Brazil, Summer 2005
Traveling to Brazil was a great experience! The trip included visiting memorable museums, dining at ravishing restaurants, talking with prideful people, and attending educational seminars. My trip began on April 24, 2005 and lasted a full two weeks touring four Brazilian cities. Dr. Karen Blaisure coordinated the trip and led our group of 13, which was composed of WMU undergraduate students, faculty, and retired faculty.
The study tour began in Rio de Janeiro, well known for its beautiful beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. One of my favorite attractions was seeing the statue of Jesus Christ on Corcovado Mountain. The mountaintop had a tranquil, quiet, and relaxing aura. In spite of the mist and fog that morning, our group took the trolley car up several hundred feet to the statue, where we took many pictures, and viewed the city below.
In Rio, we ate at a churracaria, or a Brazilian barbeque for lunch, where we enjoyed food from a bar that featured salads, shrimp, bread, vegetables, fruit, and other items. The all-male wait staff showered our table with hot meat directly from the grill. The waiters brought chicken, beef, pork, veal, and lamb on skewers to our table every few minutes. At the restaurant, I did not notice a pepper container, as it is not a common Brazilian condiment. Also, there were toothpicks available only for the purpose of picking up finger food, not for picking one’s teeth. The study tour continued with us traveling to the town of Ouro Preto on a charter tour bus.
In the tourist city of Ouro Preto my favorite event was actually walking around the downtown area, which offered many shops and boutiques featuring handmade crafts. Walking was extremely difficult due to the brick paved roads and steep hills. Our tour guide, Kelly, took us to multiple churches that were erected many centuries ago. We got a chance to view the fancy gold and hand-painted artwork in these ancient Catholic churches.
Local teenagers on the streets of Brazil
Approximately 62 miles away from Ouro Preto, we visited Caraca National Park. In the center of the park was a working monastery that we lodged at for one night. On the grounds was a historical museum that housed sewing machines, beds, radios, and kitchen items from the 1800s. The park naturalist led us on a walk through the reserve where we reached a beautiful waterfall. Shortly after returning to the lodge we ate lunch and headed for another city ten hours away.
The van ride to Riberao Preto was very long and draining. However, the next morning we were off to speak to students who were learning English. After eating lunch with several of the students, we paid a visit to an art gallery. The brightly colored pictures helped spark discussions among us travelers about Brazilian artwork.
The evening concluded with us visiting the Mancuso family, Dr. Blaisure’s distant family, who entertained us for several hours with jokes and stories. Although I enjoy learning about families, this activity was a little frustrating. The language barrier presented confusion and awkwardness between the Mancuso family and us. We did not understand Portuguese; they didn’t understand English. Therefore, we needed Dr. Blaisure to translate everything being said, which interrupted the intimacy. It was beneficial to spend an afternoon in a Brazilian home, which has many similarities to an American home.
Aurelio and I overlooking the downtown city
The trip to Brazil concluded with a visit to the busy city of Sao Paulo. My favorite event in this location occurred when we stopped by the University of Sao Paulo to observe the fashion and jewelry curriculums. By the afternoon we traveled to another college. Here I spoke with an undergraduate student in the nutrition department about college culture and experiences. Later on that evening the global designer, Adriana Bertini, was kind enough to give us a tour of her fashion studio in downtown Sao Paulo. The entire group was surprised to learn that all of her creations were made from condoms. Using condoms to design clothing was a way to combat the prevalence of AIDS in Brazil. Brazil was a great trip, and I enjoyed myself so much!