Meet Jonathan Abernathy, who has moved from the USA, and spent a few weeks acclimatising to Brazil in Curitiba. Unfortunately technology defeated us and we had problems getting a photo of Jonathan, hence we just have a shadow. If this is resolved we’ll add the photo at a later date. Read the following interview where he tells us about 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.?

Well, they call me Jonathan Abernathy. Im 27, and from the cold mountains of Pennsylvania. What I do here is nothing, and what I did in the States is nothing worth mentioning. But, I guess what I am here to do is to travel, relax, and and live a life I can be proud of and at peace with.

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

I arrived in Curitiba about 5 weeks ago, and Im glad to say it’s the best decision Ive ever made. I dont really know what brought me here; I have a million reasons, I suppose, none of which are very good. But, if I had to pick one, it would be for Passa Tempo cookies. Man, those little suckers are good! A Brazilian friend introduced me to them in Boston, and, since that day, I knew I would have to be part of the magical place from which they originate. (If there are any English teachers reading this, please let me know if that was a run-on…).

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Since Ive only been here little more than a month, I guess this is all first impression sort of stuff. But, Brazil is beautiful! I could write volumes if it were possible to find the words. In short, it is the place and life Ive been looking for. And, while I guarantee it’s not for everyone, and perhaps not for most people, I was only one plane ride away from turning sleepless nights into dreamy days.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Oh, there’s too much to list!!!! I miss the sea of SUV’s in the Mal-Mart parking lots, as well as the litter spewing from them. I miss TV. I miss the diluted news thats only interruption is a string of commercials telling me to take 40 pills with 80 different side effects so that I may temporarily be relieved of a threatening new disease that 8 years ago was heartburn. I miss W/04 stickers, and I miss being a sinner and a terrorist for believing in the D” word (democracy…shhhhh). But, most of all, I miss my desk, phone, and filing cabinets. What, oh what, was I thinking??? Ok, enough :). For real, I do miss my friends and family, and wish they could be here to help pull the trigger on whatever this jet fuel liquor is with me. I miss the farmhouse, and look forward to seeing it again, but not for a very, very long time (when I return Ill probably have an AARP magazine waiting in the mailbox). I miss Charlie the Dog, who is never really sure that he is, in fact, a dog. And, I do kind of miss being able to order food without people looking at me like a Griffin smokin a Carlton just walked into their cafe. But, who’s got time to learn Portuguese when there’s phones to answer and important meetings to attend?

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

Im happy to say that nothing has really been frustrating. Well, not frustrating as I know frustration. I mean, trying to obtain a CPF with no Portuguese was more terrifying than frustrating, but it worked. And while some things are certainly difficult, I find great joy in having every task as a new adventure. You learn a lot about yourself in these situations. You find out what youre capable of doing for what you need, and how far youre willing to go for what you want. It’s absolutely exhilarating. Of course, Ive had mixed results. There have been several instances of flapping my arms at my sides and questioning “bock bock?” in public to make sure what I was eating was chicken (I just aint down with feijoada). Also, the toilet paper thing is a little weird. 27 years of wipe-and-drop and pronouncing R’s are hard habits to break, and Ive spent more time fishing things out the can than Id care to recount. And, I cant help but giggle when someone asks me if I like the Holling Stones. I gladly reply “sim”, which is one of the 10 words I know. I landed with the language capability of “please”, “thank you”, “where bathroom”, and “got a light?”. And, much thanks to my exquisite Portuguese book, it was spoken like a woman from Portugal. You see, my friends, any of you thinking of coming here will be faced with a very, very important decision that will certainly seem inconsequential at the time. And, trust me, this will happen. Youll be at the book store, and see the $30.00 coursebook, dictionary, and CD’s. Youll also see the $120.00 version. You may be in a hurry, and think, “oh, what could the difference really be?” Do not suffer the same fate as I. But, that’s my own fault and not Brazil’s, which has been nothing but delightful. Although I do despise milk in a bag.

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

Undoubtedly a tiny town somewhere in Santa Catarina, where I was lucky enough to be. Guys my realtors took me deep sea fishing, and they are a wonderful bunch of fellows (aint nothinlike the Pocono crew, though: 06 will be a good year, gentlemen…), who not only tolerate but seemingly enjoy the endless games of charades and pictionary that are my communication skills. Anyway, the ocean is a beautiful thing, much different that Jersey, and I felt as if I was sailing with Cabral himself. And, although I caught nada (one of the guys was kind enough to let me reel one of his in, and I tried to look proud for the picture), it was an amazing experience. On shore were people and lifestyles I did not think still existed anymore, and the entire weekend was like being the main character in a Hemingway tale. This was little more than a fishing village on the coast, and many of the streets were sand. They fished, prepared, and ate everything together. The houses werent much, but were the most beautiful dwellings I have ever seen. However, what struck me the most was there was no poverty here, only simplicity. If you didnt have a fish, your neighbor would catch one for you. But, if you were looking for soap, you were out of luck because some gringo used it all removing the smell of sea eel. It was the best day of my life, and Im thankful to have known that as it was happening. But, now every day has the potential to be the best of my life, and waking up knowing that is certainly worth dealing with the inherent complications of extracting milk from a bag.

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

The people, definitely the people. They have been kind, helpful, and generous. From an American point of view, it is refreshing and inspiring. Music is in the streets and love is in the air! I feel safer here than I ever did in US cities, although I must say the driving is more ruthless than the chainsaw scene in Scarface (maybe it’s a frustration thing). You dont have 15 meat heads staring you down when you walk into a bar, and there’s a lot more laughter about than Im generally used to. It seems many take pride in being good people (although I totally got ripped on a shoe shine, but there was two of them, one of me, and I know when to quit arguing – great shine, though), and it reminds me of home when I was growing up. Well, plus a whole lot of really hot girls. Obrigado, Cabral.

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

Well, I havent been here long enough to have a favorite place to hang out, but anywhere that has Coxhinas is ok by me.

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

I could write a paperback every time I leave my door, but any of the “bock bock” incidents certainly top the list.

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

It’s everything. It’s the beauty and the poverty, the love and desperation. Ive rarely witnessed such a spectrum of human circumstances, but never seen them exist in such comfort and peace. I guess the biggest difference could only be verbally quantified as “the feeling.”

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?

Portuguese? Oh, you mean that bumbling mumbo I painfully exact on all those I encounter? Yeah, it’s bad. Im not trying to be a clown, I really dont falo $h#t. I can conduct my basic daily routine, but only by pointing to the items I require. I try to blend in, but really make an absolute spectacle of myself wherever I go. I have an intensive class starting in January, which I am greatly looking forward to. Until then, “ummmm…” is my only conjunction, as well as most verbs and nouns.

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

Just be cool. This is a wonderful place, and a smile and a kind gesture go a long way. If we remember that were just guests, it seems we can quickly become family. And, for God’s sake, spring for the $120.00 book.

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

Well, I havent been to São Paulo yet, but Im greatly looking forward to a trip very soon. But, in Curitiba, I would recommend visiting the zoo (the pelican and I are homeboys), going to any of the various museums and galleries, and trying to find a gum wrapper on the streets. This place is so clean Im almost uncomfortable. But, for any visitor to anywhere in Brazil, the most sincere advice I have is just to enjoy it. Be cool, hang out, love yourself and your surroundings. Appreciate the time you have, and know that every day may be the best day of your life.

Are you a foreigner living in Brazil, or 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, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to gringoes@www.gringoes.com

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

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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