June 19, 2012

Meet Melanie Mitrano who visited Brazil very recently. 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’m a singer/songwriter and music teacher. I live in New Jersey, just outside New York City. I started singing Brazilian Jazz some years ago, then started singing Portuguese Fado, also. I compose and perform my own songs in both English and Portuguese.

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

I visited Brazil for the first time this past April. My husband and I spent about 12 days, splitting our time between Rio and São Paulo. I have friends in both cities, and they were so kind and gracious, taking us places and doing lots of things with us.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Since my Portuguese is very proficient, I had no trouble speaking or understanding the language in Brazil. When the plane landed and the pilot said Seja bem-vindo ao Brasil,” I burst into tears like a baby! It had been my dream to be in Brazil for so long, I couldn’t believe I was finally there. We landed in Rio, so my first impressions were sensory: the warmth, the humid air, the lush greenery, palm trees, the sound of the language I love being all around me.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I missed all my appliances working normally! I had a terrible time with all my electronic appliances. Even though I had converters with me, they didn’t always work, and some of my things got “fried” from the high wattage used in Brazil.

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

My hair looked awful in Brazil! I have curly hair and I can easily keep it looking nice here at home, but in Brazil, nothing worked! I had forgotten to bring hair clips or even bobby pins with me, so I really ended up looking like a crazy woman sometimes!

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

The day I celebrated my two-year anniversary of studying Portuguese, we went to Cristo Redentor. It was April 15th, which I never forget because it’s tax day here in the USA. I stood beneath that famous statue which had always been only a dream before, a place seen in photographs… I cannot describe the feeling I had. It was overwhelming.

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

The people! I love Brazilians! They are so warm, so kind, so generous. I loved being able to talk to just anybody on the street, and they were always surprised and very appreciative to find an American speaking Portuguese. One man even told me with tears in his eyes, that he had never felt so proud, seeing that an American would so love his country, his language, and his culture, as to learn Portuguese.

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

One night, we went to a bar in São Paulo called Bar do Alemão. My friend had arranged for me to sing with his cousin, who plays guitar regularly at the bar. I sang about 6 songs in Portuguese and 3 in English – I had the best time ever!

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

My husband was a good sport the whole time because he doesn’t speak any Portuguese. We had this agreement to just let me do the talking when necessary. One night, strolling around São Paulo, we decided to get an ice cream cone. The lady explained to me that they didn’t have cones and asked if I minded having the ice cream in a cup (“copo”). Well, my husband thought she said “coffee,” and started putting up a fuss, saying, “No! I wanted ice cream, not coffee!” It was so embarrassing and I had to tell him to be quiet!

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

The prices! Everything in Brazil costs about double what it would here in the USA. That goes even for food and basic necessities, to shoes and clothing, and definitely luxury items.

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’m nearly fluent in Portuguese by now, but still have a lot to learn. Some of the accents in São Paulo were hard for me to understand, a problem I didn’t have in Rio. No one took for me an American, although they could tell I was a foreigner, most people asked if I was Argentinean, so I took that as a compliment! Although I have to admit, I still have to think carefully about where to put the accent on the word “coco” (coconut) when ordering drinks or desserts. (First syllable, not the last, which alters the meaning of the word in a very bad way!)

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

Try to learn some basic Portuguese before you go. It will be so appreciated and you will definitely have a much better time in the country.

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

Go to the Museu da Lngua Portuguesa! It’s now one of my favorite places in the world. If you speak some Portuguese, you will love it; if you don’t, you will learn a lot – it is a language of unparalleled beauty.

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

Jennifer Souza – USA
Bill Holloway – USA
Pieter Kommerij – Netherlands
Robyn and Willem Van Der Merwe – South Africa
Danielle Carner – USA
Jaya Green – USA
Andrew Dreffen – Australia
Marcus Lockwood – New Zealand
Jonathan Russell – USA
Jeff Eddington – USA
Rod Saunders – USA
Ken Van Zyl – South Africa
Angus Graham – UK
Anne Morddel – USA
Jessica Mullins – Switzerland
Evan Soroka – USA
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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