The Dems have been busy over the summer: interning, working, volunteering, traveling, and of course, indulging in some leisure time not oft found in Cambridge (leave it to a Harvard student to be busy spending leisure time.) This is part VI of an indefinite series. If you’re a Harvard Dem (or rising pre-frosh with interest), we’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. | E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have one rule: spend as much time as possible in my city, Los Angeles, during the summer.
…unless you’re going to Rio de Janeiro.
I spent my summer taking language classes with Professor Clemence Jouet-Pastre, the head of the Romance Languages Department at Harvard, and learning about Brazil’s economic promise and cultural diversity. I talked to everyone I met about Cardoso, Lula and Roussef. Everyone (including some very charismatic receptionists) had opinions about the Plano Real, and how the economic boom was either helping or hurting those lower in the socioeconomic ladder.
Our first week and a half was spent in Sao Paulo, a city larger than New York and a city that has the jaw-dropping mansions of Higienopolis only a few minutes away from skycrapers with few windows that serve as, rather unsafe, housing to the very poor in the city.
After our time in Sao Paulo, we visited Paraty for about four days. Paraty, my version of paradise, is a romantic colonial city surrounded by islands, which we visited on a day-long boat trip. We spent the four days we had in Paraty exploring, swinging from ropes into waterfalls, and experiencing the religious traditions of the town.
Finally, we reached Rio de Janeiro. Rio is a city rich in culture that loves the modern. It is a city that has favelas just a few meters away from the fanciest of hotels. The city has the best beaches I’ve ever seen, the liveliest teenagers and some of the most honest people I’ve ever encountered (and that’s coming from someone who has lived in a Hispanic household for the past 20 years). The wealth discrepancy, the memories of a military regime, and the high crime rates tinge every aspect of Carioca (what people from Rio call themselves) life, but one can’t help but be amazed at the greatness and promise of the city. I wrote a few papers, took a few tests, but I learned a lot from my day-to-day interactions with people and the late nights at bars chatting with people who had just gotten out of class or work.
I read a ton this summer, improved at speaking Portuguese, ate delicious food, kept up with the ridiculous antics of our US Congress and managed to slip in a quick road trip to Northern California. Now I’m excited to meet all of you and work with you to make this year enjoyable (and to gear up for 2012!).
And if you’re wondering…yes, they are tall and tan and young and lovely.