By Ana Corazza
December 7, 2011
When he told his family the great news he had just received from his boss it was a celebration. His wife had already started organizing a big dinner; his teenage kids were already planning vacations in the Swiss Alps next season. Everyone was happy until he had the chance to say that they would have to move to Brazil.
The whole idea of going to South America on vacation was great, but to leave the country and live abroad wasn’t in their plans. The worries began: what about the violence, what kind of cars do people drive there, who would support them with the real estate issue, where would they live, what school for their children, how would it be to live in Brazil not speaking a word of Portuguese and knowing almost nothing about the people’s way of life and culture?
But they were moving to Rio after all, what a dream! The wonderful and famous city of Rio de Janeiro, a place used to receiving foreigners from all over the world. It wouldn’t be so bad. So they moved. It was a great opportunity.
The first few weeks at the hotel were comfortable. It really felt like being on vacation. Finding an apartment wasn’t so hard after all, the real state agency contracted by the company took care of everything. They had a car available for the family – with a driver – in the first month. Time passed. They started to find out what would it be to finally have a routine as expats in Brazil. Until they started to feel at home” with the only difference they weren’t really at home, at least not just yet.
So one day dad parked the car in front of Santos Dumont Airport – the national airport of Rio de Janeiro – hours later he came back, got the keys from his pocket and… the company’s car wasn’t there anymore. He looked for it, managed to ask the cab drivers if they had seen his car. Nothing. He took a cab and told his secretary the car was stolen. After a while they found out he had parked in a forbidden area and the vehicle was towed by the Transit Department – Detran-RJ.
Days later, after a weekend in a nice hotel in Angra dos Reis, a town at 157km far from Rio, dad ate acaraj, a spicy delicacy from Bahia, and went back home feeling like his stomach had moved to his back. It was Sunday night, he couldn’t stand feeling so sick. So the couple decided to take a chance and go to the closest drugstore to buy a medicine for him.
They managed to speak Portuguese, the attendant managed to speak English. They tried to explain what he was feeling and what they needed but no one seemed to understand. So they pointed saying “He has a pro-blem, um pro-ble-ma” and pointed to his belly. Finally, the attendant answered: “Oh, I got it, you want Viagra. Right? Viagra”. “No, no Viagra. He’s got diarrhoea”, the wife replied.
That night they left the drugstore laughing. He had some tea at home and woke up feeling better the next day. The family thought it was better to have some Portuguese lessons and so they did. And it helped them get through many other situations they would have to face in the future. Some were worth laughing about, others not so much.
This story and many others were told to Ana Corazza and Maria Arruda by their students in the 11 years they’ve been helping foreigners of the many different nationalities to communicate in Portuguese and understand Brazilian culture and way of life.
Most recently they designed Projeto Brasileirinho, a project created to help unite foreigners – be they residents or tourists in Rio de Janeiro – and Brazilians around the linguistic and cultural aspects of Brazil in order to provide a better integration, assimilation and comprehension of the diversity of Brazilian people as a whole, thereby contributing to a more positive and productive intercultural exchange.
Projeto Brasileirinho starts its activities in 2012 at Instituto Cultural Casaro de Austregsilo de Athayde, in the charming neighborhood of Cosme Velho, in Rio de Janeiro. The cultural institute is surrounded by the largest urban forest in the world and only a few steps away from one of the most visited tourist spots of Rio de Janeiro and the world – the Christ Statue. For more information, visit: www.projetobrasileirinho.com.br