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Greetings from Brazil! We (Grace Briggs, Loey Bull, Grace Eggleston, Sogee Franklin, Helen Gordon, Sam Heist, Bekah Keator, Tina Ma, Emily Majewski, Eliza Mann, Benji Prickett, Charlotte Reaman, Lillie Richards, Miles Savitz, Jada Scotland, Avery Smith, Aïssatou Thiam, and Leo Yang; plus trip leaders Jen Keator, Tim Relyea, and Harrison Soebroto) arrived safely in Rio this morning.

This post, like most of the ones to follow, will comprise mostly reflections from a sophomore student chosen to write about the day. The trip leaders will supplement student writing with media when possible.

Via Grace Briggs:

Today was our first official day in Brazil, and more specifically Rio de Janiero. We met with Javier and Isabel, two of our in-country guides, as soon as we got out of customs. They were incredibly welcoming, but it was hectic. People were blowing past our group, and we were still attempting to introduce ourselves efficiently. We got into our transportation vans and began our journey to the hotel.

Everything was beautiful; there was green surrounding us. There were massive mountains, as well as hotels and apartment buildings. It was surreal. We are finally here!

When we got to the hotel, we dropped our bags in our rooms and ran down the stairs to meet with Javier, his wife Patricia, and Isabel; this time, we introduced ourselves in a more organized fashion. To walk to the restaurant where we had lunch, Biscui, we passed through an outdoor market. The market was crowded with people passing each other without even making eye contact. The vendors were yelling and there was a sea of fresh fruit. There was colorful, patterned fabric blowing in the wind and jewelry that shimmered, distinguishing it from its table.

Lunch was casual; mainly it was a time where we could talk to one another. After that, the group decided to split up. My group went with Javier for a walk. We walked through the market once again, only this time it was shutting down. Javier showed us okra, yam, persimmon, and we even got to try a fruit that was white with black seeds and a green, spiny outer shell. I cannot remember the name, but it tasted like a mixture of coconut and starfruit. It was also pretty slimy.

We ended up running into the other group in the park and decided we wanted to play with the outdoor and public fitness equipment. I doubt any of us were using it correctly, but we had a good laugh. We then moved onto the playground deciding that would be more fun. I guarantee that we all felt like we were in elementary school again, whether we were on the swings, see-saws, or slide.

While we were playing, someone sarcastically suggested that we play soccer with the Brazilian teenagers that were playing near us. Isabel took us seriously and marched right over to ask the boys if we could play with them. All of a sudden we were in the middle of a heated match and you were either Team Padro or Team Andre. They were both incredibly cool, especially when we lost the ball over the fence three times. Ultimately, it ended in a tie, but it was fascinating to find a form of connection that didn’t involve verbal communication.

We came back to the hotel and did more personal introductions with Javier and Isabel and had a small discussion on traveling, safety, and Brazil itself. We also had a Portuguese lesson with Patricia. We ended the evening with dinner at a Brazilian barbecue restaurant where my table had a long debate over whether what we were eating were plantains or bananas (they were definitely bananas) and Isabel gave Charlotte a small heart attack by telling her that what she put in her juice was salt and not sugar.

Overall, today was exhausting, but I can promise that it is one day that we will never forget.