brazil (49)

How Brazil Made Me A Better Educator

Since being back in Calgary for three days now, it has definitely given me time to reflect on my time in Goiânia. First off, I would like to say that this experience was nothing short of amazing. Having the opportunity to learn a new language, deeply explore a new culture, and to meet unbelievably amazing people are moments I will cherish forever. Practically everything that I experienced on this journey has, and will continue to, impact me both personally and professionally. In relation to the latter, this experience has definitely given me insights as to how to be a better educator.

Specifically, it showed me how I can better meet the needs of my future ESL students. Having to learn Portuguese and attempting to learn academic content in Portuguese-speaking classrooms is definitely hard work - sometimes even demotivating. Going through this has given me a glimpse into the world of our ESL students here in Canada, and the difficulties and struggles they may face in English-speaking classrooms. I can honestly say that I have a whole new appreciation for ESL students as they are simultaneously learning a new language and new academic material. Moving forward, I want to ensure that I can create an environment where I can help eliminate these difficulties by, for example, trying to learn/speak their language (as our Portuguese teacher often tried to do with English) or even reassuring them that they have my support if they need it. These little things go a long way, as they certainly did for me in Brazil.

Again, this truly was an amazing experience, and I cannot thank everyone back in Brazil for everything they did for us. Brazil is a truly spectacular country - with its rich history, diverse culture, breathtaking landscapes, and, most importantly, its wonderful people. I encourage everyone to visit this place as you will not be disappointed.

Special shoutout to #teamhistory (below) at PUC Goias University! We cannot thank you enough for the support you gave us. :)


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Tchau Brasil!

I can't believe that our experience is complete and I am now back in Calgary looking for an apartment. When thinking about the last few months, there are a few memories that stick out, such as, culture, language, and people.


Brazil has such a rich culture that varies between each state and even between cities. There is a history of Indigenous peoples, slaves, and colonialism. We learned a bit about the tough history and I was able to recognize the similarities between the history of Brazil and that of the United States. Given their diverse history, you can find all types of traditional food, music, and even dancing. A typical food of Goiânia is called 'pamonha' and it is a little bit like a tamale. It is made out of a special type of corn meal, filled with goodies (cheese, sausage, or chicken), and then wrapped in a corn husk. DELICIOUS! This was one of our favorite meals for sure! I also really enjoyed seeing all of the street art in the different cities because they all had unique styles that made me want to learn their stories. We learned that many places around the city give permission to the artists and want to have art displayed on their buildings and houses.


Learning Portuguese was definitely more of a struggle than I first thought it would be. Since I speak Spanish, and they are both romance languages, I thought the transition would be a bits smoother. What really got me was the 'sotaque', or accent, the is required when pronouncing Portuguese words. For example, to pronounce 'onde', you say the 'd' like a 'g', so it would be 'own-gee'. An 'r' is pronounced like an 'h' and a 't' like the 'ch' sound. Not only was the pronunciation difficult for me, we soon learned that the city of Goiânia has it's own accent. They often shorten words or phrases, so it can be even more difficult. We found this Instagram post to be quite helpful.


I'm not even sure how describe how incredibly thoughtful and caring the people are that we met. If we ever felt lost or confused, we had such an amazing group of brasileiros to help us! Whether it was with our phone plans, fixing broken computers, doctor visits, planning a tour, or even just finding a good restaurant, someone was always there! These people supported us linguistically, mentally, and emotionally during our time in Goiânia. I know we will all be forever grateful. I hope that one day we get the chance to repay them in every way! I honestly cannot imagine my time there without them. I feel so lucky to have met such wonderful people with such big hearts! I already miss them so much!!!











Tchau for now!


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Farewell, Brazil.

I'm writing this final blogpost from the comfort of my own bed, here in Calgary. I feel like I have so much to say about my time on the TAB program that I could type for weeks non-stop. I'm going to keep this post simple, because there's no possible way that I can say everything that I want to say.

My time in Brazil was an incredible whirlwind. By the time I left it felt like I was leaving an entire life behind. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that there are some things and people that I will quite simply never see again.

While I definitely experienced some ups and downs in Brazil, the one thing that I am the most thankful for is the friends that I made. Not only am I leaving Brazil with more than 10 close friends who live there that I can visit any time, but I am also coming home with some solid friendships between the other TABers who were on my trip. I've never experienced such an incredibly supportive, fun, and real group of people and I'm sure that at least a few of them will be lifelong friends of mine.

It's hard for me to write about Brazil now that I'm home. Now that I'm settling back into my home and seeing all my friends it almost feels like Brazil was all a dream. While I was there I felt like I had been there for years, but now that I'm gone its like it never happened. 

I'm thankful for the University of Calgary's TAB program for providing me with this once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only did I learn so much about a new language and a new culture, I also learned a lot about myself in the process. Brazil is not somewhere that I ever thought I'd end up, but now its a place that will forever hold a place in my heart.


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Até logo Brasil!

As I drink the first Sprite I have had in 2 months and I eat what can very well be my last serving of Pão de Queijo, I can’t stop thinking about all the things I am going to miss in Brazil and all the things I am looking forward to in Calgary. I am happy to see my family and friends, eat the most amazing home cooked meal from mom, and be able to fully understand everyone! However, I am also sad to leave behind what has become a happy, well balanced, life here in Brazil. Here are some of the things I will miss the most:  

  1. The people: The more I think about it, the more I know that the hardest thing to leave behind is all the people I have met. I am going to miss their welcoming and friendly “Ola, tudo bem?”, their overall appreciation of the little things, their generosity and their kindness. This is valid for my amazing friends and for all those people I met briefly. Not so long ago, I left my phone in an Uber. Worried that my Portuguese skills were not going to be enough to get my phone back, a family of Brazilians came to my rescue; they contacted the driver and told me he would be meeting me where he dropped me off. Unfortunately, the driver never showed up. I tried contacting him again with no success. At this point, I was in Salvador’s Basilica, and I asked a church official for help in contacting the driver one more time. We tried with no success. In little to no time, I had 3 church officials and 2 police officers trying to help me. Although we weren’t able to get my phone back, they were supportive and made me feel safe in a moment where I was feeling frustrated and useless. Brazilians are welcoming and always ready to help! I am glad to have met good people while in Brazil, and I can say that they all have a special place in my heart!  
  2. Açai in hot sunny days (or rainy ones): I cannot express how much I love Açai, especially with strawberries, bananas and granola on it! I was lucky enough to taste it in the Amazon for the first time and I immediately fell in love with it. I ate this amazing dessert when I felt the sun was going to melt me, and when it rained so hard in Goiania, that it reminded me of Manaus. It became such an important part of my daily life, that it will be hard to not have constant easy access to it!
  3. As Feiras: Goiania has many street markets, where you can find anything from food to clothes to puppies. Going to these markets became a fun, relaxing, Sunday afternoon activity. It was the place where I refined my bargain skills, and where I got to try the best brigadeiros, and acerola juice. I will miss simply walking around these street markets with friends, while appreciating the many great things vendors were offering.
  4. Muay Thai with my roommates: One of my roommates, practiced Muay Thai for years, when one of our friends from the liaison found out, he took us to a gym and introduced me to this cool sport! This became a fun way to exercise and meet Brazilians! It was a lot of fun, and I will miss trying to understand our teacher’s instructions, as I carefully watched his actions instead of hearing his explanations.
  5. My daily Portuguese class with Uber drivers: I loved how most of my Uber drivers were ready to spark conversation, even after I timidly told them “eu não falo muito Portuguese”. They are part responsible for my language learning improvement and my confidence while speaking. I am going to miss our little chats about anything and everything.
  6. Discovering new foods and places: One thing I realize as I leave Brazil is that I did not get to know half of Goiania in two months! I loved walking around my neighborhood and discovering shops, I had never seen before, even during the last week in Brazil! I loved that people would keep recommending new parks, bars, and restaurants! My favorite last-day visit was to Parque Areião, where I got to see some cute monkeys playing around and some beautiful birds hanging out by the lake. It is located right in the heart of the city and it’s a popular spot to go running. I liked it a lot, and this was discovered on my last day in the city. I am happy to have seen so much in such little time, and I will miss this amazing city that hosted me for 2 months!

I will keep all of these things close to my heart as they become memories. My time in Brazil has had its ups and downs, but ultimately this was a unique and beautiful experience! All I have left to say is Obri-thank-you to everyone involved and everyone who helped me while abroad!

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Hot Tips from a Hot Country

I’m currently writing from the international terminal in São Paolo and it seems a little surreal that in just a little while I’ll be back in the land of donuts and snow.  It’s a little bittersweet to be catching some English mixed in with the Portuguese, and I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to pack away my shorts for a down jacket, but I do know that I’m so grateful for this opportunity to be immersed in the colourful Brazilian culture, and I’m honestly excited to bring back the learning (and the clothes haha) that I have accumulated in my time here.

For my last post, I’d like to share some of my best tips about Brazil to entice future TABers to come to this beautiful country.

First of all, don’t be afraid to look foolish in your language learning. From my experience, most Brazilians are only ever intrigued and excited when you try your Portuguese with them.  They are just as nervous (if not more!) to practise English with you, so jump into that space and laugh and learn together. As a future teacher, it gave me a lot of joy to see our Goianese friends improve in their English as they worked with us.  Language exchange is such a beautiful opportunity, and one of the ways that we, as Canadians, can risk but also give back in our host countries. Be bold and begin practising as soon as possible. If I was to have any regrets, it would be that I didn’t start speaking my (baby) Portuguese sooner. Don’t be afraid of looking silly. You’ll only gain friends and vocabulary!

Our final goodbye with the PUC Intercambio (Exchange) crew. We love our PUC friends!

And speaking of our Goianese friends, we truly could not have done this experience without them.   They took us to schools, arranged for us to join them on beautiful weekend trips, encouraged us in our Portuguese, and helped us with so many everyday tasks. Don’t be afraid to dive in with the university students. They were our happiest hellos, and our saddest goodbyes here, and we know that we have made some lifelong friends. Plus, you’ll feel like a celebrity because you’ll get so many new Instagram followers.

Third, arrange to travel while you’re here!  Brazil is a giant country with some truly beautiful parks and cities, and while the language barrier can be a little intimidating, it is well worth the effort to muddle through some google translate and see some new places. We found that driving outside of the city was not too scary, and even rented cars to visit the nearby towns of Pirenópolis and Goias Velho. I’d also recommend the state of Bahia where you can stay in the beautiful city of Salvador and visit surrounding places such as Chapada Diamantina and Praia do Forte. I LOVED Bahia. So go exploring! Even in Goiania there are many different parks (where you can see monkeys!!), restaurants, and malls that are really fun to visit.  We barely scratched the surface.

The stunning Poço Azul (Blue Pool) in Chapada Diamantina Park in the state of Bahia.  The water is so clear that you can see straight to the bottom, 50 feet down.

Finally, give yourself time and space to reflect on the process and recognize your different patterns of learning.  I found that what we were exploring in our online courses coincided a lot with what I was experiencing and working through in my day-to-day experiences in Goiania.  I was honestly surprised by how many connections I kept finding between my “academic” learning and “life” learning, but I came out of this experience truly convinced that this is how learning is meant to occur. We are the sum of all our experiences, and we are in charge of how we choose to pursue growth within that.

Anyways! All this to say, come stay in Goiania! Who wouldn’t want to extend summer for 2 more months? I’ve loved my time here, and I know that it has informed my teaching (and life) practise in truly beautiful and transformative ways.

Muito obrigada por tudos Brasil (Thank you so much for everything Brazil)! Tchau!

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Chasing Cachoeiras

One of our TABers, Sammi Friesen, has had trouble getting into her Ning account recently. The post below is from her. :)

Nossa (wow)! These past 3 weeks have been so full. Let me tell you about things that I love in Goiania:

  1. Friendly Uber drivers – it has been so fun to practise Portuguese with our drivers. We’ve also met some truly amazing people who show a keen interest in us and our country and make us feel so welcome. One man told us his daughter would move to Canada tomorrow if she could, and even put her on speakerphone to make her practise English with us. We love our Uber drivers!
  2. Student friends – no words can describe how thankful we are for the effort that some of these students have made to share their lives with us and make Goiania feel simultaneously exciting and homey. We want them all to come to Canada so we can return the favour!
  3. Heavy rains – these take down the average temperature from 36°C to 26°C and I can’t tell you how AMAZING that feels.
  4. Weekend trips – we have had the chance to visit some truly beautiful cities and parks. I am in love with the stunning cachoeiras (waterfalls) and colourful buildings in towns like Pirenopolis, Goias Velho, and Chapada dos Veadaeiros (a National park) near the town of Sao Jorge.
  5. Mango season – enough said.
  6. Muay Thai classes – a bit of an unusual activity to associate with Brasil, but my roommates and I have been going to a Muay Thai Academia (gym) regularly since we arrived, and we love it. We have found Brasilians to be so welcoming and accepting (even when you’re dripping sweat…), and this academia is no exception.

One thing that I’ve really been appreciating about our time here in Brasil is how my in-country learning has been complemented and enhanced by my online classes. I have never taken an online class, and I expected that it was going to be a pretty disjointed experience. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the ways that our learning leaks into the life that we lead here. We have been taking Interdisciplinary Learning and Indigenous Studies. My most significant learning in Interdisciplinary has been the benefits of scaffolding and the way that learning can build so intricately, either consciously and unconsciously in a school unit, and in life experiences. Everything that I have been doing in Brasil is preparing me for another aspect of what I will encounter. This applies to language learning, grocery shopping, driving (speed traps are a real hazard here…), and so much more. From the Indigenous class I have learned to appreciate the interconnectedness of my life and community here. I might be only a small part of other people’s day here, but the cumulation of what these students and teachers and drivers contribute to my day is making my experience rich, and I can only hope that I am returning the favour in some small way!

Here’s to 2.5 more weeks of making a fool of myself in Portuguese! Ate logo (see you later)!

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Language mistakes...

Over the past few weeks, I had the chance to observe English as a Second Language classes and travel to Chapada Dos Veadeiros

I had the chance to experience two very different teaching styles, even though their lessons were focused on oral skills. Both teachers had classes full of very engaged students who are eager to learn the language. It is refreshing to see such enthusiasm coming from such a young group of people. These observations have helped me determine the kind of teacher I want to become, and they have given me ideas about some of the resources I can use in my classroom if I ever end up teaching French as a Second Language.

Now that I have been here for a bit more than a month, I have become a bit more comfortable speaking Portuguese (even though I still mix my languages). Recently, I went on a trip to Chapada Dos Viedeiros, a beautiful National Park just 5-6 hours away from Goiania, where I was surrounded by Portuguese-speaking students most of the time. While I was having a conversation with them, I found out that I had been mispronouncing and using the wrong term since I had landed in Goiania. Apparently this was a term that could come across as offensive in the wrong context.  Although, I found it hilarious at the time, I also feel very ashamed because I have said this word a couple of times. I had a lovely time in Chapada dos Veideiros, and I feel went one step further in my immersion in the Portuguese language. I got to see the beautiful sights and cachoeiras of this national park while I made awesome friends that help me grow and who support me in my language learning process. This week I also realized I had been mixing up “perto” and “preto”, which means “close” and “black”. So, I guess that clears up so many misunderstandings I have had in the past! Learning a new language is always a process, and I know that I won’t forget the differences between these words. The fact that I got corrected by friends who couldn’t stop laughing at me, makes these words even more memorable. I am happy that I can laugh at my own mistakes and learn from them.



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Feeling Inspired in Goiânia

While being in Goiânia, we have done quite a bit of exploring to significant landmarks and parks. Although all have been fascinating to see, the most significant monument to me has been our visit to the Monumento às Três Raças (Monument to the Three Races) – left. Located in the heart of Goiânia, the monument was constructed in 1968 to pay tribute to the miscegenation (i.e. the mixing of races) of the black, white, and indigenous races. After some more online research, it was to give equal recognition of the three races contributions to collaborating together to establish Goiás (i.e. the state of Goiânia) (year of Goiania) and what it means to be ‘Goian’.




This monument is truly amazing to me because of the pride, respect, and equality that the Goian people have for not only their White ancestry,but the Black and Indigenous ancestries as well. The attitude to preserve this recognition and embrace diversity is even emphasized in the school system. When sitting in on a Portuguese Class for Grade 6, students were reading aloud a book titled ‘Ainda Bem Que Tudo é Diferente/Glad everything is different’ by Fabio Gonçalves Ferreira – cover of book on the right. The children’s book essentially touches on embracing diversity among Brazil’s people.



Witnessing this powerful monument and seeing the use of these materials in the classroom are very significant to me as a future educator. I could see myself referring to these as an examples or resources for creating lessons in Social Justice Education and/or Indigenous Education. Sharing how progressive Brazil is in tackling and embracing these issues around race and indigeneity is inspiring to me. I strive to take what I have learned here in Brazil to hopefully inspire my future students.


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Unplanned Adventure

Boa tarde!

It is crazy how fast time is flying by here in Brazil! I will be back in Calgary three weeks from today! This past weekend, my group and I, went on an adventure to Chapada dos Veadeiros with a group of seven brasileiros. Chapada dos Veadeiros is a national park that has many different waterfalls that you can hike to and is located about a six-hour bus ride from our city, Goiânia. The only details we were told was to bring camping equipment and that it would be very cold at night so make sure to bring warm clothes and blankets.



Normally, when it comes to planning a trip, I am quite prepared. However, I thought I would take the Brazilian approach of “go with the flow” this time around. We met at the Praça Cívica (Civic Square) at 7pm sharp because that is what we were told, in order to take the bus at 8pm. Once we arrived, we noticed that there was no one from the Brazil group there. As more time passed, we got more and more nervous. Finally, about 7:40pm, they began to trickle in. Relieved to see them we packed our things on the bus and headed out for our six-hour drive to Chapada. We arrived at a camp site, that turned out to be gravel in between some brick walls, about 5am and began to set up our tents. By 7am we were buying food at the local market in order to keep us full until we returned at 4pm. We each brought one big and one little water bottle, which turned out not to be nearly enough for the Canadians. The Brazilians were totally fine on little water; however, we felt dehydrated and super-hot hiking in the 35-degree weather. And at night, all six of us squeezed into a tent that ended up being like a little furnace when the weather only dropped to 17-degrees, so all of our blankets were tossed asside. Even though it would've been good to know the weather temperature, where the campsite would be, and how far we were actually hiking, it was all totally worth it! The next day we explored the beautiful town and had some delicious meals! We didn't have cell service, so it was a great time to really enjoy the time we had together as a big group. This weekend was the perfect get away during a busy time of online projects and posts.






Overall, it was such a fantastic weekend full of unforgettable memories! Culturally, we learned that our definitions of cold were completely different, not to stress about time, and cell phone service free weekends are good for the soul! Also, we were able to practice Portuguese with all of our friends as well as, learn many new words and phrases. We learned so much this weekend and I will always be grateful to the people who helped get us here and taught us through language and culture.

Obri-thank you!

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Chapada dos Veadeiros

Last night we arrived back to Goiania after a hard, enjoyable, difficult, frustrating, and hilarious camping trip. Our Brazilian friends in the program with Macy and I invited all of us Canadians on this camping trip about a month ago to Chapada dos Veadeiros. Chapada dos Veadeiros is a beautiful national park about a 5 hour drive away from Goiania, and we had been wanting to visit it since before any of us had even arrived in Brazil.

We took an overnight bus on Thursday night to arrive to the town of São Jorge (where the national park is located). This is when our adventure first started. About two hours into the drive, our bus broke down at a truck stop on the side of the highway. We all piled out of the bus, hung out in the truck stop diner, gorged ourselves on the buffet food, and waited for a part for the bus to be driven out to us from Goiania. While we were waiting we played music, danced in the parking lot, and spoke enough Portuguese to make our heads explode. And this was all before we even arrived to our destination.

Once we arrived at 6:45 am, we were introduced to our hilarious campsite. Since most of us have camped a lot in Canada, we were expecting to camp among nature in the national park – like how we’ve done so many times in Banff or Jasper or Vancouver Island. However, we were dropped off at a square, gravel compound between four brick walls with not a tree in sight to give us any shade. We all set our tents up as closely together as we could in order to try to fit everyone in the compound. Before we could lie down for a rest, we were off to go hiking for the day.

We walked about two kilometers down dirt and gravel roads to reach the entrance to the national park. We’re not totally sure if we were extremely ill prepared for this day because of the language barrier, or because the Brazilians don’t mind the heat, or because they didn’t know what was in store for us. But even though we saw some beautiful things on our hike, we suffered. We were under the impression that we’d only need to walk a little bit and then we’d arrive at some swimming areas, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We didn’t pack enough food and we REALLY didn’t pack enough water for the hike that awaited us. The hike itself wasn’t that hard – it was fairly flat save a couple spots of scaling up some rocks and some uneven ground. However, it was long and it was HOT, and we all ran out of water.

When we arrived at the swimming hole we felt like we had died and gone to heaven, except for one thing – we were all burnt to a crisp and there was no shade in sight. We explored around the waterfalls holding towels and sarongs over our heads and shoulders in order to protect our skin from the sun. We decided we should head back earlier rather than later because we had ran out of water, and it wouldn’t be safe to stay out there for long. So, we tackled the tolling hike back with no water and it definitely tested me physically and emotionally. I’m both so glad its over and also so glad I did it.

We spent the whole evening eating delicious pasta and tasting local craft beer and playing Eu nunca… (never have I ever) with our Brazilian buddies. We spoke a lot of Portuguese and a lot of makeshift sign language and utilized the power of pointing. We spent an outrageous amount of money on aloe for our sunburns and tiger balm for our aches and pains. We became friends with the shop owners in the town and exchanged stories of previous travels and what our lives in Canada are like. It was truly a magical night and a magical town that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

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política, história e idiomas

Time flies here in Brazil! It is hard to think that we only have a few weeks left in Goiania. There is so many things and so many people I will miss when I go back to Canada!

I am so happy to have learned so much about Brazil from friends and professors, despite my lack of Portuguese. We came to Brazil during presidential and estate elections, and everyone is so eager to share a little bit of history and personal opinions about politics. Personally, I find it very interesting to hear people express their opinions about education and economics in Brazil, and how they need to be improved or changed. The fact that they are so open about these subjects is very new to me, but at the same time it’s refreshing to hear multiple points of view, even when I don’t agree with them. I have learned quite a bit about the Brazilian cultural and political history, the good and the bad, and I find it very interesting when I compare it to Colombia, the country where I was born. There are so many similarities, but also so many important differences that makes the Brazilian culture and politics unique. It has been an interesting learning opportunity for me and I appreciate that all my friends and professors are so passionate and willing to talk about these kind of topics.

Chatting with one of my professor and friends!


Furthermore, my friends have been extremely helpful with my language learning. They are so understanding about my lack of vocabulary and they correct me when necessary. It is meaningful to be put in the position of an ELL student and experience life from a different point of view. I try to speak Portuguese whenever I have the chance, I can’t even begin to count how many Uber drivers know a bit of my life story and how many have told me theirs. Event though, I have made Brazilian friends, they all speak English and are eager to practice it. I do practice Portuguese with them sometimes, but outside of university there is very little chance to practice the language, so I usually try to practice at the supermarket, ferias, malls, gyms, and during Uber rides. I have to admit, knowing Spanish and Italian has made a huge difference for me when learning Portuguese. I believe these languages are very similar in terms of syntax, vocabulary and even pronunciation sometimes. The only downside to this, is the fact that I often mix my languages and end up speaking my own personal made up “survival” language… However, I am understood most of the time, and I am able to hold a pretty long conversation in Portuguese. Although, I never thought about learning Portuguese, I am very happy to be making new connections with my existing languages and examining how language and culture intertwine. We have Portuguese class every Wednesday, and it is always a highlight for my week. I am very eager to continue learning and to find new places to practice the language!

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Running Away to Circus School

We’ve been in Goiania for a month now and it’s been a really neat experience to explore a bit more and start to get to know the city and how “real life” works here.  One thing that I’ve been thinking about in Brazil is the way that different socioeconomic backgrounds show up in the cities.  To be honest, I was actually surprised by how easy it is to live a very upper-middle class lifestyle in Goiania without having to encounter obvious abject poverty in daily life. It would be very easy to forget that there is definitely heart-breaking poverty, and that very real action is necessary in order to address it well.

About a week ago we had the really amazing opportunity to visit the Escola de Circo Dom Fernando (Dom Fernando Circus School) which is located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Goiania.   We were told by a friend that a Catholic bishop named Dom Fernando donated a huge portion of church land to be used for new neighbourhoods and as a hub for social activism.  He has since passed away, but his legacy lives on in Goiania through the various institutions that he advocated for.  It’s a complicated legacy since it is hard to see that there is still so much poverty and violence in the area where he was dedicated to making change. 

The school itself was such an amazing place.  You walk through the front gates right into a giant circus tent where the kids get to practise trapeze, tight rope, unicycling, and so much more.  It is a very open concept and the rest of the school is a series of tents, outdoor space, semi-walled rooms, a few offices, washrooms, and a small kitchen.  There are no desks, and the students and teachers sit in chairs in a circle to do their classes (which happen in the morning). We arrived in the afternoon right when the students were beginning their “circus” activities. We got to try juggling, drumming, trapeze, and some other activities.  The students got to show off their skills, and it was so beautiful to see them come alive in their different areas of expertise. 

The main classroom area in the school.

What I loved most about the school was that it clearly isn’t based on high achievement in grades or even on developing the most competitive circus performers. The school administrators and teachers clearly have a heart for their students.  They are proud of their student’s skills, but more than that, they are encouraging and nurturing and go out of their ways to encourage students to shine.  The coordinator told us that this school isn’t for developing skills so much as it is to keep kids busy and provide alternative activity and mindsets to the gang-driven and drug-related communities that they come from.  The school is very outward focused and encourages the students to be positive and active members of their community by cleaning up litter and taking initiative in different areas.  I love that! And from what I could see, it is such a creative and joyful way to tackle the socioeconomic disadvantages that these students have to grow up with.  It certainly inspired me to think more creatively about how I can bring unusual but exciting activities into my own future classrooms in a truly interdisciplinary and wholistic way.  Circus school might be a bit of a stretch for Canada, but I am passionate about promoting different types of activities because I have seen the real-world benefits in my own life and in schools such as this one. 

Mad skills. New life goals.

My roommates and I also recently watched the famous Brazilian film “Cidade de Deus” (“City of God”) which is based on the true story of drug wars in a favela in Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s. This was just another reminder of some of the crippling issues that Brazil is working hard to overcome.  The City of God favela was actually “pacified” in 2009 when the Brazilian government set up a specific Police Unit to try to cut down crime.  We’ve talked to lots of people here about the volatile political climate and the different strategies that have been set up in the past and in the present to address corruption and poverty in Brazil.  It is an ongoing roller coaster of political negotiation, social reform, idealism, and corruption. However, what I find most beautiful is the hope that still lives, even in the cynicism of many of these people. University students who are dedicated to making a positive impact as teachers, school administrators who are willing to give an extra hug and encouragement to their students, and other people, young and old, who take a keen interest in politics and are actively interested in advocating for change in their country.

So much to think about! And when you have one month left in a foreign city, this can all seem pretty overwhelming. But I love that I can take the beautiful and inquisitive mindsets that I discover here, and incorporate them into the way that I teach, travel, and take on my own spaces.


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One month down, one month to go.

Bom dia !

The past month in Goiania has been totally different from anything that I could have expected. Yes, I’ve been studying and getting my schoolwork done (of course!), but we have experienced so many other cool things that will serve as incredible memories for the rest of my life.

  1. Capoeira and dance classes

I never thought I’d be one for martial arts! I decided to go to a couple dance classes with the physical education department of our university here, and was surprised when the first class was not samba or zouk, but capoeira. Capoeira is a traditional Brazilian martial art and is a beautiful combination of dance and fighting. I had so much fun learning all the kicks and tricks and fighting with so many people who I couldn’t even communicate with! While traveling abroad, it really is so important to try new things – some things that seem strange or intimidating might surprise you! 

  1. Pirénopolis 

The six of us Canadians rented a couple cars last weekend and did a mini road trip (about a 2 hour drive) to the lovely small town of Pirénopolis. We spent one night in a charming little hostel where we ate good food, shopped at the cutest little market, and hiked to some beautiful waterfalls. In Calgary I normally try to get out of the city a few times a month, so its been quite hard for me to be trapped in the concrete jungle of Goiania for so long. Our hike to Cachoeira do Abade was exactly what I needed! We hiked, jumped, swam, and found the most beautiful little oasis. We were exhausted when we got back to our hostel. The next morning we explored the precious, brightly-coloured town centre and bought loads of gifts for friends and family (if you’re reading this mom, I got you something pretty cool!) before heading back to Goiania.

  1. The welcoming nature of Brazilians

I’ve got to say, Brazilians make even Canadians look like jerks! From the moment I arrived in Brazil I have felt more warm and welcomed than I’ve ever felt in a new place before. The first week, our friend Rafael spent two days hanging out at the mall with us (after long days of work) in order to help us set up working SIM cards for our phones. We’ve planned a camping trip for next weekend, and a few weeks ago our friend Vitor took time out of his busy day to meet us at a bank and help us pay for our bus tickets via bank transfer. Our friend Larissa has essentially told us every detail that we’ve needed to know about our schedule because our professor doesn’t speak English. Our friend Pedro has spent hours setting up appointments for us. And to top it off, my laptop broke this week so our friend Arthur took to me to the Apple store to help figure everything out! I just got my computer back this morning (and that’s why my blog post is a little late – hehe sorry!)

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Confidently Comfortable

After over one month here, I can now say confidently that I am comfortable here in Goiânia. The aspects that make me feel more at home are; finding my preferred supermarket, going to a local Sunday market at a park that always has delicious food, chatting with Brazilian friends, knowing what to order on a menu, and being able to have conversations in Portuguese. While most the time I speak “Portunhol” (a mix between Portuguese and Spanish), I really do my best to practice my Portuguese at every opportunity. If I don’t know a word in Portuguese, I translate it immediately and then practice pronouncing it over and over again. I feel comfortable making mistakes in Portuguese because I know that it is all part of the process. I just try my best to get my message across, even if we are all laughing at my attempt in the end. It is such a wonderful opportunity and I don’t want to waste any time.





We traveled to a nearby town called Pirenópolis during the weekend and we were all able to practice our Portuguese at a night market, our hostel, and even the restaurants. This was a wonderful experience because we learned many aspects about the area and the beauty that surrounds Goiânia! We went to some cachoeiras (waterfalls) and walked around the stone streets with palm trees everywhere. The people here were all so welcoming and helped us with any doubts we had.





This week we had the opportunity to go to the PUC Languages and Extension Center. This is a private school that has students who range in age from eight to eighty years old. Their language options, in order of popularity, are: English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. I am very excited because next week we will get to observe English classes and then present an activity to the students. While observing the teachers, we will be able to pick up on methods used to teach another language and classroom management strategies to keep the class in order. Here we go!

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Learning From The Students

Goiania has been a blast thus far, and it is crazy to think we are already at the half way point of our program!

Up to this point, we have visited various public/private schools, which has given us a diverse look at the education offered in Brazil. As you can imagine, many of the students we met with were very excited to meet the ‘Canadians’. With that excitement led to groups of students rushing up to us with many questions – from our favourite foods to ‘how many children would you like to have one day?’. I loved answering all these questions not only because of the sheer excitement students had, but that most of the questions were in Portuguese. This added another level of complexity to the ‘Q&A’, as it required a lot of hand gesturing, slowly repeating the question, or asking others for help with the translation. Then, the fun part, was trying to answer these students back in Portuguese.

What was really wonderful about these exchanges is that the students and I were actually learning quite a bit from one another. First, we got to teach each other new terms or phrases in our native languages. As they would help me with understanding Portuguese, I would teach them a bit of English. Second, there were opportunities to share a bit about our culture & history. When asked ‘What is a typical, popular food in Canada?’, ‘poutine’ seemed to be the only thing I could muster up. When I would ask students the same question in regards to Brazil, I would get ‘Feijoada’ (Bean & Pork Stew) or Beans & Rice.

I am extremely grateful for how patient the students were with me in our exchanges. In reflecting on this moment, it highlights how much we, as educators, can learn so much from our students. It further emphasizes the importance of letting students take the driver’s seat and guide their own learning because it is engaging for them – just like the research says. This moment, along with many others, will undoubtedly shape my practice as a future teacher.

Thanks for reading!!!

TO THE LEFT: Me enjoying a Drum Class we Brazil TAB students got to participate in with the students. 

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Lessons in Courage (and Capoeria)

Olá (hello) from Goiania!

These past couple weeks settling into our new environment have been a whirlwind of WhatsApp messages, new friends, mall trips, broken Portuguese, and plenty of giant avocadoes. I’m loving it here, and I’m so grateful for the beautiful people here in Goiania who are making this city feel like home.

There are 6 of us from the UofC here in Brazil, but the Pontificia Universidade Catolica (PUC) has split us into pairs with student teachers from History, Geography, and Physical Education. Jasmine and I have been hanging out with the Physical Education group, and despite the fact that we are both training as English teachers, we are absolutely loving our time with the PE crew. (Side note: the first thing we taught the PE boys was how to say PhysEd. It was a really surprising hit :P)

Today we were at the PE campus where we started by observing some student teachers leading a futebol (soccer) class for a group of neighbourhood kids.  PUC offers sports programs to the community, and this is where many of the PE student teachers get most of their practicum hours. After this, we had the privilege of sitting in on a very impactful presentation on Anxiety Disorders that was led by a girl who was sharing about how therapy, healthy habits, awareness, and exercise can all contribute to addressing these disorders.  It was so beautiful to see her step out in courage and share some very personal reflections on her own experiences with anxiety and the paths she is taking to heal. We could only understand approximately 5% of what she was saying, but with the help of our student translator and the obvious emotion that this student carried, we were able to get a good feel for her passion about the topic.

Some new buds! The beautiful Ranasha (in black) was the student presentor. 

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my own habits, and the ways that these instincts hinder and help me in my life as a foreigner, as a student, and as a teacher.  Courage can be a habit, and I’m determined to make it one of mine.  

These university students choose to be courageous in their warmth and acceptance towards us, even though they are just as nervous about their English as we are about our Portuguese.  They take a chance on us every day by allowing us to watch their personal presentations, observe their classrooms, and take part in their confusing capoeira classes. (Side note #2: Capoeira literally kicked my butt, but 10/10 will go again).  I am realizing more and more that this courage is so essential to the way that we invite new students, parents, and other staff into our classrooms. We have to be brave in the way that we present our passions to our students. We have to be willing to teach from a place of vulnerability because we will inevitably let a little bit (or a big bit, fingers crossed) of our hearts leak into the people that we are investing in. 

Canadians take on Capoeira.


For me, travelling is a really unique area to practise this courage because if I don’t try things now, then when? This is an attitude that I feel like I can generally tap into in very particular places and with very specific people, but I’m seeing the value more and more of choosing to bring this with specific intentionality into my role as a teacher.

I am very aware that I am a creature of habit.  I move around a lot, but I love to make safe spaces for myself.  I have a habit of bringing my little “home sparkers” to every new space that I’m in, and my roommates have to put up with all my little decorations that I’ve strewn around our apartment.  However, I’ve found that as I start to settle in my own head and heart here in Goiania, I have been able to be more courageous and truly enjoy the benefits of choosing to say yes more often than I say no.   

People who help me practise my courage:

  • The student teachers. WhatsApp + Google Translate = 3 new Instagram friends everyday.
  • Every Uber driver. Today I talked to a driver for 5 whole minutes in Portuguese. A new personal record.
  • My travel buds. They show me different ways to say yes everyday and I am so very grateful!

Até logo (see you later)!

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Voce fala inglês?

I have truly felt how scary it can be to try and communicate in a language you are not familiar with. Before coming here, I had gotten stitches that needed to be removed in Brazil. As soon as I got here I was nervous about figuring out the healthcare system in a place that I struggle to communicate. I have already had instances where I am trying to buy something at the market and I start to feel hot and sweaty because I have no understanding of what the sales are despite how hard the merchants try and explain it to me. These are low stake situations that really will not affect me if I do not quite understand, but something like finding someone to remove my stitches is a bit more serious. I was nervous and desperate and got sent to four different places. I was close to just getting my new Brazilian friend’s mother to remove them for me until we finally found a doctor. I would have never been able to do it without the help of my friend and the kindness of strangers. People have been so patient with me and eager to help when they can see that we are confused. They do not get frustrated at our broken Portuguese but teach us how to communicate better instead. This really made me reflect on newcomers who come to Canada. I cannot believe how terrifying it would be to try and navigate and understand new systems that dramatically impact your life (ex. Healthcare) while not knowing the language. I would be completely lost! I imagined what I would have felt like had the people I encountered been rude with me or frustrated that I do not understand their language; I would feel very lonely, hurt, anxious, and fearful to speak again. There have been more instances than I can count where I have seen Calgarians act coldly toward newcomers who do not have the best English, understanding of our culture, or even just have an accent. It is sad to think that some Calgarians have made these people, who are already in a difficult position, feel even worse. It is ironic how, at the same time, I have a family friend who has moved to Canada from India that ended up texting me while I was here. She told me how much she misses India and wishes she could go back; it made me sad to realize that the Canadians she was interacting with were not as warm and welcoming as the Brazilians that I had interacted with.

The kindness of strangers and some of the friends I have made here is the reason I have been having such a great experience. They have fueled me with excitement about immersing myself into this culture and learning the language. Their actions make me feel confident enough to speak, learn, and survive here. These are lessons that I want to take back to Canada and keep in mind when I meet someone who does not speak English or is just new to town. I want them to feel excited and confident as well. I want to express the same warmth to them that I have been receiving because I have had a small taste of how hard and emotional it can really be. I want to alleviate their anxiety and be a helping hand so that they fall in love with Canada the way that I am falling in love with Brazil.

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First school visit

Over the past couple of weeks, I had the chance to experience the culture and history of Goiania in a very fun way. This includes dancing “the first myth” circular dance in a class for the elderly, trying Brigadeiros on my first day at the university and Galinhada during the school visit, attending a Geography field trip to the Pedro Ludovico Museum and the Goiania Art Museum, and attending my very first Capoeira class. I heard from a fellow teacher in the Brazilian school system that Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian dance/self-defence sport, is included in the physical education curriculum for elementary students. I think this is a very engaging way to incorporate culture and history in the physical education class, especially considering this dance was originally used by African slaves as a way to practice self-defence techniques. Brazil’s culture is very rich and I am very happy to be experiencing it as part of TAB.

As I have visited only one public school, I have a very general idea of how the school system works in Goiania. The school I visited hosts students from 16 to 60 years old who did not had the opportunity to finish or even go to school as kids. It serves as both an Elementary and High School, but they also have specialized Portuguese classes for newcomers.

We observed a Spanish class, where they were analyzing a small text. It was interesting to see the different ways in which the teacher engaged with an adult audience. As part of the visit, I learned that although the government funds public school, they are often in need of resources and are not able to pay teachers as much as they would want to. The school has a few students in need of differentiation and the host told me that they usually have meetings to discuss the creation of new supports for them. In one of the classes we visited, there was a teacher assigned to one student for support. If I understood correctly, he is a teacher there, but he also volunteers in order to help that student. Although the school is physically small, it is very complete in terms of classes and separating grade levels. The majority of people prefer private schools, as there is a big gap between the public and private school systems in terms of teaching quality. I now have a very general idea of the school system in Goiania, but I hope to learn more about their curriculum and pedagogical strategies.

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I’ve been in Goiania for exactly two weeks now as I write this post, and I’m reflecting upon all of the crazy experiences we’ve had in such a short period of time. It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind – meeting so many people, struggling to communicate, introducing myself in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, hanging out with new groups of friends and hearing four different languages being spoken at the same table. We’ve met some awesome people who have been so kind and helpful and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain my appreciation for them effectively.

One experience that I can foresee as being the most important to me by the end of this trip is my Portuguese class. We’ve only had one class so far since it only takes place once a week, but I wish we had it every day! Our teacher, Daniel, is fun, charismatic, also teaches French (yay French teachers!!) and clearly has a passion for teaching languages, as do I. After only one four-hour class with him my confidence level shot through the roof compared to what it was before. Even though he is teaching us Portuguese, that is not at all the most valuable lesson I am learning from him. Daniel is an INCREDIBLE teacher and during class I’m finding my notes are a conjoined mess of Portuguese grammar and how to teach a second language. In that one class I found myself constantly thinking “what a great activity!” or “I wonder if this would work with high school students” or even quite simply “this is so much fun!”. He has also been so kind and invited Paola and I to come and observe his French classes next week, which I think will be extremely valuable. He reminds my of my high school French teacher who had such a passion for French and a desire to share her passion with her students. She instilled her zest for life and language in to me as a teenager and I’ve never lost it. If I can become half the teacher that Daniel and Mrs. Webster are, I’ll consider myself a success.

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Language and Classrooms

Since arriving in Goiânia, we have been able to take one Portuguese class, which has helped immensely. When we first landed in Rio, we realized how little English there really is here in Brazil. While you could find a few people who could speak a few sentences in order to sell something or receive a food order, the rest is in Portuguese and that was in the biggest city of the country. Here in Goiânia it is possible to find a few uber drivers who knew some sentences in English, our true help has been a few people who work with our program. There are about three people who are fluent in English helping us through this process. While not being able to communicate has led to a few frustrating moments, it fuels my desire to learn Portuguese. We have been practicing with one another and really trying to speak to the locals here and I think we have already learned so much, which is so exciting! I’m looking forward to our second Portuguese class this week to further learn the structure of the language. We are met with patience and plenty of opportunities to practice, a language enthusiast’s paradise.



When it comes to learning about the education system here, we have been able to visit one school, have conversations with the professors at the university, and attend a few classes at the university. The school we were able to visit is a public school with students who range from adolescents to adults who are in their seventies. At this school, anyone who has not received their high school diploma can take classes free of judgement. We were able to speak with some of the classes, as well as, take part in some readings during a Spanish class. We were told that many of these students have very difficult lives and some mainly come to school in order to eat the meal provided. They allowed us to try the meal that they serve to the students, fried rice with vegetables and chicken, it was delicious. It was really great to see how much the teachers cared about the learning and nutrition of their students, no matter the age. I learned a lot from the students and teachers at this wonderful school! The quote below is pictured right when you enter the school for the students to read:


"Our semester will be a success! Your presence is very important to us. We are happy because you are with us. Let's walk on the road of knowledge and build a new future. Welcome!"


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