Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Meet Bob Duprez, retired French and Spanish teacher from the United States. Read the following interview where he discusses the trip known as soccer matches in Morumbi, Carnaval experiences, and the differences in between the United States and Brazil.
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
I was born on Long Island, N.Y. but lived and worked in Wilmington, Delaware for 35 years. I was married for 16 years, now divorced and have three kids in the 20´s.
What do you do?
I am retired. I taught French and Spanish at Tower Hill School, a private country day school in Delaware. Here in Brazil I have done some tutoring, mainly for friends, have taken some Portuguese classes and have tried to travel a bit.
When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I met Cristina, a wonderful Brazilian woman about 5 years ago and after exchanging visits with her for 3 years, when I retired two years ago, we decided to spend half the year in Brazil and half the year in the USA. The arrangement seems to be working for the time being. Eventually we will probably settle on spending the majority of our time in one country or the other.
What were you first impressions of Brazil?
I had traveled extensively throughout Latin American over the years but never had been to Brazil. I was first struck by the amazing coast line as we took a car trip from Sao Paulo to Salvador. I was also impressed by the size and vastness of the country, the amazing amount of land with nothing else but cattle for miles and miles. Passing through small towns, driving long distances was like going back in time. I was utterly blown away by the size and scope of Sao Paulo. I had never seen so many apartment buildings, not even in NY. I often wonder how it all works.
What do you miss most about home?
Of course I miss my kids the most. Otherwise, I would say that I miss baseball, although I have been able to see some games here in Ibiuna, SP as there are games and tournaments within the Japanese community here. I return to the USA from June to Dec. so I do get to see most the major league season at home. I havent quite gotten used to Brazilian Pizza. I
miss the daylight hours that go to 9 pm at this time of the year in Delaware.
What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
I would say that personally I have not had really frustrating experiences that stand out
although I am frustrated with the sharp distinction between those who live well and those who dont, given the enormous potential for the country to be a prosperous land for all. There just does not seem to be a process whereby the wealth of the country filters down to the workers and people in the lower economic classes. It is similar in that respect to other Latin American countries.
What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil?
Last year we participated in the Sao Paulo Carnaval, dancing the samba, dressed in our "fantasias" with the Agiuas de Ouro Samba School. The practices, passing through the Sambodromo at 3 oclock in the morning, the music, the drums, the crowds were an unbelievable experience.
What do you most like about Brazil?
I think what I like most is that Brazil is completely its own country. Somewhat like the USA, it is so big that apart from the obvious American economic influences, when you are in Brazil, you experience Brazilian life and little else. You hardly ever hear anything but Portuguese spoken. Life at home seems remote and you can escape totally. There is a rich culture to enjoy, a diversified population and an infinite amount of places to visit.
What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
I really dont have a favorite hang out place other than the local cyber cafe. I do stop in at the Me Gusta cafe near where I live. When we can we like to go to Santos.
Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
I laugh now about one experience but at the time it was not too funny, I was driving in Porto Seguro on a somewhat open road. We were looking for a poussada that was on the left side. I slowed down approaching the poussada letting a few cars whiz by approaching from the opposite direction and then slowly turned left into the motel. As I started my turn a motorcycle from behind started beeping his horn frantically and yelled what I am sure were choice obscenities. He made a quick U turn and followed me into the poussada. He jumped off his cycle and came angrily towards my car. By this time Cristina had told me that I had done a horrible thing by making my turn directly from the road instead of first pulling off to the right, checking traffic in both directions before making my left hand turn.
Fortunately Cristina quickly got out of the car and tried to calm the cyclist down by explaining that I was a foreigner and was not accustomed to Brazilian turning laws. For a moment I thought I was going to get my clock cleaned. Eventually the biker calmed down a bit but continued to direct choice comments in my direction. I felt awful. I can imagine how he felt cruising along not expecting me to slow down and turn off the main road right in front of him.
What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
To be on the beach in 90 degree weather in January and February is definitely a striking difference. I sit on the beach thinking about the poor souls in the ice and snow back in Delaware. Upon leaving Sao Paulo for the interior one can literally go back in time. Towns have horse driven buggies, places where cheese, cachaça, flour are made the old traditional ways. Another striking difference is how houses and places of residence here are walled in fortresses with guards in front. Finally I am continually stricken by how infrequent one hears any foreign languages spoken in the stores, on the street, in restaurants. At home, Spanish is heard in just about every public area and I enjoy speaking with people from the various Latin American countries.
What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
I would say that to enjoy Brazil to the fullest, you have to learn the language. It may seem overwhelming at first but with time and patience, you will see yourself making progress. Read as much as you can. Try to find Brazilians who have time to talk to you. I would also suggest learning about and even getting involved in things that are uniquely Brazilian like the music, Carnaval, cook-outs and soccer. Keep up on current events and even read about Brazilian history, which is fascinating, to say the least. I enjoyed discovering the parallels between American and Brazilian history which include the Indians, exploration, settlement, colonial period, independence and a wild frontier.
What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in Sao Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
I like to take the bus or metro and just walk around different neighborhoods. It takes quite a while to get a handle on this enormous city. I would recommend that you take advantage of the many cultural activities, art exhibits, sporting events etc. Watching a soccer game at Morumbi is a trip! Cristina and I walked with 6000 others last Sunday in a Cancer Prevention 5k walk near the Ibirapuera Park. People in any big city appear to be indifferent but my experience is that any time you approach people for directions or help, they are friendly and willing to take the time to talk to you.
Comments can be sent to Bob at email@example.com
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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
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