The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Francis Guillen Diaz who spent the first half of his Gap Year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dear Stranger,

It’s the end of my first month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and wow, it has been a ride!

When I landed at the airport and connected to the wifi I received a message from the director of Project Favela saying that he would send an Uber to pick me from the airport. This was amazing but then came my first issue. There was a specific Uber pickup point at the airport, but It had recently been changed so the director could not tell me where to go. This would be the first time that I would ever have to speak in Portuguese to anyone and I managed to ask someone, “Eu vou Uber, onde?, which means “I go Uber, where?”, which although not proper Portuguese AT ALL, got my point across! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain how amazing it feels when you speak in a different language for the first time and you’re understood!

After a long Uber ride during morning rush hour that was exacerbated by the closing of a bridge due to a bus that had been taken hostage I finally made it to the bottom of the Favela where I would live and work, Tabajaras. The story of this favela and the struggle between the cartel and police for control is super interesting, but a story for another time.

I arrived at the house where I would live, that was conveniently only 3 houses down the mountain side from the school, and quickly made myself at home. I had an entire room and bathroom for myself which had previously been lived in by four English lads who I think never cleaned so the bedroom and bathroom were both very dirty. I bought some supplies and left it sparkling.

Fun Fact: That was my first time cleaning an entire bathroom

The next month went by in a blur and I honestly don’t remember everything I did. Between teaching myself Portuguese, cooking every meal, getting to know the thirty kids I would teach, and experiencing unrest in my neighborhood, my brain was always on overload trying to figure things out.

All in all this, the first month has been extremely interesting, to say the least, and I’m looking forward to the next two months. And I will say, I was let down, in a good way. All of my nerves before I arrived were for nothing, and yes the floors of the house are cold tile floors.

Until next month,
Francis G. Guillen Diaz