That’s what I keep asking myself. Where to begin? I’ve only been here three days, and I feel like I have enough for a novel. That’s a good thing, considering I’m writing a book, but I don’t know how I’ll fit it all in. I guess that’s another good thing, since I’ll have a ton of material in the book that won’t be redundant from the blog.

So I guess we can start from the beginning. I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, February 25th. Walking off the plane felt like Cancun. The heat instantly hit. I actually would rather live in hot weather than cold any day, and getting away from Illinois during the winter was perfect planning. I had no problems with customs, and my driver was waiting for me.

I’ve heard a lot about the driving in Brazil, and believe me, it’s as bad as people say it is. There is no right of way for pedestrians, and in fact I’m pretty sure if you’re in the road people speed up. The buses are crazy (although I’ve yet to ride one) but luckily for me, I’m walking everywhere. I do plan to venture on the bus in the next week or so to meet a cousin of a friend down here. I’m sure that will be a whole story in itself.

Anyway, I got to the main house and they were still preparing my room in the new house. The first day I was just waiting around for it to be finished, but when I got to move I have to say I was pretty happy. The house is awesome. It was just bought so they are still working on things, but it’s a good spot. I have my own small room and a bathroom that is kind of out of the way from everything else. I will do a video tour of the house soon, so I won’t bother talking about it too much here.

I’m living in the Barra de Tijuca/Joa area of Rio de Janeiro. It is right along the ocean coast, and is actually one of the nicer and more affluent areas of Rio de Janeiro. The property here is apparently very expensive, and I can see why. The cost for everyday items for a lot of things is around what I would pay at home. There are some huge differences though. I bought a jar of tomato sauce for pasta that cost me R$16 which is about 10 American dollars. Some other items can be much cheaper though. I’ll probably have to dedicate a whole blog to the cuisine here.

Another thing I wanted to mention was how different not having a car is for me. I have to say I actually love it. I walk everywhere. I go to the market almost daily, which is about a 10 minute walk. There are two beaches that we usually go to, and they are both about a 15-20 minute walk. There are some great restaurants in the area, and one in particular is a bakery which has great sandwiches that I have been going to a lot. The girls who work there know me by name, and we work on different words in Portuguese every time I come in. If they only knew just hearing “Oi Tim” was giving them business 4-5 times a week.

I have to say that I while I didn’t expect to come down here and not party at all, I did want to moderate my going out. One cool thing about the environment here is that everyone is very serious about jiu jitsu. Most people train every day, some people go twice a day or more. The old adage definitely applies here though, work hard and play hard. Saturday we had a cookout and I don’t think one person here was sober before the evening. We ended up going to the beach in Barra and that night there was a huge party on the beach. It was unreal. You couldn’t walk, the entire beach was packed. I had a blast, and definitely introduced the people in the houses to the “no filter” side of myself. The pictures in this post are from that same beach, just the next day. The video at the bottom is from the beach party. It’s not too long, but hopefully it will give you an idea of what the party was like.

In the houses there are a few games we play which involve marking certain things, drinking with a certain hand, and refraining from saying certain words. The consequences are either drinking a lot, or doing pushups. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m going to come home crushing my beer cans, drinking with my left hand, and never, ever saying the word “mine”. If you notice this about me, don’t think I’m weirder than you already do.

The last two days were my first in training (the important part of this trip). My first class was great. It’s a little different than the schools I’ve trained at in America. A typical class (from what I can tell) starts with about 10-15 minutes of warm-ups. You then all grab your card off the table, line up, and then the instructor comes to grab your card. This card shows if you came that day and what times so they can keep track. Next they go into technique for between 15 to 30 minutes at most. After that it’s straight into rolling.

Unlike America, it’s not just pick someone to roll with and go or a round robin. You line up on the wall, and the instructor will have 6 or 7 people on the mat. He will then match you up with whoever he wants you to roll with. The people who stay out there are usually brown, black and purple belts. My first night of training I rolled with two brown belts and two black belts. The rolls are usually about 5 minutes each, and then you go back to the wall and sit out a round.

The level of everyone here is absolutely amazing. There are countless black and brown belts. As I said, the first night was all brown and black belts for me and they didn’t try to kill me. They didn’t let me get anything either, not that I could anyway. They would let me work some techniques such as a pass, and if I made a mistake make me pay or once I’d finish the pass effortlessly sweep me. It will all come in time. I have to say I’m really learning from the higher belts though.

This brings me to the lower belts. I rolled with a purple and blue tonight, and they both put a beating on me (as they should). One guy in some sort of inverted kimura actually popped my elbow as I was trying to tap. It hurt for a second but then it was fine and I kept going. We talked after the roll, and he gave me some good advice. I’ll be tapping earlier from now on, and it was nice to hear “you have friends here, we’re all here to learn together”. Of course hearing that from someone who just popped your elbow and choked you three times is kind of ironic, but I think the guys at the academy are really open to helping new people out which is great. The blue belt I rolled with worked me over bad too. He was really good. I tapped multiple times to him as well, this time a little earlier than before.

Before the night session a couple of us went to the gym and rolled on our own. I got to roll with two brown belts in the house, Manny and Ryan. I really liked rolling with them as well. They didn’t smash me even though they definitely could, and both gave me some helpful hints. After that we all went to Joatinga beach, which is another beautiful beach and an adventure in itself that I’ll write about next time.

This post has gotten enormous and I haven’t even touched on half of what I wanted to. I’ll be posting more often now that I’m settled in and caught up with grad school homework. Tomorrow I’ll be filiming a video tour of the house I’m staying in and hopefully the monkeys will be in the tree on my front patio. Also, Carnaval is this weekend and I’m equal parts excited and scared. It’s pretty crazy, but I also might be appearing on a reality show down here, more on that to come. That’s all for now, I appreciate any comments, questions, and suggestions on what you would like to see in the blog.


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