Saturday, August 11, 2012

Industrial Strength Hospitality

Now that I have recharged a bit during my much needed summer break, I am ready to hit the ground running with some fresh blog entries. Since I have so much yet to say about my trip to Brazil, I thought a good place to start would be to write a long overdue entry about my host teacher, Eduardo Vasconcellos.

Prior to departing America, Eduardo and I spoke at length via Skype about what to expect once David (my co-teacher) and I arrived in Brazil. During these conversations, he was always courteous and provided answers in great detail to all of my questions and concerns. This proved to be true once we met in the flesh, as well. While some other teachers in our IREX Brazil cohort were often left to their own devices by their host teachers, Eduardo ensured that David and I were always pointed in the right direction and treated like kings.

David, Eduardo and I meeting for the first time at the airport in Rio de Janeiro.

He enlisted a veritable army of friends and relatives to drive, entertain and chaperone us throughout our stay. I titled this post "Industrial Strength Hospitality" for a reason. At any time of the day or night, Eduardo and his entourage, Adriana, Claudio (see my other post entitled, "Driving in Rio"), and Eduarda appeared seemingly out of nowhere to escort us to the next event on our densely-packed itinerary.

A typical day during our visit.

David and I would often sit in the back seat of the car amazed. Not only was Eduardo incredibly kind and thoughtful, he seemed to be a perpetual motion machine, never losing steam, even after spending 16 hours shuttling between four different teaching locations and various social engagements. It would be nearly impossible to reciprocate this kind of hospitality. As an example, after one particularly long outing to downtown Rio, we arrived back in Nova Iguacu to be greeted at the train station by two of Eduardo's dear friends. It was 10 PM by this time and we were completely tired out, but David and I mustered a second wind and spent the next few hours eating, drinking and laughing with more new friends. "We'll sleep when we're dead," David and I would joke.

Out to a late dinner with more new friends.

Then we would be up again bright and early the next day to meet Eduardo in the lobby of our hotel (although, notably, these meetings took place later and later as our visit progressed). Out the door we would head to a car where Adriana would be waiting as our chauffer (after having already spent the early morning baking for her real job). We spent each day visiting students, teachers and administrators at each of Eduardo's schools (did I mention he works at four of them?!?), feasting on amazing spreads of food, enjoying musical performances and sharing details of our respective cultures. Many of these "meetings" seemed very fluid, informal and impromptu and would meander for hours, although Eduardo insisted that we were on a "schedule," which became a running joke. We were on "Brazil Time." As I have mentioned in almost every post so far, Brazilians are very affectionate and physical and after our meetings would end, David and I would be seen off in a flurry of hugs, handshakes and kisses. At one point, I turned to Eduardo and said, "The goodbyes take longer than the actual meeting. I feel like I'm at an Italian wedding!"

We quickly discovered during our stay that Eduardo is an expert on all things Brazil - its education system, culture, customs, history, and food. He is an ambassador, a dignitary, the mayor of both Nilopolis and Nova Iguacu, and the ultimate host. David and I saw and learned more about Brazil in our week in Rio than most people could have in a year and I am eternally grateful for a truly life-changing experience.

Eduarda and Eduardo during lunch in downtown Rio.

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