Wednesday, April 21, 2010

São Paulo - The Recap

I have to start out with a disclaimer that this post might get a little gushy...but I feel like gushing about how great my time in São Paulo was! As a bit of back story, for those of you that don't know, my Aunt Gail studied in São Paulo, Brazil twice and stayed with the same family each time. There has been a lot of back and forth of Brazilians and Americans with the same families, and me being here is just one more addition to this mix.

I went to stay with Monica and Javier and their 3 kids, Alejandro (20), Monique (15), and Felipe (11). Monica is Gail's Brazilian sister. This is probably where things get gushy - this family is amazing. They really are the kindest people I have ever met - plus they were really patient with my Portuguese (always making sure to remember to speak slowly and to make sure I understood and engage me in conversations). I think my Portuguese improved while I was there, because I wasn't allowed to use English at all (except for a few instances, most of which ended in Javier showing off his knowledge of English curse words).

Monica and Javier
On Saturday, we went to a birthday party for Monica's (and Gail's!) dad, Vittorio, at their farm house. This place is ridiculously beautiful. It was really great to see some of the rest of the family that I know but haven't seen for a long time (Marley (Monica/Gail's mom), Flavia (sister), Rafael (nephew). I also got to meet Vittorio (Monica/Gail's brother) and his son, Vittorio. Yeah, a lot of people named Vittorio running around (the first time I have found diminutives helpful in this language -- Vittorio, Vittorinho, Vittorucho).

See, gorgeous house, right? I wish I could show you the rest of the place...

From Left to Right: Vittorucho, Vittorinho, Vittorio, Flavia, Marley, Monica (with Felipe in front).
On Sunday after breakfast, Monica and I went for a run at this gorgeous park Bosque do Morumbi (don't know if the link will work, but it looks sorta like this). Monica is one of the most wise and insightful women I have ever met, so running with her in such a beautiful place is on par with a spiritual experience! That afternoon we went to her volleyball game - she plays on a 45+ Masters team and is really good!

I went to work with Monica on Monday and worked from her office - which meant I got to see 2 of the Vittorios again!

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are exceptionally different cities. But both have amazing qualities - it was fun to spend time there. And nice to come back here with some newly gained perspective on life and a slightly more relaxed attitude!

São Paulo - from the air (really just a teeny tiny part of a massive city)
Rio de Janeiro, from the air
Tomorrow my friend Jenny arrives for a week-long vacation here! We will be trying to take in as much fun and sun as possible while hitting up the good tourist locations here. We are also travelling to Iguazu Falls, which should be beautiful!

Friday, April 16, 2010

São Paulo

Just a quick post to let you know that I am in SP for the weekend! I am here visiting some of our family friends, and I couldn't be more excited. I am certain it will involve NO English, though, so naturally I am terrified. But I am jumping in with both feet and hoping to really improve my Portuguese while I am spending time here. I also plan to head into the CDI office here, so that should be fun.

I had a pretty easy week - finished my planned Portuguese lessons , but other than that the week was easy and relaxing. Will recap my weekend here when I get back to Rio!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Dish: Fish Market

I think I had one of the best (if not THE best) meals I have ever eaten today! I went to Niteroi with some friends and we ate at a Fish Market! Niteroi is a city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. I met some friends from my language classes and we took the ferry over.

Me on the Ferry to Niteroi (with Niteroi behind me)
One girl had been there last week and heard good word on a fish market that also had a place to eat. Getting there was difficult (we had to stop and get directions several times!), and it really is away from anything touristy or commercial. But it was well worth the trek!

The market itself is rather small, but had loads of great looking fish.
The restaurant above the market, though, was where the real action was. It looks a lot like a cafeteria or food court (sans Sbarro and chik-fil-a, though) with tables in the middle bordered by a bunch of small restaurants. We sat down at the luckiest table, because our waitress was fantastic. She spoke very slowly and clearly with us so we could understand her and she was incredibly helpful. When we told her we wanted a recommendation - she recommended we not buy their food! Turns out it is far better (and cheaper) to go downstairs and buy your own fish and then have the restaurant cook it for you. She even came downstairs to point out which stalls were the best to buy from.

The food itself was so delicious. You really can't beat completely fresh sea food. Between 5 of us we had 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of shrimp and just over 1 kilo of salmon - and then the restaurant cooked them up for us with tons of garlic! We also had some rice and beans and a bunch of bottles of beer. And the best part, this absolutely fantastic meal came in at about 20-25R$ (10-15$). Amazing.

Our 1st course -- the shrimp! Oh my word, so good! Also, I learned how to eat shrimp today. As you can see, these babies still have heads and legs. This is something that I have never encountered before! But, I got the hang of it quickly and was feasting in no time.

We demolished the shrimp :)

I don't have a decent picture of the 2d course - the salmon - because I was honestly so excited to dig in when it arrived! It was fried, which wasn't how I would have ordered it, but WOW. So good! Here is a picture of my friend's plate.

So the food was fantastic and the company was even better :) It was a great day in Niteroi.

Now that I have a weekend full of good eating under my belt (yes, I intended both of those horrible puns) I am happy -- but need to get in a week of good runs this week to make up for it!

Me and my friends from school - David, Dustin, Aimee, Darlene

The Dish: Churrascaria

The food that I ate this weekend was SO incredible! I went for Brazilian barbecue and I ate at a fish market. In fact, the food was SO good, that I am going to break this up into 2 posts. First, the meat!

On Saturday night we all met up at a little Rodizio in Ipanema for Churrascaria (Brazilian Barbecue). I think most of you are familiar with the concept, as several of these have opened and become popular in the states, but for those who aren't, it is a total meat fest!

You pay a fixed price and then can eat all you want - drinks and desserts usually cost more. There is a huge salad bar with salads and other hot side dishes which are usually really nice. But while those are really tasty, the money is really in the meat.

Waiters come around to your table with meat on skewers and just slice pieces off right onto your plate. I felt a little guilty about it as I, in general, am trying to eat less red meat -- but man I just couldn't help it! The way they cook the meat makes it SO good (I swear they feed the cows butter or something) and there is a chance they sprinkle some crack on it before serving it. The only problem is that I can't feasibly eat tons and tons of meat -- so I just take one bite of a slice (and then my friend Darlene would take one bite of mine) and we would be there is a lot of meat wasted!

I took a picture of my plate to post - but then I realized that posting a picture of a huge plate of meat is disgusting. Almost as disgusting as eating it - which i did :) Instead, I have a picture here of Dustin and I with some meat mustaches!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flooding in Rio

I am not sure if you have heard or not (depends on your news source, I guess), but we are having really bad rain and flooding here in Rio. It started yesterday afternoon and honestly hasn't stopped at all. It is the worst rain in over 40 years - we have had nearly 13" in 24 hours. Some of the rain has been really intense, too.

Most streets are entirely flooded - I saw one that people were walking in that was flooded to their waists. At the big stadium here, the field is totally under water. The lake where I run has completely flooded its banks (do lakes have banks, or only rivers?), and you can see from our window that it completely covers the running path and some of the street. Many people had to sleep at their offices last night and are stranded, or they had to abandon their cars in the streets. I saw a picture of a bus at the entrance to a tunnel that had been abandoned - it was completely covered in water.

The governor has declared a state of emergency, and nobody had school or work today. I know that the daughter in this family has already had school called off for tomorrow as well. The biggest problem isn't even the flooding, it is the mudslides. Most of the poor people here live on the mountains (the favellas are usually on the mountains -- makes it easier for the drug lords to sit at the top and run), and their shanty houses clearly are not built to code or in safe places. The land, when this saturated, isn't enough to hold them. As a result they are estimating nearly 100 people have died so far and many more have lost their homes. The governor called for the evacuation of certain areas, equating remaining in those areas to be quasi-suicide.

I guess this is really weird for this time of year - usually in January it rains a lot (like it did this year in Sao Paulo), but April is not a time for such heavy rains. It better clear up soon, because my friend Jenny is coming to visit at the end of April and Mom comes in the beginning of May -- I couldn't be more excited for their visits!

Here are some of the stories if you want to see them:
GLOBO - you will have to translate this one - they also have a picture gallery of people hitching up to trucks and wake boarding through the streets.

Keep the people here in your thoughts and prayers, please...they need it.