November 14, 2016
Three summers ago, I was researching study abroad programs in Brazil.
My curiosity for Brazil sparked from the media representation of the country, such as music videos with Brazilian settings, the movie UP which focused more on South America, and the fact that the FIFA World Cup was going to take place there.
I started by researching sites in Rio, such as Christ the Redeemer and the mosaic steps. I fell in love with the views of Rio and the warm beaches, the culture of Brazil and its people. I began taking a few Portuguese lessons.
I quickly learned that I would not be able to visit Brazil during the World Cup because Incould not afford the study abroad program. Although my excitement dwindled, I was not devastated. I had a feeling I would visit Brazil at some point in life.
This voyage made that dream a reality. I was beyond excited to enter South America and get to visit the country I dreamed about. We ported in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, a state full of Afro-Brazilian culture and amazing people. Right near the port, there is a marketplace we entered. The colorful shops and shop owners were able to give me a quick sense of the culture and its people. It was a great introduction to the city and the country as a whole. While walking around we encountered a lot of women wearing long and poofy white traditional dresses, we heard a lot of Samba music being played in the streets, and we saw a lot of coconut street vendors. We took a very large elevator that has its own station, up to the upper city. It was the historic city of Salvador full of colorful Portuguese style buildings. There was a busy square full of tables and street food vendors. We were able to watch a capoeira performance and have a coconut. At night when we returned, there was a group of drummers marching down the street and a group of dancers following. We sat down to have a caipirinha and some street food. A lot of people were out and the scene was lively.
The next morning we flew to Rio. It was a holiday so everything was closed and the streets were empty. That first day, we went to the mosaic stairs called Escaleria Selaron. Since there were hardly any people around we got some great shots. The next day we visited Christ the Redeemer. It was an emotional experience because I reflected on all of my parents and my grandparents struggles to help make my dream come true. I couldn’t believe I was there. It seemed very surreal.
When we returned to Salvador, we watched a traditional folklore dance which was a very unique experience. We also went to the beach and enjoyed some of the surfer waves and the warm weather.
The last day we visited an organization located in a favela. The organization is called Arte Consiente, and they are a grassroots organization focused on teaching culturally conscious arts to the youth of the community in order to encourage education and to stray away from violence and crime that they may be susceptible to in their communities. They performed for us, and we helped restore their studio which had been in a fire a few days before our arrival. It was a very powerful experience to communicate and help them despite the language barriers. I admired the work that they do and how they actively resist against the struggles of living in an impoverished community.
Overall, Brazil was everything I thought it would be and more. I definitely plan on coming back again some day and hopefully be better at speaking and understanding the Portuguese language.