There is life after death

In the two years of MBA experience all I’ve heard about from classmates, professors and alumni was that these are the two most amazing years of my life and I should enjoy while I can. So of course, by the time I was about to graduate, I’ve developed extreme phobias about the world out there and started waiting for doom’s day (i.e. the first day of work).  But in fact, ever since I graduated, things have gotten way better. I spent 4 months travelling, relaxing and reflecting about myself and my life. I finally took a break from an overstimulating, high-pressure environment, the sense of inadequacy (given that I was not getting 50 job offers, nor getting involved in 20 different clubs, while helping the local community or lunching a new business), the binge drinking and all other MBA vices.

As a disillusioned employee of corporate America, I’ve had very low expectations of my ability to contribute to any high level purpose of any company, nor any expectations of ever using the MBA theories of advanced strategy, that I figured only CEO of companies ever use. Protecting myself from disappointment allowed me to be pleasantly surprised and thus excited, to actually find out that all of my assumptions were false. Every single day since my arrival on the new job, I’ve been applying the lessons learned in my MBA education and my prior to MBA experience. It has been so rewarding that I’ve developed a complex of self-importance, that I’ve been trying to suppress for the sake of achieving my personal development goal of being a humble person. It has been really interesting to make the transition from an analyst to a manager and I am still surprised to see when people actually ask for my opinion and listen to my guidance instead of sending me to process some excel spreadsheet. One of the most rewarding things have been inspiring people around me to get excited about my project and their potential contribution to it. There are many interesting things to look forward to in this strange process of career building. Me like.

Strangely enough, today I’ve received two different messages from recruiters in different countries, in two different industries, asking me to send them my CV. In this month, when the first payment on my huge MBA debt is due, I’m finally starting to believe that perhaps I had made the right investment.

What they forget to tell you about the Rio favelas..

Last night was one of the craziest nights of my 1.5 months in Rio. Thanks to my french friend who is also my guide to Rio’s alternative life, I had the incredible opportunity to visit a party at the Vidigal favela, which is located right near Leblon, overlooking the beautiful coastline. This was the same favela, that last week was occupied by the Brazilian pacification police, UPP.

The night started at a boteco (small cheap bar where locals go for their chopp) in Copacabana, where I was supposed to meet frenchboy and a few friends. During my wait time, I started meeting random foreigners that drifted as well to this bar, ending up in a group of maybe 30 people, all going for this party. That’s when I found out that this outing was organized through the Rio couch surfing community (whose members were really awesome!!), which I never knew existed. So finally when the crowd was gathered, fueled on a few cheap beers and greasy snacks, we headed over to Vidigal.

The journey was an adventure within itself. It was decided that we should take the crazy van taxis that shuttle people across Rio, at very high speeds and disregard of traffic rules. We convinced one of the drivers to take us straight to Vidigal, despite the fact he was going somewhere else, and piled like 20 people into a van of 12. Being squished with 19 other strangers, gave me an opportunity to make some friendly conversations and bond with my new favela-bound friends. When we arrived to Vidigal entrance, we were then transferred to an even smaller van, to take us up the mountain. I really didn’t know what to expect at the end, and was nervously looking around me while we climbed the narrow road around the favela. Super narrow streets, mostly rundown small houses, piles of debris and trash everywhere, uniformed police/army men with huge machine guns on every corner, watching the order. This is what I imagine Gaza to look like..

When we finally arrived to the top of the mountain, I thought we must have been tricked to being robbed and killed or something along the lines. We were a group of 30 gringos with a couple of Brazilians, standing in the middle of a cemented block, with nothing around or in sight. But then… after a short hike, we arrived to the courtyard of Casa Alto Vidigal hostel. R$10 later, we were in a dubstep (the worst music in the world) party, on a rooftop sporting one of the most incredible views in town.. more gringos kept piling in overtime, and when I was leaving around 2:30 am, still more people where arriving. The place should be amazing for watching the sunset (I had to settle for a beautiful starry night with a crescent moon instead).

On the way back, yet in another crazy taxi-van, I asked my new carioca acquaintance if it will be ok for me to walk 2 blocks alone from the drop-off place in Ipanema, and she explained that at night it’s actually safer with respect to pickpockets, because they are too lazy to come out and bother robbing people.. I am not sure if I can trust this version, but it definitely made sense in the Rio context. I reached home safe and very happy after a great night in town!

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Ever since I got my feeding (literal translation from Portuguese) card from work (monthly allowance for grocery shopping, love socialism!), I developed a new routine of evening visits to the supermarket, to shop for my dinner.  It’s a strange thing, but when you move to a new place, one of the things that you need to learn to do is how to feed yourself (yes, I am definitely feeling I’m going through re-evolution once again) – how to locate the products that you know from home or their equivalents, what are some new things that you can adopt into your new diet, etc.

So, here I am, every evening, walking in circles around the local supermarket aisles and trying to figure out what to eat. Between shelves loaded with pasta, others with rice and beans and a whole wall full of cheeses, and the fresh produce that is not so fresh, I found little incentive to develop healthy eating habits.  And so, I resorted to the evil of all evils – the bread aisle!!! Fresh baked little baguette, called Pão frences (french bread), keep calling me every time I get into the store, and I lose my senses, pick them up, and take them home with me.  Of course, I can’t eat them alone, so I compliment with some cream cheese, or just normal cheese, or some ham or something else that is not helping my already high cholesterol level..

As I said, evil. My only excuse (mostly to myself) is that my recent overdose of carbohydrates is a way to deal with my currently delicate mental state resulting from my over-strained housing situation.

My most recent politically incorrect work incident happened this Monday when my boss asked if I had already gotten my brazilian bikini, and explaining me how he used to live with a swedish girl who was also initially shy about wearing such bathing suit but figured out that she is better off not standing out and never looked back ever since.. my response: “hmmmm…”, followed by smile and nod..

India in Rio

I got to visit the very interesting India exhibition at the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center this weekend, following a discovery of very cute colonial style streets in the surrounding area. Live music on the street, on a warm pre-summer weather, while drinking yet another fresh-squeezed orange juice made for a perfect afternoon in Rio de Janeiro. It was also further complimented by an encounter with a 6’4″ homeless transvestite, sporting dirty clothing, a headscarf, very dirty upper arms and a protruding one tooth (accentuated by some missing other teeth), asking us to donate 50 cents. We were later afraid to encounter him/her again on our way back but calculated that we will be faster on the cobble streets given the high heels she/he was wearing..

This weekend I also had the pleasure of meeting a guy who is an incredible prototype for an American comedy, in which he could probably be portrayed by Will Farrell. He is 37 years old, aspiring actor, unemployed and lives with his parents. He wants to go to Hollywood to study acting at the Actors Studio “Just like Robert de Niro or Al Pachino”. But he has no money. His ex-gf is a yoga instructor to a football team in Cali and she told him she will help him out. He then applied to a bunch of schools, sending them his ‘resume’ and now intends to go to Berkley but has to re-send his application since he applied to the doctorate program and he hasn’t even finished Bachelor’s. He plans to pay for his tuition through coaching soccer, while he studies acting. The small detail is that Berkley doesn’t have an acting program… nor is located at any kind of proximity to LA… I think it’s a great beginning for a good plot.. any screenwriters out there?

On Sexual Harassment

This week I watched Mad Men, a show depicting an advertising agency in the 1950’s (or 60’s), for the first time. I don’t consider myself especially feminist or a person who is worried about woman’s rights and still I was pretty horrified with the way secretaries on this show were depicted and treated. Voluptuous, single girls, waiting on the men in power suits around them, hoping that a grope will turn into a marriage proposal.”Oh, well, this was long time ago, things are quite different now,” I thought to myself.

Then, I encountered Brazilian corporate culture. Having to ask one of the big bosses to use his conference room, I arrived at the secretary bin, where cute Brazilian voluptuous girls, dressed in super tight mini skirts and low neck shirts, showing their assets, were running around the men in suites and trying to please them. Even I myself couldn’t stop staring at the moving curves around me. I can only imagine the impression this was making on the men. This is just one example. In my office (and I am sure that pretty much in every office) one cannot enter the elevator without being looked up and down by all present. And I was tipped that men normally give the right of way to women so that they can browse the goods walking in front of them. A friend at work suggested to politely refuse and demonstrated a sideways walk that helps you avoid the spotlight.

At first, I was surprised that most of my women colleagues (aside from secretaries) wear pants, finding them more “practical”. I am starting to better understand the meaning of this word.

– Written in the metro women-only cart, on my way to work