Sunday, July 26, 2009

A real Brazilian weekend, and videos!

Hey everyone,

First, I've figured out how to post videos so some I've taken while down here are below. The panoramics are from Chapada Diamantina, the drumming is from Salvador, and the dance is from the Festa Junina at PIC. Oh and there are some new pictures up in a few of the albums, nothing too important, but if you're bored!

I had a great weekend this past weekend. After going to the game on Thursday I was able to sleep in on Friday and gimped to the lab later (sidenote: the knee is feeling better, but is definitely still not right. I need new, good shoes, but shoes are 3x more expensive here, so I'll take some painkillers and keep riding the bus).

From lab I went home with Gabi from the lab. She lives in a town near BH that reminds me of Oregon City quite a bit: it's about the same distance from a major city as OC is from Portland; roughly the same size, seemed to be about the same sort of economic status (realtive to the country). I got to meet her family and friends and she took me out that night. It was a blast to see 'real Brazilians' doing what they do best: throwing a party just because they can! There really wasn't any one thing that was spectacular, but it was really nice to go to a home and hang out with everday people (i.e. not the academic type I've been around lately). Gabi is very nice, and one of the true friends I have made down here. Saturday we just lounged around her house (after some cachaca the night before that was a good choice!); I showed her pictures of home, friends and family, and we compared music. Then we had a lunch with her family: chicken and okra (YUM, see below)

The idea of people being all the same at the base in something I've brought up several times and noticed in other travels, but it was really evident here. The details in life might be drastically different, but I'm constantly amazed how similar people are.

This idea was also a topic of discussion that came up with another friend I've made down here, Thiago. I spent Saturday night with him, his wife and a couple of their friends. Thiago is a well traveled guy, and it's always really fun to talk with him about all kinds of things. Sunday he and Fernanda (his wife) showed me around the town (they live in the same town as Gabi), and then took me to Fernanda's mom's house for a home cooked meal: real feijoada. Oh yum!

The food in Brazil is really really good, if far from light (no part of the animal is off limits and low fat is a joke). It reminds me a lot of the classic southern cooking, heavy, delicious meals; but with rice and beans at every meal (not exaggerating at all). Oh and AMAZING fruit (and I'm here during the winter when some of the best are out of season).

After the meal, Thiago showed me some of the DVDs he has of Brazilian music; WOW! Such energy and happiness. He's going copy the DVDs for me, as well as giving me some music (Gabi is doing the same).

Throughout the weekend I was treated incredibly nicely; visitors are treated so well here. All of the people I have met are more hospitable than anyone has the right to expect; again reminds me of the South [Southern Hospitality], but they take it even further here. Like I told Gabi, I don't have to do anything down here and I'm instantly popular. Everyone wants to talk to me, it's great, and really helps my Portuguese (progressing nicely, of course just as I leave).

This weekend was a true cultural exchange and precisely why I'm traveling. Tourists wouldn't have seen what I did this weekend, and more, they probably wouldn't have wanted to, but I couldn't have been happier. As they say down here, any better and it would have been spoiled (or something like that)

I could keep going, but I'll control myself. This is a truly amazing country and I have no doubt that I will be returning. I have a lot more to see if nothing else. More than that, the culture here really relaxes me and makes me much more comfortable, and even more importantly, I have true friends I want to stay in contact with.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All kinds of things

Seems like a lot has happened in little more than a week so I figure this is a good time for an update.
The Good:
I passed last weekend (wow I need to get back to the US, I'm talking like a Brazilian speaking English!) in a really nice place called Caraça. I had wanted to go previously, but decided it wasn't feasible for a single person, but Santuza and family decided they would return there for the first time in many years (this week was her official holiday week for winter break); so I gladly taggeed a long with them. Not only did I get to do some hiking which improved my mood a great deal, I also had some intersting converstaions with Santuza and Greg; I enjoy talking with both of them as I get an insight into Brazilian culutre (through a transplanted American and a native Brazilian) and 'science culture'.
Caraça was originally a religious Sanctuary built in 1774, it also served as a boarding school for well off adolescent boys in the 1800's, and is now a pousada and tourist attraction/nature reserve. The area is about 1.5hrs from BH by car (though traffic made each way much longer) and is basically out in the middle of nowhere. It's a really interesting and picturesque place, checck out the offical website here (all in Portuguese, try using google translate): and my pics here: .

The bad:
Doing that hike offically pushed my knee over the edge. I had some pain in the knee on Friday when I was walking to work; I didn't twist it or anything all of a sudden I just felt like someone was stabbing me in the outside of my left knee. I took some painkillers before going hiking and the knee felt fantastic on Suunday. To cut the story short, the docotor diagnosed it as over use. I do walk 2 miles to and from work everyday in crappy shoes, plus a lot of other walking during the weekends and seeing sights, so it wasn't too much of a surprise. Before that diagnosis I got to gimp around for a few days; calleed the UR insurancec company on skype to make sure they knew what was going on, and then got to be introduced to a Brazilian hospital (actually seemed nicee and more organized than most in the US, which wasn't what I had heard; the one I went to was very nice though). After some language difficulties I got everything sorted out and managed the whole proceess on my own. So now I'm on anti-inflamatories, icing as much as possible, and taking the bus everywhere I go. The knee is feeling better, but still hurts. I'm gettting old and falling apart!

More good:
I went to my first Brazilian soccer match last night, and my adpoted team won! I'm offically a 'quente pe' (hot foot) now. The atmosphere was pretty electric, but I can't say it was a lot more rowdy or crazy than a big college football game. It certainly was a fun experience though!

There have been some other happenings, but those were the big ones.

I'll write more when I get a chance,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Conhecendo Inhotim

I've just posted a new photo album of our lab trip to Inhotim Inhotim is quite an amazing experience. Located about an hour or a little more south of Belo Horizonte, it is technically a modern art museum in the middle of botanical gardens, but that really doesn't do either the justice they deserve. The place, designed by the fairly famous Burle Marx, is a location that you really need to visit to understand. It's also a place that can be visited and enjoyed several times over.
I had wanted to see Inhotim, but Santuza decided that we should all go down as a lab field trip of sorts. It was a lot more fun to go down with all my friends from here. We rented a bus and had them drive us down for the day. It was nice to be able to spend a whole day out of the lab with the people I've met here (though not everyone could make it, as the lab has been hit hard with a flu bug, including me. They're sure, with how much seriousness I don't know, that it's 'piggie flu').
I was just telling mom the other day that Brazil is a fantastic place, and somewhere that I strongly recommend for everyone to visit (even more than Australia, I think); I think a big reason for why I've enjoyed it so much and why everyone would is the people. They are simply fantastically nice! That combined with the stunning diversity, both in people, sights, cuisine, everything (!), makes this a fantastic destination.
Ok, off my 'visit Brazil' soap box.

Other news: I've also been posting more pictures on my original photo album, so check that out too!
But the biggest news is that I have my visa to Indonesia; it was less than a week turn around from my mailing everything in to having it returned. That's far and away the fastest I've seen anything happen here in Brazil!
Unfortunately, the science is not going all that great, but it is what it is, and I only have 3 more weeks after today. Wow the time has flown by! I'll be leaving in 4 weeks

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rio: land of the islands and clouds

I just spent a long weekend in Rio de Janeiro and got to know a very nice city that is unlike any other I have ever experienced. I have to thank Juliano (from the lab), his brother (Marcos) and mom for the entire weekend. They treated me so well: Juliano for accompanying me just about everywhere, his brother for being an awesome guide, his mom for delicious cooking, and all of them for the PRIME location to stay. And almost all of this was completely free! I don't know how much they saved me, but it had to have been pretty substantial.

We actually left earlier than expected; Marcos drove us (Juliano, his mom, and I) down Wednesday at 5, getting us into Rio around 10 and to their apartment RIGHT on Copacabana beach shortly thereafter. Yes, I was staying in the middle of Copacabana, overlooking the main strip, 10 stories up, in a beautiful apartment...for free! It's good to know people!

Thursday morning, the nicest weather I would see the entire time, was spent going to the US consulate to get my paperwork. After $30, everything went very well and we were done quickly. We looked around the city center a little bit before heading back to the apartment for an awesome meal by Joselena. She was always cooking, and cooking some HEAVY meals, but damn they were good!

That afternoon Marcos drove us up to Corcovado (the mountain of Christ the Redeemer). The clouds were still around and so it was a bit hazy, but wow still some amazing views! Actually the best views might have been from a viewpoint below Christ the Redeemer because you could still see most of the city, but you could also look back and see the statue. One nice thing about the haze was the gorgeous sunset (see my pictures...the link is below).

Friday morning was pretty crummy weather so Juliano and I headed to the city center to see ´Old Rio´. That ended up maybe being my favorite part. The churches, two in particular: Candelária Church and Igreja de São Francisco da Penitência, were absolutely amazing. The first one for its stunning ceiling and all around architecture, the second for it`s amazing gold leaf interior (it literally glowed). All in all I was very impressed with the city center.

After another delicious, and coma inducing, meal we didn´t end up doing much. I wanted to go see things, but I was waiting around for my guides and it just didn´t work out. It did give me some time to walk the beach though, which was pretty cool. There were a couple times during the trip where I had to just pause and realize that "wow! I´m walking in Rio!". It always made my mood a lot better! Oh Friday night I saw the bar scene of Lapa. Wow! For a slow, random Friday night that was pretty impressive. All kinds of music, food and people all spilling out of the clubs into the street!

This is getting long so I´ll just wrap it up...Sunday I got to go to Sugar Loaf. I was the only tourist up there as I was on the first tram! The view of the city was great, and cable car ride was fun, but compared to the price of other things...not something I would do again. Of course the clouds didn´t help things (and of course that afternoon the clouds cleared out...after I was back). Sunday was also spent at the botanical gardens which were very nice; not the best I´ve seen, but impressive and worth a visit. Oh yeah Saturday we drove to Barra. It was good to see some other parts of the city, some of which were a little less touristy (always preferred by me!).

All in all Rio is a great city, with stunning natural beauty (I was struck by how sheer and vertical the mountains are) for such a huge metropolitan area, but I think it´s one of those places that is great just to visit. I´ve seen it, checked it off the list, no real desire to go back...except for maybe Carnival or New Years

Sunday night was spent riding a bus back to BH, and Monday morning spent finishing up the BS with the registering here. All you need to know is that the minimum time for getting the identity card is 6 months and my visa is good for 3 months. If you figure out the logic, let me know!

Now I´ve moved on to dealing with the application for the Indo visa. That´s getting close, and I´m getting excited! Kind of a weird feeling to be here in Brazil and already be thinking about my next international travel. What a tough life I live!

Speaking of a tough life...time to go to my first Samba bar; this could be embarrassing!

Oh here are the pictures: