Monday, July 6, 2009
Making Friends With Doormen
I left off my last post with my arrival in Rio de Janeiro. It's now about 36 hours later, and so much has happened that I can't even begin to describe it all. And I don't want to subject you all to a minute-by-minute account of the past two days. But I will write a little about where I'm living and what I've seen so far.
We were instructed not under any circumstances to leave the airport without a program representative, so after waiting for our baggage (there were five of us on the same plane) which passed by on the slowest conveyor belt any of us had ever seen, we were glad to find someone already waiting for us. A driver was there to drive us to our host families, and since I was closest to the airport, I was dropped off first. The only problem: it was not the right apartment building. When I told the doorman that I was looking for apartment 709, he told me that that didn't exist in that building. There was no 7th floor. I tried to remember what the correct address was, and the doorman suggested that I leave my big bags in the entryway with him and go check out another apartment building across the street.
Luckily enough, that was the one. I went back to get my luggage from the first doorman, who was very nice and as helpful as he could be in the situation, and dragged it across the street where that doorman called up to my host mother. By the time I dragged all my stuff to the seventh floor (on the elevator, of course), I was sweating buckets. Gloria, my host mother, answered the door in her bathrobe -- she had thought I was arriving in the evening. But luckily she is very nice and wasn't too unprepared.
Gloria is divorced, with no children, and she gets lonely living alone so she rents out her extra room to people like me. While we had a delicious lunch of vegetables, rice, and beans she taught me what each vegetable was called in Portuguese (I found out quickly I don't have a very large vocabulary of words like that) and I told her what several were in English. One struck her as very funny: batata is Portuguese for potato, which sounds slightly similar to the word for doorman in Portuguese (porteiro). She decided that she was going to start calling all of the doormen in our building "batata" -- and there are twelve of them, apparently. I tried to convince her that "potato" isn't actually all that similar to "porteiro," but she didn't fall for it.
So when we left to go to the Hippy Fair, she announced to Jorge his new nickname. And when we came back, Daniel had taken his place, and she told him the same thing. I'm sure the doormen love me right now.
The Hippy Fair is a an outdoor market that takes place just a ten-minute walk from my apartment every Sunday in Ipanema. I'm living in Copacabana, near the border with Ipanema. I can see the ocean from my bedroom window, and the beach is just a block away. Yesterday night Gloria and I watched fireworks over the beach from the window. It's a really great place to live, cheaper than other neighborhoods in Rio, with a lot to do and of course a fantastic beach. Plus, about half the students in my program live in Copacabana.
Today we took a tour of Rio, through many different neighborhoods, and ended with a delicious dinner. I don't think I had realized exactly how enormous the city is -- hopefully I will be able to see a lot of it during the next six months. There are definitely a lot of beaches to go to! And the great thing is, it's the dead of winter right now (i.e. only in the 70s). It's only going to get warmer, so I can do things outside the whole time I'm here. There is already so much I want to go and explore. Plus, even at this time of year, the water is much warmer than it ever gets in Maine.
I officially ended my vegetarianism this evening with some nice steak and sausage, and I have to say it was delicious.