Day 18: Tuesday, July 30 Feliz Aniversario, Lu!

Today we had our last Portuguese class! I am sad that it is over, as it has been an amazing experience, with an amazing instructor.  I have really enjoyed how he has engaged us as a class through class activities, which has helped us all learn the language in unique and fun ways.  For example, this morning we were each given a statement in Portuguese and were asked to go around the room and find someone who agreed with the sentence.  Another exercise included matching pictures of food with it Portuguese names. After all our hard work we decided as a class to go out and celebrate our last class by having some ice cream!  

After a wonderful lunch with my family, we had a free afternoon. We all decided to do different things with some people choosing to spend the afternoon with their families, others decided to go shopping at the Shopping Bahia (a big mall), while others searched out more adventurous things to do. For me, Bahia will always have a special place in my heart and will be something that I will carry with me forever.

After our enjoyable afternoon, it was time for a surprise birthday party for Lu!  Lu is Clara’s secretary who works very hard at what she does. She radiates positive energy and happiness around the room with unconditional love. It was so difficult for some of us to keep it a secret from her.  We (the students), always stop by her office to say hello and see how she is doing. At the same time, we then sneak into Clara’s office (next to Lu’s office) to take some of her amazing marajuca candy, without getting caught by Clara. That is hard to do! Jenni and I are definitely, without a doubt, the candy thieves of our group.

The birthday girl!
Group Photo (minus a few)

The party was so much fun! Almost everyone was there – including all of the UNL students, our host moms, all of the other host moms involved in Clara’s programs, our tour guide (Fred), and Lu’s daughter and brother. At first, I was a little anxious because the only food that was being served was finger food (and I was starving). But let me tell you, the finger food was delicious and filled all of us up. During the entire evening the host moms were walking around the room with the trays of food, almost forcing us to keep eating.  Back to the surprise, Lu was shocked and was in tears. We were all singing and clapping as she walked in.

It was so exciting for all of us to experience our first Brazilian surprise birthday party.  We danced, ate lots of food, and enjoyed each other’s company. This was also a special moment for Clara and Lu because tonight was the first time they have been able to gather study abroad students for her birthday party. Clara mentioned that they have been trying to do it for five years and it finally happened! Overall, we all had so much fun and we enjoyed our second to last night in Salvador, Brazil. Happy Birthday Lu! You will be missed by all of us.

The beautiful view of the skyline from the rooftop where
the party was hosted at.

Thanks for tuning in!

— Jenni Pallas and Colin VonSeggern

Day 17: Monday, July 29

Today was our second and last day in Arembepe. Other than a group lunch at 1:30, we had most of the day to spend it how we chose! Most people did their own thing. I woke up around 9:30 and enjoyed breakfast on the patio with four of my classmates.

After that, I changed into my swimsuit and went to the pool at our resort! I spent a couple of hours out there while some of my classmates chose to walk along the beach, go swimming in the ocean, or ride bikes around the town! At 12:00 a few of us decided to take a nap and just relax in the hammocks at the resort!

For lunch, we had cozido, a traditional dish that highlights many different types of meats (beef, pork and sausages), with a rich gravy and a large array of cooked vegetables.  It was delicious, and was a different experience from the traditional beans and rice that we have had at almost every meal. Following Almoço, we all resumed resting, retreating back to the cool rooms, swaying hammocks, and soft sands.

Sleeping, taking a walk on the beach, and chatting were common, while I sang a personal concert in my room. Just before 4 we all started to pack.  Colin tried to smuggle the air conditioning remote in his bag (for a souvenir) but he was confronted by the staff and forced to hand it over.  You have to keep your eye on Colin J.  We left the charming grounds of A Capela behind, but before we left Arenbepe for good, we went to the Hippie village just outside of town.

The community has been around for over 3 generations where it was founded in the 1960’s.  Famous people around the world had visited, and even lived in this community.  For example, Mick Jagger, Janice Joplin and Jack Nicholson are just a few.

It was interesting being in such a unique place, as it is the only hippie community that has survived since the 1960’s.  Members of this community still embrace the “free love” idea as well as opposing war.  All of the houses were shaped oddly on purpose to reflect their unique society.  Most of the homes still do not have running water, or electricity.

We flip-flopped through the community and saw the ingenuity that was needed to build the fairytale-like houses, mostly with materials and scrap pieces they were able to find.  We were then given an opportunity to buy handmade jewelry that the community makes by hand and sells.  This is the primary way that the community is able to make money.

These last two days at Arembepe was much needed times for us to self-reflect, and process the great experiences we have had during the last two weeks.  I can’t believe we only have a few days left.

— Crytal Feik & Rylan Korpi

Day 15: Saturday, July 27 Free Day!

Morning

This was our first full free day we have had while in Salvador. As a group we decided to spend it shopping so we headed to one of the most famous markets in Salvador, the Mercado Modelo. We were excited as we entered a huge building filled with rows and rows of shops with traditional crafts, art, hammocks and trinketsl. We did our best negotiating a fair price in a language we didn’t understand. We were grateful that the shopkeepers were patient with all of us, and we recognized quickly that learning how to negotiate in a foreign language is an art. Fortunately, most of learned to communicate through the use of a calculator, where we went back and forth in our negotiation process until both parties were happy.

Most of us left the Mercado Modelo with smiles on our faces as we left with unique souvenirs for ourselves and our loved ones. We then decided to go to continue our shopping spree at Pelourinho area (your welcome!). For lunch some of us went home, while others decided to go to a restaurant. Fun fact, after searching for a place where we could eat pizza, we learned that this type of meal is only served for dinner. Who would have thought?

Afternoon

To the beach!!! After lunch we all decided to spend the afternoon relaxing in the sun.
We have learned, seen, and done so much over the last 15 days, that having some down time was greatly appreciated. I have been amazed with how packed each day has been with new experiences.

Then the rain came. Fortunately, we had enough towels to protect our phones and shirt; but our towels didn’t fair so well. Luckily it was warm enough that by the time we arrived at our homes, we were dry and warm.

Evening

After returning from the beach and getting a much-needed shower several of us took naps, and then ate an amazing dinner. For most it was a time to relax and recoup before some planned activities we made for the evening. I chose to stay home, catch up on some relaxing and enjoy some time with my family here in Brazil. I also got to talk to family back home and relax in paradise. In reality this place is sooo beautiful with so much culture, opportunity, and many lessons. It’s nice to have some time to reflect, relax, and process all that we have experienced here before we go in to our last week in Brazil. We’ve gotten to a point where we feel mostly at home with our host families and we are more familiar with the culture. In reality, living with a family has been one of the best things for this trip because you are able to learn and live the culture that is around you.

— Chris Neu

Day 13: Thursday, July 25 Steve Biko

MANHÃ

Bom Dia!

I started the morning off by waking up at 5am. I needed to catch up on journaling and finish my Portuguese homework. For breakfast I had fruits and mango juice. ‘Minha mãe’ had made me bananas with honey and granola. Most of us have fruits for breakfast every morning. Brazilian really like having fruits at every meal. I don’t mind it. We have came to a conclusion with the group that the fruits here taste much better than the ones in the United States.

Fruits for breakfast!

We usually walk with a group of students but this morning only Jenni and I walked to ICR together. During Portuguese class we had conversations with each other in Portuguese. We are not fluent yet but we can understand a lot more than the first day of class. Even Sidney said our Portuguese is getting a little better. During class this morning, we learned about food. We all know this group loves food. ‘Comida é meu amor!’ We spent the last 20 minutes of Portuguese class watching ‘comida’ videos.  We all left very hungry. ‘Muito obrigada’ Sidney!

Sidney explaining food!

TARDE

Bom tarde!

Jenni, Liesl, Colin, Crystal, Chris and I all walked back to our places together. As we were walking all we could talk about is how hungry we are and hope that ‘almoço’ would be ready. As soon as I got home, minha mãe, already had lunch prepared. All I needed to do was wash my hands. 

For ‘almaço’ we had fish, rice, beans, cracked wheat with salad. The cracked wheat salad was amazing. It reminded me of home because my mom makes something very similar to it. 

Cracked wheat salad!
Minha mae preparing almoco!

Before we met up at ICR for our afternoon activities, Colin, Chris, Jaylen, Jenni, and I went to McDonald’s to get ice cream and fries. We struggled with ordering but we were able to figure it out.  When I asked for fries and the cashier said ‘não’. I wasn’t sure if they were out of fries and with my limited Portugues abilities, I decided to just settled for an ice cream sundae.

Chocolate Top Sundae from McDonalds!

Before our afternoon activities we had a small debriefing session with the professors were we talked about Xavier’s lecture and how it prepared us for meeting with people from the Instituto Cultural Steve Biko. In the shuttle Simone our tour guide for the day gave us a small history lesson on who Steve Biko was, and why this program is so important to Afro Brazilians in Bahia.

Simone mentioned that the public universities are the best in Brazil. But the best way to get into a public university is to be in a private school K-12th grade. Since that was not possible for everyone in Brazil due to the high costs of private schools, the Steve Biko institution has provided intense tutoring to help prepare students of Afro-Brazilian descent, for the national examinations to get into public universities. This is needed because public K-12 schools are not able to sufficiently prepare students for this exam, and are disadvantaged when compared to those students who are in private schools. This exam is called the Enem exam.

Simone talking about Steve Biko and the Institution!

This program started almost 30 years ago. It was founded on July 31,1990. It was founded through the initiative of African Brazilian teachers and students. It was started because there was a concern for the absence of students of African descent in Bahian universities. The goal was and is still to bridge the racial divide that maintained the generational cycle of poverty in low-income communities and bring power back to Afro-Brazilian people through access to education to better their community and ensure a more dignified, equal insertion into Brazilian society.

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” – Steve Biko. This is the shirt that many of us bought today.

According to our presenter, 52% of Brazil are made up of black or bi-racial people. In Bahia this statistics is dramatically higher, with 82% of Bahia identifying as black or bi-racial. Despite this statistic only 2% of professors in the state of Bahia are black.  We continued to discuss the disparities that exist in Brazilian’s educational system that has disadvantaged the poor, and those of African descent.  This discussion has helped us see that while racism may look different in Brazil, it exists and is evident in those who actually attend Universities.  It was eye opening to see this contrast in a state in which over 80% of the population has African descent.

Speakers from the lecture!

Some of the highlights of this presentation included a timeline We were given the opportunity to listen to about the history lesson of Brazil and what it took to get affirmative action. Here is a timeline to understand and follow along: 

Slavery timeline in Brazil:

1500: Portuguese arrived in Brazil 

1550: Enslaved Africans started to come. The main work in Brazil was sugar cane. (Did you know Salvador was the capital of Brazil until 1763? I didn’t know that.) During the next 300 years the Portuguese kept bringing Africans to Brazil. In1850, this law was created to stop bringing  African slaves to Brazil. In 1871, Lei do Ventre Livre (Law of the Free Womb): was a law that declared people who were born in Brazil could not be enslaved or considered enslaved. It allowed black population to work and buy freedom. The child/children were free but mothers and fathers weren’t. Then in 1885, the law Lei Sexagenório was created. It was a law that if you were older than 60 years old you were considered free. The government expected that the Africans would have an expectation of life that was around 30 years. In 1888, the lawLei Aurea was created. It was to abolish slavery in Brazil. This is the year Rio de Janeiro became the capital of Brazil. At this time of history, whitening actions became a majority of white in the Southeast part of the country. In 2001, the Durban conference in South Africa was impactful to Brazil. Brazil brought a white delegate to the conference and that is where they announced that specific actions of Brazil would take place. Brazil made an agreement that they would be committed to fight against the struggle of racism. In 2003, the first affirmative action in Brazil was officially signed. On January 9th, 2003, President LULA signed the law 10639/03 – the law was that the history of the black and the history of the Indigenous would be taught in schools and universities.There was about 10 years of experience in affirmative action in Brazil, to get a law created they need to get experiences from universities that are top of rankings and good grades to make any law official. The law was finally official in 2012. 

Steve Biko himself!

All that history created an exam for students to take. The exam is the ENEM exam. It is a national exam for students to take to get into a public university that they want to go to. This is where the Instituto Cultural Steve Biko comes in. The Steve Biko institution gives students the opportunity to prepare for the ENEM exam. The exam can cost from 80 reais to 100 reais. ($21-$27 US dollars). That may not seem like a lot to someone that doesn’t come from a low income family. But to someone that can’t afford it, it is a lot especially if you don’t pass it the first time and have to retake it. The institution offers geometry, chemistry, geography, and black consciousness and citizenship. This part of this course is supposed to be taught in elementary school. The Steve Biko institution goes into more detail about the history of black consciousness and citizenship. I found it very fascinating that their curriculum is African-centered to include the students’ rich African heritage, history and culture.

Students can also identify themselves black for the school system. They will do a BANCA DE VERIFICAÇÃO. This is an interview that each student will do based on the quotas and racial interactions. During the interview they are asked questions such as “why do you consider yourself black?”, their physical traits and self declaration. But the main qualifications to be accepted in this program/school is having a desire to learn and coming from a low-income families. The Steve Biko institution has a very selective process that all students go through to get accepted. This is because they do not have very much space and funds to accept all students. With that being said, the institution has a partnership with the Coca Cola foundation in the United States. They help keep the preparatory courses in place and keeps the course working. They also help with the remodeling of the Steve Biko institution.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
– Matin Luther King Jr.

The Instituto Cultural Steve Biko also has an exchange program with the state of California. The students come to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil for 6 months. They help with the English class and do research while they are at the institution. 

Group picture with the speakers and two students from the United States that are in the exchange program at Instituto Cultural Steve Biko!

Almost each one of us bought a shirt from the institution. I will wear the shirt with pride and love when I get back to Nebraska! The trip to the Steve Biko institution has made me realize almost how easy it is to get into a good university in America. It is something that we take for advantage in the US. At the same it is an eye opener for us many of us as well.  (This shirt is posted above.) 

NOITE

Bom noite! 

We returned back to our homes around 5:30pm. In the van, some students talked about going out later tonight to the coffee shop and others decided that since we have a busy day the next day that they won’t go out. I was one of the ones that decided to stay home and hang out with my ’Mãe’. I had a light dinner that consisted of bread and cheese. And of course the famous Guaraná. We watch a novella together. I didn’t understand what was being said but I still had a good time with my ‘Mãe.’ 

The famous Guarana!

Tchau por agora! 

— Fatima A.

Day 12: Wednesday, July 24 Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Cachoeira Day Trip

“Bom dia!” This is a morning greeting used by Brazilians all over the southern hemisphere. You can hear this friendly greeting echoing wherever you go in the morning.

Bright and early, we met across the street from McDonalds, waiting to load the bus and head to Cachoeira for a day trip. Cachoeira is a city in Bahia, once the wealthiest city in Brazil, and it translates to “waterfall” in Portuguese. Anticipation is in the air as we make our way down the winding roads, listening to Freddy, our tour guide and friend. On our way to Cachoeira, we passed through several small towns. Along the road we passed numerous fruit stands filled with citrus fruits, bananas, and smiling faces. Freddy told us some facts as we lumbered down the road. Did you know that tobacco and coffee were the first products of Bahia? Did you know that there are 164 types of palm trees in Brazil? Also, out of all of the cigars that are made in Brazil, only 2-3% actually stay in Brazil!

We finally pulled into the town of Cachoeira. Glittering sunshine bounced off of the colorful buildings, and the cobblestone streets were busy with people buying and selling different goods. In the market, we encountered an array of exotic fruits including jackfruit, jenipapo (a fermented fruit that contains alcohol), coconuts, pineapples, papayas, and more. Any day of the week, except on Sunday, you can find anything at this market. Freshly carved meats, vegetables, fruit, leathers, purses, necklaces, and art litter the market place.

Further into the town and up the hill, we walked to the first European hospital in Brazil. Today, it serves all people, but when it was built, it only assisted Europeans. There is a small white house in front of this hospital that is rumored to have birthed the idea of independence for the entire country of Brazil. Across the street, there is a yellow building adorned with the old seal of Brazil: the crown of Brazil, atop tobacco and coffee leaves.

As Freddy guides us even further uphill, we see the steeple of the very first church in Cachoeira, built in the 16th century. I was in awe of the condition of the church and the age of this community. Across from the church, there is a red building — the first sisterhood in Cachoeira. The sisterhood was opened in order to buy enslaved Africans with the intention of freeing them. The sisters continue today to fight against prostitution and the mistreatment of human life. Basically, it is a form of social work.

Making our way back down the hill, we visited an art shop full of traditional African inspired wood carvings. Full logs are used to carve each piece of artwork. From there, we visited Hansen Bahia’s art gallery. Hansen was a German man whose second home was in Cachoeira. He had many students and influenced them to feel art. His legacy and iconic artwork carries on to this day.

After visiting the gallery, we made our way to the Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia. The University is a free public institution, and is relatively new, at only 13 years old. At the University, we had the chance to talk to Dr Xavier Vatin, PhD. Dr. Vatin is French but has lived in Brazil for 27 years.  He lectured us about several things. First, he explained to us the population of Cachoeira. At 86% black/African descent it is completely opposite of the 86% white population in Nebraska (as of 2010). In Cachoeira, University spots used to be held for those in the elite class, meaning white Europeans. Despite this, Dr. Vatin said that within the past five to six years, almost all of his students have identified as black Brazilians. We talked so much with Dr. Vatin, and some things that stood out to me were:

  • 1865 slavery in the US was abolished
  • 1888 slavery in Brazil was abolished
  • 5-12 million Africans were brought to Brazil against their will
  • 0.5 million Africans were brought to the United States against their will
  • Brazil was the last country of the Americas to abolish slavery
  • Brazilians have a dynamic scale of color. There are five official categories: black, multiracial, white, yellow and indigenous.
  • There are approximately 67,000 homicides in Brazil each year.
  • 77% of homicides are against young black Brazilians ages 15-24 years old.
  • Catholicism made it easy to begin worshipping orixàs in conomble because of the influence of the saints.
  • The United States and Brazil are comparable due to the fact that they were both the largest consumers of enslaved Africans.
  • Ringshout, a transcendent religious ritual practiced by African descendants in the United States, like condomblé is a syncretic religion, merging elements of Christianity with African spirituality, but it is different than Codmnble because of the process in which enslaved Africans were converted to either Catholicism or Protestantism.
  • Most documents regarding slaves were burned after the abolition of slavery in fear that slave owners would ask for reparations.
Translated: I am a woman I want to be looked in the eyes and not in the breasts I am a woman! I have a voice! I have rights! I want respect!

After our lecture with Dr. Vatin, we enjoyed a beautiful lunch at Fazenda Santa Cruz, an old farm that sits above the fertile valley around Cachoeira. There were beautiful views, a wonderful spread of different meats, vegetables, and flavorful sides.

Following our lunch, we got to visit a cigar factory across the river from Cachoeira. There were beautifully dressed women carefully crafting by hand each cigar at stations. The fragrance was strong when we walked through the door. We learned that in 8 hours, they can make 100 cigars. In order to ensure the perfection of these cigars, they must go through a series of quality assessment tests. After the cigar is rolled, they do a diameter test, an air flow test, and a weight test in order to make sure that their product is up to par. The cigar passes through multiple hands throughout the process, which also ensures quality and perfection. After the tests, the cigars rest for 15 days, and then the paper wrapping is removed from them. Then, they wrap it in the final leaf, then letting it rest for 15 to 30 more days. It takes about a month and a half or so in order to create a cigar and then be able to smoke the finished product. They have four different kinds of cigars here: Corona (40 min), Double Corona (2 hours), Robusto (1 hour), and Toro (1-1:30 hours) cigars. After touring and viewing the cigars, multiple students decided to take advantage of the postcard stand, where we were able to write to whomever in the world and send it for free through the cigar factory. 

After walking around Cachoeira and enjoying ourselves, we finally made it back onto the bus to head back to Salvador. What an amazing experience, wonderful lecture, beautiful lunch, and exciting tour we went on.

Until next time,
Regan

Day 11: Tuesday, July 23

To start our second Tuesday here in Brazil, we had Portuguese class at school from 9-12. Normally, I meet up with a few of my other classmates who live nearby and we all walk to the school together. During our walks, I like to catch up with them about how their nights were or how they’re enjoying the trip in general. During today’s conversation, one of my classmates and I talked about how much we enjoyed the walks to and from the school because it’s not something that we normally do. Back home, most people drive in their cars to and from places. Walking gives us a chance to enjoy our surroundings. While in Portuguese class, we learned about the different seasons and some commonly used phrases. After class, we walked to our homes to see the wonderful meals made by our mães! For me, today’s meal was steamed rice, potatoes, and fish. She also had my favorite, homemade mango juice!

After lunch, we visited Casa Branco a Candomblé temple here in Salvador. Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion that is very popular in this part of Brazil. When we arrived, we were greeted by a gentleman named Antonio Luis. Antonio was the only male priest currently serving at this temple, temples can be led by either a high priest or high priestess. He taught us a lot about the religion and the temple. The temple was located in the forest that was once far from downtown Salvador making it accessible only to those involved, thus allowing its members to worship freely. However, with city growth the temple is now surrounded by urban community. A priestess had left with the keys to the temple and so we went to visit the Casa de Jorge Amado (described below) then returned and climbed the stairs to the temple! 

At the top of the stairs, we waited outside the doors while Antonio sprinkled water on the doorstep to cleanse it before we entered. This was to purify our visit and ensure that all our negative thoughts remained outside. Antonio mentioned was that the decorations in the temple are based on the celebrations in honor of their Orixás (Candomblé Gods). Currently, the decorations were the color blue. However, they will be changed to white next week I preparations for next months celebration! During our visit, Antonio led us back into an area of the temple that not many people get to go to, the living area of the priests and priestesses. Our tour guide was very excited by this saying that it was a rare experience to be invited into what is there home! When walking through the hall to get to this area, we had to remain silent while passing by the high priest’s living area as a sign of respect for her privacy.

Antonio also told us about the initiation process to become a member of Candomblé. After a long period of learning about Candomblé Gods and beliefs, a drop of the person’s blood is mixed with the blood of a sacrificed animal and the initiate drinks it. I found this initiation process interesting just because I’d never heard of it before! He explained that like some other religions blood was considered the energy and force of life and as such this ceremony represented the mixture of the individual and nature. Symbiosis between humans and nature is a central tenet of Candomblé.

Casa de Jorge Amado

Next on our adventures for the day was visiting the house of the famous author Jorge Amado. Amado was a very famous writer from Brazil who’s reputation was compared to that of Mark Twain. He wrote many books that have spread throughout the world with some translated in over 50 languages! He lived in this house with wife of over fifty years up until he passed away in 2001. Now, his home has been opened up as a museum to share all the significances from his life and career.

After passing away, Amado’s ashes were spread by a bench near the entrance of his garden (which was really his roof turned into a garden). He loved frogs and there were many sculptures of frogs around his garden.

Because I am such a book worm, it was no surprise that my favorite room in the house was the library. It was so cool to be in a room that had so many different pieces of his writing that also happened to be in so many different languages! This bookshelf was the books he wrote in their many languages.

It was such a surreal feeling getting to be in the house of such a famous person who meant so much to the Brazilian community. His gorgeous house and everything in it was something that I was very grateful I go to see. 

While it was another crazy busy day in Brazil, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way! Each day I have to pinch myself thinking about the fact that I have this amazing opportunity to explore such a beautiful city and all it has to offer. Here’s to nine more days of exploring with my amazing classmates and professors!

Tchau for now!!

Liesl Miller

Day 10: Monday, July 22

Feliz Aniversario, Chris! 

         Today was an exciting and busy day for the group! First of all, we celebrated a birthday. Feliz Aniversario, Chris (Happy Birthday)! From beginning the day by going to an elementary school to finishing the night with capoeira class, we were pretty worn out, in a good way of course! Througout the day, self-refelction was commonly found within the group since there was such a powerful impact from visiting the school. 

Escola Albeta do Calabar
         We started the day with a visit to Escola Alberta do Calabar which is a community school located within a poor and low-income community, a former quilombo. The kids were so cute! This elementary school currently educates 130 students and offers education for kids 3 years of age up to 11 or 12 (5th Grade). Escola Alberta does not receive any government funding. How are they funded? Donations! And some money is comes from the city for kindergarten classes but no other classes. It has fourished throughout the years and is continuing to do so which is exciting. 
         The mission of the school is what caught my eye the most. They take so much pride in not taking funds from the governnment, which somewhat shocked me. This is because it allows the school the power of not having to follow government regulations. Escola Alberta, along with other community schools, is able to build its own curriculum and teach students what they think is necessary for them – critical thinking, reading, writing, computer skills, and capoeira just to name a few subjects. During the time of the military dictatorship, the government determined what kids learned, thought, and did in school. There were new rules applied and developing political/social awareness in kids was unfavored. Escola Aberta (Open School) was a response to this repressive approach to education.
         Students at Escola Aberta are allowed to critique and question what is being taught by the teachers, rare in any country. A great example of this was said by our amazing tour guide Simone. ‘The apple is black.” Although we all know that an apple is never black, a student may question the teacher about this and explain how they know an apple is red, not black.
         A relationship of trust and respect among the teachers, students and parents is very important to this school. The overall idea of the school is to help these kids realize that despite their impoverished economic status, they are still able to be happy and develop the critical thinking and intellectual skills necessary to play a role in running the world.  This was quite noticeable the entire visit. The kids demonstrated their academic skills and interacted with us one-on-one.  There were so many laughs and smiles shared.                    At the end of the tour, we had a small group discussion in the computer lab that is not used because the school is not able to afford to keep them operational. Most of the computers are ten or more years old, and only three or four of the twenty in the lab actually work.  The school has had to cannibalize other computers in order to keep the working ones working. Within this discussion, we were asked by our professors “What could we do with this experience here at Escola Aberta?  How can we help?  Do we want to help?” We talked about raising money for the school. The thought of raising money to get their computers fixed or replaced and got us excited and motivated us students to get the ball rolling and have more conversations on how to potentially accomplish this goal. Stay tuned!

Portuguese Class 
         It was a very productive day in Portuguese class for the whole group, athough most of us wanted to close our eyes for a bit. Sydney, our instructor, emphasized at the beginning of class that we were going to be satisfied with where we were at and he was right! I was so pumped leaving the classroom being able to explain how I get to school everyday back home in the states (Eu pego o onibus), that I am going to go shower and brush my teeth (Eu tomo banho e escova meus dentes), and when I am going to come back home (Eu volto na casa 7 da noite). The group has been in Portuguese class for a week now, and it was a great feeling hearing our instructor say that we are doing a great job with the new language for how short of a time we have been learning it! 

Capoeira Angola Workshop
           This was such a fun and energetic way to end the end the day. Capoeira, (an Afro-Brazilian dance and martial arts form once practiced by enslaved Africans) is a powerful way to connect with the culture, along with the soul. It was an honor to have the opportunity to learn how capoeira is practiced. Mestre Sapoti was the instructor for the workshop, and he was such a great spirit and made the workshop so much fun! One thing that he said that stood out to me was how capoeira needs the connection of three important things: balance, the soul, and the mind. I thought that this was a great explanation of what it would take to connect with such a beautiful thing, and it worked!           Mestre also educated us on the instruments used in capoeira and how to play them. He was right when he said that it is way easier than it looks! By the end of the workshop, some of us got the chance to perform capoeira with the “pros” in front of the whole group. It was such a cool moment for all of us. To end the workshop and the day, Chris’s host mom and father surprised him with a cake at the workshop! We all got to sing him Happy Birthday with the instruments and enjoy some cake and soda after working so hard to learn capoeira.

Today was full of new experiences for all of us, and I will cherish today for the rest of my life.

Tchau!
— Colin 

The playground.
The group with the principal and all of the school supplies we donated.
Some of the desks in the kindergarten classroom.
The computers that are not able to be used by the students
but still remain in hopes of being used again one day.
This painting was commonly found around the school as a daily reminder to the students
of the connections between Bahia/Brasil and Africa.
Instruments used during capoeira.
Live action shot of Chris participating in capoeira with the instructor.
Chris and his host-mom standing next to the cake while we sing Happy Birthday to him.