Friday, May 10, 2013

On the Road

You haven't heard from me since February, and a lot has happened since then. From February 15th to  around March 28th, I was traveling around south america, staying with host families and traveling with other exchange students.

In April I spent two weeks in a 'nearby' (8 hours by car is considered close when you travel inside my giant state) city to say goodbye to other exchange students and go to a giant music festival. I also just recently got home from a short trip to Rio de Janeiro with my host brother.

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel as much as I did. It was such an experience that I will always remember.

I am going to tell you a little bit about my travels, mostly just highlighting my favorite parts and showing you some pictures.


My first stop was in the city of Blumenau, Santa Catarina. I was visiting my host sister at college. The town has a lot of German influence and it just turns out they have a love for beer as well. How strange.



After a couple days with my host sister, I headed inland to the city of Chapeco, Santa Catarina to visit my host uncle. I stayed with his family for about a week. I was so lucky to have spent the time I did with this family. Above is a picture of my holding their talking parrot. He even speaks a little english!


Behind me and my Slovakian friend Klaudia lies the roaring waters of Devil's Throat. Devil's Throat is one of the main attractions at Foz de Iguaçu (a famous group of waterfalls that lies at the border of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil). The 2013 X Games were held here just a couple of weeks ago. This was the first stop of the South American Adventure tour that I took with 50 other exchange students.


Me and my mexican friend Marleen on top of our hotel in Curitiba!


Curitiba was our second stop on the tour and this is a picture of the Botanical Garden of Curitiba. This was just one section, it was enormous. Curitiba is also home to the Wire Opera House, which is a very orignal opera house that was built in what used to be a large mining pit. I was not able to get any good pictures because it was raining the day that we visited.




After Curitiba we headed farther south and ended up in the quaint city of Gramado. This is a picture of me and the Godfather at a wax museum that we visited.


In Canela, a neighboring city to Gramado, we hiked down (and up, afterwards) 730 steps in order to get up close to this enormous waterfall. It's the equivalent of walking down and then back up a 44 story building. 


Next stop, URUGUAY!


Our first stop in Uruguay was the city of Ponto del Este (East Point). This is picture I took our first morning was we were walking along the beachside boardwalk. 


Funny faces after a quick swim in the freezing cold water. In the middle is Ipek from Turkey and on the right is Lara from Germany.


My favorite night of the trip was spent at a museum/art gallery/hotel by the name of Casapueblo (House of the People). The 'house' was designed by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, a famous uruguayan artist who dedicated the project to his son who survived a terrible airplane crash (the 1972 Andes flight disaster).


While sipping on hot chocolate at Casapueblo, I witnessed the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. This colors were so strong and it looked as if a fire had started on the horizon. The picture is without effects.


After Punta del Este we headed to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Above is a picture of me in Plaza Independencia in the downtown area.


For a small price we were able to enter the futebol stadium where the Uruguay national team plays. In the middle is a really good friend of mine, Sebastian from Texas/Mexico, and on the right is another great friend, Piotrek from Poland.


We ended up sneaking onto the actual field and pretending we were national soccer stars while running around in our rolled up jeans and bare feet. Above is a picture of me and Piotrek as we were running away from the security guard as he kicked us off the field (you can see him in the upper right corner).


"I love my neighborhood"
While wandering the streets we found some pretty cool graffiti/street art.


After Montevideo, we took a boat over to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Above is a picture of the Generic Floralis monument. It was constructed in 2002 and designed by Eduardo Catalano. This giant flower is powered by a bunch of hydraulic mechanisms and actually opens and closes just as a real flower would. At night it sits closed with a red light glowing from the center and then opens at 8am before closing at sunset. It measures 25 meters tall, 32 meters in diameter when open, and weighs 18 tons. The mirror covered petals made it quite fun to take pictures of. 


In the center of Buenos Aires lies Plaza de Mayo, a plaza that holds many of Argentinas most important  political institutions. The picture above shows me in front of La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) which is the executive office and mansion of the Argentinian president.

There was a lot of of energy in the plaza because we arrived just shortly after the new pope (who is argentinian) was elected... anointed? The cathedral where the pope resided before he was the pope also borded the plaza. 


I bought a pin with the pope on it and pinned it on my shirt, to show support and all. Turns out exchange students love to buy useless little items that are just going to make them pay for excess baggage weight on the way home. Or at least that's the case with me. Above  a picture of me and my pope pin in the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires (Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires), which is where the current pope used to reside. 


As you well know, south america loves soccer. So in order to get the true experience, we just had to visit a couple soccer stadiums. Here I am at the Boca Juniors stadium. Boca Juniors is an argentinian club team that I sometimes cheer for. I even got a good deal ($10) on a jersey right outside the stadium (more excess baggage weight). 


Here is one of my favorite pictures that I have taken while on exchange. It's on the main avenue in Buenos Aires right as people are beginning to cross the street. At the focal point of the picture you can see a large white monument that looks very similar to the Washington Monument. It is the Obelisco de Buenos Aires. The Obelisk of Buenos Aires (67.5m) is about 100 meters smaller than the Washington Monument (169.2m).



On our last night in Buenos Aires we had a super fancy dinner and tango show. It was quite unlike any show I had ever seen and I really enjoyed it. I cannot stop thinking about Connor as I am about to describe how much I enjoyed the food..... I had THE BEST salmon I have ever had my entire life. It was spectacular. The first picture is me and Klaudia from Slovakia and below is a picture of the all the performers who participated in the tango show. 



Buenos Aires was the last destination of the South American Adventure tour. As we headed north through Argentina, backs towards Brazil, we stopped and slept in the city of Posadas. Lucky for me, Sofie Scheuerman is doing exchange in that city so I got to hang out and eat pizza with her for a couple hours.

Then at the very end of the trip I spent a couple days in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which is where Cyrette Saunier (Jules) is doing exchange. I stayed with her and her wonderful host family for a couple of days. 

The first picture is of me and Sofie. The bottom picture is a picture of me and Jules (left) and Toni from Germany (right). 


Here is a quick google mapping of the trip that I took. It took about 42 days. 

Once again, I cannot express how lucky and thankful I am to have been able to see as much of south america as I have. It wouldn't have been possible without Terra Brasil Turismo, my fabulous host families, and most importantly, my awesome parents. Thank you everyone. 

You'll hear from me soon. I am going to be better about posting. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

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