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The Admissions Brochure

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To begin, nothing new has happened on the NINJA front. The meeting I was going to Monday night was cancelled, and Rafael has not invited me down for anything at the NINJA apartment since Monday. That being said, I don’t know that anything is really going on right now, so I’ve mostly just had time to myself. Yesterday, I did not use that time to explore, but rather to write and reflect. That is until my new American friends sent me a Facebook message around 8pm… One of the things I left out of my description of Urca was that atop the summit, I met a trio of American girls vacationing in Rio until Friday. We talked for 45 minutes or so, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be seeing them again on my trip here so I chose not to include that detail in my blog. Last night, they sent me a message around 8pm asking what I was up to that evening. I was cooking dinner at the time but said I could meet up around 9:15 if they were looking to grab a drink. They responded that they would indeed like a drink, so we planned to meet at the crossroads (Bar do Gomez from the first night). I wasn’t planning on staying out too late, I just wanted to do something other than hang out in my room, which is what I had been doing the entire day.

I’ve learned the neighborhood well enough now that I could make the 15min walk on my own; also, Veronica was still at work when I left the house. Upon arrival, I ran into my French friend Jerome who I met after the mountaintop concert on Sunday night. He was talking to some locals as well as some German guys when I walked into the bar, and I was immediately added into the fold. Then my three friends showed up, and the night jumped up a few notches.

Over the course of the next two hours, we met a couple from Holland and a local named David who worked at a hostel (he’s entering college to study international relations in September). In that time, the Germans went to sleep and our group was now rolling eight deep. I had spent the entire day doing essentially nothing, but luckily for me, Rio comes alive at night.

We left Bar do Gomez and walked further up the hill to one of the bars I had gone to after the concert on Sunday. It was jamming even though it was after midnight on a Tuesday. We were sipping shots of cachaça, which is Brazil’s specialty spirit (and strong. as. hell.) while washing it down with Brazil’s version of Bud Light, Brahma. We had Russian Americans (2/3 of the American girls I met at Urca), a Hispanic American, whatever I am (European American?), a Dutch couple, a Brazilian local and a French guy all having an amazing time together in Rio — we were quite the admissions department advertisement if I do say so myself.

That whole “me not planning to be out too late” thing went out the window pretty quickly upon our arrival at the second bar. There was a great mix of locals and visitors, but no one super touristy. That’s the great thing about this neighborhood — it has enough interesting stuff going on to attract visitors but it’s not kitschy or super tourist-ed out, so the people you meet aren’t caricatures of actual humans (like so many American travelers…). We met some Swedes at this bar and lost the Dutch couple because they needed sleep, which I of course booed vehemently. The American girls left us around 2:00am, but Jerome (France), David (Brazil) and I ended up drinking at the bar until a little after 3am. I actually started getting tired myself at this point in time, so we three agreed to retire for the evening. David lives about 100 yards away from Veronica, so we strolled home and both made it safely. A few things to note about the walk home:

  1. There was a bat flying around Veronica’s street, which was quite eerie
  2. David and I broke into song during our walk home because of something we were talking about. We belted out “We Are Family” to an empty street at 3:30 in the morning. I don’t think our mutual neighbors appreciated it, but it was hilarious, and we enjoyed ourselves, so they can deal with it.
  3. Walking the last 100 yards on my own was scary. I’m not generally skittish, but for whatever reason I’m still paranoid about getting robbed. I literally had $20 USD on me at the time; that’s the grand total of what I could have been robbed for, but I was still scared. I’m hoping I’ll get over that at some point because it’s getting obnoxious walking around in constant fear. It’s not so much debilitating as it is stressful, but either way it’s not fun.

The Americans and I made a plan to meet at their hostel at 10am the next day to head down to Ipanema Beach. I rolled into bed around 4am after snacking on some drunk munchies and sleep came quickly.

When the alarm went off at 9am I simply laughed, messaged the girls that I’ll meet them later on the beach and went back to sleep. I wasn’t even close to being in a mental state to go sit on a beach for the entire day, much less figure out the most efficient way of getting to their hostel. This is, I think, a good time to mention a development in the interesting living arrangement I currently occupy.

Until yesterday, there were no signs of life from the apartment above Veronica. Either the insulation was damn impressive, or no one was there. It turns out it was the latter, because the insulation sucks. Whoever lives up there must have been traveling, but they apparently have a woodworking shop in their home and definitely have a toddler. I don’t think they actually have a woodworking shop, but there were sounds of heavy construction going on for most of the afternoon yesterday. And they have a young child that loves to scream and cry in Portuguese, which is just super for me. We can add that to the list of neighborhood pets that like to make loud noises at inopportune times.

When I went back to sleep this morning, I had to put my phone on noise making duty, turn it up to 11 and slam my earbuds deep into my ears — almost into my eardrums it felt like — to shut out all the damn noise everything was making. I realize I’m bitching pretty hard right now considering it’s my fault I was hung-over, and 9am is an appropriate time for humans and other assorted noise-emitters to emit said noise on a weekday, but it was seriously cramping my style.

I slept it off for a couple of hours, ate some lunch then headed down to Ipanema. I tried using the bus system when meeting with the NINJA on Monday and was mostly successful. I took the subway all the way from Gloria to Ipanema and arrived at the beach without incident for one quarter the cost of a taxi — victory.

It’s a beautiful beach, and the surrounding scenery is stunning. It’s like the city’s buildings are cascading downhill like water down a mountain and abruptly stop at the sea. There’s such a throng of civilization, and it all just stops at the sand’s edge opening onto a beautiful, gigantic beach right in the heart of the city. You can see mountainous islands out in the ocean, peaks jutting out of the earth on either side of the beach and a wall of buildings directly behind you. It’s like a retreat hemmed in by both geologic and man-made mountains.

I was able to find my friends and we spent a few hours just lounging. I definitely need to buy a new swimsuit because mine screams “tourist.” Every guy is wearing a speedo or some other version of that which has a little more length, but not by much. I might have to take the plunge just to avoid abject gringoism (I realize I just made up that word — deal with it). It shan’t be a pretty sight, but when in Rome, right?

The ocean is chilly but refreshing. If it wasn’t so pleasant out it would be a great way to cool off, but today was in the mid-70s, and there was an ocean breeze to boot. Also, the waves break close to shore and do so quite violently; my lingering hangover precluded me from any desire to battle that surf. After spending a few hours hanging out, though, we took the metro back to Gloria, hopped in a cab and made it up the mountain.

Tonight I’ll be staying in to do some work, but the last 24 hours have been great.

BrazilAndrew Stern