Thursday, June 10, 2010

A travel study blog from colorful Brazil or Brasil

Samantha Hearn has been exploring and learning in Brazil this spring as part of a travel study program. She has this update for us about her trip. She's using the Portuguese spelling for the country- Brasil:

Well, the first week of Brasil has been...let's just say a whirlwind. I have never seen so many colors all in one place! We are in Fortaleza, in the state of Ceara, and the vibrancy and the life of this city is overwhelming. People here take things differently than people in the United States. No one is rushing to get to work or school. No one is yelling or fighting with one another. Life seems to have a slower, simpler pace here.

But, Fortaleza is a huge city with over 3 million people, and I feel like I have only seen a glimpse of it so far. Our classes are held at Yazigi, pronounced Ya-zee-sghee, a school that specializes in teaching Linguistics. Here, Brasilian students come to learn English, French, or even German. And of course, Americans come here to learn Portuguese. (Interesting fact that people in the US get confused on: Brasil does NOT speak Spanish, but Portuguese, descending from when, of course, the Portuguese came from Europe way back when to explore the New World.) The language barrier has been indefinitely the most difficult part of being here, but with classes in full swing and with the help of my host family, I am slowly but surely learning.

My family here has been so welcoming and warm towards me. My host father, Jorge, pronounced like George, is an eye doctor and owns a clinic not too far from our apartment. My host mother, Amelia, helps run the clinic but she holds a degree in law. I have two brothers here, Arthur and Victor. Arthur is 16 and contacted me about a month or so before I came to Brasil, telling me how excited they were to have me stay with them. Victor is 17 and well, he sleeps a lot. haha. Arthur speaks English VERY well, but Victor's English is so-so. Amelia can speak English very well, but has trouble understanding it when someone speaks it. Jorge does not speak much English, but I can tell that he is a smart man. When something is not understood, Arthur is usually here to help translate. The family has been so kind and gracious. They call me their "real daughter," and I think that they honestly want to adopt me. I wouldn't mind, they are the best host family I could ask for. I am very fortunate that they are in the upper class and that I have the luxury here of air conditioning and hot water, because literally 90% of the population does not have that. It is VERY hot here, always in the hundreds. But by the beach, the weather is so nice.

We have been to two beaches so far as a class, and I have been to one other with my host family. The best beach has been Lagoinha, pronounced La-go-een-yah. Talk about beautiful! Google it and look up pics. It's amazing. Although, every beach here that I have been to is absolutely gorgeous. It's Brasil! What else would you expect? ;)

I must confess that I, as a known shopaholic, feel like I am stealing from these people when we shop at the markets. The biggest one, called Mercado Central (Central Market), has everything you can imagine for cheaper than cheap can get. It is a 5 story mall that hosts hundreds upon hundreds of little stands, selling everything from clothing to bikinis to food to jewelry to shoes to...well, you get the picture. They sell everything. A shopaholic's Heaven. (I.E. my heaven. haha) I bought more than enough souvenirs for everyone back home, and honestly only spent about 80 US dollars. The exchange rate here is awesome!

While my shopping experiences have been wonderful, I have also experienced some things that I never have back in the US, one of these things being poverty. In America, if a child has to beg for money, the government or at least someone will always help. You just don't see that kind of thing back home. Here, I have had at least a dozen or so young boys come up to me and ask for money. It is heartbreaking. They wear no shoes, have dirty clothes and their eyes have the saddest look in them. I can't help but wonder why the government doesn't do something about this, or wonder where their parents are, or if there are places they can go to find help. My host mother and I were out in the city when a boy came up to our car, pleading for some loose change. Amelia gave the boy a few Reais (The Brasilian form of currency) coins and told him, "God bless you, go get a job." I wonder if there are jobs available for children like him. Amelia said that there is always an opportunity for them to work for their money, no matter how low the class they are. It makes me sad, but I can't help but see her point. It seems sometimes that people, children included, will beg for money just because they know people will feel sorry for them and give. The work ethic here is generally only productive for the middle to upper classes. It seems that everyone else is content to be where they are, which I don't understand. My teacher, Dr. Pace from MTSU, said that it's very difficult for someone from the lower class to rise into middle, and almost impossible for them to rise to upper.

Well, enough on that subject. Don't want to depress anyone. Brasil is so different from America in so many ways. And I have only been here a week! I am excited to see more and learn more about this culture that is so different from my own. I already feel that being here has opened my eyes more to the world. Instead of reading about it or seeing pictures of it, I feel like I am living it.

Oh yeah...the World Cup starts soon and they tell us that the whole city goes CRAZY! Even now, you can go anywhere and see the colors green, yellow, blue and white. People here have so much national pride! It's not like in America. Sure, we are proud, but it's not like everywhere you go Americans are wearing red, white and blue flags and stars is it? Nope. But here, it's just natural. It makes the city even more vibrant because of that. And the music! I expected to come here and hear nothing but Brasilian songs, which of course I do hear those, but you would not believe that Brasil has the worst case of Beiber Fever. That's right. Brasilians LOVE Justin Beiber, and I can't meet anyone new who doesn't sing along with the "Baby, baby, baby oooooh" song. It's so funny! They also love Lady GaGa very very much. Those two seem to be the most prominent, definitely. The Brasilian music I have heard has honestly mostly been in my music class. Every now and then I have heard some Brasilian music in the streets or at a restaurant, but it's American music all the way, especially for the young people.

Whew, this is getting long and it's getting late. I have school at 9 am tomorrow, and everyday from Monday to Friday. We are going to Morro Branco beach this Saturday! I'm sure it will be a blast!

Tchau, tchau. (Bye Bye) *It's pronounced like the Italian Ciao. Pretty cool, huh?!

Samantha Hearn
Volunteer State Community College

Picture colorfulbrasil: Me in Fortaleza posing with colorful street artwork.

Picture hostbrothers: Me with my host brothers! Victor is on the left, Arthur on the right. If you get confused, Arthur is the one with longer hair.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

There's something extremely offensive about the mention of your shopping addiction in the same paragraph you use to explain the hardships some of the children face in Brazil. You mention the beggars and suggest that these -children- with their "dirty clothes and sad eyes" just go get a job instead of being "content" to live as an impoverished lower class. Can you imagine anyone being "content" to continue begging for money to live? "They know people will feel sorry for them" ??? Well, DON'T YOU???

Enjoy your shopping spree, I hope no shoeless dirty children get between you and that five story mall you found.

Samantha Hearn said...

If you read closely on my blog, anonymous, you will see that I said I don't understand why the people are content with the way things are. It is sad and wrong, but even in our culture class it is discussed that it's just the way it is. It's an accepted part of life here that if you're born poor, you just stay poor. The government doesn't seem to be doing anything about it, and if you read through my blog again, you will see that I say I don't understand why this is so. My host mother suggested to one boy to go get a job. And if you were here and saw some of the children who are obviously well fed with shoes on their feet, running after our group of Americans with the fakest cry they could muster, you would think twice about your comment. I don't mean crying like sniffling and fake tears, I mean like over-the-top wailing and then laughing when we walk away. So you see, in some cases I cannot help but agree with my host mom that they go get a job instead of begging just to beg. I should have made the situation a bit clearer, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I do not feel sorry for the children that are obviously not in need.

On the other hand, there are those children that I mentioned that are obviously malnourised and have little to live on. Again though, like I said in the blog, why isn't the government doing anything about it? I don't know. I can't answer that. I didn't come here to save the country, I came here to learn about what's going on, and giving to the ones who seem to need it most is all I can do. Just because I shop for myself doesn't mean that I don't also give to those in need. And I don't have an "addiction," as you say, just because I jokingly call myself a shopaholic. Sheesh! :)

Also, my shopping experience and the poverty experience are not in the same paragraph, just to clarify that.

The poverty here is not like in America, where the government is there to help those in need. Like I said before, what social class you are born into here is, from what I've learned in my classes, where you stay unless in a very rare circumstance.

To recap and reclarify on your comment: I don't suggest that these children do anything, I was simply telling readers about what my host mother suggested to ONE boy. I said in my blog that it seems SOMETIMES that people just beg to be begging, case in point that I mentioned above. I don't condone the poverty here or ignore the children who need help. In my class, we have learned that people learn to be content with their lives because there isn't much help from the government to rise into the middle or upper class systems. If you think this is incorrect, consult TnCIS on their professors credibility, not me.

Also, the 5 story market that I shopped at helps boost the city's economy and promote the lower middle class and lower class' incomes, therefore helping to keep their children off the streets. Don't direct your anger towards me for shopping. I'm in a foreign country, I want souveniers for my family and friends for goodness sake!

Again, anonymous, I apologize for any miscommunication in my blog. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Michael L. said...

Anonymous, youd should really get over yourself and learn to read things in the context they are presented.

Corbin Davidson said...

Samantha I really enjoyed reading your post. You are a very intelligent woman and seem to be having a good time in Brazil. Do not let people discourage you. I think it is commendable how you replied to the anonymous post, your response was classy, intelligent and to the point! You go girl!

Lynch said...

I am enjoying the photos and your blog, Samantha. I hope that this encourages other students to travel, even through the TNCIS program.

As for anonymous, this person demonstrates the importance of an education. Many people need to learn more about reading and comprehension so these misinterpretations do not continue. I am proud at how you handled the comment, with your response.

Keep having a great time, and please post more blogs.

Anonymous said...

"My host mother suggested to one boy to go get a job. And if you were here and saw some of the children who are obviously well fed with shoes on their feet, running after our group of Americans with the fakest cry they could muster, you would think twice about your comment. I don't mean crying like sniffling and fake tears, I mean like over-the-top wailing and then laughing when we walk away. So you see, in some cases I cannot help but agree with my host mom that they go get a job instead of begging just to beg."
"I don't suggest that these children do anything, I was simply telling readers about what my host mother suggested to ONE boy."

Did my reading and comprehension fail me here or did she just completely contradict herself? Do you agree with your host mother that some of these -children- get a job?

Again, Samantha, they are children. Again, they are begging in the streets.

If I'm confused, it has little to do with my "reading and comprehension" skills and more to do with the fact that you go back and forth on a sensitive issue in what can only be characterized as a glib way. But you didn't go there to save the country, as you said.

Anonymous said...

Lynch, are you an educator?

holy land tours said...

Samantha, what a wonderful post. I think Brasil/Brazil is one of the most interesting countries for a visit. It is hard to separate between being a tourist, wanting to shop and enjoy the country and between seeing sad and harsh situations like poverty. I had the same experience in Belfast, Nairobi etc'. It's part of what makes traveling such a strong experience. Keep traveling, keep writing! :)

mission viejo chiropractor said...

Americans come here to learn Portuguese. (Interesting fact that people in the US get confused on: Brasil does NOT speak Spanish, but Portuguese, descending from when, of course, the Portuguese came from Europe way back when to explore the New World.)