When in Brazil…

eat pizza.  Or at least that’s what I’m about to do.  I’m really proud of myself… I’ve spent the last two days developing the website, syllabus and other course materials for the Hip Hop course… all in Portuguese.  It sunk in late last night that this is a great exercise to do.  That is, by teaching this class the way that I would in the states… I am going to be forced to write and to post in Portuguese… which means I’ll learn way more than I expected.  Perhaps I will not need a tutor after this month after all 🙂  It’s 4:11 pm.  The only thing I’ve eaten today are cashews and granola.  LOL!  and the neighbors have started cooking dinner… and it smells really really really good… yep… I smell fejão  I’ve made such good progress that I want to try to wrap this up today.  But I need food!  So I guess instead of knocking on their door and asking them to share, pizza it is for dinner tonight! That way I can wrap up work and post about Friday night! Even though I’m eating pizza I guess it could be worse. There is a McDonalds across the street and they are selling the quarter pounder cheddar melt.  I mean it’d be ok to have one here right?  Technically it’d be better than the U.S… better meat… real sugar in the coke-a-cola :p

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In the mix

Sometimes I forget that, in a way, Brazil and the United States are each (almost) on opposites sides of the world.  This is to say, I’m jet-lagged!  I arrived during the time of year where there is a three hour time difference. The day after I arrived it switched to a two hour difference. Next week, when day light savings time happens in the States, the difference will be one hour. So basically what that means is that after two weeks of packing, a 10 hour flight from winter to summer… I also have to let my body get used to a time difference. The winter to summer change can also feel a little loopy as well. Those of us living in the North are just starting to see longer days. Imagine suddenly shifting from short days to longer days and to shift to early, and I mean EARLY and bright mornings.  Don’t get it twisted.  This is cool.  But it also means that in order for me to be ready for the first week of classes next week, I may need to get to bed early during the weekend, like around 8:30, 9 pm.  I should do that until my body and brain adjusts.  But one of the good things about not being able to sleep until 2 am (aka 11 pm…) is that I get to catch images like this:

It’s the status of Jesus  just outside of my bedroom window. I used a small handheld Kodak camera to capture the image so it’s not that clear.  Hopefully when I’m in the groove, I will have time to shoot better images with my camcorder and edit them 🙂 We’ll see. But the cool thing about this is that the mountain that Jesus is on is really high… so it’s often covered with clouds. What you see in the video are the clouds rolling in around the monument 🙂

Sooo, it’s about 10 am. I am going to continue language study for another hour, unless my brain gets overwhelmed and I have to take a nap.  Maybe if I’m really feeling like I want to make my brain seriously sketch out… maybe I’ll watch TV Globo.  I’m at that sage in language learning where my brain is resisting the new language more… which is great!  It means I’m about to have a language learning spurt.  I just hope I have it before Tuesday.  In the meantime, today I’m heading to UFF for the day. Today I’ll finally get to meet my TA, check out the library etc. While I am thinking about it, here’s some more context about UFF.

UFF is a large public research university – 30,000 students. I’ve really been enjoying the energy here. Everyone’s really excited about their work, they’re excited about my work, and I’ve been having some really interesting and exciting conversations. All of which have motivated me in terms of my own writing and research. The thing that’s interesting is that it’s similar to the energy of the large, public, research universities in the United States… right down to what happens during the first week of school. Yes. That’s right.  The campus is dominated by the smell of freshman cortisol and the cheap cologne aggressively sold on MTV(Brasil).  There’s all the familiar energies and sights… the nervousness, the excitement about being away from home for the first time, the run-down student ghettos bordering the campus… all the kids with cars beeping their horns and making lots of noise.  And of course, freshman hazing. Much like the body painted students from UFF running around the streets of Niterôi, here in Copacabana students from UFRJ (University Federal Rio de Janeiro) are also covered head to toe with body paint.  They have to go out into the streets and perform some stunt that involves embarrassing themselves in front of strangers.  I encountered one on my way to the beach at sunset.   She tripped and almost greased me with black body paint. She awkwardly laughed, I smiled… she looked relieved and stumbled on to the next person.

Oh how I miss those days LOL It’s also sooo much fun to be the professor watching those things go down.  Speaking of sweaty nervous undergraduates… there are also tonnes of amazing graduate students and postgraduate scholars here doing amazing research.  Again, lots of similarities to American graduate students… except for one thing.  They’re way more polite about food opportunities.  In the U.S. I think graduate students can intuit when a free food opportunity is in the process of manifesting.  I mean, it’s kinda weird when you just begin think about buying lunch for a graduate student and suddenly they show up “Just to say hi.”  Coincidence?  I think not lol (totally kidding by the way, remember, I WAS that student once 🙂 )

But I’m really excited about meeting my TA later today!  He’s a Chilean student.  Which is a great hook-up.  Thanks Julio!  It’s a great hookup because I speak English, my course materials are in Portuguese and Spanish… basically I have someone who can help with the course, and to help with translation during those uncool language moments that will go down.  LOL.  Gotta roll with the punches right?  Random thought… I’ve been meeting a lot of Spanish speakers here. Which is great because it’s forcing me to separate Spanish and Portuguese quickly, and helping me to remember Spanish.  Interestingly I haven’t met any Americans yet… hmmm. Interesting.  I hadn’t really thought about that until just now.

Ok I’m off for the day!

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Settled in Rio!

Soooooo….

This is my first blog!  Well think of this as a set of travel notes… this is way, way, way more informal than a blog – unedited and it only meant for folks who are just interested in what I’m doing here…mainly friends and family.   I’m really excited about learning how to do this 🙂   Well, I guess the best way to start something is to just jump right in!

Why am I Rio? Or Uh… Some Thoughts on How to Work Hard and… How to Try to Remember to Work Hard :-p

In May 2011 I was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award for teaching and research in Brazil.  Here in Brazil, I’m continuing the work that I started in Cuba… which focuses on how and why Afro-descendent people use art as a tool for political deliberation, political organizing and political enfranchisement.  The over all goal of my research is to challenge the separation between art and politics in order to show how arts based social movements are political movements – and not simply just a bi-product of politics… basically I focus on artists who are also activists that are mobilizing for social change through music etc… songs aren’t just produced to be sung at a rally.  I’m into queerness, Blackness, and all things feminist… which as this blog evolves… you’ll see more of.  But it is for all of these reasons that I focus on Hip Hop as a case study… as an example of a transnational activist (artivist) network.  I am close to completing a solo authored manuscript on what this looks like in a Cuban context, and am working with a colleague to complete a small anthology on Cuban Hip Hop (which I aim to have off my desk and in press by the end of the year).

Anyways… the process of obtaining the Fulbright was tough.  In order to apply for a Fulbright Scholar award, the applicant has to have a letter of invitation from a host institution in the country where they want to work.  Now this can be tricky.  First it is HARD to get a letter of invitation from a “reputable” institution in a country where you’ve never been.  I suppose there is an easy route… one could get an invite from an institution via the internet and a few phone calls.  But think about it.  For those of us that are new scholars… whose career is just starting… what institution is going to write a very, very strong letter of invitation for someone that they barely know and whose career is just beginning?  So there’s always a trick. Sometimes you just have to make the effort to work harder than the minimum asked, and that’s why over the course of one year I learned Portuguese, made four trips to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, gave several lectures about my research… all  to meet and build networks with Brazilian artists and academics.  And now I’m in Rio for the next five-nine months 🙂

I’m supppeeerrrr excited about being here and really excited about the challenges that are about to go down… “Challenges?!” you may say… “But you’re in Rio!”  Well, did I mention that this is a TEACHING and research award?  I have to teach an undergraduate course in Portuguese… a language I learned in a few months and then stopped speaking for a year.  I have to admit… I kinda look forward to the adrenaline rush of the first day and am really looking forward to being a drooling nerd in a third language! (?!)  My Lehigh University students who have taken this course will be proud!  Here’s a flyer for the course I’m co-teaching with Dr. Julio Tavares:

So, I’m co-teaching this course with Dr. Julio Tavares who is one of the founders of LEECCC – Grupo de Pesquisa em Comunicação, Cultura e Cognição (The Research Group in Communication, Culture and Cognition).  The research group is based in the Department of Anthropology at the Universdade Federal Fluminense (UFF – pronounced ooph-ee).

The Federal University Fluminense is located in Niterôi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Niterôi is a city that is across the bay from Rio de Janeiro.

Before I head to bed, I wanted to post some images and video to give ya’ll some idea of how life is unfolding for me here.  In time I will write more.  I thought better to get these images up… so that in two weeks I won’t be looking at a bunch of pictures and video that I intended to upload… and then just didn’t LOL.  It happens to the best of us 🙂

So! Here’s some video of my commute to work… FYI this was shot on the DL on the boat.. so there are a lot of shaky parts 🙂 … but you’ll get the idea!  There are two ways to arrive to UFF in Niterôi, either via the bridge in the video… which can take a long time during rush hour, or via metro and then boat.

The noise you heard in the first part of the video was someone getting a fruit smoothie 🙂

The noise you heard in the background of the last video is the metal from the dock moving to receive the boat.

The first few days: Settling In 😀

Here are some photos of my apartment and I’ll write more about my first few days tomorrow… or the next day LOL:

            

As you can see, it’s a really small apartment.  And really really really cute!  Centrally located… two blocks from:

         

The view from my bedroom window:

   

Ok, that’s it for tonight!  Time for bed!

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