How do you truly know that you’re in Brasil? When they throw parties with alcohol and other stuff in the biology building of the most prestigious university in the area. Let me say that again: in order to raise money, they threw a party with a band, in the biology building. How awesome is that?! You know the reputation of Americans is that we are overly rigid, and only care about work and careers, and don’t really enjoy life as much as some of the people in the South America do. That’s not to say that Brasil is without problems, I mean the same school, UFBA, that I attended the party at also doesn’t have sidewalks, and the students have to trek through mud to get to class. But at least after class they can go with their mud-covered shoes to a party in the Bio building. Life is just different: the beach, the food, everything. I saw an elderly woman drinking with her family on a bus. When is the last time you saw that at home?

Now I want to talk about my volunteer experience. It is an amazing way to spend a Sunday. The kids are so much fun and need so much attention that it hardly feels like work. I basically go to this orphanage called Orfanato Minha Vo Flor, play with some kids for two hours or so, then go home tired and happy. I really dont know why I didn’t do it as much in the states. But along with yoga, I hope it becomes a habit that I can obtain stateside.

Anyway, I think thats all for me today. Enjoy the pictures, leave comments and pray that the rain in Brasil stops!

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Chris: New groove

August 30, 2010


Hello America,

A few weeks back, me and a few friends went to the National Park Chapada Diamantina, which is a really amazing place, located here in the Bahia state of Brasil. This trip happened at the start of August and we stayed in the nearby town of Lencoes. When we arrived, we were greeted by a large group of people expecting us, waiting to meet tourists and bring us to their respective Posadas, and offering tours of the various sights and trips within the park. Luckily, Danimal, one of the Americans on the trip, was in higher spirits than the rest of us, and found a cheap, quaint, and amazing place to stay. I don’t mean to say that it was amazing in the sense that it was super nice, full of backpackers, and ambiance; I mean it in the opposite way, in that it was off the beaten path, empty, and humble.

Once there we decided that for the three days we had, we would try to do a trip to capture the most of the park in a short time. After talking with our guide/son of the posada owner, we set out in his last eighties model Fiat, that was literally falling apart while we were riding in it, for a day full of sights and moderate adventure. Some of the things we saw: waterfalls, a cave tour inherently cooler than any other cave tour, monkeys, a lake with crystal clear water, and —well I guess the best term would be hill in English. Unfortunately, my camera broke on the first day, so my pictures are limited, but I’ll put up what I have. It is hard to put into words all the beautiful things that I saw that day, but I hope that the pictures give you some idea.

The next day, we set our early after a breakfast of tapioca pancakes called Beijus, fruit and coffee, to see the tallest waterfall in Brasil, called Fumaca, or smoke because the water evaporates before it hits the ground. I am again sorry that my camera broke by this point, and I have no pictures, but let me try to paint you a word picture: After a relatively easy, two hour hike, we arrived at this huge cliff. I was actually not sure that we arrived, until i saw people getting on their stomachs and looking over to see the falls. Now the falls are so high, that there is a mist coating everything, and no matter what you do, you are damp. I, being afraid of hights to a minor extent, had to work up the nerve to go to the edge, and when I did, what I saw was amazing. One cannot see the bottom, all you see is water falling into a deep valley. I am sure that at the bottom, there is in fact a pool, but it is so far down that it is impossible to tell. It was amazing.

The next day as we went to buy our tickets back home for that night, we were told that there were spots available on the bus. So we met up with some other people from the CIEE group, hung out at a waterfall, and had mexican food (which in Brasil is really hard to come by). It was a relaxing way to end a great weekend.

This past week has been an amazing one also. I feel that I am finally feeling right in the world, and making the most of Brasil. This Thursday I said goodbye to a good friend, which was sad, but her going away party was pretty fun. Its always hard to say goodbye, but I feel that as I get older, and have therefore had to do it more often, it becomes easier. I hope that I see Luize again someday. Her party had a samba band, and despite my sad attempt at dancing, I was able to have a good time. By far the best part of the evening was the fact that everyone was able to make it. Now I know that we are two months into our trip, so the idea of not having hung out with everyone is weird, but it’s true. I think that’s a lot of the reasoning behind why CIEE organized the whole experience this way, as I explained in the last post. But I feel like now, finally, everyone is hanging with each other as well as making Brazilian friends.

Saturday was spent at a beautiful beach, with beautiful ladies, who are also becoming good friends of mine.

I am now volunteering in two places: One is teaching English to underprivileged kids, the other is an orphanage. I went to the orphanage on Sunday, and it was amazing. The kids have so much energy and want so much love. I really felt like I was making a minor difference in their lives by playing with them.

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Chris: first couple months in paradise

August 25, 2010

A lot has changed in my life, namely I am in Salvador, Brasil. Let me start by saying that it is beautiful, and I am still thinking about extending my trip to be a year instead of a semester. I wish I had a good reason for not keeping up my blog, and I guess a lack of internet is a passable one, but truth be told, I am just now getting into the swing of things. I have had just two weeks of real classes at the University, and I am now finding myself with time to write. The way that the program I am on works is that we have a summer program with a culture and Portuguese class, then we can take actual classes at two universities. I think that this will have a great effect on my Portuguese, since I am taking actual college classes with real live Brazilians.

The classes I am taking are: Brazilian Manifestations, Intermediate Portuguese, Marketing Photography, Digital Advertising, and Ceramics. Now none of these classes will transfer directly into my PR major, so really I think I could have taken whatever I wanted and it would have been ok, but advertising and marketing classes legitimately interest me, and who knows, maybe i will take something out of it that I would not have gotten from a class at the U of M.

As far as to what i have been doing for the past months, the truth is that I cannot put everything down on paper, but I will write about what sticks out the most in my mind. The way that the program works has led to a very interesting set of emotions. I feel that as my second study abroad experience, it has led me to have a better understanding of what I am going though, and I can appreciate where I am at in the world. When i first landed here in Brasil, I was shocked at how many other Americans were with me on the trip. Well it turned out that all the CIEE kids studying in Brasil, from four different programs, were all going to be in Salvador at the same time for an intensive language and culture program. This was good and bad: it was good in that I made some potential life long friends, and bad in that after the programs ended, I found myself feeling alone. Between going to picturesque islands, and drinking beers at the gas station, it was a great couple of months.

Now that they are gone, I have a group of Americans to hang out with, but it lacks that same sense of family that it had in Venezuela. In the long term, this could be to my advantage, in that i have more incentive to meet Brazilians, and I recognize that no two programs are the same. I really wish that I had better documented my first few months, but what can you do? I dont have internet in my place of residence, and Iam actually typing this out at my neighbor’s house.
My family here is amazing. I have a mom, who is old, and a brother who is an oral and face sugeon. He is really cool. I think that one reason that he is still living at home, other than the cultural difference of Latin American families, is that he knows that his mom wants him there. Still I can’t imagine being 30 years old, having an awesome job, and still living at home. I can admire it though, as a noble thing that a son is doing for his mom. I guess to be fair, her cooking is amazing, and I can imagine that has a little to do with it.

I literally live right by the beach, and the funny thing is that I don’t go as much as I would have thought back in Minnesota. It is one of those beaches that would make a good postcard. It is amazing, and I hope now that i have more free time I am able to go there to read, or even just to work on my tan, and enjoy as much sun as I can before the Minnesota winter.

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