Tomorrow is our two-month anniversary in Brazil. Hard to imagine that it’s been an entire eight weeks since arrival, but I can say that things are a whole lot easier than in those first weeks after arriving (in Brasília.) We live in a cozy apartment, albeit somewhat far from the university, have been renting a car to easily get around the city and the gorgeous surrounding areas, and have our last session of a five-week Portuguese class on Friday. We’ve gotten to know a few people, some Brazilians, some expats, some Americans.
I attended my fourth graduate seminar yesterday, which are four-hour sessions in Portuguese and thus very tiring and challenging, and also great. I’ve also managed to write about twelve pages of what will likely be a forty page first chapter of my dissertation, and set the ‘turn-in’ date for the 1st of July. The second chapter’s date is October 1st and the third is Jan. 1st, 2014. If all goes as planned I should be three-quarters of the way through my dissertation by the end of 2013. Wouldn’t that be a great feeling? Let’s hope I can keep up the pace.
1. The pace of life- Example: after a seven-week wait, I finally got my student card. However, I still cannot register for grad class as an auditor, nor check out library books. This has been so frustrating that it’s now in the funny stage… Oh, and sadly emblematic of deeper issues on a national scale that I’ll go into in another post.
2. The distance between places; it takes a long-time, even by car, to see people here. This can be challenging, particularly with regard to socializing. In that sense, there are days when I deeply miss DC, sigh.
3. Language challenges, esp. for the Swede. The Brazilians don’t seem to be very used to meeting foreigners, particularly tall blonde ones that speak little Portuguese. We get a lot of looks and a lot of laughs. In short, Brasília, despite the embassies and international companies—is just not an international city. We went to an ‘expat’ event the other day and interestingly enough around half of the people there were Brazilians. I’m not saying that Brazilians cannot be (former) expats, but a similar event in Stockholm would have 1 Swede to 20 expats. DC is also far more global than this Capital. I have a sense that expats tend to live on the coast, in Rio or Sao Paolo. We hope to spend a period of time in Rio later on, so I’ll check that out. The upside to this lacking international character, is the fact that we are pushed to meet Brazilians, and integrate more.
4. Laundry- OK- So we do not have a laundry machine in our apartment, or apartment complex (not so strange). In Brazil, this is a pretty common thing, as is taking your laundry to a laundry mat. Interestingly, however, instead of self-service, most of these local laundry mats do the work for you, even folding and bagging your laundry. As you might imagine, as any service, this is a pretty penny, even in Brazil. We are talking 25/load, obviously not doable on a grant-budget. So we hunted, and we hunted some more, finally finding a laundry mat that allows us to do it ourselves. However, we still pay.. drum roll please… about 10-15 dollars a load, depending on how many heavy things are involved, making the drying process longer (towels, sheets, jeans). To me, this is completely unfathomable and very frustrating. I am sure there must be something cheaper out there (we’ve even considered asking friends with machines). At any rate, this just had to be in the frustration list because it is a monthly issue. I was telling the Swede that I’d have to buy a ton of new panties and bras to decrease our laundry visits. This would actually save us money in the long run!
5. Access to books- Okay, so as stated above, I cannot check out books from the library. I can access E-books on my Kindle (yay!). I can also have my mother send me books ordered on Amazon arriving in H-Town and then to Brasília (expensive and very, very slow- 1st package received yesterday). I have also come prepared with an entire suitcase of books from the States. Yes, I brought 70 lbs. of books and 70lbs. of clothes/misc. stuff (thank you Delta, for your amazing Brasil exceptions to standard weight rules). With that said, I am still finding it challenging to live in a place where books are expensive (via book stores) or inaccessible (via the library). I know another Bright of Fool-er who takes pictures of specific pages from library books. It seems to work pretty well for him, but let’s be honest. It’s a little tedious and doesn’t allow you to go back to pages you want to review. Plus you have to spend all your time at the library. I’m personally a dissertation-from-home kind of girl. I don’t want to sit in a hot and crowded Brazilian library. Sorry for being a spoiled Westerner, but frankly, I am one!
Okay, I think that’ll do her for complaints for now. Hope your Spring days are long and plentiful.. Enjoy your books and washing machines/laundry mats.. 😉