Walking home from work today, I saw my first protest in Brazil.
Ever since I got here, I kept hearing about the protests. Before we left for the shopping mall, N would check to see if there were any protests blocking the streets where we would be driving, and once she and her cousin got stuck at their university for a few hours because the protests were keeping the busses from running normally.
Both times, the protest had been regarding some old buildings. The Brazilian government had recently sold the public property to a private company, who wanted to knock down the buildings and build high rises in their stead. The Brazilian public was unhappy because the government had sold the public property quietly and without consulting the public.
I have to say that the protests were a lot tamer than I expected. Many of the people were jumping and running around, laughing. There were police officers present, but definitely not enough to quell a riot if one indeed broke out. N told me that most Brazilian protests were relatively tame.
After I got home, I tried to make some homemade dishes for my host family. They didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped, but I tried.
Right now, I’m watching a prison documentary – Inside Death Row by Trevor McDonald. Capital punishment has been on my mind ever since news that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death a few days ago. It’s sad to see what the prisoners’ lives are like, but when the men describe their crimes they are even more chilling.
Today has been relatively quiet, so I wanted to take the time to look back on my work here so far. I talk a lot about the touristic places I’ve visited in Brazil, but ultimately I’m here on a Social Marketing project.
I remember my second day on the job, when we went out afterwards for sushi. I asked some other interns what they do at work, since they also work in SMarketing, but for a different NGO.
J*: (laughs) I’ve only been working for a day, ask B*.
B*: (laughs) I’ve only been working for two weeks, ask the other interns.
It was all in a joking setting, but it kind of got me thinking about how this exchange really involves taking initiative. I’m not sure if this is true for other countries, but in Brazil it sometimes seems as if the NGO does not need you at all. Since you aren’t assigned anything to do, at the beginning I was a little lost. Should I just hang around waiting to see if anything comes my way? The reality of the situation is that the workers are often too busy trying to keep the organization running and the kids in check; they don’t have time to baby-sit you as well. Most of the day, I barely interact with the supervisors. I haven’t been in a job where I’ve been given this much free reign before, so it took some time to get used to.
In contrast, working alongside E* has actually been a great learning experience. I guess that I expected working alongside a Latin American to be difficult just because of the difference in our cultural backgrounds as well as the language barrier, but so far it’s going surprisingly smoothly. I had the notion drilled in my head that the workplace was a lot more relationship-based rather than project-based. I guess that I had warped this information in my head, because the reality wasn’t at all what I expected! The first week, E* and I shared a lot about our respective cultures with each other and learned more about each other personally. But then it was down to business: drafting our plan for our time, talking with our supervisor and then executing the steps – very project-based. I guess our knowledge of each other helped because we could play off each other’s strengths and stay away from our weaknesses when it came to completing the tasks. Since he is slightly better (read: a lot better) at Portuguese than I am, he took charge of interviewing the kids, while I put together the English website since I was a little more savvy in that area. Is this the extent of what all those textbooks were talking about when it came to working together with Latin Americans? I guess my imagination had exaggerated the reality.
Aside from the actual work, spending my time simply surviving in this other country has helped me to gain some confidence in how well I am able to adapt to situations. I’ve always had this inner fear about taking on more than I can handle, which keeps me from taking calculated risks that would be good for me. My upcoming coop term has made me especially anxious because the possibility of relocating, especially to a big city like Toronto. But I feel like these past few weeks have taught me that if I can survive on a different continent by myself without knowing the language, I can survive anywhere! *fistpump*
Oh, here’s another cake thing my host family made for me today.