Olá amigos! Having spent several days immersed in cultural exchanges (ie, struggling to explain how we do things in America), I've begun to wonder how I've performed as an embassador of sorts. Brazilians have proven to be incredibly inquisitive concerning other cultures. Consequently, I've prepared a list of C-FAQs (cultural frequently asked questions) and my responses. Any comments on how I may be misrepresenting the homeland are always appreciated.
1. De onde você é? Ahh... não o conheço, como é? Where are you from? Ah.. I've never heard of it, what's it like?
Trying to explain Minnesota to a group of people who think that 70 degrees calls for a jacket has proven to be quite the challenge, especially given my limited vocabulary. After explaining that the fair state is located in the north, contains thousands of lakes, and is absolutely nothing like Rio, I tend to find myself at a loss for words. While at school I usually fall back on the "It's paradise in the summer" argument, this route is difficult to take after explaining to a shivering group of people that our summer climate is similar to their winter. Guarav, meanwhile, gets to discuss all the similarities between Rio and Miami (a city most have actually heard of): beaches, cosmopolitan vibes, Latinos... to my dismay, Mall of America is only famous stateside.
2. Estados Unidos? Gosta de heepee-hoppee? Fifchee Cenchee? Lay-gee Gaga? Dray-Kee? Tai-lo Sweef-chee? United States? Do you like hip-hop? 50 Cent? Lady Gaga? Drake? Taylor Swift?
The United States might not have the best reputation worldwide, but our music is everywhere. I've learned to talk about artists in a Brazilian accent (as above) or I will not be understood. I'm especially surprised by how popular American pop is here, despite the richness of Brazilian music. Samba beats are infectious, but much of the population has renounced their own music for American exports. It's somewhat disarming hearing the 17 year old girls who don't speak a great deal of English enunciating "have a baby by me" perfectly. That being said, Rio has it's own musical movements going on. "Baile Funk," whose roots lie within the favelas (slums) has become an increasingly accepted form of cultural expression. By mixing samba and other Brazilian beats with pop music, "o funk-ee" attracts the dancing crowd.
3. Qual é seu curso? Que vai fazer depois da faculdade? Não sabe?!?! What are you studying? What are you doing after college? You don't know?!?!
Visiting Brazil truly makes one appreciate the American university system. After explaining that I am majoring in economics, minoring in cultural anthropology, and taking a slew of other courses, people tend to ask me what career path I'm headed towards. When I reply, honestly, that I have no idea what Im doing post-Duke (not that I'm planning on ever graduating/leaving) people tend to appear a tad dumbfounded. In Brazil, as in much of the rest of the world, students choose their career paths prior to entering university and then take specialized classes correlated to their choice of study. Even lawyers and doctors begin training immediately after high school. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the US is the greatest exporter of culture; the flexibility of our society, which trickles down to the education system, allows for people to truly explore their passions and take the time to learn about themselves. Imagine if we had the same system as Brazil in the US! if the proportion of people entering Duke and other colleges as pre-med had to remain in the field, we'd be a country famous for hip replacements and blood transfusions.
In other news...
High of the day: Being told I looked Brazilian by a Brazilian... and then I made the fatal mistake of opening my mouth and speaking Portuguese.
Terrazul's website for anyone who is interested (there should be parts that are translatable into English) http://www.redeprotecaopnt.org.br/terrazul