Catching Up

i can not believe this week has ended. it went super fast! i left off talking about monday’s happenings. tuesday was a fall back day of reflection, so i stayed in, cooked, and wrote my thoughts. wednesday was the next busy day of stuff. i had a scheduled meeting with an engineering in education research group at the university of são paulo (usp). that was really cool, particularly because my connection to that group is with a drexel alum who got his phd in engineering, did a fulbright in brazil, and decided to stay.

let me just say a little bit about usp. it is sort of like the harvard of south america. it’s super conservative, very white, and resistant to change. it is one of the few universities that has not adopted the quota system to admit black and indigenous brazilians for fear of compromising its quality. earth to usp – there exists non-white students who are top notch and can add value to the university. that message is obviously not getting through. research groups like the one i visited, however, is trying to change the culture at usp by focusing on the advantages of diversity and using a more holistic admissions process to increase the number of black and indigenous students.

it is important to note here that brazil has the largest number of japanese citizens outside of japan. although they make up less than 10% of the population they are highly represented in universities whereas blacks are quite the opposite. brazil has about half or more who identify as black or mixed and that population makes up less than 20% of enrolled university students.

one of the professors at the meeting on wednesday was japanese, one was black (my american friend), the other 4 were white, and there were 2 white students – 1 grad and 1 undergrad.

i didn’t take any pictures at this meeting. not sure why but it went really well. i made a presentation of my proposed dissertation research and we ended up having an hour long conversation about race, brazilian higher education, and comparisons to america among other things. it was great and i learned a lot. i am pretty sure that they learned some things from me as well.

while talking with this group a couple of the profs kept saying “you should meet alex”. they said it more than twice. i kept thinking to myself “ok. why?” so after we were done, david, my friend, and i went to lunch. alex joined us. so i asked alex, “why is everyone saying that i need to meet you?” he chuckled, “because i am the only black phd student here!”  i immediately understood. in other words, he would be an “expert” on my topic because it is focused on race. alex, david, and i shared knowing glances because this happens all the time.

that evening, i had the pleasure of attending an event for o menelick. o menelick is a brazilian arts and culture magazine that highlights afro-brazilian and afro-diasporic matters. it was an awesome event with the most black people in one space that i’ve seen thus far since coming to são paulo.

o menelick (meneleekee) - an afro-brazilian magazine
o menelick (meneleekee) – an afro-brazilian magazine

the crowd was extremely diverse and the topics covered in the magazine as well as in conversation were wide ranging – from the fact that the make up industry only caters to white or lighter skin tones to the outfits worn on stage by asap rocky (an american hip hop artist). it was great! there was also free wine and beer and some music performances.

also, at this event i got to meet some friends of a friend who were on vacation in rio. they were visiting são paulo for a couple of days and they turned out to be awesome! it was nice to see other folks who weren’t from brazil but honestly if we never opened our mouths you wouldn’t be able to tell. 🙂

i’m salty because i didn’t take a picture with them. i don’t know what i was thinking.

not much happened on thursday so i’ll skip over that to friday. first of all, i woke up at 5am because my ride was coming at 6am. it was terrible. i don’t think i ever woke up the entire day. we had to leave that early because the traffic in sp is horrible! it seems like there is traffic all day long.

my mentor planned a college class visit for me at usp. so yes i ended up at the south american harvard twice this week. her friend, dr. alexino, was finishing up class presentations for his communications course and thought it would be good for me to visit. he was right. the themes covered by the presentations were race, class, gender, sexuality, and how society deals or tends to not deal with these issues. i had a great time although my head hurt a bit from trying to decipher all of the portuguese.

professor alexino and i after an early rise and long day.
professor alexino and i after an early rise and long day.

the funny thing was that there were 4 other guests there besides me. after the student presentations the class turned into a sort of panel in which i was one of the speakers. i had no idea that this was going to happen. perhaps i misunderstood, which is so easy to do when you are not a native language speaker. i just laughed to myself and accepted my fate. the talk turned out to be great. i tried to explain my ideas as best i could but of course it would have been much better in english. overall, it was a great experience to see another part of usp, which is a HUGE university as well as participate in an actual class. i also walked away with some parting gifts, which made the 5am wake up worthwhile.

saturday i slept in a bit then went to the little section of the city called liberdade (liberdajee). it is where the japanese market is located. i mentioned a bit about the large number of japanese brazilians above.

the market was awesome. it was smaller than some of the other street markets i’ve been to here but it was great. and of course the food was the best part! i spent almost 6 months in japan during an undergraduate study abroad program and have not had authentic japanese food since then. i must say that what i ate yesterday was the real deal. i had a guioza also known as gyoza or dumpling. but it wasn’t like the half moon shaped ones that you normally see. it was big. the line for the gyoza tent was so long that the proprietors make you take a number like at the deli in the supermarket. there were so many people waiting and standing around eating. i was excited when my number was called. i ordered one, then added all the sauces that were available – soy sauce of course, some sort of salsa with tomatoes, onions, etc…, and a sort of spicy sauce. it was soooo delicious and cheap! it only cost 5 reais, which is roughly $1.60. after that, i was looking to try some other tasty delight but was afraid that nothing would meet the gyoza standard so i passed.

i walked around the market and actually bought a few things to bring back home. to my surprise the leather goods were super duper cheap. i later found out that it is because brazil is one of the top producers of cattle. i made a note to myself to buy some boots before i return to the states, which is on wednesday! i’ll leave that alone for now.

when i was done walking through the market i did the obvious – i went back to the gyoza stand! i could not resist. i also bought a guaraná soda, which is made in brazil. i sat on the side and enjoyed all of the goodness. thank you liberdade!

authentic gyoza and guaraná soda at the japanese market
authentic gyoza and guaraná soda at the japanese market

on saturday night i went to a festa junina. i think i mentioned this before so i won’t say a whole lot but i had a good time with my friend thiago. there was live music, a bunch of kids, and free ben and jerry’s. apparently ben and jerry’s is trying to break in to the brazilian market because i’m hearing that it’s been popping up for free at a lot of different events. perhaps it’s a good idea to by some b&j stock. i really don’t know much about how that works but if anyone gets rich off of that tip i want 10%.

festa junina
festa junina
the live band playing forro (fawhaw)
the live band playing forro – music of country folk who left for the city. 

today (sunday) i slept in again. when i got up, i met my friends at the santa cecilia street market to get some groceries. the street markets here are great because you can haggle if you’re a haggler. that’s not really my style, especially at the market since everything is already so cheap! one of the best things about the street market is the pastel and caldo de cana (literally soup of cane but actually sugar cane juice). that combo is to die for! the pastel is kinda like an empanada but the crust is a bit different and the pastel is bigger. the concept is pretty much the same – fried with cheese or meat or sweets. you have to wash it down with the caldo de cana, which i already said is sugar cane juice. words don’t even do it justice.

fresh tomatoes and cilantro  from the street market.
fresh tomatoes and cilantro from the santa cecilia street market.

after eating the combo, my friends left and i stayed to buy a few things. at the markets the vendors yell whole time about how cheap their goods are and how you should buy from them and no one else. it’s great. after walking up and down the street market aisles a few times i made my way back home. thank god the weather was beautiful so the walk home was a perfect way to enjoy it.

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2 thoughts on “Catching Up

  1. You are right… it went by so fast! I wish you could stay longer so you could experience more, meet more people, and write more posts that I could read! lol I know what you mean about Brazilian leather – I have a pair of sandals made from Brazilian leather and they are like my favorite shoes. They are several years old but you cannot tell just by looking at them.

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  2. Seems like they have been keeping you busy there! It’s great to see that you are meeting such awesome people and getting a chance to have those deep discussions. Can’t believe your trip is almost over…it went by so fast!

    Liked by 1 person

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