Monday, June 14, 2010

First Day of School

(As I type this I hear vuvuzelas outside) My host parents wanted to give me a ride to school on my first day and school started at 8:30 am. Guess what time I got there? 6:45 because I was hustled out the door still chewing a piece of coffee cake at 6:30am sharp. The door to BridgeBrazil wasn't open, which is understandable, since they open at 7am. I was awkwardly standing on the steps in front of the door until I asked the security guard "Aberta?" and pointed to the door. She then phoned up to the cleaning lady who kindly let me in so at least I could awkwardly wait in a chair. I started to read the newspaper on the table and read a really interesting article about Poster Boy, who appears to be the NY version of Banksy. He's really into pop culture collages in NY subway stations. He was working anonymously for a time but then he was arrested for vandalism, although no one's sure they caught the right guy. Having sufficiently impressed myself with my ability to read Portuguese because it's pretty similar to Spanish, I noted that it was still a long, long time until 8:30am. After wasting time on the internet in BridgeBrazil's computer lab it was finally nearing 8:30 and other students were trickling in. 5 of us were ushered into a room to take a placement exam to determine our level of Portuguese. Since I was a beginner and we were advised not to guess if we actually didn't know the answer (so we wouldn't get placed incorrectly) I ended up leaving a lot of answers blank.

Then it was time for Orientation with Veronica Horta (the program director). We received a packet of information that contained the Official Guide to Rio, maps, and a spiffy calendar of afternoon events/excursions. For example there's a field trip to Pão de Açucar on Wednesday and a showing of the movie Cidade de Deus, City of God, which the Hastings at home didn't have, on Thursday. Veronica gave us important phone numbers and some common sense tips, like don't go wandering around dark, deserted alleys flashing cash and laptops and some things I didn't know such as that a 10% tip is usually included on restaurant bills, you don't tip taxi drivers, and that Hospital Copa D'or is the best in Rio. After the info session we all went out to lunch together to a 'restaurante a kilo' where you serve yourself buffet style and pay by the weight of your plate (by kilo). There were various green salads, bean salads, fruits, fish and meats (sausages, chicken, steak) to choose from. French fries and mashed potatoes made an appearance on the buffet too so I won't have to worry about missing those! I had a Coke to drink and I'm pretty sure they're fizzier here than in the US...

When we got back to school we were split up into groups based on our level of Portuguese and I was with Rita, Ramin, and Hakib in the beginner group. Our teacher Daniele was super energetic and very animated for the entire class. Trying not to say too many words in English, she ended up acting out a lot of the vocabulary words we learned. We also played some guessing games where we had to describe a famous person/ character using our newly acquired vocabulary. Spongebob Squarepants was pretty tough. We also learned lots of basics like 'qual é o seu nome?' (what's your name?), 'muito prazer' (pleased to meet you), and 'moro no Rio de Janeiro' (I live in Rio de Janeiro). Aaand we got to pronounce lots of letters with extra decorations like in the phrase 'vocês são mineiros?' We got a 20 minute break halfway through our lesson to stretch our legs and grab a snack so I popped over to the papeleria across the street and got a sweet notebook. It actually doesn't look that exciting but I think the fact that I bought it in Rio and that each page has the days in Portuguese will greatly improve the quality of Portuguese notes taken in it. The fancy little coffee store next door had a Nutella drink, which sounded pretty exciting (I'm guessing Nutella melted in coffee?) that I might try if I'm ever tired enough to choke down some coffee. There was also a juice bar and little pão (bread/bakery) shop nearby. During class Spanish came in handy because a lot of the words look similar but the pronunciation is completely different, so reading Portuguese I can understand a lot but listening I only get a few words. All in all it was a great class, I learned a lot, and I feel much more confident speaking what little Portuguese I do know.

After class we found a place to exchange our money and I have a few Brazilian coins to add to my collection since the exchange rates don't quite round to a real. Upon successfully navigating the metro, remembering the way home from the metro station, and buying a few things at a pharmacy I sat down for dinner with Lucia and Claudia. We had chicken, (no big surprise but it was in a tasty kind of yellow curry with potatoes), fried eggplant, and the requisite black beans and white rice (which I will probably stop mentioning because we always have them).
Hopefully tomorrow I'll get downtown early enough to browse the open air market by the subway. They had tons of jerseys for sale and since Brasil is playing tomorrow I need to get my fan gear. Maybe I'll get a vuvuzela...

Since that was a really long post here's a cute Brazilian music video. My host dad has loaned me his external hard drive of music so I should be an expert on Bossa Nova and Brazilian music in general in a few days.


  1. Now what is the name of that band in the video? I guess skank doesn't mean the same in english.

  2. Oooh, hearing about that street artist reminds me of the documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop"? It's really good, you should watch it!

    Haha at having to wait at school for so long, but it sounds like you had a good first day. You will have to tell me more about your new classmates!

    Have fun watching the game tomorrow. Hope Brazil wins!