Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Primeiro Dia

After a worldwide United Airlines power outage and waiting in lines for 2 hours, we were on our way to Rio! A close to empty flight, meant Mike and I were able to grab a seat by the window.  With a window seat, we could see the sunrise on our way into Brazil. Fantastic! We arrived at GIG at about 9:30am and were then met by our driver who took us to Santa Teresa. To my surprise it was cloudy... I thought it was sunny everyday in Rio? But, I was not worried, mountains surrounded the whole city and it was so beautiful with clouds, I could not even imagine what it looked like sunny.
When entering Rio from the North side it is full of houses upon houses, lots of graffiti and an abundance of cement blocks, on cement blocks, on cement blocks. The traffic and drivers are similar to Chicago. Wild and fast. In between cars, motorcycles zoom... and when the traffic comes to a complete stop, there are people who come out to sell snacks.  Nothing like a piece of candy, while you wait in traffic.

Slowly but surely we made our way up to Santa Teresa. The house we are staying at is up on a mountain! Very cool. The streets are cobblestone and each house is so unique, with it's design and colors. We were greeted by the caretaker of the house. I must say, I was shocked at how wonderful the house looks and feels. On the first floor there is a very large living room for breakfast and dinner. They serve tea and coffee all day (perfecto!). As you walk upstairs, there is a second kitchen out on the very large roof that looks over Santa Teresa and you can even see the ocean! Oh wow, it gets better. There is a large sitting area outside where you can enjoy your dinner and watch the sunset. Also, Mike and I were lucky enough to get our own room with bunk beds! Top bunk!
As the day went on, we met the other volunteers that are staying in the house. There are people from Australia, England, Switzerland, France, Ecuador and even Buffalo Grove, IL and Colorado. Everyone is incredibly nice and eager to know our story. Each is working on a different project. Some are working on community development, a surf program, teaching English and working with children. You can tell that everyone is excited to be here, each having their own reason. Some as a break for summer, some to “figure things out,” others as an adventure before they start their career. Collectively, everyone has the same mindset, to enjoy themselves while giving back to others.

After meeting everyone, Mike and I set out to explore the restaurants in Santa Teresa. We walked up the cobblestone road where there are several cafes. It is interesting because there will be nothing, just houses or empty buildings while you walk and then all of a sudden, a cafe/restaurant pops out. We passed a park with workout equipment, snuck in some views of the water and mountains, and saw the policia. One restaurant that caught our eye, was a place flowing with people, so much that they poured out of the restaurant. The entire front is wide open, with no doors or windows. We walked in, sat down and tried to mutter a couple of words in Portuguese. It must have worked, because he came back with a forty ounce of beer and two cups. The restaurant menu was in English and they took Visa, what a perfect beginner restaurant. Thanks Brazil! If you are ever in Santa Teresa, it is called Bar do Mineiro and is a great brazilian meal. Mike and I shared a chicken dish, that came with a side of rice and beans. Very large portions! And, delicious. After that large meal, we headed back to the house to watch the sunset from the top of the roof, did some visiting, had a tea and then a nap. It's rough out here.

As I sit in our room, I hear accents and foreign languages being spoke outside the door by all the volunteers. The buses rolling down the cobblestone streets, so loud and fast, it sounds as if a waterfall is right down the street. It is perfect. Tomorrow we will venture out to the beach and hopefully, get in our first run. Should be a great day for pictures and adventure. mais para vir!

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