Last night, I made it safely to the hostel in Porto Alegre. It was an interesting process. After talking with the person next to me on the plane, we shared a taxi to my hostel. The guy was very nice and helped me get my bags inside.
The hostel itself was nothing like past experiences. We shared a room with two other girls in a room with three sets of bunk beds, two of which were three beds tall. There was a guy across the hall that asked me about a dishtowel coin under the wireless router. I still have no idea what he was talking about, but apparently he asks all Americans about it…? I am not sure if the strangest part of the stay was the meat patê that you squeezed out of a tube for breakfast this morning, or the fact Catherine and I didn’t have towels, so we had to dry off with the clothes we wore to bed last night. Also, my luggage handle broke off of my brand new suitcase, making picking up the suitcase very difficult. Lastly, the humidity was an unexpected surprise.
Catherine and I agree that from what we have heard, we have the best host professor and university. As we were packing up our things, our host professor, Rossana, came to pick us up at our hostel to take us to lunch. For R$18 we ate at a great all you can eat vegetarian type buffet. Additionally, unlike many other ETA placements, Rossana pushed the university to allow a university car to pick us up. It took over five hours to drive to Rio Grande (which we were told would take 3-4 hours). Since driving here is very different from the states, Catherine and I quickly learned ai ai ai is somewhat similar to oh my God! She also arranged for us to stay at the university hostel rent free. We have our own rooms and bathrooms with a shared kitchen for the entire place. We are allowed to stay here the entire length of the grant, if we want. However, we were told there isn’t any internet. So, we aren’t sure about staying here. Plus, the university is about to close for summer break; just in time for Carnaval. But this might mean no access to anything for at least a week after.
Rossana also bought us towels and took us preliminary grocery shopping. In the process, I found a Brazilian Portuguese-English dictionary. We also learned that the Portuguese in the state of Rio Grande do Sul has a Spanish influence. Therefore, there are a lot of differences between here and the north, making communication between the two regions more difficult. We were also informed that we will be getting offices and will have the opportunity to enroll in a Portuguese class and assist the Spanish/French linguistic classes. (Catherine speaks French and I speak Spanish.) Starting at 8am tomorrow, we are assisting proctors for a TOEFL test.
Rossana took the time to reach out to the Dean of the school to find the student that most recently studied abroad. He met us at the campus when we arrived and showed us around. He explained that we needed login information for the internet, and was kind enough to let us use his. He also is picking us up Saturday morning for a graduation type party for a fellow engineer.
In addition, I am glad I learned the word for dog today: cachorro. Because, our campus is FULL of them. We were told it is normal to see dogs everywhere, and “they are not wild, but they don’t belong to anyone”. I also found out that the couple we saw around campus while touring it at 9pm became a pack of dogs at 10:30pm that followed Catherine and myself across campus. Those cachorros can be very intimidating late at night.
With everything Rosanna has done for us, we feel almost guilty that we are being treated so well. Yet, we are extremely grateful! No wonder the Program Specialist of the Brazilian Commissioner’s office, and a U.S. Foreign Service agent spoke so highly of her.
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As a side note: before leaving the U.S., a friend told me to wave to the penguins. She joked that since I was going so far south, I could see Antarctica. Ironically, we were told today that sometimes the penguins lose their way and end up on the beach in Rio Grande. They are sent to a nearby reserve to be cared for. I might actually see penguins…on the beach (which is the longest beach in Brazil)!