My Brazilian Internship (Part 1) – Beginnings

Introduction to the internship in Brazil
Space It was 2013, the summer before my second and final year at UCSD School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (a.k.a. IR/PS, now called School of Global Policy and Strategy). I chose to work with this research internship in order to add experience to my Master’s in International Development. The purpose of the week in Rio was to organize our time in the rural areas with the organization REDEH, who supports the organization we were going to help with research work, Adapta Sertão. This opportunity was presented to my classmate Helen Lopez and me thanks to our statistics and international development professor Jennifer Burney. Prep work with Professor and REDEH started in April 2013 until the actual fieldwork started July-August 2013. More details about the internship will come in later posts on this blog.
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1 week in Rio de Janeiro (pre-internship prep)
Space What a crazy week to spend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil before we left for the outskirts of Salvador, Brazil. REDEH organized our housing with this sweet old lady called Mariluz (Lulu) who reminds me of my Colombian abuela. She is such a warm and sweet Afro-Brazilian woman who cooks amazing food. Yucca, fresh fruit, rice, beans, and all kinds of vegetables and meat. It’s my favorite way to eat, so much like my Colombian family likes to eat. She lives in the little apartment by herself that has an additional room with 2 beds for people she hosts.
View from Lulu's place in Rio at night, area near downtown
View from Lulu’s place in Rio at night, area near downtown
When I arrived to Rio, I was amazed how much it reminds me of Bogotá. It is more tropical of course, but it has mountains and is green in many parts like Bogotá, and it has ugly and beautiful parts too. Very Latin American, and for the most part it doesn’t smell. Brazilians are sooooooo much like Colombians, in my opinion! Super warm and friendly and ready to talk to you and learn about you, with a passion for music, being around people, and all about having a good party. I feel like the only difference is that it is a bigger country, there is an even bigger African and European influence, and they speak Portuguese. I’m also not over the fact that they don’t dance salsa and other types of Latin dance. Then again, there is samba everywhere so it makes up for it.
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The fist night I was in Brazil before Helen arrived, Lulu introduced me to her old neighbor Zaza (Isaias). Mind you she’s 62 and he’s 29 and gay and they hang out all the time. He took me out to walk around and then let me go with him to a friends birthday party. They were all so friendly and interested to talk to me. I had a great time dancing, listening to Brazilian music, walking, and heavily observing my surroundings. I took it all in.
Right to left: Helen, Zaza, Lulu, and me at Lulu's apartment
Right to left: Helen, Zaza, Lulu, and me at Lulu’s apartment
Helen missed her connection on the second day I was in Rio, so she arrived on my third day instead. We were supposed to have our first work meeting on my second day to organize our flight out to the Bahia region in the following days after. I was glad that was extended because that meant I could spend a little more time in Rio.
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Once Helen finally got into town, Zaza was again ready to take us everywhere for basically two days straight.  She arrived Friday, my third day in Rio, so we first hung out with a Chinese classmate of ours from IR/PS who will be working the whole summer in Rio, Ye Chen. We had lunch then he took us to see his place in an area called Tijuca.  He was doing research with the university of Rio, and apparently his professors have taken him to the most elegant restaurants in Rio.
That evening, we told Zaza we wanted to dance. We ate dinner made by Lulu (Mariluz) of chicken stroganoff, and the other normal yummy food.  Helen told everyone about her family who is from Guatemala and lives in Los Angeles, and she studied at UC – Berkley (I’ll be talking about her a lot in the future). We then ended up at a Samba bar, and were there until 5am with him and his friends! The second I got there, the energy was incredible. I can’t believe how much the Brazilians at these bars know their Samba words and sing along and dance all together. I haven’t yet heard one repeated song, but then again I haven’t been able to remember them either. No wonder Brazilians are so happy.
Ye and me at Copacabana beach
Ye and me at Copacabana beach
Another observation I, of course, noted left and right is the amount of diversity. I knew it existed, but not to this extent. It seems like there is an equal mix of black white and brown all over! More than Colombia, even more than in the US. I didn’t seem to see many Asians or who knows about the Middle Eastern influence, but they are there in abundance from what I’ve learned in class. I see wayyyy more mixed couples and babies than I ever have in my life! I love it and I think it makes Brazil that much more exquisite. I’m a mixed baby so I get excited about mixed babies, that’s a fact.
Saturday was a struggle to wake up as we had stayed up so late the night before. We went to Zaza’s place so he could change because he stayed on the couch at Lulu’s place the night before. I was surprised because he told us he lives in a favela and I figured out that the thing that is so famous about them is their proximity to really nice places. His apartment is about a 20 minute walk from Copacabana beach and the neighborhood is called Chapéu Magueira. I actually thought the neighborhood was nice while we made the inclined walk up. Very green and fresh, though the buildings did look like they were ready to collapse. I didn’t feel unsafe, though he did say it was one of the safer ones. He lives in a small but nice apartment up there and shares it with his sister for $350 a month (each with their own room!). He says that’s still expensive for the location.
Entrance street art graffiti to favela Chapéu Mangueira, near Copacabana
Entrance street art graffiti to favela Chapéu Mangueira, near Copacabana
That night, we ended up choosing to go to this place famous for their inexpensive and delicious feijoada (traditional Brazilian black bean stew) and samba. Little did I know that we would be going to the top samba school in Rio! I was still exhausted at this point but we started making our way to G.R.E.S. Portela to eat and see the best Samba school in the city. We went home early that night and collapsed on our beds. What a weekend!
Eating feijoada with Helen at G.R.E.S. Portela (school of samba)
Eating feijoada with Helen at G.R.E.S. Portela (school of samba)
Dancing Samba with one of Zaza's friends at G.R.E.S. Portela
Dancing Samba with one of Zaza’s friends at G.R.E.S. Portela
Some fun things about language I learned that week:
The Spanish saying ‘muy rico’ does not translate so you can’t say ‘muito Rico’, you say ‘muito bom’
Papaya – mamão
Smells good – cheira bem
**How did I not remember learning these things in Portuguese class?
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 To see the full album from this week, check out this link!
The rest of the Series:

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