Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Cidade de Deus

I don't have too much time (today is a VERY busy day!), but I thought I would write a quick note while I am waiting to have a meeting. I don't have any specific topic in mind, but I wanted to share what has been going on with me for the past few days.

The Portuguese seems to be getting better and better every day. I still cannot speak the language, BUT each day I can understand more and more of what is going on around me. It makes me very tired, though! At night, I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow because my mind is pretty much working on overdrive all day long! One thing that people tell me is that when you start speaking another language constantly, you "lose your English." I am worried that even though I don't speak Portuguese yet, I am "losing my English!" I find myself speaking English as the native-Brazilian speakers do! And I often can't find the word I am looking for! Another interesting aspect to the Portuguese language is the hand motions -- they are a language in and of themselves! My Aunt Gail who speaks Portuguese fluently has always had crazy hand motions and facial expressions (even when she speaks English), and I told her that now I understand it a lot more!

I started work this week, and I think I am really going to enjoy it. CDI is such an amazing group that is doing such amazing things -- it deserves to have an entire post dedicated to it, and I am working on that! For now, I think it is enough to say that they are going into low-income communities and favellas and bringing education about information technology that changes lives. I will be working (I think?!?!) to help structure them as more of a global organization as they are growing like crazy!

Today, we went to two of the communities that have our schools located in A Cidade de Deus (you might recognize it as The City of God -- there was a movie of the same name set there) was really eye-opening. The second school we went to was in the favella (my first time in a favella). Again, I can post more on favellas and what the government in Brazil is doing in them and about them, but it was really interesting. It was dirty and there were shanty houses just like you would imagine. But there are also child care centers, and businesses, and -- very importantly -- centers like the one that houses the CDI school. It is run by a social worker in connection with a catholic church, and they provide health and social services to the community as well. The other community that we visited was absolutely incredible. The community has worked with a church that owns a large area of land in a hillside and created a school for free public kindergarten as well as many free and/or low cost courses for adults (aside from the CDI classes, they also offer classes in entrepreneurship, jewelry making, English, etc.).

I was there with another volunteer, Donal from Ireland, and upon noticing the very nice Samsung flat screen monitors and the large LCD TV that could be used to teach classes both said the same thing: wow, this is better than the public schools where we are from. These communities see that they don't have a lot, but instead of waiting for someone else to give them something better, they come together and find a way to get what they need not only for now, but to prepare them for the future.

It was really a great experience today in a Cidade de Deus, I am glad I went! Though, everyone was speaking in Portuguese almost exclusively, so I had to really pay attention and think hard so that I could have even the slightest clue as to what was going on around me! As a result, I am exhausted! But, Im not done yet -- I am waiting on a meeting with my boss at the moment. Later tonight I am meeting up with some lawyers from the law firm that Mayer Brown just associated with in Rio -- we are going to a neighborhood called Lapa to hear some samba...I am looking forward to meeting some young lawyers in Rio and to experience some night life for the first time!

This weekend starts Carnaval, and things pretty much stop around here is what I understand. I was given a list of things we are doing and it sounds crazy! I know we will go to a Bloco  which, to my best understanding, is like a big street party (a block party, maybe?!) on Friday that starts at Midnight and goes til at least 4 or 5 in the morning -- the weekend is full of beach going and other parties, and I think we will go back to Buzios on Sunday night for more parties (I am beginning to see that Carnaval is a big party and vacation time here in Brazil)!

Well, this ended up being much longer than I had intended -- I hope some of it managed to make sense! (Pictures are coming, I just didnt have my cord here to upload any!)


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