Skip to content

Hand sculpture at the Memorial da América Latina

Oi gente! Too many events have occurred during my first week here to put into one blog post (I have gone out more in one week here in Sampa than I do in a whole month in DC) and I don’t want to bore anybody to death by making a laundry list. So I’ll try to fill you in on the events and sites that really stood out for me from that first week. Let me forewarn you that in this blog and most of my blogs in general, I will talk A LOT about food so please forgive me if I make you hungry.

As you might recall from my first blog post, I arrived one day before the scheduled start of my program –CIEE Liberal Arts in Sao Paulo- as a precaution against any setbacks (i.e. flight delays).  The next day, July 2nd, I took the shuttle from the airport to meet up with the Resident Coordinator and the other students who would be participating in the program. I had no problem finding the group and after two hours (we were waiting for everybody in the group to arrive) we departed on a bus CIEE had rented towards the Bee W. Hostel, a hostel off Avenida Paulista where we stayed for the next two days –the duration of the on-site orientation.

We had about an hour to rest and were treated to lunch (by CIEE of course) at a restaurant next door called Segredos de Minas, which serves typical Brazilian from the state of Minas Gerais. As some of you might know, Brazil is a country blessed with an infinite variety of fruits and vegetables that are unknown in other parts of the world, so there is a wide variety of delicious fruit juices to sample. It was here at Segredos de Minas that for the first time I tried cajá juice, and let me tell you, I am absolutely in love with it! This juice is made from a fruit called cajá which tastes like the fruit lovechild of a passion fruit and a mango – it is quite glorious and I recommend you guys try it if you’re ever in Brazil.

After stuffing our faces with delicious Brazilian food we walked off some of the calories on Avenida Paulista, which is the Brazilian equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue. To say it is huge is a gross understatement: one million people pass by it every single day. The architecture of the buildings on Paulista is pretty varied: you can find anything from tall, glass high-rises to modern Brazilian architecture (best embodied by the MASP museum). However, by far my favorite building on Paulista is the Casa das Rosas (House of Roses) – it is the only remaining mansion on Avenida Paulista from Brazil’s coffee era (1800-1903). Originally, Avenida Paulista was built to house the mansions of the wealthy Paulistano (people from the city of São Paulo) coffee barons. However, over the years, these beautiful mansions were torn down to make space for high rises and the only mansion still standing is the Casa das Rosas, which is now a museum and cultural center.

We finished the day off by dining at a local pizzeria called Bendita Hora. Unlike the average American pizzeria, Bendita Hora serves both salty AND sweet pizzas. Yes you heard me…SWEET PIZZAS. We tried two different pizzas: pumpkin pizza and chicken pizza and finished off with the delicious Aphrodite pizza (what an appropriate name!) which consisted of melted chocolate, condensed milk, and strawberries. Oh and of course a cup of Brazilian coffee (it is pretty strong and resembles a three-shot espresso) with two cubes of gelatina de pinga (little gummy cubes made with cachaça).

2015-07-05 15.19.22
Sagui at Parque da Água Branca

Fast-forward three days later to Monday, July 6th: the first day of my intensive summer Portuguese language class. Class was interesting, but long –it is three hours of Portuguese for four days a week- so I am just going to skip over that and get to the good stuff: the after-class cultural activities! Monday after class we went to the Parque da Água Branca (Whitewater Park), a multi-purpose park near my house complete with a playground for kids, an aquarium, a gazebo where you can rent books to read, and even animals like peacocks and monkeys and chickens (yes chickens) running free. Miraculously the animals don’t wander off and leave the park. Here I came across an animal called a sagui, which is a little monkey the size of a squirrel.

Our walk through the park was short as our destination was the Memorial da América Latina (Latin American Memorial), a multi-building complex constructed by Brazil’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer, to honor the culture, history, and peoples of the various countries that make up Latin America. In the main square (Praça Cívica), there is a large concrete sculpture representing an open hand in vertical position, with the map of Latin America painted in red. It symbolizes Latin America’s past of oppression and its battles for freedom, with the red map as a reminder of the blood from the sacrifices that were made.

Since it was getting late and afterwards we were planning to see the rehearsals of a samba school, we decided to grab something to eat at a restaurant nearby. Our guide, Viliane took us to a restaurant called Sabores do Nordeste (Flavors of the Northeast) which specializes in food from northeastern Brazil. You guys can already guess where this is headed haha. Anyways, here I was finally able to try acarajé, a dish from the state of Bahia of West African origin which is made from black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in palm oil. It is then split in half and stuffed with a paste containing shrimp, ground cashews, and coconut milk. However, that was just the appetizer; since the portions were so big, my friend Nashwa and I ordered carne de sol com baião de dois -rice with black eyed peas, fried meat, cheese, and pieces of yuca- and soursop juice, which is yet another of the many fruits that can be found in this wonderful country.

Pérola Negra’s rehearsa

Finally it was time to head out to Vila Madalena to see the neighborhood’s samba school, Pérola Negra, rehearse for Carnaval. The rehearsal was not at all what I expected: I had imagined that the rehearsals would comprise of us, the audience, sitting on some bleachers watching the dancers and the musicians practice on a stage in yoga pants and sneakers. That is what most people imagine when you hear the word ‘rehersal’, right? Well, it was far from that. First of all, the warehouse where the rehearsals were being held resembled a club more than anything else. As you entered the building, there were bouncers checking people and confiscating any bottles. By the way, you also have to pay a “cover” fee like you do at clubs.

Inside there was a stage where there was a band and later a DJ playing funk carioca -a musical rhythm originating in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Strangely enough, amidst this chaos, there were whole families -grandparents, parents, children, etc.- all partaking in this event. Some were dressed normally but others had Perola Negra t-shirts and jerseys, like one would of one’s favorite sports team. After about two hours of this, the rehearsal finally started. Most of the dancers and the musicians were already in costume as if Carnaval was tomorrow. The minority that wasn’t in costume were dressed like they were going clubbing; they had full make up on, sky high heels, and clubbing clothes on. You get the picture.

That’s all for now gente (everyone). Até a próxima! (Until next time!)

By lacymyrman

Although I left the United States Thursday night (9/3), tonight is only my second night in France and I’ve been here for just over 24 hours now! Already I feel like I’ve learned so much yet I also know that I have much to learn.

Thanks to Turkish Airlines, I had a 22-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey prior to arriving in my new home city – Marseille, France. Needless to say, fatigue and anxiety built up over the days leading up to my arrival. I knew that Marseille was a diverse city with North African, Arab and Spanish immigrants, among others and that the demographic landscape is drastically different from that of other French states. I was unsure what the city would actually look like once I arrived or what the people would look like. I was pleasantly surprised.

...continue reading "Je suis arrivé (finalement!)"

By jkichton

Nothing extremely interesting has happened in the past week since my last blog post. As of now, I am deep within my program's routine: go to school, go to lunch, go to French, do a little exploring (either in the grocery store or around town), go home. Our weeks are more packed with lectures and site visits than sardines in a can. So, as a method of relaxation, this week’s blog post I am dedicating to one of the closest things in my heart: food.


Swiss chocolate is all the rage here, probably because it is a cheap way to get $20 out of a tourist’s wallet and into your hands. Every street I turn on and BAM there you find a Chocolat Patisserie. In these little chocolate shops you find the most darling, artful little sweets. Decorated and displayed with a sense of grandeur and glamour, the chocolates seem too beautiful to eat. They are usually made in-house (or so they say) and have so many types of chocolates, that you really should just invest and buy the medium sized box that fits 15 pieces. But they don’t just stop here, oh no! They often have macarons, little gateaux, croissants, and of course coffee. If you’re really willing to treat yo’self, then ditch the shop and go straight for a chocolate making factory!


France is rumored to have as many cheeses as there are days. And with it being a literal 12 minute drive from here, some of their cheeses spill into the area of Switzerland that I am in. A few nights ago, I was telling my host mom that I missed having dessert and had a real sweet tooth. “Dessert?” she said. “Why that’s cheese!” You guessed it, after dinner she came out of the kitchen with a plate of cheeses and some toasted bread. I was hesitant because I am not a fan of soft cheeses, and both of the cheeses she presented were soft. The first was Bleu cheese straight from France. It even had the blue holes scattered across the wedge! WARNING: Do not smell cheese before you eat it. When I picked it up, I was immediately attacked by the stench of ammonia, and the cheese wasn’t even near my face! This influenced my perception of the cheese and the whole time I was eating the measly little pinch that I spread on my toast I tried not to gag. The next cheese was Reblochon which had only 10% of the ammonia stench as Bleu, and tasted like a very watered down version of Brie (even though I was told it was nothing like Brie). Fun fact, the “Swiss cheese” that Americans use on their pastrami sandies is actually just Emmental cheese!


No Lays, Pringles, or Cheetos here! However, what tickles me is that their most popular chip flavor is Paprika! Paprika chips here are more popular than Lays Classic chips in America. Their red, plastic bag with flowers and peppers sprouting up around the orange-colored chip is easily recognizable anywhere. In the grocery store, they have their own section of bags upon bags of them. For good reason though; they are addicting! Just enough flavor with just enough of the classic chip you know and love. Think of barbeque chips, then take 10% of their flavor and you have Paprika chips. Lays, if you’re reading this, please bring this to America!!!


Ice-cream that is. (I wanted to stick with all “C” foods). In Switzerland, there is no ice cream. Only gelato. I know, I know, gelato has more milk and less cream compared to ice cream which, combined with less churning than ice cream, makes it denser. For me, I have tasted or felt no difference. But maybe that just means I am eating cheap gelato? Well, that can’t be it either since I paid $4.50 for the smallest bowl of gelato at Manu. I wouldn’t normally pay that much but I had a hankering for gelato and Manu was the first place we found during our mandatory two hour lunch break. Additionally, there was a sign in their window that said Manu was voted “Premier champion Suisse de glaces artisanales”. They did have some pretty interesting flavors! I got orange chocolate and popcorn. A weird mixture, but I honestly just picked the two flavors that looked the coolest.

As you can tell, my taste-buds and stomach are going on a whirlwind adventure here in Switzerland. Wish us luck!

water fountain nyon
Water Fountain in Nyon

If you read my last post, I said that I had my first class at 11:15am the next day. WELL, I was definitely reading my horaire wrong and actually had class at 9:30am. Wow. That’s early for a college kid! My first week of school is over and let me give you a rundown on the schedule of an SIT: Switzerland International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy student.

Every morning, I wake up around 8:00am. I get up, use the restroom, and put my clothes on. Let me tell you, it has been HOT here in Switzerland! Today it was 90F. So recently I have been cycling through my 3 pairs of shorts and 4 short sleeve/tank top shirts that I brought. I was really expecting it to be colder! If we have a speaker from an international organization then we have to dress business causal, and that is the worst because dressing up nice in this heat is annoying and stifling. After I get dressed, I make sure everything I need for the day is in my backpack and head downstairs to have breakfast. Every morning I eat yogurt and two slices of bread with butter and jam. Now, before I came here I never used to eat butter. Ever. I maybe had butter on my bread twice a year. But since I have been here, I have just felt très European by eating my bread this way. If you haven’t tried butter and jam, you’re living a half-life. After breakfast I quickly put my dishes away and make my lunch. Lunch has consisted of cheese, crackers, mini-sausages, a peach, and a yogurt. It’s like a grown up Lunchable! Finally I brush my teeth and race out the door.

For some odd reason I always think I am going to be late, however I always get to the train station at least 5 minutes early. Le gare is a 16 minute downhill walk from my apartment. The walk is beautiful in the mornings! I pass by the town hall, a grape vineyard, and dozens of small yet beautiful European houses. I also pass a few water fountains. But, unlike America where our form of water fountain is an ugly metal contraption that is dirty half the time and the other half of the time doesn’t work, in Switzerland, there are actual water fountains. As in, water comes out of a pipe (or multiple pipes) into big, concrete collection area, usually lined with flowers. Some are simple, and some are extravagant! In America, you would never drink out of one of these, because the water would usually be unsuitable. In Switzerland, however, the water is always drinkable unless there is a sign that says “Eau Nonpotable”.

The train comes at 8:59am and by 9:09am I am in Geneva! I have never gotten a seat on the morning train because it is so busy. Most of the commuters are business people going to work. Therefore, I usually stand in the entrance or sit on a staircase (it is a double-decker train) and look out the window as the train speeds on. It passes through the Swiss countryside, multiple farms, some big châteaux, all whilst lining the coast of Lac Léman. You can even see the majestic, Mont Blanc in the background! On lovely days with blue skies and minimal clouds, I feel as if I am staring at a painting

By Shanil

When I first started to write this blog post that’s supposed to be focused on my identity, I wrote about how being a gay Pakistani-American Muslim affects how I perceive the world and how it’ll affect my time abroad. However, seeing as how I’m going to be in England at a fairly liberal school, it wouldn’t really be much different than being at GW. If I were in a Muslim country or another area that wasn’t as safe to be who I am, it would make for some great reading, but while my background and history is interesting, I think my identity as an English-speaking American is even more interesting (and funny). ...continue reading "What’s 52 in French?"

By allisonray94


My name is Allison and I'm blogging this semester from Amman, Jordan. Today was my first full day in Amman and the beginning of the Middlebury School's orientation. Orientation Week is particularly crucial for this study abroad program, as it's the only time during the semester that we will be allowed to speak in English. It's all Arabic after this.

Orientation was helpful, but by far the best experience of the day began afterwards, when we met our mentors (مرشدون) and began to explore Amman. We grabbed coffee at a local shop (where smoking indoors is still very cool) and talked for a while. The mentors are all University of Jordan students. It's really calming to talk to someone your own age who understands both Jordanian culture and that of American study abroad students. The mentors also give us some idea of what modern Amman is like. The female mentors all wore hijabs, but one of them cursed continually and talked openly about politics. Lara, my mentor, wears skinny jeans and loves Dan Brown books. None of this is particularly earth-shattering I guess, but every new detail about their lives feels like a small piece to the intricate puzzle of Jordanian identity.

So far, my only other source for extended interactions is my host family, who live in the house above mine and my roommate's basement apartment. We have the most contact with Eman; as the mother, she is in charge of the children (including us). She has four children, one live-in servant, and a husband who I have yet to meet. She's also in charge of feeding us breakfast and dinner, which is great because she's an excellent cook. Tonight's dinner was mansaf. The national dish of Jordan, it's lamb and rice soaked in a yogurt gravy. And it's delicious. IMG_2869

Overall, my first day has been filled with anxiety. Everything is different here, and that's a concept that my mind is having trouble accepting. Still, my interactions with Jordanians so far have taught me that, however different-minded we may be, at the end of the day people are just people no matter what country you're in. Maybe it'll be different once I start speaking to the mentors and my host family in Arabic, but right now the best cure for anxiety is a long conversation with another person. It makes everything strange or foreign melt away until I'm left with the warm, familiar feeling of getting to know a new friend.

That's all for now.

!مع السلامة