Monday, July 27, 2009

Adventures Out Of Zona Sul

As you can tell from my lack of blogging, I've been pretty busy. We've started (and are actually almost done with) our intensive Portuguese classes, and I even have been doing a little bit of homework. In July! What?!

However, I have also had plenty of time for exploration. On Saturday, since the forecast was rainy, my friend Sarah and I decided to go to a museum. We visited the Fort of Copacabana and the Military History Museum next door. The fort is located on the strip of land that juts out in between Copacabana and Ipanema, and is practically next door to me (which will be helpful,
I guess, in case we ever get attacked). Walking out to see the cannons gave us a great view of Copacabana beach. Here's a photo of just a small section of the beach (my apartment building is to the left, just out of the shot) and of the favela that climbs the hill behind it. 

After checking out the enormous, rather new-fangled cannons on top of the fort, we went in to the museum to see if we could find out what they could have ever possibly been used for. Seems to us that the only time the fort was really attacked was by a small group of rebels from within the military. I actually don't understand why more people haven't attacked, since it's a pretty nice area -- I'd certainly want to conquer it if I had an army of my own.

After a trek through several centuries worth of military dioramas, we headed off to a lunch that an Ultimate Frisbee player Sarah knew had invited us to. I tagged along so she wouldn't have to go alone, though I had no idea where we were going, what we were doing, or who we were going to be dining with. Luckily Sarah knew, right? Wrong. 

After using all forms of transportation available to us (walking, bus, metro, taxi), we found ourselves at the Frisbee player's aunt's house in the middle of some Zona Norte neighborhood neither of us had ever heard of. Well, if we knew where we were, we wouldn't have heard of it. The lunch, which had originally been scheduled for 1, was in fact not so much of a lunch as an all-day party. We stood around talking to the Frisbee player and his aunt, as some other people came around with plates of meat that we grabbed at with our hands. There was also a big cake which we didn't get to try, since we made up an excuse to get out of there before it got dark (which happens around 5:30, since it's the middle of winter). Our host and his party were slightly sketchy, all in all, but I enjoyed talking to his aunt, and not just because she stuffed our bags with candy before we left.

We made it back to Zona Sul and were incredibly relieved to step out of the metro station onto the now dark streets of Copacabana. It was nice to realize how much this place now feels like home, and how comfortable I am here (especially compared to parts of Rio that we literally found were off the map when we tried to show our friends where we had been).

After another epic adventure -- this time, the opening of a single bottle of wine, requiring four Americans, two knives, two forks, a long-handled spoon, a nail, a pot, a Nalgene bottle, and a sieve -- I was about ready for a calm, leisurely night. That is, until Sarah and her roommate Jessica's host mom arrived to give us a lecture on taking advantage of being young and in Brazil. Though we had a field trip the next morning for which we had to be at school at 7 am, she urged us to stay out until 4 -- we only need two hours of sleep, right? I decided that though she looks like she's late-middle aged, she must be actually younger than me; after all, she can dance hip-hop. 

So I didn't make it to 4, but I still didn't get enough sleep to allow me to wake up comfortably and happily at 5:45 the next morning. However, I did see the sun rise over the beach as I walked to the bus stop, which gave me motivation to stay up until then some other Friday or Saturday night. And when I got to school, I watched the clouds change color over the Cristo, which was pretty cool (it looks pretty small in this picture, but it's bigger in person -- though I haven't made it to the top yet). 

Sunday was a field trip to the imperial city of Petrópolis, which my little brother will be happy to learn means "city of Peter." It was named after Dom Pedro II, the second (and last) emperor of Brazil, who summered there to escape the heat of Rio. Apparently, where the city is located up in the mountains (just an hour or so from Rio), the temperature can almost reach freezing point in the winter. I'm not sure that I completely believe that, since it seemed like t-shirt weather to me, but for Cariocas, it seems like anything below 70 degrees is pretty darn cold.

Anyway, in Petrópolis we visited a "Crystal Palace," which looked kind of like a greenhouse; a nice cathedral; the house of Santos Dumont, who in this country is considered the inventor of the airplane; an all-you-can-eat restaurant, which are quickly becoming my favorite; and the Imperial Palace. The Imperial Palace was the best museum ever, since immediately upon entering you are given slipper-sandals which you slip over your shoes and which allow you to skate across the shiny wood floors. Pretty fun. 

Then, while we waited outside the museum, a band in kilts and those furry hats that British people wear (I know, that is a completely false generalization) marched up the hill. You never know what you're going to see in this country.

On the drive back down to Rio, the mountains seemed to be strange sea creatures swimming through a deep pool of mist.

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