Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Meet Jessie Simon, who is from the USA, and came to Brazil with her fiance to start a kiteboarding company. Read the following interview where she tells us about her most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?
My name is Jessie Simon and I'm from New York City. My fiance David and I have just recently moved to Fortaleza in August of this year. We started a kiteboarding company called Kite Adventures (http://www.kiteadventures.com) that specializes in guided kiteboarding tours around the northeast of Brazil. Our Brazilian partner Alberto is from Rio and personally handles these kitesurfaris. We work with various vendors and hotels producing a unique experience for our kiteboarding clients. I spend my time building the business and working with clients, while Dave telecommutes to his internet company in New York City.
When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
We came here August of 2005 in hopes of the greatest wind in the world for our company, which we have found in this region.
What were you first impressions of Brazil?
I thought Fortaleza, the city itself was going to be more beautiful. There are a lot of big buildings going up and this takes away from the natural beach life. The beaches and coastline are quite amazing, as well at Jericoacoara which is my favorite place in Brazil. I knew it was going to be third world in a lot of ways, but what I didn't expect was to be so culturally enriched by the locals, cuisine and way of life within the first month.
What do you miss most about home?
There are a few things I do miss about home - those are decent sponges, dish soap, M&Ms, normal cheap laundry and a good nail place. However, nothing beats the weather and beach life...
What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
Sometimes the language becomes frustrating because you're having a conversation with a Brazilian and neither one of you has any idea what the other is talking about. You'll sit there trying to motion out the words with your hands, it's quite an experience. As soon as that happens, I figure out what words I was searching for and look them up immediately so it doesn't happen again.
What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
My most memorable experience was driving up the coast to Jericoacoara on the beach by 4x4. As we drove, all we could see was sand, water and dunes, not a soul in sight - We took our truck on a raft over the rivermouth and it was just an incredible experience. There are no words to describe how I felt in this pristine moment in time. I have quite a luxury life that my work includes this.
What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
I like that there aren't rules like those of America. Kids run around freely and their parents don't seem to mind. It's not that they don't care, it's more of a trust issue. The kids will return from playing when they're ready. I also enjoy driving on the beach - another thing you wouldn't be caught doing at home. There's a lot less concern for what people are doing, it's enjoyable to let go.
What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
In Fortaleza I enjoy the mercado at night - there a ton of vendors in the market selling hammocks or handmade items. I also like the Lounge Bar in Praia do Futuro, it reminds me of clubs in New York City. Everything is outside here so it's very liberating.
Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
We were up in Jericoacoara and the waitress was taking my drink order, so I asked for a Margarita com sal (Margarita with salt, it was on the menu under drinks) and she went around the table to take the rest of the orders. I had just finished giving her my pizza order moments later, and a huge pizza stops at our table. I tell her that we didn't order this, she's insisting I did, but she had just taken my pizza order so I was really confused.
After 5 minutes another waitress came over who spoke English and took our order again - I asked her what had happened. Turns out the pizza that was brought to our table was a margarita pizza - the girl who took my order thought I meant the margarita pizza not the drink. The funniest part of the story comes the following day when we had run into the English speaking waitress and she told me that no one could eat the pizza because there was so much salt on it!!!
We also have a pool next door that specializes in synchronized swimming - each day without fail Disney tunes come on a loud speaker and we watch 7-10 women start their routine. It's hilarious!
What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
The carefree way of life. In NY everyone is bustling at all times, there is never time to stop and just "be." I enjoy the daily routine of coconuts, hammocks and beach life. Going back to NY will definitely be hard. People also are very interested in foreign looking people - I look somewhat Brazilian, but my fiance does not so when we go out people tend to stare.
Also, the service industry is very cheap. You can get a maid here for 6 hours for R$15 (about $6 USD) at home, you're lucky if you find someone to actually clean for about $80. She also cooks, does the laundry and cleans the entire apartment. We also have a guy who washes the car inside and out for R$5 ($2 USD). I'm not used to having this kind of help, but for the price you can't beat it.
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?
We finally know the word for change - trocar. We kept saying cambio which is a change machine and means change in spanish. It's definitely a different language. We are doing Pimsleur CDs daily and try to get out to use Portuguese, otherwise it's a waste of time just spending the days with each other and not using the language.
What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
What you are going to see in Brazil is probably not what you expect. Bring an open mind and don't try to control situations. You have to let go a bit and become carefree, leave your baggage at home and only bring a few shorts and bikinis ;)
What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in Sao Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
I would recommend coming north, it's not something you'd normally do because of Brazil's many famous southern cities, but the northeast coast is truly amazing. Jericoacoara is one of the magical places of the world, you won't experience anything like this anywhere. Take advantage of the dune buggy rides and stroll among the 5 sanded streets. There are tiny fishing villages on the beaches that are only accessible by 4x4 trucks. Go out of the ordinary and visit these places, integrate with the people and enjoy the food!
To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
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
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