Last week we moved into our new digs in Copacabana and it was great to finally unpack the suitcases. We’d brought various bits and pieces with us and when we’d put them out and hung them up, the place suddenly felt reassuringly permanent.
The apartment itself is on the eleventh floor of an older building, circa 1960’s(?). It is “luxury” which is Portuguese for – has lots of power points and great air conditioning. Some of the other luxury items we were expecting such as a toaster, kettle and pantry are unfortunately lacking. However, the stove is taking care of the first two and the top of the fridge is multi-tasking as the pantry for the time being. The kids have turned into dishwashers (who knew?) as we don’t have one of them either.
Copacabana is not at all as I’d expected. It is a narrow strip of high rise apartment blocks squished between a beautiful beach and some equally beautiful small mountains. The two photos below are taken from one of our bedroom windows and sit at either end of a one hundred and eighty degree arc.
Copacabana beach has a more than healthy tourist population, however it’s also very popular with locals and hoards of people teem in on the weekends.
Only a few blocks back and further up the hill, (top photo), sits a favela. In Portuguese, this means slum and is where the very poor live. There are many favelas around, all on high ground and as you can hopefully see, Copacabana sits smack in the middle of this one and the ocean. Our view is a daily reminder of the polarity of the socio-demographic spread. In saying this, though, the streets are vibrant and energetic and as I’ve mentioned before, the people are incredibly friendly and accommodating of us not-yet-lingual interlopers. It’s a suburb that is perhaps fading past its glory days, (whenever they may have been), yet it retains a mellow art deco feel and the shopping is great. It reminds me a lot of an older St Kilda in Melbourne, (except with a better beach), and so far we love it.
A second event this last week was Charlotte and Mitchell starting school at the American International School. It was a stark eye-opener in many ways, most of which we didn’t anticipate. The first thing was how well it has all gone. As you can imagine, there was some healthy trepidation at meeting new kids, finding their way around a new environment and generally fitting in. However, we have to hand it to the teachers, other kids and indeed give Charlotte and Mitchell a lot of credit as it has all gone much better than expected. They are picked up by a bus at 6:45am (not a typo) for school commencing at 7:50, and dropped back home again at around 4:15pm. The bus has a driver (with appropriate racing bus license) and a ‘bus lady’ who supervises all the kids to and from their front doors. I accompanied ours on their first day, but after that they have been quite happy going by themselves. The teachers all use email to communicate and there is a bevy of administrative and counselling staff who have all been involved in the process. It’s been amazing and even though today is only day three, Charlotte and Mitchell trotted off like they’ve been there for months.
Another thing that Gav and I found confronting was the disparity between the Australian and International school academic standards. In Oz, our two were coming to the end of Grade’s two and four respectively and as the school years don’t match, we had anticipated that given they were both assessed as ‘ahead’ in their classes, they would move into Grades three and five. Bad assumption.
The standard here is much higher and so they’ll remain in Grade’s two and four until next June. (Charlotte’s doing algebra!). Hopefully this doesn’t make it too interesting when we return.
Being an American school, they also have to learn a degree of American culture (pretty much the good stuff) which has also been interesting. In case any of you aren’t in the American loop, there’s been an election happening over there and guess what? This week, (or is it next week?) is Thanksgiving! Yep, you guessed it – time for a ten day holiday.