Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dia 35: "Kids are beautiful everywhere."

We got in late last night and checked into our 25th-floor room at Rio Othon -- a few blocks away from where Justin Bieber is staying right now!

I had two exciting linguistic adventures this morning. The first was Sonnet 35, which explores Shakespeare's indecisive feelings on forgiveness. The second was a "nerd-of-the-day" lesson from Laura Kambourian! She explained to me the subtleties of the Portuguese word "saudade," which cannot be directly translated into English. It connotes the feeling of missing someone or something, but what I find particularly powerful is that it can refer to something currently in one's presence. Too often we miss things we already have, but we have no way of expressing that in English. Laura sent me this Wikipedia article (whattageek!), and the third paragraph contains her favorite explanation of the term:

Over breakfast, I finally got to meet Flavia! Flavia is fantastic (and gorgeous), and has had a huge hand in helping to plan my time here in Rio (though she is from Sao Paulo -- competitionnn) herself. :) 
At 10, I met the off-the-wall energetic Patricia Riveras in the lobby. Patricia is a Fullbright Scholar, and has a double major in International Relations and Dance. She is half-Argentine and half-Dominican (such a cool mix!) and spent her childhood in Arlington, Virginia as well as the Dominican Republic. Pat has traveled to more countries than I can name. She speaks Spanish, French, and Creole in addition to English and Portuguese. Oh, and she plays the piano. Impressed yet? Patricia does research to examine the effects of violence in Brazil on females, a group often overlooked in academic studies.
"What do you wanna do? Wanna check out a favela?" This was one of the first questions Pat asked me this morning. Naturally, I was scared out of my mind! But while Patricia does work in some very violent favelas (slums), she decided to take me to see Santa Marta, the first one here in Brazil to be pacified. Throughout the van ride, walk, and açaí stop required to get to the favela, Patricia talked at 30 miles a minute, telling me all about the Fullbright program, her travels, and social issues in Brazil. I learned so much and was really tempted to take notes, but instead I got her email address and will be pestering her with questions for the next few months.
The first thing I noticed was the incline. While slums in other countries are found in low-lying areas, Brazilian favelas are steep and the ascent takes some major leg muscle! (Pat identified this as the reason Brazilians have such nice bodies.) We were sure to take frequent water-and-panting breaks.
The next thing I noticed was the solid waste management (i.e. lack thereof). The "sewage system" was basically a stream of water which flowed alongside the steps leading up the favela. Naturally, the lovely aroma added a lot to the ambiance.
The third thing I noticed (as we started to get higher) was the VIEW! Just stunning.

When we could climb no farther, we realized we had arrived at a monument to Michael Jackson, who filmed his video for "They Don't Really Care About Us" with the group Olodum in Santa Marta! There, we met Gilson Fumaca, a tour guide with whom Patricia spent 10 minutes talking about me (positively, I think) in really fast Portuguese that I couldn't understand. Pat did, however, translate for me that Gilson thought I looked like a "boneca" (doll) -- hah! When she told him I was 17, he said that, unfortunately, girls my age in favelas sometimes have up to 4 children! I sighed respectfully but couldn't really imagine it. Just then, a 16-year-old girl he knows walked up to the monument with her 3-year-old daughter (her other child was at home). Quite a wake-up call, if you ask me. Utterly spent, Patricia and I headed to the metro, where we sat and talked and talked and ate coconut popsicles and talked.

Around 1, we met up with Jim (a World Bank consultant) and his fiancee Anna Carolina. Jim and Anna are moving to Boston (YAY!) in a few weeks, where they will be married in January. It was great to get a chance to meet Jim before he went to a meeting and we three ladies headed off to lunch. Our lunchtime Portu-glish conversation was very entertaining!

After our meal, Patricia had to take our leave (she had dance and work this afternoon), and Anna Carolina and I set off for Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Jim had mentioned that Anna has 3 weeks to work on her English before moving to the States, and this became one of my missions for the afternoon. I soon learned, though, that it wouldn't be a difficult one, because Anna's English is actually very good! We had great conversations throughout the afternoon about all sorts of things, including linguistics (i.e. English is a farcical language), culture (both Brazilian and American), and how much of a CDF (nerd!) I am. The vistas from atop the hill were glorious, and we sat there in admiration for a good long time. Anna Carolina is a gem.
After 3 long hours of horrendous blog formatting (and some fun emails to Keila and Jarde), the day's meetings were over and we all went out for a fabulous dinner at Zaza, a Brazilian fusion place. There, I got to meet the famous Rodrigo!! Since he and I are going to be best friends, I don't need to write much about him now, but suffice it to say that it was great to finally meet him, about whom I've heard so much from my dad! 
I also got to meet Ana Claudia, a very sweet urban upgrading specialist who works with Papa. Over dinner, Ana Claudia gave me two very interesting things to think about. The first came up when we were discussing different fields in which I am interested: I mentioned environmental science and social issues (education, human rights, etc.) as two potential career paths, and Ana Claudia pointed out that the challenge often arises in connecting environmental work with social work. So this is my next challenge! The second was just a useful way of looking at things: Ana Claudia advised that one’s history and talents are the tools one possesses to address any situation. In this light, my experiences in Brazil and elsewhere in the world this year become more tangible “resources” for me to “access” later in life. 
Dinner was great as everyone exchanged stories about what drew them to Brazil, and we got to recount our adventures of the past few days again. Here’s to many more!


  1. Dear Ratna, no need to say how special and gifted you are! The blog is really beautiful and I already shared with my kids, I hope they can learn from your experiences in these 365 days. Please remain like that and keep sharing your tracks! I tried to find you on facebook b.ut there are more Ratnas, so maybe you can find me and connect to Mark and Erik!

  2. Thank you so much, Ana Claudia! I certainly will do so. I actually deactivated my Facebook account temporarily, but I will be back on soon and then I will find you. Beijos!

  3. this font is much easier to read........keep goin with this.....