Wait, I've been in Rio how long?

Lee Kaplan-Unsoeld
March 7, 2016

As I write this I am grappling with the idea that I will have been out of the United States for a month in just a couple days!! Life while studying abroad seems to go much faster than life at home, and I think it can probably be chalked up to the fact that there are so many new sensations to be felt, so many new experiences to be had, that time begins to make less sense. Some days seem like weeks, other days seem like minutes, and in the midst of trying to figure it all out, you get so distracted that you look around and it turns out it's actually been a month!

Rio de Janeiro, my home for the time being, is a city that I have already concluded is too big to ever fully grasp. One can try, and this one has tried, to comprehend the overwhelming complexity of it all, but no matter how many perspectives you look at it from, Rio is one crazy human creation. In the impending blog posts, I will try my best to not focus too much on the big picture for fear of getting lost somewhere in space, but this inevitably will happen at certain points. I am going to focus on everyday things, down to earth, in order to convey to all you lovely readers what it is like here on the ground.

So, the first thing I'd like to talk about was my arrival to the country. I planned to get here a couple days before the program started to meet up with some friends, and to enjoy the grand spectacle of Carnaval! Now, as a young person I have one perspective on the events, which is that it was a sweet party that seemed to encompass the whole city. On the other hand, my perspective as a student of sociology and anthropology forced me to step back from the immediate sensory inputs and examine the big picture of it. It was still a pretty sweet party.

I met up with some American friends that I had met last December in Argentina and we met up with some of their Brazilian friends, and we proceeded to have a few relatively relaxing days compared to many Carnaval goers. We mostly hung out on the beach, cooked a few meals, and went out to eat as well, but we also witnessed the craziness that is Carnaval. People were dressed up in costumes, often coordinated with their friends, the result being that we saw bands of pirates, groups of nurses, whole soccer teams, and a lot of guys dressed in skirts and tights. The freedom to be and look however you want during Carnaval is something I'm sure some people wish would last longer than the festivities, but the other aspects of Carnaval are a little more difficult to sustain.

The whole city turns into a party, traffic is rerouted, tourists flood the city, and so much food and drink is consumed that the trash piles grow tall and the port-a-potties full at an all too rapid pace. It was not uncommon to see a person peeing on the street, or throwing up in a bush, or generally having a bad time, and that is a part of Carnaval that I'm not going to miss. There are still plenty of people throwing up in bushes, peeing on the streets, or having a bad time in Rio on any given day, just to a much lesser degree.

Unfortunately I didn't get to see any Samba shows, but the "blocos", or block parties, I saw everyday made up for that fact, and there were plenty of people dancing on the streets at any given hour of the day. It was a truly exhausting experience to be quite honest. The hot sun, the crowds of people, the disorientation of being in a new city, it all weighed down on me. I was sad to see my friends leave, and I was sad to go to my new house the night before the IES Abroad program started, but I was happy to be entering into a new phase of my life with a bang, and content with having seen the sweet madness of Carnaval that Rio de Janeiro is, in part, famous for.

It's hard to believe that this all occurred almost a month ago, but so it goes. To take the Portuguese words of Eduardo, a Brazilian I met in my first days here: "O tempo passa, e o mundo gira." Time passes, and the world turns.

Lee Kaplan-Unsoeld

<p><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 20.0063px;">I am a sociology and cultural anthropology student from Olympia, Washington, who has been lucky enough to study abroad in Spain, Costa Rica, and Chile. I am now headed to Brazil for my final semester of my undergraduate studies, and could not be more excited to learn a third language and enjoy some of Brazil&#39;s natural and cultural beauties. In addition to traveling, studying people and learning languages, I like to read, write, rock climb, play violin and drums, hike, swim, do yoga, and enjoy quality conversations that run late into the night. Please join me on this blog in processing some of the crazy stuff going on in my life, and in Brazil.</span></p>

2016 Spring
Home University:
Saint Martin's University
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