Friday, July 20, 2012

Reflections on Rio

A proverb says that, “Travel broadens the mind, and raises the spirits.”

While traveling in Brazil, it felt important to soak in whatever we were experiencing at that moment.  It is good to come home and put the whole adventure into some perspective.  I do feel that my mind has been broadened and my spirits lifted.  The highlights for me, as a teacher librarian, were the educational lectures and school visits we made.  I have written about those in other blogs.  Here I want to reflect on the other aspects that I am so thankful to have experienced.

The language barrier was a big struggle for me.  I have not had formal training in Spanish or Portuguese.  Most of the other students in the program were quite fluent in Spanish and said this helped them understand the majority of Portuguese.  I had dabbled in Portuguese through an online course, but the speed at which the natives spoke often left me grasping for meaning, even with words I thought I had learned.  My second language is German.  After studying for three years in high school and another three in college, it was exciting to be able to use it during my travels in Europe. I was equally excited to see our Nebraskans using their language training, but wished I understood Portuguese and could get more out of our trip.  Sometimes in frustration, I would find myself knowing that English would not be understood, so blurting out German, as that was all I had in my language arsenal.  While in Rio, I met a gentleman whose first language was French, but also spoke Portuguese, Arabic, and English.  He was a sociologist, and because he knew my language, was able to share his observations.  This revealed the exponential power his words carried. He was able to share his ideas with so many people.  I hope that we continue to teach our youngsters the importance of and skills in world languages.

Another aspect of culture shock that I struggled with was the relaxed view of time.  We had been told this would be different from the US, but I found I had to experience it to fully grasp its effect. In one of our lectures, Professor Van Speier told us, “You are never sure what is going to happen in Brazil until after it happens.”  We had a well-planned calendar of events for our trip, but could never be sure that we would actually do what was scheduled.  It was common for lecturers to be stuck in traffic, so late for our sessions.  Sometimes the lecture or trip we had planned was canceled, and we found something different but productive to do with our time. We often lingered over meals much longer than I was used to.  Because we were traveling and all other responsibilities were suspended for three weeks, this was not too stressful for me.  I did wonder how I would respond if I had other responsibilities or people waiting on my timeliness. I think it was good for me to relax and enjoy the moment, rather than being so tied to my agenda.  This is something I hope to practice with family and friends at home.

They say that doing something twenty-one times makes it a habit, and some of the habits formed in Brazil will be hard to break.  I am experiencing withdrawal from walking on the beautiful beaches each morning and most evenings.  I miss seeing the beautiful tropical scenery and the varied architecture of Rio.  I miss the lectures, discussions, and excursions that introduced me to new ideas each day.  I am missing the wonderful Brazilians and Nebraskans I met while in Rio.  I am so thankful to have been part of this incredible experience!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reflections on Brazil

It’s been four days since we got back from Brazil, and in some ways the three weeks in Rio feel like a dream. Cornfields have replaced the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. The Nebraska summer heat has melted away the temperate winter of the Southern hemisphere, and life here at home has picked right back up where it left off. My time in Brazil seems so totally separate, distant, and foreign. It’s always the challenge of the traveler to make sense of what he or she has seen, heard, felt, and experienced, and initially this seems difficult. Just a few minutes of reflection, however, reveals just how deeply I have been affected by the study abroad course in Brazil. That I can even compare the Nebraska summer to a South American winter is evidence that I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience an exotic place. More than having seen and experienced the natural wonders of Brazil, I have been transformed by the people I met and the conversions I had.

We came away from Rio with much more than the average traveler because we were more than tourists. We were students of Brazil, of its culture, its language, its people, history, successes, and faults. We learned how the Brazilian economy is growing each year as a result of shrewd political decisions by the nation’s leaders after a tumultuous and disappointing past. We learned how the Brazilian school system operates and that new steps are being taken to reorganize the existing half-day schedule into a full, productive day of classes. We learned that Brazil has a large and multifaceted public health system with many strengths but also many flaws, and that free and equal health care does not usually extend into Brazil’s ghettos or favelas.

Above all, we learned that Americans and Brazilians would do well to learn from one another and join efforts to be responsible citizens of two major world powers. There is more to tie us together than keep us apart. Probably the most valuable thing with which I came home is a set of relationships with several conscientious Brazilian professors and scientists who are working to protect the environment and improve their home country. The world is shrinking more and more each day, and I have a feeling I will see these people again and that our meeting this summer will be the beginning of a continuing friendship. Until then, I will enjoy the new friendships I have made with my fellow University of Nebraska students. After sharing such powerful experiences in Rio and Paraty, we have bonded in a way that is only possible abroad.

Brazilian Wrap-up

Molly, Adrienne, Ozzy and Chloe
After 3 weeks together in Brazil, our group managed to see many of the highlights that Rio de Janeiro has to offer. As the readers know, we were able to stand atop Pão de açúcar, Cristo Redentor, and climb favela stairs; some of us even took a sunset helicopter ride. It is in hindsight that I am able to say, three weeks is not enough to see and do it all.
We spent the last few days outside of the city of Rio de Janeiro in a colonial town called Paraty. Like most of the rest of the group, it took a while to get the pronunciation correct – it is pronounced “PAR-AH-CHEE”. PUC-Rio was able to send an international student worker with us – João Schmitz – and together, we were able to have a wonderful farewell dinner with none other than Mr. Tom Farrell, the Vice Provost for Global Engagement for the University of Nebraska. It was a great way to end a fast, intense three weeks.
Sunset over Ipanema Beach
In previous blogs, other students have cited the Brazilian musician Tom Jobim with his quotation “Brazil is not for beginners”. I completely agree. Outside of the normal ethnocentric ideas that we had about Brazil, our group was able to experience some of the highs and lows of Rio. We stayed in the glamorous part of town, Ipanema, yet spent hours in local favelas. We navigated the subway system, local buses, and taxi’s as if we were natives, and cheered on the “team” at the Flamengo soccer game. We frequently watched the sun set over the ocean, and enjoyed a beautiful 75-80 degree “winter” season. We watched polluted bay water under treatment, and spoke to many different Cariocas about their various hopes for the forthcoming World Cup and Olympics.
Rio de Janerio is an amazing place. It has the big city feel of New York, the ocean personality of Key West, and the residents have the heart of Nebraskans. I would like to personally thank the University of Nebraska for allowing me this once in a lifetime opportunity. Our experiences in Brazil were life changing and talks of returning were overheard numerous times during the 8,000 miles of return flights.

Monday, July 16, 2012


The red carpet was out at Criança Esperança on Wednesday, our final day at that NGO.  VIP’s were invited to ride the elevator up twenty seven flights from the wealthy Ipanema neighborhood to the community center serving the favela residents high on the hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  After exiting the elevator, they followed the crimson carpet to the center of the educational program, the Biblioteca, or library.  As a school librarian, this got my attention.

On this day they were hosting one of thirteen events in Rio de Janeiro called FLUPP. This is a literacy festival for favela residents sponsored by the UPP, the police department that is assigned to pacify these communities.  This festival was modeled after FLIP, the Festa Literaria Internacional de Paraty.  FLIP is “the literary event of the Brazilian calendar, as well as one of the most influential literary jamborees in the world,” according to The Rough Guide to Rio de Janeiro.  The annual festival began in 2003 by Liz Calder, co-founder of the British publisher Bloomsbury.  It hosts Brazilian authors as well as those of international fame.  We just missed this year’s event on July 4-8, as we made the four hour drive to Paraty on Thursday, July 12.

While FLIP is a festival for elite authors and their followers,  Criança Esperança´s FLUPP was created for the masses living in favelas.  On our three previous visits to this community center, I took special interest in the library.  It was a large bright space, with million dollar views overlooking Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, as well as the picturesque lagoon, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.  The library had tables for creative projects, over twenty computers, and hundreds of books on their shelves.  There were samples of student work displayed showing that they had been learning about the environment in response to the recent Rio +20 conference.  When school was out, every computer was used by students, typically playing online games.  The traffic at the bookshelves, however, was dismal.  On closer inspection, it was clear why.  The shelves were filled with “MUSTY” books.  In the library world that stands for “Misleading, Ugly,  Superseded,  Trivial, and  Your collection has no use for it” and it means that it is time for them to go.  It appears that the library was filled with donated books that were rejected by kind hearted people.  A book in the medical section looked as if it represented the average age of that collection.  It was published in 1986, and had stains showing its exposure to moisture. A patron would have to dig through many old books to find the few gems that were hidden on the shelves. A volunteer said she had tried to begin a reading program with the children, but they showed little interest.  She said that in the eight weeks that she had been there, she had only seen three people checking out books.

That is why it was so exciting to see the activities happening with FLUPP.  Children were brought to the festival with their class.  The vibrant MC introduced celebrity readers, storytellers, and invited the children on stage to dance between events.  At first the children seemed to struggle to focus their attention.  As Arlete Salles took the stage, the boy next to me tapped my leg and with a twinkle in his eye said something in Portuguese which I did not understand, apart from the word “novella”.  He was in awe of this TV novella star and was excited to hear what she had to say.  Again, due to the language barrier, I can only guess that her passionate introduction involved sharing her love of reading.  She then used her theatrical gift to read a rather long book without pictures to this large group of children.  Most gave her their complete attention.  Following that there was an incredible storyteller whose body language and sound effects kept me glued to his every move, even though I didn’t understand a word he said. The children were thrilled.  Then actress Renata Sarrah took the stage.  She spread a pile of books on the ledge in front of her.  She refused to take the microphone, and got the group so quiet they could hear her unamplified voice.  She also began with a passionate introduction.  She then read to the students with wonderful expression.  At the end, she told them that the books on stage were written for all levels of readers and would be donated to the library.  This was a generous and welcome gift. This was followed with a book read by Rodrigo Fagundes.  I do not know his significance, but the children seeking to have their picture taken with him certainly did.  He kept them in stitches with the humorous way that he read his book.

In reading more about FLUPP I learned that this is also a writing contest.  Favela residents are often stereotyped as uneducated gangsters.  Through the festival, they are encouraged to write and submit the diverse stories of their lives.  Thirty of the best entries are then published into a book.    I truly hope that this event awakens a thirst for reading and writing in these young people.  I hope that they are brought into the library by the new books given by their TV icon, and that they then take the time to dig for the other treasures on the shelves.

Coates, R. & Marshall, O. (2009). The rough guide to Rio de Janeiro. Rough Guides.

McLoughlin, B. (2012). Rio de Janeiro festival brings literature to the favelas.  Retrievied from

The Last Week

This flag will not be forgotten as we round up our last week
We are now in our last week in Rio and the looming feeling that we will be leaving lingers among us.  What an amazing experience we have had thus far. We have come to understand a little more about not only the physical beauty of Brazil, but more importantly the nuances of the culture.  

This weekend we saw highlights from the most important aspects of the area. Petropolis was a city rich in history and the passionate soccer game we saw on Sunday emersed us in Brazil's favorite pastime.  I am sure our last trip to Paraty will be equally engaging.

Yesterday and today we had the opportunity to partake in a service learning project at a local community center in a favela in our area, Criança Esperança.  This center gives the community children the chance to stay out of the streets and engage in healthy activities.  Their vision is that each activity, whether it is sports, play, or the arts, have some education to offer about socialization.  They have a very loose and accommodating schedule for all ages which is quite suitable for the variety of backgrounds the children bring with them.  

The activities range from futbol to English class.  Yesterday, I had a wonderful experience observing a theater class for a group of fifteen three to five year-olds.  The dynamic relationship between teacher and student in this context was incredible.  The teacher was so personable, it was contagious.  The children called him papai (dad) and kissed or hugged him often.  We learned about his type of rapport from a public school teacher earlier at a class in PUC-Rio last week.  It was hard to comprehend at the time but makes far more sense after seeing the relations first hand. The children sometimes see their teachers far more than their own parents, so it would make sense to have such a genuine love for teachers - it is quite endearing.  Even with all of the differences that stick out between the people of Rio and the US, it is clear that children are the common denominator with their pureness of heart. 

Today we offered our services by painting one of the rooms in the building.  As a proud and humble group, they asked not for our money or specialties, but were most genuinely appreciative of our time.  Although meager in comparison to all that they do, our token of service through this small project was necessary to continue the clean atmosphere of the new building. We have no doubt left a small piece of ourselves in this facility as well as made an unforgettable memory. 

As the week raps up along with our trip, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on what we have learned in Rio.  Although we have only known each other for a short three weeks, the experiences we've shared with our new friends have made these close relationships strong and lasting.  In these last few days in Brazil, I find it vital to soak up as much culture as possible to share back in the states.

Paraty: A Town Stuck in Time

Paraty was colonized in the 1500's by the Portuguese.  It is known as the "Venice of Brazil" because it is built between two rivers and its streets fill up with water during the rainy season.  The streets are made of cobblestone and are lower than the buildings to channel water to the bay.  What is interesting is that the town was built during different eras.  This can be seen in its architecture.  The first level of most buildings are made of wood usually during the 1600s.  Some buildings added second floors during the 1700s using different materials such as steel.  Homes that had glass windows and door knockers identified the homes for the rich.  It used to take Europeans 5 to 6 months to travel to Brazil.  Most who came to Paraty would only build small homes with only one access point and no windows to better protect themselves against home invasions.  They also only stayed in Brazil for a short period of time.  Many Europeans would only stay enough time to create a fortune or to better themselves.  As more people came, the need for a local economy emerged.  Slowly a road to Minas Gerais was developed as gold was found in the mines.  However, when the port of Rio de Janeiro became important, the traffic shifted north.  This caused the decline of this rising city.  
A view of Rua Lapa with the Slave church at the end
Originally, the town was built on sugarcane and then later on coffee and tobacco.  These products were known as "black gold" because many became rich very quickly with the help of slavery.  Although at one time Paraty was an important port, the town and its people were very segregated.  The town had multiple churches, one for each member of society.  For example,  there was a church for the rich, the poor, the slaves, and everyone else.  Most churches had a unique symbol sitting on top of its highest point.  The symbol was a rooster standing on top of a globe.  This symbol alerted incoming ships that it was a Portuguese colony.

The town is now a UNESCO patrimony protected area.  There are strict rules Paraty tries to follow in order to preserve its history and its valuable artifacts.  All tourists must be toured by a local guide.  There are only certain areas cars can drive on, the residents do their best to keep the place safe and clean, and tourists are asked to only take home souvenirs that are purchased through local shops.  Furthermore, residents work throughout the year to repair damaged buildings and to keep the traditional ways alive.  Some of the things you can still find in Paraty are carriages pulled by horses, and numerous types of cachaça (Brazilian sugarcane liquor).  Even the princes of Brazil like Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza continue to have a residence here.  His vacation home is adorned with the Brazilian monarchy emblem.  The emblem includes images of the coffee and tobacco plants, a globe in the middle, topped with a ostentatious royal crown.  The crown is topped with the Catholic's church symbol of the cross.
Brazilian Monarchy Emblem
We stayed at the Pousada Condessa. A single floor  structure with 40 rooms of various sizes.  The hotel runs parallel with a man-made channel.  Many colorful boats can be seen here.  Paraty is surrounded by beautiful mountains and green forests.  This is an amazing place to visit.  It is town that is stuck in time.  Paraty is a colonial Portuguese town that preserves its history, and continues to attract tourists from around the globe.   


Being one of the last blogs from Rio, I feel a certain privilege of taking a look at our entire trip as inspiration for my entry. From my perspective as a student from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I have received so much information from the readings and also while in the classroom at PUC, I have been able to apply much of it while here in Rio de Janeiro. From watching movies and reading about favelas in the States, our idea of a favela is a massive shanty town filled to the brim with thugs, guns and drugs, but that is not necessarily the case. From movies such as City of God and Tropa de Elite, we see what many favelas may have been like in the past, however, today it is different. In 20 of nearly 630 favelas, life has changed dramatically. It’s safe for children to roam and play, guns and drugs aren’t the common sight in the spaces between homes that could be considered streets. As more international events continue to come to Rio, it is likely that many of the 630 favelas will become pacified in hopes to make the city a safer place.

As Ozzie mentioned in a previous blog, we viewed a lecture given by Pedro Evora at PUC about Urbanism and Architecture. As in any society, there are still many problems to be solved, but things are changing as the so-called "pacification police" (a concept similar to community policing in the U.S.) continues to take control of each community. These police set up a central office within a favela and enforce the new way of life for people living in each community. As Pedro Evora stated, favelas are a solution to a problem.  All of the job opportunities were located in the city and instead of making a multiple-hour commute each day, people began taking over unused land on the hillsides of Rio. It’s all about perspective.  Even though there are problems within favelas, there is a certain beauty. If one were to take a walk to the Feira de Hippie on Sundays or the market on Copacabana during the weekday evenings, the selection of artwork is immense.  The one thing that stands out is a particular artistic interpretation of favelas: colorful, small shacks staggered up and down, left and right on the hillsides of Rio.

It is this artistic representation that brings about the beauty of an interwoven system that is used to operate a favela. On a tour through the community of the organization Criança Esperança yesterday, we were given the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the organization of a favela. As small as this view was, we saw how the mail center worked: heaps of envelopes are sorted alphabetically and using the trust system, residents pick up their mail by flipping through the pile under their initial. However small and insignificant it may seem, I believe that this reveals a level of trust that lies inside of these communities. As I have said, it’s all about perspective.

Today I was shown another side of Rio from a perspective unknown to me before. After a delicious, hearty lunch prepared for us by Criança Esperança, our group went their own ways to complete our last day in Rio. I chose to go to the beach for a couple of hours to see a side of Ipanema of which I had not seen. I spent a solid hour and, a half reading, soaking up some sun and listening to the daytime beach scene. Following this, a small group of UNO students met at the hotel to catch a taxi to the helipad near the Lagoa. Although it may have been a little expensive, the helicopter ride truly paid for itself. We could not have chosen a better day to take the flight either.  Besides being a bright and sunny 80-something degree day, we also planned to take the flight as the last group of the day, so that we could see the sunset from above Rio. This new perspective brought a sense of closure and summary of our trip as we passed over the Lagoa, Ipanema Beach, Copacabana, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Corcovado. The views can only speak for themselves as I cannot describe them as anything more than breathtaking.
Group prior to Helicopter flight
Even if we encountered some slight turbulence along the way, this trip has been an experience that means something unique to each and every one of us. We will all take away so much from this experience and I am proud to say that I was a part of this fabulous fifteen. 

Photos by Chloe - helicopter ride over Rio at sunset

Photos by Chloe - helicopter ride over Rio at sunset

Photos by Chloe - helicopter ride over Rio at sunset

Photos by Chloe - helicopter ride over Rio at sunset

Photos by Chloe - helicopter ride over Rio at sunset

Photos by Chloe - helicopter ride over Rio at sunset

Friday, July 13, 2012

Game Time

San Juanita and Janet at Estadio Olimpico João Havelange 
You can feel the excitement in the air. Everywhere you look flags are waving, cars are honking, and fans sporting red and black jerseys screaming chants for their team. For all you Nebraska Husker football fans out there, sadly I am not talking about game day Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska. This past Sunday we were fortunate to be a part of one of the Brazil’s most prominent and important pastimes. I am of course talking about attending a fútbol game at Estádio Olímpico João Havelange where Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (Flamengo or Mengão for short) faced off against the team Fluminense. I, myself, have no specific loyalty to either team, but we were warned we had Flamengo side tickets and going against the crowd might not be in our best interest. That is all it took to convince me, I was yelling and cheering for Flamengo and although they were defeated in a 1-0 final score, I will continue to cheer them on.

Soccer, or fútbol as it is called all over the world, came to Brazil in the late 1800's. Rohter mentions in his book Brazil on the Rise the skepticism with which the game was introduced and the belief the game would fail to catch popularity in the country. Fútbol was a European sport not to be understood by any other people. Nevertheless, with a record five Word Cup championships under its belt, Brazil has not only proven their ability to play but also has shown their allegiance to the game. 

Flamengo Vs. Fluminense
We had been advised many of the streets around the stadium closed for the game so in order to make it on time we left the hotel around two in order to make the four o’clock game. Upon arriving we rushed out in order to keep the group together, we made it though security and the front gates with relative ease. As we climbed around the stadium I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarities between the emotions I was feeling and the emotions during home games in Lincoln. Before reaching our seat a firework went off only intensifying the feeling of excitement I was feeling about the game. To hear about the love Latin America has for fútbol is one thing, to actually be a part of it is something completely unexplainable.

Unlike Husker football games the yelling, cheering, and chanting started from the moment we walked to our seats. Seats, however, are completely unnecessary as I witnessed about a total of three people sitting during the game. I was also taken by surprise by the start of the game. While in the United States there is suspense build before the first kickoff by going into silence, Brazil keeps on going without skipping a beat. Also while most games I have been too chants are short catchy, they seemed to be singing full out songs to their beloved team members. They also included a song at the beginning which had all of the team’s names in it.

I was impressed by the energy held in the stadium up till the very last second. The band kept playing and fans kept singing even after the clock stopped running and their team had been defeated. It was easy to get lost in the moment and join in the cheering and chanting even if I most likely was singing the wrong words.  When the other team scored there were furious faces, but most fans began to sing another song in order to motivate their team. The attitude seemed to be one of ‘we can’t let them phase us with one point.’ 

 For me, this was probably a once in a lifetime experience. In order to fully understand a culture you must also take part in and understand their feelings for recreational activities. I appreciate the fact that we were able to enjoy this event. It was a break from the ordinary and one I am not likely to forget!

Uma Missa no Rio: Catholicism in Brazil

While touring the downtown area of Rio last week, we made a short stop at the impressive Catedral de São Sebastião. Constructed between 1964 and 1979, the conical cathedral stands at a height of 96 meters with a diameter of 106 meters and has a capacity for 20,000 people. It is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of the city, and its four sides are decorated with dazzling stained-glass windows.
The group heads inside the cathedral
Three of the four stained-glass windows (Wikipedia)
One of my goals for my time in Rio de Janeiro was to attend a Catholic Mass. I did not have a chance to go to a ceremony at the cathedral, unfortunately, but in Brazil, it's never very hard to find a nearby church. I set my alarm clock a little earlier than usual this morning, got dressed, and walked a few blocks to the church of Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace) for the 6:30 service.
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace)
A few things struck me about the Portuguese missa. It was hard to tell tourist from regular parishioner, but I was impressed by the collection of 40 plus people gathered so early in the morning on a Tuesday. The dress code was similar to that in the U.S., everything from button-up shirt and sports coat and dresses  to running shorts and a t-shirt. Everyone seemed friendly, and I received several hearty handshakes during the sign of peace, one a double-handed shake complete with a rosary in between. The priest followed the typical sequence. Of course, I did not understand much of the Portuguese, but the content of the liturgy is universal, and the English versions ran in my head as the priest went from prayer to prayer. The priest sat in a chair in front of the altar, something I had never seen in the United States before. There was also a handful of people who showed up to Mass only toward the last few minutes to take Communion, a phenomenon that seems to me to capture the spirit of Brazilian Catholicism.
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace)
With 123 million people who self-declare as Catholic, Brazil boasts the single largest community of Roman Catholics of any country in the world. The presence of religion is seen everywhere: statues of saints can be seen in bars, churches stand on every other street corner, feast days are widely celebrated, and people often respond to a farewell with "Se Deus quiser" or "If God so wills it." Carnival, the most important holiday in Brazil, is a final ostentatious celebration of drinking, eating, and dancing before Lent begins. Nonetheless, as author Larry Rohter writes, "those manifestations of what seem to be conventional religious belief mask a deeper and more complicated reality." Many of the approximately two-thirds of the Brazilian population who profess to be Catholic only attend services on major holidays such as baptisms, weddings, or funerals. In smaller towns, "it's not unusual for men to sit in the square playing dominoes or checkers or to be in the pool hall or tavern while their children and womenfolk are at religious services." Others who consider themselves nominally Catholic actually subscribe to syncretic Afro-Brazilian religions, such as macumba, candomblé, and umbanda. These faiths, spiritual cousins of Haitian voodoo or Cuban Santeria, combine pagan elements of Western African origin and Christianity.

The complex nature of religious faith in this country is another example of how, like the U.S., Brazil is a large country with an ever-changing confluence of cultures and ideas. Things are often not how they appear in Brazil and in Rio, and as the composer Tom Jobim said, "Brazil is not for beginners." Nonetheless, after more than two weeks here, we are moving beyond the status of beginners as we encounter elements of the culture that paint a deeper and more realistic picture of what life here is really like. As our final week flies by all too quickly, we can only hope that our love affair with this magnificent and mysterious country has only just begun. 

Futebol in Espaco Crisanca Esperanca

On Monday the ninth and Tuesday the tenth I was a part of a basketball and soccer team in Espaco Crianca Esperanca. Espaco Crianca Esperanca has indoor basketball on Mondays and soccer Tuesday through Friday. I am glad I was able to attend these two days to see the tremendous difference in the children from one day to the other. I witnessed a complete change in atmosphere with the children from Monday to Tuesday.

On Monday the children were very excited to have us join their teams. They tried to get to know us, and asked lots of questions. They were simply curious about us joining them for basketball. The children were very energetic on both days, but in a different way. On Tuesday more than twice as many children showed up. Their ages were from nine to fourteen years old. They welcomed us, but were not around us as they were the previous day. They focused on the game only.

We were split up into teams of five. There were about eight teams. Two teams played against each other until one scored, and then another team would go in. I watched three teams before my team played. I watched their facial expressions closely, and their enthusiasm. I looked at the young faces and I saw another type of face. I could see the concentration in their eyes. Their love and passion for the game radiated in their movements of this "jogo bonito" or beautiful game as famous Brazilian soccer player, Pele, referred to it as. They were so concentrated that they would not leave even for a drink of water.

Children in Brazil start playing soccer at a very young age. At Espaco Criana Esperanca younger children, both girls and boys, play indoor soccer at an earlier time. They are taught the basics of soccer.  One of the biggest reasons why soccer is played so much in Brazil is because it does not require a lot of equipment like other sports do. Soccer also became very popular in Brazil in the nineteenth century, and spread to other countries. Children see soccer as a way to rise in their community and work toward a better future.

I was able to talk to one of the boys that I had played basketball with the previous day. He was showing off his moves and he said that he wanted to be as good as Ronaldo. After I saw him play I was sure that he was serious about following in the footsteps of this soccer sensation and role model. He has a dream of becoming a world-class player. I couldn’t help but think of how that would help his family. I wondered if aiming for a better income to help his family was what motivated him to work so hard towards becoming a great player. Whether it is for money, the love of the game, or a little of both, he dreams of one day being the best soccer player.

Brazil: A Hopeful Future

For two days this week, we worked at an organization called Criança Esperança. The main objective of Criança Esperança is to improve the lives of children by keeping them out of the streets during non-school hours and providing with supplemental activities such as theater class, English class, and physical education in a safe environment.  

The service learning project I worked on was repainting a small corridor at the Criança Esperança facility and participating in the physical education classes. Although at first I was skeptical about how much learning I would get out of these activities and how helpful my participation would be to the organization, the grateful faces and appreciative handshakes showed me that by doing something that the organization needed, even as simple as painting a wall, can be of great help to a nonprofit organization which has many things it wants to accomplish only to be limited by funding availability.  

Participating in the physical education class benefited me because I was able to practice my Portuguese with the children. It also benefited the physical education teacher because there are often more kids in his class than he could realistically supervise, and the additional help was clearly appreciated. The children also enjoyed having guests as well as the additional competition we provided in basketball and futsal games.  

Throughout this trip to Rio de Janeiro, we have been lucky to stay at one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Brazil, Ipanema. We have visited one of the best public schools in Rio, and we have also visited pacified favelas with established organizations such as Criança Esperança, that are trying to create opportunities for the youth of the favelas. The places we have visited only tell us part of the story however, as a majority of Brazilian schools are of low quality. In our pre-trip lessons we learned that Brazilian education is relatively weak, represented by 88.6% literacy rate, a low literacy rate compared to other countries. We also learned during Pedro Evora’s lecture that there are over 625 favelas in Brazil, but only 25 have been pacified. Although the places we have visited are of higher quality than average, we have been able to see that Brazil is capable of making strides in improving its poverty and education systems. 

It seems that Brazil is pacifying the favelas around Rio de Janeiro in attempt to get ready for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Hopefully, Brazil’s efforts at the favelas will continue even after these events have passed. Brazil has also worked on improving poverty and education which they have also successfully been able to do despite all the corruption and bureaucracy present in the Brazilian government. When talking with our Brazilian lecturer’s and locals, all of them seem to have great hope for Brazil in the future, despite Brazil’s current problems. This hopeful mentality seems to be part of the “Jeitinho Brasileiro”, which is the mentality that by being friendly, creative, and by having a positive outlook, Brazilians can solve all problems.  

As we near the end of this trip, I have seen that Brazil has many difficult social problems it needs to tackle. Throughout this trip I have seen evidence of Brazil making vast improvements in short periods of time, especially in terms of education and safety issues in favelas. Although Brazil still has a lot of work to do to improve these social indicators, I believe that with Brazilian hope and perseverance they will eventually get there.

Q: “What is a ‘community’?”

A: A group of living organisms that depend on each other—either physically, emotionally, or spiritually—to fulfill some need or desire.  There is an unseen bond that links them.  By sharing resources, as a group, they are made stronger.

Yesterday, to prepare for our volunteer work at Criança Esperança, the whole group sat down for some serious reflection.  One question that we each had to answer in our own words was this: “What is a ‘community’?”  While we had learned that a growing and less stigmatized name for the favelas was that of “comunidades” (which translates to “communities” in Portuguese), at the time, I still didn’t realize just how relevant the name was.

Before coming to Rio, I had some mistaken notions of what the favelas (or “shantytowns”) would be like, based on my own, limited exposure to poverty.  The prediction was a rough combination of a Native American reservation I’d visited, pictures of starving children in India, and the old “Hoovervilles” that I had read about in history class.  While the previous favela tours corrected my misperceptions in terms of physical differences, I still did not see them as comunidades.  I still thought of them as poor “neighborhoods”…and of places devoid of hope or happiness.  Today, however, all of that changed.

After a day of volunteering with the children at the Criança Esperança building, we had the opportunity to take a more “in-depth” tour of the surrounding, pacified favela.  After being given the option of walking up the twenty or thirty flights of stairs or taking a cable car up the steep hillside (I chose the cable car), for the first time, our group escaped the perimeter and tread through the heart of the favela.  The community was quite the opposite of the desolate “shantytown” I’d assumed it to be.  I have never seen a place so alive.  To even begin to understand what it felt like to walk through the favela, one must remember this:

In a world in which the air is as precious as the ground, one does not “enter”…rather, one is engulfed

In this favela, the residents live in a vibrant, three-dimensional world, utilizing the space around and even above them in a way that would put our most “space-efficient” cities to shame.  Houses tower overhead like pieces of a patchwork quilt, while a labyrinth of brightly grafittied corridors winds through, often barely wide enough for two people to pass each other.  Out and about, people are walking their children to and from Criança Esperança, pushing through on their motorcycles, stepping into the little “mom-and-pop” stores, or just socializing with neighbors and friends.  It is true, of course, that there are the mounds of garbage whose smell makes you gag, and that the sewage passes beside you in open grates.  But it is also true that young couples walk down the street hand-in-hand and that strains of music like Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain” can be heard from nearby radios.  Also, and perhaps the most striking, is the number of brightly colored kites that flick at the sky, guided by children perched on the rooftops and balconies. 

The sense of comunidade that I felt from that single trek through the heart of the favela was overwhelming.  Not only is it a little town, but it is its own, little world…an ecosystem in which everything has a part and everything is interdependent.  It could easily subsist without the world around it.  There is an invisible bond that connects all the members, as I had predicted in my definition, but it is not a bond of poverty.  It is a bond of living and enduring in spite of poverty. 

Where I come from, we have access to almost everything we could ever need or want; yet, we do not laugh as easily or heartily, we do not take the time to fly kites on a Tuesday afternoon, sometimes we do not even know the names of our neighbors.  In my own neighborhood in suburban Omaha, I almost never see people simply enjoying life like I saw here.  But here, in this little, pacified comunidade—a place that is so often seen as something to be “pitied” as opposed to something of wonder—they have something much richer than I have seen in my time in suburban Omaha.  A true comunidade.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Questioning Assumptions

I am learning from the unquestioned assumptions that I hold. Being born in the USA and taught in that school system, I learned certain things over the years. Many of these things I have forgotten but still think of as true. Coming to Brazil has brought many of these to mind and caused me to question them.

For example, if I asked you “Who invented the airplane?” what would you answer? Orville and Wilbur Wright correct? That is what I believed until I came to Brazil.

Going to a city called Petropolis this weekend challeneged my belief in Orville and Wilbur Wright as the inventors of flight. Petropolis was the summer home of Pedro II Emporer of Brazil and is about 2 hours from Rio. We saw the Imperial Museum in this city and we also visited the home of Alberto Santos Dumont, the man who Brazil claims invented flight.

I have to be honest, my first reaction was 'Who the heck is Santos Dumont?” As we toured his house we learned many things. Dumont was a native of Brazil who studied aeroanautics in Paris at the turn of the century. According to Smithsonian Online, in 1906, Dumont flew his 14bis, a box kite like machine, for the Aero Club of Paris. His plane took off on its own power, flew several hundred meters and landed without incident. He became an overnight sensation and was credited with being the first man to fly a heavier than air aircraft.

This claim was challeneged 20 months later when the Wright Brothers came to Paris with their plane. They claimed to have made the first flight in 1903 but had kept the flight under wraps so that they could gain a government contract. (See Wings of Madness, PBS website at The Wright Brother's plane was so more manuverable than Dumont's, that the Wright Brothers were given credit for discovering flight.

There is some debate as to weather or not Dumont should still be given credit since his plane took off under its own power. The Wright Brother's plane used skids to give it some power at the start.

Regardless of the exact answer, I was struck by the fact that there was another legitimate claim to who invented flight. I had never questioned the veracity of what I was taught in grade school. This may have been why I was surprised to read in Larry Rohter's book Brazil on the Rise about Embraer in a chapter we read before coming to Brazil. Embraer is a Brazilian Airplane manufacturing company. It it is the 3rd largest airplane manufacturer in the world.

Rohter pointed out that Embraer intentionally did not complete with manufacturing giants like Boeing and Airbus. It chose to not make large air craft but rather focus on niche manufacturing and make small to mid size jets. It is entirely possible, according to Rohter, that the next time you fly on small commuter jet you are flying on a Brazilian jet.

Embraer, like Santos Dumont at the turn of the century, questioned the assumptions about how to compete in air plane manufacturing and got powerful results.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading, wRiting, and aRithematic in bRazil!

Reading, wRiting, and aRithematic in bRazil!
A highlight of our day was a lecture by public school teacher, Roberto Pinheiro.  It is common for teachers in Brazil to have several jobs.  Roberto is no exception.  Students attend school for a half day in Brazil.  Intermediate students are scheduled in the mornings and primary students in the afternoon.  Teachers are generally certified in one grade, so only work the half day they are in session.  Roberto teaches the English language to primary, intermediary, and university students.  He teaches in Rio de Janeiro, Duque de Caxias, and in the IBEU (Institute for Brazil and the United States at the university we are attending).  He meets with his public school students for fifty minutes once a week. Classrooms often have between forty to sixty students.

We learned that there is a national curriculum teachers are expected to cover.  Roberto said that students are missing the background knowledge needed to meet these expectations, so he must adapt and remediate to move students toward their goals.  He noted that his students seem to be concrete thinkers, and they struggle with abstract and higher-order thinking.  He said few public school students aspire to attend college, and therefore are not highly motivated to push themselves to achieve. He encourages them to work hard and have big dreams.

Roberto commented that discipline can be a hindrance to learning.   In comparing his experiences in public and private schools, he felt students in private schools were less respectful.  These students and parents feel since they are paying tuition, they are superior to the teacher.  Students in public schools are more respectful, but are unaccustomed to the social expectations of the classroom. He has had to balance his natural playful nature with being strict and establishing and expecting respectful attitudes. There are times when he needs to send students to the principal or coordinator; however he finds affectionate relationships often curb behavior issues.  He noted that in Brazil, students do not call a teacher by their last name, but as “teacher”, “uncle” or “aunt”.  They are always in awe if they see him out on the beach or in the community.  We sensed his warmth and can only imagine his wonderful rapport with his students.

Roberto said most students come from difficult backgrounds.  Their homes may lack adequate space and are subject to flooding.  Their parents are often illiterate.   The school tries to connect to families.  Roberto teamed up with a Science teacher to provide health training for families.  He said that teachers conduct parent-teacher conferences twice a year.  Along with this, they stay in contact by phone and may ask parents to meet at school if there is a specific need.

We asked about the technology that is available in his schools.  Roberto said email, Skype, and YouTube are helpful aids.  Teachers must share the limited computers and projectors.  When he needs them, they are often checked out.  He has ended up purchasing his own.  He has also purchased a voice amplifier.   Now when he is teaching up to 60 chatty middle school students, he can be heard without straining his voice. He also noted that as poor as most students are, they usually have personal access to internet and cell phones. 
It was incredible to hear all that public school teachers are able to accomplish with extremely limited resources.  I feel their wages are far from adequate.  In higher paying private schools there is little job security. Roberto was witnessing his more experienced colleagues being fired so that new lower-paid teachers could be hired.  He decided to make the move on his own to the public schools which are desperate for dedicated teachers. 

The conditions at schools hinder learning.  Most Brazilian class sizes are about double those in the United States.  They have limited equipment and what they do have is in disrepair.  They include all students in homerooms, including the learning and physically disabled, autistic, and gifted students.  They are told their class size will be reduced when they have students with unique needs, but this rarely happens. There are no special education teachers or para-educators to support these students.  Roberto was an example of someone whose passion is helping him rise above the obstacles in public education.  Listening to Roberto, you could sense his passion for his students.  He told us that he found it extremely rewarding to have students begin to recognize language and communicate in English.  Their success is his reward.  I was inspired to serve selflessly in my own teaching position and to keep students as my top priority.

Soccer?? Não, é FUTEBOL!!

We are currently in Rio de Janeiro’s winter season, which translates into rain instead of snow, but Oh what delightful days we’ve been given throughout our first two weeks here.  The warm Brazilian sun has shined kindly on our pasty (some of us anyway) skin. However, we were about due for a good rain and it happened to come this past Sunday, July 8th … the day of our planned intercity rivalry soccer match: Fluminense X Flamengo … but it was so worth the soggy-bottom jeans and soaked shoes!! CORRECTION: It is not soccer; it’s futebol – “foot – chee – bowl.” Learn it, or else you’ll get mean mugged.

 We have witnessed so much inequality since being here in Rio, from colorful favela slums slung atop five-star hi-rise hotels/condos that line Ipanema beach, to the saddening disparity between educational opportunities amongst young Brazilians (especially post-secondary).  With all the chaotic and disheartening paradoxes, we find an equalizer in the simple game of futebol.  It’s everywhere; on TV in every Suco Bar (refer to the pic in Ozzie’s July 1st entry), played and mastered within the community centers inside the favela communities, as well as on the tricked-out fine sandy beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana where futebol trainers are many and non-futebol enthusiasts are few.  This simple game of kicking anything that that carries a spherical shape has a way of ushering down the privileged from their pedestals and uplifting the impoverished out of their shantytowns.  It’s quite remarkable. 

Karina, Kelvin, Adrienne, and myself got a chance to become part of this traditional Brazilian reality on the Monday after the much-anticipated Fluminense /Flamengo match … at the pre-selected NGO where we will be carrying out our community involvement/service learning project.  Criança Esperança is a before and after school community learning center in a favela community called Morro do Cantagalo, which lies just a few blocks away from our hotel.  Now, one might be questioning: Stacked slums next to wealthy Ipanema district hotels? Well, pretty much.  However, you must take a 26-floor elevator ride to actually arrive at this favela community … what our group often refers to as Rio’s “nine and three quarters” (referencing Harry Potter and the labyrinth within the train station that transcends realities).  Just as Harry disappears from the muggle world and arrives in the land of witchcraft and wizardry, in a similar fashion we took off from expensive sidewalk shops and ascended to concentrated poverty in a mere one minute elevator ride.  Quite unbelievable. 

During this introductory day of service learning, we four opted to assist physical education Teacher, Francisco, in the gym with ~fifteen youngsters from about 9-12 years of age.  With the exception of native-speaker Kelvin, us girls’ Portuguese is more like “Portuñolish” (Portuguese + Spanish + English).  However, futebol is a language in and of itself and as a result, we non-native speakers found it refreshing to just play ball … futebol served as an equalizer just as it has/does amongst all racial and socioeconomic classes of Brazil; it levels the playing field so that most all are included.

I certainly will never forget the few short hours we spent with these young, die-hard, futebolistas from the Morro do Cantagalo community favela.  What I took for granted as a non-vital privilege in my childhood is actually a life necessity for these community kids.  It’s not only an escape from a perhaps rough home life, it’s an outlet for them to pretend and hone their skills so as to become the next Neymar/Messi/Ronaldo, as well as something through which these young people can develop strong, lifelong sportsmanship skills. It’s funny the way a ball can pluck us from the highest of highs and lowest of lows and place us on the same, leveled field; equals as it’s meant to be.  It truly is a beautiful game.

Brazilian Style Problem Solving: Service and Learning

Today we began our service learning experience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  We walked down a few blocks to take the elevator up directly into Criança Esperança. Up we went 26 floors ready for a day of community involvement and interaction with the children at this NGO. Unfortunately, when we arrived to meet with the director, they were not ready for us and we were asked to come back at lunch time. We did the Brazilian thing and improvised. During this unexpected free time, Arturo and Marisol had us engage in a group activity that challenged our personal and cultural perspectives on what constitutes a necessity, a problem, a resource, and a community. This exercise helped me become more aware not only about my own perception and preconceived beliefs, but it also allowed me to keep in mind that my ideas are not the same as the ideas and perception of those in charge of the NGO or of the community members.

When we went back to Criança Esperança at noon we were greeted by Miriam, a Harvard student doing her 6 week long international internship there. She led us down to a diner where we had a wonderful Brazilian lunch. After luch, Miriam explained a bit more about the NGO, their philosophy and how we would be helping during our time here. The work we would be doing, she explained, would mainly be interacting with the kids. She explained the center is open to anyone and it is not necessary to sign up for their free services. The reason for this is that they want to remove as many barriers for more community members to be able to take advantage of their services free from hassle.

In addition, Miriam kindly shared about her experience at Criança Esperança. She said she learned to accept and embrace their philosophy on the importance of play. They believe play is a powerful tool in teaching values and skills such as respect, cooperation, social wellbeing, effective communication, and discipline. Miriam admitted it was a bit difficult because her expectation was that she would be engaged in more straightforward educational school-like activities versus more learning through play and interaction. At Criança Esperança they believe the best way to serve the children and their families is offering a safe environment for them and to enhance their social environment and learning experiences through play.

Finally, we broke off into groups to start our service learning. Some of us went to the Library where they had arts and crafts and the computer lab. Others went to observe a theatre class or an English language class, while the rest went to the gym for basketball. I walked into the library and over to meet the arts and crafts coordinator. At the time, only one little girl was at the table coloring. After some time, more kids started trickling into the library. Most had just got out of school for the day. 4 more girls came in, and the arts and crafts director invited Molly, Janet, and me to dance with them. After our dance break, we went back to arts and crafts where we taught the kids to make folded paper hearts and hats.

Carolina (age 7) and Sanjuanita (UNO Student) during Service Learning at Criança Esperança  
The children were welcoming and happy to have us there.  We quickly gained their trust and they were even calling us “tio” or “tia” (literally "uncle" or "aunt") which is what they call their teachers at school and instructors at the NGO. Just being there and offering our time to these kids was a great experience because despite the differences in culture and the language, we were able to share some time with them and teach them a few things as they taught us as well. I learned through their innocence and simplicity that it really doesn’t take much to make a difference. To be present is to serve, and to spend time with someone of a different background is when you learn how similar we all really are.
NU Students with children at Criança Esperança during Service Learning

Petrópolis, The Brazilian Imperial City.

This past Saturday, our group made a voyage to the Brazilian “Imperial City” of Petrópolis. Located roughly 40 miles outside of Rio de Janeiro, Petrópolis is a former capital city of Brazil, and gained notoriety for being the summer get-away of Dom Pedro II.
Stanford/Nebraska bus ride!
Our day began with a few quick stops at the local German village and the chocolate factory. After stuffing our pockets with as much chocolate as we could carry, our guide asked if we could make room for another tour to join us, as their tour bus had broken down. The broken-bus group was from Stanford University, and after making their acquaintances, we managed to find common ground of studying at PUC-Rio. Listening to the Stanford group tell tales of their own Portuguese language learning experiences made myself and a few other classmates very grateful for the wonderful experiences we have had on behalf of PUC-Rio.

Catedral de São Pedro de Alcântara, Petrópolis
Once we parted ways with Stanford, our first official visit was to the Catedral de São Pedro de Alcântara. This cathedral can solely be defined as “breath taking”.  Built in 1884, but opening for worship in 1925, the large cathedral holds the remains of Dom Pedro II and his wife Teresa Cristina, as well as their daughter Princess Isabel and her husband, the Count D'Eu. When words failed, some of the students took to their knees and said a silent prayer. If any readers ever get a chance, the Catedral de São Pedro de Alcântara definitely needs to make their bucket list!

After a quick buffet lunch, we walked through town towards the Museu Imperial de Petrópolis, the former summer palace of Dom Pedro II. The palace featured “Brazil wood” floors, two large wings, and two stories of exhibits. To preserve the palace, visitors were required to wear over-the-shoe step-in slippers; Nebraskans were sliding all over the place!
The highlight of the entire palace was a dark room with the sole focus on the Brazilian Imperial Crown worn by Dom Pedro II. The Crown contains 596 precious stones, of which most are diamonds and pearls. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed on the tour, but to describe the Crown as “stunning” would be an understatement. The photo to the left does not do it justice.

After a long day of sightseeing, we piled back onto the bus and headed towards Rio. The day trip was amazing, and the city of Petrópolis is a must-see for future visitors!

Brazil: The Nationalist and All His Friends

Today we had a Brazilian foreign relations professor speak about Brazil’s ideology on the international stage. It was stated that Brazil has three main principles which guide its position on foreign policy issues: universalism, autonomy, and the Brazilian version of manifest destiny. Universalism is the concept that Brazil will try to maintain friendly relations with all countries regardless of government type or physical location. Autonomy is the idea that Brazil wants freedom and flexibility in politics. This includes not forming agreements that may jeopardize or restrict future opportunities. Finally, the Brazilian version of manifest destiny represents the idea that Brazil is meant to occupy a special place in the international stage.

After getting a quick lesson on the Brazilian perspective on foreign relations, the professor stated that despite all of Brazil’s current economic success, the only way for Brazil to continue to grow is to give up some of its autonomy. She stated that due to globalization Brazil must begin to participate in different treaties and agreements to maintain its reliability and improve its international image. For example, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons became effective in 1970. Brazil only signed the treaty in 1998, when Brazilian credibility came into question. Although Brazil did give up some of its autonomy by signing the treaty, it gained credibility in the international stage. Brazil also maintains its autonomy by protecting domestic companies from foreign competition. Rohter (2012) gives several examples of Brazilian companies that are under government protection including Embrapa (an agricultural research company) and Petrobras (a petroleum company). From the visit to the American Chamber of Commerce, we learned that the Brazilian government requires Petrobras to control 30% of all new petroleum ventures in Brazil. These protectionist actions demonstrate high Brazilian nationalistic pride in wanting to achieve economic success with their own local companies. This protective nationalistic behavior may have stemmed from Brazil’s colonial history in which its resources were highly exploited by European countries. Therefore, I have a huge amount of respect for the Brazilian government for achieving economic success by their own means and with their local companies.

Brazil’s universalism is something that was discussed during the pre-trip lessons and was also described in Rohter’s book. In the chapter “Industrial Giant, Agricultural Superpower”, Rohter describes Brazil’s trade patterns which are divided as close as “possible into quarters, with Latin America, North America, Europe, and Asia having equal shares.” Brazil’s goal to keep friendly relations with all countries allowed it to create friendly trading relationships with a variety of countries from different continents. This allows Brazil to maintain relative flexibility and prevents Brazil from relying on a particular country for trade. Because of their trading success, Brazil was not particularly affected by the 2008 Recession, which shows that their universalism ideology has its benefits despite the additional diplomatic effort required to maintain all those relationships.

Toward the end of the lecture, we got a brief overview of Brazil’s relationships with the United States and Latin America. It was said that Brazil has often had a strained relationship with other Latin American countries due to the fact that Brazil is the largest and most economically successful country out of all Latin American countries. Latin American countries have the perception that Brazil is trying to impose their leadership on other Latin American countries. There are often conflicts within the Mercosul (Mercado Comum do Sul) economic agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay due to the balance of economic power tilted towards Brazil.

Brazil’s relationship with the United States seems to be friendly on the surface. However there are often events which make the relationship strained. For example, it was stated that the United States was the only country which opposed Brazil becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

The professor also compared Brazil’s influence style to the United States’ influence style on the international stage. It was said that Brazil uses more “soft powers” which include persuasive and diplomatic skills. The United States not only uses “soft powers” but also has military force to back up their diplomatic talks.

Overall, the Brazilian foreign policy requires Brazil to balance between protecting its domestic companies while pleasing and maintaining positive relationships between other foreign countries. I believe that Brazil will be able to continue improving and finally achieve the world superpower status if it continues to follow its current ideology. However, many will argue that Brazil has already achieved that status…

Itamaraty (Brasilia) – Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Relations