Anna Randolph
Anna Randolph
Brazil 2015 - 2016
Oi! My travel takes me to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for six months to work in arts-focused community development with the organization International Volunteer Headquarters. By supporting art education programs in communities throughout Rio, I hope to promote art as a vehicle for social change. Read More About Anna →

Cidade Maravilhosa


There is a reason they refer to Rio de Janeiro as “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvelous City). In fact its many reasons. Everything from the nature surrounding you, we say that the best architect in the world could not have designed the city and its landscape better than nature already had itself, the rich and vibrant Carioca culture, especially during Carnaval, to the way people live with with contentment and cheerfulness despite so many social ills, speaks to the absolutely marvelous nature of Rio and its people. Rio is the kind of place that never stops giving. There is always something to see, to learn, to experience, to do. It doesn’t always come at once, but if you are looking, if you are open to it, you won’t miss it.

I’ve been back in Nashville for nearly two weeks now and, much like other Lumos Travelers, I’m trying to wrap my head around the crazy, insane, beautiful, life changing six months that I’ve been away. Rio took me in, gave me a home, helped me to open up to new relationships with others, with myself, and with the world around me that had seemed so distant before. It showed me the stark, up close and personal realities of the social and economic turmoil that I studied in a classroom. It showed me a lifestyle and a culture that actively combats its own social flaws and its distorted world image. Perhaps most importantly, Rio invited me in to be a part of it all. It is in that experience that I made a home in Rio. I became a part of a family with my fellow volunteers. I became a sister and a friend to the children I worked with at Emarca and a colleague to the artist of Retalhos Cariocas. I became more of a companion and support to myself. Its hard to succinctly sum up all of my experiences in Rio, even after rereading all my journal entries and blogs, looking through pictures, and revising memories with my new and dear friends. But what I can tell you is that Rio became my home and my life, and upon heading to the airport to catch a plane (or many) back to Nashville, I wasn’t sure if I was leaving home or heading to it.

They aren’t lying when they say the adjustment period is hard. In many ways I think I’m struggling with returning to Nashville than I did with arriving in Rio. How exactly do you “catch everyone up” on the six months worth of crazy rollercoaster experiences you had in a different country? How do you describe what its like to work in a favela with kids that don’t speak the same language as you? How do you describe your comfort or your safety or your good and bad days? How do you describe what acai (a delicious frozen smoothie made from acai berries) tastes like or why you love it? How do you really get someone to feel and understand the Rio sun and the beautiful beaches and what hiking a mountain and and standing in awe of the view of your city looks like? Some of these questions may seem trivial but they are all memories and experiences I hold near and dear to me and want to share with others. I ask myself similar questions about being back in Nashville. What do I do next? Which path do I direct myself in? How do I transition from teaching art to and working with kids who live in extreme poverty, using whatever resources are available to working in a structured, resource-rich,  institution? When will I get to speak Portuguese again? How do I get all the components of my life that I put on pause back together again? Again, some of these questions may seem petty and trivial, but they are questions that weigh on have weighed on my mind everyday since I have returned to Nashville.

Right now I don’t have all the answers, and most days I feel like I have none at all. I’m adjusting. I’m struggling. I’m happy to see my friends and family and my city, and I’m sad to leave those same things in Rio. I will tell you that, thanks to the Lumos Travel Award Program, Rio made a massive impact on my life and where I will take my life in the future.

For now I can tell you this: Rio does not and will not live in my past. It is something I take and will take with me everyday. Its so much more than just something I will remember for the rest of my life. My time in Rio lives on inside of me. My kids’ smiles, my friends’ laughter, and my heart’s love and excitement for the Cidade Maravilhosa will continue to grow, even if I’m not physically there.

Saude to Rio, Saude to Lumos, and Saude to all the future Lumos Travelers- may your trips be just as rewarding and fulfilling as mine was and may your hearts grow as mine did.


Ate Proxima


And just like that, I’m back in Nashville. My last week in Rio flew by with less than a blink of an eye and before I knew it I found myself packing my bags, saying goodbyes to the amazing people I’ve met, and boarding a plane back to the states. With as quickly as the time went during my last week in Rio, I was still able to enjoy some pretty amazing things and make some lasting memories along the way.

Early this week we took the kids to the Museu da Vida, of the Museum of Life. We are able to explore hands on, interactive science exhibitions, participate in group science experiments, learn about wildlife conservation programs in Rio, and explore an exquisite laboratory where vaccines were first invented. Although trips and topics like these are well outside of the subject and purpose I came to Rio to teach, I really enjoy getting to tag along with my students on these kinds of trips. It allowed me to get to know them better and be exposed to other ways that they learned. And, I won’t lie, it’s fun being the art teacher that the kids want to show the science lessons to.







As the week neared an end, myself and another volunteer started to plan some activities for our last day. You see, my friend Sheila and I have been working with the same bunch of kids for six months, and while we didn’t start on the same day, we were ending together. That being said, we only thought it appropriate to throw a small going away party. So, come Thursday we gathered with all the different groups of kids and program directors throughout the week. We made crafts, played games, ate Brazilian food, and just enjoyed each others company. Its hard to let go of a group that you have been working so close with for so long, but at least we all went out on bellies full of good food, laughs, and smiles.







The rest of my week was spent with the good friends, both old and new, that I’ve made along the way in Rio. We went to parks, hung out at the beach, ate good food, and stayed up way to late laughing. I’ve always been the one that had to say bye to everyone else. After all, I have been the “senior” in the house for quite some time. Saying good bye was always tough, but I still had Rio, I didn’t have to leave just yet. But there I was, Saturday afternoon, and I was the one actually leaving. It seems like six months would never end, and then all the sudden I was staring at a taxi waiting to take me to the airport, with bags in hand. While I’m home, I haven’t come to terms with my departure yet. I can imagine it will take me a while to adjust and settle back in. So much of my journey still lives vibrantly inside of me, even now at home, and I will find ways to integrate it in with my life in Nashville so as to not lose it. In the mean time, I’ll be working on getting back to life in Nashville and I’ll be back next week with one final update on how I’m adjusting to being back.

Ate Proxima.



Week Twenty Three


As I sit down to write this post I can’t help but mention the weight on my head and my heart from my upcoming departure from Rio. As the end of January approaches, my time in Rio begins to come to a close. People have asked me so many questions regarding my time in Rio, what it meant, why I went, and what comes after I leave. The problem with this is that I simultaneously have two many answers to these questions and none at all. My time in Rio has lead me in so many directions, given me so many new perspectives, and guided me through a sort of self-actualizing pilgrimage. That being said, its really hard for me to wrap up six months in Rio into one succinct statement that feels both authentic and whole. But I am absolutely okay with this. I don’t necessarily think I need to have all the answers now, and furthermore I think part of this whole journey is allowing myself the time to breathe it in, let it simmer, and take it as it comes. I may have too many or not enough answers right now, but I am comforted that what I have felt, what I have experienced, what I have lived for the last six months is real and genuine.

I still have one more week to spend with the city I have fallen head over heals for! One more week to pack with as many adventures I can, one more week to, in the words of Dr. Andi Stepnick- only one of the most honest people I know, “squeeze out as much justice and meaning” as I can. So in the mean time, here are some of the awesome things I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in the last couple weeks.

Pre-Carnival has started in Rio. While I’m gutted that I won’t be staying to see the whole extravaganza that is Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, I am very thankful to get to partake in the pre-carnival blocos. In case you are new to Carnival, a bloco or a bloc is a street festival where people gather to listen and play music, dance, sing, parade through the streets, and celebrate the culture that is Brazil. Let’s put it this way- its completely mental and absolutely amazing. Perhaps my favorite bloco that I’ve been to so far is in the neighborhood Flamengo and it’s called “Orquestra Voador” or the Flying Orchestra. Pretty cool right? The festival consisted of a one hundred plus people orchestra playing everything from trombones to drums to wooden vases cover in beads. The best part? Everyone dresses up for Carnival- think Halloween. Every member of the band was wearing pajamas. The musicians were surrounded by people dancing and playing music on stilts. We ate churros, sambaed around in a circle, and belted out the lyrics to songs we just learned. Needless to say it, it was incredible.



Speaking of Carnival, we have been doing pre-carnival activities with the children at Emarca. This week we made masks and hats of all sorts. We cut out shapes and then the kids were able to decorate them however they liked. Glitter gathered in the room like dust, and Brazilian funk music played in the background. We talked about the differences in celebrating Carnival all around the city. The smiles on their faces glowed with anticipation for Brazilians favorite time of the year.









My time may be coming to a close, but Brazil gives me more everyday. I’m still surprised, I’m still in love, and I can’t wait to see what is still in store. Until next time, Tchau amigos.

Feliz Ano Novo


It’s January. If you’ve been keeping up with my travel, you will know that I arrived in August. Here I am, five months later, staring the end of my trip in the face. I haven’t yet begun wrapping up my experiences or even really acknowledging that my time in Rio will end so soon- but in the mean time, Rio de Janeiro continues to give me some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life.

Probably the most notable in the past two weeks was the celebration of New Years 2016 at Copacabana beach. Copacabana is known to be one of the phenomenal New Year’s Eve festivals this side of the world- and let me tell you, it was nothing short of extraordinary. I’d like to add a little bit of backstory about my 2015 here. 2015 was perhaps the best year of my life I’ve experienced yet. While it started out quite rocky, I was able to rebalance myself, find my footing, have an extremely successful last semester of my undergraduate degree, obtain my degree, and be awarded the Lumos Award to travel to Brazil for six months. 2015 was a year of challenge, discovery, and accomplishment. That being said, I was a little sad to leave it behind, but my experience in Rio on NYE sure enough reminded me that all good things must end to make room for the new.

So, myself and five other volunteers dressed ourselves in white, the traditional color of New Years, symbolizing peace for the coming year, and headed down to the beach a few hours before midnight. When we arrived, we wandered through a sea of thousands dressed in white to the shore of Copacabana. We sat in beach chairs and spoke of what we hoped would come in the next year, and before we knew it, it was midnight. Across the sand everyone stood to watch perhaps the most fantastic sixteen minute firework display I’ve ever seen, and when it was over we all left behind our chairs and ran into the sea, singing, laughing, and dancing into 2016. If you’ve ever read Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that, in that moment, I felt infinite. There floating on my back in the sea, the moon turned red from firework smoke hanging in the sky, flowers thrown into the sea pooling around me, and my dear and close friends that I’ve made along the way surrounding me, I felt limitless, and my happiness couldn’t be bound. The night only continued to get better than there, and we ended it by watching the beautiful Rio sunrise from the shore. Needless to say, it was a marvelous way to enter 2016.


Beyond my NYE celebration, I was blessed to have a few days off from volunteering to go explore more of Rio with friends. After five months, I finally saw the views from Sugarloaf mountain, known to the locals as Pao de Acucar. We hiked Dois Irmaos, or Two Brothers mountain and looked over what seemed to be all of Rio. I fed monkeys at Parque Lage, and swam in the waterfalls at Tijuca Forest.

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

I’ve been ringing in 2016 with sheer happiness and adventure, I can hardly wait to see what my last month in Rio brings me.

More adventures coming soon, ate logo.

Parque Lage

Parque Lage

Feeding the monkeys at Parque Lage

Feeding the monkeys at Parque Lage



Merry Christmas, from my home away from home


It’s that time of year once again, and yet it looks completely different  from where I am standing. The sun is shining, it is ninety-eight degrees outside, everything is green and lively, and the sun doesn’t set until the evening, and not to mention the other volunteers and I spent the day before Christmas Eve relaxing on Ipanema Beach. While the holiday season might be a completely different experience for me in Rio, I’ve nevertheless had the opportunity to share Christmas joy with those around me.


For several months I have been working closely with an artist who runs her studio, Retalhos Cariocas, primarily out of Bairro do Vasco, a favela located in Rio’s North Zone that approximately 15,000 Caricoas call home. Over the past few months I have worked with Silvinha to plan, create, and assemble her works of all different sorts as well as assisted her in hosting events to showcase her work. While all of this work has been extremely rewarding, I’m not sure I was more proud or fulfilled with our work than what I was this week. A few weeks ago Silvinha was invited by one of the biggest fashion retailers in Rio to participate in an art showcase at the international airport. Their task was to create an original Christmas tree design that would be featured in the airport until after Christmas. So with less than a week until the deadline, Silvinha and I sat down at the big wooden table in her shop and began to create. At the end of the week, we were at the airport, assembling a multifaceted tree that incorporates designs and pieces that I made on my very first day working with Retalhos Cariocas. Not only did I think her work was beautiful and deserving of the opportunity it was receiving but I was so honored to be a part of the creative process. It was truly astounding.





This week we were also able to hold a Christmas party for the kids at Emarca. Christmas parties are tradition at home and its nothing short of the same in Rio either. We made christmas cookies and santa crafts, ate delicious Brazilian food and cakes, and sang along to Christmas carols in Portuguese. Even being so far from home, and so long away from my own grade school holiday celebrations, I remember feeling such a sense of nostalgia, peace, and wholeness when celebrating with the kids and adults I have worked with for the last several months.





My Christmas in Rio has been nothing short of amazing. I won’t lie- I miss the Christmas Eve shopping tradition my dad and I have every year. I crave my mother’s chocolate chip Christmas cookie bars. I miss my brother’s dry jokes and lack of Christmas spirit. I miss the warm Christmas heart my best friend has every year, despite the fact that Christmas is very hard for her. But, as I sit here and write, I think back to the grocery shopping extravaganza the other volunteers and I had yesterday for Christmas dinner, I smell pies and cookies baking in the oven, I enjoy the company of all the wonderful friends I have made, and I welcome in the new traditions of a new year, of a new experience, and a new time.



The Gift of Time

A little over four months ago I boarded a plane and headed to what is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I left behind what was familiar, structured, and comfortable and traded it for the unknown. In four months, more than halfway through my time here, I have lost cell phones and credit cards, I’ve been sick five times, and I’ve been homesick more times than I’d like to admit. But all of that is such a trivial price to pay for what I’ve gained during my time in Rio. I’ve had the opportunity to share something I love and value deeply with others, to travel to and spend time on a beautiful island, to learn a new language, and this past week to sit around a dinning room table with people from all around the world and share a Thanksgiving meal.

Most recently, my volunteer work has given me the gift of time for solitude and reflection. While I have taken a great deal of time to silently reflect on my experiences here, I am often surrounded by a large group of volunteers at work and at home, sometimes making it difficult to find time to spend alone. However, as we approach the holidays, many volunteers are headed home to see their families, leaving only a few people in the house and at our placements. For now, while I work with a other volunteers at the Emarca children’s center, I am the only volunteer working at Retalhos Cariocas. This has granted me the much needed time to contemplate and meditate while I work. It gives me the opportunity to pour my full attention into the work I am helping to create. It allows me to work out my frustrations and find solutions to any issues I may be facing. Most importantly, it has given me moments of clarity. Clarity to recognize the value of my work, clarity to consider my mistakes, clarity to find purpose, and clarity to imagine what is ahead.

Traveling abroad for an extended period of time has its pros and cons. It can be absolutely confusing at times, and it most certainly does not make all of your problems disappear. Traveling can raise self-doubt and worry, but what it crucial to remember is that traveling also gives you time to find a new ground and perspective. Rio has given me so many memories, experiences, and privileges, and among them I have been granted the opportunity to reflect, evaluate, and realize, yet again, why I am here and who I am.

Cheers to the time ahead and tchau!







Ao Redor do Mundo


If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I am so incredibly grateful to have the unique privilege to share my passion with others, even through simple activities. At the end of each class and each lesson I find myself gaining even more clarity and fulfillment than I thought was possible. What makes this so important for me is that its not always the easiest task to communicate and connect with the children I work with. Nevermind the language barrier and that I see four different groups of kids a week, add in that, more often than not, the children I work with are extremely rowdy. That being said, it is a daily struggle to create and execute productive lessons. But, even on my worst days, even on the days I think I haven’t succeeded at all, those same kids come up to me at the end of a lesson and shake my hand, give me a high five and a fist bump, or hug my neck, and say every time, “Obrigado tia Anna, ate amanha.” They come in a point to their artwork on the walls of Emarca, and even though the might wine about having to do another art lesson before they can go outside a play futbol, they always enjoy the lesson and so many ask me to do more. Not every day feels like success, but I’ve realized that isn’t the point. Rather, every day is just as much as a lesson and learning experience for me as it is for the kids. These kids are so much more than their outbursts, which are sometimes the only way they know to treat others and get attention. They are so much more than something to gape at on the dreaded “favela tours.” They are so much more than poverty, poor education, and a lack of resources. They are present, and they are hungry to love and learn.


So in the past few weeks the Emarca staff, the other volunteers and I have focused on lessons about Earth, Globe, and Geography. Here are some of the things we have done. We started out the unit by learning “reduce, reuse, recycle” concepts. Then we made several crafts using recycled materials to illustrate how common materials that could be thrown away could be used to make art.

Globe art made from recycled tissue paper and scrap construction paper.

Globe art made from recycled tissue paper and scrap construction paper.

Art made from recycled bottle caps and cups.

Art made from recycled bottle caps and cups.


How can you save the environment?

How can you save the environment?


Later in the week we had the opportunity to accompany the Emarca staff and the kids to an Earth and Astronomy museum where the kids learned about the solar system and planted strawberries in ecofriendly, recycled containers in a community garden.







The next week we learned about the globe and countries around the world. We started by teaching the kids the English words for the continents and oceans as well as having them learn the countries in South America. At the end of the lesson we divided the kids into groups and had them draw out a map of the world and label the continents and oceans they learned.

A group with their world map

A group with their world map

Today, as a seemingly divine wrap up, the kids asked us if they could make French flags and posters for the recent tragedies in France. As you can imagine, my heart melted at the thought that with so much violence and hatred in the world, even small children want to send their love and light to people they don’t even know.




Favelas, Social Structure, and More


What exactly do you think of when you imagine what Rio de Janeiro?  Do you think about the miles of beaches that stretch across Copacabana and Ipanema? How about Christ the Redeemer, one of the world’s seven wonders? Do you think of caipirinhas, coconuts, and Brazilian churassco? You might- and while all of those things are staples in Rio’s culture, you might also consider the Cariocas living in  comunidades, better known as favelas.

Rio is characterized by a great wealth gap and divide between the rich and the poor, despite their geographical proximity. The favelas dot the skyline of Rio de Janeiro. They are scattered throughout the city, even at the end of those white sand coasts in Ipanema and Copacabana. The bottom of Coroa even borders the street in Santa Teresa that I call home. There are separate pockets rising up the hillside in almost every direction, nearly as frequent as the high-rise apartment buildings in the wealthy areas of town. In fact, the favelas are home to approximately 1.4 million people, which is about twenty two percent of Rio’s 6.4 million population. Let me put that in perspective for you- Tennessee and Rio have a roughly similar population, but the amount of people that live in the favelas in Rio is more than twice the amount of Nashville’s population.

As you can imagine, what makes this problematic is that the favelas are often characterized by extreme poverty that results from a corrupt social structure. In the past, the local and state governments have tried to prevent the many favelas from growing any larger. However, rather than fostering social programs that attempt to alleviate poverty and support the community, the government instead denied favelas access to basic human resources-such as clean water and electricity. As such, the modern image of the favela has become one characterized by unsanitary living conditions and complete marginalization from other areas in Rio. This denial of resources stems into many other social institutions as well, as documented by the lack of economic and educational opportunities in the favelas.    Consequently, people living in the favelas are often forced to create their own sense of social security. In part, social isolation in the favela has fostered the rise of a social and economic structure that is primarily dependent on a drug industry run by local cartels.

What’s important to remember here though is that this particular image ignores the strong sense of community, resourcefulness, and optimism that exists among the members of many favelas. While violence and poverty, as well as police brutality and corruption, is very alive and active in and around the favelas, you will find so much more among the hearts and minds of the people who have, more often than not, lived there their entire lives. Take Silvinha, who has lived in Sao Cristovao her entire life and chooses to share her artistic knowledge and experience with members of the community. Take the children at Emarca, who willingly show up everyday to play soccer, take dance classes, do arts and crafts, and learn English. It doesn’t take much to look beyond the traditional image of Rio and see what exists on the other side. In the same vein, at least for me, it doesn’t take much to break down the traditional image of the comunidades and see what really exists there.

The beginning of a community art project we have started with the kids. We are giving the benches and tables at the community center a fresh look.

The beginning of a community art project we have started with the kids. We are giving the benches and tables at the community center a fresh look.

benches 4

benches 2

Futbol PlayersFutbol Players

Hand prints of the Emarca kids, local community members, and the volunteers in Sao Cristovao.Hand prints of the Emarca kids, local community members, and the volunteers in Sao Cristovao.


Ends and Odds

Not surprisingly, my last couple weeks in Rio have been a whirlwind. I find myself constantly engaged in some sort of activity here, whether I’m volunteering, relaxing, sight-seeing, or hanging out with friends, and before I know it another week has passed by. So this week, rather than focusing on a particular topic, I thought I’d write about some of the experiences I’ve had both in work and in play.

Ilha Grande: Island Paradise (even in the rain)

This past weekend, myself and twenty other volunteers took a trip to Angra dos Reis to visit a beautiful island off the southern coast of Brazil known as Ilha Grande. And here is the thing- if you imagine visiting an island, especially if you have never been to one before, if you imagine what it might be like to live the “island life” many people talk about, you might imagine Ilha Grande.  Imagine beaches with white sand, crystal clear water, diving holes, kayaking, seafood, and boat rides with your friends. Ilha Grande has it all. But if you venture outside the view of what you immediately experience when you step off the boat, you will notice the people around you. The people that take your drink order at dinner. The children that are headed to school. The boat taxi driver that takes you from beach to beach. While you might think you are suspended in paradise, there are people all around you that show you their reality.


Circuito Modacarioca:

For several weeks other volunteers and I have been privileged to work with and assist a local artist in her studio. This weekend we were able to experience her work in action. Not far from the studio we call home, the Sao Cristovao community hosted an exhibition where artists of all sorts could come and showcase their work. For a second, I almost felt like I was wondering the streets of East Nashville, admiring the work of local artists, smelling the alluring scents of food trucks, and getting lost in a buzzing festival atmosphere. Fashion designers, jewelry makers, painters, brewers, artisans, and the like gathered to both share their art and workshop their artistic knowledge with the surrounding community and anyone that was willing to sit down and participate. For some odd reason, some crazy coincidence of life, I was able to be a part of this. I was able to sit down with members of the community and teach them the artistic techniques I have learned in the last few weeks.  I was able to see pieces that I and other volunteers have made all around me after planning and designing for many weeks in preparation.





In Brazil, something that seems small and insignificant can actually be very valuable. Something that seems like such a small task, especially with a language barrier, can truly have an impact.  A singular experience can change your whole perspective. It can seem very cliche, but I think, for me at least, I have to remember that the scale of my experiences are much different here. I have to absorb what every end and odd has to offer-even if I’m uncomfortable with it- because there is always something to take away.

So I’ll leave you with this note-something fun, something true, something I’ve thought about often. Rio is waking up in the morning because you are sweating profusely, but looking out across the city as you brush your teeth. Rio is hearing fireworks/gunshots at all hours of the day and night, but seeing the smiles on the faces of local community members when their team has won a futbol match. Rio is waking up cranky, but passing people on the street that you don’t even recognize saying, “Bom Dia, Tudo Bem?” Rio is standing up on a packed bus that is bouncing across cobblestone while holding on for dear life, but always managing to get where you are headed.

Rio is seeing the sunset from the best view in the city at the end of a really bad day and realizing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.




Life in Rio


“Our many failures give meaning to our few successes; only when we peer into the abyss can we appreciate the magnificence of heights that are more than mere highs.” –The Spirituality of Imperfection

I came across this quote during my time at Belmont, and ever since I’ve had it hanging on my fridge. It has always been a piece of encouragement and inspiration for me, so naturally, when I was preparing for my six month stay in Rio, I neatly tucked that same piece of kitchen-stained paper away in my suitcase. Now, you’ll find it hanging up next to my bunk bed, surrounded by a flurry of eleven other travelers from around the world, but nevertheless serving the same purpose it did at home, if not an even greater one.

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, though they may be few and far between for now, you’ll remember that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from my time in Rio. However, I resolved that not knowing what was ahead, “peering into the abyss” if you will, would not only be the adventure of lifetime, but also the best way to approach the learning experience ahead. By taking advantage of the unknown, I’ve allowed myself to let go, but also become more connected. Where I normally struggle to open up, to expose myself and be vulnerable, to avoid pre-meditation on everything I do, becoming comfortable with the unknown has afforded me the opportunity to take initiative, and of trial and error.

The best part of all of this is exactly what the quote says: “appreciating the magnificence of heights that are more than mere highs.” Rather than participating from the sidelines, I am present in the activities I lead for the children at the Emarca community center.  While they don’t always go as planned, and the language barrier is always a task to overcome, there are days when I feel as if I have truly connected with the children who have become part of my day to day life. While there are days I only see them for twenty minutes, there are other days children come running up to me in groups screaming “teacher, teacher!” wanting to hug me tightly and show me dance moves or sing songs they learned the day before in class.

This concept bleeds into other areas of my life here in Rio, too. What I’ve come to learn about Rio is that if you are open to it, if you allow the city and its people to take you in, you will learn that happiness and the constant celebration of that happiness is the way of life here. These aren’t people seeking out temporary moments of ecstasy; these are people that cultivate a life and a culture filled with joyfulness- no matter how many times they fail. And the more I explore Santa Teresa, the community I live in, and the neighborhoods surrounding it, the more I push myself to talk to local people, to practice Portuguese, to try local foods-such as a traditional dish known as acaraje (something I probably would never try at home), the more I come to realize that I am not simply visiting Rio. I am living in Rio and I am a part of this life, at least for now. I’m not sure what’s coming tomorrow or what I’ll be doing this weekend, but I’m okay with that and I’ve never felt more at home.


Art at The Museum of the Republic Botanical Gardens

Art at The Museum of the Republic Botanical Gardens

Giant soccer ball made from soccer balls at the botanical gardens

Giant soccer ball made from soccer balls at the botanical gardens







Field trip to the aerodynamics museum

Field trip to the aerodynamics museumIMG_20150917_145307322