Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The W Curve

Hello blog followers...it's been a bit since I've posted something...and this is one of my perturbed, annoyed, and emotional posts...so enjoy the vulnerability while you can!

The last few days have been full of the biggest emotional ups and downs that I've had here in Brazil and I certainly needed plenty of motivation last night but I pushed through and today was a great day.

Let's see...

I am one step closer to getting out of this detained state. I made the one-hour trek to the Ministry of External Relations to pick up my new visa. Which was really exciting until I saw that all they did was mark the 2012 with a 2013 with a sticker stamp. Are you kidding me?! First I get rejected at the federal police registration because the date was wrong (hand written) and then it takes over a month for you to stamp my paper and I have to spend a day taking care of this all. Meanwhile I was thinking that I'd get a chance to re-register with the police right away but their website is broken right now and they're on strike so they're not taking any appointments at this time....wow....just wow. Hopefully next week I can get this solved.

To ease the bureaucratic pain, I spent another weekend in Rio de Janeiro, which is always well worth it. I headed out on Thursday night and took the night bus to arrive there on Friday morning. I'm telling you, traveling via bus here is as luxury as it comes. A seat that reclines to a full bed with a nice blanket, food, and leg rests. It's easy to just crash and next thing you know, you're in the Cidade Maravilhosa!

Once we made it there, it was back to the beach house and another beach for all of Saturday...which was AWESOME! I'm finally looking Brazilian with my tan haha. Saturday night I made it to my first Brazilian birthday party! I'm telling you, Brazilians do birthday parties right...house full of decorations, food, themes, people, song, celebration, cake, candy, etc...even at the age of 21. Of course I suppose there's nothing wrong with the typical American "to-the-bar" party but this was a blast. I learned how to sing happy birthday in Portuguese (words are a bit different) and made it to bed by about 4 AM. Sunday was a recover and relax day and I took another night bus back to Sao Paulo to be fresh and ready for Monday...which was less than exciting...and the W curve hit me big time.

The W curve was something I learned about before my first longer-term study abroad trip to Asia. It sounds silly at first but when you think about it, it's right in so many ways. At one end of the letter, you're at the very high of highs...everything is super new and cool and exciting...and on the other end...in the deepest depths of that letters curve you can find yourself feeling depressed and longing for home...that was me yesterday.

I'm not quite sure what it was. Maybe the fact that I hit the 2 month mark yesterday (substantive but not even close to being done). Maybe it was because I am continually angered by the fact that I cannot watch college football here. Maybe it was because I had to study for a test in my Portuguese accounting class and over 100 pages of something not in English in a technical discipline could no longer be delayed. Maybe it was because it was hotter than hell's waiting room and the pollution hit like Ray Lewis tackling a peewee running back with goggles and no mouthpiece. Regardless, it was making me feel sick. Maybe it was because I talked to so many friends and family from home...even had my brother post the "You've got a friend in me" song on my facebook wall. I'm sure it was a combination of everything but whatever one or many factors that made me feeling lonesome was awful and I finally realized what it means to be on that damn curve. Nevertheless, those same friends gave me great pick-me-uppers, sent words of encouragement, put things in perspective, and had me feeling much better by the time I hit the hay.

I woke up feeling quite refreshed today and was ready to tackle the day...a good one! Despite the fact that I don't have the results, I felt pretty confident on the test I had to take and I got a great 5 mile run in the park accomplished after that. I knocked out some emails and did some studying and got to see some of my other American friends this afternoon that are studying here. There was one specific thing today that really energized me though...not necessarily for good reasons...but I'm interested in what you all think I should do!

About 5 days ago, every international exchange student at my school received an email inviting them to participate in the exchange fair...where you can set-up a booth and promote your home school, culture, etc. and try to convince Brazilian students to study abroad! As you can imagine, I was super pumped and got on the horn with my fellow Bearcats to start to brainstorm and ordered some UC "swag" to help giveaway. Nevertheless, I have a great game plan prepared and you best believe I was going to woo some Brazilians to the Queen City or City that Sings (did they approve that yet?) for the upcoming year....until...I got a peculiar message today on facebook (which I thought was a little unprofessional in and of itself but I guess times have changed (can't believe even I, a young one, am saying that)). The conversation is below:

School: Hello dear (um excuse me...since when is a student a dear?!)
Me: Hello
School: Are you ok?
Me: Yes. Why do you ask?
School: We just want to know if you are going to the exchange fair?
Me: Yes. I'm excited. I'm filling out the registration form as we speak!
School: Aren't you from CIEE? (CIEE is the study abroad program that placed me into the institution and plans weekend trips, language courses, etc...not the university...but a mediator)
Me: Yes.
School: We have a problem then. Students from the CIEE cannot have a booth at the fair but they can still attend.
Me: I cannot promote my own university in the US? I was not planning on promoting CIEE?
School: What university do you attend?
Me: University of Cincinnati
School: Unfortunately you cannot promote your university because FGV (Fundacao Getulio Vargas...my school here) does not have a partnership with it.
Me: FGV should partner with it and I think this is a perfect way to start that partnership.
School: I agree but there is no will for the universities to partner so I'm afraid you cannot participate. I am sorry...I cannot personally decide this.
Me: I am deeply saddened by this. Not only do I think this is unjust and inequitable, it is far from a warm welcome as I have already planned my booth, requested things be sent to me here, and purchased goodies to give away.
School: I am really sorry. We did not mean to waste your time or money. Maybe in the future we can partner (meanwhile I'm thinking...what the hell?! Aren't I studying here? Isn't this a partnership in and of itself?) so this situation can be avoided.
Me: I'm not sure that I fully understand the rationale behind my inability to participate. I will be back in touch.

So, that's the conversation...and well, it caught me at the right time because I was heated as all hell! Are you kidding me? I cannot set-up a table at a local fair to hand out pencils to tell students about UC?...absurd! I just felt so shafted...not sure why I'm still irked by this but I've been thinking about a few ways to approach it...some of which are better than others of course haha.

1. Is this a menial argument that I should waste my time with...just not participate and forget about it?
2. Is is inequitable and unjust and should I petition to promote? Don't they realize how small this is too?
3. Should I promote anyway by posting up outside the fair or try to sneak in anyway?
4. Should I convince the other international students that can participate to boycott the event until all international students can participate...give everyone a healthy dose of freedom of speech, democracy, liberty, freedom?! haha
5. Should I not "piss" anyone off and figure out what it takes to get this "partner" designation and start pursuing it...I think this is probably the most level-headed and best approach (although I had to convince myself for obvious reasons haha). Not only would a UC-FGV partnership be mutually beneficial, this would also fulfill the longer-term objective of cross-border understanding and diplomacy. Having said that, the others did run through my head out of slight anger haha.

I'll have to keep everyone updated. This is not the first time that I've thought this institution is somewhat of a mess. I get these random emails notifying me that classes for the school for certain days are canceled, others are made up on Saturdays, times of other classes (of which I've already registered) have changed and are now overlapping with my other classes. None of the colleges (i.e. Law/Business/Economics) are on the same calendar. They don't have a running list for students to see if classes are open or closed. You register by email and never get confirmation. I don't know what to say but the organization, or lack thereof, is abysmal. Meanwhile all I hear is that this is Latin America's "premiere" business institution. Perhaps this in itself is explanation enough for why this country has so many pressing issues that continue to stifle it reaching its full potential. I think one of the more interesting points is the racial selectivity of the school as well. Everyone is white! And I mean like Gringo white...not just Brazilian tan. All the students are from very wealthy high-class families. It is most certainly a homogeneous body...making class discussion and perspectives about issues such as education, poverty, government, health care, etc (all things that are of the utmost policy importance here) very one-sided. Ok, at this point I'm just bashing...I digress...and forgive my attacking...but it's been a very good example of identification of things that I would change and an incredible perspective on what challenges face the Brazil we know today.

Of course, I will continue to update everyone on my activities but I'm thinking about starting to post about the big issues in Brazil. I've been getting lots of feedback from my readers that they loved my case style approach on some the issues/businesses/etc. that I've presented earlier and they liked learning from it. So, be on the lookout for those!

I'm also at a crossroads here as well as I'm getting a good chunk of readers from Brazil too now and they are requesting posts in Portuguese! So...you may see a few here and there in Portuguese in the coming months as well. Finally, I need to spice things up a little more with pictures and videos...not loads of texts, so if you have any ideas, send them my way otherwise you'll be getting whatever I have time for and can think up!

Best wishes to all and thanks for reading. As a gift to you all, I read a hysterical blog post by another student who is here studying and I'm copying it below. You all deserve to have the same type of belly laugh I had when I read it! For my family readers...forgive the foul language below!

Splitting the Bill

I don’t think this is just a Brazil thing. I think this is pretty universal. One of the most excruciatingly painful activities that one must endure comes right after a rather enjoyable experience—eating a meal. This agonizing task: SPLITTING THE BILL.

Every time I’m at a restaurant with a party of 6 or larger, I get very uncomfortable at the end. I start sweating (what else is new), I get restless, and no longer am I happy about the meal I just inhaled. Paying the bill with a group of people, friends, colleagues, what have you, is always unbearable. There’s always a Cheap Charlie at the table that examines the bill with a magnifying glass, making sure he’s paying to the penny exactly what his meal cost him. Then there are people like me, who always get SCREWED at the end, having to put in more money, because we feel bad and just want this experience to end so that we can more quickly get to the bar.

How about in the U.S. when we have to discuss tip? Cheap Fucking Charlie never puts in tip. Then me, the sucker, puts in tip for both myself and Suckie Chuckie because I feel bad for the waitress that only makes $2.74 an hour plus tips. Charlie, if you're reading this, you suck.

Oh, and how about the argument that always happens—should we split it equally between all of us, or should we all just pay what we got, you know, Going Dutch? If we’re splitting beers, cut it down the fucking middle. If we are talking dinner, I say pay for your own share, because when Sally eats a salad and Steve eats a steak, it obviously isn’t proportional. 

Then, for about an hour after the dinner, I’m still stewing about the bill. Then I drink. Then I forget. Then what happens? WE HAVE TO SPLIT ANOTHER FREAKIN’ BILL AT THE BAR. That’s always such a joy. Now not only do we all owe money, but everyone is sloshed and can’t think clearly. That’s when I just walk away.

That’s why I love the clubs here in Brazil. Usually, one will receive a card, and all of your drinks get put on the card. To leave, you must present your card and pay your tab. You don't have to deal with people or money--just you and your bill. For me, this is one of the scariest experiences if I’m not drunk enough, because every single time, I spend about enough money to fly back to the United States. But if I’m drunk enough, I laugh. If not, I cry.

This is all I ask of you, fellow humans. 1) Be conscious of how much you are spending, therefore making it easier at the end. 2) Don’t be an asshole: you know you have to pay tip, don’t try and get out of it, because I’ll call you out on it. 3) If you’re gonna be  Suckie Chuckie cheap ass, stay home—you shouldn’t be eating out if you don’t wanna spend money. Make some instant $1 noodles, buy cheap vodka, and have a jolly time.

PHEW. Enough said. Now I need a drink.

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who just started a Ph.D. program at a university in London, Ontario. She said the same thing about the classes not happening when you expect them to.