Archive | June, 2011

The odd (wo)man out

22 Jun

If you know me, you know that I’d choose to blend in with the crowd rather than be noticed any day. I don’t like people looking at me, I have social anxiety when it comes to “making a good first impression”, and I don’t want to be judged.

Luckily in California, I am just one of many blondies walking down the street. In Brazil, especially Salvador, it’s an entirely different story. With the combination of being 6 feet tall, blonde, blue eyed, and pink skinned, I appear to be more of a zoo attraction than a local in Bahia.

While I know I’ll be out of my comfort zone more times than not, I think this will be a very rewarding learning experience for me. It’ll be embarrassing and frustrating when I get gawked at for looking different, or try to convince a little girl that I’m not actually Barbie (true story from one of my previous visits), but that’s life and I’ll grow a strong outer shell because of it.

To many stories to come…

Visa trials and tribulations

9 Jun

The whole process to acquire a visa to visit Brazil is a pain in the behind.  With two trips to your designated consulate, providing more information than you need for a regular passport, and a $140 postal money order, you too may be fortunate enough to obtain one.

To make it even more difficult, my consulate (San Francisco) only processes visas from 9am to noon, and only accepts a total of 42 applications per day with an appointment.

When I received my Brazilian travel visa two years ago, I felt like I should be able to use it to get VIP access into carnaval camarotes (a party overlooking the parade) or get upgraded to business class on my flight. That wasn’t the case, unfortunately. Instead I got to stand in a special security line (for Americans only) where they did an extensive search on all my baggage.

If I weren’t American, I’d likely not even have to get a visa in the first place.  Why? Because Brazil has a reciprocal visa system: if you’re country requires Brazilian nationals to obtain a visa, you’ll need one to enter Brazil.

As much as it is a process to obtain a Brazilian visa, it’s nothing compared to what we put Brazilian citizens through. From what I heard, if you’re a Brazilian looking to get into the US, good luck, literally. American visas are generally disapproved, even after a (required) personal interview.

A travel visa (what I have now) will only allow me to stay in Brazil for 90 days at a time, with one extension to 180 days a year. That’s just not going to work, so when I arrive in Brazil I’ll need to apply for a student visa.

I’m sure I’ll have to go through another tedious process to obtain a student visa, but I’m happy that I can even visit and stay in the country for an extended period of time.

One good thing about getting a new visa? I can get rid of this heinous visa photo I have now. Ew, I know.

Apartment hunting

7 Jun

Yesterday I gave notice to my apartment complex that I’ll be moving. It’s finally starting to hit home that I’ll no longer be a resident of the US. Strange!

When I arrive to Brazil, Marcos and I will be staying in the in-law unit located on the property of his parents’ house in Lauro de Freitas. Their house and the neighborhood is incredible so we’re very lucky to have such a convenient accommodation while we search for apartments.

We’re both anxious to find a place to call our own and we’ve been browsing a local real estate website (www.portaldeimoveissalvador.com.br) for apartments in Itaigara. The neighborhood is located in southeastern zone of Salvador in the heart of the city. The area is very safe and surrounded by shopping centers, businesses, supermarkets, schools and bars.

It’s been a little frustrating searching for apartments online because the pictures don’t do justice to the amenities and space. It’s a good thing Marcos will be back in Salvador to review the apartments in person and pick out a few good options before my arrival.

I’ll soon be a city girl living in a high-rise apartment minutes from the beach!

Minha nova escola – My new school

1 Jun

It’s official, thanks to the help of my boyfriend’s amazing mom, I wont be twiddling my thumbs full time during my stay in Brazil. She found a great intensive immersion program where I will learn Portuguese!

Unfortunately I have had minimal success with language studies in the past. I was less than amused to learn Spanish in high school and thus didn’t make much progress. At Stanford, I decided to take the “easy route” and learn sign language rather than continue my Spanish studies (don’t even ask what I was thinking). Turns out, American Sign Language (ASL) wasn’t that easy and it’s not even universally adopted. Since then I’ve had no practice and I can’t even sign “thank you”.

For Portuguese, I tried the Rosetta Stone thing. As soon as I got past level 2, I had little motivation to do my lessons. To increase my drive, I decided to enroll in a small class in San Francisco. It was a great environment to learn in, but the commute after work made it a challenge to attend.

Brazilian Portuguese is a difficult language to learn so I’m hoping that by moving to Brazil and taking an immersion program this will be just what I need to make everything click.

This language school will also be a great way for me to meet others in a similar position and make some friends. I can even learn samba for free! Watch out, I will be Brazilian before you know it.

Check out my new school here: http://www.dialogo-brazilstudy.com. I’m totally digging the bright /fun vibe!