I’m back! 

So, after a brief (cough six-month) hiatus, I’m back! At the behest of some readers, including people other than my mom, I’m resurrecting the gringa goes! I’m about to head out for a trip for Semana Santa, but, when I get back, expect an update on the end of the 2014 year, a brief (I promise!) summary of my trip with my family, reflections on my time at home, and the first month back at Fulbright! So, basically, six months-worth of posts. This is for all (three of) you who complained about the lack of blog! 

As for the rest of you who may be sick of my long-winded, picture-filled posts, you can also check out my Twitter, where I’ll be recording smaller reflections of round two in the terra do sol. 

Beijos e sejam bem-vindos! 

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III Encontro Nacional Universitário de Dança Popular

Disclaimer: This post is really long, but I promise it’s because of the photos!

I’ve blogged countless times, probably more than every other topic, about my love for my dance group, Oré Anacã. However, after spending five and a half days with them in Porto Alegre, I realize just how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing group. The journey to the III Encontro Nacinoal Universitário de Dança Popular began around midnight on Tuesday. We met in the airport, divided our 350 kilos of luggage among 25 people, and got ready for our 2am flight to POA!

ready to board!

ready to board!

I love flying, but I was really grateful to be exhausted and sleep on this flight! Every day of the trip was jam packed with activities and, after arriving in POA at 9am on Wednesday, we hit the ground running and didn’t get to sleep until close to midnight!

Mas bah!

Mas bah!

We arrived early in the day and went to right to the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) to register for the event and drink a much needed coffee. We were greeted by smiles and hugs from members of TCHÊ (the dance troupe from UFRGS) including fellow ETA, Catherine!

With fellow ETA, Catherine, who dances with TCHÊ!

With fellow ETA, Catherine, who dances with TCHÊ!

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The rest of the morning was pretty free while we waited for Flor Ribeirinha, the group from Cuiabá, to arrive so we could go on our tour of the city! I had previously met Michel, one of the dancers from Flor, when he came to visit Fortaleza back in March. It was so great to see him again and meet other members of Flor! In fact, one of my favorite parts of this festival was getting to meet people from all over Brazil!

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Porto Alegre is an absolutely incredible city and I wish we had been given more time to explore. The tour gave us a chance to see important landmarks, and we covered a lot of the city, but it wasn’t the same as touring on our own. At the same time, this bus tour was a ton of fun! I sat with Syl, Gabi, and Emanuel, three of my closest friends in the group (and in general) and we had a blast! We took a ton of selfies (a Brazilian specialty) and enjoyed the sites of POA together.

the view from our tour bus

the view from our tour bus

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After the tour, we took a quick detour to our hostel with enough to time to shower, change, and head out to the Encontrão (literally “the big meeting”) to celebrate our first night together! The Encontrão was held at a Centro Tradicional Gaúcho, or CTG and it was so cool! Malu, the coordinator of TCHÊ, had asked for typical music from each group beforehand, so we danced the night away to music from all over Brazil! The Encontrão proved, once again, how great Oré is. Members of Oré (myself included) we the first ones on the dance floor, the ones to get everyone else up and dancing, and the first ones to samba in the big circle. Ok, so that last one didn’t include me, but how can you not love such a great and enthusiastic group of people?

at the Encontrão!

at the Encontrão!

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Thursday morning started off slightly on the wrong foot. Despite telling (what I thought was) a lot of people that I would be meeting them at their hostel to catch the bus, I walked up at 8:01 with Catherine to see it pulling away. I ended up sprinting after bus and waving it down (and anyone who knows me knows how much I hate running) and being told it was my own fault for not telling them I’d be there. At the time, it totally sucked, but after about 10 minutes, both Catherine and I realized just how funny it was and it became a running joke of the week. My unintentional workout also got me pumped for the oficinas, or workshops, that each group would be hosting that morning. Rosários, the group from the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, was the first group to go. Even though Oré does dances from all over Brazil, We actually don’t really cover much from the South or Southeast, so this was a great opportunity to learn more traditional dances! Oré was next with a workshop on Carimbó, a dance from the state of Pará in the North of Brazil. Carimbó is one of my favorite dances performed by Oré (although I have yet to learn all of it) and it was a ton of fun! Flor Riberinha was next, teaching a workshop on Siriri. Siriri is once of the dances performed by Oré, and I’ve learned some of it, but learning how to dance this traditional dance from Mato Gross from a group dedicated to it was absolutely amazing. Thank you Flor! We finished up with some dances from the South of Brazil and wrapped up for the morning! Aside from the actual presentations, the workshops were by far one of the most anticipated parts of this week. Like I said, getting to learn these dances by people who live this culture was an unforgettable experience. Once again, thank you Oré!

post-workshops

post-workshops

After our lunch break, we had about 25 minutes to mark positions on the stage (which was incredible difficult to do in such a short period) before giving various participants a chance to set up their banners with their research projects. Surprisingly, very few people submitted academic work, but the projects were interesting nonetheless!

the stage we danced on!

the stage we danced on!

After a brief glance at the projects, a few of us snuck out to explore around the university for about an hour or so. We basically made it to a park a few blocks down the street, stopped for a snack, and wandered back. It was brief, but it was so nice to break free, even for an hour! The next item on our agenda was a presentation by Paixão Cortês, an 87-year-old gaucho who is, almost single-handedly, responsible for the preservation of traditional gaucho music and dance. While I admit to learning most of what I know about him from Malu’s introduction, it was really cool to hear him speak. He has a passion for his culture and tradition, even at age 87, and hearing the pride in his voice as he addressed all of us (but specifically the members of TCHÊ), was really cool.

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Paixão Cortês

Paixão Cortês

The day wrapped up with the first dance presentation of the event: TCHÊ presenting “O Sul da América do Sul.”

with Catherine in her traditional Gaucha dress!

with Catherine in her traditional Gaucha dress!

Unlike Oré, which performs dances from all over Brazil, TCHÊ exclusively performs traditional gaucho dances, which was amazing. I admit that I knew nothing about gaucho dances, or gaucho culture TBH, before coming, so it was great! Did you know that gauchos tap dance? I’m not kidding! The men, in their gaucho pants, spurs, fringe, and all, tap dance!

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Part of their show shows other influences on gaucho dance, including dances from Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay! This dance, from Paraguay, was one of my favorites!

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After an amazing performance from TCHÊ (and Catherine especially!), we made our way back to the hostel, tried to get some sleep, and got ready for our performance the next morning! I don’t have any photos yet of the actual performance (just a few from before and tons from after), but as soon as I do, I’ll post them to the blog! We were the second group to perform, at around 10:30 am on Friday. It was such an exciting atmosphere! Obviously every time I’ve performed with Oré has been special (and amazing), but something about this performance was different. We traveled literally across the entire country to perform; it was if our whole year had been leading up to this moment. And, in a way, it kind of had. Since I joined the group, all anyone could talk about was the second Encontro last year in Ouro Preto and the upcoming trip to Porto Alegre in September. Now that trip, that performance, was finally here. It was definitely the most nervous I’ve felt. I performed four out of our nine dances: Celebração da Fé (an indigenous dance from the Amazon previously featured on this blog); Maracatu Pernambucano (a dance I’ve performed before, but in a different role); Congado (a dance from Minas Gerias); and Frevo (a wild and crazy Carnaval dance from Recife, Pernambuco!). I only had one dance to change from celebração to Maracatu (read: from one very elaborate costume to another very elaborate costume) and one to change from Maracatu to Congado, so to say it was hectic would not be strong enough. Finally, the moment to dance Frevo came. Frevo was the first dance I learned with Oré and it meant a lot to me to be chosen to perform it in POA. The dance is upbeat, to the point of being almost frenetic, and tons of fun, but it required a lot of hard work to prefect. I’m really proud of my performance in all the dances and, despite normally hating videos of myself dancing, I can’t wait for my DVD to arrive! Here are some photos from before and afer the performance! Unfortunately, it was too hectic to get photos in my maracatu costume (a beautiful pink princess dress!) or congado outfit, but hopefully some photos of the performance will surface!

Junior dressed as Pagé, one of the celebrated characters at the festival in parintins!

Junior dressed as Pagé, one of the celebrated characters at the festival in parintins!

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Sylvanio (on the far right) and I are dressed for Frevo while Manu and Emanuel are danced for Reisado, a dance from Ceará!

Sylvanio (on the far right) and I are dressed for Frevo while Manu and Emanuel are danced for Reisado, a dance from Ceará!

with Catherine after my performance!

with Catherine after my performance!

after an amazing performance!

after an amazing performance!

Celebrating our Frevo success!

Celebrating our Frevo success!

Oré Anacã and Paralelo 30, the group from UFRGS that danced before us

Oré Anacã and Paralelo 30, the group from UFRGS that danced before us

Lorena and I with Renan and Lucas from TCHÊ

Lorena and I with Renan and Lucas from TCHÊ

After our performance, we were officially free! Well, we obviously still had our obligations to the festival, but it was as if this giant weight had been lifted off our shoulders. We were able to enjoy the last two performance in peace, as well as the last day of the festival. Following lunch, we got to watch Flor Ribeirinha (complete with live band) perform an excerpt from their new show. I have no words to describe how amazing they were. Again, I’ve siriri rehearsed a million times by Oré, including having a workshop with Michel during his visit, but watching them dance was a whole different level. Just look at the pictures! I could barely get a shot that wasn’t blurry because they’re moving so fast!

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The final performance of the festival was by Rosarios, the group from UFOP. Like Oré, they perform dances from all over Brazil, including a bunch that we dance as well (like Lundum from Marajó, Coco, and Boi Bumbá) as well as a bunch of traditional dances form the Southeast of Brazil.

Congado from Minas

Congado from Minas

Boi Bumbá

Boi Bumbá

another dance from the SE

another dance from the SE

Lundum from Marajó

Lundum from Marajó

Again, it was so great to see these other groups and be part of an amazing dance community!

all five groups!

all five groups!

with Michel, from Flor Riberinha

with Michel, from Flor Riberinha

with two dancers from Rosarios

with two dancers from Rosarios

with Babi, our amazing guide and a beautiful dancer from TCHÊ

with Babi, our amazing guide and a beautiful dancer from TCHÊ

celebrating the end of the performances!

celebrating the end of the performances!

Another fun part of the festival relates to its dates. I didn’t realize the this festival was scheduled to intentionally coincide with an important holiday in Rio Grande do Sul: Dia da Farroupilha. September 20, or Dia da Farroupilha, celebrates RS’ fight for independence from the rest of Brazil. While the independence only lasted about 20 years, it’s an important part of the history and culture here in the South. Now, the day mostly celebrates Dia do Gaúcho! The celebrations last the entire month of September, but the week of is specifically known as Semana da Farroupilha. One of the special parts about this month is the set up of the Acampamento da Farroupilha (or this Gaucho encampment) in the middle of the city. Different CTGs from around the state set up a Piquete, or stand, and the owners sleep, eat, and work there for the month. The event is filled with churrasco, bailes, and events celebrating traditional Gaucho culture. One of my favorite things about Brazil is that, like the US, there’s a huge diversity in the culture and history throughout the country. Getting to experience farroupilha in Rio Grande do Sul and learning more about gaucho culture was an incredible experience. Thank you TCHÊ! We spent Friday night at a piquete with all the groups. We had a chance to wander around the encampment, but most of the night was spent dancing (albeit very differently from how the dance here in the NE), enjoying churrasco, and relaxing after our performances!

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Saturday was Dia do Gaucho. We started off by attending a parade filled with gauchos, horses, and more traditional dancing. Despite my participation in Oré, a group that focuses on folk culture, I’ve noticed a lack of that valorization here in Ceará. In fact, if you asked me about the popular culture here in Fortaleza, I would talk about the beach. In Rio Grande do Sul, it’s a totally different story. Not only do they have an entire week (ok, an entire month) dedicated to their state history and culture, but you see men of all ages walking around in bombachas (traditional gaucho pants) every day! Gaucho culture is a part of everyday life in RS, and the valorization of the culture begins at a young age. It was just one of the many interesting observations about differences between Ceará and Rio Grande do Sul.

peão e prenda

peão e prenda

gaucho dancing

gaucho dancing

gaucho dancing

gaucho dancing

orgulho de ser gaucho!

orgulho de ser gaucho!

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my new best friends!

my new best friend!

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The parade was followed by a churrasco lunch at a nearby CTG. It was absolutely delicious!

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After lunch, we went to the famous statue of Paixão Cortês, a symbol of the city, to take the official group photos for the event. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for the photos!

a statue of Paixão Cortês

a statue of Paixão Cortês

Oré!

Oré!

Ceará!

Ceará!

The festival officially came to a close during the fuxico, or wrap-up, after the photos. We split into different groups and discussed different aspects of our troupes, the support we get (or don’t get) from the universities, and how to improve the festival for next year. It was so sad to see the festival end, and there were lots of tears involved, but it was nice to end it all together, celebrating the official announcement of the fourth annual festival in Cuiabá.

with Vó Domingas, the coordinator of Flor!

with Vó Domingas, the coordinator of Flor!

Following the fuxico, we went back to the hostel (or, to Catherine’s apartment in my case), showered, changed, and packed our bags. I left my stuff at the group hostel and then we all went to a traditional baile gaucho at the acampamento da farroupilha! Once again, seeing the valorization of gaucho culture was amazing! Men AND women alike were dressed in traditional clothing, there was gaucho dancing everywhere, and performance by two famous local artists!

Baile Gaúcho!

Baile Gaúcho!

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junior with real gauchos!

junior with real gauchos!

We left the baile around 3am and arrived at the hostel around 3:30, just in time to pack our final items and get on our 6am bus to Gramado, a small city outside of POA. That’s right, we didn’t sleep. But that didn’t prevent us from enjoying the beautiful city of Gramado!

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Gramado is known as the Switzerland (or Germany) of Brazil due to it’s European architecture, fondue, and chocolate! Yum! Literally the only downside is that it’s in the mountains, therefore making it incredible cold (at noon, the temperature was just under 50 degrees!). You may thinking, hey Missy! Remember that polar vortex? Now that was cold! And you’d be right. But then you have to remember that I’ve spent the past seven months living in a city where it rarely gets below 80 degrees!

so cold!

so cold!

We started our morning enjoying a traditional chocolate quente (like Spain, this is essentially just liquid chocolate) and began wandering around. IMG_5151

buying chocolate!

buying chocolate!

with Manuzinho

with Manuzinho

where the Gramado Film Festival (or Oscars of Braziil) takes place!

where the Gramado Film Festival (or Oscars of Braziil) takes place!

a beautiful church in the city

a beautiful church in the city

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visiting the chocolate factory!

visiting the chocolate factory!

Following another delicious churrasco lunch and a quick trip to the Florybal Choclate Factory, we piled back into the bus and made our way to the airport. It was a little hectic (again, trying to divide almost 40 bags and 350 kilos among 20 people), but everyone and everything made the flight to São Paulo. Finally, around 11pm, we boarded our last plane back to Fortaleza. You would think that we’d be exhausted after over 24 hours awake, but no. Oré is never tired. Add in the fact that Tirullipa, a famous comedian from Fortaleza, was sitting right next to us, and the zueira (craziness) continued!

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I finally arrived home around 3:30 am and was immediately grateful for scheduling Monday as my day off. But more importantly, this trip reminded me that, even though my real family may be thousands of miles away in DC, I have a family here in Fortaleza. I can’t imagine my time here without Oré, and certainly don’t want to think about these last two months as the end of my time with them.

Pessoal, muito obrigada por tudo. Vcs realmente são minha familia aqui em Fortaleza e não tenho palavras suficientes pra explicar quanta grata eu sou. Vcs são lindos, dentro e fora, e não consigo imaginar minha vida sem vcs!

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Vc fala português e quer saber…

o que eu tava fazendo em Porto Alegre? Olha esse video do evento!

For you non-Portuguese speaking readers (my Mom, aka my prime reader), this is an official video produced by UFRGS about the dance festival I attended last week! I’m working on my actual update now and hope to post everything, including pictures, tomorrow!

Beijos!

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Making it Count

I realized, in retrospect, that my last post  was mostly on overview of what I did in São Paulo, and, in trying to be brief, I ended up omitting my reflections on the event. And I had many. But the main thing I took away from our seminar was the idea of making it count. When I left São Paulo, I had eleven weeks left in Brazil. Now it’s down to ten, and one of those weeks will be spent at a dance festival in Porto Alegre. So really I have nine.

 Nine weeks to run cultural seminars about life in the US. Nine weeks of conversation club. Nine weeks of trying to have a positive impact on my students… Nine weeks is practically nothing. But instead of panicking about how little time I have, the seminar got me focused on how to make my remaining time count. 

With my mentor group, I reevaluted my personal and professional goals that we discussed during orientation, and as a large group we discussed creating bucket lists and making every moment matter. It may sound kind of cheesy, but these ideas really resonated. I came back to campus, hit the ground running with my ideas (lip-sync kareoke anyone), And now, an updated version of my Brazil Bucket List:

1. Host Lip-Sync Kareoke with Students. See some corny dancing

2. Learn to cook rice and beans 

3. Learn the choreography to carimbó (that’s directed especially at my readers from Oré!)

4. Finally travel to Jericoacoara

5. Drink more coconut water straight from the coconut

6. Sucessfully host office hours with students (one student actually just left!)

7. Help my students think creatively about English and US Culture. Help them continue/create these opportunities even once I’m gone. 

8. Work on my tan, but only after applying copious amounts of sunscreen

9. Eat more açaí

10. Explore new areas of Fortaleza. Break out of my Benfica/Beira Mar Bubble!

This list is constantly growing, so expect to see some updates over the next few weeks!

Since returning to Fortaleza, I’ve also started working with two students on projects for the UFC Encontros Universitários, a three-day long event where all the bolsistas at UFC will present an academic project or article. Both projects I’m co-authoring focus on the work we have done this year on campus and the impact it’s had on students.  As we began brainstorming ideas for surveying students, it made me wonder: have I really had an impact on my students? I admit, thinking about the answer makes me nervous. But today, I had over 30 students in both of conversation clubs and multiple students come to my office hours for help. Three students have also already signed up to definitely come tomorrow; one of them will be coming to discuss an independent English-intensive course he’s designing for tourism students, inspired by a (failed) project I tried on campus.

So, while my work as an ETA is never finished, I think I can head in to these last nine weeks feeling good about what I’ve done and what’s to come. I will make these last weeks count. 

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#FulbrightEnhancementSeminar

(disclaimer: I basically took no photos on this trip. Sorry)

It finally happened: the return to my beloved city of São Paulo. The best part, it was a requirement for my grant! The trip was for our Mid-Grant Enhancement Seminar. And, not only were there 120 Brazil ETAs, but there were about 25 ETAs from Argentina and Uruguay as well. It was crazy! This week was a great for two main reasons. It was an opportunity to see ETA friends, collaborate on different projects, brainstorm new ideas, and develop professionally, but it was also a chance to visit my host family and see some friends after three years!

I arrived on Tuesday, took a shuttle to the hotel, and promptly headed off to see my host family. For those who may not know, I studied abroad in São Paulo in the fall of 2011 and stayed with the best host family I could have ever imagined. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, but this was my first time seeing them since I left in 2011! When I got off the bus at Cardoso de Almeida and Caiubi, an intersection where I spent a lot of time, I suddenly felt at home again. No looking up bus/walking routes to new places; no asking the bus driver to let me know when we’re getting close.

It was amazing to see Claudia, Fernando, and Érika (and dogs Nina and Otto) again, but it was also great to finally meet their son, Rafa, who’s room I occupied for five months.

With my amazing host family!

With my amazing host family!

We sat around chatting; talking about my life in Fortaleza (they went on a family trip last year and are kind of familiar with the city), what my grant actually entails, and what my plans are for next year. Fernando kept joking, “stop feeling like a guest, this is your home too,” only adding to the fact that São Paulo is where I want to be. We decided that I would return Wednesday night and that Rafa would cook. Suddenly it was 10:30, and I was taken back to the hotel.

Instead of being responsible and going bed, especially since I was exhausted, I ended up hanging out in my friend Megan’s hotel room just chatting with some of the other ETAs, some who I’ve seen recently, and others I haven’t seen in months. We caught up about our cities, talked about what we do (and don’t do), and eventually went to bed.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, the #EnhancementSeminar began. (Yes, hashtag. We were encouraged to use a number of Fulbright and Fulbright Brazil related hashtags throughout the seminar, which, considering that the hotel had good wifi and we were all on our phones anyway, was a good plan. Thanks Mary Evans from IIE! ) Our first morning was mostly introductions. We heard from the Consul General in São Paulo, the Chairman of the Fulbright Commission, and a representative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department.

Following the introductions, we split into different tours of the city. They offered four options, but I had honestly been all the places they were taking us, so I ended up going with friends to Centro. We visited the Cathedral and Praça da Sé.; we talked about the history of São Paulo; and, we visited the Mercado Municipal.

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After our tour, I hung around the hotel for a bit and then when back to my host family for another fun night! We ate an amazing dinner, cooked by Rafa, and just hung out. Anyone who has ever traveled extensively or lived abroad before knows the importance of feeling at home in a place, and that’s exactly how I felt (edit: feel) when I’m with them. Senti bem em casa, and I know this wasn’t be our last evening together. (But actually, my mom and brother are coming in November and we’ll be visiting my host fam in SP!).

Thursday was when the real #enhancementseminar began. We split into a variety of workshops in the morning, took a break for lunch, and returned to our workshops in the afternoon. I ended up in one by Ryan, an ETA from Argentina, about different active games to play with a class. We did a number of mixers and worked through different teambuilding activities that get students up and moving. I’m definitely going to use some in my classes! In the afternoon, I attended a workshop on phrasal verbs with Nicole, one of the second-year ETAs/mentors here in Brazil.

For those who are new to English teaching, phrasal verbs are basically the worst. As native speakers, we use them all the time without thinking about, but they have no set grammar rules, and therefore end up being a major point of frustration for English Language Learners. A phrasal verb consists of a verb and a particle (usually a preposition) that changes it’s meaning. Good examples include:

To turn (virar), to turn on (ligar), to turn off (desligar). In Portuguese, these are three totally different, and unrelated, verbs. And to a native English speaker, these are also three separate verbs. But, to an ELL, there’s no rhyme or reason for when these phrasal verbs are used. 

Anyway, I can talk more about phrasal verbs (and how we covered them in conversation club) in another post. It’s an issue I’ve been wanting to address for a while with students, but I really lacked inspiration on how to do it a fun way. So, when I saw that Nicole would be leading this workshop, I signed up right away! We ended up discussing and playing several games that get students thinking about and using phrasal verbs. We also discussed modifications of these activities based on different student levels. Less than a week later, and I’m already using them in the classroom!

Thursday evening, Fulbright took us for a night out, which was great in theory, but in practice, it’s a little hard with 150 people. I stayed around for a little over an hour, and ended up making new friends (shoutout to David and Rob from Uruguay and Ruben in Minas!) before heading over to Skybar with some other ETAs. Skybar is essentially the chique-est bar in the city (or, at least, the chique-est bar I’ve ever been too) on the roof of a hotel. You get an incredible view of the Sampa skyline and the people watching is great. We hung around there until about 1 and then decided to call it a night.

Friday was the final day of our enhancement seminar. We had meetings with our mentor groups (whatup Gatinhos Nordestinos!). It was a great chance to finally sit down as a whole group, most of us were in JP back in May but not all, and talk about what’s really happening at our universities. We discussed our struggles and our triumphs, what we can do to improve, and outlined our goals (both personal and professional) for these last two and half months. That’s right, two and a half months. That’s it. It was a little overwhelming to think about how quickly time has gone by and how little we have left, but I left the session feeling great about my work and what’s to come.

Our last session of the day was also led by the mentors and it focused on making the most of these last months. Again, we discussed goals (had we met any already? Yes. Did we have more? Absolutely) and I left the session feeling inspired to really make these ten weeks count. Ten weeks. That’s it. And including my one-week trip to Porto Alegre coming up, that’s not a lot of time. But instead of dwelling on the “what’s next,” we were challenged to focus on our lives here. The mentors shared some of their bucket list items and I’ve started making my own (along with the one I have posted on this blog), and we wrapped up for the day.

The evening ended with a trip for delicious and spicy thai food, gelato, and a trip to my favorite samba place—Pau Brasil. I only ended up samba-ing with one other ETA, Kelci, but it was also kind of nice to be there just the two of us. We enjoyed great live music and samba-ed the night away.

My flight on Saturday wasn’t scheduled to leave until about 3:30, leaving me with most of the morning free. I ended up heading over to Vila Madalena with Kate and Abby (from Natal) where we ended up taking a long walk to Beco de Batman, a famous alleyway known for it’s incredible graffiti art. It took us almost an hour to get there from the metro, courtesy of bad directions from Brazilians. But it was incredible. I had visited Beco de Batman before, but it’s always changing and I loved going back. Finally, here are some pictures on my blog:

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There were some complaints that the seminar came too late (really though. August is definitely not “mid-grant”), and times I agreed. But I also feel like it was the perfect time. The semester barely started before the seminar and now I feel reinvigorated and inspired to continue doing great things at UFC. Just this past week, we had a meeting with all of our bosses to discuss our upcoming projects. I feel really great about the work I’ve done and truly believe that this semester can only be better. 

While this is obviously not my last blog post as an ETA, I want to say thank you #FulbrightBrazil for this amazing opportunity and thank you to all the ETAs I talked to at the #enhancementseminar for inspiring me to do my best and try my hardest. We may not meet up again as a huge group during this grant, although I’m a little relieved about that, but I hope we can stay in touch as our “real adult” lives begin following this grant.

All of the Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay ETAs.  Photo Credit: Mary Evans

All of the Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay ETAs.
Photo Credit: Mary Evans

#ObrigadaCapes

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Gringa Going part 3: Almost Amazonian Adventure, Belém

You’ve already had a chance to read about my ferias traveling around the nordeste with Michell. But after a not-so-relaxing four days at home, I packed up my suitcase again and headed off to Belém, Pará for a week! The main purpose of my trip was to attend COPENE 2014, a conference on race and affirmative action in Brazil, but I planned my week so I would have about 3 and half days of touring before the conference started! It was a great plan. 

I got it around midnight on July 25th, met up with fellow Fulbrighter and friend Amy, and headed over to our hostel where we went right to sleep! Saturday, we decided to hit up some of the museums and the famous Mercado Ver-o-Peso. One of the things that stood out to us right away way, despite the fact that we were in the Amazon, there were European neoclassical buildings all over. A theater here, a mansion there. It was really odd!

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When we made it to our first stop, the Art Museum of Belém, we asked about the architecture, and the man’s response was just as ridiculous as we had hoped: “Well, they wanted to make the Europeans feel at home in such a foreign environment…” I’m pretty sure the Europeans were fine at making themselves at home in foreign countries, but that’s a separate issue. As a result, ,you see these spectacular, ornately decorated buildings throughout the Cidade Velha (or old part of the city).

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After visiting the art museum and the City Museum of Belém (also housed in a neoclassical mansion), we decided to eat some typical paraense food. Being in the Amazon, the comida típica food from Pará is totally different from the other Brazilian food I’ve eaten. And I therefore made it my mission to try at least one new thing everyday. First up, maniçoba. Maniçoba is similar to feijoada, a traditional Brazilian bean stew made by slow cooking black beans with various animal parts until you have this nice thick stew. However, maniçoba uses the leaves of the mandioc root instead of beans. These leaves have to be cooked for 7-10 days before they become palatable and only then do they become maniçoba.

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It wasn’t my favorite food (I found it really salty), but I was happy that my mission was off to a good start. After our lunch, Amy and I decided to wander to the Mercado Ver-o-Peso, an incredible centuries-old food market that has everything you can possibly imagine and more! I’ve never seen so many varieties of fruit in my life! We hopped over to the juice stands, since everyone talks about the delicious fruits that only exist in this region, and were immediately taken aback by a list of fruits that were mostly unfamiliar.

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Without any idea of what it actualy was, we decided to try Bacurí. It was delicious! We stayed in the area of the market and the Estação das Docas (old shipping docks converted into a chique restaurant/shopping space) before realizing we needed a break at our hostel.

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NOT the Amazon River. #decepcionada

NOT the Amazon River. #decepcionada 

While Amy and I had been alone in the dorm Friday night, we got back Saturday afternoon to discover we had our first roommate, Selma. On Sunday, we decided to go together to the Feira de Artesenato a local artisan craft fair that happens every Sunday! Once again, we decided to eat comida típica for lunch and today’s selection was Tacacá, a soup known for using jambu leaves, which I had been dying to try. Selma and I walked up to the food cart and immediately ordered tacacá without thinking twice.

 

Tacacá

Tacacá

so excited to try it

so excited to try it

deciding if I like it

deciding if I like it

The verdict: odd. There was one ingredient, goma, that I really didn’t like, but otherwise it was pretty good. The jambu leaves have a really tart flavor and leave your whole mouth/tongue tingling. It was cool! Goma, on the other hand, is this weird mucus-like goop that’s put into the soup.

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Had I known you could order Tacacá without goma, I’m sure I would have loved it, but both Selma and I had trouble getting the goma down.

 

After lunch, we decided to check out the Museu Emilio Goeldi, a historic museum and zoo! We saw so many cool animals, including these beautiful jaguars and stunning macaws, but we were a little disappointed that the advertised anaconda and manatee were nowhere to be found. But, for R$2, it was a great deal. The park was also filled with this incredible plant life, as well as cool animals, and it was a great way to spend our afternoon.

 

Saturday was also when our friends Amber and Michelle arrived from their small city in Rio Grande do Sul. They literally traveled the entire country to get to the conference, and I was so great to spend the week with them! For dinner, we decided to try another typical food: açaí. You may be thinking “wait, I though açaí was all over Brazil…” and you’d be right. I eat açaí all the time. But the açaí I eat is mixed with sugar, guaraná powder, and other sweet things and we eat it with fruit. In Pará, the home of the açaí berry, they eat it all natural. Not only do they eat it plain, but they eat it with their regular food like fish, rice, and beans! But I’ll get to that a little later. Our açaí was served in a big bowl with a side of sugar and tapioca flour (for texture).

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It was so weird to eat açaí this way! It wasn’t sweet at all (and I subsequently added more sugar to mine in order to finish it), and it was kind of bitter, but the actual taste of açaí was the same! It was so cool! I definitely think I prefer my açaí with granola and banana, but I’m glad I ate it!

 

On Monday, two more friends, Kate and Abby, arrived from Natal! We went back to ver-o-peso and drank more delicious juice, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon indoors (since all the touristy things are closed on Mondays). In the evening, we headed over to Estação das Docas to drink some Amazon Beer, a brand of beer from Pará made with local ingredients like açaí and bacurí! I’m not a huge beer drinker (or drinker in general), but these were so good! It was a great way to end out day together.

sunset over the not-Amazon

sunset over the not-Amazon

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The conference began on Tuesday, but not until 7pm, so Amy and I decided to tour around with other women from our hostel. They were so cool! Everyone at the hostel was there for COPENE and they were a great group of people! We had so much with them throughout the week, but Tuesday was definitely a highlight.

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 We started off by checking out the famous fort, the first structure built by the Portuguese in Belém.

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It was tons of fun. Then we split up and half of the girls went on a boat tour, while Selma, Amy and I, plus our other friend Kelly, decided to continue visiting museums. But first, we went for our comidia típica of the day: fried fish with açaí! I was hesitant at first, but it was actually delicious! Now I understand why/how the parenses eat açaí with everything! Yum!!!

 

Peixe com Açaí

Peixe com Açaí

 

After stopping by the cathedral and a few museums, we headed back to the hotel for cold showers (have I mentioned just how hot and humid it was in Belém) and then headed off to UFPA for the conference!

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Tuesday night was just registration and an opening ceremony, so we mostly just hung out. Wednesday, the conference also didn’t have much going on until the evening, so Amy and I decided to continue touring. We finally made it to the Teatro da Paz, or opera house, which was as spectacular on the inside as we imagined.

inside the theater!

inside the theater!

floor designs out of different types of wood typical to the region

floor designs out of different types of wood typical to the region

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The opera house is all original, despite a few fix-ups over the years, and is still home to an annual opera festival every august! The Amazon is the last place you would expect to find a stunning opera house, but it’s there! I’m glad we finally got to check out the inside because it was stunning. Eventually, we may our way to the conference, where we heard a professor from UC-Davis talk about race, class, and youth through hip-hop. It wasn’t the most interesting talk of the whole conference, but it was cool. I’m glad we went.

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Thursday and Friday were totally full of conference activities, including different mini-courses in the morning, thematic symposia where a variety of people presented their academic work, and round-table discussions in the evening. Thursday was kind of a hot mess, to put it nicely, because all the rooms were different from the guide we were given and no one knew where they were going. I also ended up in a thematic symposium that wasn’t too interesting, but oh well! It’s all a learning experience. Friday, on the other hand, was phenomenal. My mini-course focused a lot on the teaching of Afro-Brazilian history (and participation in history) in schools and, while felt a little out of place at first, it was a great opportunity. It’s a little too complicated to explain in this blog, but it was awesome. Thanks to so much to the great professors in charge!

After the mini-course, I decided to go to a different thematic symposium than the day before, this time on Youth and Identity. It was a complete 180 from Thursday. The variety of works presented was really interesting and the presenters, including our friend Zizele from our hostel, all did I great job. I only wish we would have the opportunity to read their finished works!

 

Zizele presenting her research

Zizele presenting her research

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The evening concluded with a band playing carimbó music, a traditional paraense rhythm, and then we headed over to one of the Belem ETA’s house to hang out. It was so much fun seeing two of the Belem ETAs (Sarah Sanderson and Sarah Slater) as well as just enjoying a relaxing night out. Sarah Sanderson baked us cookies, which I cannot emphasize enough how delicious they were, and ended up all staying and chatting until about 3am! It was so fun!

Saturday was the beginning of the end, with Kate and Abby leavning that evening and Amy leaving on Sunday at 5am. Amber and Michelle decided to check out some museums that Amy and I had already visited, so we went with Kate and Abby to Mangal das Garças, this kind of odd park in the city. One of the best features of the park was the lighthouse. At first, we were kind of put off about having to pay to go up, but it was totally worth it! The view of the city, and the not-Amazon river, was incredible.

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After enjoying our view, we decided to treat ourselves to one last lunch of comida típica, but this time at one of the chique restaurants in Estação das Docas. We ordered the “Menu Paraense,” which was a tasting menu of different typical foods. I don’t even remember what all the things were, but they were absolutely delicious.

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One favorite was “pato no tucupi,” or duck cooked in tucupi broth (the base of tacacá) with jambu leaves on top. I wish we had gotten bigger bowl!

We ended our meal by meeting up with Stevie and Anna, two of the other Belém ETAs (there are six in Belém) for amazing ice cream and once last wander through ver-o-peso.

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We said good bye to Kate and Abby, and then Amy and I decided to take a break at the hostel (and give Stevie and Anna some time to work!). We ended up meeting up with Stevie again for dinner that night and then ended up back at their apartment just hanging out. It’s always fun to be with other Fulbrighters, but this trip was particularly great. I got to meet three new ETAs from the São Paulo orientation group, hang out with friends from the opposite end of the country, and enjoy an almost-amazonian adventure.

If you’re considering traveling to Belém, I would say do it. It may be far from where you are, and it may be hot, but it’s one of my favorite trips I’ve taken this time around in Brazil and I was lucky to spend a full week there!

After getting back, I jumped right into my work (which will be a separate post) and now I’m just biding my time until I go to São Paulo on Tuesday for our Fulbright seminar. It’s hard to believe it’s mid-August already and sometimes I have to pinch myself as reminder that this isn’t a dream. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store!

Beijos!

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Celebração de Fé

Ok, so I know I said that my next post would be my almost-amazonian-adventure in Belém, but I was so excited about this dance performance from yesterday (and from having a good video) that I had to post it! 

This dance is called Celebração de Fé and is a boi-bumbá dance from a huge festival in Parintins, Amazonas. We’re all wearing different colors to represent different “tribes,” and the music sings all about different tribes coming together! You’re also going to see four itens, or soloists, come out who represent just four of over twenty different characters that perform during the Festival de Parintins. This is one of the dances I’m going to be performing at the festival in Porto Alegre and I absolutely love it. I hope you like it too! I also can’t say enough how much I love the people i’ve met in Oré. If any of you are reading this, thank you so much for helping to make my time here o meaningful! Te amo!!!!

(ps: i’m the girl with the orange feathers!)

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