Although I’m currently sitting on my bed in what is now my room, at least for the next month, in Fortaleza (insert dance party here), I thought I’d take a minute or two to reflect on my orientation in Brasília.
Saturday, February 15th: I arrived in Brasília! That’s really it. There were about 20 other ETAs on my flight from Atlanta. Most of us found each other in the airport and made started with introductions. Once we arrived at the hotel, there were more introductions, naps, and lots of snacking! And by snacking, I mean eating essentially every “free” meal that we had on our own in the shopping (translation: the mall) food court. Yum!
Sunday, February 16th: Fulbright packed us into buses to the Casa Thomas Jefferson, where a number of people gave introductory remarks (including a public affairs officer from the embassy and the executive director of the Brazilian Fulbright Comission). Then, we got a briefing about what exactly “English without Borders” is. For those of you who don’t know, this year, the Brazilian Fulbright Commission quadrupled the size of it’s ETA program. In the past, ETAs have traditionally worked as TAs in the university English classes, and there will still be 30 ETAs doing that this year. However, the Brazilian government has created a new program, Inglês sem Fronteiras, which aims to train and prepare more than 100,000 Brazilian university students to take the TOEFL exam. It gets a little more complicated than that, but you can read more about it here: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-ets-toefl-partner-zone/brazil-english-without-borders-toefl
In the afternoon, we went on a guided tour of Brasília, which is a very odd city. It’s hard to explain and still keep this post relatively short-ish, but Brasilia is organized into very specific sectors (Hotel Sector North, Hotel Sector South, Commercial Sector North, etc) and it’s practically impossible to get around without a car. Our first stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia. Like most of the major monuments in the city, it was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. And it is incredible. The shape of the cathedral is meant to represent two hands clasped in prayer and the actual room is underground (you enter by walking down a ramp). I really don’t know how to describe it as anything other than amazing.
Then we hopped back on the bus and visited some other important sites including the Congress, the Planalto (their presidential office), Itamaraty (the Foreign Ministry), the ‘Dove of Peace’ statue, and the “flame of democracy,” which was relight following the end of the military dictatorship. I don’t think I would have gone to Brasilia on my own, but it was really cool, so I’m glad we had this chance.
Ok, so this post is officially way long than I anticipated and my internet is kind of slow. Expect an orientation part 2 and photos sometime tomorrow!