I just returned from a recruiting trip to Brazil. Our normal international admission counselors had some other trips scheduled, so I was asked to take a trip to Brazil to try and get some students to go to the University of Iowa. The trip was a planned tour that took us all across the country. They had transportation, lodging and all of the school visits set up.
I flew to São Paulo on September on September 4th and had a bit of time before the tour started. São Paulo is the largest city in South America, so we had plenty to see while waiting for the other members of the tour to arrive. Our hotel was close to the main shopping area so we were able to walk around and check out the city. There was a big independence day celebration while we were there so there were a few parades and markets set up for that event. After getting used to the country, our orientation was held at a Fogo de Chão Brazilian steakhouse. The Brazilians love their meat! The keep bringing you cuts of amazing steak until you tell them to quit. I ate my weight in cow that night, and was prepared to start the tour the next morning.
The rest of the tour involved a lot of bus time and a lot of school time. Our days would consist of leaving the hotel early in the morning and heading to 3-4 high schools to give our presentation and then hold a college fair. Our group was made up of 15 different schools from around the U.S., and was a nice mix of sizes, types and locations. The first few days we stayed around São Paulo and then to Campinas to the north. After a few days of fairs in those cities, we drove back to São Paulo to fly to our next city. When we arrived at the airport, we learned that all flights were canceled because of some issue with the lights on the runway. Brazilian national TV was at the airport and interviewed me about it (I’m a star in Brazil!). I think they wanted an American perspective about how messed up Brazil was, but we had just gotten a new flight and they’d opened up the airport again, so I didn’t give them what they wanted. We were off to Rio!
In Rio, it was much of the same. Bus to school, to bus to school, to bus to school. We did get a little free time in Rio though. I went on a helicopter tour of Rio with a couple of other school reps, and then tool the Sugarloaf cable car up the mountain (the one “Jaws” climbs after James Bond in Moonraker). After some time in Rio (there was a really cool school with a great view of the city), we jumped on another plane to go to Porto Alegre.
Once again, we made a bunch of school visits, but had a bit of free time one evening so we went to another Brazilian steakhouse with a Bolero show… so lots of meat with some entertainment this time. We also explored what looked like a state fair that was across the street from the restaurant. Our local guide told us Porto Alegre is like the Texas of Brazil and they were celebrating a war that was won. There were a number of booths and vendors, and we got to taste a bit of local Brazilian culture. I think if I were to move to Brazil (not likely), I’d like to live in Porto Alegre.
From Porto Alegre, we flew to Brasilia, which was an odd city. If you look at it from above, it’s shaped like a big airplane, and seems very manufactured. There are districts for everything. There’s a hotel district (where we stayed), and a Pharmacy district, and the entire city is very cut up in interesting ways. We didn’t have a whole lot of time there, but found a gas station across the street from our hotel that served some of the best chicken Shawarma I’ve ever had. It was odd, to sit in the parking lot of a gas station and have a drink and eat. It was a very popular spot for the locals. After a couple of days in Brasilia, I hopped on a plane and headed for home.
It took a bit longer than I’d hoped to get home. Brazil to Miami was fine, Miami to Chicago was fine, but I got caught up in the American Airlines computer failure. My flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids was canceled before I hit the ground at O’Hare, so I found a courtesy phone to get a new flight and was able to get on a United flight way on the other side of the airport… in 20 minutes! I had to book it through 4 terminals and barely made it before the door closed. I made it on the plane, and they had steering issues and delayed, then sent up back to the gate. They finally got us a new plane, but a thunderstorm came through so we had to wait for that. Once that passed, they had some issue with an overhead bin… soooo, 4 hours later, I get on a flight home. When I got there, my luggage did not. Fortunately I was able to get it the next day.
The trip was a good time, but very busy. I’m glad I was able to go, and hopefully I was able to convince a few students to go to Iowa.