Reflecting on my experience in Brazil

Reflecting is very important so that I can process and remember my experience. There are many things that I learned concerning Brazilian culture. Some activities that are memorable to me are such as the Capoeira workshop/kids’ performance, the workshop of leaning to play African instruments such as the drums and shakers, our visit to the Remanso community Quilombo, our visit to Steve Biko and our visit to the Afro-Brazilian clothing studio.

It was interesting to learn about Capoeira’s history. Capoeira is a combination of dance and fight. It was used as a form of self-defense for enslaved Africans during the time on slavery. This knowledge of the history and background and significance of the moves made our encounter with Capoeira more valuable as we learned some moves during the workshop and as we watched the kids play it. Because Capoeira is now used only as an art form and not a self-defense mechanism, it would be interesting in the future to see if Capoeira ever changes significantly throughout time. It was interesting to play the African instruments. I have never played them before. I particularly liked the shakers. They are so simple, yet can make complex sounds. African things are impressive, even the “simplest” things are so beautifully complex if you look long enough. The visit to the Remanso community Quilombo, was also very valuable. It was great to learn about the strong communities that runway slaves created. I love hearing stories of resistance against oppression, we do not hear resistance stories often enough. It was great to hear from the brother and sister that spoke to us about their personal life-stories. I love listening to peoples’ life-journeys.

I will compare one of these activities to my culture, I am Kenyan. I will comment concerning the visit when we met Goya Lopes who talked to us about Afro-Brazilian fashion. It was very interesting to see the whole process of cloth-making, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of this event was seeing the final product after everything was put together. I have many African clothing but until then I had not had the chance to see how the process of putting the African prints onto the fabric works. This was a good opportunity for me. The process begins with an artist dreaming up an Africa-inspired print design. Then the artist draws the print design on paper. Then that drawing is transferred to digital form on a computer making it possible for the design to be reproduced multiple times and in desired sizes. Then another machine (I am not sure of the name) is used to copy the digitized image onto a nylon-saturated-screen which is then sprayed with water to clean off part that are not part of the design. The next step is for two individuals to put paint over the screen which is placed over the fabric copying the design onto the fabric. Then the paint is dried and stays on the fabric. The designs we saw made were typical African style. The different prints really give character to the clothing. Then the style of the outfit itself is the finishing touch of the art work. African clothing is so distinct and beautiful.

Like I said before, this was a good opportunity for me because I got the see the process of putting the African prints onto fabric. This experience complemented an experience I had in my study abroad in Tanzania last year. This experience I had in Tanzania is similar to what would have happened if I was in Kenya, let me explain. While I was in Tanzania, I got African-style cloths made by a seamstress. These cloths were not ready-made cloths that one buys at the store. These cloths were made specifically for me. I went to a store that sold African-style-prints fabric (like the fabrics we saw made in Brazil), and I chose and bought the fabric that had the designs and colors that I liked. Then I took the fabric to the seamstress. She measured my size, I gave here the style I had searched and liked, she took note and she together with her assistants made me the cloths. The cloths were beautiful and very well done. Like I said, when it comes to clothing, Kenyan and Tanzanian style and process of making are similar, that is why I said that this experience I had in Tanzania is similar to what would have happened if I was in Kenya. When people want African-styled clothing, many people prefer to choose the prints and fabrics they like then they personally go and get fitted and their cloths are made by the seamstress instead of buying ready-made clothing like in a mall. In Tanzanian (which is similar to Kenya) I got to choose and buy the print design and fabric I wanted, I chose the particular style of the outfit itself that I wanted (unlike ready-made cloths such as in malls). My experience in Tanzania (which is similar to Kenya) complements my experience in Brazil because while Brazil, I got to see how artists design the prints to the point where the print designs are put on fabric. While in Tanzania I saw how the customer chooses the print design they like to the point where they have the cloths made. These two experiences got me to understand the full process from the point the design is born in the artists mind to the point where the customer is wearing the designed clothing.

One of the difficult aspects of this event was the fact that the country’s economy had negatively affected the business making it impossible to have more artists working together. But one thing that was good to hear was the fact that the artist has workshops that expose people, especially kids, to her work to inspire them. At least that’s a positive thing despite the economic hardships.

African and African-inspired clothing (made in Brazil) is truly beautiful, unique and distinct. I am proud to own and wear my African-styled clothing. The clothing represents the beautiful imagination, creativity and artistic talents of my people. Although Brazil is not Africa, Brazil really reflected that for me. I felt at home in Brazil.

Here are some photos of my experience in Brazil:

Before Your Trip

This is my first time writing a blog in English, so I am so sorry if I make any mistake. However, at the same time it is a representation of me as an immigrant whose first language is not English. So here is the process that I wanted to have before and during my time in India.

Process before your trip…

 This is a process that we should all enjoy, although it is stressful, once you get the congratulation letter everything will have a different face :).

Interview…

For this I do not have much to say more than be yourself. If you do not know something it is okay to say it, you do not need to have a perfect answer. From this, you will learn (like I did) to be okay with who you are with your answers even if they sound silly sometimes. For a while I was worried that I was not going to be selected for the program because of some of my answers, but I got the good news and that opinion about myself changed….and if you are wondering about the picture in my congratulation letter, yes we took it while in India!

Visa

If you are like me and do not read the instructions, you are going to be very frustrated. For this, you will need:

  • A picture of yourself with a white background. What I did… I took a picture of my passport picture and change the size of the picture to what it was required and it work!
  • A clear picture of your passport

I thought it was going to be easier, so please take your time to do at once. However, if for some reason you can not finish it when you started it DO NOT FORGET to write down your application ID number which is on the middle top of the page. It happened to me, and I had to start over again and learn the hard way.

These were the mistakes I did while filling out the application:

  • DO NOT write your social security or your driver license enter NA.
  • DO NOT use punctuation marks. If your name is hyphenated then use a black space instead. Do not use a period if your name has a sux such as “Jr.”
  • AND write the address as they show it even though the space is not long enough. Copy and paste what they give you, and if it does not fit IT IS OKAY!

…and here goes your first investment on your trip $61.50 for you visa!

IMMUNIZATIONS

DO NOT WAIT TILL LAST MINUTE…

Go to the doctor as soon as possible so you will know what your insurance is able to cover. If you do not have insurance Bartell Drugs store and Walgreens offer the service of the immunizations that are required to enter to India. Bartell Drugs have an international nurse that will help you with the research and the decision with some the ones that are optional (malaria).

Hepatitis A $139

Typhoid $102

For me, my insurance covered the Hepatitis A, and with my doctor we decided that I was not going to take anything for Malaria. However, I paid for the Typhoid at the community clinic in North Gate and I paid $76.78, so it was more convenient.

DO NOT FORGET to ask your doctor for CIPROFLOXACIN for traveler’s diarrhea. Most insurances cover this. WHAT I DID TO NOT USE IT… I was really worried about getting sick during India, so my cousin who traveled to Nepal recommended to take probiotics as much as possible BEFORE and DURING the trip. I was eating two yogurts everyday, kombucha, and I bought some probiotic pills called “Pearls Complete” that he recommended. I got them through Amazon for $15.49…. and I never got sick of my stomach!

4 Things That are Completely Different in Spain

  1. Drinking Gas – Yes, people drink gas in Spain… but not the kind of gas that you are probably thinking of. Gas is what people call sparkling water and it seems to be a big deal. In some restaurants, they will automatically give you sparkling water if you ask for water, unless you say agua del grefo (free water/tap water).
  2. Clubs – If you plan on going ‘clubbing’ as in dancing and bopping around with friends, don’t go to a club in  Spain. You may be surprised to find yourself in a brothel instead. If you’re looking for the dancing kind of club, use the term discoteca (or disco for short).
  3. Coca (Cola) – In America, we ask for Coca-Cola and think nothing of it. Ask for Coca-Cola in Spain and you may get some strange looks. People normally just say “Coke” or “Cola” because coca is slang for cocaine in Spanish (which makes sense given the notorious history of Coca-Cola).
  4. Preservativo – Many Spanish and English words sound similar to each other so I now have a tendency to think that if there is a Spanish word that sounds like an English word, they are likely to mean the same thing. Therefore, preservativo must be the same thing as preservative, right? Not right. Preservativo actually means condom, not those things that keep your mayonnaise and ketchup from going bad.

Cultural Differences: Milk

One of my biggest worries about going abroad is the possibility of getting sick in any shape or form. I feel like I have prepared for the most worst case scenarios imaginable, yet I still worry. Especially when it comes to food.

When Gladys and I went to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for the hotel, one of our grocery list items was some milk for cereal. We started looking for it and couldn’t find it anywhere in the refrigerated/dairy sections. Do Spaniards not drink milk? Well, they do. Just not the same way we drink milk in America. Gladys came back to the cart with a cardboard box of milk. But that’s not necessarily the strange part… The milk wasn’t in the refrigerator; it had been sitting in a pyramid of milk just in the middle of the store. Room temperature.

Even “Silk” isn’t refrigerated.

I don’t know about most American households, but at every one I have gone to the milk is tossed if it sits out for just a few hours. So how is it that milk in Spain can sit out indefinitely and still be good? Apparently, there is such a thing as ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) milk. Aseptic processing is used to sterilize the product and use sterilized packaging. The difference is that the milk is heated to a higher degree for a shorter amount of time than traditional milk in order to sterilize the product. UHT milk has close to the same amount of nutrients as traditional milk, but has a shelf life of about 6 months!

If you would like some more information, here are some articles to start with:

How UHT Milk Works” – Milk Unleashed
Why does organic milk last so much longer than regular milk?” – Scientific American