Yesterday's orientation also oriented me with my first typical Brazilian lunch, filled with fruits, vegetables, churrasco (grilled meats), and desserts. We were also oriented on some of the public transportation system and I successfully navigated my way back by bus to our hotel from the study abroad offices, which is a big feat in Sao Paulo, thus I left orientation feeling confident. Not to mention that I think I did well on my Portuguese language placement test, so I was feeling good about that too.
I'm picking up the language way more than I initially thought I would after my first day here. Like anything, once you calm down and relax, things become much easier...the same goes with Portuguese. Much of that can be credited to the many conversations I've had with my AWESOME host family. And when I say awesome, I mean it. The program put on a reception to introduce the students to their respective host families last night, dinner included. I'm pretty sure everyone was jealous of mine haha. We had a great dinner conversation getting to know each other (family, interests, food, religion, studies, friendships, etc). They brought me some very delicious chocolates as a gift. They've been hosting students for 10 years so they have lots of experience. So the house rules are 1) respect it and 2) have fun. Which I'm all in accordance so it's going to be a great stay.
I moved into the house this afternoon. Perfect amount of space for my things. In addition to having great hosts, I also have a great location! I'm two blocks from the main street, Avenida Paulista, where all the main restaurants, shopping, etc is and I'm just four blocks from the University. Better yet, I'm probably in one of the safest neighborhoods of Sao Paulo. Lots of traffic and things to do. The meals have been outstanding and my hosts have been more than hospitable.
So, I've also been asked already if I've taken lots of pictures. And the answer is "no". Unless of course all you want to see is a bunch of buildings that look alike. Brazil may be a picturesque country but Sao Paulo is as far from picturesque as I've seen. I could literally take one picture on Avenida Paulista and copy it one hundred times and I would have successfully shown you every part of the city haha. I'm hoping that some of our cultural visits around the city, to parks and museums, will provide some photo ops. In the meantime though, I'm in no rush...trying to blend in like a local and talk like a native...then I'll get more confident with the picture taking. After all, I do have a year to document it.
So, in an effort to be more local, I do need to step up my social game. Paulistas are partiers. I thought the streets were busy during the daytime, until I saw them at 1 AM. It seems like young people go out every night of the week, which despite my Fraternity days, is still a personal struggle haha. The Brazilian drink of choice is a caipirihna. It's a fruity drink with this god awful alcohol called cachaca (pronounced "cashassa"). I only had one before I realized that you could have them with vodka or sake instead, thank god.
So, as a means of closure for this post, during orientation we watched an awesome TED talk and I think it's the perfect way to describe the many conversations I had in the US before coming to Brazil. I was questioned often, "Why Brazil?" "Isn't it dangerous?" "Brazilians are agressive." "Isn't Sao Paulo the mugging capital of the world?" and on and on and on. So now that I've been here for a few days, the lesson has been this: Stereotypes may be true, they're just incomplete. Yes, those things are all true to a degree, but I've been opened up to a vibrant and energetic culture, with incredibly open people who want to show everyone the best that Brazil has to offer. So everyday that I'm here and I experience the exact opposite of what everyone questioned me about, at the core, is the reason I decided to study abroad. After all, I've already encountered many that have claimed the US as the most dangerous developed country in the world. We must remember that things are relative, that all these "stereotypes" may be true, but that they're incomplete. Another story exists. With that, I encourage you to take the time to watch this short TED talk clip...I think you'll further understand what I mean and will have gained a new perspective about intercultural differences from reading my blog. It's worth the next 20 mins of your time.