Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Meet Ann White, from the USA, who has travelled to Brazil several times over the last few years. Read the following interview where she tells us about her most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?
I'm from the United States, a native Texan but schooled in Oklahoma. My degrees are in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and the Bible. After I graduated from college, I lived in Japan for a year teaching English in their public school system. I'm transitioning out of that and testing the waters to see if the next chapter of my life could be in Brazil.
2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I first went in summer (May-July) of 2001 with a mission group that teaches English. I spent the majority of my time in Campinas, SP. In 2002 I went on the same program, again to Campinas. In 2004 I spent a month visiting friends and working with churches around the state of São Paulo. I'll be returning in June for several months to do language study and visit friends.
3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
When I first learned I was going to Brazil, my expectations were for it to be hot and jungle-like with lots of mosquitoes. But obviously, since I went to São Paulo in the winter, it wasn't "hot," but a very nice springy feeling. I loved the flora and weather, and the warmth of the people overwhelmed me.
The only negative impression and thing that strikes me every time I go is the graffiti. I just can't get used to it!
4. What do you miss most about home?
The independence to drive places and be where I want to be when I want to be there, and punctuality. It's deeply ingrained in my subconscious that punctuality is a sign of respect, and I am still trying to break myself out of that paradigm! Oh, and since I'm from Texas, I always miss Mexican food.
5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
I can't even calculate how many hours I have spent standing at bus stops, waiting for a bus that should have arrived at a certain time. And the perpetual lack of change at most shops and restaurants.
6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
I was in Brazil during the Copa do Mundo in 2002. Initially, waking up at 2 and 3am in the morning to watch the games wasn't that fun. And it wasn't a matter of wanting to wake up and watching the games; you had no choice when everyone started shooting off firecrackers! The day of the championship had to be one of the most fun days of my life!!! I've never been around such a spirit of celebration. Penta!!!
7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
The willingness of the people to share everything they have with you - their homes, their food, their time, their hearts, their love. But I love so many things - the language, weather, food, music.
8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
I don't think I have a specific place I like especially. In the homes of friends is probably the best place to be.
9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
My first time to Brazil, I was with 3 good friends. We were in a friend's house cooking a meal, and we noticed that there was a smooth top to the stove. But we just assumed that it was one of those new, burner-less types of stove tops. It took a long time for our water to boil, though. Anyway, a few hours passed, and one of my friends went into the kitchen to get a drink from the refrigerator. When he opened the door, there was an explosion and glass went everywhere!
Some of you can probably guess what happened. we cooked on the stove top without lifting the glass cover. So it was very hot, and when my friend opened the refrigerator, the cold air hit it and the glass exploded. Luckily, our friends thought it was hilarious and are just glad we didn't get hurt. They still talk about that every time I'm there, 5 years later.
10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
The generosity and affectionate nature of the people.
11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?
My Portuguese is okay. I studied Spanish for years so that kind of helps. While living in Japan I forgot a lot of Portuguese, but since I've returned I've resumed my Portuguese studies and I've improved a lot. My listening skills still need a lot of work.
The nasalized vowels are always a challenge to pronounce. And strangely, I probably have the most trouble pronouncing the very basic word, "eu". I don't know why, it just always troubles me.
My most memorable word confusion had to do with "cereja" (cherry). One of my travel companions was named Cherry. Cherry and I were with some friends (a mother and her son), and we got in a their car to go somewhere. The mother asked where her son was, and I said he was in the back with "cerveja" (beer). Her bewildered and alarmed glance (the son was only 12) notified me immediately of my mistake, but we all got a good laugh out of it.
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
Language study is always ideal. At least learn the "polite" words before you come - thank you, you're welcome, please, nice to meet you, etc.
Always try to have small bills and change.
Although I have strong political opinions, I have made it a personal rule not to discuss American politics (and Brazilian politics too, for that matter). I might break this rule among my closest friends, but rarely.
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in Sao Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
I enjoyed getting out and seeing the smaller towns, especially Pedrada and Serra Negra. I would always recommend that people go see Foz do Iguaçu and spend some time on a beach, if at all possible!
Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to email@example.com with "Interview" in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
Monde Ngqumeya - South Africa
Johnny Sweeney - USA
David Harty - Canada
Bill McCrossen - USA
Peter Berner - Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson - USA
Solveig Skadhauge - Denmark
Sean McGown - USA
Condrad Downes - UK
Jennifer Silva - Australian
Justin Mounts - USA
Elliott Zussman - USA
Jonathan Abernathy - USA
Steve Koenig - USA
Kyron Gibbs - USA
Stephanie Early - USA
Martin Raw - UK
Sean Coady - UK
Hugo Delgado - Mexico
Sean Terrillon - Canada
Jessie Simon - USA
Michael Meehan - USA
Thales Panagides - Cyprus
Tammy Montagna - USA
Samantha Tennant - England
Ron Finely - United States
Bob Duprez - United States
Peter Baines - England
Youssef Bouguerra - Tunisia
Van Wallach - USA
Lesley Cushing - England
Alexander von Brincken - Germany
Hank Avellar - USA
Ed Catchpole - England
Penny Freeland - England
Yasemin de Pinto - Turkey
Amy Williams Lima - USA
John Naumann - England
Marsye Schouella - Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser - USA
John Fitzpatrick - Scotland
Liam Gallagher - Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones - England
Adam Glensy - England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis - Japan
Aaron Day - Canada
Graham Debney - New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf - Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo - Canada
Frank de Meijer - Holland
Carl Emberson - Australia
Kim Buarque - Wales
Damiano Pak - South Korea
Jonas Helding - Denmark
Pari Seeber - Iran
John Milton - England
Ken Marshall - Australia