Friday, June 29, 2012

Let's Not Call It a Goodbye

This last week has been crazy! I worked everyday like normal, but every class was tinged with the foreshadowing of a very deep saudade that I'm going to experience once everything is over and I'm on the road. I went to ballet class again, since it was my last chance. Carol and I hung out a lot, went shopping and bought some nice things together. I cooked for her. She thought it was weird that I served garlic bread with pasta. I kind of agree with her. I saw Anne for the last time before I meet her in Rio in 2 weeks. I drank as much maracujá juice as I could stomach. I bought a pair of special shoes to commemorate this whole experience since Goiania lacks a market for touristy keepsakes. It's no coincidence they are maracujá yellow.

Ballet with Hayron. This class destroyed me.

Sunrise from Carol's apartment

Photoshoot with Carol! Was hilarious. Haha.

I unfortunately had to say goodbye to Carol early. Her classes ended earlier than she had anticipated, so she decided to head home. It was so sad saying goodbye! I came to Amanda's, which was quite a hike going to work. I sympathize completely with Anne, who has had an even longer commute into the city, and she's been doing it everyday since she arrived! At least for me, it was just two days of commuting.

Today was my last day of work! I gave a short class, adding some more practice to my abbreviated unit on understanding directions. It was just a front though. They wanted to get me out of the way so they could organize a little party! There was a lot of food, coffee, and juice, and we all took loads of photos and gave various speeches (in Portuguese of course!) about the past month and a half. I almost cried. It was so sweet! They gave me a present with chocolate, a big card, a bilingual Bible (it's a Christian organization), a t-shirt of the company... It was really special. 

The group! Mais ou menos

A nice card

I know I'm going to have some hard "reverse culture shock" when I get home. I'm going to try and relax and just enjoy the next 2 weeks of travel, but I do really feel sad already! My job here in Goiania was a dream. As hard as it was at times working alone with 0 oversight, my students were awesome, and I felt appreciated, valued, and respected. I need that in a job. If I'm just another face in the crowd, where people really don't give a damn whether I lived or died, it's really hard on me, especially when I work as hard as I do. I hope in Spain I have the same kind of warm, supportive community that I found here.

Oh, good news! Marlan and I got together again yesterday to do another photoshoot! Here are the iPhone previews.

More to come!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Favorites from the Photoshoot with Marlan

Here are some photos from the shoot! Enjoy! 

Makeup, styling, and photography credit go to Marlan Cotrim. I edited the photos. Don't take them without asking. 

Gotta laugh at all of this!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Model Behavior

This past week was pretty chill. I mostly just tried to get settled in here at Carol's, like finding the nearest grocery store, finding the best route to walk to work, the buses near me...etc. I've also been trying to narrow down what I should teach these last few days of class. It's insane that I only have a week left of work! I'm going to try and tackle a lot these last 5 classes so they can get as much exposure to vocabulary and new things as possible before I leave. I'm thinking food/restaurant vocab, airport stuff, and directions.

Spent way too much time making these for the food/restaurant unit
Rehearsal after English class

Tuesday night though Amanda took me to a concert at her university (UFG). They have two campuses: one that was right near my place at Bruna's and another that is about 20 minutes outside of the city. The concert was at the farther location, and the guy playing was Chico César. It was a lot of fun! I had been wanting some exposure to Brazilian music, so finally I got the chance!

I also finally received the package Dustin sent me! He sent it May 22, and I just got it! It took a lot longer than we thought. What's worse is that I had to pay a lot of money to claim it. Try R$186. Damn taxes. He sent me a lot of nice surprises, like Snickers and Reeses (which are quite a hit among my Brazilian friends here), as well as some more sentimental gifts. Definitely made my day!

Poor package went through all 9 levels of hell to get here!

Friday was a lot of fun. One of my students Marlan is a make-up artist as well as dancer, and he had asked me a couple of weeks ago if I'd model for him to help build up his portfolio. We decided to meet up on Friday after lunch. I brought my D70, what little make-up I have here in Brazil, as well as some jewelry to help with styling. We chose two different looks, one more natural and the other pretty heavy and 20s inspired. It was a lot of fun! I'm definitely not the best model (0 muscle control!), but we got a lot of good photos that show his work off rather nicely. He's really talented! Just 18 and he's already been doing this 3 years. I'll post some of my favorite photos from the shoot once I finish editing them!

Marlan and I accessorizing

Yesterday Anne and I went to Goiania's first tattoo convention. It was pretty small, but it was still neat. A lot of tattoo shops from Goiania and other cities in Brazil were there showing off their work, as well as tattooing people right there in the convention hall. There were also "best of" categories, like best back piece, black and white, "oriental," you name it. Anne and I also found out that a five pointed start on a person's left chest/shoulder area means that they're gay here in Brazil. Who knew?


It was great seeing Anne because this past week I laid pretty low. She's one of my favorite people that I've met here, and I'll be sad to say goodbye! After the convention we went to a nice dinner, and went to an AIESEC house party outside of the city with Amanda and Delano. It was pretty crazy, as is typical, but I had a nice time, dancing and practicing Portuguese with whoever would look at me. Everyone is always really impressed with how quickly I've picked up the language. As much as I would love to take all the credit, I know Spanish has given me an enormous head start on learning the language.  

Anne, me and Mariana at the party

It's ironic though because now when I do try to speak Spanish, which is honestly pretty often due to trainees like Ana from Mexico and other trainees from Colombia, I barely can get out the words before they automatically transform into Portuguese. I have to close my eyes, speak  slowly, and rip my brain back into its Spanish zone. It's incredibly difficult to do and rather unpleasant. I've only been here 6 weeks and Spanish has completely yielded itself to the violent influx of Portuguese. Our minds are crazy and awesome. I mean, I know that when I go to Spain in a couple of months that Spanish will come roaring back with a vengeance. I just hope I can hold onto what Portuguese I've learned. I can confidently say that in 6 weeks I've reached a very solid conversational level of speaking and an even higher level of reading. To me Portuguese is more interesting and more fun to speak anyway! When I do manage to speak Spanish correctly here, I find it to be boring and flat. Weird, huh?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back to Our Scheduled Programming

Ok, so now that I've got all of the setbacks out of my system, let's get back to normal life. The housing issue has resolved itself thanks to an AIESECer named Delano and a former (current?) AIESECer and good friend Amanda. Thanks to them I'm living with a girl named Carol whom I met my first weeks here. Remember that cool trip out to the farm? Champagne and swimming pools? Beautiful landscape photos? Yep, met her there.

I mean, how can you forget?

I stayed at Amanda's last night after I finished packing up all my things at Bruna's. Amanda lives on the west side of Goiania, so rather far from where I work and the places I know best. She lives with her family, so mom, dad, and two older brothers, and they have a truly beautiful home. It's kind of modern but still with the patio style so commonly found in warm climates. Light filters in through palm trees onto white walls creating the most perfect light for a photo shoot. That kind of light is what I want in my next residence. It's so inspiring! Anyway, it was a treat staying with her. She's awesome company, and I even got my own room! I was fed amazing, movie worthy meals where the table was just overflowing with plates, pitchers, and sweets. It was like Christmas. They even have an Xbox, and when her eldest brother started to play Skyrim, well it almost felt like home! It's amazing how comforting the music of that game is. Anyone else feel the same? Besides Dustin? :P

Carol's apartment is really nice too. She lives alone in the Vila Nova district of Goiania, which is even closer to work than where I lived before! Today, it took me maybe 15 minutes to get to work instead of the usual 30. 

On Monday I decided not to go to work. I still felt pretty weak today after my battle with food poisoning? Dehydration? Really have no idea what happened. So, Amanda and I just hung out at home. She painted my nails, so I feel quite pretty. I planned a few lessons for class this week, and started a new book. I just finished The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One) by Patrick Rothfuss, and before I start the second I wanted to read something totally different. So, I chose The Sirens of Titan by Vonnegut which I bought for $2 on a Kindle Daily Deal before I left the US. It's weird. I like it.

I also wanted to tell you all that I started taking ballet lessons at the west side location of Cenarte. The teacher Hayron is one of my students, so it's a hilarious change of pace to have the tables turned. I've only been to once class so far, but it was fun, if terribly difficult. Amanda went with me, and even helped me look the part, pinning my hair into place and forcing me into a leotard that made my skin red for an hour. I have to say that I did look like a ballerina. If only I could dance!

Ballerina for the day. HA!

Celebratory crepe post-ballet class

Bia helped me find a store to buy some ballet slippers. The first class I wore just socks, but I found out that ballet shoes are pretty cheap here: just R$ 25. So, $13. They're black. I hate pink! Amanda told me that only men wear black though, so it's a good thing I'm not a serious dancer! Just doing it for the added strength and flexibility.

I was also interviewed last week! One of the universities here in Goiania, PUC, is doing a story on people who have gone to do volunteer work abroad. I went with another local AIESECer who went to India for 2 months. I was told I was chosen for the interview because of how long I've been here (5 weeks now!) and because I look very gringa. Certeza. Up until the last minute I was really prepping myself to do the interview in Portuguese, but after seeing the other interview I realized I couldn't really explain a lot of my motivations and deeper experiences in Portuguese quite yet. English it was. It'll supposedly air on national (!) television in July.

Finally, here's a photo of Bia's birthday party! It was a great time besides me getting sick the next day. Here we are with some other students of mine.

It's hard to believe I only have 2 weeks left here. Mom is hopefully going to visit at the end of the month so we can go traveling around Brazil. Where should we go?

Sunday, June 17, 2012


To this point I think it's fair to mention that this blog has been pretty rose-tinted. Not everything has been perfect, as I'm sure you can expect. Culture shock alone leaves most people feeling pretty worse for wear their first couple of weeks, let alone the many complications I've experienced here. While this post highlights many of the more negative moments of my stay here in Brazil, they in no way dampen the awesome times, and I'm so incredibly happy that I got this opportunity to work here.

That being said, the first complication after arrival was my job change. As you remember, I had been prepping to teach English to children, whereas now I teach English to adults. While this perplexed me at the start, the job ended up being perfect for me, and I'm enjoying it more than ever. I feel very lucky in this regard, as my main reason for coming here to Goiania was the job I found. It could have just as easily changed into something completely irrelevant or just plain terrible. I've heard of this happening to other interns here, and I really am thankful that this has been such a great professional experience for me.

This past week, quite a few other changes have popped up. Some are trivial. For instance, I now teach class at 8am instead of 1pm. Sure, I get up at 6:30am, but the walk to work is much cooler, I have the rest of the day to myself, and I have more students in my class. Can't complain about that. Another change, a bit more serious, is that I found out my job ends at the end of June. I had planned to work into July, but now I won't be needed past the 30th. This would have upset me if the third, rather abrupt and intensely frustrating change hadn't happened just the day before.

I got a text message at 7am Thursday morning as I was getting ready for work. Bruna was awake too but was having breakfast across the hall at her sister's apartment. The text said that I was going to change hosts this weekend, but that I need not worry because my next host was already set up. Wifi, my own room, and an even closer proximity to work were all reasons cited why this was going to be very beneficial for me.

Stunned, I stared at the phone for some time. I'm not a morning person anyway, and having been told you have to vacate your current residence for an unknown reason in 72 hours left me pretty speechless. I took the phone over to Bruna across the hall to see if it was all true. Yes, she admitted; her family was coming into town to buy a new apartment. They needed to move out ASAP, so I couldn't stay. That's fair.

But, why wasn't I told sooner? At least warned? Many reasons for that. My favorite and most irritating reason is that this had all been planned from the start. Everyone knew I was staying 2 months. Everyone, except me, also knew that I would only stay with Bruna for 1 month. I was assumed to have been told about this adjustment. Nope. Just found out. Via text. I'd like to stress that part. As a good friend of mine here said, "It's like a bad breakup." Or that Sex and the City episode with the Post-It. Except instead of losing a bad boyfriend, you're losing the roof over your head in a city you've just barely come to be familiar with.

Now, you're probably asking, what's the real problem here? Sure it sucks to be uprooted, but you've got an even "nicer" place waiting for you. Isn't this good? Well, I guess it has the potential to be good, except all that text message lead-up about where I'm living was bad information. The truth is that no one really knows who I'll be living with. I've done some work on my own and have some back-up plans, but nothing has been officially confirmed by AIESEC.

All this paired with the metabolic crash I had earlier today has left me feeling pretty tired. I was at Bia's house last night for her birthday party, and she invited me to stay the night. When I woke up this morning, I had terrible stomach pain along with weakness, hot-flashes, and nausea. This has happened to me before, and normally I wait for the worst of it to pass and try to get something into my stomach. That approach didn't work this time, as I watch myself get pale and clammy not once, but twice! Lovely.

Bia's kitty and I got to hang out

Bia's family took me over to the local public clinic where I was suited up for a saline solution IV after just giving them my Georgia driver's license and my mother's name. I'm told it's all free! The family was really nice about everything, and they even gave me a lift home so I wouldn't have to brave the buses in a weakened state.

No cultural experience is a complete without a visit to the hospital

So, there you have it: a more realistic addition to all the rosy posts I've been writing! ;) However, to be completely honest, most of the challenges I've faced here in Brazil have turned out well in the end. My job is awesome; my health has been pretty solid. And about this current housing crisis (ha!), I really think it'll work out, especially with some work on my part and help from friends. With only 2 weeks left to go of working, I want to thank my friends, both local and abroad, as well as my family for helping me with everything. It's been a whirlwind, but I've never been alone!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Movies and Mortality

I had another really nice long weekend! Got both Thursday and Friday off due to Corpus Christi. I didn't do anything too special, but I had a nice time. There was a big house party on Wednesday night to properly celebrate the coming of the long weekend. I went with Bruna to pizza beforehand, and I met the new intern from San Francisco. She's really nice, and after I made her try suco de maracujá, she's as obsessed as I am! Passion Fruit juice indeed. The party was a bit crazy for my taste, but I did have a lot of cool conversations with people ranging from such topics as divorce, video games, and etymology.


Fireworks on Corpus Christi!

Friday night was a bit different. Normally we go out to small bars or "alternativo" or gay clubs. Friday night we decided to head to the ritzier side of town in Setor Marista. One part of the neighborhood was nicknamed Beverly Hills due to the nice selection of bars and clubs. I went with Anne and Ana that night to meet up with some other interns and AIESECers. We mainly went because we thought we would get in for free. Entrance fees for that place can range from R$30-60 depending on if you're on the list and whether you're male or female.

Ana, me, Anne in Pacha

I had a good time that night for sure. The club wasn't anything special for me, but it was definitely "nicer" than anything I've seen here in Goiania so far. That being said, there wasn't much personality. Drinks were expensive and watered down. People walked around like they were too beautiful and too cool to be seen to even smile in public. I mean, my group danced pretty hard that night, but no one else did! What's more, people even laughed at us, which is ridiculous because the interns from NYC can really dance! I guess it's not normal to dance there. People just stand around because their dresses are too tight or they have so much hair gel they can't think straight. Haha, it turned out to be pretty expensive too. Our "list" guarantee hardly worked out. We had to argue with the manager until he gave us a cut in price. I would have paid R$65! And one guy with us paid over 100. It wasn't that fun, you know?

Otherwise, I went to some feiras in search of a pair of flats. This has proven to be very unsuccessful due to the large, narrow nature of my feet. I'm still trying though! Feiras always have great food though. For example...

Chicken kabob, rice, beans, tomato, and mantioc
Maracujá sundae
 On Sunday morning I went with Amanda to see a concert trio, so a pianist, cellist, and violinist. They were very good, and it was a nice throwback to my lifestyle at home hearing classical music. I really do miss singing.

I also went to see a couple of movies: Snow White and the Huntsmen and Prometheus. They were both in English with Portuguese subtitles, and I had to wait in ridiculous lines to see both. When have you had to wait to purchase a movie ticket for 45 minutes? Even for Harry Potter you only waited for ages to get in the damn theater!

Anyway, I actually really enjoyed Snow White. I had few expectations, and I was really captivated by the aesthetics and atmosphere of the movie. But honestly, where was the romance? Considering the title, you'd think we'd at least have a kiss!!! Where she's not in a coma/dead at least... Prometheus was amazing. I'd love to see it again! I'm such a fan of the other Alien movies that as soon as I even heard about this movie coming out I was counting down the days. The story didn't make complete sense to me, but the sense of dread, great acting, and special effects pulled me in completely! Dustin got to see it in IMAX. I can only imagine how amazing that was!

Oh, and today, the craziest thing happened on my way to work! I was walking along like normal, and out of nowhere a bus drives by, rather quickly even for Brazilian standards. I think it caught the power lines because they came crashing down, catching branches along the way, right in front of me! They hit the ground with a BANG worthy of a nice firework. I was so stunned. I had no idea what had happened! I just stood there saying "MEU DEUS!" over and over. Nice run in with my own mortality.

So close to my head!

This week, I'm looking forward to class as normal. I'm also going to try to go to a ballet class on Wednesday, so I'll definitely take a picture or two if that ends of happening. Ha! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pros of Being a Teacher

This week Bia, one of my students, invited me to spend the night at her house with her family. She lives a bit outside Goiania, but we got there by bus pretty easily. I taught my class like normal on Wednesday and then after she taught her ballet class to some younger girls we set out. When we arrived her mother was making pão do queijo from scratch and there was already a bolo de milho in the oven (think sweet corn bread). I enjoyed this snack with some coffee (pre-sweetened, of course!), while exploring the house a bit. Bia has the tiniest kitten who roams around the house squeaking when she's not attacking your toes. Adorable!

pão do queijo

bolo de milho

So small!!!

Besides giving ballet classes at Cenarte, Bia gives classes from home. Her father built her a ballet studio in the house! Their front room is decked out with mirrors and bars. It's a really neat set up! Great way for her to bring in some income. Luckily, none of her students could make it that night, so we strolled around her neighborhood a bit. I tasted my first pamonha there too. It's sort of like a tamale? I had mine sweet though, which was good, if very rich.

outside of her house

A lot of her family lives in town very close to her, so that night it was kind of like a big party. One of Bia's older sisters was there with her young children, an older brother, Bia's boyfriend, a cousin... What was neat about this experience was that no one spoke English! It was 100% Portuguese unless someone wanted to know how to say something in English. It was great. I feel like I understood the majority of what was being said, and I conversed on a lot of tough subjects. They are such a nice family. They were really genuinely interested in me, where I come from, how I see the world, where I've been, etc, even Bia's nephews who couldn't have been over 11! We all hung out and talked until about 11:30 that night.

sunset from their front door

It was a really good week. My boss Adriana told me that I can take dance classes through the company for free! They even have voice lessons. I'm not sure what to take. I'm thinking ballet, even if it's just once a week. a/Tomorrow is another feriado, Corpus Cristi, so I don't have class Thursday or Friday. I really need to look up the schedule of Brazilian holidays so I can plan a trip in advance!

You know that by Monday next week I'll have been in Brazil 4 weeks? Time flies!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lessons, Idiocy, and Cremes

This week my blog passed 1000 views! Thank you so much everyone for your support and vicarious enjoyment of my couple of months here in Brazil!

I also received an update regarding my placement in Spain. In September I'll be moving to Valladolid, a city with a municipal population of around 300,000. I'll commute to teach in a small town called Mojados. According to Google, that should take anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending where I live in the city. Exciting!

Exibir mapa ampliado
This week was also my first normal week of teaching. Last week, two of my classes were canceled, so it was hard to really find the rhythm of what my life here will be like. So, everyday at about 11, I set out on foot to work. Sometimes I stop at a papelaria (like a print and copy shop) to churn out some worksheets I made the night before. Yes, I'm using all of my own materials to teach this class! That just means I scour the internet for inspiring ideas about how to teach x subject, whether it be games, activities, or just how to explain the difference between no and not, and then I write it all down so I have something resembling a lesson plan.

For instance, this week I taught numbers, color, the simple present tense, and even got started on personal adjectives. As much fun as I have teaching light grammar lessons, learning personal descriptors has proven to be much more popular. Doesn't everyone want to know how to talk about others? Oh, and we can't forget that smash hit lesson when I sang the ABCs. That class was a riot.

Attendance was a bit lacking this week compared to last, and I initially took it personally. It's hard not to be sensitive as a teacher considering all the work and planning you put into lesson preparation everyday. I realized today though that everyone is really stressed out because they're all trying to raise enough money to go on their trip to Europe late this summer. If I had to raise R$ 3,000+ in a few months I'm not sure what I'd do. Point taken. I will now try to make classes even more fun. More games! More singing! More charades!

And, I just found out today that my Saturday classes have been canceled! I was dreading the idea of teaching English for four hours every Saturday morning. I mean who could sit through that? I'm not that interesting! Neither is our language! Despite any reservations, I was going to plan a lesson that would encompass everything I did the week before, having been told that those students who couldn't come during the week would come on Saturday. I went to inquire about exactly how large this group of students would be to Adriana (my elusive but very kind boss). She said that my classes during the week were going very well and to make things easier for me we could just cancel Saturdays.

That means I can travel on weekends now! Or sleep in on Saturdays! Not bad.

Last night I went to the weekly AIESEC intern get together (Quinta dos Trainees) to meet three new interns from NYC. Getting there proved to be a bit difficult as my ride fell through. Everyone told me to "just call a cab!"

Uh, yeah, sure, right, just call a cab. Anyone who has ever learned another language probably has experienced or can imagine the infinite difficulties in talking to someone over the phone in this new language. Challenge accepted.

Remember that part in the first Harry Potter where Ron tries to call Harry at the Dursley's house, and he doesn't know how to use a phone? I was kind of like that...

(rough English translation)

Cab company: Hello good evening, such and such Taxi Service.
Cab company: Do you live in a house or an apartment complex?
Me: UH....WHAT???????
Cab company: Your name?
Me: Lauren
Cab company: WHAT?
Cab Company: Ok, thank you.

It was a success though, and 10 minutes later I found myself chatting away with a very amiable taxi driver who pronounced at the end of our R$11 trip that he was "very happy to have found himself sitting next to an American" that night.

The other trainees seem really nice. I mostly just talked to one of the girls from New York and hung out with Anne. There were tons of people there that were part of our AIESEC "group," and I met a lot of really great people.

I also found out that I can't speak a goddamn sentence in Spanish without finishing it in Portuguese. DOH. Really funny, actually!

I also got to taste late night Portuguese fast food found at small, metal shacks around the city affectionately called "Pit Dogs" (pronounced peachy doggie...!). I think it's hot dog inspired? Anyway, behold the tray of french fries and my maracujá creme in all their 3AM glory!

Can't escape the bulldog influence...