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Sorry, we were lost in the waves!

Good afternoon people.

A tumultuous couple weeks has left me once again asking where the time has gone. Is this adulthood? I sure hope not.

The professors at the state university that I work at voted in conjunction with the other state universities of Parana to strike for higher wages, better benefits, and more job security. Inflation has hit Brazil hard, and the professors’ wage has not changed in 8 years. The last strikes lasted 3 months and 5 months, respectively. They are hoping for it to only be one month, but no one seems confident in that.

What does that mean for me? Well, I’m still figuring that out. I am offering my English Conversation Club online. I still have many high school visits scheduled for the coming weeks, and today I started a “Oral Skills Development Course” with local elementary school English teachers in-person.

I hope to schedule some online and virtual events for my other students so that they can keep up their English skills, and so I don’t go insane. My only concern is that I will begin to feel isolated without student and professor interaction mandated by my class schedule. So far, it has been nice to have one less thing on my plate. I somehow feel like I am just as busy, though!

Since most of my tasks can be completed virtually, Izzy and I bought the cheapest ticket we could find to Rio de Janeiro last weekend. The city was absolutely beautiful and pumping with culture.

Does the inner city smell like human excrement? Yes. Does it matter? No. There’s something deeply magical about a metropolitan city crawling through valleys, shaded by lush green mountains all around. And with a twenty minute ride from the city center, you find yourself staring at bright blue waves and huge rock formations on the coast.

We stayed a bit in Lapa, a downtown neighborhood with samba music emanating from every corner bar every night of the week. It was cool to see tourists and locals gather around the samba players, sipping beers and dancing. Traditionally, a group of around 5-7 players sit in a circular formation and play common songs or improvisations. When a classic song is played, every Brazilian seems to know the words, singing in chorus to the beat of the live music.

We visited Santa Teresa, a neighborhood up on the side of a mountain known for its culinary scene and artsy vibe. We had lunch at Bonde Boca, a small restaurant with a beautiful view of the valley and nearby favella. Draped in greenery, I would highly recommend a meal on their terrace. Our traditional coconut shrimp curry meal with coconut rice was to-die-for.

We visited the famous "Escadaria Selarón", a staircase art piece made by a Chilean artist with thousands of tiles from dozens of different countries. We also visited two free parks that were awesome. The first was Parque Lage, complete with winding hiking trails in bright greenery and an old building with a cool fountain. We also visited a cool historic fort on the end of Copacabana beach, which had awesome views (unfortunately, the awesome views included an impending monsoon). Lots of little monkeys following people for crackers!

Our favorite tourist attraction was Sugarloaf mountain at sunset. It's two cable cars from the beach up onto a huge rock mountain. The wind up there is slightly terrifying but the views are worth the fear. The city lights up slowly as the sky turns from pink to deep orange, and Christ the Redeemer lights up in the distance.

We finished our stay on Copacabana beach, on the beautiful coast of the city. We were close to the Ipanema beach, too, which made it nice to take turns on each side. Vendors walk around selling everything imaginable, which makes it easy to get drinks and snacks from your beach towel.

Anthony Bourdain once said something to the effect of “If you can’t find happiness on Copacabana beach with a caipirinha in your hand, you’ll never find it at all.” A caipirinha is a sweet shaken lime cocktail faintly reminiscent of a margarita, but better (in my opinion!) It’s sweet, sour, and makes your clothes fall off!

There’s a huge rock at the north end of Ipanema beach that you can watch the hoard of surfers from, which was fun to hang out on for a while.

Right across the street from our stay were beach volleyball courts, which were mainly used for foot-volley. It is traditional volleyball rules and strategies, but you cannot use your hands. It’s super fun to watch, especially because the players pay to enter and then win the pot if they win the game. So much screaming at each other, but it’s all in good humor. I got to play a bit on our last night, thankfully not in a high-stakes game.

We are finally back in Apucarana. It’s nice to be back. Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where your fully-stocked fridge and comfy king sized bed happens to be.

If you have the opportunity to visit Rio, go. Don’t walk around sketchy areas at night, keep your phone in your pocket when you’re not using it, and don’t wear flashy stuff. I loved our time in that magical place, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.


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