I've made it to the Brazil!
I ended up leaving the Charlotte airport at two in the morning, which was ultimately nice because I slept almost the entire flight to Rio de Janeiro. Customs was super easy to get through, and soon I was in a cab on my way to stay with an alum from Colorado College, Célia, who I was put in contact with by ACM, the exchange program. Celia lives in Copacabana, only two blocks away from the famous Ipanema beach, and the couple of days I spent in Rio were excellent.
At Celia's place, I met up with two of the other exchange students staying in Juiz de Fora, Garrett and Caroline, and together we explored Rio. We spent a considerable amount of time on the beach, but also went to the top of Corcovado hill, home to the famous Cristo Redentor statue. The view from up there was incredible. I had never seen a city like Rio before. It's situated right on the coast, but throughout the area are scattered large, steep hills. On the sides of these are many of Rio's favelas, slum communities, but they also necessitate a large number of tunnels for communicating from one part of the city to another. This made it a little difficult knowing for certain which part of the city we were in, but thankfully we were able to figure out the public transportation system enough to make it around.
On our last night in Rio, Garret, Caroline and I went out with Celia and her husband to a churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse. In these, you typically pay a flat fee and have access to a buffet-style section of the restaurant in addition to a bunch of waiters walking around with different kinds of meat on spits. You have a little disc with a green side and a red side, which you flip if you want or don't want more meat. When on the green side, you'll experience frequent visits with all sorts of ribs and steaks, which are cut right off the spit onto your plate. Needless to say, it was quite the meal.
So we were a little sad to leave Rio and Celia yesterday when we came to Juiz de Fora. Everyone in the van was super apprehensive, as we hadn't heard much at all about where we were staying. Though pretty, the drive was really curvy, so the by the end of the 4 hour trip I was feeling a little shaken and nervous. Thankfully however, my housing situation has ended up being a slam dunk. I'm living in an apartment with a guy named Felipe, (pronounced Fe-lee-pee), who's in med school and super nice. I have my own bedroom and bathroom, and the place is really spacious. I'm in the center of town, and from what I've seen thus far is a safe and great location. Felipe has taken it upon himself to get me all situated, we went a bought me a cell phone yesterday, and is going to introduce me to his family who live in a nearby town. So I'm feeling really relieved knowing that I'm living in a good place and have support.
Tomorrow starts our language instruction, and in two weeks actual classes begin. I'm doing alright communicating thanks to a class I took at Carleton, but the extra help will be much appreciated considering all my classes will be in Portuguese.
Hope everyone is doing well.