Many of my ISA co-bloggers are describing how their last few weeks in their respective programs are going and are listing the things that they’ll miss most about their new homes away from home. My time in Brazil is far from over; I’m here for another 3 months. While I am sure that most of my friends heading back home to the U.S. will miss their home abroad, they must be excited to be back in the States. This made me think about what I miss about home, specifically the things I cannot do and the people I cannot see here in Brazil. Read more
Posts from the ‘Florianópolis’ Category
The word paradise translates to “paraíso” in Portuguese. It is defined as “heaven, the final abode of the righteous” or “a place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness.” From my experiences so far, my definition of paradise would only be one word: Florianópolis. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this city is paradise. Whenever I meet locals I always tell them “Voces morem no paraíso,” which means “You all live in paradise,” just to remind them how beautiful this place they call home really is. Some people here, though they take full advantage of such natural beauty, don’t know what it’s like elsewhere. And to be frank, why would they want to?
If there’s been one thing I’ve noticed here in Brazil, it’s that things are MUCH more relaxed down here. Living in the States, punctuality is encouraged and instilled in our minds as much as our ABC’s. To be late or to do tasks in a relaxed manner is not the way to be back home. However, things in Brazil work a bit differently. Brazilians need a day off, and every single Sunday almost the entire city of Florianopolis shuts down. Supermarkets, gyms, restaurants, barbershops and even convenience stores all close on Sundays and sometimes for the whole weekend. You might be able to get lunch at a few restaurants on Saturday but come Sunday, everything is closed.
To say that last night was one of the most fun evenings of my life does not express how great last night’s festivities were. A little bit about myself; I live for food. I believe that the best way to learn about a culture is to spend time with its people and to indulge in their culinary creations. So when my host family told me that we were going to have a BBQ, filled with a wide array of meats and poultry, I was excited.
When given the prompt, “describe how your first few days in your host country has been”, I laughed out loud at the idea of summing up my experiences in words. The past four days have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and unless you are here with me in this amazing city then you cannot understand the plethora of shocks, not only cultural I’ve experienced. Here’s my best attempt:
As I relax on my memory foam mattress, methodically checking Facebook and Instagram almost every five minutes, I wonder: what the hell am I doing? I see all my friends back at college posting their obligatory statuses about how crazy last night’s party was or how ridiculously swamped they are with Chem 420; I actually feel a sense of jealousy!
On Sunday, October 28, several cities in Brazil held elections for mayor. While in the United States (US), voter turn-out for any public office outside the office of the presidency receives very little news coverage or participation, this is not the case in Brazil. However, contrary to the US, in Brazil voting is compulsory. For the past two months I have watched the process unfold leading up to the culmination of “the day,” that is, Election Day.
1. The Hot Dogs. The people here in Florianópolis love hot dogs. When I lived with my host family, it was common to see a cachorro quente cut up in a prepared salad or pasta dish. Even around town, it is common to see popular outside restaurants or stands that solely sell grilled hot dogs and drinks. What make the hot dog so popular is the toppings. Unlike in the U.S., where the typical hot dog is topped with mustard, ketchup and relish, the toppings here include things like peas, corn, dried potatoes that resemble those things typically used in the US on a green bean salad, fried onions, cheese and a type of pickled peppers. The bread resembles a cross between the typical hot dog and hamburger buns. The bun is grilled as well. It is actually a hearty and tasty sandwich. In the picture above, somewhere, underneath all that stuff is a hot dog.
2. Restaurant Hours. In the US, if a person is hungry, that person will find a restaurant open somewhere to satisfy that hunger regardless of the time. Here in Florianópolis, that is not the case. All restaurants do not open for lunch and dinner. Some restaurants open only for lunch and some open only for dinner. Restaurants open for lunch from 11:30 to approximately 3:00, and restaurants open for dinner around 6:30 p.m. and close around 11:30 or so. If a person becomes hungry between the end of lunch and the beginning of dinner, there are several small restaurants where people can buy a natural juice drink and have a small “pastel,” which is usually filled with cheese, chicken or beef.
3. Having a microwave is a privilege. I recently moved into my own apartment and decided that I wanted the convenience of a microwave. After all, in the U.S., the microwave is as much a part of kitchenware as eating utensils. To my surprise, the smallest microwave that would cost $50 in the US that can easily be picked up in Wal-Mart, Target or the General Dollar Store, cost here in Brazil about $150. Well, I’ve learned that warming up leftovers in the oven is actually not that bad.
4. Having a clothes dryer is a luxury. It actually gets cold here in Florianópolis. Without a clothes dryer, it can take clothes up to three days to dry using the old method of hanging clothes outdoors on the clothes line if it’s not raining or indoors on a “rack” if it is cold. When I lived with my host family, the home had a washer. Washers here are small and typically take about 2 hours to wash a load of clothes regardless of the batch size. There are no laundry mats similar to what is common in the US. Most laundry is washed by hand or sent out to a lavaria. A lavaria is similar to our dry cleaners except they wash everything from underwear to bedding to dry cleaning. The cost is based on weight for general daily wear, towels and bedding. Other items that require special care are priced on a per item basis.
5. You can count on one or two institutions being on “strike” every month. In the short time that I have been here, four institutions have been on strike or are currently on strike. The first strike involved the federal universities and the federal police. Both were critical because the strike involving the federal universities prevented undergraduate students from returning to school on time, and without the federal police working, the streets were unsafe in some of the most dangerous cities in Brazil, such as Rio de Janiero and São Paulo. Currently the banks and the post offices are on strike.
6. Weekends are for partying, relaxing, going to the beach and enjoying family and friends. This is a wonderful thing, but I have struggled with it, as have probably many Americans that have spent a great deal of time in Brazil. As Americans, we are accustomed to consistently working on something. On the weekends, I have consistently looked for a library or quiet place to study or read, to no avail. The public library does not open on the weekends and UNISUL library (the university that I am attending) is open from 8:00-12:00 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. The library at UFSC, the local federal university, is open until 5:00 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
7. The wash cloth or “face towel” is not typically used here in Brazil by adults. What is referred to in the U.S. as the “hand towel” is actually the “face towel” here in Brazil. This is true, even in hotels. The rooms have hand towels and the regular towels used to dry the body, but they never have the small towels typically used in the US to wash the body. Even in stores where towels are sold, it is difficult to find the small wash cloths. To find a towel small enough to be used to wash the body, I have had to go to the section of the store that sells baby items.
8. The Marcado Publico. Drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages in public, at various times throughout the day, is very much a part of the culture here in Florianópolis. Tables and chairs are setup in the Marcado Publico (the public market) for this purpose beginning at the lunch period and continuing until about 7:00 p.m., when the public market closes. The legal drinking age in Brazil is 18. It is not uncommon to see persons walking the street or standing in the supermarket drinking a beer.
9. Under no circumstance should toilet tissue be thrown in the toilet. It is thrown in the waste paper basket. This was weird at first, but I guess if you do anything over a period of time, you simply get use to it.
10. Voting is mandatory. In Brazil, voting is an obligation. Failure to vote will affect everything attached to the use of the individual’s social security number. There are pros and cons attached to this obligation. In some regions, there are some politicians that hold a lot of power over workers. Because of this power over the workers, the politicians can demand their votes and remain in office.
The people of Florianopolis have the privilege of living on what many believe to be a “magical island.” Like any island, the city is surrounded by water. The area covers approximately 271 miles and, depending on the source, boast of anywhere between 42 to 100 beaches. Regardless of which source is correct, there is no disputing that Florianopolis has a lot of beaches. It is no wonder that people are obsessed with them. I must confess that I have visited a few in the short time that I have been here and have enjoyed each experience. There is a magical feel when you’re walking on the soft sand, frolicking in the cool water, listening to the groove of the waves as they roll in, or lazily watching the surfers or pescadors (fishermen) demonstrate their skills. However, there is so much more to see and do in Florianopolis.
If you like history, you do not want to miss the quaint little city of San Antonio de Lisboa or the Fortress. The history of San Antonio de Lisboa dates back to 1698 when the first land grant was issued. In San Antonio, you will see the first paved street in Florianopolis and the preservation of Portuguese homes and culture. The Fortress was constructed in 1765. In addition to viewing all the components of the fortress where the soldiers and officers lived, worshiped and worked to defend the area, you will be treated with the most amazing view of the ocean. Of course, for those who still prefer to go to the beach, you will find at least one in both places.
Similar to the people of European and African descent, there is an element of indigenous people fighting to hold on to their language, culture and land. Typically, trips to the reservation are organized as an ISA class field trip. During my trip to the reservation, it was interesting to see that while the children attend school and are taught Portuguese, many of the young children, under the age of ten, only speak their indigenous language. While the Brazilian government supports the school, the structure and curriculum for the children in school does not conform to the same standard as other Brazilian schools. The structure and curriculum of the school on the reservation center around the custom and culture of the Indigenous people.
For those who feel that the ocean is simply way too much water to drink and surfing is not your thing, try ”sand surfing.” It’s probably more appropriate to call it “sand skiing.” Even if you decide not to ski the sand, seeing the extremely large sand dunes is an amazing treat. Also, surfing on the sand dunes is fun and safe. I didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to hop on a board and go sailing down the sandy slopes. Finally, don’t forget to take notice of the beautiful flowers that seem to grow on trees all around the island and the fruit trees.
Since I have been in country now for two full weeks and I have spent almost the same amount of time attending classes through the ISA program, it seems appropriate at this time to discuss the ISA program here in Florianopolis from orientation to classes to excursions.
The overall organization of the program and the professionalism of the staff have made my transition virtually pain-free. Upon arrival in country, the staff took great care in ensuring that all the students were picked up at the airport and transported to the hotel where we stayed for the night. The scheduled orientation sessions and meetings were extremely helpful in acclimating us to the area and explaining important cultural differences to aid in our transition.
While classes here are different than the typical classes I’ve taken in the US, I am enjoying them very much. In a short period of time I have learned a lot. I credit the rate of my learning to the significantly smaller class size and the emphasis of cultural immersion. The professors use many different techniques to deliver their materials. For example, in my cultural lab class the professor uses music, movies, guest presenters with specialties in the areas of study, and class trips. In my beginner’s Portuguese class, the professor uses various games and hands-on exercises to reiterate the material covered in the textbook.
Through one of our planned excursions, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Blumenau. For the state of Santa Catarina, which is where Florianopolis is located, Blumenau is among the top three economically viable cities in the state. There we visited the Crystal Museum, where we were able to see how crystal is made. Afterwards, we walked around Blumenau to see some houses and the famous river that brought the immigrants. During that walk, we visited the house that belonged to the founder of the city. We had lunch at a restaurant called Saint Peter. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet. The price was very reasonable and the variety of food, desserts and juices were wonderful. After lunch, we toured the award winning Eisenbahn Brewery where we learned how they make their famous beer and we were given a free sample of their draft beer. The last stop on our excursion was to the pavilion where the city holds its Oktoberfest. Many of the inhabitants of Blumenau are of German descent and it is clear from the look of the city that they have held onto their German heritage. The size of the Oktoberfest held in Blumenau is second only to the one held in Germany.