Friday, August 21, 2009

FGV, Avenida 9 de Julho, Edificio Conquista

That's campus really, just 2 separate buildings each with 11 floors, a gym and a small courtyard. The building farthest back and to the left is my residence.

9 de Julho entrance to FGV.

Student Lounge

Edificio Conquista, home to me and several other exchange students.

This has become our office, the only place in the apartment that picks up a wireless connection from who-knows-where.

My room.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Life Outside the "Bubble"

Many people here in Brazil have told me that FGV is the top-ranked business school in the country. This gave me the impression that I would be surrounded by only the most intelligent, talented individuals Brazil has to offer. True to my expectations, I have already met many high-caliber students here, but I also failed to remember two things: first, most of these students do not follow the same religious moral standards to which I adhere, and second, many are still young-adults. What does this mean? It means their idea of fun frequently involves clubs, bars, and alcohol.

In my 23 years of life, I had never been to a club or a bar. This past week, I received several invitations to both. I admit I had little interest in going, but I was interested in meeting new people so I decided to accept the invitations. I made a few interesting observations. First, after repeatedly telling people I didn't want any alcohol, I realized I was very out-of-place without a drink--I solved the problem by getting a soda. Second, my limited knowledge of stateside clubs is enough that I know most of them close by 2 or 3 a.m. Here in Brazil, dancing doesn't even begin until around 1 a.m. and many people get home when the sun is beginning to rise. Third, it seems like the common way to celebrate a birthday is by creating a VIP list and inviting friends to hang at a club. Both times I went was because someone was having a birthday. Parties at someone's home do not seem to be as commonplace. Fourth, while I enjoyed meeting new people, my suspicions were confirmed...I do not like clubs or bars. The only anticipation I have of ever returning is if I am on a VIP list that allows me free entrance.

It has certainly been interesting though to get a glimpse of social life outside of what I am used to at BYU. I think certain aspects are unique to Brazilian culture and others are just normal to life outside Mormonism, neither of which I am familiar with. I also met a lot of people at the institute here and we went out together to a pizzeria. It was a nice change of pace, I felt more at home.

Classes started last Wednesday. I will be taking Negotiation, Brazilian Economy, International Strategy, and Finance in New Endeavors & Private Equity. All are MBA-level and are taught in English except for the Private Equity class. I also have 5 hours of Portuguese courses during the week to improve my language skills. This week was also the "Trote" activity at FGV, which is their equivalent to freshman initiation. It was insane, but unfortuantely I didn't get any pictures. They threw eggs at the freshman, shaved their heads, poured beer all over them and then had a crazy party. Glad I am not counted as a freshman ;-)

I finally got a cell phone. It is so convenient, if not necessary, to have one as a student. Plans here are very different from the states, more complicated in my opinion and somewhat expensive so I just got a simple pre-paid plan. If anyone ever feels like calling me, I would love to talk: 55 11 6515-4221.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mountaineering in Paradise

What a whirlwind of a week. I feel like a million things have happened since my first couple days here in São Paulo. I suppose I will just start from the beginning. Last weekend mostly consisted of meeting new people. I went to the ward party, which was themed Festa Junina. The “Festa Junina” is a traditional party here in Brazil that normally occurs in the end of June, but I guess they decided to have an August one as well. Essentially, the party involves redneck dress, traditional food (corn, boiled peanuts, sweet rice, and some other treats), and Forró line dancing. Dan and I were impressed that they even had a mechanical bull. We both took our turns on it. Unfortunately I did not make Idaho proud as I only lasted a few seconds.

The first week at church was great. The ward is quite strong as far as attendance is concerned. It is funny how a lot of people in the church call Dan and I “Elder.” I think it is because they either have too much difficulty with my name or they are so used to two white guys being Elders that they just default to that. Sunday evening we went to a family home evening at the Spat’s house. He is an older gentleman who speaks great English from having served a mission in Switzerland several decades ago. We met a lot of new people at the event from different wards in the area.
Since our classes had been postponed until the 12th, Dan and I began the week with plans to travel somewhere. Our two main choices were Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. A bunch of other FGV exchange students from Europe were going to Salvador, but for some reason I just was not feeling Salvador so we decided on Rio. I will get to the Rio trip shortly.

On Monday or Tuesday, Dan and I were heading home from FGV on the bus, about an hour’s ride. It was late afternoon, we were tired and we were standing, packed like sardines inside the bus. We looked at each other and realized we were both thinking the same thing—there was no way we could keep up this type of commute for five more months. We knew we needed to find a place closer. Dan said, “Well, we better start praying pretty hard.” Wednesday and Thursday we hit the housing search hard. Things were going fast because this time of year a lot of students are returning from different places to start classes. We saw a few places, nothing that just called out to us, but definitely places better than our situation at the time. In talking with renters, we could sense the pressure time was putting on us; some openings were disappearing in a matter of hours. We were close to deciding on one place because it was so cheap, we were leaving that evening for Rio, and it was sure to not be open when we returned. We used our better judgment, however, and told the lady we wanted to think about it even if that meant losing the spot. We had a couple other options still, so we decided to check them out and our next stop was our last. We found a really chill apartment less than 100 meters from FGV in the heart of downtown São Paulo. Dan and I are sharing it with Roberto, our new roommate from Texas. He is cool. I cannot get over how glad I am that we ended up with the apartment, it is great for our situation. Plus, it is only $280 per month for each of us, which for the area is a great price. So tonight we should be officially moved into our new place! I will take two lessons away from this experience. First and once again, prayers are answered. Second, never let time constraints affect the decision making process such that you feel forced to make a decision before you are ready.

Just hours after closing the contract (well, more of an oral agreement) we hopped a bus to Rio, embarking on what turned out to be one of the sweetest weekends ever. About midweek, Dan and I were talking to our friend Lani, who was doing a BYU study abroad here. It turned out that her parents live in Rio, and she was going with a couple of other friends to visit for the weekend. We expressed our interest in going and she agreed that it would be fun so we booked some overnight bus tickets and met up with them Friday morning. They were incredible hosts and took such great care of us. The apartment was amazing—right off Ipanema beach with a nice view from the balcony. Her mother made French toast, ribs, tacos, sandwiches, fruit, brownies and other things…a welcome change from rice and beans :). I felt at home. On Friday afternoon we climbed Pão de Açucar which mostly consisted of hiking, but there was a short stretch that required climbing gear. We had no problem reaching the top where we took in the incredible view of Rio. It was a lot better than dropping $20 to take the lift car to the top. Later that evening we relaxed at the apartment and the beach. About 3 a.m. that night, I awoke to a loud, catchy remix of Viva La Vida. The bass was seriously rocking the entire block, and I got up and saw a party going on across the street in the penthouse suite. Apparently Rio doesn’t have any type of noise ordinance. The party went on until 6 a.m. or so. To be honest, I wasn’t really that mad—the beat was good and after an hour or so I was able to fall back to sleep. I almost considered going over to join the party ;)

Best spot in the apartment.

Just before heading up Pão de Açucar.

Some friends we met on the way up.

A lot of it was a huge rock face.

Getting the gear first!

First time climbing in many years.

Successfully on top.

What a view! Too bad it was a little cloudy.

We did take the cable car down since it is free going down.

This is on the agenda for the next trip to Rio.

On Saturday we one-upped ourselves. We got up early for our climb up Pedra da Gávea. Rio is full of dome-type mountains and Pedra da Gávea has to be one of, if not the tallest, at 2500 feet. Lani’s father is in the military, and a couple of his friends came along—Major Lee was our guide. That turned out to be a good thing because I did not have the climbing know-how to conquer a few of the points along the way. It was so awesome to hike through jungle, climb rock crevasses, and traverse exposed rock faces along the way to the summit. Once on top, the view is amazing—Rio is basically paradise. We had lunch and by then the wind died down enough for Chris, the other military guy with us, to be able to parasail off the top. It looked like so much fun; I am going to have to try hang gliding when I go back. We picked Chris up on the beach down below and talked about the awesomeness of his jump. Even more impressive: he left on his trip last November, riding his motorcycle from South Carolina through central America, Columbia, Peru and now Brazil—that’s a world traveler for you. The hike took a lot out of me so I just chilled at the apartment in the evening. Sunday was pretty chill as well. I didn’t have church clothes so I went in shorts and sandals…that was a weird feeling. We took a stroll along the beach and then caught our bus at midnight to head back to São Paulo. I am excited to start class and move into my new place, but it was really hard to leave Rio. I will be back though, for sure.

The group at the hang gliding point below Pedra da Gávea, early morning.

Most of the climbing did not require gear.

For the crevass, however, we pulled it out just to be safe.

Close to the top. It opened up with a great view of the coast.

The group at the peak...we made it!

The wind cooperated and Chris was able to para sail off the top. Sick picture!

Me rappelling down the crevass on the way down.

I did the climb in sandals...wouldn't recommend that.

I want to document funny experiences I have here in Brazil so I don’t forget them. Here is one from last week:

Dan and I are entering the subway and there is a large group of kids in front of us, probably around 17 or 18 years old. As we are going down the escalator, we notice three girls in front of us who are not being very discreet about looking back at us.

Dan: Jay, did you hear those girls?
Me: No, were they talking about us?
Dan: Yeah, I think so.

One of them turns around.

Dan: What’s up?
Girl A: You speak Portuguese? Where are you guys from?
Dan: The U.S. We are exchange students.
Girl A: You guys are hot.
Girl B: Really hot.
Dan: Thanks.
Me: What are you guys up to?

They gave a short response, but did not at all seem interested in that part of the conversation. I continued to talk with them and we explained that we had already lived in Brazil, so we spoke the language and whatnot.

Girl A: Cool, so yeah, you guys are really hot.
Me: Thanks, we gotta get going, but it was great to talk with you.

Girl A waves goodbye, but Girl B prefers to proceed in the spirit of Brazilian culture, and we both give her the kiss-on-the-cheek goodbye.

Girl C: No, do it on the mouth.

I laugh to myself, say tchau and we go on our way.