Celebrating Culture Through Traditional Dress is a Form of Travel

Whether you wear your traditional clothing from the motherland while exploring, or you are celebrating your culture in your hometown outside of the motherland, both are equal forms of travel. Maybe you are performing a Folklórico dance at an art museum in Philadelphia you have never visited. Maybe it is “International Day” at school in California. Maybe your spiritual center is offering a cultural day where you get to show your pride, and learn about other countries in Michigan. Maybe your cultural dance group gets to travel to the next city over in Florida to perform. These are some of our favorite photos to feature considering the fact that it feels as if one is transported to the motherland when shared with others. Through these different photos, you allow people to see a small snapshot of what it feels like to be visiting the country you or your family are from.

“No dejes que te roben tu alegría, tu orgullo, tu poder” -@amandaalarah
“I am my Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” -@marley_marz

BONUS! The funniest outfit award for celebrating culture goes to:

Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro

Co-authored by: Cindy Medina and Stacey Julie Lopez

“Brasil, terra boa e gostosa

Colors

Photograph by: Cindy Medina

Da morena sestrosa

De olhar indiscreto

O Brasil samba que dá

Bamboleio que faz gingar

O Brasil do meu amor

Terra de Nosso Senhor

Brasil pra mim

Pra mim, pra mim!”

 

Costume

Photograph by: Norberto Soto

“Brazil!

My Brazilian Brazil

My good-looking mulatto

I’m going to sing you in my verses

Brazil, samba that gives

A swing that makes you sway

Brazil of my love,

Land of Our Lord…”

Aquarela Do Brasil – Ary Barrosso

The first time I listened to those words, I was standing in the middle of a crowd of what I would say felt like over 100,000 people during o Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro in 2013. The live samba sounds vibrated through all of our bodies making it completely impossible to stay still. People of all ages are out dancing on the ruas of Rio! Every so often beer started to rain from the sky but it was so hot and I was so preoccupied with dancing that I did not mind the beer shower.  I was on the ultimate life high, participating in a cultural event that I had dreamt being a part of for years. There is more to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval than what we are accustomed to seeing from the outside; the extravagant floats and the women dancing samba in beautiful colorful costumes. I had that image so ingrained in my mind that I expected to see the women with those beautiful costumes dancing everywhere. Little did I know that there are many elements that make up this week long celebration. I was completely unprepared to say the least….

History of Carnaval

The history of carnaval extends back to the Portuguese colonization period. By the time the Portuguese arrived to Brazil in 1500, carnaval had become a tradition in different countries throughout Europe. The Roman Catholics began the tradition of carnaval as a special event which leads up to the beginning of Lent. It is told that Brazilians chose to rebel against the Catholic events but eventually adapted them as their own, adding different elements to make it unique to their culture. In the mid 1800’s, carnaval in Brazil began to change and it became the Carnaval of Brazil as we know it today. The most important element of this celebration, samba, was officially incorporated in 1917. Different towns of Rio de Janeiro began making their own carnaval samba songs and dances. From this stems the annual Samba School Competition with the first competition being held in 1932. Every year the creative art form of the competition grew, leading to the Associação das Escolas de Samba da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, which is the main carnaval organizing committee in Rio de Janeiro. It is important to note that different regions of Brazil have unique elements to their carnaval celebrations, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador being the most popular ones.

Blocos

“Is it day? Is it night? What time is it? Today is Friday…? Cadê a minha dignidade?! Cadê as minhas amigas?! (Where did my dignity go? Where are my girlfriends?)” These are just some thoughts that Brazilians and visitors alike wake up to (thats if you sleep at all) during the week of carnaval.

Blocos

Photograph by: Norberto Soto

Bloco 3

Photograph by: Norberto Soto

Blocos de carnaval de rua! The part of carnaval that I was not prepared for! Blocos are organized street parties which run from mid January through Ash Wednesday. However, carnaval officially begins on the Friday leading up to Ash Wednesday and has a duration of five days. About 500 blocos take place through out the city. There can be multiple blocos occuring at the same time in different locations and as soon as one ends, another begins. Some blocos can stretch for miles with as many as 400,000 people. It is 120 hours of non-stop samba, caipirinhas, cerveja, dancing and lots of beijos. Most of them have a theme or are well known for the samba band that plays. Some are more notorious than others such as; Monobloco, Bloco da Preta, Cordao do Bola Preta, e Banda de Ipanema. It has been recorded that nearly one million people show up annually to party at the Monobloco and Bloco de Preta block parties! I can only best describe a bloco as a mix between Halloween and New Orlean’s Mardi Gras. It is all too common to see Minnie mouse, a sailor, Where’s Waldo and a priest together on the metro on their way to the bloco in Santa Tereza. Interesting fact about blocos: the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1940’s had prohibited street block parties. As a form of rebellion Cariocas (term used to reference Rio de Janeiro natives) continued to have street block parties and began using costumes in order to avoid being recognized and jailed. O jeitinho Carioca never fails!

Bloco 2

Photograph by: Norberto Soto

Check out the website below for a list of 2017 block parties:

Diario Do Rio

Sambadrome/Sambódromo

The world famous Sambadrome was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1984. It is the official parade grounds where the samba schools compete. The parade strip stretches for about half a mile, with bleachers on both sides, where thousands of spectators from all over the world witness the competition. I was fortunate enough to attend both the samba school rehearsals and the actual parade. You have four nights to catch the parade, Sunday through Tuesday before the start of Lent. Tickets range from $35 to $400 depending on where in the stands you would like to sit and the night you decide to go. The main event of the parade is Sunday night and it is usually the one that sells out first. But don’t worry you will find many tourist agencies and people outside the Sambadrome reselling tickets if you don’t happen to find tickets on the night you are interested in going to. While some people may think the best seats in the house are too expensive, I believe it is worth the experience.

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Photography by: Norberto Soto and Cindy Medina

This is the part of carnaval that we know about from the exterior. To see it all up close was magical! Every samba school has a theme and a parade song for that particular year. The samba school competition is a big deal in Carioca culture. Think about it as the Super Bowl of samba dancing and music. People in the audience are dressed in shirts and colors  supporting their favorite school. The most popular schools being; Beija-Flor, Salgueiro, Mangueira, Vila Isabel, and Grande Rio. Everything about the parade is grand! The floats are each unique and colorful, which leave you in complete awe! If you appreciate the art that samba is, you will love the different choreography. The dancing during the parade is the best of the best! The infamous feather, glitzy, glammed up costumes that samba dancers wear are also quite a sight to see! The parade runs from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. You will be having such a great time that you will not even feel the night go by! At the end of the parade spectators are allowed to parade with the last samba school on the runway. Parading down the Sambadrome runway at six in the morning, with confetti raining from sky, dancing to samba, and beautiful cheerful people all around me, is one of the dearest memories I have from my time in Brazil.

Want to additional information on Carnaval? Check this site out:

Rio Carnival Services

Carioca Culture

There were a few things that caught me by surprise during carnaval. You could read all the tourist guide books in the world and you will still be unprepared for the craziness that takes place. For example the beijo tradition during blocos. There are no limitations to where and when its okay to have someone approach you and ask for a kiss. Brazilian men are known for their slogan “O Brasileiro nunca desisti” (Brazilians never give up) and this is fervently applied to their tactic in attaining a beijo from the girl of their desire. Once a man sets his eyes on you he will ask for “só um beijo” (just one kiss) and whether you chose to decline or accept, his friends will circle around you and yell, “Beijo! Beijo!” No worries you can run away or have your friends rescue you from the beijo trap.

Not all Cariocas  are avid supporters of carnaval. For some, carnaval is a month full of wild partiers running the streets rampant creating chaos and adding to the already severe traffic congestion and waste issues. Brazilians are very prideful of their country, so I would best advise anyone considering participating in any future carnaval festivities to please treat the land as if it is your home. This means, reframe from littering, urinating on the street or in the ocean, etc. Brazilians also appreciate when you take time to have conversations with them, even if your Portuguese is not up to par. Learning the basics will get you through questions, simple convos, and reading directions. Try learning a few words! It is a beautiful language!

Safety Tips

As experienced carnaval goers we would like to provide you with some safety tips. In the midst of all the fun it is also important to be precautious. Amongst the masses, its very easy to turn around and realize you’ve been seperated from your friends. Most likely, your cell phone service won’t work and who checks their phone during carnaval anyways? Always make sure to keep a buddy system. Agree on a strict “we came together, we leave together” policy. It is very easy to get caught up in the festivities but make sure to establish a meeting point in case someone is separated from the group for more than 20 minutes or so.

I vaguely remember one of my Facebook statuses reading something like, “I’m dehydrated, sleep-deprived, malnourished and I’m bruised. #day3 #CarnavalRiodeJaneiro2013”, along with a picture of myself in a cheetah costume. I’ve never been one to skip a meal, but you might be surprised to check the time and realize its 3pm and you haven’t eaten all day. Thankfully, blocos provide street food vendors every 3 yards or so. Make sure to carry enough cash with you to cover transportation (bus fair and taxi rides), snacks, water and drinks. In fact I advise to carry cash only but do not just spend all your money on latrãos de Brahma (beer) and water guns.

I know you will be tempted to Snapchat or Instagram all of the highlight moments to your envious friends back home, but pickpocketing is pretty rampant in Rio and something you should be extremely cautious about. Lets take note of the fact that Brazil sells the most expensive iPhone in the world. An iPhone 6 can easily sell for about 4,000 Reis (about $1,000 US) therefore they are a hot item to steal. Its not a very pleasant feeling to reach into your pocket to take a selfie with “Che Guevara” and realize your phone is gone. Rio is notorious for its assaltos (assaults) but like any other place in the world you may visit, the rule remains the same, be a smart traveler. Do not carry things you do not wish to get stolen, do not wear flashy jewelry, do not walk alone in dark streets, and do not be obnoxious on the streets. You will stand out as the gringo that is bebado (drunk), and be the easy target for an assaltante (thief).

O Final!

With all that said, if you are headed to carnaval this year (or whenever it may be), if we are not there and you are, we envy you. Pero es envidia de la buena! Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is like no other carnaval in the world. Cariocas are naturally very laid-back, happy people whom are the ones that make the whole experience even better. Enjoy the fresh caipirinhas, the beer, the music vibrations, the dancing, the colors, the complete feeling of being alive in such an amazing cultural event!

https://vimeo.com/63092384

Enjoy this video of the popular Monobloco Bloco!

 

My Brazilian Internship (Part 5) – wrapping-up & Rio de Janeiro

Co-workers Brasileiras
I had the pleasure of working with two lovely Brazilian ladies born and raised from Pintadas, Laise (La-ee-zee) and Bêtania. I mentioned them in previous posts, but I feel I need to talk about them more here. We were lucky that they hung out with us outside of work, we shared many jokes, and they helped us out with different things. Laise had her own manicure/pedicure business she would run from home mostly on the weekends but some evenings too. We loved getting nails done almost every other weekend we were there because she created her own little floral designs she would stick on our nails, and she charged us about $20 Reais for both mani-pedi (which is about $9 at that time)!!!! We made sure to leave her a tip though she never wanted to accept it, but we had to with that price. We loved asking her about her life growing up on the farm, working for Adapta Sertão, getting ready for her marriage since she was recently engaged at the time, and many more conversations about life.  She is a very well connected young lady in the community, and one can tell she loves what she does.

From right to left: Helen, Laise, Bêtania, and Alexandra. The

From right to left: Helen, Laise, Bêtania, and Alexandra. The “Divas”.

Bêtania was a bit younger, about 17 years old. She was working with the cooperative, but I think it was more like an internship. She had a strong personality, and she got along best with Helen. They would joke around sarcastically like it was their business. They say you know you’ve reached a high level of learning a language when you can exchange stories and jokes in that new language. It was interesting to learn about her involvement with the Evangelical Church, especially since most Brazilians are Catholic. She would talk about how she didn’t drink alcohol and chose to dress modestly.  She was very happy about her religion, and she would attend Church more than once a week.

We called ourselves the

We called ourselves the “Divas” because it means the same in Portuguese. We weren’t mean though, I promise.

Our weekly ritual with our co-workers outside of work hours was most especially done on Mondays. In Pintadas, people didn’t work much on Mondays because it was the Feira, or farmer’s market day. Everyone did their groceries or sold their own products around the town square on Mondays. At night, it was a big get together in the town square where we sat and talked to mostly Laise and Bêtania, and we met other people too. People would play loud music like Funk (pronounced Funk-ee, a Brazilian type of Hip-hop) or more regional music like Forro or Pagode. What rendered me speechless was that people didn’t really dance. I made myself look like the crazy foreigner because there was times I was able to get some people to dance, mostly young people who were very curious about us. We would eat acarajé , a delicious small dish only served on Mondays because the shrimp was brought in fresh from Salvador. This dish is prevalently served in Salvador on the street everywhere by Afro-Brazilian women wearing traditional outfits. The dish, known as black-eyed pea fritters, is made out of a spicy black-eyed pea paste, molded into medium-sized balls, and deep-fried in red palm oil. It is later split and stuffed with spicy shrimp, where of course Helen added more pimenta (spicy sauce/ salsa).

Laise holding Acarajé

Laise holding Acarajé

One of the funnest events we went to with our co-workers was the Cavalgada, which translates as a Horse Festival. The one we went to consisted of the municipality (Pintadas and surrounding townships) coming together to celebrate the tradition. We saw a 20 minute parade of people of all ages (I think I saw as young as 7 years old!) riding horses. There were street food vendors all over a plaza in the other town we were in. Once it got darker, there was a small concert stage where a diverse array of musicians played music. This was towards the end of our two months there, and it was the first time I saw everyone dancing without me having to act a fool first.

One of the horses at the Cavalgada

One of the horses at the Cavalgada

Pousada Revelations
One of the biggest revelations was finding out that the Donha (pronounced Don-y-aa, the title given to a female who runs a business), the manager of our Pousada hostel stay, is a nun. It made me realize that you can’t assume that all nuns are the same, and that it is possible that they don’t all dress like the stereotypical nun would. There were many things that finally made more sense about my observations with the Donha. She was always so warm and open and ready to talk. I could tell that many people who wanted help would come to her for an odd job to make some extra money. I had a small incident involving inappropriate photos accidentally appearing on my tablet computer, and she acted like nothing happened, no judgement at all. She simply said, “be careful, someone might break that!” I was so embarrassed, but I was comforted later on for some reason when I learned she is a nun.

Donha is the lady standing up. We are sitting at her dining table in the outside part of the Pousda with one of the girls who use to live with her.

Donha is the lady standing up. We are sitting at her dining table in the outside part of the Pousda with one of the girls who use to live with her.

There were many young adults who would come and visit her and stay for a couple of days, which I later learned were all orphans or kids who decided to leave their broken homes and stay with with the Donha instead. She provided a better life for at least 5 young adults and kids that I met and knew of. We interacted most with Riquelme and Floris. I bonded with Riquelme because of his love for break-dancing and making a living by teaching kids his art. I got to take some awesome pictures of him doing his thing. We interacted with Floris the most since he was the only kid living at the Pousada at the time. He became a “little brother” to us in our time there. Floris was all about soccer (as most Brazilians are), so we went to support him at one of his soccer games. His coaches allowed us to ride on his team bus which was interesting to hang out with 15-20 middle school aged Brazilian boys. They didn’t pay us much mind at all, we got to see a new little town, and Floris was happy to see us support him. Currently, Floris is in an advanced soccer club and lives in Salvador for that purpose.

Brazilian style middle school age soccer. Floris is the one with the ball.

Brazilian style middle school age soccer. Floris is the one with the ball.

Photoshoot I did of Riquelme break-dancing in Pintadas

Photoshoot I did of Riquelme break-dancing in Pintadas

Donha also organized a little weekly English class for me to teach of which failed miserably. Floris was in my class with about 10 kids a bit younger than him mostly from his school. I taught them once a week at about 8pm at the Catholic church nearby. The first two classes were great and fun. The kids loved learning and were genuinely interested. Floris, on the other hand, was very comfortable with me, and was also making it a way to be “too cool” for class. It was a very confusing thing to me because I thought he wanted to learn since he helped me organize it, but in the end he acted like he didn’t want to be in class and was more worried about pursuing a little gatinha (pronounced: ga-tee-nya, which literally means kitten but is used to refer to a girl) who was there too. It was hard to create structure and discipline for the kids when it was really just for fun. I had to make a couple of the kids leave two different times for what I remember was some foul language used, huge distractions, and something to do with Floris too. By the 5th or 6th class, the kids stopped coming. I was really sad and still think about what I could have done better. In the end, I think it turned into a babysitting gig for me, which wasn’t fun for them or I.

Our Pousada

Our Pousada “little brother”, Floris being silly with me.

Overall, it was a pleasure to get to know Donha, Floris, and Riquelme and the Pousada‘s rich stories. Many including the property rooster who hung around and crowed in the morning, the black kitten that was run over by a car the day after it snuggled and slept with me in my room, 3 spotted tarantulas in our rooms, 1 drunken man screaming in the courtyard who I later learned was Floris’ father, growing mold on the walls of our rooms that caused me to have an asthmatic reaction, and much much more. The Pousada will always hold a place in my heart, especially for the people who are given a chance to have a better opportunity in life.

We saw three different tarantula spiders in our rooms. This is one that survived. Sadly the other two were killed because we were too scared to try and capture them.

We saw three different tarantula spiders in our rooms. This is one that survived. Sadly the other two were killed because we were too scared to try and capture them.

Floris holding the Pousada rooster

Floris holding the Pousada rooster “Nego”, a name of endearment many Brazilians give each other.

The last week in Brazil
I remember that last week in September was very difficult for me. I have not mentioned it in the previous articles because I try not to shed too much light on the negative, but I was battling severe depression. The most severe I had experienced since my puberty years, except I was now in my mid 20’s and mentally punishing myself for allowing myself to feel depressed during such a wonderful experience. I was very upset with myself, but later on I would acknowledge and accept that depression can happen to anyone and it is better to deal with it with the support of loved ones. I was really thankful to have a significant other that helped me through this, along with some of my closest friends.

There was a large important meeting held with Adapta Sertão, REDEH, and visitors from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the last full day we were in Pintadas. The IDB representatives were staying at the Pousada with us, and they were all very kind and eager to learn our perspective on things. They were all men: 2 Americans, 1 Mexican, and 1 Spanish. It was exciting to see how the IDB wanted to learn more about the cooperative and understand how effective it was in that area. They were at the time deciding if they wanted to invest in the cooperative, and how much. Funding was later organized and approved in 2014. For more information on this specific IDB project, here is a direct link. Our professor’s findings were presented at this meeting, our general research initiative, along with more detailed information about what the cooperative does to help smallholder farmers and agricultural workers. Considering the fact that this meeting felt more like a mini-conference, we left Pintadas with a BANG of a meeting with live music, beautiful decorations, and delicious snacks like maracujá (pronounced: ma-ra-cu-sha, it means passion fruit) pudding.  I think all meetings or conferences should be held like this!

Front of the room at the meeting with the Inter-American Development Bank

Front of the room at the meeting with the Inter-American Development Bank

Our last 2-3 days were spent in Rio. We hitched a ride with one of the Brazilian government representatives who was in town for the IDB meeting. He made sure to let all of our REDEH and UCSD supervisors know that we were a pleasure to work with and that he recommends us for any job. He was so sweet! He encouraged us to stop at the large store Coubali to buy last minute quality Bahian leather products for our loved ones. I got my sister a beautiful pair of red, wide strappy, summery, shoes with a short and wide heel; my mom a gorgeous red, squared, puffy, medium-sized purse; and my dad a really fancy dark brown belt. I’m really careful about not spending too much money, and I saved up the majority of the stipend given to me from UCSD, so I treated myself to some nice turquoise wedged summery shoes. Everything cost about $100. I am pretty sure all of these products imported from Brazil would have cost a total of at least $250 in the US. We actually ran into our “Salvador host family” in the airport, coincidentally. It was a perfect way to give them a big hug farewell.

The second I stepped out of the airplane into the Rio airport,  I knew I wanted to make the most of our last few days in Rio. We did nothing short of paragliding to see Rio from above, visited the Island off the coast called Ilha Grande (2 days, 1 night), and went out dancing almost every night. Dancing included: Forro with our paragliding professional, a random club that played a Brazilian mix of everything where we met a random group of firemen, and Samba by ourselves in the Lapa district drinking caipirinhas from the street and interacting with the musicians (who let me play with their instruments). I can say I spent the majority of my stipend money in that week alone, and it was well worth it.

Paragliding above Rio

Paragliding above Rio

IMG_1275

Dancing to samba in the Lapa district

Thinking back to all of these memories, it only seems fitting to end with Aquarela do Brasil lyrics:

Brasil!
Meu Brasil Brasileiro
Meu mulato inzoneiro
Vou cantar-te nos meus versos
Brasil, samba que dá
Bamboleio, que faz gingar
O Brasil do meu amor
Terra de Nosso Senhor…

Click on this link to see more pictures of my time in Pintadas.
Click on this link to see more pictures of my time in Rio.

 

The rest of the Series:

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.
(Needed a space)
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.
 (Needed a space)
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.
  (Needed a space)
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: