March 28, 2008

Meet Brent Gregory from the USA who has lived in Brazil for 4 years. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his 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 am a Hoosier by birth (Indiana) and spent most of my life in the midwest US. I live in Castanhal, Par with my wife Connie and our sons Micah and David. We are a missionary family working with Project AmaZon or PAZ. Prior to coming to Brazil I worked almost 20 years in public water. Currently I assist our mission with church planting, construction projects, support of visiting teams, communications, and general administrative support.

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

We moved to Brazil in September of 2004. We had made a couple of visits before, had fallen in love with the Brazilians and become very impressed with the work that PAZ was doing. For many years my wife and I had had a great interest in missions and in Brazil. Through some amazing turns of events we began to sense an open door to a career in missions, we pursued it, and here we are.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Hot! Moldy. Rather squalid. Lush. Green. Warm (people). Relaxed.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Good roads, good road signs and maps. Convenience and efficiency. Winter. A wide variety of food and restaurant options. Our friends and family there.

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

Becoming an idiot overnight. I like to think I was a fairly competent person in the States, knew how to get things done. When I first got to Brazil I knew nearly zero Portugus, and didn’t know how to do anything. When you don’t know how to do something, and you can’t ask how either, that’s pretty frustrating. Multiply by months. Aside from that is the maddening bureaucracy and inefficient processes.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

I have had a lot of great experiences in Brazil so it is hard to choose. One that stands out is when we visited in 1998. We were in Santarm do Par, where PAZ has its headquarters. We went on a boat trip up the Amazon to do medical and dental work and evangelism. It was a great experience seeing the work and getting to know the people and how they lived. A real highlight was our return to Santarm in a small plane, seeing the Amazon River from just a few hundred feet up.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

The people of course. We find them to be very warm and welcoming, fun-loving, and good humored.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

I like any corner joint that serves peixie assado na brasa, also any good churrascaria. We live near the Atlantic coast and a favorite overnight spot for the family is Salinas. There is a very nice hotel there and some great beaches.

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

Lots! In my first full-blown sermon in Portuguese I spoiled a very poignant moment by referring to my beautiful “marida” (most thought I had said “husband”). I have a friend on the river who barely has a pot to cook in but spends R$30 for a toothbrush because it “gives my teeth much comfort”. Another river friend got the idea to buy a car battery and an AC converter to run some household items, plus a battery recharger so he could have a source of perpetual energy. Didn’t work.

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

The standard of living and average income. The Brazilians are very hard working, but the one or two minimum salaries that many bring home is pitifully small. We know many people, and can drive by thousands of homes of those who have very little in the way of material possessions.

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?

I am slowly getting over my vir/ver mental block. I enjoy learning and using Portugus, but I know my use of subjunctives is still spotty. The most frustrating thing for me is to be rolling along in “p-geez” and suddenly hit a road block in a simple noun or verb that I just don’t know yet. For pronunciation, the “tr” combination still makes my tongue feel pretty thick (ex. treinar, trilho).

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

Leave your stuffiness behind. The Brazilians are very social, gregarious and interactive. You need to charge in there and be friendly, talkative. It goes against the grain for a lot of us “frio” norteamericanos.

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

I don’t know São Paulo yet, there are tons of places in Brazil I want to see. To give two ends of the spectrum, I would recommend that everyone 1) take a several-day trip by lineboat on the Amazon River (once may be enough) and 2) visit Fernando de Noronha. My wife liked it better than Hawaii.

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 gringoes@www.gringoes.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:

R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
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

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