What I need to know about Brazil, according to my students (1/3)

This is the first post in a three-part series. You can find the second part here and the third part here.

As we all know, it’s super fun to talk about yourself. In this way, being an ETA can be a bit dangerous for the ego: because I’m still shiny and new, people want to hear about my life and experiences. Basically, I end up talking a lot. But since the Fulbright program’s all about intercultural exchange, I decided to turn the tables with my English V class: every week, one of them will present something (about themselves, Caxias do Sul, Brazil, or just what they like) to me.

I’m sort of proud how it worked out. My students seem to be having a lot of fun with the presentations, and they can practice English as I get to learn about Brazil. Here’s what they’ve been teaching me so far:

Music — Igore

Igore kicked off our series by giving me an overview of music in Brazil. I adapted his powerpoint a bit; the original presentation had the pictures appearing over each other. You can check out all the videos he showed here.

A lot of the music was what you might expect. But I was especially intrigued to learn about a genre that Igor translated as kids’ music. He showed us an example that was delightfully 90s, a bizarre mash-up of edgy visuals and a Kidz Bop chorus of  “Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump! Let’s jump!”

And then of course we had an example of funk music that basically reinforces every negative stereotype you could have about Brazil. (As an aside: Elaine detests funk music, and it amuses me to no end to respond to people who ask me what I think about funk with “my mom doesn’t let me listen to it.”)


Neymar’s old tweets — Jéssica

Neymar is a Brazilian soccer star whose bizarre tweets have become infamous in Brazil. My students were shocked when I’d never heard of him—he’s the world’s most expensive player and ESPN’s sixth-most popular athlete. He’s also apparently an avid tweeter, churning out nonsensical updates that quickly turn into memes here in Brazil.

Like, I’d never heard of Neymar, but by the time of the presentation I’d already seen a “Deus e TOP” joke used in a group on Whatsapp.

My students seemed to be split about Neymar. I get the impression that his skills on the pitch have earned him some status as a national hero, but my students’ reactions to his tweets ranged from ironic amusement to sincere regret that someone so careless and ignorant has such a large platform.


Brazilian Food — Susana

This was definitely one of my favorite presentations. My class conspired to bring in a selection of popular Brazilian foods, so we had a little party that day. I may have underplayed exactly how many of the foods I’d already tried as an excuse to eat more…

Susana broke down the foods that are popular in each of Brazil’s regions. Apparently the south, where we are, is known for its meat and adapted versions of European food. “Better versions,” Susana clarified. I totally agree that the churrasco here is outstanding—it’s probably the main reason why I eat like three times as much red meat here—but I’ve also spent several months in Rome and there is no way Brazil has superior Italian food.

Also, I heard from somewhere that to many Brazilians, a meal’s not a meal unless it has rice and beans. Sometime over the past two months, I have 100% bought into this, and even when I visit a buffet with a ton of other foods, rice and beans always find their way onto my plate.


Rio Grande do Sul’s musical culture — Patrick

My state, Rio Grande do Sul, has a proud history of gaúcho music. Patrick, a musician, wanted to break that down for me. He started in the 1960s with Gildo de Freitas and Teixeirinha, who performed a song that’s somehow become the state’s unofficial anthem. When Patrick played it, my students sang along, knowing every word.

Then came the jaunty Adelar Bertussi, whose accordion skills basically revolutionized the genre. He also brought drums into gaúcho music, which had traditionally only included the accordion, acoustic guitar, and tambourine.

Patrick also touched on tchê music, a relatively new genre that relies less on the gaúcho tradition and incorporates elements of other popular genres. It’s popular among kids who grew up going to Traditional Gaúcho Centers, and sounds (to me) suspiciously like ska. It’s divisive for all the reasons you’d expect cultural change to be.

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