Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2000 12:23 PMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Feb 1-3, 2000 - Pouso Alegre, Brazil
Current Date/Location: Wed., Feb. 16, 2000. I am in Cuiaba, Brazil (A city just North of the Pantanal...actually there is a monument nearby stating that this is the geograpic center of South America...go figure) visiting my friend Ana Paula and her family. You know the expression "he´s not exactly a brain-surgeon"...well, that can´t be said about her father...he really is a brain-surgeon! It is so interesting all the different people that you end up meeting her on the road!
Current Itinerary: Will be in Cuiaba until Sunday or Monday...then probably will go to Bonito (Southern part of the Pantanal) to spend a few days...then onward to Belo Horizonte to visit my friend Giovani and to catchup with Agustin.
Carnival Itinerary: After meeting up with Agustin, we intend to take Salvador do Bahia, Brazil by storm and celebrate Carnival like wild iguanas!
Feb 1, 2000 (Tue):
Arrived about 5am into Pouso Alegre off the bus from Rio de Janiero...I read for awhile in the bus station (didn't think I should call my new friend, Raquel at 5am...ouch!). Raquel had said she usually got up around 6am...so I called at 6:05 am. She answered the phone happily and said she would be
right there, and about 5 minutes later, I met Raquel and her pit-bull Foka (don't know the spelling...but it sounds bad in English...it acually means seal (like the oceangoing mammal) in Portuguese). OK...some history: Raquel is Iara's sister (Remember, I met Iara in Rio Youth Hostel...then I visited her and her family in Limiera...Iara said I should go visit her other sister...so here I am) who is living in Pousa Alegre and partly owns and runs a English Language School.
We walked to her home/business, called Up Communications, which was only a couple of blocks away from the bus station. She told me that Iara had passed the Exam for the University in Rio Grande do Sul!!! Still waiting on the results from Rio. (I have since heard that she did not get into Rio de
Janiero school...but may be able to transfer into it in the future...you go Iara!).
I met the others folks in the office, the teachers and adminstrators...had breakfast and a shower. I napped for awhile while Raquel taught a class. Then had a wonderful lunch that had been prepared by the maid. NOTE: I am finding out that labor is very cheap here in Brazil...minimum wage per month
is 139 Reais (at 1.80 Reais per dollar, this is just less than $80 USD per month) and MANY people work for this wage. So, in this type of economy, with labor being cheap, you tend to have more maids and domestic help as well as more interesting sidewalks! OK...digression on the subject of sidewalks...many are made with intricate patterns of rocks fitted together into huge mosaics that run literally for miles along the footpaths of cities. In the good ole USA, where labor is expensive and materials are cheap, we concrete and pave over everything...this method utilizing the least amount of labor possible. In Brazil, rocks are cheap and so are the people and hands to work them into sidewalks, so that is the preferred
method in many of the cities...just a pleasant benefit of having lots of cheap labor...lovely sidewalks...go figure.
Anyway, we got another one of her pit-bulls (she has 4 living with her...and 5 in other places in the country...she loves her dogs) to go for a walk. We walked around the town a little...talked alot. Dinner with the guys at some restaurant and had some great minuature pizza-like food (without tomato sauce) which I can´t remember the name of...crashed.
Feb. 2, 2000 (Wed):
Woke...saw Foka in the window first thing...awwww...now, I am not saying that I want to wake up and see a pit-bull first thing every morning...but, when you are on the road it is nice to be appreciated, even by a pit-bull! I showered and had breakfast. Went into one of the classrooms and listened to my Portuguese tapes...trying to improve...pouco a pouco.
I knew that they were trying to run a business, so I decided to get myself out from under-foot and decided to go walk around the town on my own. Pouso Alegre is kinda short on scenic tourist spots...but it it is a pleasant small to midsized town. One thing that continues to surprise me in Brazil is how many resources and business are set up to meet the demand to Learn English. On my relatively short walking tour of the town, I personally passed 8 different English Language schools. I ended up searching out an
internet locale (only 5 Reals per hour...cheapest so far in Brazil!!!) and typed away happily for a couple of hours.
When I returned to Up Communications, they had a BBQ in the back with sausages and meat (NOTE: Here in South America, most of ya'll would be shocked by the enormous volumes of salt that they put on the meat. They literally get pounds of course grain salt and cover the meat in it on all sides. It is different...it tastes great, I am not saying anything against the results, the meat down here tastes GREAT! ...just that I had never thought that you could add that much salt to anything and have it be
All of us ended up talking for quite awhile, and I learned alot about their English courses, goals and objectives for their business. Their students contract for a period of 16 months. The courses are designed to be 2 sessions (1 hour each) per week. They have a maximum of 4 students in any
class at any time and I was impressed at the schedule flexibility they provide to their clients...the clients call and schedule for each meeting, according to the clients schedule for the week...very convenient. The
average cost for English courses tend to be from 120-160 Reais per month...which as I noted above, is a lot of money in this country.
NOTES on English in Brazil: Well, I must be honest, more folks speak better English in Argentina than in Brazil. I have met many folks who only speak broken English and say that they have been studying it for years here in Brazil. Unfortunately, many of the folks I meet who have been studying English are too timid to want to speak to me in English, I guess fearing that I will tell them their English is bad or something, I don't know... Anyway, I am unabashedly in pursuit of fluency in Portuguese, and always try to talk in Portuguese when possible...but feel that these folks should seize the opportunity to talk to a native English speaker in English! They don't actually get the chance that often...and I don't charge a cent to anyone trying to speak and improve their English with me! The meek can inherit the Earth, but they won't be learning languages at a rapid rate.
2nd Note on Learning Languages: Raquel and her team would be the first to admit that they don't speak perfect English...certainly good, but it is not the same as from the mouth of a native speaker. Their goal is to give their students the skills to communicate with others in English and be understood...but perfection is not on the agenda. There is a dearth of native English speakers here in South America (ofcourse), so it is not possible to have only native speaking English teachers. I will say, I
obviously think it better to learn any language from native speakers than from folks who have learned it as a second language...there are some insights into the language that can only be given by a native speaker in any language. If you are going to attempt to learn a foreign language, I highly reccomend seeking out a teacher who is native to that language...ofcourse the best way is to live in a country where your desired language is spoken. Later, we watched Brazil beat Argentina (4-2) in the Olympic qualifying
competition. NOTE: As you may have guessed...Brazil vs. Argentina is a huge competition down here...probably the biggest rivalry between two countries in all of South America...this victory was huge to these folks!
Feb. 3, 2000 (Thur)
Woke...called Juliano in Brasilia, he said that it was good for me to visit him this weekend...so, I decided to head to Brasilia today...immediately bought a bus ticket to Belo Horizonte for 12:15pm...used internet for awhile...said goodbye to all...hopped on bus...
NOTE: I enjoyed my time in Pouso Alegre...tourists should not seek it out, but I gained an invaluable glimpse into the workings of a English language school...I am indebted to Raquel, Iara, and many others as usual.