Blogging in Brazil
By Brienné Coates
Copyright 2015 Brienné Coates
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Table of Contents
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
And the trees, they speak an epic tale; deeply rooted, witnessing more of history than you and I could imagine
As I pack my suitcase and begin to feel happy, excited, stressed, and quasi-calm at the same time, an overwhelming amount of thoughts rush through my head. Outbursts of “What else should I pack?” to “Wow, this is really happening!!” flow freely from my mouth. Trying to prepare for a new lifestyle, meeting my homestay family, learning a new language, gaining first hand insight into the culture that exists within Brazil certainly has me thinking. Critically thinking, that is. I picture a family-friendly region of amorous greetings, carnival-festivities, colorful historic avenues, seafood delicacies, all amidst the daily hustle and bustle of its native people. Indeed, a monumental region that holds many answers to world-wide curiosities involving the cultural intersectionality of the African diaspora. Que bom!
My ideas about stepping foot in Brazil come with an initial sense of familiarity of the surrounding region. Being born in a neighboring country, Guyana, I do expect to see similarities—social settings, the concept of family, cultural celebrations, and differences in political views, as well as economic values of equity. In retrospect, given my experience in America, my expectations are quite the opposite. Nonetheless, I start the journey with realistic perceptions that set an optimistic and enthusiastic tone, which will more than likely evolve along the way. I’ll keep an open mind and an eye for the unexpected. I look forward to getting a better understanding of and appreciation for diversity while abroad, learning more about the impact thereof, forming long lasting friendships, and identifying unique cultural practices in Brazil.
The beginning of June, summer 2015, I enter Brazil and ‘tis is how it goes…
I’m waiting at a dock to board a ferry that would take me and my peers to the Island of Itaparica, meanwhile children are running around playing as parents wait in line to purchase boarding passes. As if on cue, a Brazilian news anchor shows up broadcasting live…perhaps looking to feature us on the news …Ha!. A few stares here and there, but mostly an exchange of smiles and giggles as my travel buddies try to figure out what the anchorman is reporting. His words come out with passion… rambling it seems, because we don’t understand a word. Nor do we pretend to. Much to our amusement the assumption is that we speak
“Can you watch my stuff, I’m about to get in line [the longest line ever]…por favor?” That’s what I thought I heard when an Afro-Brazilian woman approached me, except I heard it in Portuguese. Did I speak Portuguese? No, not at that time, but I was language App knowledgeable. So basics like ‘sim’, and ‘obrigada’ would have to do for now. I looked at her, and then looked at the line, searching for the words to say ‘I’m not sure I’ll be waiting here for much longer.’ After a brief moment I replied “não sei” followed by a sort of head nod, semi head shake and then “ok.” So, she went off to join the line. Minutes go by and she began peeking back in line to make sure I was still there, most times offering gentle smiles. When it was time for me to go, I stood up and the lady came over. I mustered, “estou indo saida,” not sure if she heard me correctly. Then she asked me a question. Yikes, I could only make out “voce”, “de onde” and “o pais” to which I replied “não, aqui” pointing to the direction I was going in. Then she said “ohhh, indo” as if she suddenly grasped what I was saying minutes ago. Yeah, sure, my pronunciation was questionable. She gave me an inquisitive look, smiled, and wished me well as we parted. “Boa viajem”… “Obrigada!” I replied. Phewww, that was close… my first language practical.
Many unique flavors to choose from. Savory, mouthwatering, blend of tastes.
Arroz e Feijon
All the labor and hard-work, the sacrifice in finding the means to produce
Breakfast is delightfully great!...Served with pão, fresh bread at that. I don’t usually drink coffee but, besides water, coffee took the #1 most drank beverage award. Coffee, bread, and butter with some cheese easily became a staple pre or post meal I ate a good bit of it. I think at some point our Mãe had to move the bread out of direct sight *chuckle* Other days breakfast included eggs, fruits such as papaya, mango, watermelon ….just imagine. Let’s not forget the cake! Yes, bolo for breakfast. What?!
A slice of pound cake + nutella spread
…eat sparingly or go for seconds! Mais? Sim, mais.
Then there was arroz e feijon! Arroz e feijon! It’s quite the ‘go to’ anytime you’re in Brazil. Fruit juices too! A plate full with rice, beans, frango, or beef stew, tapioca soup (cassava soup), or going out for some churrasco, or a classic cheeseburger (courtesy of Speed) Yeah buddy! And the pasta. Yummm. Sometimes, it’s baked in casserole dishes stuffed with meat, and topped with cheese. Surprisingly, I did not eat as much seafood as I had anticipated, but I certainly did not mind. Eating food by the kilo is quite common. Yes, you guessed right. I ate by the kilo especially when I ventured out with the group for lunch or dinner. Mãe was generous enough to provide these meals for us and so our home cooked meals were quite delicious. Since lunch was the heaviest meal of the day, going back for seconds was especially encouraged. In general, it was really nice to see that the sharing of food was quite genuine. Usually enough was left over for dinner. The food embodying a host of flavors made it easy to choose a favorite dish, and even a recipe. Anytime you visit there, give Moqueca (de peixe) a try!
One will do…ok, maybe two
Walking around downtown Pelourinho, with much excitement I visited an ice-cream parlor. Immediately, I found a new favorite flavor of ice cream. It is called sorvete de crème com passas. Please take note, it reminds me of ice-cream birthday cake. *Laugh out Loud* who knows?? Dessert is definitely a bonus, and isn’t it sweet? Pun intended! Well, after having dinner one afternoon, I yearned for a treat. Condense milk already a fave, drew me to try a particular desert called Pavê. It took flavor to a whole new level. I thoroughly enjoyed deserts and beverages containing condense milk.
Oh if theres a thing so sweet
Compliments to the Chef
A comida estava deliciosa
“Grão a grão enche a galinha o papo.”
Instituto Cultural Steve Biko
Praia do Forte (Casa da Torre)
Igreja de São Francisco
Fundação Pierre Verger
Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim
But from too close up we may not see, but from afar life cycles and recycles
City of Pelourinho
Having traveled to a major city called Pelourinho, the following picture is a good depiction of my overall experience in the country to date. I was intrigued by its historical roots, livelihood, and the vibrant colors surrounding its architectured walls and sculpted buildings. From the pebble stone roads to the astonishing views of the city, a panorama beckons to be explored. During holidays, the streets are filled with food vendors, music, people, and works of art. This city has a charm of its own, creating a feeling of bliss and warmth despite its dubious past and less-than-safe reputation.
In many ways, the image below is an example of what I expected to see in Brazil. I was surprised, but nonetheless, happy to see such a place and experience an almost instant connection. Mesmerized by its beauty, I felt calm and at peace yet bustling with curiosity and excitement. This city Salvador, Bahia embodies much of Afro-Brazilian life and culture. As such it is easily now one of my favorite cities.
Upper City looking down upon the Lower City; separate but not equal
In sync with spirit, ascending to our greatest heights
Let the festivities begin!
We went to Bahia Street to hear from a former capoeirista, who was destined to become a political activist evident through the decisions that she made growing up. Encouraged to obtain an education and keep learning was due to her mom, who wanted a better life for her. Today she helps about 15 girls per group to develop self-love, confidence, education, offering protection from domestic violence, and a place to develop important social qualities. She does this all while obtaining and sharing knowledge. The services offered change as children come in with various needs. She believes it is the decisions that we make that make a strong impact on what and who we can become. Mentioning that we are always waiting for someone, somebody else to come along to do what we need to do.
In her words… this is a very important conversation to be having, because we are the ones and the time to do what we need to do is now. Once people get an education they tend to stay above the rest that don’t have it instead of passing it down and sharing it. She stresses education, and sharing of knowledge as aspects that can help to improve our conditions. While the future of Brazil, their safety and value is uncertain, they continue to act while given the opportunity to do what they can now. She emphasizes staying in tune with what’s happening in our home countries and pay attention to the news, political issues, social issues and overall how the country and its people are evolving. Make decisions to act.
…Wow, just wow! I truly enjoyed listening to her speak.
On a less serious note, being a part of a homestay family lends to a unique study abroad experience. How so? Meeting family members, family friends, and getting to know as well as recognize faces in the community helps to create a home away from home. In my case, in particular, a family friend’s daughter, or young artist shall I say would stop by every now and then. We would have our little chats about our favorite foods, favorite colors, and things of the sort… in Portuguese of course! Although she knew a few words in English, she most certainly enjoyed an exchange in the English language from time to time. I would soon come to find out she likes to draw and color. So, with an empty notebook I packed, envisioning a moment like this, we sat and drew whatever came to mind. In taking turns in creating a scene of our very own, a masterpiece was created:
Reality meets perception
Large, small and wandering—dogs roaming the streets “rua de chachorro” and donkeys galloping on the beaches. Most of these animals mingle, making their way around people, in front of street vendors, sunbathers on the beach, or neighbors chillin’ at home. The cats, very personable as people often mention *apply sarcasm here*, are perched usually outside the entrance of a home or local store. But one of my favorite moments interacting with the creatures of the land occurred when I was soaking in the hottest of suns at a nearby beach. A couple of young Afro-Brazilians came riding to the beach on beautiful, brown majestic-like horses. It was every horse riders’ dream, including me. Seeing them bathe the horses and watching the horses swim a bit, brought back some awesome childhood memories.
Growing up as a child in Guyana, I had horses and ponies as pets along with a few other animals and birds… I remember riding to the pasture accompanied by my parents who led the way. Feeding these beauts, and almost getting kicked in the face after awkwardly attempting to get off my beloved horse still jogs my memory. I was young, *lol*. There was no instruction manual, but I learned to saddle and groom a horse fast.
Tar…Tartaruga …is that you?
Donkeys ah’ runnin’
The Word on the Street
NÃO EXISTO GLORIA SEM SACRIFICE
A PAZ DO MUNDO COMENÇA EM CASA
Quite the statue
My study abroad experience has caused me to ponder stereotypes particularly where race and gender are concerned. Being black and from America, is a difficult concept for some, not only in Brazil, to understand. The idea that certain people, i.e. African Americans could not possibly reside and inhabit in such a place is a controversial misconception that stems from historical bias, where even to this day race determines privilege (even if more latently manifested). These limited ideologies are evident on an even broader spectrum. Just take a look at the beauty standards of women, more-so African American women. For many in Brazil, the ideal body image of African American women is captured in the likes of Beyoncé. Much attention is placed on a curvy figure and blonde hair. Stereotypes such as these emerge and develop as generalizations and conclusions that have been unconsciously embedded in our psyche by sources outside of our own ethnicity, and even from lack of self-acceptance. They exist because of what people choose to believe and acknowledge en-masse about a particular race or group of people. Albeit, dismissing opportunities to learn about others for who they truly are. Often times, stereotypes are speculations regarded as facts especially for people seeking an easy and quick way to perceive others, who hold on to preconceived notions and fallible expectations so as to ‘grasp a handle on things’.
Stereotypes emerge to “fill a vacuum of knowledge.” Serving as a first impression for those near and afar, appearing to reduce uncertainty on the subjects at hand. As a result, creating a false pretense of understanding where judgments are made in totality. Well, what better a thing that is understood, but the person who understands? Being aware of the stereotypes in Brazil coming from America, I travelled with an open mind and an open heart. Much of my expectations of Brazil were shaped by literature, family friends who are native to Brazil, the music and media. My ideas about the culture and lifestyle changed over the course of the trip, from the kinds of meals I thought I would be eating, to the kinds of interactions I thought I would be having. Sometimes overestimating the ability to communicate, but nonetheless the reality of it all gave rise to little culture shock.
A bird’s eye view
In the final days of my study abroad sojourn in Brazil as I prepare for re-entry into the U.S., I could not help but reflect on the memories I have created and enjoyed with my homestay family, Spelman Sisters and others I’ve met along the way. It’s been almost two months and I can truly say that participating in the Brazil Cultural program is a learning experience that I would never trade even if I had the chance. Personal growth, among other life-shaping upshots, has been most rewarding, especially when intersectionality, privileges, personal space, and value of purpose are topics of discussion. I am more aware of my ability to make a difference in the lives of others. For example, something as simple as language exchange or spending time together with other individuals of a different culture is a robust opportunity to share joy, cares, and pinpoint concerns about each other’s culture. The students in the English Exchange program with Brazil Cultural have been great examples of leaders in their community.
With this new found knowledge we can create opportunities to help each other, care for one another, and see new perspectives of life and possibilities to explore. I realize how similar we are as people, and how parallel our struggles are despite being a continent apart. Ultimately, our choices influence those around us, and set the stage for future interactions. Now, I think that I will be able to proceed more intently with taking advantage of opportunities to devote my time and resources in efforts to bring about a positive change in the lives of others as many individuals have done for me. Beleza!
Transcends through time and space
Bahia Independence Day
Insect repellent/Bug spray
International service plan for cellular
Refillable water bottle
Gift for host family
Photos of your family
Travel Adapter Plug
With each wave, a new clue surfaces, to which a timeless mystery unfolds
Allow yourself to be present
Budget your money and time
Create amazing memories
Document your experience – blog, draw, color, take photos
Explore your interests abroad
Familiarize yourself with your surroundings
Get up early & vice versa, get some rest
Inquire – ask questions
Join in on the festivities, jam to the music
Know key phrases – basic phrases to get around the region
Love … laugh, & learn something new
Mingle, meet, and greet
New challenges to overcome – you can do it!
Open the mind to new ideas
Plan, and prepare for an amazing time
Quiet time – take some for the road
Read, Relax, Reflect
Set goals, and don’t forget to smile along the way
Travel – Get a map of the city in case WIFI is not accessible.
Uncover hidden talents
Volunteer, find out how to make a positive impact
Wisdom to be attained – be aware
X-tra mile – go the distance (walk, jog, run…)
Yes, you are magnificent!
Z to A all over again
How to keep learning new language skills and maintain the progress you have already made upon returning from your host country?
By the time you return home, you may have already taken advantage of language apps, created a language group with new friends and people you met abroad hoping to practice as much as possible. No doubt these are great tactics that can get you on the right track to becoming fluent or just a better linguist. Upon my return from Brazil, I found that watching and listening to cartoons in Portuguese during my spare time …right before bed or playing an episode of Peppa Pig while eating breakfast has helped me stay motivated and intrigued to continue learning the language. This way has been very useful especially since part of the learning process is being able to identify, listen, and understand the syllables of the language. The cartoons also help by providing visual context clues. In addition, finding articles to read in Portuguese has been another great way to expand vocabulary, improve grammar and social skills.
Cada oportunidade , vamos ver o mundo de uma perspectiva totalmente nova…língua
What it means to become a global citizen is revealed each time we set foot in another’s world. Seeking answers to age-old questions or looking to gain a new perspective, international education does wonders. Studying abroad in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil for less than two months has been a rewarding experience for the author, both personally and professionally. The insight that learning a new language brings, and the curiosities that arise while inquiring about a culture particularly one that is unfamiliar to the globetrotter, is quite fascinating. Through pictures and words we share our newfound knowledge hoping to create bonds of friendship, develop solution to overcome similar challenges, and build a world that courageously attempts to make the best of our differences. Here is a memoir that captures unique moments of a student’s journey to Brazil with intentions of learning about the similarities and differences between the United States and Brazil in the context of Afro-Brazilian culture and through the syllables of the Portuguese language.