Bored in Sao Paulo on a Monday night? Not anymore! Head to Vila Madelena to see some circus training in action. There were at least 20 people juggling various types of sticks, pins and balls. Some people did some other crazy tricks as well, to the beat of some popular music including Reggaeton, Electro and Hip Hop.
The downtown area of Sao Paulo is really old and full of life. The architecture is amazing. There is an old Cathedral and the Teatro Municipal. I went up on top of the 26th floor of the Martinelli Building, where you can get a panoramic view of the city. I have never seen such a vast horizon of skyscrapers in my life!
My trip to Brazil was the first time I had left the US in 3 years. Apparently, my travel skills had gotten a bit rusty. I made a few silly mistakes that I want to share with you all to ensure that you will all be smarter travelers when you embark on your own adventures.
First of all, I got my phone stolen. This could have been avoided if I was more aware of my surroundings. I went out in a sketchy neighborhood one night and was using my i-phone as my camera. I think I left my phone on the table at the bar when I was ordering a beer and someone took it. Or, I may have left it in the outside pocket of my purse that doesn’t have a zipper. Either way – when I reached into my purse for my phone just 10 minutes later, it was gone. My friend ran back to the bar and asked around, but obviously, if someone had stolen it, they weren’t exactly going to admit to it. Luckily, I had transferred most of my photos on to my computer already. In the end, it is just a phone and those are replaceable. I just felt a bit stupid for being so naive!
My second big mistake was not bringing my passport with me when traveling inside Brazil. I decided to travel to the beach and to Rio for a long weekend, and opted against bringing my passport with me because I figured I was traveling in country and wouldn’t need it. However, as I didn’t bring any other form of ID with me, I had no way of proving who I in fact was. I got on the first bus out of Sao Paulo without a problem, they didn’t ask to check my ID. However, once on the bus, Celise pointed out that I really should have brought my passport because you should always travel with some sort of identification, in case anything happens. Also, you usually need ID to get a hotel room. Oops!
The first leg of the trip went just fine, Celise knew the hostel owners where we stayed and they didn’t ask for my ID. But when we went to the bus station to get on the bus to go to Rio, the bus driver wouldn’t let me on without an ID! I figured I had blown our weekend getaway and figured we would have to go home. Celise and I were discussing what to do, when just before the bus was about to leave, the bus driver ran over to us and told Celise that if she signed a piece of paper claiming she was responsible for me that he would let me on the bus. Score!
Once we finally got to Rio, I had to lie to the lady working at the hostel and tell her that my ID got stolen. First of all, I am a horrible liar. Second of all, this was a really stupid thing to lie about. Anyways, she let me stay in the hostel without a problem. Thank God!
The final ID challenge was the bus ride back to Sao Paulo. Obviously, they would ask for my ID again because we were crossing state lines. Celise was leaving 2 days before me. I devised a plan. I followed her to the bus station when she was leaving, and watched her board the bus. A couple minutes later, she came out telling the bus driver she forgot to give something to her friend. She came out and gave me her own ID! Two days later, I put on a pair of sunglasses as I boarded my bus and tried to pass as Celise. Mission accomplished, he didn’t look twice! In the end, it is a funny story – but in reality it was a really silly move.
Saturday is the day of the Brazilian dish Feijuada. It is a stew of black beans and different meats, and is served with white rice and fried collard greens on the side. We went to the Praca Sao Luis to eat and see some live Samba. We paired this with some beer and I even bought a fedora hat to get the true Brazilian experience. The praca was full of people dancing to the live Samba band.
The day after we went to Ivonete and Rodrigo’s home for their English class, we met them in the market where they work. This is called Feira in Portuguese. It is like a Farmers’ Market we have back home in California, where local farmers bring their goods to sell.
Vendors lined the small streets in her neighborhood with beautiful, fresh fruits and vegetables. A few of the vendors let us try an array of fruit including: plums, oranges, pineapple, guava and a strange white fruit (that I can’t even recall the name of!)
We went to see Rodrigo and Ivonete to buy dried beans, onions and potatoes. Ivonete peels all the garlic before she sells it. What a job! They were super excited to see me and I ordered in English on purpose so that they could practice speaking. I asked Ivonete how much everything cost, and she told me 6 Reales. She even gave me a discount – so sweet!
After that, we bought some chicken and looked at the different types of seafood. On the way out, Celise bought some flowers for her house and we bought some fresh eggs.
On Wednesdays, Celises takes a 40 minute bus ride (that feels more like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland) out to have a 2 hour lesson with a married couple. Their names are Rodrigo and Ivonete. They are in their late twenties and have an adorable 5 year old son named Thiago. They live in a really nice, new apartment building. Celise and I arrived at 11 a.m. Ivonete was home with her son, who had stayed home sick from school. She was so excited that I could come to meet them. Her son didn’t really seem sick, and I think she just wanted him to meet me. I was flattered.
Rodrigo came home and we began the lesson. Both Ivonete and Rodrigo are new beginners to English. Celise has only been teaching them for five weeks. She met them at the local farmers’ market she attends every Thursday, and they ended up asking her for classes. They hadn’t done their homework, so Celise thought it would be best if they tried to make conversation with me. This gave them a chance to hear a different English speaking voice.
We began with introductions:
What is your name?
How old are you?
Do you have children?
Do you have brothers and sisters? (Rodrigo’s answers was very funny because he said he didn’t know how many brothers and sisters he had. He told me his father was a truck driver who had many wives in many places and that nobody knew the answer to this question!)
Where are you from?
Where do you live?
Where do you work?
We then moved on to more specific questions about time and the days of the week:
What time to you start work?
What time do you finish work?
Which days do you work?
We then talked about what they do and don’t like:
Name three things that you like:
Rodrigo said he liked beer, soccer and vacation. Ivonete said she liked food, soap operas and her family.
Name three things you don’t like:
Rodrigo said he didn’t like work, cleaning and mushrooms. Ivonete said she didn’t like beer, exercise and cleaning.
Celise then made them ask me different questions from a list they had worked on previously. The asked me things like:
Are you cold?
Do you like orange juice?
Tell me your last name.
How old are you?
After the class was over, Celise and I were invited to stay for lunch. Ivonete laid out an amazing spread of food that took up the entire table. They said a prayer before we ate. We had cooked slices with meat with sausage in the middle, brown rice, beans and salad. For desert we had oranges and bananas. We laughed about how differently I peeled my orange than they did. They used their knife to remove all the skin perfectly, leaving the white inner part as the skin. Then the orage was cut in half, and they sucked out the juice and the pulp completly. The white skin acted as a little cup, that they turned inside out when all the fruit was gone.
This experience with Rodrigo, Ivonete and Thiago was one of the most touching experiences I have had so far. It was so incredible to be invited into their home and be honored as their guest. They even asked me to come back next week! I gladly accepted.
Celise is a long time friend of mine that has been living in Sao Paulo for a year and half. She works as a private English teacher and has currently has 16 Brazilian students. She let me tag along to some of her classes in order to see her teaching style first hand. I was thrilled to be invited to meet so many local Brazilians during these lessons. Each class has taught me different teaching methods to use in accordance to the student’s level. Beginners needed a lot more help with grammar and vocabulary, while the more advanced students mostly just want to converse with a native speaker. In addition to text books, Celise uses a lot of apps that she has downloaded on to her ipad with her students. If you are looking for some new activiites and ways to spice up your Enligh classes, check out these ideas: The Flashcards App, The Alphabet. She also uses: Englishclub.com and Englishpage.com