October 10, 2008

Meet Joel Barsky who recently moved to Brazil from New York city. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his 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.?

My name is Joel Barsky. I am from New York city, and I am an English teacher. I’ve been a high school and middle school teacher and a limo driver in New York. I lived in NYC for the past 40 years before moving to Brazil.

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

I arrived in Brazil this past June 26. While I have been here about 5 times before, I came this time with the intention of creating a life for myself. I have two boys, Marcio, 9, and Evan, 7, who live in Rio das Ostras, with their mother. They were both born in New York, and around 4 years ago moved here with their mom. They visited me in NY and I visited them here many times since, but this time I decided to stay, be close to them every day, and see if I could create something good for myself. I am teaching private English classes at the moment, and I am also going to teach English at some of the oil companies in Macae.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

I first came to Brazil in 1994 when my ex-wife was my girlfriend. We stayed in Copacobana for about two weeks, traveled around Rio, and I was blown away by the favellas, the wealth and poverty living so close to each other. In the states, there is plenty of poverty, but we tend to segregate it, hide it from the center. But in Rio, I couldn’t believe how prevalent it was so close to everything. I couldn’t get over the degree of the poverty. I also had never felt heat so hot in my life!

4. What do you miss most about home?

I miss the diversity of food and people of New York City. In Rio das Ostras, it’s barbeque, barbeque, barbecue and pizza, and beer, and while it all tastes good, that’s all there is here. I miss going downstairs from my building to the Chinese restaurant, or Italian, or Mexican, or just to the burger joint. So many things to choose from. Also, I miss the diversity of people that live in New York.

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

The most frustrating experience for me has been the lack of work ethic here. I mean, people like to eat and drink and go to the beach, but when it comes to studying, reading and following through, it’s kind of lax. I’ve also had two good job offers, but neither of them have given me a start date, so I’m waiting and wondering what to do.

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

Not answered.

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

I like the people of Brazil. They are just nice people. And polite, and they don’t eat any food with their hands or fingers. In restaurants, stores, cafes, anywhere you go, people here are nice and happy to serve you with a smile, no clich intended. It’s a pleasant change from New York City, where you are lucky if anyone in a shop even makes eye contact with you.

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

I have three favorite restaurants in three cities. In Rio, it is Galeto de Tres Amores, (I think that’s the name) in Copa, In São Paolo, it is Andrade, food from the northeast, the best food I have eaten in Brazil, and in Rio das Ostras, my favorite restaurant is Mundi, in Costa Azul.

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

Funny Story: A few years ago I was driving from Rio das Ostras to Buzios, to play golf. I got stopped at the police road block, I didn’t have any driving papers, and the cop comes over and asks for my license. I give it to him, he sees that I am American and starts to ask me why Mike Tyson bit off Holyfield’s ear. I couldn’t believe MY ears, here was this Brazilian cop asking me this! Then, without further ado, he asked me for some Reals so he and the boys could have some beer. I took this as an easy way out of there, and gave him 20 Reals and went on my way.

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

The biggest difference that I see between Brazil and the US/New York is the pace of things. Here, there is no urgency, no sense that something HAS to get done. It will get done when it gets done and there is no stressing over it. Up there, there is always a sense of urgency about things; there are deadlines and commitments that have to be met otherwise there will be consequences. I haven’t yet seen a deadline here.

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?

My Portuguese is coming along. I just got a tutor last week to get my irregular verbs and subjunctive tense in order. I struggle with pronouncing the following words: conhecer and longo, or longi. I don’t know why, just have a hard time with them. I speak Spanish and some Italian so the transition to Portuguese hasn’t been too difficult.

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

To newcomers, I would say, be patient and enjoy what there is here for what it is. Brazil is a beautiful country with great people and great food and great weather. But don’t expect to be coming to a place where hard work is part of the culture. Also, travel around the country if you can. It is an absolutely amazing place! Every region has its own distinct taste and culture, but it’s all Brazilian.

You can contact Joel via: atmarevan@hotmail.com

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:

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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