the Brazilian adventures of Haley Kitchens

Bem-vindo a minha blogue sobre minhas viagens brasileiras!!


i’m coming ho-oh-ome

My apologies for not updating everyone on life. Life happens fast sometimes.

Like this past week, for example. Woke up Monday morning with a weird feeling in my right eye, felt sensitive to the sun, “hope I’m not getting pink eye” I thought

Come 6 pm Mon evening as I’m printing out my homework for the next day in the computer center, crying out of one bloated, red, painful eye…crap, I have pink eye.

Attempt to do capoeira for 30 min…when the cartwheels start, I leave. No balance today. All the lights are KILLING me. Agua borrecada says Mestre Nestor, saline water for me to buy at the pharmacia

I thought I would be able to get medicine for pink eye at the pharmacy…isn’t it supposed to be really easy to get drugs in Brazil? They’re all looking at me with a look that says “I feel REALLY bad for you. Please go see a doctor”

Call my friend Leah, whose host mom is a nurse. She’s working right now, but tells us to go to a nearby clinic. We go. They don’t have an optometrist 24 hrs. They won’t let a normal doctor write me a prescription for pink eye. I complain about that.

Cab to Botafogo, where they have an oftalmologista on staff. Take 2 hours to figure out insurance. OW my eye. The company doesn’t speak Portuguese, the clinic doesn’t read English…I think they finally accepted a written letter in English because they could tell how much pain I was in. (alot)

See the Doctor. She looks at my right eye which is SO sensitive to light, does she have to shine that thing right in my eye? Migrane furthers. She pulls back, “Isso é muito sério, Haaaley.” stone faced.

Shit, I think. This isn’t just pink eye. What?! Am I going to die?

Isso é muito sério.” She repeats.

Entendi, o que é isso?!” (I get it, what is it??)

Você tem uma úlcera….

ULCER?!?!?! I have an ULCER?!

…em sua córnea. Isso é uma problema grande e precisa muito cuidado.

I HAVE AN ULCER IN MY CORNEA. holy crap, I didn’t even know that existed, owwww the light, what does that mean, can you just put something in my eye to make it feel better, how serious is it, when will the pain stop….

Treatment: 1 eye drop treating for the 2 most common types of bacteria every hour, 24 hrs a day. Which means I sleep a max of 59 minutes and by now want to KILL my alarm every time it goes off. Upside: I’m really good at putting drops in my eye now.

Go home the first night and ANY sort of light sends a splintering headache into my brain. I basically cry all night long. And I have a fever. And no one knows about this. And OW the light…

Next morning I wait until Helena wakes up, immediately start bawling when I tell her what happened..she gives me advil. Helps.

Continue life…, doctor, cab, Carolina, OW light, OW pain, ibuprofeno, water, I WANT A DARK ROOM, yada yada yada….4 days later, pain fluctuating in between improving and getting worse…

I’m coming home today, I will arrive in San Diego at 2 pm tomorrow, Saturday. I will see a corneal specialist there and be able to sleep in my brothers pitch-black room and have easier access to treatment if necessary and if an emergency happens. The scary thing about this is the treatment is basically a shot in the dark. It could turn out to be fungal, which would mean right around now in the treatment things start to get a lot worse. No one knows if it will be 3 weeks of sequestering or 2 months.

For this and many other reasons, I’m coming home and not coming back to finish the semester in Brasil. I can write a whole lot more later but for now my eye has just about reached it’s capacity to see. (And yes, you can see the ulcer on my eye and I can see a dark spot in my vision).

This is weird and I don’t know how I feel about anything / everything, it all happened so fast. It is crazy. I am appreciating having one good eye and also appreciating not having major eye problems before, and with any luck, NEVER AGAIN.

I guess I’m always been destined to be the unique-Berkeley child-swim against the current-have a different abroad experience-type of person 😉

But really, the time here has been great, I’ve learned a lot, and frankly, right now, I just want to see my family and lay in a bed that is familiar and be able to get better.

So please thank your eyes for reading this just now. Here’s to health!

Lots of love



Carnaval, briefly

There’s 5 ways to do Carnaval in Brasil:

1) Go to a far away city that is not Rio, São Paulo, Bahia, or another major Carnaval-celebrating place

-for: older people who live in said “major Carnaval-celebrating places” that feel above 35 at heart

“Weary Brazilians seek escape from Carnival crowds”

2) Spend lots of money in the Sambodromo, sitting down and watching ridiculously hot, decked-out people shake their butt for 8 hours

-for: older people with money, who like to feel young but can’t enjoy the streets like those young people can!


3) Get no sleep during because you’re always at a bloco, with thousands of other sweaty people, peeing on cobblestone roads and eating questionable food (the sprint method)

-for: tourists who only come to Brasil for 1 week / people who have been waiting for 3 months for a “vacation” from work

in reality, it's not just guys

4) Party a lot, sleep a decent amount, and actually participate in all 7+ days of Carnaval (the extended marathon approach)

-for: slightly less crazy people that like to party but are not trying to kill their bodies

one of my favorite blocos (music-wise) - Sargento Pimenta. Beatles music + samba beats!

5) Be born in Brasil

-for: Brasileiros, who somehow manage to do all of the above

babies at a bloco at 7 am? only in Brasil...


F is for fevereiro, ferias, Florianópolis, and fantasias!

We’re already halfway through Feb, what the heck?!

Whoo, let me recall all that’s happened and all that I’ve learned in the past week and a half. Which, in both regards, has been a lot!

So, I flew to Florianópolis, a city in the southern state of Santa Catarina, for a week. I traveled with a friend I met in the program, Michael. He is from Utah and has lived there his whole life, but his parents are Brazilian and he is fluent in portuguese, so he made for a good travel companion because we mostly spoke pt the entire week! Lots of other people from the program made trips in a week to 3 or 4 places, but I thought it would be better to go to one place and try to explore everything around there.

I stayed in my first hostel! The first 3 days we stayed in Barra da Lagoa, a little beach town on the east of the island of Florianópolis, in a hostel called Portunhol (uma combinação de portuguese & espanhol). A Chilean guy named Chris founded the hostel in 2007, and WOW I could not have asked for a better first hostel experience! It was small, hosting a max of 26 people, and really felt like a home. There were rooms of 4 and 6 people, a big open space with a pool table and tv, an outdoor area with hammocks, and then a kitchen / eating area where we are AMAZING food! There was a guy there that cooked dinner every night – he was a friend of Chris’s from Chile when they were young, and a few years ago they randomly found each other on facebook and then he came over to Brazil! crazy story of social media connections. Anyway, he is this amazing chef who made us: paella with chicken, fish, and clams, thai chicken curry, and lasagna that were all to die for! All the staff at the hostel were friends and I became friends with all of them (speaking portuguese really helped with that – other than 1 lady, michael and I were the only people who spoke pt at all!) and really felt for a couple of days like I was living on the island.

Speaking of living on the island…seriously, I fell in love with Florianópolis! The minute I arrived and we took the van ride out to the island I decided I want to live there at some point. It’s even more of a forest-town than Rio (meaning more forest and less city!), and the hills are covered with beautifully colored houses and there’s beach everywhere which really exaggerates the already relaxed Brazilian vibe. Especially around Barra de Lagoa, which was definitely a bit touristy, I felt so safe and at home immediately that it just really really got my heart. Also, Portunhol had a couple books about the state of Santa Catarina and all the amazing natural wonders it has….like waterfalls, amazing canyons, rivers, etc etc…but I feel like it would actually be the perfect place for me to live first in Brasil because I could explore all those great things within a reasonable vicinity. Woah, am I really talking about seriously living in Brasil? I guess it was just so good to get out of Rio…visiting these other smaller parts really truly solidifies my belief that I am not a city girl. I need my nature!

Which leads perfectly into some lessons that I’ve learned from traveling:

1) When traveling with other people, make sure you have the same “travel philosophy” (aka, wanting a cheap trip or expensive one; fine with roughing it or need to shower at least once a day; want to go on hikes or go out to clubs…). I learned this a bit the difficult way, because after we arrived in Floripa it became clear to me that the travel philosophy of Michael and I didn’t exactly align. He was content with staying on the same beach for 3 days, while I was itching to explore other beaches and go on hikes. It turned out to be fine and we both compromised a little, but in the end I definitely ended up taking off on some solo adventures and think I would have explored more if with another person.

2) Don’t plan too much in advance. We arrived only knowing where we were staying for the first 2 nights and Friday, and it ended up being perfect! We loved Barra de Lagoa and Portunhol so much we decided to stay there for another night. And then we moved to another hostel (which was fully of angsty party-time people…nothing against them, but not my scene) where we basically paid R$50 to sleep for 4 hours. The next 3 days were a blessing because Michael’s family has good friends that live in Floripa (the father of the family is basically the head judge of the Supreme Court-equivalent of Santa Catarina) who were gracious enough to host us for 3 nights. And by that I mean: take us to their family’s beach house in the north of the island (where I met their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents!), feed us fresh fish and churrascaria, go to an amazing sushi place, drive me though downtown to show me really cool trees, go on a hike to a deserted beach, and let us crash in their home and use their shower. Seriously, I am so thankful for that family and for all of these kind Brazilians that I have encountered – I can’t wait to someday pass along the generosity that I’ve been given. Seriously, it blew my mind!

Other things I feel that I’ve learned from being in Brazil in general…

-appreciate clean, free water. it’s weird when you have to soak vegetables with a chlorine tablet, or when you have to shell out R$3 if you’re thirsty at a restaurant.

-appreciate being able to flush your toilet paper down the toilet!! it can be not only annoying but also smelly when you walk into a stall with overflowing trash cans of pee and poo toilet paper.

-I’ve realized how truly infantile the US is in terms of the world. the history of the states compared with these other countries is…pracically nothing. reading even little blurbs about places I’ve traveled and their history of colonization and wars and development….creates a culture that the US seriously lacks. and I think it shows in the distance that people keep from each other, being very “compartmentalized” in each individual’s own life. here, it seems like people at some basic level all realize the connection they have to each other, and it shows in their lack of prejudice and visible friendliness.

So, for the last “F” in my list of things…fantasias (which means costumes)! Carnaval officially starts tomorrow but Liz and I are going to our first bloco tonight. We went shopping in a place called Urugurayana today, which is basically 5×5 blocks of cheap cheap cheap EVERYTHING you can imagine. And, because it’s carnaval, everything was costumes and colors and whoo!! I don’t think I can even convey via words the energy that you feel in this city right now. It’s friday and you can tell the thought on everyone’s mind is “last day of work….then CARNAVAL!” it seriously takes over the whole city.

Sorry for lack of pics uploaded yet. I left my camera in the hostel locker for 3 days because the key was elsewhere…but I’ll get on everything after carnaval, I promise!

As always, love to all. It’s weird that all you Berkeley people are in school!


tchau ILP…olá ferias!

This post has been long overdue, and for that I apologize to all those people who have been sending me emails *cough, mom* wondering, “are you okay? haven’t heard from you! are you alive?” I am very much alive – it seems that Rio is a gigantic roller coaster for me…I seem to have a very mellow few days, and then all of a sudden I’m doing crazy stuff for 2 weeks!

Well, some news…the Intensive Language Program has ended (which means no more waking up at 7 am…for a month at least!!) and I can confidently say that I have learned a lot. To be honest, the material was nothing new, but the difference was that when I learned it before in Berkeley I would go to class, do some work, take a test…but never was forced to think about it in any other context than an academic one. Here, I better know how to conjugate “vir” in the past plural form or else this poor Brazilian will have no idea what I’m trying to say. Despite my brain being a slow thinker (I am so envious of all the native spanish, italian, and french speakers who are used to conjugating verbs!!!), if the person I’m talking to doesn’t have ADD I can communicate fairly well. I’m still a bit nervous every time I go into a mercado but…the only way I’ll get better is if I try, não é?

I really can’t remember everything that’s happened since the last time I’ve posted, so I’ll just write about the most recent thing on my mind. This morning at 3 am I returned from a 3-day weekend trip to Búzios with about 20 capoeiristas (uma pessoa que joga capoeira). Brief interlude for the people who don’t know about capoeira: it is a “game” of dance-fighting that descends from African slaves. While working in the field they were prohibited from fighting with each other (because presumably it was practice for fighting with an armed person after attempting escape) so they disguised it as a dance. Mestre Nestor has a school that trains right by PUC and I’ve started going to classes there. He is very famous in the capoeira world, especially among English speakers, and has written 3 books about capoeira. And he is very funny and really easy to talk to. Here is a video of his school just to see what it looks like:

So…Búzios is basically a shwanky vacation spot for cariocas where many have “weekend houses” that they go to to escape crazy Rio life. The family of one of Nestor’s students has a house there that they graciously let us take over this weekend. And this house was INCREDIBLE! Only one house’s distance away from the beach (which was very tranquil and peaceful, not like Rio’s beaches at all) and giant enough to play capoeira in the living room…bellíssima!!

The main purpose of this trip was the music: capoeira music has a main instrument called a berimbau that is used to create the unique sound. We made over 30 this weekend, and boy are they work! First, you start with a pole of wood that’s about 2″ in diameter and you use a facinha (little knife) to peel away the bark. Next, you take a broken pedaço do vidro (piece of glass) and scrape away all the fibers that are lose/uneven. Finally you sand the whole thing down really really well and then do some more work on the ends, like constructing a notch for the wire and putting protective leather on the other end. This alone took me at least 3 hours. Next is the cabasa (not to be confused with cabeça, head) which is basically equivalent to a gourd. There are 3 types of berimbaus…voila (small), mídio (med.), and gunga (big), and they vary with length and hardness of verga (the wood pole thing) as well as the size of the cabasa. So you cut the cabasa and take out all the seeds and scrape out the inside…it’s very different than the pumpkin-type thing you are imagining though, everything inside is very dry (seeds and all), fibrous and hard. The last main component is the arame (the string basically) which actually comes from a tire. With a giant knife you hack away at the inside of a tire until you can see this little band of wire. Once the wire is visible the whole way around, you tear it out and that’s what you use to make the arame!

picture of a berimbau

I think one thing that struck me big time while doing all of this is that…this feels right. This knowledge that has been passed down in this manner for centuries still uses elements like tires and gourds and pieces of wood. There were expert berimbau makers and there were beginners there too, but I now feel like a quasi-expert because I put in at least a full day’s work on one. I feel more connected to the instrument that I ever would have if I bought one in a store, say. I felt the same way at forestry camp, where we wittled spoons and made mobiles out of twigs and beer cans. For me, the work was definitely worth the end result, as I feel it usually is. I think this was a welcome reminder to use more elbow grease and spend less money once in a while.

The last thing that I must devote time to saying about this weekend is that CAPOEIRISTAS ARE CRAZY!!! Seriously, though. You think foresters have a crazy reputation for drinking and going crazy in the woods? You think Berzerkeley co-opers throw ridiculous drugged-out parties? Let me introduce you to 3 C’s: cachaça, cerveja, e capoeira. Put them together on a weekend and you have a loud house playing instruments, singing at the top of their lungs, dancing samba-funk, and playing capoeira on the beach until 6 in the morning. And for those truly not of faint heart, the party doesn’t stop and you just keep on drinking and making more nik-naks (like hummingbird feeders, candle holders, miniature people…) out of leftover materials until everyone else wakes up in the morning. Combine all of this ridiculouslessness with the Brazilian humor that always involves jokes and laughing…and holy cow. I can practically guarantee there will not be a more crazy party time in my life. But then again….there is carnaval. Brasil is seriously crazy and so full of energy I can’t convey this message enough!!!!

So life has been treating me very well these past few days. I have a new toy instrument to learn, I got in my fill of drumming and percussion instrumenting, I know a lot more Portuguese, aaannnnd I have at least 50 new mosquito bites to keep me happily itching for a while. I’m leaving tomorrow for a weeklong trip to Florianópolis, in the southern state of Santa Catarina (where we’re basically planning on hiking around the island), and then I return on the 14th, which is WHEN LIZ ARRIVES (family, Liz is my roommate/bestfriend from Berks who is making a pit stop in Brazil before heading to Peru to study for a semester)!!!! Then Carnaval starts on the 17th, so don’t worry too much if you’re not hearing a lot from me within this next month.

As always, love to all and I hope your February is off to a great start!!!

food. and Alexander Supertramp.

Seeing as 1) I am addicted to food and 2) my last name is Kitchens, I’m surprised I haven’t been talking more about food. Well, I’m about to break that streak (steak?). I want to tell you a lot about my experiences with food in Brasil.

Things I’ve noticed:
1) Brazilians consume a lot of sugar each day
2) and a lot of caffeine (I was just reading this health article that suggested (and I quote, translated) “Coffee is a great stimulant. Adults can drink 4 cups a day. How about one at the beginning of the morning, one in the middle of the morning, one at the beginning of the evening, and one and the end of evening?” Ay!
3) No one knows where the food comes from here
4) I am not sure if I bought tongue or sausage at the market. (is lingua actually lingua or is it short for linguiça?)
5) No one here likes peanut butter!!!!!!!! =(
6) Vegetables are rare. And if they appear, it consists of crappy lettuce and creepy tomato. I don’t know how these people poop (probably all the coffee, actually)
7) Fried food, even in 100 deg weather
8) Cheese! bread! stuffed with meat. fried. more cheese.
9) Coconut. Let me say it again: co-co-nut. Fresh. Cononut water. as in, watch-a-man-whack-open-the-top-with-a-machete-and-stick-in-a-straw fresh.
10) fruits fruits fruits of the tropics! papaya, mango, açaí, maté, guaraná, GIANT figs, lychee, mmh

my daily breakfast!

11) Churrascaria.
12) Eating times are approximately 1) whenever I wake up 2) after school (1 pm for now) 3) whenever I get back from the beach 4) before I go out at night. Which means I eat dinner here at like 9:30. and then sit and watch an hour of the crazy telenovela that keeps getting more dramatic and I keep getting more lost. I really don’t know right now if Crazy Evil Lady has a deep dark secret that Pretty Lady found out, or if Pretty Lady’s Son just found evidence that Crazy Evil Lady tried to kill his sister. And what happened with Chef Man and Pretty Lady? And where is the Ex-Hubby of Fainting Lady? and is he the new fiancé of Hair Lady? ah, louco!
13) costs are WACK. as in, olive oil can be over R$20 for a bitty bottle! and yet you can buy chicken for 3+days for R$5. I guess the US has the same disparity, but either a) not as drastic b) I don’t see it because of the Berkeley Bubble c) there is an alternative at home (you simply can’t find more expensive, better meat here. I’ve asked)
14) WATER! no one here seems to drink it. I’m used to drinking the normal 8 cups but here I sweat about 3x as more so I’m always feeling thirsty but also feeling guilty about buying all these water jugs! Luckily at PUC I use their (filtered) drinking fountain and pilfer off them. Hey, I’m paying tuition!

In writing this I’ve realized that I’ve definitely been in the “holy cow I need to buy all my own food for 8 months and it’s expensive!” mindset, and other than one really good churrascaria outing I haven’t treated myself to some nice Brazilian dinners. I’ve definitely been eating well though. So I have another 7 months to let that happen I suppose.

Let’s see, what else. Oh! Helena’s sister just came back from the trip to the US and brought her back 2 DVDS – Miles Davis live in Germany, and Sean Penn’s “Na Natureza Selvagem” aka, Into the Wild. I had read Jack London’s book when I was younger but didn’t know it was a movie. And wow was it good and inspiring and I think I learned a lot from Alexander Supertramp. I admire his spirit of living and also his realization that things are better when shared. Anyway, I thought it was a very good movie and it also made me very homesick to see all those places in the US that I feel like I know so well. I think I’m finding it difficult here because it’s very CITY. As in, tons of people everywhere, all the time. But I finally decided to go out hiking (friends kept bailing and I just wanted to GO) so I set off for the Jardim Botânico inspired by the great Supertramp.

There is a trail that winds you through the back of Corcovado and up to the famous Cristo statue. A 19 year old boy had actually died 2 days prior after losing his balance and falling 15 m, so it seemed slightly more ominous. But as I began the climb..and let me tell you, it was basically 2 hours of stairsteppers…I began to feel so at home and in wonder and awe with everything around me. THIS was the Brasil I was expecting, THIS solitude and sweat and smiling is what I wanted. I saw so many amazing things, and I tried to capture some on film but I’m afraid the camera is never as good as real eyes. Anyway, I finally made it to the traintracks, which I followed for a little bit longer, turned the corner, and no joke, saw PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE! Hundreds of people in a line. Waiting to walk up to the Cristo. Literally I think it must’ve been a 2 hour wait. It was just such a crazy contrast after hiking in isolation to all of a sudden see people dressed up to go see the Cristo, and the fact that you have to buy a R$27 ticket just to do that? Blahdjldfdkjfhksdlj! There’s a really good picture I took from outside the giftshop with a picture of the Cristo and a MasterCard signed placed convienently in the palm of his hand. Oh, money. So, moral of the story is that even though I didn’t actually get to see the Cristo, I met 3 other Brazilians who I had passed on the trail, who offered to show me the watering hole they were going to go to. 1 of them was actually from Manaus, and she took my email address and is going to write me a list of things to do / try while I’m there. Brazilians are honestly so very friendly and welcoming!! All in all it was a great, very exhausting day, and I felt renewed and much more myself.

eu conheci as pessoas certas!!

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive of my blog. It’s always weird to just write about things, so please give me feedback! Am I boring you? Less words? Want pictures in the posts? (it makes things more enticing, I know!) More feelings? More portuguese? Really let me know cause right now I’m just kind of…writing and don’t know what it’s like to read. 😛 Also thanks to everyone who has been supportive of me about Dom. Seriously, lots of love to you!

Love to Berkeley and SoCal and wherever else your life’s adventure is taking you!!! Have a great upcoming week!

oh, ps! I haven’t really said anything about MOSQUITOES, but that’s because they really haven’t been that bad! I think I only get bitten at night, because it’s so freaking hot I just sproul on top of my bed, but the bites don’t itch that much and are pretty small. And they don’t usually bite you 10 times in a row like the Berkeley mosquitoes. And I must say that they must haven been in the evolutionary-arms-race much longer than the Forestry Camp mosquitoes, because you NEVER feel them on you. And trust me, I have pretty sharp senses after last summer. Now I’m just paranoid every time my leg hair blows in the wind but there’s never anything there. I will say, thanks DEET for working for me the one time I used it! Alright now that’s really all. Tchau tchau!

so, let me tell you about biking in Rio…

I’ve decided that if I am going to die in Brazil, it will be on a bicycle. The prefeitura of Rio (not exactly sure how this translates – along the lines of the city mayor’s office) and Itaú bank have gotten together to help cariocas have cheaper, more physically active transportation (winner for me!). They have these bright orange beach-cruiser bikes that cost R$10 per month for unlimited use, provided each time you take out a bike you return it to a station within 1 hour. There are over 60 stations all over Rio, and all you have to do is call a phone number, enter the station code and bike number, and then BAM! the bike is unlocked! When you’re done with it, walk it up to the stand and BAM! it senses the bike and locks it back up. It’s very cool and innovative, and nice because I don’t have to worry about getting a bike stolen. They are beach cruisers though, which are…awkward to ride. They have really durable tires though, which is good because THE STREETS IN RIO ARE CRAZY!

Every morning I leave at 7:45 and bike about 4 km (~2.5 miles) to school. This takes about 20-25 minutes and I grip the handlebars for dear life! First of all, there is no such thing as a bike lane in Rio. And even if one were to exist, it would mean absolutely nothing to the drivers of large cars and buses. The nice thing is that Rio also has no rules about bikers, pedestrians, etc (jaywalking? not here) because it’s basically “do it at your own risk” type of thing. So, on the sidewalks there are bikers going with and against the flow of traffic and there are pedestrians doing the same, so I basically do a combination of road and sidewalk biking in order to get where I need to go, hopefully not running over anyone else or getting run over myself along the way! The only thing about the sidewalks is that they are made of little square tiles and haven’t been relaid in who-knows-how-long….so there are GIANT potholes everywhere, there are roots of trees growing up from the tiles, there are creepy things sticking in these holes, including lots of water puddles, not to mention very rarely do the sidewalks have the nice little slopes that go up or down to lead you into/out of the street….so basically I’m bouncing along the sidewalk in my bright orange beach cruiser every day, with my backpack literally flying up and down off my shoulders, looking panicked because I can’t see around the corner where there’s probably a very elderly grandmother walking..oh man.  And, the sidewalks are the BETTER ways to ride. The streets, aside from giving you lung cancer due to all the bus smog that you breathe in, have even bigger potholes and bumps about every 2 feet, as well as buses that pull in-and-out from the sidewalks all the time and like to drive about 2 inches away from you. WHOO!

my transportation for the next 6 months!

I feel like I’m on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but apparently that is just a Disney/CA thing because everyone looks at me like I’m a looney when I say that. Hah. The way back home from school is nicer, I take the longer way and bike around the Lagoa, which is much more relaxing and has water and beautiful views and I feel like a human again. Maybe I’ll decide to get up earlier to go that way to school as well, but those 7 am classes during the semester (which I have 3 TIMES A WEEK!!!) will probably not be so conducive to that method. Anyway, I make it to and from school okay (and the more I ride the more comfortable I feel about it, I swear) AND I’m saving so much money!!! The only difference is that one reason I really like riding my bike at home is because it’s calming and can be a really good way to just…go! But here, it is anything but relaxing, haha. All things considering, if biking on the streets is the way I feel I might die in Rio…that tells you how comfortable I actually feel here.

So many other things to talk about! Side note, thanks to all of you who have been reading/commenting, I feel very loved 🙂

So, Helena has a brother younger by ~4 years? named Pedro. He just returned from a 10-day trip to Chile with his dad a few days ago and stayed here for a few days before heading back to Brasilia, where he lives and works for the Ministry of Culture. He has his PhD in Brazilian literature from PUC, about 2 female Brazilian authors considered “greatest pornographers of Brazilian literature.” He loves music and filme as well, and especially loves learning about American musicians…I’ve watched documentaries with him about Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson (at the Greek theatre in Berks!), and Billie Holiday. Go figure. It’s really interesting to hear his perspective about music in America because it’s very different from my view. When he thinks about our music, he thinks of Queen, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Jazz, Swing, Country, etc etc…he could go on forever naming all the really great musicians and styles that have come from the US (slash Ingleterra – England), and especially all the movements in music that musicians have created. And how integral a role they often played in culture at the time, both in the US and even from his perspective as a young kid growing up in Brazil during the dictatorship. Even then the greats were known around the world, and in fact we watched some youtube clips from a festival called “Rock in Rio” that started in 1985, soon after the dictatorship fell. Queen, James Taylor, B52s, Rod Steward, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, the Go-Gos….these bands played intermittently between Brazilian greats like Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee, Paralamas, and Moraes Moreira. So, I came to Brazil expecting a whirlwind of education about Brazilian music, but it’s been really shocking to not only hear clubs and restaurants playing popular American music, but to also meet this Brazilian scholar who is so enraptured with American music. Louco! It really makes me think again about all the freedoms that we had and have in America…the epic activist times of the 60s and 70s and all the amazing people that were able to influence people and spread a message – the freedom for people from any side of an opinion to do so. Legal!

Let’s see, what else…oh! Last Saturday morning Helena took me to this group she goes to, I forgot the name but it seems kind of like Tai Chi / Qigong ish. We met in the Jardim Botanico very close to home where there was a group of about 12 people and did energy / breathing /movement exercises that felt really good. The only downside was the 10 mosquito bites that I got on my feet which felt like they were going to explode afterwards! I met some really beautiful people there, one of whom was from Oceanside, about 15 minutes away from Encinitas! Crazy coincidence! One thing that I have noticed in Brasil, that was especially apparent to me at that meeting, was how young people act here. Not in an immature way, but in a way that you don’t see many 40+ year olds acting in the United States. It’s as if every adult here has the youthful spirit of a 28 year old (where they are experienced and wiser and have responsibilities, but are still young and can laugh at little things and have youthful joy). It’s crazy! I think it’s part to do with the culture, which is very laid back (for any social event expect a Brazilian to be at least 45 min late) and is not so concerned with power or money. Hmm…fountain of youth secret? Haha. But really! A great saying here is “Trabalhe para viver, não viva para trabalhar.” Work to live, not live to work. And it really shows their opinion about life! After work they go to the beach! They participate in Carnaval blocos! They have saint’s holidays (like today) where literally everything is closed! Including markets and banks! The attitude of this place is very much focused on life, something that I think is more important that the ever-reaching “American dream” that many Americans are always chasing, never being happy with their place in life right now.

Wow, interestingly enough that was a perfect segway. Good job, mind! Last week, I received news that a good friend of mine, Dominic, who I spent 2 months with at Forestry Camp, living with and learning with him every day, suffered a stroke and was in the hospital on life support. He continued to suffer brain damage and his family removed his life support on the 11th. I received this information via email at 7:30 in the morning before school. And I was so in shock that I couldn’t process it. I desired to sit on my bed and weep with my whole body but my mind strangely jumped into action of necessity: I had to get dressed, brush my teeth, go to school. There were things to do. I don’t know how to feel about this. Was it my self wanting to save myself from the pain of mourning? Was it a reminder that life goes on? Am I a bad person for not allowing myself to stop my life for more than 10 minutes to remorse? Anyway, that whole day I was in a daze. I kept having this image of Dom seizing and flailing around on a floor with his rosy cheeks, and the next moment he is pale and lying in all white in a hospital bed. And I just couldn’t believe that I will never see him again. And it made me appreciate the Yule Ball at the end of last semester, which Dom came back to Berkeley for (he graduated last spring) and I was able to sit and have a really good chat with him. It made me appreciate that I had done that, and it makes me think about all the times I miss out on gatherings…how would I feel if I were to never see those people again? It’s just incredulous. And hard to process here, away from anyone who knows him, where I’m not able to cry with a friend and talk about all the memories of him, where I’m not able to properly mourn him. At random times I find myself heaving tears of loss. He is my first good friend my age to have died (which makes me lucky, I very well realize), and it has made me realize the fragility and unpredictability of life. Dominic was one of those people that everyone loved. And it sounds cliche to say this after his passing, but I guarantee you there is not a soul out there who would deny this fact. He was an amazing fiddle player and I was able to enjoy his music many a-night around the campfire at camp. He had a great sense of humor and was very much himself all the time. I can’t believe he is gone. I’m so confused. He is an amazing dear soul and will always be with me, I know. It’s a huge thing to process solo but in a way I feel closer to him because I know he has been with me through this. He would probably have some sarcastic remark to say about this situation, which helps in moving on because he was such a self-deflecting person I don’t think he would want anyone’s life to stop because of this. Just…wow.

mellow beach cap. rosy cheeks. Dom at his finest.

I’m in this place right now where I really miss Berkeley and all the wonderful friends there, and my family, and just…people who know me and who I love. It’s hard here because I don’t want to limit my relationships to other foreigners but I feel as though my portuguese is not good enough to form strong relationships with Brazilians. I guess this is the part where I sink or swim, where I become a hermit or go an explore! Obviously I will swim and explore, but there have been many a time when I just feel comfortable hanging out with Helena at night watching a brazilian movie. It’s very much my home, here, and I think that at least is comforting to have, if not too comforting to make me not want to leave the house ;). Lastly, Pedro lent me his original copies from ’89 of the comic “V de Vingança” which I am reading!

Okay, love again to all. SERIOUSLY, I love each person who is reading this with my whole heart.


P.S. lots of new pics are up!

list of “firsts” plus my address!

The first few days were a whirlwind of nerves, excitement, impressions, and “holy $h*t”!!! I kind of felt like there was a permanent knot in my stomach. It’s not completely gone, but I’m finally feeling comfortable here.

I think my biggest thing about studying abroad in Brasil was that I wanted to become authentically carioca (or as close as one can be in 6 months). I didn’t want to only talk to the other foreign students in English; I didn’t want to stay a tourist for very long. And it is hard because the first few days were more perfect than I could have imagined, having Jo and Samuel to show us around. Then, all the UCEAP program and other foreign students met and since then we’ve had meetings and tours and spent a lot of time together…which means a lot of English! I think it’s just slightly hard for me right now because it seems as if I have two options: 1) to have friends right now, and speak in English and look like a tourist but feel more comfortable conversing; or 2) to be uncomfortable but attempting to speak Portuguese and try to be perceived as friendly. I feel like I’ve been taking the easy way out by choosing option 1, so maybe that’s why I’m being so hard on myself, because that’s not how I wanted to be. But a friend here, Lexi, told me she looks at it in a different way: first, make friends while speaking English to each other (where you can more accurately know each other), and then transition to speaking in Portuguese with those newfound friends. I like that idea! But I also want to find amigos brasileiros…I’m thinking capoeira will help me with that :D.

more about Helena & the home life. For some darn reason, it is very difficult for me to understand her! Obviously I do somewhat, but I feel like I am always asking her “repita, por favor” ou “não entendo.” She speaks so fast (which, in the long run, will be good) and I just feel dumb! But she said something comforting to me… “você já chegou!” (You just arrived!). I guess it is true that I have only been here for 1 week…feels like at least a month!! I suppose I can’t be perfect straight out of the gate…but it’s still slightly demoralizing when she’s saying an important sentence and I just can’t understand what she is trying to say!! Also, I know I speak crappy Portuguese at the moment, but she doesn’t like to correct me! We’re working on this because there’s no point in speaking bad portuguese.

Helena and I have a nice time together. We have different schedules, but in general we are up early and home at night. We have a nice little routine of cooking dinner together while listening to the radio (where they speak muito rápido!!!) and then we sit and watch a famous telenovela called “Fina Estampa” together, which is ridiculously dramatic and we laugh and it helps me to learn conversational language. There’s usually some news-watching involved, too. Sometimes it occurs to me what exactly I am understanding in Portuguese, and on those moments I guess I am pretty empressed with myself! So I think I have a healthy dose of self-criticism and self-appreciation. 🙂

In other news…notable “firsts”:

-first brazilian bikini!

-first sunburn in said bikini. my bum-bum (pronounced boom-boom) is very sore. But very brazilian now 😉

-first tour of Rio’s entirety (slight exaggeration, it IS a big city!) including touristy things like Pão de Açúcar (literally means “sugar bread” now, but it was named when the Portuguese were here and they measured things entering the port by the pound…called pão back then)

-first churrascaria! = Brazilian-style steak house. They have a salad buffett, rice, feijoada (Brazilian national dish, basically beans with pork cooked in a sauce, soooo good!), and then a constant stream of waiters coming to the tables with ALL types of meat on these long skewers. They just plop it on your plate and slice it ever so perfectly…mmh!!

-first caipirinha (Brazilian drink, com abacaxi – pineappple) e ela é muito forte!!! it was very strong!

-first brazilian club attended (where they played AMERICAN music…)

-first samba learned (I think my butt was shaking enough to rival some brazilians!)

-first night staying out until 5 am (!!!!)

-first day of school in português! the ILP (intensive language program) started today…4 hours of class a day for 4 weeks! My class has 13 people in it, many from the US, but also 1 from Mexico and 2 from France. We talk, listen, write…use all the senses in portuguese!

-first jog around the lagoa. it’s a beautiful lake perto de minha casa (near my house) and I’m going to try to get a bike so I can ride to school! because the bus here is R$2.75 each way…that’s R$5.50 per day…times 5/week = R$27.5 for 6 months = R$660, not including weekends or other things! That’s over $375 on transportation alone in 6 months!! meu Deus!!!

The weather here is always hot – it never becomes “nighttime” weather, which is perhaps why they stay out so late!! The humidity is about 85% too, but honestly it’s not unbearable. But maybe I’m only saying that because the past few days there’ve been clouds. It’s the rainy season here so we’ve had intermittent showers, but they usually don’t start until later in the day (~5 pm) which is nice.

Well, I think that’s all the exciting updates I have. Oh! just so you don’t forget how AMAZING this place truly is….I was sitting here typing away and I hear some weird chirping and shuffling that sounds kind of like a mouse…so I look through the wall that is cut out above Helena’s air conditioner….and there are 2 parrots staring at me!!!! Beautiful green, red, yellow…smaller than I thought…but nonetheless!!!! There is also this amazing bird that has a funny call that wakes me up in the morning…I tried to phonetically type it but…just not the same at all. Anyway, there are lots of exciting things I’m seeing and doing every day, of course!

Abraços e amor para a todos!!!

Oh, also…if anyone is interested in sending me peanut butter, letters, goods, confetti, hot air balloons (I take no responsibility if it blows up in transit), you can do so to this address:

Haley Kitchens

a/c Linda Sousa, PUC-Rio, Coordenação Central de Cooperação Internacional

Rua Marquês de São Vicente, 225

Ed. Pe. Leonel Franca, 8º andar

22 453-900 Rio de Janeiro – RJ – Brasil

fyi the a/c stands for “aos cuidados de” equivalent to “in care of” 😀

first 3 days in Brasil!

WOW is largely an understatement.

Never have I ever traveled outside of North America, so embarking on this journey sozinho (by myself) did not really mean much…until I arrived at the JFK airport, waited around for 5.5 hours, finished my book…and then the airport personnel began giving instructions in portuguese. Boy, was that a whirlwind. That’s really when it first hit me…this is real!

After the looooong flight (where they served us dinner at 11:30 pm and breakfast at 5 am), I was officially “abroad!” Unfortunately I had a little delay through customs because I forgot that fruits/veggies from other countries could potentially be considered an invasive threat to native species (how could I forget that? ugh. blame it on the long plane ride), and in my bag of food that I had with me (containing nuts, fruits, and green tea :D) they had to confiscate all the fresh produce! Except for the part where I was communicating with them in portuguese (note to self: brush up on food vocabulary!) it wasn’t anything bad.

I met Leah and we promptly found the bus to take us to Leblon, a nice city just SW of Ipanema (weird that the ocean is E now…). She fell asleep on the bus but I was just mesmerized at my first look at Rio! It was raining (and had been for the past 5 days) so the sky was grey and not many people who didn’t absolutely have to be outside were. I remember that I kept thinking…where are the trees?! I was expecting dense, lush, beautiful tropical forests everywhere but…not really! There were palms, but not many, and they were spaced in a little clump and then not for a long while were there more. Of course, it wasn’t a desert; it was green, but…not as I expected. Other notes of the bus ride were the variety of buildings we passed: very run-down ones, completely uninhabitable ones, ones that seriously looked like they shouldn’t have been lived in..I’m talking practically held together by duct tape. no joke! Of course, there were nice places as well, and the streets were very nice, and oh man! do they drive like madmen here! All the cars honk and they are turning a corner, which seems to mean “move out of the way because I am coming to cut you off!” The vans also drive as if they were mini-coopers. It’s funny, but I can tell it is safe because…this is their life!

Anyway, Leah and I bought our first legal cerveja in Leblon, called Bohemia, and that was exciting! The waiter was surprised we were only 20, too! Johannes came and picked us up and then we proceeded to lug everything (read: 2 GIANT backpacking packs, 2 backpacks, 1 purse and 1 duffel bag (not including Jo’s stuff)!) to a street where we could catch a van, which is only about R$2.30 (20 cents cheaper than the bus). These vans are ridiculous…10 people in a beat-up westfalia-type van, which you simply hail as they are speeding by. Certain ones have different “routes” that are really a general direction because the cool thing is that they stop wherever you want them to, if it’s along the way. So it’s almost front-door service! Except for the part where we had a giant hill to climb…

We ended up getting a taxi because it was raining and we all were dying. It felt dumb to get a taxi up a hill but, sometimes…I don’t really know what justification I have haha. Anyway, Jo lives in a favela called Parque do Cidade. And before you say “WHAT?! you stayed in a favela?!” I would like to say that many favelas in Brasil (contrary to what the producers of Cidade de Deus would like you to think) have never been controlled by drug-lords. Many are simply places where those who cannot afford to go anywhere else live. This was absolutely one such place. Many people had shops (food, services, etc) connected to their place, and it was practically a self-sustaining community. Literally within a short walk down the hill there was everything one could need. Anyway…Jo lives at the TIP TOP of Parque da Cidade meaning….about 75 of the steepest stairs I’ve ever had to climb. But we made it, and boy was it worth it! He lives with 2 other students, and they have a view into the Parque from their bedroom window. Legal (slang word for everything cool/exciting)!! The story of the Parque is that an emperor built his mansion nearby and was tired of looking at all the coffee plantations. So he decided he wanted the natural scenery back to have a nice view and thus established the first “conserved” park in Brasil (and arguably, the world). His home is now a museum there.

Jo took Leah and I around, we saw the PUC-Rio campus (which was lovely; also completely deserted because everyone is on ferias, break). We kept noticing that many employees were there, however. Jo hypothesized it was basically to keep more people in the country employed, universities did such things. Class issues very interesting here. Still forming my own opinion, more later.

We then met Samuel, Jo’s roommate from Brasil, who literally only spoke pt (luckily Jo spoke mostly to us in English – I think we were so shocked by everything else we might have gone insane otherwise). So we were forced to rack our brains for those long-ago learned verb conjugations and vocabulary words, and you know what – it was fine!

Early next morning (after a GREAT night’s sleep) Leah and I woke up to birds, birds, birds chirping away! We ate breakfast on the rooftop because…the sun was out!!!! And blazing, I might add. After, Leah, Samuel, and I went on a walk in the Parque, where Samuel taught us lots of words in portuguese (Como se diz.. was a very common phrase) and we improved very fast. Except for a few minutes where I tried to explain that leaf-cutter ants don’t actually eat the leaves they are oft seen carrying (they actually bring it back to their colonies where bacteria break them down into ant- digestible compounds)…which is already slightly complicated in English, my attempt in portuguese was very broken and awful and took forever to say (how the heck to you say bacteria? digest? compounds? ai!)…except for that, I think Samuel really liked us!

Later we checked into the hotel EAP put us up in in Ipanema (fancy, schmancy, touristy, etc) and then went to the beach!!!! With Vilma, a girl from UCSB who was assigned to share our hotel room. It was very hot, we brought sunscreen, and successfully tanned but didn’t burn! It’s interesting because on the beaches here no one has towels – they all have these sarong-like sheets that they lay on. There are vendors going around selling everything….agua de coco, all types of food, etc etc etc. And of course I can not forget…those brazilian biquinis!!! Literally everyone wears them! Little children, old ladies…and the mean wear speedo-shorts too. There are literally string ones or ones that have some cloth over your butt, but WOAH! Except for the embarrassment about my uber-white bootay that has never seen the sun..I think I have to try one. When in Brasil…, right?!

I got a Brazilian cell phone, made copies of my passport & visa (to take to bars, etc), and ate some delish food! One thing I will say is that everything is SO sweet in Brasil! They are always having sugar and caffeine. No wonder everyone is so happy! So many sucos (juices)…de açaí, morenga, abacaxi…as well as coffee/mate/guaraná all the time! And very little greens! Definitely not how I am used to eating. But it’s also interesting because it shows you that when doctors say America’s problem is all the sugar, it’s not really that. It’s the added, fake sugar that kids consume 5 times a day without exercising! Most Brazilians walk everywhere…bus too, but often things are so close (~20 min walks are not at all uncommon) that walking is preferred because of traffic.

Anyway, one of the most exciting parts of these past 3 days (wow sorry for writing so much about only 3 days! but it’s the most exiting stuff!) was meeting my host family! I was SO nervous that it would be in a far-away neighborhood, with an old lady only, in a cramped place….not at all! I am living in an area near Botafogo called Humaitá. The woman’s name is Helena (another mysterious “H” name!) and she is a ballet teacher to young kids and working on her PhD in classical arts I believe. She’s ~30 and her brother works in the US often for the Brazilian government so I really don’t think he actually lives here ever. She is so nice!! I was so nervous I was messing up a lot on my portuguese, but I am really determined to get better if for no other reason than to talk to her! She seems so awesome! She lives in a very safe neighborhood, entered only by key in a gate with a security guard, up and elevator in an apartment. My room and bed are huge, and I have a beauuuutifuuul view of the Cristo from my window. Set up in the hills kind of, it is really a calm place. There’s a yoga studio, a Buddhist temple, and a Kindergarten all on her street, so I guess it’s similar to the more “Bohemian” area of Lapa. She has a kitchen I can use (and she made me a delicious smoothie with mango and fresh coconut water!) and is just so great! I am so thankful to be living here! She took me on a walking tour of the area, showed me all the shops and how to get to the university, etc! So a lot of worrying for nothing!

WOW desculpe for writing so much! I just miss everyone back home and keep hoping maybe someone will be reading this and somehow that will make the distance seem less far! Anyway, check out the picture album on the “Fotos” tab for visual images of a lot of what I just described.

Muitos beijinhos a todos! Tchau tchau!

10 hours

until my flight leaves for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!!! It’ll be a New Years Day from the skies!

it’s no short journey…about 15 hrs flying time: 5+ hrs to JFK, a 4.5 hr layover there, and then I will finish the voyage with a 10 hour flight to arrive in Rio on Monday morning. Total time change between SD & Rio = 6 hrs!

I’m meeting fellow Cal friend Leah at the airport and we will bus to Leblon together, where a friend-of-a-friend, Johannes (from Germany), will meet us and show us around for a day before we officially “check-in” with our program. Hopefully I’ll be a real carioca (person from Rio, as opposed to a paulista, from São Paulo) soon enough!

My emotions right now: STOKED to be immersed in a vida brasileira for 8 months, ANXIOUS to get to Brasil, and TOTALLY FREAKING OUT at the fact that I will be communicating in Portuguese!!!!!!

Well, considering that I have not packed at all and I haven’t yet found my passport from the move down from Berkeley…I’m gonna get going! My next post will come from Rio, so until then wish me luck (boa sorte!) and I will talk to ya from the other side of the equator!