I've only been in Brasil for a week an already feel at home. I was very lucky and found a great apartment on Facebook in the center of Rio de Janeiro, shared with 13 people all with our own bedroom. We have a house cat called Farofa (named after a Brasilian food) who is very lazy and always sneaking into my room. My room has a balcony, and is huge with a walk-in closet.; but I pay the same to stay here as I do in Hawaii to share a small room. My housemates are amazing people: one Brazilian girl who I love-- she is teaching me so much portuguese, 5 French girls, one Belgium, one half Chilean and half Senegalese who speaks basically every language you can think of, an Italian, one Spanish guy from Spain, and the rest are not here yet. It is great to live with so many people since they are all students (going to different universities though) and you never feel alone around the house- there is always someone there to help you.
On my first day here, some of my housemates came to get me from the airport, and I haven't had a break ever since. They are constantly going places and having fun. I have visited Brasil before, but it was so much different to my life here now, since I am living in a completely different area and am not visiting someone but instead doing everything alone (but not exactly alone since I have so many people in the house helping me out). The area is also more expensive than I expected since it is similar to Waikiki in terms of tourism.
In just one week, I have already been to a favela (slum) twice, hiked twice, and sorted out everything for school and with the government here. The process that international students have to go through with the government is actually really stressful. We have to go to the airport to register with the Federal Police, and bring many things that are difficult to get here (Brasil is not a very organised country, and we spent 2 hours in the bank just waiting to pay a fee to bring to the Federal Police). Any task that would be simple in the USA is such a nightmare here. For example, just trying to get a phone is impossible: you have to go to the post office to pay for a CPF number, then bring the receipt to an office in another city to get the actual number, then go to another office to get a card with the CPF number on. After that, you have to buy a sim card and call a number, and type in your CPF. I have had my CPF for 4 days now and still am not able to get my sim card working. Money is another problem... my cards won't work anywhere, and I always have to pay with money which is dangerous since crime is so high here and I don't want to be carrying a lot of money.
All the positives outweigh the negatives though, and there's monkeys everywhere!!! I am just waiting for school to start....