Friday, June 21, 2013

Consulate General of Brazil

"When you devote your life to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. In fact, nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter. The key to achievement is to move forward resolutely along your chosen path."
~Daisaku Ikeda

I just got back from successfully applying for my visa at the consulate general of Brazil. I've traveled abroad to Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and lived in the Dominican Republic several times, but this is the first time I've ever had to go to the consulate to apply for a visa. 

In order to go to Brazil, American citizens need to apply for a tourist visa that will allow them to enter the country for up to 6 months of the year. The application has to be completed (here) online and only takes a few minutes. You need to make sure you have your passport on hand so you can fill in the required information. Once your done you have to print out an electronic receipt, you'll need to sign and attach a photo. The website says to print out two copies. 

The price for the visa is $160 and an extra $25 dollar fee must be paid for visa applications that are not presented in person. All fees must be paid by a U.S. Post Office money order. No other forms of payment are accepted! While you're at the post office picking up your money order you should also get yourself a self-addressed priority mail package so that the consulate can mail your passport back to you after the visa is processed. This will save you a return trip to the consulate to pick up your passport. Make sure you get a tracking number-I didn't, so I will be returning to pick up my passport!

Along with the signed receipt, your passport, and the money order for $160 you will also need other documents like a copy of your drivers license, a recent bank statement, a REFUNDABLE exit ticket from Brazil (you do not need an entry ticket, just an exit ticket). Certain states require other sorts of documentation and if you've traveled abroad you may need yellow fever vaccines. In order to see all the requirements check the consulate website.

They told me I could come back and get my visa July 10th, which is a lot quicker than I was expecting. Once I pick it up I'll have three months to go to Brazil or it will expire. That's fine because I also emailed Connection Rio today to reserve a room for three months. I'm applying for a sponsorship which would allow me to train and live for free for up to three months, but I want to have my room secured just in case!   

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer time

The best part about being a teacher is having my summers off. It allows me the pleasure of training and working full time at the gym. July and August are the two best training months that I have. I was supposed to have a title fight on June 15th, but I can't find a match. Now I won't fight til the IKF in Orlando this July. I'm disappointed, but I'm testing for my advanced brown belt on the 22nd of June so I have other things to keep me occupied. Training camp for the fighters started yesterday, since I don't have a fight I can focus more on Jiu Jitsu and my belt test. I went early to work on my forms and to grapple with Joe, the only other guy in the gym that is my size.

I just got my ticket to go to Florida. I'm registered at 108lbs in International Kickboxing Rules. I came in second last year to Tecia Torres at 116lbs. She went pro right after that. I want the title this year, after all, who knows when I'll be competing in kickboxing again after I go to Brasil.

In August, right after the tournament, I'm moving back to Pennsylvania. I'll get to train at Renzo Gracie PA, which is cool because I'm the only girl at MiKiDo and I know three girls that roll in that gym. I'll get to train there for a month or so before going to Brazil.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Burning Car in Rio de Janeiro (My minivan perhaps will face the same fate). 

If I had a car, I would just be getting into it on my way home after closing down MiKiDo with Brent. Instead I'm just arriving home after a 2 hour ride on the metro and a shuttle to get to the university.

I spent the majority of the metro ride home looking up tips for teaching English in Brazil, joining Linked In, and starting up a website from my worthless excuse of a Smart Phone. I was doing everything possible to keep my mind off how pissed I was that I would miss training tonight because I didn't have a car to get from the university to MiKiDo. Riding the metro gives me plenty of time to think. I often wonder what my life would be like if it wasn't ruled by a strict diet and gym routine. On my 24th birthday, I celebrated by skipping work and class at the university and I spent the whole day working out. A total of three times... it would have been four, but Master Brent's sister made me skip grappling and took me out to eat.

I can't fathom what life is like for people that come home from work and do nothing but watch T.V., cook dinner (or order out), and hang around. I'm constantly running around between work and school and fitting in two workouts a day whenever possible. Taking the metro takes away from my training time, and now I have to get plenty of extra paperwork done for my research proposal and for my visa. On Friday I'm going to the consulate to apply for my visa, which means I need to buy a plane ticket. I also need the data collected for my research before September so I can write my thesis from Brazil.

All of the pieces are starting to come together...

But today my aunt tried to say that, "No, you can't go to Brazil because it's not safe". My aunt, not my mom or my dad (because they know better- I wouldn't listen to them). It had to be my aunt; my aunt is the person that has clothed me since I can remember and has helped me through school and basically has been an essential part of my formation. She has great expectations for me and even put me through my undergraduate studies, which is why I call her my benefactor(anyone catch the literary reference??). She has done a lot for me, so her approval and support means a lot to me, but I'm unrelenting on this. I've wanted it so bad for too long to give up now. Between the riots and whatever my aunt's friend in the government has been telling her she is against my going to Rio. She wants me to get my teaching license and find a job because "you can't always do everything you want". So now I'm 0-2 this month, first I get my car stolen,  now this.

The riots in Rio will die down by September and I hope that my aunt's opposition to my trip dies with it.

I'm really excited about going to the consulate on Friday.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

VISA APPLICATION: 2 steps forward. 20 steps back.

One step forward. Two steps back.

That's the way it works, right? Yesterday during my planning period at work I filled out the paper work that I would need to bring to the Brazilian consulate next week to apply for my visa, and I finished my first homework assignment for my last class in graduate school. On top of that, I found my plane tickets that I would need to apply for my visa AND even contacted Dennis Asche at Connection Rio about booking my room.

All in all, it was a good day. I was on track and even left work early so I could go home, change for class, grab my dinner, and be ready to stop by the gym on my way home from class that night. Mondays and Wednesdays are busy days for me because I teach full time and then I have to leave work early in order to make it out of the city and to school on time. I sit in class for 3 hours and then afterwards head to the gym. I normally get there by 8pm so I have about a half hour to workout before I help Brent close the gym. Then I go home to shower, ice, and repeat.  On this particular night I was supposed to be doing the fighting portion of my belt test.

So like I said, it was a good day. I left work feeling laid back and completely relaxed, despite my hectic schedule. I strolled across the street to my car (or my dad's car I should say because I've been borrowing his minivan since my car broke down) and then I realize it. No minivan.


Nada minivan in sight.

Seriously, who steals a minivan? Well there goes my plan of trying to hit my dad up a couple months down the line for extra cash to go on a little mini-vacation while in Brazil.  I was completely blown because just when I get things on track and I'm about to drop a couple grand to make my dream a reality, setbacks always arrive in abundance.

Car or no car. I'm still applying for my visa next week, I'm still fighting in July, I'm still going to Pennsylvania in August, and I'm still moving to Brazil in September.

"Challenges should be seen as stepping stones to self-improvement"- thats what I've been told.

Well, when it rains it pours. Literally because there is about to be a big thunderstorm tonight and I live in the basement. Ha! So now on top of dealing with the possibility of wet carpet and moldy mats at home, my lack of car renders me victim to the elements. Now that I have to rely on nothing but a bike and public transportation my training schedule gets disrupted. I can take the metro to work (though I go on summer vacation in 3 days), but it's a 4 mile bike ride to the MiKiDo and it's a pain in the ass.  Honestly, I hate it. Every time I get on the bike with a compressed gym bag strapped to my back, I wonder how Grand Master Hess can ride around all day on his bike.

Master Mike "the Mongoose" Hess on one of his bike rides

I hate it... but every time my quads burn up as I'm struggling up a hill I just think about how vicious my round kicks are going to be and how bad I'm going to tear up some girl's IT band when I fight this summer. I mean the only reason I have a bike to get to the gym at all is because someone that used to train with us at MiKiDo responded to my Facebook post and lent me a bike about 3 months ago.

In reality, I have a lot to be grateful for. In all honesty, I've missed the last two days of training and I've just been sitting at home restlessly not sure what to do with myself. I tried leaving my basement apartment to venture up stairs and watch cable, but its been so long since I've watched T.V. that I gave up after not being able to find any UFC.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Training Camp

Training camp started last Sunday. The boys are fighting this month for Thai Champion Boxing in Northern Virginia. I was supposed to have a title fight on this card but there is no one in my weight class. I have to sit this one out. I'm disappointed because I wanted as many fights as possible before returning to the IKF World Classicthis summer. Since last July, I have fought for TCB and WKA. I may not have a fight for TCB this time around, but I'll be fighting in Orlando again this summer. Last summer I came in second at 116lbs in international kickboxing rules (to Tecia Torres, who is now competing professionally for INVICTA FC). This year I'll be taking the title at108lbs.

All in all, not having a fight worked out for me in the long run.  The fights ended up getting moved to the same day that I'm testing for my advanced brown belt at MiKiDo. Now I can focus on my weapons, forms, and Jiu Jitsu. I've been making one of my sparring partners  Joe "the Boy", come into Sunday training early so that I can get some extra grappling in. I make him drill the techniques that I learn at Renzo's with me because he is my size and he's better at Jiu Jitsu that I am .

My goal is to tap him out within the next three weeks (even if he has to show me the technique I use).

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Renzo Gracie PA

I live in Virginia, but I'm originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Last year, when I was up here for one of our pro fights I found out about Renzo Gracie PA. Its an amazing gym that I didn't even know about located 10 minutes away from my parent's house. Since then I've been making monthly pilgrimages up here to train in Gi, the one thing that we lack at MiKiDo (a Gi or a Kimono is the uniforma worn, like in the pictures above).

I'm home for the weekend and I just finished a nice 2-hours session taught by the owner Rich Latta. He's a great guy. His family has really welcomed me into the gym and always supports me and my training when I'm home. Even though I only get to come up once a month I've learned a lot of great technique from him. Drill. Drill. Drill. Unfortunately, I'm still committing stupid amateur mistakes like not keeping my elbows in, but they don't let me get away with it for one second when I'm up here.

No bad habit goes unchecked and that's the attention to detail that I love when I'm training at Renzo's.

The next best thing about Renzo's is that they have a girl. I mean a real live girl that trains, and spars, and is serious, and doesn't look terrified when you square off. I guess I'm being a little over dramatic, but females in this sport are few and far between, and there are no other females in my area to roll with. There are two girls that train at Renzo's Gracie PA and then there is one other girl t that they keep telling me about that trains at Ricardo Almeida's in Jersey. When I move back for the summer I'll get a chance to go with Rich and his other fighters to train at Almeida's in Jersey and at MattSerraBJJ and Renzo's in New York. Daniel Gracie just opened a gym in Philly too, so I'll have a lot of good training before I leave. The best best part about working as a Spanish teacher is the opportunity to train as a full time fighter during the summer. There's a tournament in August so maybe I'll get to compete before I move to Brazil.