Once again I've been lucky enough to go on a month long trip around the world with people I love. Feeling so so lucky to have opportunities like this, especially since I'm sure I won't always be able to do this. My sister happened to study in Brazil at the same time as one of my best friends is in the Peace Corps in Peru, so with a little elbow grease, I was able to put together a trip to see both of them with some added bonuses along the way. First stop, Brazil! I did't get too many photos on this South America trip because it wasn't always safe to have my camera or phone out, but also I was just more worried about experiencing things myself and not through a camera lens. 

Monday, August 29th

The trip had a very rocky start. If you're from California, you may have heard about the dude that thought it would be funny to dress as Zorro to go to the airport which sparked mass panic. Zorro man. I was sitting on my plane just after boarding thinking 'whew that was so easy and now I'm off to South America' when the fight attendant comes on the intercom and says very matter of fact "Okay folks, we will have a slight delay in departing because there are reports of an active shooter in the Delta terminal. Some of our passengers in line to board have run to take shelter, so we will have to wait for them to make their way back to the plane before we can depart". SERIOUSLY?! I know it turned out to be a false alarm, but boy the panic was real as I was stuck there in a little metal box with wings waiting and waiting and waiting and reading stupid Tweets and hoping for some actual news. Thank goodness it was a false alarm and the most important thing was that no one was hurt. Just my sanity, but who says I had that in the first place :)

I arrived at the airport in Rio de Janeiro and waited for my sister's Uber to arrive through the crazy traffic in Brazil. It had been over a month since I'd seen her and like any big sister would be, I was relieved to see she was all in one piece. We hugged, grabbed my bags, and scurried to the bus that would take us to our hostel. I love seeing cities by bus or train, so I really enjoyed sitting and watching the city out my window. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that this was the first day - first hour even - of my month long travel plans through South America. I was so happy to get a chance to hang out with my sister and hear about her life in Brazil and all the amazing experiences she had in those few weeks she was gone. We caught up and she showed me some of her new Portuguese skills while we rode the bus that soon dropped us off near our hostel. We walked a bit to the exact place, called the Harmonia, and dropped off my luggage. From there, we went out to meet two of Julie's friends form her study abroad program and have dinner with them. We had a really fun dinner with Josh and Rachel and went hunting for ice cream afterwards. It was a nice, easy first few hours in Brazil and I was happy to have a real bed after spending so long on a plane. 

Tuesday, August 30th

The first few days of a trip always feels surreal to me. I spend a lot of time thinking 'hey, I woke up in Brazil' or 'look, I'm eating Brazilian toast'. We rolled out of bed and went down to grab some free breakfast in the living room. I met a few of our hostelmates, one of which was a nice American guy named Ben. After a quick breakfast, we got ready for a full day of activities. Our first stop was the Christ the Redeemer statue. Julie, Rachel, and I took a bus to the top of the mountain and then hiked a few sets of stairs to the very top. Being someone who absolutely loves to people watch, I was having a blast watching all the tourists laying on the ground trying to get the best photos of themselves and their friends with the statue. And of course, I had the 'when in Rome' mentality and started taking goofy photos myself. The statue was quite impressive, but my favorite part of being on this giant hill was the 360º view of the city below. I could have stayed up there all day if the sun wasn't blazing down on us. We ran into Ben near the statue and two German guys from our hostel named Alex and Aytac. We talked for a bit before we decided to leave and get lunch on a restaurant just down the stairs a little. We were relieved to get some shade and a little rest before heading off to our next stop.

After Christ the Redeemer, we made our way to a different part of town to visit the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow). We met up with Josh and Stacey outside the museum and spent several hours walking around inside. There was a huge black sphere when you walked into the museum that had a very long line and we had no idea what it was, but we knew we should probably get in line for this mysterious thing. We took turns wandering the museum while some of us waited in line, since we showed up pretty shortly before the museum closed. I have no regrets about jumping into line after we went into the big black ball. It turned out to be a spherical theater and we laid down on our backs and watched a show projected onto the ceiling. It's hard for me to describe the show, but it revolved around nature and the galaxy and animals, and it made us feel like we were in space or in a bee hive or surrounded by other parts of nature. After the really interesting show, we finished strolling through the museum and ended up all on the back terrace-type place behind the museum. There was an infinity pool that led out to a bay, which was beautiful a the sun set. We sat around the pool chatting and dipping our toes in before walking Stacey back to her hotel to say goodbye. Her trip was ending the next morning.

Julie and I headed back to our hostel and grabbed dinner at a traditional Brazilian kilo restaurant (a buffet style restaurant where you serve yourself and they charge you by the weight of your plate) just next to where we were staying. We ended up eating with the German guys from our hostel and getting to know them a little better. We found Rachel and Josh after dinner and went to a bar called Shenanigans that ended up being full of other Americans and nooo one else. We played a few round of darts and decided to make our way to Lapa, which was a more lively part of town. We spent some time at a place called Casa de Cachaca sitting at a little plastic table along the street and having a great time talking and laughing. Julie and her friends got to reminisce on a lot of their study abroad adventures as their trip drew to a close. I really loved getting the chance to meet some of Julie's friends and see a glimpse into what her study abroad experience was like, because I know my time abroad changed my life for the better and I believe hers did to.

Wednesday, August 31st

Julie, Rachel, and I decided to spend our morning lounging on the beach. We took our towels out to Ipanema and relaxed and listened to music for several hours. The beach had an amazing view of some surrounding mountains, and I find being by the ocean so calming, especially when I'm far frmo home. Lots of people approached us to try to sell us stuff, but we politely turned them down and went about our lounging. We got our fill of beach time and met our friends at the kilo restaurant - you can't go wrong with fast, cheap, and authentic. Josh, Aytac, and Alex came to have lunch with us, and Aytac brought a new friend named Elena from Russia. I never expected to have a big group of people with us on our trip because it was just my sister and I for the month, but it was such a pleasant surprise. I tend to be much more outgoing while I travel and come out of my shell a bit.

It started to rain just after lunch, but our plan had been to walk around the town a little bit. Julie and I owed Josh and Rachel ice cream because we lost to them in pool the night before, so our big group headed to the gelato place that we had gone on the first night. I just had to inform you that we did win the first game of pool by a lot, but we hadn't placed bets on that. So we all got ice cream with the help of Julie's translating and stood around trying each other's and waiting out the rain. We split off into smaller groups and went off to do our own things, and Josh had to take off to pack and head to the airport. We did spend some time browsing a local mall while waiting out the rain with no success. It was still pouring rain and our neighborhood was a little dead on a Wednesday night, so it took us some time to find a place to hang out. Rachel, Julie, Alex, Aytac, and I went out in search of something fun to do. We lost Aytac along the way, because he stopped at a bar to watch a soccer game with the owner of the hostel. We managed to find a bar that was open and covered called Blue Agave where we hung out and took shelter for a bit. We had drinks and played games and told stories about things we've done and things we want to do. The bar closed and we weren't ready to go home, so we hopped in an Uber and went back to Lapa because it had been a success the night before.

Good ol' Casa de Cachaca was packed with people, as was the whole neighborhood. People were crammed under awnings to watch the game and avoid the rain. I am a huge fan of people watching, so I had the best time walking around the neighborhood seeing how everyone interacts. After having some weird, tingly drinks at the little bar, we headed back down the street to find a place to dance. We were standing on the street trying to choose a place to go when two very nice guys walked up to Julie and I and introduced themselves. They turned out to also be German and they talked with Alex for a while in German. Turns out they have mutual friends form Germany - small world isn't it? I'm going to credit Julie with this idea, but we ended up pairing off and having a German contest. The guys all decided on a German sentence and quietly taught it to the girl they were with, and we would have to repeat the phrase and see who had the best pronunciation. I think the judging was biased, because of course each guy had chosen the girl they had taught, but I still secretly believe I won. We finally found a club that was open, and it had a really cool second level balcony overlooking the dance floor, so the six of us went up there to dance and sing and watch the festivities going on in the club. I know it's been a good day if I get to dance at some point.

Thursday, September 1st

Our last full day in Brazil. It was nothing like I had expected, because to be honest I went in with no expectations and a very open mind. South America has never been high on my travel wish list, but I'm so grateful that I did go and experience it because it now has a very special place in my heart.

We desperately needed to do glamorous, I know. So we dropped off our laundry and took the subway out to Copa Cabana to take a long walk on the beach and see the giant Olympic merchandise store. I also popped into a jewelry store while we were out around town and found a ring of the Brazilian flag; perfect to add to my collection of travel rings. After our beach time, Rachel met us for lunch at the kilo restaurant (surprise surprise). It was nice to have a little time with her to relax and say goodbyes. She is a really lovely person, and I had a lot of fun getting to know her over the couple of days we hung out together.

After hugging goodbye, Julie and I headed out to a place called Escadaria Selaron, which is a beautiful mosaic staircase in Rio. The rain was slowly creeping in, as it does every single time I travel I swear, but we didn't let it stop us. I truly loved walking around the stairs and seeing all the little details of the tiles and admiring all the work put into this functional art piece. We spent quite a while there before rushing back to the hostel to find Alex and Aytac.

The four of us had made plans to go out to a mountain called Sugarloaf. It looks like a giant rock sticking straight up in the middle of the city, and you can hike or take a cable car to the top. We decided on the cable car since we wanted to make it to the top in time for sunset. Unfortunately, the sky was covered in clouds as we got to the top, but I didn't mind. We were so high up that the clouds were flying by us, and I don't think that's something I've ever experienced. We all kind of took some time to sit and take in the views or wander around on our own if we wanted. It was very peaceful until it got so cold that it was a little tough to enjoy.

Once it was dark, we went back to our neighborhood and grabbed some pizza and our laundry before going to the hostel. We also picked up a bunch of delicious peanut butter candies that I accidentally ate all in one night. Our flight was at 5am, so we had to head to the airport at a ridiculous time. We were planning on going straight to our room to pack, but once we got back, the hostel owner, Chris, had baked us homemade chocolate chip cookies as a parting gift. He was so sweet. Chris is from a part of California very close to where Julie and I live now, so we shared a special little bond. We all talked and shared jokes and ate cookies in the common room. Aytac spent some time translating some phrases from German that make no sense in English, and I got a huge  kick out of it. I decided to adopt them into my vocabulary even if they make no sense, so if you ever hear me say 'I don't live behind the moon' or 'I only understand train station', now you know why.  I couldn't have asked for a better final few hours in Brazil, actually. I'm very thankful to be able to make special connections with people in new and far off places. It's nice to know now that if I ever go to Germany, I can message Alex and Aytac and visit where they're from or if I'm ever back in Rio, I can come see Chris and catch up on his life over some amazing cookies.

Oh, and on our way out of Brazil we somehow got upgraded to first class....OH YEAHHHH!


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