Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
USAs Rita Shannon Koeser has traveled to Brazil many times after falling in love with the country following a visit to Rio Carnaval. She has many Brazilian friends both here and back in her hometown of Princeton, New Jersey. Since her first visit she has adopted many Brazilian mannerisms and customs. In this interview she shares with us her love of the culture, food and Brazilian people.
Where are you from/Where do you live?
I live in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Princeton is famous for its university. It is a charming small town with a diverse population. There is a big Brazilian community here and in an area a little north of here.
What is your connection with Brazil?
I first went to Brazil many years ago as a tourist. I went to Rio for Carnaval. I caught the Brazilian spirit and fell in love with the country. Now I have very dear friends in Sao Paulo city and state. They are like family to me, and I try to visit them every year. They also come here to visit me. I have friends in the Amazon region, too. Here in New Jersey my best friends are Brazilians, mostly they are Brazilian women married to American men.
What do you like most about Brazil?
I love the warmth, joyfulness, gentleness and sweetness of the Brazilian people. Unlike many Americans and Europeans, I'm not shocked by all the hugging and kissing!! I find it quite endearing and quite often I find myself hugging and kissing people here in the States that I don't know too well. I often have to restrain myself and remind myself I'm not in Brazil! I also love the beauty of the country and the Portuguese language.
Which are your favorite places in Brazil?
Sao Paulo city and state are my favorite because of my dear friends there. I also love Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon region.
What is the image most Americans have of Brazil?
The image most Americans have of Brazil is of a tropical paradise with smiling happy people dancing the samba at Carnaval. They think of an exotic land with beautiful people in small bikinis on well known beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. It is seen as a heaven on earth to which many of us secretly (and not so secretly!) long to escape. You can see that this image is a bit of a stereotype, but every stereotype has some truth to it!
Have you tried Brazilian food and drink (such as feijoada churrascarias and caipirinhas)? Did you like them?
I love Brazilian food. My friend, Maria Cecilia, who lives in Sao Paulo state makes a feijoada to die for! In her house we eat churrascaria and wonderful Brazilian desserts too. Not only do I drink caipirinhas in Brazil, but I buy Brazilian cachaca here in New Jersey and make caipirinhas here. I serve them at my Brazilian themed parties!
What difference between the US and Brazil do you find most striking?
I find the slower pace of life in Brazil (yes even in Sao Paulo city!!) and the relaxed attitude to time very refreshing. I like the spirit of "joie de vivre" in Brazil, and I think the Brazilians have a lot to teach us about how to enjoy life and not be so serious.
What are 2 things you would recommend to do for a visitor to Sao Paulo?
Parque Ibirapuera and Museu De Arte De Sao Paulo (MASP).
Contact details: Ritashko@earthlink.net
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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
Are you are foreigner living in Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org