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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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Novas Experiências

It has not even been 2 weeks since I have been in Brazil and Calgary already seems like it was ages ago. It is really crazy how much can happen in such a short amount of time. Even though I have been in Brazil for a small period of time, I am already in love with it. We visited the beautiful beaches of Rio and camped in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Rio was full of music, beautiful edgy street art on every corner, breathtaking hiking views, and beaches with sand as soft as powder; it really felt like we just barely scratched the surface. It was hard to believe that the Amazon was located in the same country; the samba drums and funk music was quickly replaced with crickets and howler monkeys; we held Caymans, went fishing for Piranhas, and watched pink dolphins swim while the sun rose. I have never been camping in my life and my first ever experience involved sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the Amazon rainforest while on my period. This was so far out of my comfort zone; I was even terrified at times but it was one of the best things I have experienced in my entire life. I am so thankful I had such a life changing moment right before starting the TAB program in Goiania. It taught me some valuable lessons I want to keep with me as I go through the next two months and, honestly, as I go through life:

  1. I will never regret pushing past my comfort zone
  2. I will always remember when I do something new for the first time  
  3. It is okay to be afraid
  4. Time will always continue to pass meaning joyful and challenging times will pass too
  5. When we push our limits we grow
  6. I am way more resilient than I think

Now that I am settling in Goiania, I am facing new challenges and having even more amazing experiences and I cannot wait to push myself in so many ways and see how I grow. I already know that I am going to leave Brazil with new friendships, stories, and lessons. It has already been life changing, I can only imagine what is in store.

 

 

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Voce fala inglês?

It has now been a week and a half since I landed in Rio de Janeiro to start this exciting adventure. It is crazy to think that two weeks ago, I was packing my bags and saying goodbye to friends and family not knowing exactly what to expect of Brazil. I am so overwhelmed by how amazing this experience is so far and very excited to explore and learn more about Goiania.

Right after visiting Rio de Janeiro, my travel buds and I headed to Manaus, a city in the State of Amazonas. There, we took two vans and two speed boats in order to reach our Jungle lodge in the heart of the Amazon rain forest near Rio Juma. On my way to the lodge, I met many interesting people and heard amazing travel stories. The best part of meeting them was the fact that I could, for the most part, speak with them in their native language! As a language lover and future second language teacher, this experience confirmed that languages can open the door to the world- even in such a small group of people. The international experience continued once we arrived to the lodge, where we met people from Brazil, Italy, Germany, Canada, France, Switzerland, England, India, Guyana and Japan.  Although I can only speak French, Spanish and English fluently and enough Italian to hold a conversation, I was able to communicate with all of them. It was so amazing to be able to fully connect with them through my love for languages and our mutual excitement about the rain forest and the Brazilian culture.  On our second night, we played games from India, Canada and Germany while chatting and drinking local drinks. My heart was so full when I heard all the different languages in the room while still being able to fully understand the games and conversations. I hope to share these memories with my future students in order to inspire them to love languages as much as I do and motivate them to reach their learning objectives.

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Exploring Brazil's Natural Wonders

Olá! 

Prior to establishing myself in Goiania, I had taken two weeks to travel around Brazil. In these two weeks of travel, I have come to realize two things: 1) Brazilian culture is diverse and comes from a vibrant history, & 2) Brazil is home to some of the most stunning and underrated natural wonders. The latter surprised me because the natural wonders I explored were situated outside of the Amazon – which Brazil is globally known for. Visiting the rocky shores of Barra in Salvador to the mountains, caves, and waterfalls of Chapada Diamantina, I was continuously astonished at the variety of landscapes and natural gems Brazil is home to.

But one place that continues to captivate me are the endless sheets of white sand dunes and turquoise pools of Lencois Maranhenses National Park. Located on the Northeastern coast of Brazil, the formation of the sand dunes were created by years of sand deposits brought in from rivers that were then blown across the land creating over 300,000 acres of sand dunes. The pools in the middle of the dunes are from the accumulation of fresh water brought in from the rain. The depth of the pools are at their maximum during rainy season, and their lowest during dry season.

I can honestly say pictures do not do justice for how surreal and breathtaking Lencois Maranhenses is. It is truly mind boggling to think that such a place like this would exist in Brazil. Although the journey to Lencois Maranhenses is about a 1 day travel to get to (i.e. plane trip to Sao Luis, 5 hour drive to Barrahensis, then 1 hour drive off-road to Lencois Maranhenses National Park), I promise that it is well worth the investment. Looking back, I would gladly do the trip one hundred times over to visit this natural gem. 

Thanks for reading!

 

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How to Love Your First Week in Brazil

­How to order food: Wait until someone brave has already wrestled through some broken Portuguese to order their dish, and then say “mesmo” (same).

How to get to know your Uber driver: Ask all of the introduction questions you know in Portuguese and then smile and nod as if you understand the answers.

How to experience Rio de Janeiro: Find some adventurous locals on Airbnb Experiences (for real do it!) and go to the cutest little café for fresh salad bowls.

How to find a caiman (crocodile): Sit by the fire drinking caipirinhas (local drink) while your friendly neighbourhood Italian runs around in the darkness with the guides. 

How to make up for missing Canadian ice cream: Eat açaí constantly.

How to love Brazil: Just let it happen.

Brazil has been beautiful.  As a student learning to teach, I love how travelling throws me into uncomfortable, but ultimately positive, stretching growth experiences.  I am loving this country, and I have already learned so much.

For instance, survival isn’t as much about equipment as it is about attitude. When we were in the Amazon rainforest, our guide Cobra led us on a jungle trek where he showed us a myriad of ways to access medicine, food, hydration, and shelter, with just his machete and the information he had gained from experience and research.  I loved talking to Cobra because he was so informed on a huge range of topics.  He lives in a remote village and taught himself English in order to better communicate as a tour guide.  His next languages to master are German and Hebrew.  He knew the most about the jungle of any of the other guides because he chased that knowledge. His passion for learning made me so much more grateful for my education, and this trip in particular.

 Side note - Canadians really do apologize all the time.  The only people that I have heard saying “de sculpa” (sorry/excuse me) are me and my fellow Canadians.  We’re actively working on playing it cool. :P

All that to say, I don’t want to downplay how incredible this trip has been, and will continue to be. We (me + travel buds) have been talking a lot about the importance of open hearts and minds and I’m excited to dance in new grocery stores, swim in new waterfalls, and laugh in new languages.

Ciao!

 

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Waking up in Goiânia

Boa tarde!

Today is my first morning to wake up in Goiânia and it started off with açaí and granola, so pretty great if you ask me! I had my first experience in the grocery store trying to find produce to make my “normal” dishes. However, I quickly found that many of my usuals did not exist here. This gave me the opportunity to look for new produce and create a new goal for myself: learn how to cook some local cuisine.  

Before arriving to Goiânia, I traveled a bit around Brazil and began to try and pick up as much Portuguese as possible. Speaking Spanish really helps, even though many words and verbs are different, there are also similarities that aide my learning. I learned how to order food, say excuse me, pay at a store, and most importantly how to say, “how cool!”.

Que massa! (which literally means pasta) or Que legal! (which literally means legal)

 

 

For my first week in Brazil, I traveled to the Lençois Maranhenses where there are sand dunes and lagoons that fill with rain water. I learned that even though some of the lagoons have names, such as "Logoa Bonita" and "Lagoa Azul", they are not permanent because the wind changes the lagoons each season. The sand dunes with the mix of blue and green lagoons were absolutely stunning! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapada Diamantina is where I spent my second week in the town of Lençois. The reason this national park has this name is because "Diamantina" means diamond and "Chapada" means plateaus, hills, and valleys. This is where mining for diamonds was worked on for many years. Fortunately, the search for diamonds in this area became illegal around 1994 and and has since become a main place for tourists. It is said that only 30% of the diamonds in the area has been unearthed, but there are still thousands beneath the surface. The damage to the rock formations is noticeable, but it was stopped before the true beauty was destroyed. Within the national park, there are massive caves, blue pools, lush waterfalls and plateaus overlooking the valleys. Not only is the park a true treasure, so are the people of Lençois. This town was full with happy people always willing to help. Any time I look lost or confused they offered a hand. This place is a true gem, in every sense of the word. 

 

 

 

 

 

A little about myself: I am passionate about languages and how people use them, experiencing diverse culture, and committing to life-long learning. While I am here in Brazil I hope to focus on learning Portuguese, delving into the local culture, learning how cook Brazilian cuisine, dance samba, and something. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity of this experience and will be sure to take advantage of every moment while I'm here!

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Anecdote for my Future Students

For the past month before arriving in Goiania, I’ve been backpacking solo around Colombia. I’ve always wanted to visit Colombia as I have a few friends in Calgary that are originally from there, so I figured it would be perfect timing to stop over there on my way to Brazil. I visited Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Buritaca, Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Minca, and I loved (almost) every minute of it.

 

One thing that I realized quickly after arriving at the Bogota airport was that not many people spoke English. I took Spanish for two years at UVIC right after high school and did fairly well, but that was quite a long time ago and my level of confidence in Spanish is now pretty much non-existent. When I got off the plane, I noticed that I understood all of the signs in the airport. When I ordered an uber to pick me up, I understood the messages he was sending to me. When I got in to the uber, I understood most of what he said to me, however I had absolutely no confidence to reply to him out loud. For the first week and a half of my trip I refused to communicate with anybody in Spanish because I was so afraid of making mistakes. Since I’m studying to become a French teacher I’m pretty anal about grammar, so I felt like it would be the end of the word if I tried to say something in Spanish and I conjugated my verb improperly or pronounced a word wrong. I was getting so frustrated with my lack of communication skills and I spent my first few days in Bogota moping around in my hostel thinking that I wasn’t going to enjoy my month in Colombia because my Spanish was so bad.

 

When I got to Medellin I met two Welsh girls who I ended up spending a lot of time with. One of the girls had been backpacking through Central/South America for the past two months, and had grown very confident with her Spanish. We were so lucky to be in Medellin for the Feria de las Flores, and for the parade we sat with an incredibly generous and fun Colombian family that sort of took us under their wing. They spoke no English at all, so the Welsh girl started talking to them in Spanish. I realized quickly that her level of Spanish was no better than mine - probably even a little bit lower - but she was so confident said whatever she felt like and everybody understood her. After about an hour I thought “I can do this too!” and I started chatting. I explained to the Colombian family that I don’t really speak Spanish, but I speak French so sometimes I find it easy to understand, to which they replied, “but, yes you do speak Spanish! You’re speaking it right now!”

 

Ever since that day for the rest of my travels in Colombia, I took every chance I had to speak in my broken Spanish to everybody. After just a couple weeks of pushing myself and trying my hardest to be unafraid of making mistakes, my confidence, fluidity and accuracy in Spanish had improved more than I ever thought in could in such a short period of time. I guess the message of this story that I want to pass on to my future students is that you’re going to have to take risks when you’re learning a new language in order to improve. I spent so much time worrying that people would laugh at me if I made mistakes, but then once I started everybody loved my mistakes because it showed that I was trying my hardest. I want my future students to know that in my French classroom nobody will be ridiculed for making a mistake because everybody will be in the same boat. You won’t ever improve unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone, like I did continuously in Colombia for the past month.

 

Now I just need to start doing the same thing in Portuguese… wish me luck!

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