I arrived in Rio early in the morning on Tuesday, May 20 after my overnight flight – this is my 11th day “in country”. Today was our debriefing session and two special meals to share what we’ve experienced and learned and to cement the connections among us that have started during the seminar. This morning, our seminar leader Sean McIntire and CIEE director Matt Ryan led us through two very interesting and revealing learning exercises. On the first day of our seminar, Matt had asked each one us to write down five words that expressed our expectations for the seminar. He held on to these, and this morning he asked us to each write down five words that expressed our experience at the end of the seminar. Then, we were to use those 10 words in any fashion to create a single expression. I wrote a paragraph. Then we shared. I was inspired by the creative ways my social science colleagues interpreted the assignment. Shannon, an education professor created a word-picture that looked like the beach and the favelas, hand-drawn using only her 10 words. Several of our group wrote beautiful poems (oddly enough, each person prefaced their poetic expressions by saying “this isn’t a poem”, so there’s clearly something here I don’t understand). Some of the expressions were very passionate, but none so much as the last one. Hakim is a professor of Africana Studies at Gettysburg, and after he used his 10 words in prose, he sang a song he composed during the exercise. It was breathtaking. His voice was loud and strong and truly beautiful; the melody he composed was dramatic and inspiring; and the words resonated with all of us. It was a very unexpected, emotional moment for us all.
Our next exercise was even more interesting. Sean put all of the different lectures and visits and activities on little slips of paper and tossed them into his hat. We broke into 4 groups, and each group drew 2 from the hat. Our assignment then was for our group to consider the juxtaposition of the two. Compare and contrast was the way our group went about it. After about 20 minutes we got back together and each person shared what they thought about their group discussion. Both of these exercises were excellent at creating new perspectives on experiences we had already talked about.
Lunch was from the menu at Eclipse, a nice upscale restaurant on the Copacabana. We had a few hours of free time, then we went out to an elegant restaurant. I never quite noticed where we were or what the name of the restaurant was because I was so engaged in conversation with my colleagues. But the food was the best we’ve had all week. I had a baked wrap full of turkey and asparagus and cheese in a cream sauce. I also got to taste the risotto, grouper and filet of sole from the plates of my 3 adjacent dining partners. Including the appetizers, every bite was delicious!
We walked back to the hotel along Ipanema beach. The weather the past 2 days has been perfect, and the night time is the best. Cool breezes and temps in the 70s and clear skies and the sound of the surf and…. Just beautiful. Saturday I pack up and head to the airport in the afternoon. I fly back to Florida overnight, and will arrive home in Palm Harbor about 1000 am on Sunday. I expect I’ll post one more time after I get home with final thoughts.
Here are some photos from yesterday’s Q&A session with the UPP commander and the resident association president from two different, but nearby, favelas.
Blessings and peace,