Written by Jacqueline Newell
In July, Adam and I packed our bags and air kissed Mendoza good bye for a week. We woke up early and arrived at the Mendoza airport, greeted by a cancelled flight. Thank goodness for Adam’s addiction to my favorite tv series because, several episodes of Downton Abbey later, we boarded a flight to Buenos Aires. Once touching down, we began slowly recollecting members of our grew. One by one, we bumped into different Fulbright ETAs in the airport, readying ourselves for a conference that the Fulbright Commission had planned for the ETAs in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
After almost missing our flight because I was distracted by a sale in the Duty Free store (it was legitimate), we boarded a plane to São Paulo. We toasted to our successful arrival before boarding a bus into the city. When we disembarked, we were greeted by many helpful Brazilians. Apparently we didn’t have to say anything, we just looked lost. They showed us on our way and after a solid hike through dark and crowded streets, we arrived at our hotel.
During the conference, our mornings and early afternoons were spent listening to speakers and meeting ETAs from other countries. It was interesting to see how different everyone’s experiences are. For example, all Brazilian ETAs are stationed in cities with co-teachers, other ETAs that they share responsibilities with. When we weren’t in conference rooms, we explored Beco de Batman, a small neighborhood that local artists use as their canvas, the major futbol stadium, and people watching in Ibirapuera Park.
On Wednesday night, we took part in a traditional Brazilian themed party that celebrates the month of June (we were late to the game). Freckles were had by all. Afterwards, I went out with 3 ETAs and a Brazilian friend. Armed with caipirinha, we navigated a Brazilian samba club. About an hour into the band’s set, another person joined the group on stage and suddenly, the enough crowd went crazy. Police began to mingle in the middle of the crowd and warned us of a stampede. It was time to go. We had no idea at the time, but the addition to the stage was Neymar, one of Brazil’s most famous futbolistas. (Who knew!?)
On our last night in the country, the 19 Argentine Fulbright ETAs headed to a Brazilian steak house for, what we dubbed, FriendsGiving. As this was the last time we would all be together as a group, we shared what we appreciated about our group of misfits while gorging on copious amounts of meat. Needless to say, Brazil was a great chance for us to have a reunion… and I guess we learned a thing or two at the conference.