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Brasília Baby!

Half-way through the grant period in Brazil, the Fulbright Commission hosts the ETA Mid-Year Enhancement Seminar to learn from each other, bond, and work on professional development. This job is so specific and strange that it was euphoric to vent to each other with our stories, complaints, and successes. We are uniquely experiencing this wild fellowship in vastly different ways, yet we can all find a similar story to laugh about. Our cohort creates a truly uplifting and loving space that is impossible to describe.

The conference was three days filled with meetings and workshops. We were able to propose whatever workshop we thought was useful and relevant, which included Capoeira and Funk dance lessons, emotional coping skills while living abroad, Tropicália music history, and several creative writing workshops, among other topics. Watching my colleagues and friends thrive in their element for an hour or two was so energizing and such a fulfilling learning experience.

I presented an hour-long lecture attempting to summarize 100 years of foreign affairs between Brazil and the United States. While definitively imperfect, we were able to gain a bit of context and explore a few points of interest like the 1964 civil-military coup d'etat and the 2016 soft coup of Dilma Rousseff during Lava Jato.

The seminar was hosted in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Fulbright arranged a bus tour of the city to learn about its history and founders. Brazil moved its capital from coastal Rio de Janeiro to inland Brasília in 1960 in an effort to modernize Brazil and centralize its political capital. Personally, I think of the move as a rebranding decision: Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira (JK), the President who spearheaded the move, sought to separate Brazil’s political identity from the distilling images of beaches and Bossa Nova that prevailed in Rio. Of course it's more nuanced than that, but that's my take.

In just three short years, workers who pilgrimaged from the larger coastal cities and poorer northern states made make-shift camps in the middle of nowhere and worked tirelessly to erect dozens of architecturally unique buildings designed by the famous Oscar Neimeyer (not to be confused with Oscar Meyer wieners).

Oscar Neimeyer is a world famous architect, known for his innovative and futuristic designs that break the norms of Western architecture. Neimeyer’s buildings feature curves and swirls that seem to defy the laws of physics. All of them are white concrete, which creates a level of harmony among the extremely different constructions.

This city was probably the strangest urban landscape I have ever encountered. A great expanse of bright blue sky meets the horizon at large fields of brown dead grass, pock marked with white concrete structures of strange form. Izzy said it feels like the capital in the Hunger Games, and I would have to agree.

Sterile and yet bubbling with cultural significance, the city touts a perfect division of zoning in which businesses, restaurants, government buildings, military, and residences were all allotted different zones of the city. It feels futuristic and stiff, while also housing some of the most unique architecture I’ve ever seen.

We visited the shrine of JK, the president who spearheaded the efforts to build the city. I actually talked about him briefly in my lecture about foreign policy, as his work led Brazil to deep foreign and domestic debt, which resulted in the political crisis that set the stage for the 1964 coup d'etat. Was it his fault? No. Was the creation of the city we were sleeping in directly related to a hugely important and undemocratic change of power? Yes.

In addition to the deeply intriguing environment, the seminar itself was so incredibly rewarding. We got to listen to a panel of Foreign Service Officers talk about their work and ask questions about the role. Many of us are interested in that line of work, so it was really cool to hear first-hand about their day-to-day workload.

By night, we frequented the restaurants that most of us do not have access to in our host cities (Thai, Indian, and Mexican cuisine) and absolutely dominated a nearby karaoke bar, singing all of the classic Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and High School Musical toons. The only other people in the bar were a group of Suits who seemed deeply entertained by our performances and joined in with all of the English language songs they knew. 10/10

Anywho, it is my birthday month at last and I am trying my best to truly enjoy my last 3.5 months in Brazil. Time flies when you’re having fun, and I feel like March was yesterday. I am constantly surprised by the positive reception I receive here in Brazil, whether it be in my university classroom, a local elementary school, a group of military friends playing soccer, or the local fruit market vendor. Everyone is kind and talkative, and it makes my heart so warm. I feel eternally grateful to have such a positive experience. There are so many Fulbrighters, in Brazil and elsewhere, who are not so lucky.

The last couple weeks have been pretty busy at work. I participate in a translation project, where I edit articles that have been translated from Portuguese to English to be published in international journals. It's one of my favorite challenges from this experience. I also had a visit to the tourism course at my university, a lecture on University Experience in the US, English Conversation Club, and my Oral Skills Development Course, all of which take a good amount of preparation. Additionally, I've got a responsibility to support the local gay bar.

Last week, we hosted the mythic English Day, an immersive English language experience for local public school students. We bring them to the university, show them the campus, and have them compete for fake dollars in English language challenges. At the end, they get to use those dollars to buy candies, notebooks, markers, and pencils at a "Garage Sale" where they have to ask the prices of different items in English. The students were so excited and all of our volunteers were amazing.

Returning to the topic of employment, I have officially embarked on the ego-killing mission that is procuring a professional, full-time job after college. Izzy and I have decided to move to Washington, DC, since there is a high concentration of both a) job opportunities in our respective fields and b) gay people. I have currently applied to 42 roles, mostly in the field of international affairs, specifically as a project assistant, event coordinator, or administrative professional. If you have any connections, please reach out! I promise I’ll do a great job! :')


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