Saturday, July 21, 2012

Yay Brazil!

When we arrived in Brazil, my excitement was a bit muted (most likely because of the 12 hour flight we had just endured). But after getting in a good nap, eating some feijoada, and exploring my new campus, I felt refreshed and ready for adventure. I have so much to write about already, there’s no way I can condense it into one post, so I’ll go with the highlights.
Dr. Britto’s lab has been such a great experience: I’ve learned perfusions, stereotaxic surgeries, immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting, and behavioral testing techniques. This is not to mention the frequent Portuguese tutoring I receive while making slides or communicate that I need a q-tip (the word is “cotonete,” and the need for circumlocution presents itself when I least expect it.) My Portuguese was terrible when I first arrived, my vocabulary was very limited and my listening skills were nonexistent. While I’m not going to say that I can speak very well now, I can certainly understand much more and carry a small conversation.
As for the culture, I’m almost surprised at how similar it is to my own culture. The biggest things I’ve had to get used to are the crazy drivers (and looking before I cross a street…), kissing when greeting (I still mess this up sometimes), and the, ahem, lack of punctuality. I have missed my usual eating habits which consist of spicy curries, tart yogurt, and many more veggies than I’ve been able to consume here. I’ve been getting by on the delicious churrasco sandwiches and tapioca doces, both of which I’ll have to get recipes for. But I can’t say that I’ve felt much culture shock or homesickness since I’ve been here. Strangely enough, once the half-way point hit, I actually started to miss Brazil. I may even return for the World Cup if I can! Which brings me to futebol.
A couple weeks ago I was invited out to watch the Corinthians game. This was going to be a HUGE game since the last time the Corinthians had been up for a title like this was almost a century ago. Unfortunately, since I would have had to walk alone at night to meet my party, I missed out, though I could hear fireworks reverberate throughout the entire city literally for the next few days. Luckily I got my chance a week later when I was invited to watch the Palmeiras game—one of the greatest times I’ve had since I’ve been here. They were up for a similar victory; it had been around a decade since their last big title. I’m not much of a soccer fan, but this night was so wrought with excitement. When they scored the winning goal, and then again when the game was over and they were pronounced the champions, the streets exploded in firecrackers and roman candles. I was showered in beer, hugged by strangers, and singing the newly learned Palmeiras cheers. Eventually the cops had to break up the riot around 4 or 5am with teargas, but I had left before it got to that point.
Additionally, I’ve had a great time learning new dances since being here. Justin and I have struggled through trying to get the Samba just right. We’ve also learned a bit of forró and some salsa. Every week I take a salsa class on campus taught by an American, and I have to say that it’s my favorite style of the three. 
I think that’s all I’ll write for now. I must say, it’s been a truly wonderful experience.

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