Fulbright Scholarship 2014
Beth and I arrived in Brazil March 01—Carnaval Saturday. I remembered only after making our airplane reservations the advice of the Fulbright Commission not to arrive on a weekend. And on the first day of the nation’s most famous national celebration, too.
“Uh, oh,” I thought. “It will take us all day getting through, customs, immigration, collecting our luggage and finding our driver.”
Wrong. Everything went surprisingly smoothly. One of many surprises we would encounter during our first month in Piracicaba in Sao Paulo State.
Carnaval no Brazil
Although not Rio, Piracicaba celebrated Carnaval 2014 enthusiastically in several locations. The closest venue to was at a lovely spot next to the Piracicaba River only five minutes by foot from our hotel.
Sunday after recovering from jet lag, Beth and I strolled to the festival to enjoy the music, songs and a miniature parade. We also took advantage of the moment to snap some photos of the river and surrounding scenery.
On Thursday of week one, I met with Professor Paulo Roberto Botão, director of the Curso de Jornalismo at my host institution the Universidade Metodista de Piracicaba (Unimep) We drafted a schedule and set to work.
“English is spoken here”
I’m teaching two sections of an English-language class on journalism in the U.S. I talk about American journalism; the students are required to teach me about Brazilian media. Every student turns in a weekly written report in English about a Brazil topic.
Each section has met twice and already we’ve talked about the first newspapers in Brazil, censorship during the 21-year-military dictatorship, and drones used to deliver birthday cakes. Yes, this has a backstory.
I was talking about Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post. When giving background about him, I mentioned earlier reports about speculation that Amazon.com might deliver small packages using drones.
One student claimed it was already happening and showed me a link to a YouTube video of the delivery. I said I didn’t believe it since this day was April Fools Day in the United States and also Dia de Mentiras in Brazil.
She was persistent in claiming it must be true because she had seen it online. I replied, “I’ll look for it, too.” Meanwhile, making a note to have a lengthy discussion about sorting fact from fiction and how to verify information.
The next day another student sent me a Portuguese-language story from San Francisco claiming that drones would soon be delivering medicines to residents of the Mission Neighborhood there.
I think we still have some work to do.
The President, Iowa and Futebol
March 12 I met Unimep President (Reitor) Dr. Gustavo Jacques Dias Alvim (center). It was a nice, informal reception that included the Director of the Faculdade de Comunição Dr. Belarmino César Costa (right), Curso de Jornalismo Director Professor Paulo Roberto Botão (second from left), and Dr. Marcelo Leite, adviser of Unimep International Affairs (left).
Dr. Leite, I learned had learned English in Iowa while visiting a series of Midwest farms during a year and a half several years ago.
At the end of our conversation, President Dias Alvim gave me a beautiful book documenting the 100-year history (1913-2013) of the November XV Sport Club of Piracicaba and name of the city’s professional football team.
“Bom dia cidade”
My usual schedule is to teach at night and get up at a leisurely hour the next morning. Not on March 13. I was invited to a live radio interview in Portuguese at 8:00 the morning of March 13 on Radio Educativa de Piracicaba. This after teaching until 10:30 the previous evening.
I joking complained to Professor Paulo Roberto Botão that I’d have to stay up all night not to oversleep. He laughed and said, “It’s not my best hour either.”
We were cordially greeted with smiles and coffee by Director-President Jacqueline Santana. The program was a nice conversation with host Xilmar Ulisses about what I would be doing in Brazil for the next four months and comparing contemporary U.S. and Brazil media practices.
The English Translations Department invited me to give a speech to the students and faculty. We decided to talk about media and language. It was great fun exchanging views, questions and answers about our respective cultures and practices.
Friends from Iowa State University
Marisa Corzanego and Armenio Khourtenian, who live here, were graduate students at Iowa State University when we first met them. Marisa was my Portuguese tutor before I went to Manaus, Brazil in 2001 as Knight Journalism Fellow.
Maria and Armenio have been wonderful in helping us adjust to the culture, food, language, as well as clearing the occasional, puzzling bureaucratic hurdles that pop up.
Paul Roberto has been equally supportive during our stay here. Last weekend he and his wife, Rosa, hosted a Saturday Churrascaria at their home. No trip to Brazil is complete without sampling the variety of barbecued meats that never seem to stop arriving at your plate during the churrascaria Always on hand, it seems, are ample supplies of the popular alcoholic-beverages Cachaça and Caipirinha.
The Unimep journalism faculty, wives and children were all turned out for a wonderful Brazilian fall day.
Thanks to kindness of friends, faculty and students as well as the Brazil Fulbright Commission, Beth and I feel very much at home and look forward to our next adventure here.