I'm Sophia! Follow me through all my adventures around the world. 

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Hello Again, Rio de Janiero & Macae, Brazil!

Traveling from my brother's university from Berrien Springs to Rio de Janeiro was a long journey. Drive from Berrien Springs to Fort Hood, fly from Fort Hood to ORD Chicago, ORD Chicago to IAH Houston, IAH Houston to GIG Rio de Janeiro. Believe me, after all those flights and time spent at airports, I was SO ready to just get the hell out of the damn airport and soak in the hot Rio sun. When going through customs, there were many improvements since the last time I went through the GIG airport in the Spring. There were workers handing out maps, tourist information, and answering any questions people had. One step up, Brazil! I was pretty impressed as the last time I went to Brazil, it was difficult to find a map or even get a taxi to get to place you asked for! All things changed right when I stepped into the luggage pickup, OH HELL NO. One thing I really dislike about traveling outside of the US... no one knows how to stand in a single file line. There were just hundreds of people grouped together in a blob they call "line" to get through the final gate out of the airport. People were cutting, making new lines on the other side, security had no idea which line was the right line, so many people getting angry. It literally took me FOUR HOURS, FOUR FREAKING HOURS to just get out of this damn gate. I was tired already from my long ass trip and on top of that I was even more frustrated because of this line, and... I was HANGRY. I was seriously going to punch a bitch so that I could get some file de frango with feijon in my mouth ASAP. I seriously have no idea how Brazil will deal with this whenever it gets 10x more crowded for World Cup and the Olympics. I am definitely NOT visiting during that time! Come on Brazil, step it up a bit more!

Once I finally got out, there was some miscommunication as to what I was supposed to do for my work visa. When you obtain a work visa for Brazil, you must register your visa within 10 days of your entrance. The instructions, requirements, money, and the line for registering your work visa at the airport was just ridiculous. NO ONE speaks English so I just stood there so confused as to what to do. I just decided to deal with the visa later. I had ten days right? (more on this later) My company arranged a taxi to pick me up at the airport, but apparently the contract between the taxi company and my company had ended so I was left stranded at the airport not knowing what the fuck to do. I just decided to go to one of the taxi booths in GIG and get the hell out of there! Good thing I knew the hotel's name and Halliburton FreeG (3G) on my phone to find the address of the hotel that was booked for me.

I was planned to work out to Macae, but because of the bus schedule, I had to spend one night in Rio since I missed both busses which leave either early morning 6AM or afternoon 2PM everyday. Spend one full sunny day in Rio? No complaints here! I was staying at a hotel in Flamengo which is a neighborhood I haven't really been to. so I was excited to go explore! I dropped my bags, had my file de frango and ice cold Skol at little cafe around the corner, relaxing and people watching. The view from my room was just amazing... no sunlight to be seen through the window and the wall of the building next door was the view! haha so my original plan was to take all my conference calls and work from the beach.. I mean why the hell not? But I knew that I would get no work done if I stuck with plan A.. so instead I decided to go out for a run around the neighborhood and along the beach to at least enjoy some bit of the sunny weather before conference calls and work. The scenery from here to the marina is so beautiful... you can see Sugarloaf Mountain and other mounds along the skyline... Brazil within the city may not be so beautiful, but the view looking out from the city is just breathless!

Even though I was traveling alone into Brazil, I was not alone! I am super lucky to have some friends who live in Rio! I met up Felipe, a friend I met last time I was in Brazil in the spring, for dinner at Botega Diamonte, a cute little dive bar with delicious food! We shared the seafood risotto, a couple of Skols, and chocolate mousse! Yum! Another one of my friends I met in Norway last spring, Fernanda, lives in Ipanema so we went over to her place to hang out. Her humble little apartment is great! Quirky decor, great view, awesome windows... she had a great cachaca collection displayed on her wall. I would love to live in a place like hers! I tried a handful of the Cachaca's from her cachaca collection... and let me tell you. A good cachaca is GOOD. I used to hate the taste and the morning after affects since I experienced both many times when I was in Rio previously, but Fernanda had a great tasting collection! We walked over to a bar close by right off Ipanema beach and just hung out. It is surely nice to know locals in the city that I am visiting. I met Fernanda in Norway and now again in Brazil! What are the chances? It really was a nice relaxing night out with some great familiar faces :) Thanks guys for hanging out!

Next morning, I took a 6-7 hour bus ride from Rio to Macae, where our office is located. The city center is not grand. It is a pretty "dirty" and run down (in American standards) but is exactly what you expect for a city in South America. This city is another small oil and gas town filled with all the big players in the industry from Shell to Petrobas. Almost everyone in this city works in the oil/gas industry and practically no one is a local from Macae. It is the Stavanger, Norway of Brazil! But the work ethic here... so different. I have learned that in Brazil, nothing is rarely planned beforehand. It seriously drove me almost crazy.

When I got to Brazil, there were no hotels available for me so everyone was joking that I would be sleeping under the bridge for the next week... and sleeping under a bridge is cool and all, except when the most dangerous favela is only 10 km away from Macae. UHHH...Hell no!!!! Luckily, my company rents out condos at a hotel close by so I at least had a bed for me. I shared the room with my new friend Nike, a nice, sweet, reliable, hard working girl from Mexico! We had some great bonding moments trying to fix the shower "door" in our bathroom... hahaha!

The work life in Brazil truly is different from the US. They are a lot more relaxed about getting things done, things almost always run late, employees take 2 hour lunch breaks no matter if there's a deadline or not... I mean it's nice to be relaxed at work, but seriously, when there is shit to do, you gotta do your shit and on time! Our job is to make money and if shit don't get done, we don't gets the monies! We, Americans, are always on the run, always thinking about money and time because we have such a consumer based society. Some relaxation is definitely needed within the American work environment, but  I think Brazil may be too much! There has to be some happy medium between the two...

Another example of this was my experience trying to register my work visa. Since I did not register my visa with the police at the airport, I had to make an appointment with the Macae police. After countless of non-responsive emails and discussions with the lead of the project I was on, I finally just took charge and spoke with a manager directly about setting up an appointment. By this time it was Thursday afternoon and I was leaving Saturday night, giving me really only one day to get this visa registered. I scheduled a taxi to pick me up at a certain time so that I could take visa photos prior and get to my appointment at the police department on time. The taxi was not only late, the taxi even took someone else home to pick some clothes up, dropped that guy back off at the office, THEN took me to get my photos taken, and off to the police station! As I normally would do when I am late for an appointment, I gave the police department a call letting them know that I would be coming later than expected and not to give up my appointment. The response I got was "WOAH. WOAH! CALM DOWN. CALM DOWN. Just come when you come. Relaxxxxxx.".............. seriously? I wasn't even "crazy" enough to calm down! haha I was just letting the police department know I was going to be late! They think I'm crazy! (I admit sometimes I am, but this time I really wasn't)

I finally got the police office THREE hours late. Luckily I was the last one to be seen before they closed. The man I talked to on the phone said "See? I told you that it would be okay. Are you calm now? If you didn't make today's appointment, we could have scheduled you for tomorrow. Oh you're leaving tomorrow? Well... then it was good we saw you today."... I was seriously speechless at that moment and just thought "It's Brazil!" while shaking my head.

Everyone always thinks that I am only traveling, playing, and never working. That is only half true. When I am actually working, I work long hard hours picking up heavy equipment, testing various tools, working in the workshop, working out on the rig with grease all over my face and body, sleeping in my truck and not showering for 3 days at a time... I really work my ass off! In Macae, that is exactly what I did. The whole duration of my time in Macae, I was working from sunrise to sunset so I would never see daylight outside of work, everyday sweating balls in the humid heat, and setting up a systems integration test to be ready for Saturday for the customer.

But work hard, play harder right? As soon as I got out of my shower after a long hard day, I would meet people from my company or the customer reps to go eat dinner and enjoy a couple of drinks along the beach. A popular place I repeatedly went back to was a place called Durval, a great place for drinks and picanha! A lot of good food options and really delicious drinks. It can get pretty pricey depending on what you get to eat. There as a really nice lively feel to this restaurant and really any bar/restaurant along the boardwalk next to the beach. I tried to give other places a chance, but always ended up coming back to Durval. This place is so bumpin' filled with internationals from all over the world working in the Oil and Gas industry. It sure did get rowdy there a few nights... I was offered many free drinks and dinners... Honestly, who can say no to free caipirinhas? Not me!

The rest of my time socializing through work was lunch time. Brazilians fucking love their lunch time, two hours of lunch time to be exact. Everything stops at 11 and nothing starts back up until 1PM and for good reason. Brazilian food has a lot of meats (similar food to the churrascaria like Texas de Brazil and Fogo de Chao). For lunch, my group and I would go to these little places called Kilos. These restaurants were everywhere throughout Macae... even in gas stations! It's basically a buffet of beans, rice, TONS of meat, and all sorts of other sides that you can get onto your plate and all is charged by the kilo. I would always get greedy and get way too much food... With these heavy lunches you definitely need a two hour lunch break to digest and get back to work!

After a full week of hard work and play, I finally got to leave the office during daylight on my last day in Brazil. So as my final meal before I leave for The Netherlands, Nike and I decided to grab a roommie lunch by the beach at Durval. The beach was actually VERY nice! Clear blue waters with soft tan sands. There was a lot of construction going on but what I thought was a great idea was how they used old tubing for ground foundation! Way to recycle! It was a beautiful day to be out at the beach and I just wished I could stay a bit longer to enjoy this day with my roomie Nike. We had a picanha lunch (of course) with Caipirinhas. Great last meal before I head out of Brazil!

I hurried back to my hotel to grab my things and ride a taxi to get to the airport. What I was told was that it would take 2-3 hours to get to GIG airport and there will be no traffic since it was Saturday... Wow was everyone wrong. It took almost 6 hours to get back because of all the traffic and while 2-3 hours into the ride towards GIG airport, I realized I left my wallet in Macae! I was freaking out trying to call Durval, Nike, the company office to figure out where it was... it was way too late to go back to get my wallet or I would miss my flight so I had to find a way to ship my wallet back to me somehow during my 1.5 month trip. Even when I didn't turn around and went straight to the airport, we were stuck in so much traffic, I was terrified that I would miss my flight... only 45 minutes until my flight departed and I was still 30 minutes away with traffic! The most reasonable thing to do in this situation is to call the airline and let them know. Well, it ends up that my flight is a non-refundable, non-exchangeable ticket since it was such a great deal. So if I missed this flight, I would have to purchase another flight from GIG Rio to AMS Amsterdam and AMS Amsterdam to IAH Houston. WTF! Stress out to the max!! The taxi driver was trying so hard to get to the airport and with about 15-20 minutes before our flight leaves, I ran to the counter and through security. Luckily, this terminal had almost no one in the lines and I made it to the boarding gate with 5 minutes to spare! Wow Brazil.. Wow. Seriously don't want me to leave, don't you? First my wallet, and then traffic and barely making it to my flight! haha All things worked out though since my very awesome roommate Nike picked up my wallet from the restaurant and will be shipping it to Norway where I will be in 1.5 weeks. Thanks to the people at work and to Nike for being amazing and sending my shit over! Seriously cannot thank you, Nike, for everything!!!

Overall, my trip to Macae made me realize that Brazil may be a nice place to visit, but maybe not a nice place I would like to work. I loved the people and the chill environment, but when working, I like to get things done on an orderly and timely basis. If I worked in Brazil, I'd probably be the crazy bitch yelling at everyone and I do not and no one else would want me to be that person! It truly was nice meeting new people from all over the world! My job has allowed me to continuously meet people, experience new cultures, learn a couple new languages, and I am forever grateful!

Also, I planned a trip with Bonnie to MOROCCO after France :) I am so freaking excited! Trip extended another 1.5 weeks to explored beautiful Africa!

Den Haag Pt 2, The Netherlands with Friends Old & New!

Beaches, Graduation, U-Pick, & Wineries in Berrien Springs, MI