Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rio Part III

Well there might be one common theme throughout this entire journey that has not come as a surprise...RIO DE JANEIRO IS AWESOME!!!

The lifestyle is contagious, the scenery is beautiful, and the people are vibrant.  I'm saving up for a summer home there haha.

This time I made the trip back to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City) with our entire study abroad group.  It was a fresh perspective too as our group did things in the city that I hadn't done already there...so although I returned, it felt like a new city to me.

First things first, Ipanema and Copacabana are all they're cracked up to be.  Bustling beaches with crashing waves, incredible landscapes, daring surfers, beach-crazy clientele, sand volleyball players, gigantic sand castles, coconut water kiosks, and no shortage of Brazilian bikinis!  Although it wasn't a beach-weekend per se via the schedule, the weather was beautiful and I got up early a day or two to catch a few rays...it is BRAZIL after all!

We also made our way to the very famous Lapa area where place after place was filled with plenty of Cariocas and posers trying to dance crazily fast to live samba bands! The streets were filled with people, vendors selling excessive amounts of caipirinhas, salgados, and more.  It definitely had a very dirty Latin American feel but the energy was palpable and we danced the night away at an outdoor samba club...one of the most Brazilian things I've ever done!

It was great practice because the following night, we went to a real Samba School in the heart of Rio de Janeiro.  I'm not sure that words can actually describe what I witnessed.  It was easily one of the coolest and most culturally identifiable things I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.  Even better was that people of all ages (God Bless me if I'm ever 90 years old dancing samba at 3 AM like most everyone was doing) came together in music and song as one big cultural family to do what Brazilians do best...share their love of music, dancing, and drinking caipirinhas!  It was a neat site to see so many generations of Salgueiro (name of the school) fans come together and enjoy an evening as they did.  Enjoy a few of the videos here!

After a good nights rest, we headed just out the city to a favela (Brazilian slum) to do something even more Brazilian...watch a soccer game live!  Again, I'm not sure words do it justice.  The sense of energy from the fan base cheering on their team was contagious.  Not only were the war cries impressive, and everyone knew them...but the cussing and praise was timely, loud, and unified as the team would make a bad or good play, respectively.  It was like the fans were begging to be on the field to make the play themselves.  The videos below just don't justify the energy but it was the best I could do to share!

All in all, this trip to Rio was the turning point in my experience here.  It was the most Brazilian I've felt since being here...and well...if what I experienced is a "day in the life" then I'm very glad that I have many more days ahead of me!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Once again...I've been slacking on the once a week posts and they've turned into every other week...my apologies!

The last two weeks have been absolutely crazy.  Not only has there been lots of traveling but the academic work has kicked up with plenty of mid-term and final exams, presentations, and group projects...so I've been on the go.  And to put it into context, the last 72 hours, I've had 12 straight hours of class every day without a break.  I'm literally running from one to the next and grabbing a quick snack and a coke to stay awake in between.  Good news is that I can see a little calmness on the horizon and a relaxing weekend in Sao Paulo ahead of me...so things are looking up!

So...let's travel back in time to about two weeks ago for one of the many Brazilian holidays that the whole country enjoys (seriously USA...it seems like Brazil has a day or two off every other week...we need to start celebrating more! haha).  I made the long and arduous trek way down to the south of Brazil to the state of Santa Catarina for a weekend in the beautiful Florianopolis.  More commonly referred to as "Floripa," it's an incredibly large island in the primarily German/Italian state of Brazil with some of the world's most beautiful beaches, ravenous night clubs, and homey style communities.  It is also one of the safest places in Brazil, and that was evident by the family style atmosphere I felt nearly everywhere I went.

The good news was that I was going to be on the beach all weekend...the bad news was that a good 12-13 hour bus ride was in between me and paradise.  Somehow I managed through that and arrived to Floripa in a downpour.  For the first time in my life, I stayed at a hostel.  Although, my views of hostels have now changed dramatically...I'm afraid I stayed at what is not the hostel norm.  Perched up on a mountain that overlooked the bay, you could only get to the hostel by foot by crossing a tiny blue bridge over a small waterway and trekking up into the mountain on a small stone-laid passageway.  I was welcomed by the nicest crew who wanted only that I enjoy everything that Floripa had to offer while relaxing!  The hostel was very very clean, bed was super comfortable, incredible views...the staff even cooked us dinner and there were complimentary caipirinhas every day...not to mention a boatload of things like surfboards, wetsuits, fishing gear, volleyballs, etc. that we could use for free!  The rain kept me inside for my first afternoon, but I grabbed lunch with some people I met from Chile and Australia who were at the same hostel and we began our multilingual lunch in a covered restaurant on the beach.

I woke up on Friday feeling an incredible urge to go for a run on the beach.  The sun was coming out, the weather was nice, and I've been maintaining good form here by eating healthy and exercising.  Well...I thought I was prepared for the run ahead of me...but I'm still recovering today!  The bay looked small from the mountain but what was intended to be a nice mile or two run barefoot in the sand turned into a 20 km (half-marathon) survivor excursion.  I just kept going and going and going and going...couldn't stop.  It was one of those runs.  But...about half way through, I started to feel the sand wearing and tearing on my body.  Not only had I not properly hydrated or eat enough that morning, my feet were starting to blaze in the hot sand since I was barefoot and I had the unfortunate occasion of stepping on a few rocks and shells that caused my steps in the sand to be permanent blood tracks.  Despite the pain, I just kept going...mesmorized by all wild animals, jelly fish, birds, turtles, and everything else that was on the beach during my run.  A quick look towards the sea was just enough motivation to keep on keeping on.  I'd say a good 8-10 miles would have been good enough though because the last few were the biggest struggle.  Running in the sand is no joke and my body was its victim.  I did indeed finish after a good 5-5.5 hours but an inability to walk for a week and constant icing was the only thing that followed.

I did in fact though have enough energy to hobble my way to the bus station because there was no way I was going to miss the 2nd biggest Oktoberfest celebration in the world outside of Munich! A quick 3 hour ride west put me and my friends in a German beer-drinking and schnitzel-eating paradise!!!  I was so amazed...all the blue eyed and blonde haired Portuguese speakers were alive and well.  We bought the German caps, straps, and mugs and started our Saturday with bratwurst, weiner schnitzel, pretzels, goulash, sauerkraut, and more!  We made our way to all the beer tastings and spent some time listening to the live bands.  The whole venue was a gigantic German village...giving it a very European feel with lots of shops and plenty of food.  It was a great day and a ton of fun!

Although my visit to Floripa was supposed to be a relaxing weekend, you can see that it probably did more damage to my body than respite. haha.  Nevertheless, I spent all Sunday on the beach just reading and sleeping as means of recovery and then braved the Brazilian holiday traffic (which is god awful) all the way home.

Check out the photos from Floripa and the Blumenau Oktoberfest here!

Recent Article

Good morning followers!

I ran across this article about Sao Paulo and I wanted to share with you are...I think this author actually does a pretty good job of capturing the "essence" of what is Sao Paulo.

Check it out and start planning your spring break trips to visit me!


Many more updates to come!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Plenty of updates

Well blog followers...I've been MIA...and certainly apologize if you've been waiting with baited breath for me to make another post! I had some important matters to attend to that have been taking up most of my time the last two weeks but things have finally slowed down and I'm gearing up for vacation so there are plenty of updates! In no specific order....

Although I said no specific order, this easily gets a #1 here...I ate Skyline Chili!!! It was the most incredible moment I've had in recent history haha.  I had to grate my own cheese but it was delicious.  I have two cans left so I'm saving them for celebratory moments in the coming few months.

I also had some midterm and final exams about a week ago.  Only about half the grades are posted so we'll see how well I did.  They do things a little differently here.  Mostly lecture lecture lecture and then just one midterm or final and that's your grade. It's usually about a 2-3 hour handwritten essay...craziness! Especially when it's in another language....

I finally hit the jackpot with the federal police and got registered...it was not an easy process though.  They've been on strike and their website was down so I couldn't schedule an appointment. So we decided to take a screenshot of the faulty website and go there personally to explain the situation.  We got there and got in line and although we didn't have an appointment, the lady there said she could squeeze us in.  Then she switched roles with another lady who...well...let's put it this way...it would be inappropriate in every way shape and form to discuss this individual.  She was the absolute most rude person I've ever met in my life.  The attitude was palpable.  The smug and despising looks were grotesque and her interactions with the customers were a far cry from being remotely friendly. So after we had stood there for over an hour she denied us.  That's when the real KQ came out and pulled out all Portuguese, English, Spanish, and even some Greek right there in line and was not taking no for an answer.  I've been here for almost 3 months now and I was getting the runaround and I wasn't going to have it.  So luckily I was able to manage my way to the supervisor to explain the entire situation and well...needless to say...after a good 5 hours there...I am finally a legal resident of Brazil!!! This is mostly important because I can now travel outside of the country and get back in.

What else...well my registration was not very welcoming and neither was the scam artist who stole my credit card number and decided that they wanted to buy $7,500 worth of clothing and make-up here in Sao Paulo.  So, I spent another afternoon on the phone with good 'ole American Express.  I tell you what....if you don't have an AMEX, you are missing out on one of the most assuring and customer friendly companies in the world.  The service was fantastic. They blocked every fraudulent charge and are express mailing me a new card to arrive Monday.  Now that's how you keep a customer happy!

Other things to note...I started two new classes...which I'm in love with. Some of you may vomit when I say this...but hey...someone has to love this stuff!!! 1. Simulation Models in Finance.  It's like financial calculus. Super interesting stuff and we get to have class with my favorite thing in the world...Microsoft Excel! 2. Brazilian Tax Law. Ok, I think I'm going to write a whole blog post on this one class. It was SO SO SO interesting. Now, I'm an accounting nerd who wrote his Boren proposal to come to Brazil to study tax reform so you understand why I loved it....but I think you all would actually enjoy hearing about it a little. The way the tax system has affected economics here is fascinating. More to come....

So the only bad part about these two classes starting is that this school I'm going to is an organizational nightmare.  They switched the calendars and two of these classes now overlap times. What is a student supposed to do?! I can't drop either class at this point and more importantly, I don't want to drop either of them. They're fascinating. But this forced me to just email the professors and explain that the school changed the dates and because the Law school and the Business school don't cross-communicate, I'm now stuck in this dilemma. But, you could say that I'm not surprised...the organization is a complete joke. Even as I identified the issue in the online system, I came across a notification that I was registered for a class that I never asked to be in. I got this notification because it said I had missed too many courses and thus, I was going to fail. I was very confused and looked up the information and sure enough...my school registered me for a class that I had no clue existed, never attended, never asked to be in it, and now they say they can't do anything about it....that I will just fail it.  You best believe another KQ session is about to be had.  Especially after I didn't get to participate in the fair haha.

The last two weekends I did go to parties that were planned by the school. The first was a battle of the bands competitions between all the local universities. Very cool. And this past weekend was like a 20's themed party which was outrageous. At least 5,000 people went, very swanky, great music, and a lot of fun. I kept thinking...gosh if this school could run its class operations like it runs a party...I'd be in a whole lot better shape! haha. Nevertheless, it was a good time.

Today we went on two company visits. The first was to a wildlife preservation company and the second was to a beer manufacturer! Both were very interesting visits. We did some planting and had some meaningful discussion about environmental policy here in Brazil and then followed that up with some beer tasting! haha.  Small world...one of the guys that was on the company tour with us, studying at another local university here, is a PIKE! We were on the tour and he had a PIKE shirt on...I couldn't believe my eyes. Super small world. Nevertheless, we reminisced a bit about the good 'ole fraternal days.

Well, I think that's a healthy update for now. I'm heading to a small town for the weekend to get some R&R in and then heading out next weekend to Florianopolis...an island in the southern part of Brazil. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the whole country.  We're also going to take a day trip to the Blumenau Oktoberfest...the biggest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich! Very very excited.

Now that I have some of the heavy work behind me...I'll be back to more regular posts.  If you haven't done so already, check out the videos I posted earlier today.  I told a funny story in Portuguese, English, and Spanish!  You can finally compare the differences between them all.

Happy Homecoming to all my Bearcats. Wish I could be there. I'll be watching and rooting from here!

Host Family Hysteria Part II