Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Now that I have been back for over a month, I have had a chance to take a breath and to look back on my amazing adventure in Brazil. It is a wonderful country and being able to live as a Brazilian for a month was a life-changing experience. I am a fan of lists, so I want to share my top 10 things I love about Brazil, or Brasil, depending on your orientation!

10. The FOOD! - I am from Louisiana, and food is the center of our culture. It is the center of Brazilian culture as well. Although I ate a LOT of rice and beans, I also had acaraje, cacqui, couvi, carne, brigadera, pudin de leche, mamao, morango, melon, maracuja and cafezhino. We think we've tasted papaya and mango. Go to Brazil, I promise you'll never think of fruit in the same way!

9. The Lifestyle - Brazilians work hard and they play even hard. A premium is placed on enjoying life and family is the most important thing in Brazil. And when there is an opportunity to celebrate, well, let's just say I went to parties that were held just because it was Tuesday.

8. The Environmental Responsibility - although Brazil has many pollution-causing factories, day-to-day living is very eco-conscious. This is a lesson we could learn in the states.

7. The diversity. - You can't look at someone and classify them as "Brazilian". Brazil is like America, and Brazilians come in every hue. It's great, which leads me to...

6. The No-Race Thing - Brazil is a melting pot and it is easy to understand when you look at the history of the country. Outside of Japan, Brazil has the largest number of Japanese in the world. There are many people of African descent, European descent and every country and continent you can imagine. However, if you ask someone "what" they are, they will proudly say that they are Brazilian. For a month, I never heard, saw or experienced anything that made me feel "other". I can't go a week here without feeling that I'm being judged, fairly or unfairly, because of the color of my skin. I wish we could learn this from the Brazilians.

5. Patriotism - Brazilians are amazingly patriotic. They have the coolest national anthem ever and will sing it any and everywhere. You see that green, blue and yellow flag everywhere! I can't wait to go to Recife and Olinde to experience that side of Brazil.

4. The Community Service - I guess I saw a lot of this because I was on a Rotary trip, but Brazilians who are wealthy feel a real sense of responsibility for those less fortunate. I saw this on a daily basis.

3. Style. - Brazilians are the most stylish people I've ever seen. And it's not about designer labels, since those aren't really available to most. It's not about makeup or bling, because most Brazilian women do not wear makeup, and even the most wealthy Brazilian women only wear simple gold wedding bands and not much else. They just carry themselves well and know how to put a look together out of nothing. I strive for that!

2. The relationships - I developed relationships with people who I will have in my life forever. I feel as though I have brothers and sisters and surrogate parents and children in Brazil. Tais and Renato, my first hosts, are my brother and sister. My second host, Sandra, and her wonderful children Estela and Victor stole my heart and I will be going back to stay with them. Luciana and Therrazina were unbelievable hosts in Santos. Thais Helena Pavanelli is a goddess to me. I got to hang out with some amazing kids from the Eduardo Gomes School one Saturday in Minas Gerais, a neighboring state to Sao Paulo. I am now Facebook friends with many of them! These are people who inspired me, who I will never forget.

1. The People - In a month, I never expereienced anyone being rude or nasty. Especially when they found out that I was an American, they tried really hard to understand and help with my butchered Portuguese. They are so kind and so excited to have people visiting their country and are appreciative of our interest. Many of them thought I was Brazilian... I think it's the hair;-0 I am so grateful and humbled to have met so many great Brazilians!

This was an amazing experience. I will never forget it. It has made me want to do more, see more and be better than I was before. Thank you Rotary, International. If I get the opportunity to be a part of the organization, I will make it my mission to get people excited about the GSE program.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More pix

Good morning! Just wanted to post a few pics. From the top: Me at the magic fountain in Pocos de Calda. Folklore has it that if you drink from this spring, you will make a long a happy marriage. I also threw a 25 cent Real in the "other" magic fountain and made another wish. I'll let you know if it works...; hanging out at the pool in Lindoia; Mosavi, our tour guide for the week we were in ABC. She speaks no English, so it was a very interesting week, but miraculously, I understood what she said; hanging with the British GSE team and some exchange students at the conference. These kids are amazing, so self confident and smart. I definitely want my niece and nephew to consider it later on; Luciana and her kids and Felipe; with some of the teachers from Eduardo Gomes at Pocos de Calda, being somebody's angels!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mystery Drink

I have been asked what I am drinking in the pic I posted yesterday. This is interesting. I am drinking coconut juice. Out of an actual coconut. You can buy these on the beach in Brazil for $1. You go to the stand, order a coconut juice and a guy picks one out of a barrel, whacks the top off with a machete and puts a straw in it for you. The juice is an interesting and acquired taste. When you are finished drinking the juice (and there is a lot of it), you give the shell back to the same guy and he wields his machete again and slices it so that you can eat the meat out of it. It is fresh and healthy, and you see a lot of joggers and exercise types drinking it after a jog on the beach. I am not drinking some exotic mixed drink, although Brazil is full of those too. Just coconut juice. But it was an experience and that's what I'm here for.
It is 12:27 a.m. and I am just getting in from a Rotary meeting. I am about to drop. I'll post later today!

quick pix

Just posting some pix from the last week. They include my host family in ABC-Sandra, Victor and Estela, our costumes from the Conference (the first and last time that anyone will see me in a cheerleader uniform), our pizza party at the home of Pufe (Poo'-fy), a really cool Rotarian, and views from Santos. As you can see, it is beautiful here, and we are being treated like royalty. Well, I'm off to another day of Rotary.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Finally! Wi-Fi!!

Oi! (That means hi in Portuguese),
I feel like I have been in outer space for the last week or so, because I have not had wi-fi access. I am not on my computer right now, so I can't post the great pix I've taken. I will do it as soon as I can. When I last posted, I was leaving the Rotary District Conference in Lindoia, a beautiful countryside town in Brazil. We proceeded to ABC, which is a suburb of Sao Paulo. It's called ABC because it is an area consisting of three areas names after saints-Sao Andre, Sao Bernardo and Sao Caetano. It's sort of like the Ark-La-Tex. I was matched with a WONDERFUL host family in Sao Caetano: Sandra, who is a lawyer with her own practice and her great kids, Victor, who's 15 (future NBA player and diplomat; his English is impeccable) and Estela, age 10 who is a cutie pie. I have been staying with them for the last week and they are truly people that I think will be in my life forever. Sandra's parents also hosted another of my teammates, Ariej, and so we spent some time at her parents' house during the week. Her relationship with her mae (pronounced "my", or mother) and pais (pronounced "pie"or father) reminds me of the relationship I have with my parents. Miss you guys. Ma, I'm going to want some gumbo when I get home.-) I also got to see Tais, my first host sister, at a Rotary meeting this week. I have been really lucky to meet and be hosted by some wonderful people who have shown me wonderful Brazilian hospitality!
By the way, Sao Paulo and the surrounding area experience a wicked cold spell last week. It got down into the low 40's. Apparently, this is the coldest snap in 40 years. I guess we brought the cold. It's still pretty cool here. It's weird, because it is winter here, and I'll go home to 90+ degree weather! Gotta love a Louisiana summer!
We visited a number of Rotary meetings and vocations in ABC during last week. On Saturday, Crystal and I went to another state in Brazil, Minas Gerais, to a city called Pocos de Caldas. It was about a four hour drive and it was really fun. We had visited a school earlier in the week called Edouard Gomes, and it is a really great place where kids are encouraged in real-life endeavors. We met with a group of high school students (schools in Brazil are typically K-12) at the school who have started an ONG, or what we would call a non-profit in the States. They were so impressive! Check out their website at . We traveled to Pocos de Caldas to visit a glass factory with an ONG component and to wander around the city. Visiting a glass factory does not on its face sound very cool, but these were artisans and it was fascinating. The city was beautiful as well, and it was a nice change of pace. Our team leader and other group members made other plans for the day with their host families, but Crys and I decided to go, since it was something new and had already been planned. I'm so glad we went. The kids were great; really trying to practice their English and asking us the cutest questions about American culture. You could tell that they were very excited to have the "Americanos" with them. They know a lot about the NBA and Sex and the City, which is at the same time cool and disturbing!
Today we transferred to Santos, which is a seaside city an hour from Sao Paulo and ABC. Crystal and I are being hosted by Luciana, who was a member of the Brazilian team that we exchanged with. She is showing us a great time! She's got three kids, her daughter Bruni, who is 18 and makes a mean brigadhera, and two sons, Cauan, who is 14 and loves tennis, and Igor, who is ten and sooo cute! She has a beautiful home, and she and Felipe, another Brazil team member have just gotten pizza for us. Brazilian pizza is a work of art!
I will post pix when I can. Thanks for the comments. I am happy to be here, but I miss home and my normal life! We're here for three days and then four days at the beach. Aaahhhhhhh! I am still pinching myself at having been blessed with such a wonderful opportunity. Oh, and I think I speak Portuguese now, too! Thanks for reading, I will post again soon!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Samba Girls,part dois

These are the pix from samba. They did not load on the last post for some reason. Today is Thursday 5/28. We are headed to Lindoia for the Rotary District Conference. It should be lots of fun. I am not sure what the wi-fi situation is going to be, so if you don't hear from me, it's only because I haven't found a hot spot. But you know I will look! Thanks for reading, and keep the comments coming.
Tchau for now,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Samba Girls

I really can't explain samba. It is difficult to convey in words how great this dance is. I will let the video of this stunning couple do that work for me. I have also posted pix of two very nice girls who taught us the basics and me having an unbelievably great time.

I am crossing things off my bucket list left and right. I always wanted to samba in Brazil. Now all I have left to do is tango in Argentina! This was a great night. Samba clubs are open from 5p-10p. Although it is a packed house, the crowd is lively but not out of control. Everyone is very respectful of one another. They are there to hear great live music and to samba. And they are serious about it. In Brazil, it seems that men actually ask you to dance and are good at it and respectful and don't think that they own you for the evening over a dance. They are there to enjoy the samba. I barely left the dance floor. I can't remember when I have laughed more, been complimented more or had a more enjoyable time. I will cherish this forever. The couple that you see in the video either do this professionally or are just very good at it. After I filmed them, the woman asked if I'd like to dance with her boyfriend. Now you know that would NEVER happen in the U.S. He was very kind to make me look good on the dance floor, but as you can see from the pix, I still have a problem letting someone else lead. Hey, it's just me being me! I have enclosed a picture of me with the couple as well. As you can see they are both stunningly gorgeous, and so she was totally confident in "loaning" her boyfriend to me for 5 minutes on the dance floor. It made me feel like I was ready for "Dancing With The Stars."!

A fun fact about samba: Every now and then you will see people pour beer on the floor to make it more slick for dancing. That's how serious it is. Enjoy the pix and video!

Tribute to the fam...

I am having a wonderful time in Brazil. I'm learning so much and my horizons are being broadened daily. I know for sure that I am forever changed because of this experience. It is important for me at this juncture to give a little tribute to my family. I am convinced that I have the best family in the world. My parents, brothers, sister-in-law and niece are my foundation in this life, and they are so loving and supportive of everything that I do. There is no way that I could be gone for a month without their help and support and knowing that my home and other things will be taken care of. Most of all, their prayers and love are what make me appreciate home even more now that I am officially a world traveler!
My family is very close, and May is a big birthday month. I have missed our annual celebration of the birthdays of my brother Jared (5/23) my father (5/24), and my niece (today). I miss you all, and wish you wonderful birthdays. I love you so much, and thanks for giving me the roots to know that I can always come home and the foundation that allows me to pursue opportunities such as this Rotary exchange and wings that give me the courage to follow my dreams. Although I am not there with you in person, know that I am thinking of you.

By the way, I LOVE getting comments. It makes me feel a little less homesick. Judy, thanks for always having something sweet to say. Paula, I would be honored to fill out that application. Mattie, I am just following your example;-) Mike, don't touch my car(just, not really;-). Thank you all for being such good friends.

I am posting pix of the fam. Happy 6th birthday, Madisyn Nicole. Seems like just yesterday that I was saying, "Welcome to the world, baby girl." Our adventures will continue, sweet pea. You are such good girl and I am so proud of you.

Back to Brazil. Next post, we SAMBA!!!!!

I'm baaaaaaack!!!!!

Hi everyone. I have not fallen off the face of the earth, I have just been sooooo super busy. A quick update. Saturday we went to Liberdade (Li-ber-da'-je), which is a large Asian community in Sao Paulo, largely Japanese. On the weekends they have a street fair with great food and wares to sell. We had bolinhas (bo'lin'-yas), which is basically shrimp and meat on a stick, and acaraje (a-ca-da-je'), which is a dish from Bahia, a community in Brazil with a large African influence. It was a fried ball of shrimp, tomato, pepper and onions. The funny thing is that the Brazilians eat the whole shrimp, peel and all. I haven't gotten there yet, but it was very good. We also went to the Brazilian version of Sephora, which is a Japanese company. It was amazing. I was in heaven, to say the least.
Tais' big birthday bash was Saturday and it was so much fun! I got to try feijoada (fay-zhu'-wa-da), which is the traditional black beans and rice with pork ears, knees (I'm not kidding) and other pig parts. It was created by the slaves who were brought to Brazil, and needed to utilize every part of the pig. They were usually given the leftovers and this great dish, which is traditionally served on Wednesdays and Sundays, was created. That sounds familiar. Some of the dishes in African-American culture were created the same way.
Saturday evening we went to the samba club, which gets its own separate post.
Sunday we went to EMBU, which is a great artists colony near Sao Paulo. Again, great food, great art, great music and great people. Brazilians love American music, by the way, so instead of hearing bossa nova all the time as I had anticipated, I hear the same music that I hear at home. It's really weird! You will see people who do not speak English singing along to U2 or Beyonce. Interesting.
On Monday, we visited the largest privately owned stadium in the world, which is the Sao Paulo Futbol Club. This place is huge, holds 120,000 people and attached is a social and physical fitness club that anyone can pay to join. Brazilians love their futbol (soccer) and you have to be careful about who you say you support. Our driver was noticeably uncomfortable, because he is a big fan of Corinthians (co-hinch'-i-ans), another big team in Brazil, and he was not a happy camper to be in enemy territory!
Tuesday we went to PEFI, which is a great social program supported by Rotary. I am noticing that Rotary is a huge part of social services in Brazil. Their programs are holistic and effective. They seem to take the place of government in terms of rendering social services, except here, there is not the bureauracy that seems to burden state, local and federal government in the States. It is really something to see. We got to thoroughly tour the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Sao Paulo. We were also warmly welcomed by the Rotary Club of Santo Amoro. They loved our presentation and complemented us on our Portuguese.
Today we went to another Rotary Project-Colegio Rio Branco. This is a comprehensive school, from cradle through college, with many campuses. We visited three. Then we were able to meet with Mr. Gunter Wolfgang Pollack the Director of International Relations for the Rotary Foundation of Brasil. He also heads up a conference for Rotary on eradicating hunger, illiteracy, disease and unfit water for all Portuguese speaking countries. He speaks six languages. He is 82 and amazing and he really inspired me to keep trying to rule the world;-) He was really cute because he had done his research on all of us! By the way, Bruce, he sends his regards.
I am just getting in from a fun night with Tais, Renato and friends. Please let me take this opportunity to say how wonderful they have been and that I feel as though I have a Brazilian brother and sister. They have promised to come and visit. I will hold them to that. They have made me feel so welcome in their home and in this country, and I will never forget them.
Enjoy the pix, I will post soon about samba, but I need to get some shut-eye. We are leaving for the Rotary Conference in Lindoia tomorrow. Keep the comments coming; I love reading them. Tchau!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quick post

I am off early today for a vocational day. I don't know what we are doing yet, but I am sure it will be fun. I have really enjoyed all of the vocational days so far, because I get to learn something new. I will post pix of the weekend later, including Tais' party and the samba club that we went to Saturday night. Big fun!
Tchau for now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

TGIF-May 22, 2009

Yesterday was a pretty easy day for us. We had a free morning, so I took advantage of the pool, and then we got started around 1 pm. We went to a school outside of Sao Paulo that teaches kids art and other really cool things like gymnastics and circus skills. They even have a big top! We then had a very easy evening. Tais, Renato and I had Arabic food and watched Back tot he Future. It is one of Renato's favorites! Today should be fun. We go to Liberdade, which is a large Japanese neighborhood in Sao Paulo. Interesting fact: outside of Japan, Brazil has the largest population of Japanese people in the world. Who knew? Tais' birthday party is also today and then tonight, we samba! Pictured is the big top from Projeto Ancardo, some really cute little girls who followed us the whole time (notice the cute little twins), and Ariej and I being kids ourselves.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hello Readers,
I had a wonderful last evening. We finished our tours early and I was able to get some rest. Yesterday was Tais' birthday and her parents, sister and brother-in-law, along with Renato's parents came over for pizza, wine and cake. It came just in time for me. I was really missing home and my family yesterday and was a little down, so being around a family was very good for me. It was big fun. Tais and Renato's moms adopted me while I'm in Brazil and they were so sweet. I have posted a picture of them. Tais' sister Aline is a sweetheart! She loved my hair and even went on the internet to show me pictures of two Brazilian singers with naturals, Vinessa DiMatti and another woman I can't remember. She kept saying, 'You are so beautiful!" This coming from a Brazilian woman who was very beautiful herself. Wow! Her brother-in-law is so funny and a big jokester. They are both economists and speak English extremely well. However, I tried to speak a lot of Portuguese to improve my skill and they were so patient. Tais is having a big party on Saturday so I'm looking forward to that.
I have also posted some pix of the amazing food that they have here. I have discovered that Brazilians eat a lot, but they eat whole foods and very little processed or fast food. They also ALWAYS have dessert. I had cake for breakfast yesterday. But the amounts are small and the food is so fresh that you don't need to eat a lot. I have pictured a typical Brazilian Breakfast, which is lots of fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, melons, caqui, bananas), thinly sliced meat( turkey, ham or morto deli, a type of salami) and cheese. It is accompanied by fresh juice (pineapple, orange, mango, papaya) and cafezhino, which is a shot of coffee. Those of you who know me know that I do not like or drink coffee. Well, I am converted now. I have not had a coke, diet or otherwise, in a week, but a couple of shots of cafezhino does the same things without all the bad stuff in sodas. I also have pictured the machine that is used to make cafezhino (ca-fay-zin'-yo). You will see also pictured a caqui (ka-ki'), which looks like a tomato, but tastes so sweet. It is my favorite fruit in Brazil! Their fruits are so amazing. We think we know what mango tastes like, but it's ten times that here. Tais' mom made brigadera for her birthday, which are the chocolate balls pictured above. A little piece of heaven! I will continue to post about the food and culture.
We have a free morning, so it's off to the pool and then, who knows. But you know I'll keep you posted!
Ate' logo!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 20, 21, 2009, or Rotarians Gone Wild!

Well, it has been a busy couple of days. We were able to sleep in yesterday and got started around 11. We went to the "shoppings", as Brazilians call it. There is a wonderful market with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, and anything else you can imagine. We had a great lunch there. I had something called a pastel camaraio rei, which is basically a really good shrimp Hot Pocket. The food here is amazing, and I plan an upcoming post just on that. I am a foodie and am in heaven with all the new flavors. After the market, we went to Rue 25 Marco, which is a street with lots of shops with everything imaginable. Some say love is the international language, maybe so. Some say music, which I wouldn't argue with. But the real international language is shopping. My Portuguese is, shall we say, "developing", but I have had no problem communicating in that realm!

After the shoppings, we prepared to attend an induction of a new club in Sao Paulo. I thought it would be a nice little dinner and speech and whatnot. Again, Rotarians love to get their party on! This was a formal event with white glove service and every imaginable luxury. We met many nice people, including my host Tais' father, who is a longtime Rotarian, and Daniela Kaidei, a woman whos father was a longtime Rotarian with the strong desire to start this particular club. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago, but her mother decided to continue the vision and is a founding member of this club. I have attached pictures of these two beautiful women. Daniela is a mechanical engineer with Novartis and travels the world. She's got a beach house near Santos and has invited us to visit while we are there. Sweet!

We began today with the Rotary meeting of my host, Tais. This club is all female except for two men, and everyone is a professional at the top of her game. Tais is the incoming President, and there are many lawyers, two designers, an architect a painter, a teacher and other business owners. It was impressive to say the least. See those pix as well.

We continued to a beautiful church, where we were able to get our rosary beads blessed by the priest. I have some pix from there, so there is proof that the roof doesn't fall in when I walk into a church. I am a good Catholic girl! Also, we took a few snaps inside (as were other people), and got a sort of stern talking-to by an elderly Brazilian lady. Since she was speaking Portuguese and we are still learning, we think we got cussed out and prayed for at the same time. Go figure. We also visited the Sao Paulo Museum of Art briefly, but we will return there on Tuesday to see a Brazilian orchestra. We saw the work of a wonderful artist, Vik Muniz, who is my new favorite.

After a great lunch at a bakery (where they weigh your plate and charged based on that. Tell me if THAT's not a wake-up call), we went to GRAACC (pronounced gra-key), which is the St. Jude's of Brazil. It is a hospital for children with cancer. I have to say that I had to prepare myself, because I am a softie when it comes to children, and sick children can break your heart. Especially since I have a young niece and an arriving nephew, and I would not want them to have any suffering like that in their lives. But this was a wonderful, cheerful place. They have a 70-80% cure rate, and it is a well-run hospital. The surprising thing is that it is run mainly by volunteers at al levels. It was started 18 years as the dream of Dr. Petrilli, who we met, and for whom this work is a passion. I am always inspired by people like that, and it confirms for me that the decision I made to change course career-wise was the right one, no matter how scary it was. Sometimes you just have to step out on faith. When I let go and let God, I got a great job and am in Brazil. We met the Development Director, who gave us some amazing stats and some great ideas. I am including pix of Dr. Petrilli and the volunteers who run the hospital, including Maria, a lawyer (Brazil has a ton of lawyers!) who has been volunteering there for 16 years.

Tonight is Tais' 30th birthday, so I may go with her and Renato and family for pizza. If not, I will collapse shortly and talk to all of you later. However, I want to end this post with a quote from Vik Muniz that touched my heart: "The brain doesn't pluck its ideas from the flowerbed of idleness. It is above all through the interaction with material, through work, through effort, and ultimately through failure that we nourish our source of ideas."


Just a quick post-May 21, 2009

Hello all.
Long day yesterday, off to an early morning Rotary meeting this morning. I will give good details about yesterday and today later on. Thanks for reading and for the comments! I have some great pix to share, but I gotta go. I think I hear a Rotary bell in the distance...
Tchau for now!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hello everybody! I am catching up from yesterday, which was a long, informative, festive, day. I did get to begin the day with a dip in the amazing pool at Tais and Renato's building. When I build my dream house, I want one just like it! We started the day at 8:30 by going to a Red Cross hospital where they repair cleft palates. Hospitals in Brazil are more "cheerful", if any hospital stay can be cheerful and seem to put people more at ease than do ours in Estado Unidos. There is not the undercurrent of litigation fear, and it seems to really be about healing. We saw some children with some devastating disfigurements who were being helped by top-notch surgeons and other medical staff. One little boy broke my heart. He had a major cleft palate, along with some eye disfigurement, but he was running around hugging all of our knees, listening to Sponge Bob and laughing. His mother seemed to know that in that place, he was going to get the help that he needed. I realized that I have absolutely nothing to complain about in my life. All the minor irritations that I think are a big deal, really are nothing.
The most impressive thing to me at the hospital, though, was meeting Dr. Lucy Dalva Lopes Mauro. She is a leading world expert on maxillofacial surgery. She has, and continues to write books that are used by medical students and doctors on the subject. She graduated from medical school in 1953, so she' s nearly 80, but I get the impression that the place does not run without her! She is passionate about her work, and she is so inspriring.
Next, we had lunch at a social club, which at home would be something like the University Club or the Petroleum Club with the president of a large Rotary Club here, the Rotary Club de Sao Paulo Aeroporto.
We next went into the favela, or slums of Sao Paulo. If you have seen the movie "City of God" or Cidade de Deus (see, I'm getting better! I'll be Claire Huxtable before the end of the trip:-), please put that stereotype out of your mind. The people who live in the favelas are poor, and live in conditions that you could not even imagine. There are 14 million people in Sao Paulo, and 1.2 million of them live with sketchy water and electric service. I have attached a picture so that you can see how vast this poverty is. However, in the middle of this are two jewels. First, we went to a social program sponsored by Rotary that trains teenagers to work as chefs. Every week, a chef from a nice restaurant comes in and brings food to show the kids proper preparation techniques, hygiene, and other cooking (cozinhando) tricks. I have attached a couple of pics of that as well. The other part of this program is a free day care for working parents in the favela. I took a picture of this little girl because she reminded me of my niece, who I really miss.
The next program we learned about was Pedreira, also in the favela. They train boys 15-18 on computer and technology skills, and they are CISCO- licensed. This means that they receive training and funding from CISCO, and so when these boys complete their studies, they can basically get a job anywhere they want in IT. The 3 boys pictured above, Alan, Rodrigo, and Andre are some of the top students. Their eyes are so bright and open and they are so eager to learn and grow. They all are headed to university and want to come to the U.S. And their English is very good! It is amazing what this program does, considering that there are 1,000 murders per year in the favelas and 50% of those are boys under the age of 18. That took my breath away.

Last but certainly not least, we attended a Rotary Club de Sao Paulo Aeroporto meeting that was a celebration of the sixth anniversary of the club. I don't know what your impression is of Rotary members, but in Brazil, they love to have a good time. We were able to present our club banners to the president of the club and meet many interesting people, including a young man from Chicago who is on a yearlong Rotary exchange. He speaks Portuguese like a native, and has only been here since August. Just to give you an idea of how much they like to party, we arrived at the meeting at 7:30, and left after midnight. And this is a weekly meeting for them. Sheesh!
I am so impressed by Rotary and what it does internationally. It blows my mind to see all the good things that Rotarians are able to accomplish. They are also very collegial and very happy to see the GSE team. It's a great organization.

Here are a few funny things from the trip. We are all having a good time getting to know each other. My teammate Crystal, who we now call ESL, has apparently chosen Portuguese as her native language, and now speaks broken English. For example, we were laughing at lunch one day and she started choking on her water. When she recovered, she said, "I got choke!" She chooses to leave out all helping verbs and prepositions from her speech. And this girl is from Alabama! It is hilarious. I will tape something to put on the blog. She sounds like a cross between Borat and Salma Hayek! Also, we are all walking around in a constant state of blindness because everywhere we go, everyone wants to take a picture. We have our own paparazzi! It is really funny.
Well, gotta go get ready for today, which is a city tour and another Rotary meeting tonight. Tchau.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We spent an amazing day yesterday with the kids from CAAP'I, which is an organization that works with teens and their parents on life skills, work skills and self esteem. Their four basics are education, health, recreation and work. I was really inspired by what they are learning and the pride with which they carry knowing that they are developing skills for their future. Brazilians love American music. See the attached video of some of the kids doing the "Thriller" routine. This cracks me up! Check out some of the items that they make at CAAP'I along with some pix of the kids. I have had a 14 hour day. I will catch you up tomorrow. Boa' Noche.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First Evening in Sao Paulo

Well, I am wrapping up my first day in Brazil. Once I got to the home of my hosts, Tais and Renato, I fell into a comatose sleep for a few hours. When I emerged, Tais and I ran some errands. I am a foreigner in a foreign land and everything is so new. Here are my observations. First, there are a number of American companies in Brazil. The gas stations are Exxon, Texaco, Shell, etc. Only in Brasil, you do not pump your own gas. There are attendants at EVERY station. Heaven. I could do a separate post on the drugstores. A virtual smorgasbord! When we returned, Tais and Renato's friends Fernanda, Fabio and Juliana were there and we had Brazilian pizza. I have never had tuna pizza before tonight, but let me tell you, it is wonderful. So are the people. Everyone is so kind. I complemented Fernanda on her nail polish and the next thing I knew, she slipped out and bought me a bottle. Also, the people in Sao Paulo are STUNNING. I mean, I have not seen one person who was not camera ready. Everyone is beautiful and very stylish. The newscasters look like supermodels. The gas station attendants look like they should be on the cover of GQ. There is a reason that Victoria's Secret gets all their models from Brazil. It definitely makes me want to step my game up!
Okay, off to bed, but first, gotta polish my nails! Enjoy the pics. The first is the group, Fernanda, Fabio, Tais, Renato and Juliana, who is Brazilian, but lives in Australia. Then, Fernanda and I with the famous nail polish.

Lovely Sao Paulo

Readers, I have arrived. Since I was a little girl (menina) I have had a fascination with South America. I am finally here and it is incredible. I'll try and recap the last few days. My wonderful parents, who I miss already, dropped Crys Allen and I off in Monroe on Friday 5/15 and we attended the Rotary conference. On Friday, we got to hang out with the team from Brazil ( their picture is attached) and enjoyed an evening of bourbon and bluegrass music. It was wonderful, including my discovery of Blue Moon;-) On Saturday we made our presentation and then were whisked off to the airport in Monroe. We flew from Monroe to Houston and then on to Sao Paulo. We arrived this morning. Sao Paulo is two hours ahead of Louisiana, so it's not too bad of a time change. We met the team leader and had a wonderful breakfast reception at her home, and then I went home with my host family, Tais and Renato Mariano. They are a wonderful couple in their early 30's. She is a lawyer (advogado) and he is an economist. They live in a luxurious flat in a high-rise next to a university, which I hope to visit. They have literally opened their home to me, and we are going out later to a bar ( bare) to visit with one of their friends who is home from Australia. They are so nice and warm, and I am going to enjoy getting to know them. Their English is impeccable. My Portuguese, well, I'm working on it, but so far I have managed not to offend! Once we got home, I was able to take a well-needed nap, since plane sleep is not exactly nourishing, and I am watching the most amazing sunset. What I know so far is that we are in Sao Paulo for the next ten days, and we will be visiting universities, newspapers, and many social programs. There are parties in our honor for the next three days on the part of Rotary, or Ho'-ta-dee, as they say here. Then we are on to the next stop, wherever it may be . I feel so blessed to be able to have this opportunity. I believe it is going to change my life in a very positive way! Well, off to a nice shower and a nice evening out. Tomorrow we will be going to make presentations to Rotary and to vocational visits. Of course, I will keep you posted. Enjoy the pics I am posting.