Monday, July 09, 2007

tu da bem

Another letter from the other side of the world....

Ola amigos,

Wow (nossa) where do I start? This place and this program is like nothing else I could ever imagine.

We officially started the exchange in Alem Paraiba on Monday (I think - time is weird and we are chaufferred everywhere so no need to know the time or date really) and we're now at our second town of Cataguases - two nights at each.

Alem Paraiba is a smallish country town, about 34000 people. The first night we were there they organised for us a mini-Carneval, complete with a deafening 'bateria' of 50 men with drums of various sizes, fantastic costumes, 'mulattas' or samba-dancing girls wearing strategically placed sequins and not much else, singers and students of the local 'samba school' - the Carneval in Rio is essentially many different samba schools competing aginst each other - most small towns have their own samba school and carneval every year.

Queen of the Carneval

There were speeches and a million photos, as the guests of honour we had to dance the samba for the first time in front of practically the whole town. The boys tried 'capoeira' (a dance-like martial art originating from the time of slaves in Brazil) and were also invited to join the bateria (I would have like to try that but no girls allowed). Far out, I can't even describe it adequately. It totally blew us away and this was just the first night of the exchange program. The photos in no way do it justice.


Since then it's been a blur of vocational and cultural activities. In Alem Paraiba we visited a historic horse farm with a big mansion dating back to colonial times. Yesterday in Cataguases we visited two foundations for the less fortunate in the city, one entirely funded by the hydro-electric company here is a Cultural Centre where children can learn traditional dance for free; another had an amazing range of programs including puppet making, recycled art, computers where kids can do their homework, clown doctors, weaving, something like U3A, all funded by a large textile company in the town. We actually went to the factory today which was amazing too, seeing the transformation of raw cotton into thread then fabric just like you would buy in Spotlight. Maybe we do? We also went to the hospital here which is in pitiful condition. We think that our health system is bad - no way. Last stop was a nursery school for children who live in the poor areas - very cute but sad to hear of their family situation.

The social side of things is pretty huge too. On our last day in Alem Paraiba we we were hosted for a Brazilian BBQ or 'churrasco' at a cattle farm - another huge lavish house with swimming pool etc..... our hosts are not all serious - they admitted the next day that they were trying to get us drunk on cerveja (beer), cacaça (42% alcohol - like vodka distilled from sugar cane) and capirinia (lime and cacaça) so that we would be more entertaining when giving our formal presentation to the club that night but they were the ones who ended up too drunk to attend the meeting! The presentation went well actually - everyone could understand our portuguese which was surprising.


Last time I spent some time emailing here in this little room in the hotel I walked out and had a quick jolt 'oh that's right I'm in Brazil!'. Some things have been pretty confronting but we are really being looked after so well, and have each other for support and a sounding board, it's just an amazing experience. Next stop we are being hosted in families we've been told - but things change all the time so we just take it as it comes. Two mottos so far - 'go with the flow' and more importantly 'it's all part of the experience'!!

It seems to be getting hotter each city we visit. Today was around 28 or so but also quite humid. In summer it is more like 45 so glad we didn't come then.

'Tu da bem' is everyone's favourite saying here - it's all good. The portuguese is going ok. I can read more than I understand people speaking. It's my bad memory that gets in the way of being able to speak more. We have translators in Catagueses but they have helped us to learn a few more words too.

Better go - another presentation tonight then off to Muriae tomorrow. These places are all on Wikipedia if you want to see more.

Tchau for now

Jill xo

PS. My new futeball team is Flamengo - Vive Flamengo!!!



At 8:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh I feel so much saudade for Brasil - Alem Paraiba is close to Juiz de Fora where I spent a lot of time when I was in Brasil on exchange many years ago. Off to read the rest of your posts.

Oh and doesn't Carnival blow you away?

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