The structure of my days, except for the three national holidays that fell during my time there, were 3-4 hours of lessons in the morning, and then having lunch with fellow students
. My volunteer scheme was interesting in the Tijuca Urban Rainforest, and I usually headed up there a couple of afternoons a week plus one day over the weekend. The work I got to do at the placement was interesting, and I really enjoyed spending time with my coordinator there, Eduardo. Most work I got to do was helping to map and measure walking trails, but I did also get the chance to participate in a scheme to give an opportunity to under-priviliged children from a poor neighbourhood. However, the scheme had only just been set up, and I was only the second person to do combine lessons with this type of volunteering, so I found the logistical problems of the programme just being set up quite frustrating and I didn't get to do as much as I wanted to.
Over the four weeks I got to know the most beautiful city in the world very well, and enjoyed both its breathtaking sights and addictive culture. Highlights including the Sugar Loaf, both by day with friends from language school and by night, on a very drunken night with Suzana, Felipe and their former lodger, Craig and girlfriend Heather, to a rather poor Chryssie Hynde concert. The views from Corcovado, where the statue of Christ is situated, are also breathtaking, and it was easy to take for granted the many things that Rio has to offer - such as Lagoa lake, the fabulous beaches and of course the Tijuca urban rainforest. I also made a very wet day-trip to nearby Petropolis, the old summer capital. By the end of the month in Rio it was sad to leave the family and the friends I had made, but my targets were set to explore more of Brazil, and so that`s what I did...
After a week enjoying myself on the Costa Verde, I had to get serious. My Portuguese classes were booked in Rio for the next month, so I had to make my way there. Poor me(!) found myself staying with Suzana and Felipe Coelho and their daughter Leticia in the Copacabana district, 2 blocks from the beach! Such a tough life(!) A month passed very quickly in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The family were so friendly and welcoming, and from the very beginning made me feel a part of them. Unfortunately, some fellow students were less lucky, and found themselves with much more closed or unfriendly families. Both living and spending time with the Coelhos and their many friends and family, as well as talking to quite a lot of locals, really helped with my language skills, and definitely gave me a different experience during my time in Rio. I got to see Rio in a different light I think, even than other backpackers get.