Jess' Adventures in Brazil

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Still thinking like a brazillian

So far I...

- waited for the cars to pass before crossing the street (when they stopped it felt weird)
- looked for the garbage can on the kitchen counter
- almost threw the toilet paper in the garbage
- said tchau to people
- thought I had to ask for help in portuguese
- almost kissed someone on the cheek when I greeted them
- thought it would be ok if I was a few minutes late
- thought it was odd that I could understand conversations around me
- scared my friends by greeting them with a big hug
- forgot to take my shoes off when I got home

It`s odd how everything at home is eerily the same. Nothing has changed. But I have.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Last Days

Well, today is my last full day in Brazil. I fly out tomorrow night, back home to Canada. Even as I write that it doesn't yet seem real.

I've been meaning to write in here for the past week but I have been crazy busy.

Last weekend we went on an AIESEC trip to the beach, in a city called Peruibe. It was a lot of fun, even though not a lot of people could go. There were seven of us: Me, Fernando, Super, Judy, Koba, Victor and Carol (another alumni). On Saturday Fernando taught me how to surf! Well at least he tried :P I wasn't very good at it and I ended up swallowing buckets of sea water. But it was really cool. I have never seen waves so big, it was cool to just let yourself be swept away by them :) We also had churrasco and went for pizza and icecream. mmmm. On Sunday we lounged around and just relaxed. The guys threw me in the pool! Haha. It was nice to escape for a while after a stressful week.

This week was again stressful and busy. We decided this weekend to come to Ribeirão Preto (where I am right now) to give the extention there some training. So that meant that all the trainings had to be devided and then developed. So I ended up with 4 sessions to prepare. Plus, it was also the week on the Palestras, so I did eight presentations about AIESEC to the potential new members. The results were great! We got 122 people wanting to join AIESEC USP!! But it was a long and tiring process.

On friday night I packed up all my things, in the process finding some things I forgot I had... like granola bars from Canada (which I ate). Haha. Friday night I was officially done working (well except for the sessions).

Saturday was AWESOME!! I got up early and went to the subway to meet up with Renato, Fernando and Maira. We went to Mr. Fred, Fernando's restaurant, which was really good! Then Maira and I went SHOPPING!! Haha. I needed to buy a few more souvenirs and some things to bring back with be, so we headed to the mall and looked around. I didn't find exactly what I wanted... but I DID find a jockpot! A cookbook with 1000 brazillian recipes!!! Haha, so I bought it of course! (Chris, Emily and Bonnie, be warned). Then we went outside the mall and there were some street vendor who had more what I was looking for. Things that were very Brazil :P So I bought some and then Maira took me to get my nails done one last time! Aeeeee!!! Then we went to the supermarket and I loaded up on food to bring back with me.... goiabada, goiabinha, pão de qeijou mix (I can't spell...), sonho de valsa... and other things. Then... we met up with Fernando again and went to Buffalo Branco Churrascaria! A Churrascaria is an all you can eat place with meat, where they bring it around to your table and cut a slice. It was soooo good. But the best part was the people there. It was my goodbye dinner, so a lot of people came! Maira, Fernando, Rubinho, Koba, Flavia, Victor, Daniel, Talita, Super, Jorge.... I loved having so many of the @ers together because that's one thing that @USP struggles with. We joked and laughed and I admit I got a litte emotional. There were many many hugs. I didn't want to have to say goodbye to anyone. I kept telling myself, I'll see them on Tuesday, I'll see them on Tuesday....

On Sunday, Super and I met up with Rubão, Renata and Patrick to come to Ribeirão Preto for the trainings. It's a 4 hour trip and we were supposed to arrive at 12:00. We arrived at 4:30. How did that happen exactly? Haha. We left late.... stopped for a snack.... stopped in Piracicaba for lunch for 2 hours.... and then finally arrived in RP at 4:30. Needless to say the training has been a little behind schedule, haha. But they are a good eagar group and it's nice to work with them. Last night we went to Pinguim, which is a bar here that RP is famous for all across brazil (or so they say ;) ) Today we have been doing more sesisons. Right now they are doing selling training in portuguese so they let me escape to the computer for a little while. I have one session left to lead and then I am official done my CEED work!!!! Tonight we head back to São Paulo and I will finish all my packing.

Tomorrow will be really hard. I'm going to the office, but not to work, to say goodbye. I'm hoping everyone will come. I already had to say a few goodbyes, to Renata and Rubinho. At around 7:00 pm I'll leave São Paulo and head to the airport for my 9:30 flight. I get to Victoria just after noon on Wednesday, the 6th.

This will be my last post from Brazil. Next message from Victoria, Canada.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Softball again!

So I moved again. Haha. I think I am settled now until I go home, but all my stuff in still at Renata's house. I'll have to get it back next week.

But today I went and played softball again!! aeeeee!! It was a practice, not a game, but it was still great to play. Our practices in Nanaimo are usually an hour and a half. This one was 4 hours!! Intense! We did a lot of cardio, and then a lot of fly balls and grounders and such.

At the end we split into two teams to have a little match. We divided everyone by pairing off and then playing rock, paper, scissors. The losers and winners formed the teams. I was a winner. When the team was together, one of the guys was trying to cheer for our team, but he said it with an accent so it sounded like "We are the weiners!!!" haha.

They use an interesting mix of portuguese and japanese in their softball lingo. They call their coach "sensei" (Japanese for teacher - see... I do actually learn things from anime ;) ) And, as I forgot to mention in my previous post about softball, they all line up before the game and bow to each other.

My batting was horrible tonight. I couldn't figure out why for the longest time.... then I realzed I must be bending my knees as I swung. So for my last at bat I made sure to stay standing straight, and I hit a gorgeous bomb....... right to the left fielder. Haha, so I was out but it still felt good.

They have another tournament next weekend but I don't think I will be able to make it. It's on Sunday and we will be doing @ work on Sunday ;)

Ok, now I'm off the the grocery store to buy some food for dinner. As Super informed me, all he has in his house right now is bread, meat and beer. Student house, go figure.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Santa Catarina

I was thinking the other day that I have been feeling a little homeless lately. After I thought about it, I realized that since the Planning at the beginning of July, I have not slept more than 5 nights in the same place! So I think that has something to do with it. And I probably won’t for the rest of the time that I am here either, because this weekend I am travelling again (though not far) and the weekend after I might be gone as well.

So where did I go this last weekend? Santa Catarina! If you go south from Sao Paulo state, you get to Paraná, where Curitiba is, and if you keep going you get to the state of Santa Catarina, capital Florianopolis.

On Friday morning I caught the 6:00 am bus to Curitiba and met up with Igor at the bus station. It hadn't rained in Curitiba for four months.... until I came back :P That evening we went to check out the wire opera house, which was really cool. It would be a really great place to see the Phantom, which is ironic because my family was in Vancouver this last weekend seeing the Phantom.

On Saturday I got up early to drive with Igor’s family down to Santa Catarina. Our first stop was the amusement park, the largest in Latin America (though what in Brazil isn’t the largest in Latin America..??). Igor wanted to go on the “Big Tower” which was basically a 10 or more story fee fall. I said first we should try the smaller version, which was a good 5 or 6 stories. And OMG it was scary! You go up and then wheel forward and you’re thinking…. There’s no going back now!! And then…. Whoosh……. Down you go, nothing underneath you! That one left me shaking! The roller coaster was also really good, though much tamer. We also caught some of the shows they had, and wandered around the zoo. They had a little of everything, from elephants to baboons. It was cool to see all the monkeys (technically primates) and I soon realized how much of my primatology I have forgotten from Anth 250 :P

The smaller tower with the "Big Tower" in the background

Then we headed back to Igor’s aunts house and made pastels! Afterwards we went for a walk on the beach. I was walking with Igor’s brother and two cousins (Matheus, Rodrigo and Fernanda). It was really interesting talking to the kids. The older two appreciated that I didn’t understand everything and they spoke slowly for me. When I didn’t get it, they tried to say it in a different way, or communicate with their hands. The little girl however, talked to me a million miles a minute in Portuguese with a southern accent and I was lucky to catch a few words! She didn’t seem to mind too much though, haha.

The previous weekend I met Renata’s little 5 year old cousin, who responded to me a little differently. She asked Renata why she was talking to me in English (she knew it was English). Renata told her it was because I didn’t speak Portuguese. The little girl asked why I didn’t speak Portuguese, in a rather shocked voice. Renata explained that it was because I came from a different country. At this point the little girl was a bit lost, but upon request, she told me some words she knew in English, which was actually quite a few for a five year old, which demonstrates the influence of North American culture!

On Sunday we went back to the beach and had the brilliant idea of climbing the rocks…..which were very jagged…. with no shoes. It took us two hours, but we made it! With only one cut toe (mine) and a bit of sunburn. Once on the other side, however, we realized that the rocks were part of a ridge that extended inland. So to get back home we had to walk all the way around, which took another hour. So after three hours of hiking around the beach and city, we made it home for a rest. We had some food and then it was time to head back to Curitiba.

Making our way across the rocks

Success!! Me, Rodrigo and Igor

On Monday I slept in and then went in the afternoon to catch the bus back to Sao Paulo.

Today (Tuesday) was one of those days where you just get nothing done. I had an education meeting in the morning, and then we decided to go to Bandejão for lunch. So we went to find Fernando to borrow his car. Who would drive? Me! When Renato asked Fernando for the keys he replied “você?” [you?]. Renato said “Nao, Jess” [No, Jess] and Fernando said “Ah, sousa” [Ah, that’s ok]. Haha. So I was given Fernando’s keys and we were off driving around USP. AIESEC Roadtrip about USP!! Haha. I gave my camera to the girls (Renata, Tiaia and Maira) and they took a video of us driving around. After lunch we decided to go driving some more, and Tiaia suggested we stop at the Museum of Anatomy. Why we listened to her I’m really not sure, but a few human organs and deformed fetuses in jars of formaldehyde later, we headed back to FEA.

Ahhh, back behind the wheel!

We had an EB meeting, which I was supposedly heading. It is very difficult, however, to keep a meeting on track when the participants keep talking in Portuguese and you have no clue what’s going on! So it wasn’t the greatest meeting, but afterwards we went for icecream. (See what I said about not getting anything done?). Then I sent a few emails…. Talked on MSN…. And headed home.

Getting home was painful though, as I had to wait 45 minutes for a bus which I would ride for 30 minutes. Ugh. OK, I officially hate the buses in Sao Paulo. But now I am home and I plan on spending the evening drinking tea wrapped in my blanket and making AIESEC documents. So tchau!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tidbits!! ..... mmmm... timbits...

A few little things to update:


On friday Renato, Rubinho and I went for another meeting with the public school we have been in contact with about our Education PBoX. We took with us the JQ form and our contract and we are supposed to call them on Monday. Sooo.... we could have a TN next week!


On Thursday I went to Santo André again for a meeting with the people from the Recycling Project. They were giving a seminar about Micro Credit and even though I couldn't understand all that was being said, it was interesting to watch the reactions and how everyone got involved. I had a chance to talk to Jutta, the teacher at UVic who I first contacted, as well as the other directors and some of the Catadores (recyclers). I listened in on some of their group discussions with the help of one of the students at Santo André who will be coming to UVic in the fall as part of the project. The project is designed to be participatory, so there was a lot of interaction and discussion between everyone.

Are you Drunk?

This is by far the funniest reaction I have recieved upon telling someone I don't speak portuguese.

Girl: *something in portuguese*
Me: Umm.... Eu no falo portugês [I don't speak portuguese]
Girl: What? Are you Drunk?
Me: No. I just don't speak portuguese.
Girl: You are joking me!
Me: No, I really don't speak portuguese!

After a minute I finally convinced her :P

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The big adventure

Ok, here it comes. Final picture count for the 12 day trip? 486, plus some videos.


I took the 6:00 am bus to Curitiba and arrived just after noon. I met up with Igor at the bus station and then we went to downtown Colombo (exciting eh?). Haha. Friday was a relaxing day – we made Nanaimo Bars!

On Saturday I headed into Curitiba to meet up with the Rita, Mao and the trainees for our Curitiba Trainee event! We had five Canadians (Me, Rita, J-Max, Max and Marie), an Egyptian (Younes), a Slovakian (Michal) a Columbian (Mao) and a few Brazilians for good measure. We did a tour of the city and stopped at some of the tourist spots, like the 24 hour street and the Oscar Neimeyer Museum. It’s interesting to note that even though we had 5 Canadians present, I was the only native English speaker at the whole event. Which also meant I was the only one who was monolingual. Also, you’d think that getting a bunch of internationals together would be our chance to speak English, but some of the trainees were speaking Portuguese to each other! I thought that was interesting. After the tour we went back to Lizi’s place, where Rita was staying, and had an international dinner which consisted of Chinese, Egyptian and Lebanese food, and was delicious! Our “house party” ended up being more of a sit around and talk about tons of random stuff event, but that was fine with me.

Rita & Younes and some trainee craziness

On Sunday morning I got up early and…. Got trapped inside the apartment building! Rita let me out of the apartment, but the front door was locked. So I went back up to get the key, but Rita had already gone back to bed and didn’t hear my knocking and ringing of the doorbell. So I was stuck!! Haha, I ended up having to get Igor to call Rita to come open the door for me! Then Igor and I caught the bus to Paranagua (did I spell it right?), which is a small city near the coastline of Parana. We walked around the city and looked at some of the old buildings and bought some souvenirs at the local market. I discovered there was an archaeology museum, but when we got there it was closed! Darn. For lunch Igor suggested we have Barreado, which is a stew where the meat is cooked for 24 hours and is very typical of the region. It took us a while to find the restaurant, but it was worth it! Sooooo good! Afterwards we took a boat ride up the river a little ways. There were a lot of tree covered hills and it reminded me a lot of BC. Then we ran to catch the train back to Curitiba. Trains are very uncommon in Brazil and this one was maintained mostly as a tourist attraction because it runs along the edge of some gorgeous mountains. Unfortunately my pictures are a little blurry, but I assure you it was a very nice view.

Paranagua - so colourful!

On Monday I just relaxed in the morning and then in the afternoon we went to the mall and went bowling (yes, a bowling alley in a mall, go figure). Then it was time for me to catch the bus back to Sao Paulo.

I arrived back at Tiete station just after midnight and took the airport bus to Guarulhos (the international airport). After waiting around for a few hours I was off to Salvador and then after killing a few more hours in the Salvador airport I was off to Recife, my second stop.


My host from AIESEC recife, Samuel, met me at the airport when I arrived and the we spent the afternoon walking around Old Recife, which is on two islands. Of course of my first day there it rainied, after it had been sooo hot and sunny in Curitiba (no joke!). Old Recife was full of contrasts, with beautifully restored old buildings next to run-down, ugly ones. I tried to capture both sides in my photos, and when I was taking a picture of an ugly building one random guy said to me “If you take a picture of that your photo will burn”.

Welcome to Recife!

On the second day we went to Itamaraca, which is a small town about an hour outside of Recife. There, we visited Forte Orange, an old Dutch fort from the time of the Dutch invasion. Right behind the fort was a really nice beach. Of course, on that day it rained too, just because Recife was out to get me.

Look, I found a skeleton.... sort of!

We stopped for a snack and as we were eating two guys came up to us and started singing. I had assumed that they were singing some Brazilian song, but Samuel told me that they were actually making it up and they went along, and that they were singing about me!!! Haha. He told me afterwards what they had said. They had sung out the girl with the dyed red hair…. Dyed!!! Excuse me, I don’t think so!!! They sang about how I had red hair and was pale so I must be from Sao Paulo, or Rio or Parana. Then Samuel said something to me in English and they clued in that I was not brazilian. Then they started singing, oh she must be from France or Germany or Italy. Hahaha. It was pretty funny.

After lunch we went to see the Peixe-boi [in Portuguese literally fish-ox] Centre. They are these odd creatures that look like mer-dogs and are related to elephants. They had some big tanks there and the peixe-bois loved to just spin and spin around in the water. And they would stick their noses out of the water everyone and a while. Odd but cool. I bought a little stuffed animal peixe-boi, I couldn’t resist!

Aren't they... cute?

That evening we went to a place that had live Forró music, which is a type of brazilian music with an accordion. The band was really good.

The next day we went to the AIESEC Recife office where I talked with some of the members. For lunch I tried tapioca, which is not like tapioca in Canada. It’s a white power that you make into a pancake and put in different fillings and then fold over. It was pretty good. I had one with chicken and one with goiaba, banana and cinnamon. And then that night for dinner we had Cuscuz, which was an odd corn cake-like thing, but was quite good.

The next day was the Beach!! It was similar to the beaches in Rio in that there was beach, then road, then a row of skyscrapers. The beach was really nice though I only went in the water up to my ankles because there are sharks in the area.

We also went to Olinda, which is the Dutch town built next to Recife (which was Portuguese). Oldina in full of churches, 365 I am told. And almost all of them have only one tower. This is because as long as the churches were not complete, the priests could keep asking for money. And they were NEVER finished. While there we saw some dancers doing a cool dance with mini-umbrellas (I can’t remember the name…). My hosts ate a bean bread thing, but it was full of shrimp so I passed. After we found a group of people at a community centre practicing Maracatu, a type of African drumming. I wanted to try soooooo badly!!

On my last day we had an AIESEC event with some of the AIESEC Recife trainees and members. I met some people from Mexico, Holland, Turkey and Portugal there. We had Feijauda (spelling?) for lunch and then me and the girl from Portugal did presentations about our countries. Then Samuel and I headed downtown to try and catch a Maracatu performance, but we were too late. Still, we managed to find another group practicing and stayed to listen for a little while. Then it was off to the airport again.

Some overall observations about Recife…. They have a LOT of hospitals! Everywhere you look there is another hospital, it was weird. Also, their buses are crazy. They go really fast and then slam on the breaks when they have to stop. A couple of times I was holding on for dear life!! There are also a lot of churches, though not as many as Olinda.


The beginning to my Salvador story is a little different. I got stranded at the Salvador airport!! Haha. My flight from Recife was an hour and a half late and when I arrived in Salvador, my host had thought I wasn’t coming and gone home! It was around 1:00 am when I arrived and I realized I didn’t have his phone number because we had been communicating through email. I wasn’t really worried because I knew that I just need to get on the internet to get a hold of him. But the internet café at the airport didn’t open until 7:30 am! So I got to spend a wonderful night in the airport, haha. But it was fine and as soon as I got online my host, David, had sent me an email with his phone number and I called him and he came and got me.

For the first day we went to the beach. It was not in Salvador but in Vilas do Atlantico, just outside of Salvador where he lived. Because it was a more residential area, the beach had a lot more trees and a lot of families. It was a nice day and we walked along the beach and then had some coconuts :P It was interesting because David’s brother is engaged to a Canadian from London, and she was there at the house. So I talked to her a lot about Brazil and about experiences being a foreigner in the country. She was really nice.

On the second day David dropped me off in the historical centre of Salvador. He took me to the tourist information place and so I was armed with a map and a list of suggested places to visit.

The historical part of the city

The atmosphere in Salvador is very different than the south of Brazil. Salvador is much more close to the image most people have of Brazil. Like Recife, the old part of the city was half beautiful and restored and half run-down. But the restored buildings were quite amazing. I managed to find an archaeology museum which had some cool stuff, and a museum about the city and a couple others. Plus there were a lot of churches to see and the interiors were absolutely stunning. Most of the things were free or only one or two reais. After I had exhausted all the museums I went to a few shops to pick up some souvenirs. Unlike Sao Paulo where there isn’t a lot of stuff that is very “Sao Paulo” in Salvador there is a lot of stuff.

Also unlike Sao Paulo, Salvador is a tourist city. So there were a lot of people in the streets who came up to talk to me, to sell me things or ask for money or offer me a tour. I had an interesting experience with one guy who was selling necklaces. He approached me and I said I didn’t want anything. Then he insisted on giving me a free bracelet (very typical of the northeast). But I still said I didn’t want to buy anything. He wandered off and then came back a little while later. He asked me again, showing me his collection of necklaces. I said I was just looking around and didn’t want any. Again he wandered off and again he came back, this time offering me a free necklace. I refused, several times, but he was persistent and eventually I ended up with the free necklace (hey, it was free!). But I was very clear that I did not want to buy anything. Then he switched tactics and started asking me if I had a boyfriend in Bahia (the state). I told him no, and he asked me again, several times. Haha. Once he had figured out the answer was no, he asked me if I wanted to go for Caipirinhas!! I told him no thanks. He said “so um???” [just one?] but I said no thanks. It was pretty funny. Eventually he figured out that I wasn’t going to ever say yes, and he wandered off permanently. Haha. I was never really worried or anything, but it was amusing. And if I had had a problem (which I didn’t) there were lots of tourist officials wandering around.

After some shopping I went down the elevator, which is a huge structure that take you up and down the cliff near the water. Then I went to the Mercado Modelo [the Modern Market] and looked at some of the things they were selling there. A few of the vendors tried to figure out where I was from. They were guessing things like France, Germany, the US, England. Never Canada… awwww. Then David came to pick me up and we went to the AIESEC office for a little while. I picked up Celso’s gift, which is HUGE!!! (Celso, you’re gonna owe me one! ;) ) Then we went to a pizza rodizio (all you can eat pizza).

The Elevator! Cool, eh?

On my last day David and his brother Danilo and I went to Arembepe, which is a place I really wanted to go. Why? Because we had read an enthography (an anthropological study) of it in my cultural anthropology class. It was really cool to see all the places the author had written about in the book. We went to Aldeia, the hippie village next to the town, and talked to some of the hippies there. It was a pretty cool place. I took a few photos of the habour with all the fishing boats. We also stopped by the sea turtle centre, which was built after the book was finished so I didn’t know about it. It was cool and the little turtles were really cute.

Hippie Village - woooo!!

Then the next day it was back to Sao Paulo.

Law School and NPM :P

I got back and found out that I would now be living with Renata, the VP People Development. That’s cool and she lives very near Paulista Ave. So I met up with her and Tiaia on Wed night and we grabbed some food at Habib’s and then I went to their classes at the law school with them. It was kind of funny, and the constitutional law prof kept looking right at me! Tiaia said he probably though I was American and he was talking about the American constitution.

Thursday and Friday were pretty quiet. Had some meetings and did some work and slacked a little bit….shhhh….

Friday was also the first day of NPM (National Presidents Meeting) which took place at USP! So I got to meet and hang out with the LCPs and the MC. I talked for a while with Morganna, who is the national Explora Program leader. She told me she was interested in recruiting Canadian SNs for the program, so I told her I could maybe help with that.

Then on Saturday I went with Renata to her hometown of Piracicaba, 2 hours from Sao Paulo.

The great leaders of AIESEC Brazil, with matching outfits!


Piracicaba is Victoria sized, which was a nice change after 4 big cities. It definitely had a smaller city atmosphere. Renata is part Lebanese so on Sunday we had Arabian food at her grandmother’s house. Then we went for a drive out to the country and into the sugar cane fields that surround the city. I had never seen sugar cane before. Renata’s Dad grabbed a cane to take back with us…. Shhhh ;) Then he cut it up and we ate it! Well… you don’t actually eat it but you chew it and suck out the sugar juice. It was cool and, of course, yummy.

On Monday we came back to Sao Paulo and a few more meetings and hours spent researching on brings us to the present.

Mmmmm... sugar.....


As for AIESEC work, we are still trying to make our education PBoX happen for this semester, but it is becoming less and less likely. We really need to have meeting with the private schools but we can’t seem to get a hold of them to set up meetings. It’s a little frustrating. But hopefully we will have some luck soon and start moving forward again.

I’m also working with Renata on People Development stuff, helping to get ready for recruitment and finishing some infrastructure stuff. This weekend we might have an EB retreat, which would be cool.

Ok and with a total now of over 2800 words, I think it’s time for bed ;)
P.S. My appologies for the odd formatting... Blogger is having issues today... will try to fix it later

Friday, July 21, 2006

AIESEC Roadtrip #.... 4?

This week I bought all my tickets for my big Brazil trip. I am leaving this morning and will be out and about for 12 days.

July 21 - July 24 - Curitiba
July 25 - July 29 - Recife
July 29 - Aug 2 - Salvador

For a map, you can go here. Curitiba is in the south, and both Recife and Salvador are in the northeast.

I am sure a huuuuge post, or several, will follow when I get back ;)