December 1, 2009

Meet Evan Soroka who first visited Brazil 8 years ago, and recently moved. Read the following interview in which she tells us about some of her most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Aspen, Colorado. From a very early age I knew that I did not feel at home in the US. I graduated from the University of Colorado in Anthropology and Spanish/Portuguese Language and Literature.

I have started a concierge business in Florianópolis for tourists. We are Help Me! Floripa.

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

I arrived in Brazil for the first time when I was sixteen and I lived in Mato Grosso for a year on Rotary Exchange. Since then it has been an 8-year love affair. After graduating from college, I lived and worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina for two years, but my love and loyalty to Brazil brought me back about 6 months ago.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

The sounds, the smells, the tastes, the sights. It was new and vibrant.

4. What do you miss most about home?

That is easy… I miss our cheeseburgers. It is the first thing I have to get when I go home for a visit. I miss Colorado summers, my family, and friends.

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

There have been a lot of frustrating experiences, but I would have to say that starting my own business has been very frustrating. People think that as I am American female I am automatically rich and stupid and that they can walk all over me. I have had so many experiences where I trusted people but they were just using me for their own benefit. It frustrates me as I look and feel Brazilian, I speak perfectly, but no matter how hard I try, I will always be a gringa. It had been a wonderful learning experience and I am getting better everyday.

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

My most memorable experience was when I was on exchange in Brazil in 2001 in Mato Grosso. I lived with a wealthier family who did a lot of community service work. I remember going with my host mother to a small favela outside of our town. We went to see a woman, or girl rather, who was the same age as me and she had two children and lived in a concrete box. She was happy. She had nothing by western standards, but she had everything; happiness. Maybe it was an external impression, I am sure she suffered in her poverty, but she was truly happy. She danced and sang and spoke with me with such patience. This moment marked me drastically as I realized that material gains do not equate happiness; something that one does not realize growing up in Aspen.

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

What I most like about Brazil, is what I dislike as well. It is the bureaucracy, it is the lateness of things getting done, it is the total mess and disorganization, it is the don’t worry about it so much, because it will all work out somehow someway attitude. I am trying to find a happy balance between my North American get-it-done attitude and the Brazilian Laissez-faire outlook on life. To me this is the ideal way to live.

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

I love Florianópolis, why anyone would want to be in Rio or São Paulo is beyond my comprehension. I like to hang out all over this island on its trails and its little fishermen’s villages. My favorite place is the community of Costa da Lagoa that is only accessible by boat or trail. I love to do the hike, and then order an Antartica Original and a grilled fish.

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

Man, there are so many, I don’t even know where to begin. Mostly just simply messing up my Portuguese when I was learning. I used to say that I needed to drink (tomar) pee (xixi) when I had to go to the bathroom rather than (fazer)… and no one told me. They would just laugh.

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

The sense of community is very different. I think that in the States we have more of a get it done attitude. I think that in Brazil it is easy to get people together to have some cold beers, but it is very hard to get people together to make a change in the system. People would rather just accept that things are wrong rather than stepping up and fighting for change. It is a complacent laziness that I find hard to comprehend. On the other side of things, people are warmer here, more receptive, and more willing to give you the time of day. This is what I like most about living in Brazil. 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?

I am proud to say that my Portuguese is basically perfect, but it did not come easily. It is my talent and I have a very good ear. I am fluent in Spanish as well and I have been speaking Portuguese for 8 years, 2 of which in a consulting firm in Buenos Aires in the Brazil department. So I had to learn fast. I still find it hard to say words like melhor, or trabalho… anything with lh comes out funny sometimes and my friends make fun of me, but that is ok, because I am a gringa.

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

Be careful and keep your eyes open at all times. It may seem like everyone is your friend but there are a lot of messed up things here and bad people. Don’t get obliterated at the bar, because you are asking for trouble.

Learn the language. Wherever you go, bring a dictionary and try to learn to communicate well. The best thing about Brazil is its people. Once you can speak well a whole world of possibilities opens up to you.

Travel to the lesser known places in Brazil. The small towns are magical.

Enjoy the nature, go on a lot of hikes, and respect the environment.

Don’t let the frustrating things get you down. Look for the beauty in it.

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

As I said before I don’t know why anyone would want to go to São Paulo unless they work in big business or have a friend there who knows it well and can take you around. Or if you just love to be stuck in traffic for 7 hours.

On the other hand, Florianópolis is magical. It is close to Rio and São Paulo by airplane. I came here for the first time when I was 16, and I knew it was home. It is safe, beautiful, laid back and it has everything that one can want in a vacation. Sports, beaches, outdoors, nightlife and beautiful people

I recommend getting in touch with me at evan@helpmefloripa.com and checking out our webpage Mary de Camargo – USA
Brendan Fryer – UK
Aaron Sundquist – USA
Jay Bauman – USA
Alan Williams – USA
Derek Booth – UK
Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
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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