Monday, May 28, 2012


So, I thought I'd write a quick entry about food. You all know I'm a big foodie, and I really haven't been talking about the subject enough on here!

I eat similar things everyday. Breakfast (café da manhã) in general here is a very light affair. I have toast with a bit of cheese or jam, some yogurt, a kind of specialty bread (pão de queijo or a kind of cake) and juice (suco), normally passion fruit (maracujá). I find that if I have coffee at all during the day it's normally around 3-4pm, not in the morning. It's just so hot here!

For those of us who have no idea what the hell passion fruit really is (myself included!)

Pão de queijo

During the week I get to eat lunch (almoço) with my students at Cenarte. They prepare very traditional Brazilian food like rice, beans, some variety of meat (normally beef, either ground or chopped into small pieces that you'd expect to see in a stew), a vegetable dish (once had mashed potatoes, which they call a purê), and a salad (sometimes with beets, tomatoes, or cucumbers). On the weekends, most people here love to go to the mall to eat at the food courts. Sounds blasé, and yes there are Burger King's and McDonald's all over, but I did have some amazing sushi at one of the malls here: salmon sashimi wrapped around cream cheese and passion fruit. Made to order!

Confusingly, lanche (which sounds just like our "lunch") is a snack around 4 in the afternoon. For me, I have a snack on my way home from work, so a little before 3. I walk to Cenarte and back everyday, and I pass a lot of small restaurants or lanchonetes. I've found one that I really like due to its very long list of fruit juices, most of which I can't pronounce and don't recognize. So, for lanche, I'll get some kind of juice, today I tried a new one and for the life of me I can't remember the name (!!), and a pastry, sweet or savory depending on my mood. Savory pastries, like chicken tortes or pies, are very common. Today I had a piece of cake (more like a dry coffee cake in texture) with coconut on top. Yum!

Mystery juice and coconut cake. My R$3,70 reward to myself for teaching a good class. ;)

Lunch here seems to be the main meal of the day, so by the time dinner (janta) rolls around I find myself eating leftovers, making a sandwich, or going out somewhere with friends. I've been out to a pizza place here that was very good. You could order pizza by the slice with loads of different toppings. My favorite had steak and garlic amongst other things. I also went to a place where the entire food selection is made of various soups and stews and you combine all the ones you want in one bowl and have at it. I didn't like that one as much. Last night I went to a street fair at the University Plaza that they have every Sunday, and I had a creme (juice with milk and sugar added) de Acaí and some pasta from a small Italian stand. Finishing that off for dinner tonight!

Street fair

That's condensed milk drizzled inside my drink. Super sweet!

And walking home from the grocery store today I saw these three dogs relaxing in the shade by the mailboxes outside my apartment. Have to share.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unexpected Long Weekend

Well, my classes were canceled both Friday and Saturday. I got a call from Roseanna, a woman who works at Cenarte, at 9:30am Friday morning telling me most people had left town for the holiday. So, I had a pretty relaxing long weekend! On Friday I attempted another bus excursion on my own. I wanted to go to one of the malls here (Flamboyant) to see if there were any good workbooks that I could use in my English classes. The hardest part about taking the bus is finding a place that sells tickets! Especially considering it was a holiday weekend most kiosks were closed. I kept asking where bus tickets (SitPass) were sold and after walking for 20 minutes I found a place. I bought 2 tickets (ida e volta) and then picked up the next 021 bus to pass by.

I seem to always have an embarrassing run in on the bus here. There are turnstiles in the front of the bus where you have to scan your card or insert a ticket to be able to pass. I've been stuck there a few times so far for various reasons. On Friday, it was because I didn't know you had to rip off the top part of the ticket so that the machine would accept it. Definitely won the FOREIGN stamp on that encounter. People stopped staring at me about 3 stops later.

Church near where I'm living
The malls here are what you'd expect back home. They are very nice, clean places full of expensive, designer stores and food courts. Having no luck with the books (they were 50+ American dollars each!), I ate dinner there and about 2 hours later left for home. I met a nice girl at the bus stop who spoke about as much English as I do Portuguese, and we talked until I got off. Bruna's family was visiting for the holiday weekend, so when I got home I joined them in watching a movie that was, thankfully, in English.

On Saturday I went along with Bruna's family to a friend's house. It was my first experience seeing a Brazilian equivalent of a suburb. The family friends lived in a gated community a bit outside of the city. All of the houses were very modern, with huge windows that sometimes where three stories tall. I got to swim there and enjoy a Brazilian cookout. Very yummy.

Amanda invited me to see a dance performance that evening. We went to Teatro Sesi together to see a group of young, contemporary dancers give their first performance called "Um Olhar para Dentro," which google translated into "A Look Inside." It was a good show, very weird and interesting. I tried to understand as much as the abstract meaning as possible due to me not understanding most of the voice overs between parts. I think I did pretty well. Afterwards when Amanda and I were exchanging notes, we had the same impressions on the show regarding concept, overall flow, and music choice. Not bad; not bad!

Today I was invited to eat at Bruna's grandmother's home. It was really nice and not too far from where I'm living now. My conversation skills are really improving I think. I talked with Bruna's father a lot about motocross, travel, and photography. I even listened to, understood, and debated points on city life around the world: like whether or not class or population size determines how nice people are to each other. I'm super proud of myself for that one.

a familia!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Today is a holiday (feriado) in Goiania, I believe celebrating their patron saint (?), so class was canceled. It was a nice break, especially considering the long day I had Wednesday. Class Wednesday was extremely energetic. You wouldn't think teaching the ABC's would cause riotous shouting and laughter ringing out the windows, but they did! I ended class with a game where two groups of students race to write down the first letter of a word that I say out loud. They then have to thrust their mini-white boards (purchased from Target for $1. Thanks mom!) in the air before the other team. It was insane! The losing team had to dance for the rest of the class, and I was somehow coerced into singing for them so that they would have music. Thank you Lady Gaga for coming to my rescue. How my mind blanks when I'm put on the spot!! I thought it would be appropriate to have a fun class right before the holiday, and I definitely succeeded. I just hope they remember some of it!

Where I work

I completely passed out after the hot, sticky walk home after class. I was completely beat. I somehow managed to get up 2 hours later, just in time to get ready and have Marina pick me up. We went to her house to have dinner and to kill time before the party at El Club around midnight. I started the night off drinking a slightly sweet champagne mixed with peach juice. The juice here, even out of the carton, is way better than anything we have back in the USA. It was the best makeshift Bellini I've made to date. Ana, the intern from Mexico, was there (she's staying with Marina while she's here) as well as an intern from Colombia I hadn't met before named Camila. We had a fun time speaking a hilarious, mind twisting language we liked to call Englisportañol. For example, Eu estoy talking. Haha, insanity. AIESEC trainees from Colombia, Mexico, USA, and the Netherlands! Quite an international night.

Stolen from Camila's Facebook

El Club was fun. Typical gay/hipster/"alternativo" crowd that is way cooler than I'll ever care to be. I think it's pretty funny because I didn't really pack any clothing for going out at night. Everything I have was packed with the idea of being a teacher in mind. So, every time I go out I feel like I'm ready for an interview or something. No worries!

Mysterious pool that is off limits

Amazing bathroom

We got home around 5 but had to wake up at 11am because Bruna's family is in town. I went out with Bruna, her sister Angelica, their younger sister and parents to eat and shop at the Flamboyant shopping center. After we hung out in the park next door, drinking coconut water as we wandered around the pretty grounds.

Parque Flamboyant

Sweetened popcorn. Couldn't get an answer about why it's fuchsia.

There were a ton of parties to go to tonight, but I decided to stay home and plan lessons. I'm so exhausted mentally because of the language barrier and constructing my own curriculum, not to mention the physical fatigue from dancing for hours last night! Sounds like a good night to snack on cookies and play Diablo 3.

<3 Maybe I'll get to play with someone special! ;)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Looking Up

I just finished up my second day teaching at Cenarte. Today was pretty wonderful. They invited me to come early to have lunch with them, which is really nice considering my limited resources at home. I have an ever changing group of students due to their scheduled rehearsal times and dance classes, but everyone is really eager to learn. They all know each other very well and are pretty outgoing and funny. I wrote out a pretty extensive lesson plan to introduce the alphabet today, but I barely got into it because we had such a good time with my warm up and review activities. I now know that the students are "false beginners," meaning that they've studied English sometime in the distant past, have forgot it all, but catch on super quick once it starts to come back. I wasn't really sure what to expect until the first class! All is good though. One girl even gave me a homemade chocolate after class. Yes!

My classroom

They asked me to stay to watch one of their dance classes. The teacher Greyson had been in my English class just today. He has the most advanced English of anyone I've met so far there. He's an amazing dancer, and I really enjoyed watching the class. I haven't been in a ballet class since middle school!


Also, in more grandiose, life-changing news, I got accepted into an English teaching program in Spain through their Ministry of Education!

I applied for the grant last November and have been waiting for a response ever since. Thank you to all of the friends and family who supported me during that painful period of not knowing what the hell I was going to do for the next year of my life! I was assigned to the state Castilla y León, home to cities such as Salamanca and Valladolid, which I actually have not visited! I'm so excited. I think that starts in September, and I'll be there for 9 months. Life is good.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Fun

So, I ended my last post before the sun set, but as everyone can imagine, I didn't go to bed so early. I actually had a really nice couple of hours hanging out with Bruna's sister Angelica who lives right across the hall. She made me dinner, and we talked our way around any language barriers. She doesn't speak English as well as Bruna, but she's awesome. After dinner, I went out with Bruna and two of her friends to El Club, one of the "alternativo" places to go here in Goiania. The owner converted a house into a club, so the main area is a large open air patio with a pool (which I was told no one uses). There's a small room in the back for dancing. Probably the coolest things about the place were:

1. fingerprint scanners that keep track of how much you're spending on the entry fee and drinks 
2. the wall art: pretty intricate street art style, and the ladies' restroom was painted neon green with black outlines of dinosaurs.
They had various DJs throughout the night that played a mix of Brazilian and American hip hop and rap. I kind of won the spot light when one DJ put on "Lonely Boy" by the Black Keys. My insane, spastic dancing and the fact that I sang every word to TLC's "No Scrubs" and Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" definitely won me the big fat label of FOREIGN. I mean, what would you have done? I hung out there until about 5am.

On Saturday I was invited to visit a girl named Marina's family "farm" outside of the city. It's more like a really nice ranch style house. Her grandfather owns a ton of land there, as well as cows, pigs, chickens, and even acres of cotton surrounding the place. It was a lot of fun. I met an AIESEC intern named Anna from Mexico and got to practice my Spanish a lot with her. There were about 7 other people (gente boa!) there besides Marina's family. I saw the biggest frog of my life on the patio that night and got to drink champagne while swimming in the heated pool. Awesome time!

Look at how flippin' beautiful this place is. I feel like the sky is bigger here, completely dominating the landscape, which is just soft, rolling hills and greenery everywhere. There are also killer sunsets every night. It's so wonderful.

I'm pretty sure I'm starting work tomorrow. Amanda is coming over at noon to help me find my way on the bus. I hope it goes well! Enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

First Attempt at Solitary City Exploration

Well, I never did get to teach this week. The students had a last minute rehearsal called for a performance they gave today at a local rehab center. I believe I'll start Monday, but who really knows? I've been told that the students are very excited to begin class. That makes me feel hopeful. I might be teaching everyday except Sunday. It's a bit intensive, but the weekday classes are only from 1-2:30. The Saturday class sounds a bit daunting, as it's schedule to be from 8-noon. That seems like overkill, so I'm going to try and talk to my elusive boss Adriana sometime this weekend.

So Friday, having no plans, I decided to venture out on my own to crack the bus system. It's pretty complicated. There are a lot of routes and different price levels of buses depending how much you value air conditioning. Probably the trickiest part for me so far is that you can't buy tickets on the bus. You have to buy them or charge money to a card at random kiosks throughout the city.

I decided to go to Bosque dos Buritis. Finding the right bus stop and number was relatively simple: just mapped it out using Google and then found more information on Goiania's bus website. Finding tickets on the other hand was a bit harder. I went to kiosk after kiosk on my way to a bus stop in Praça Universitaria, but they were all out of tickets. I'm not sure how that works. I asked for directions a lot, and thanks to the chapter in my Complete Portuguese book that I finished before leaving the apartment, I actually found my way to a shop that still had some tickets. 

Props to me because Praça Universitaria is kind of a war zone right now considering they tore out all of the sidewalks. You have to hop, skip, and jump your way through uprooted slabs of cement, large piles of debris, and insane, incoming traffic. Besides learning such urban skills as these, I've also become much better at crossing at roundabouts. It's probably more accurate to call it dashing. Don't worry. I'm being careful! 

The park was pretty. Lots of forested paths, lakes, and relaxing places to sit. I read a bit there and then checked out the small Art Museum that was also conveniently inside the park. 

I made the spontaneous decision to walk home instead of ride the bus (which turned out to be an excellent idea because all 027 buses that passed me were packed). It wasn't so far, maybe a mile, and I stopped at a small café along the way to have a coffee (pre-sweetened, like the chai in India) and a pastry. I don't know the name of it, but it was filled with frongo (chicken). Was a total of R$1,80. That's a dollar. 

Walking home really helped me get my bearings. There was some neat art on the way home that I got to inspect more closely too. Cute mermaid! She has a brunette sister on the opposite side.

I passed through Praça Civica where the government buildings are and then walked done the long avenida leading up to Praça Universitaria. I hung out there, attracted initially by blasting Beatles tunes and numerous groups of students relaxing over a beer or soda.

I ended up staying for an hour or so because a drum line type group showed up. Combined with the extremely pleasant weather, it was a perfect way to end my first work week here in Goiania!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Brazilian Way

Tuesday I finally met Amanda, a girl who, via Facebook, has been helping me prepare for my job here in Goiania. She picked me up at Bruna's apartment to go visit Cenarte (where I'm going to work). It was just sort of an introductory visit, so I could talk to a few people and see where I'll be teaching.

Things ended up changing a lot. Amanda talked with my boss Adriana and it was decided that I would teach an adult group instead of children. This decision wasn't made based on my experience or anything of the kind: just their needs. Normally I'd be a bit peeved that my job description was abruptly changed. After all, I did put a lot of work into organizing and preparing materials geared more towards children! However, I think this adult group will be pretty cool and actually quite relevant to my expertise. I'll explain.

The adult group is part of the "Projeto Atitude." They travel pretty frequently to arts conferences to perform and give workshops on dance and theater. So, this group is scheduled to travel to Italy in July and then to London in August to help with some cultural aspect of the Olympics. Sorry if the details are a bit sketchy. I was being translated to and was skimming the top off a conversation completely given in Portuguese. Anyway, they want me to give a sort of crash course in "survival English," which is actually exactly what I helped teach at the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. I also need to incorporate English related to travel and the arts so they can communicate in London. I think it's pretty ironic because anyone who knows me well is probably saying, "Wow, Lauren, you're made for that job!" Especially considering I've been to London and several cities in Italy, I think I'll be able to help them out a lot. 

If I can only figure out how to make a lesson plan! Amanda took me to her university's library, and we checked out several English teaching guides. They seem pretty old or just well used. One is even by the Australian government!

There are still many unknown variables in the mix: how many students do I have? what is their level of English? what are my hours? All of this, this craziness and spontaneity and how you respond to it, I'm told, is called "the Brazilian Way." The first time I heard this referenced was when I was told that I needed to by a sim card. However, there aren't any sim cards to fit my iPhone 4S, so it's common here to physically cut the chip to fit the phone. My teaching situation is just another example of making due and figuring things out on the fly. This is an excellent life skill that I really need to practice. I am, as you probably know, a perpetual worrier and surefire daughter of pilots.

Culture shock, I will beat you and come out on the other side better for it! If only I could learn how to deal with cockroaches better... That's the next step, I suppose.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Arrival- Chegada

Ok, so I arrived in Brasilia this morning at 7am. I slept the whole flight after watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and arrived feeling more or less human. Customs took an age and waiting for my checked bag to make an appearance on the baggage claim was torture. I knew they had lost it! But, then there it was, Hogwarts identification tag and everything. I then had to complete a small scavenger hunt, armed only with broken Portuguese phrases and a healthy Spanish reservoir for backup. I needed an ATM, a phone card to call my contacts in Goiania, and to find the bus from the airport to the bus station. Many circuits of the airport lobby later, I had found all these things, called Camilla, and was safely on Onibus 113- executivo. I miraculously made it to the bus station...

Unfortunately, I went to the wrong bus station. I followed directions and everything, but I went to the old, local-only bus station when I needed to go to the newer, regional station. So, I dragged myself onto the metro and headed to Estaçao Shopping, hoping to god that there would be buses there. It all worked out in the end. I was just in time to catch the executive bus to Goiania at 10am (a more direct route than the normal buses), and I arrived 3 hours later. I slept most of the bus ride, thankful to finally be in the right place.

On the bus to Goiania

I met Camilla, Lara, and Bruna (my host) at the McDonald's at the station in Goiania. They're all extremely nice and speak English brilliantly. Lara had to skip off to class, so Camilla dropped Bruna and I off at her flat. She has a really nice studio apartment. It's pretty basic and small, but I think it's really charming. I have a pull out mattress that I'll sleep on later tonight and even a few drawers to call my own. I'm happy. She lives in the Universitario area of the city, which is unfortunately under some extreme construction, but it's a neat neighborhood all the same. We walked around a bit, bought some groceries, and had a coffee. I even helped her edit the English version of her resume. I think we're going to be great roommates.

Tonight we went out with a bunch of AIESEC members from Goiania to celebrate one of their birthdays. We went to probably the most authentic Brazilian place imaginable. You might not have heard of it. It's called Outback Steakhouse.

Haha! Yeah, that cheesy Australian steakhouse we all loathe for its terrible commercials and ridiculously high caloric meals. Well, it looked exactly the same as any other Outback I've experienced in the US except the menu was in Portuguese and it was crazy expensive, even in dollars. But, I had a lot of fun. I met another intern here from Holland named Anne, and we get along great. She's been here 2 weeks, and we hopefully will get a chance to explore the city together.

One half of our table

I've been told that tomorrow I'm going to get to check out my workplace. Not sure if that means I'm going to start or if it's just a shadow/introduction day. That's not until 2pm tomorrow, so I'll have some time to prepare in the morning just in case I do have to teach. In any case, the exhaustion has finally hit me, so I'm going to call it a night.

Boa noite!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

En route

Thanks to my mother and Rick Houck's incredible employee benefits ( they're both Delta pilots) I now find myself comfortably seated in business class on the way to Brasilia!

It hasn't quite sunk in yet that this adventure has begun. I'm sure it'll hit hard when I arrive. Being somewhat mute and illiterate in a foreign country is bound to wake up most people! I have my bus route from the Brasilia airport to the Rodoviaria (bus station) mapped out thanks to a nice and extremely helpful girl in Goiania named Amanda. She's part of AIESEC and will help me get started at work. I'll then take a bus to Goiania, which hopefully will only take a few hours. Sounds easy enough, right? ;)

See you in Brazil!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Lead Up

In just 48 hours I'll find myself at the Atlanta Airport. For once I'll be checking a bag. I tried to condense 2 months in Brazil into a carry-on, but all of the teaching materials I'm bringing demanded more space. As a frequent international traveler and daughter of two pilots, I'm definitely ashamed. So, with a larger bag than I'm comfortable admitting that I own I'll be heading down to Brazil for the summer this Sunday evening, also known as Mother's Day. (Love you, Mom!)

When I tell people I'm going to Brazil, the reaction is either, "Be careful. It's dangerous!" or "Oh, you're going to Rio?"

Thank you for all the warnings based mostly on sensationalist news-headline reading and the occasional documentary viewing, I do appreciate them. And yes, I will be careful. Just as I'm careful in Atlanta or anywhere else!

Rio? Well, no, I'm not going to live there, but hopefully I will visit!

Another question I get asked a lot is, "How'd you land this internship?" To answer this question, and to hopefully calm the anxiety of many a family member, I got the internship through the student organization AIESEC. I had to go through an application and interviewing process (and yes, there was even a fee!) to be accepted by the organization. Then, I was allowed to peruse their listings of internships (both paid and non-paid, imagine!) anywhere from Portugal, to Thailand, to, well, Brazil.

I found a lot of listings in South America, my ideal location when starting my search, but the listing in Goiania, Brazil really caught my attention. It advertised teaching English classes to children (14 and under, I'm told) in a small organization called Cenarte, which encourages the arts in the community. I was pretty smitten with this listing since it combined teaching English, my ideal profession at the moment, with my varied, artistically inclined interests, worthy of any dilettante.

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I, of course, sent an email of interest and eventually had an interview over Skype. It was successful, and here I am, months later, almost ready to go. Yeah, I'm not really done packing.

Anyway, I'll be updating hopefully a couple times a week, so stay tuned to see what the whole experience will be like. It's an interim in Brazil, to be sure, but its impact, I have a feeling, will be anything but temporary.