Aug 14, 2010

Life’s a Beach



We've had such a busy week; I don't even know where to start.

It's winter time in Brazil right now. In Rio de Janeiro, that means the weather is like our Spring. It's warm but not hot and I've been wearing jeans and a t-shirt most of the time. We've been staying at lovely little hotel across from Copacabana beach. We've been so busy with work and getting adjusted (lots of bureaucracy with getting registered with the federal police), that the only tourist attractions we have seen are the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

I love the beach culture here. People are jogging along the beach at all times of day. Volleyball nets are up and the surfers are catching waves. There is even a free gym on Copacabana out in the open. There are tons of food vendors scattered along the walkway serving food and fancy cocktails. There are some people who walk along the beach selling watermelon, cold drinks, souvenirs and henna tattoos. I thought it was annoying at first but not having to get up to buy a cold drink is great. On Sundays they close down the road next to Copacabana and everyone is out walking along the street.

The AIESECers have been extremely helpful in getting us settled. They threw us a welcome party at a beautiful house by a beach. There is so much to learn about living and getting around in Rio. I'm gradually gaining more independence as I become more confident in my basic Portuguese and become more familiar with my surroundings.

Our first day of work started the day after we arrived. We've had presentations on different departments by various heads of departments. It's been wonderful to get a holistic view of how the company works together and operates. And I feel so lucky to have met so many important people in Vale already.

I got a tour of the office that I'll be working in. Starting October, I'll be working in the shared services office in Barra de Tijuca—a beautiful suburb of Rio with a very large beach. The office is in a huge open air mall. Inside, everyone has a cubicle–even the higher ups (their desks are just made of fancy oak). And the cubicle walls are low so you can see everyone when you stand up and look across the room. There's a decompression room with a punching bag, funny hats, artificial turf and whiteboard walls, where you can go to take time away from your desk and get those creative brain waves working again. There's also a room where you can book shiatsu massages. And the largest gym in Rio (completely with a climbing wall) is on the floor below us. I think I'm going to enjoy working here!

On Wednesday night, we attended the Brazilian Music Awards with Vale. It was the best introduction to Brazilian music. I only wish I could understand the lyrics. On the way out we walked along the red carpet and saw Brazilian celebrities get photographed.

On Thursday we gave a presentation on Canada to Vale employees. Organizing 17 people to present was no easy task but everything worked out great and our audience seemed to really enjoy it. I learned a lot more about Canada in the process too.

And yesterday, we flew on the company jet to Belo Horizonte where we were picked up by buses that took us to the beautiful town of Ouro Preto (Portuguese for Black Gold). We're here for two weeks to take a course on mining at the University and go on day-trips to nearby mines. This place is very different from Rio. It's a small cowboy town with the largest collection of colonial Portuguese architecture in the world. You have to wear runners to walk along the steep cobble-stone streets. I can't wait to go out and explore.

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