Host a Brazilian Au Pair & Discover Brazil !
Bem-vindo ao Brasil - An explosion of joy waiting for you!
By Isabela Magalhaes
Olá! I’m Isabela, the EurAuPair Program Manager in Brazil. Before working with the program, I had the wonderful opportunity to be an Au Pair in Seattle, WA with a lovely and warm host family.
I experienced lots of the American culture during my Au Pair year and traveled throughout many regions in the US with my host family. After my return, we had decided to meet up the following year in Brazil. As their guide, I would show them my country, culture, language and everything possible!
Gathering information about my own country and preparing our 21-day itinerary, I found myself in big trouble. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world by geographical area extending over 8.5 million square kilometers, occupying 47% of the area of Latin America. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil also shares a border with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador. It is the size of the continental United States excluding Alaska. Brazil is divided into 5 regions and each one has different cultures and traditions. This is a lot to cover!
I started planning by considering what is really unique about my country: diversity. Brazil is the mixing together of colors, flavors, sounds and cultures. With a welcoming smile, our people are pleased to show our music, architectural sites and our tasty cuisine which differs from region to region. My host family was ready to come, but the only thing I was sure about at that point was the flights!
I met my host family in Sao Paulo, a metropolitan city of twenty million people and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It is the “New York” of Brazil with about half of the nation's industrial production concentrated in the state of Sao Paulo. We entertained ourselves for two days there with theater, art galleries, good food, liveliness and energy like no other Brazilian city.
On the third day we flew down to southern Brazil to take in the famous Iguacu Falls with its 275 waterfalls and an average drop of 60 meters. There, we could take a boat ride and walk observing the fauna and flora. What made my host siblings more excited was the experience to see the highest point popularly known as the “Devils Gorge”. The south has the highest standard of living, is highly urbanized and is home to the bulk of Brazilians with European ancestry with lots of German, Italian and Portuguese traditions. Being in the south, it is also the coldest region of Brazil.
Moving toward the central-west, we found ourselves in Pantanal, the world largest freshwater wetland. This Biosphere Reserve is considered to be a World Natural Heritage. We stayed there for three days and experienced the highly diversified and colorful fauna and flora. We fished the biggest fish my family had ever imagined. Crossing the rivers on “chalanas”, a kind of ferry boat very typical we saw lots of alligators, giant otters and many types of exotic birds from the 650 species usually found there. So much fun!
Still in central-west we dropped by Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Located in the Federal District, this ideal modern city and its architecture planning are based on concrete. It’s always interesting to visit a capital to learn about the politics and economy. During a guided excursion, my host family learned a bit of our history and how the country has developed. Brazil accounts for three fifths of South American economy’s industrial production and integrates various economic groups, such as Mercosur and G-20. Today, it has one of the ten largest economies in the world! It is a major producer of agricultural products and one of the most advanced industrial sectors in Latin America. Very surprised were they and much more proud was I!
The following four days we spent in north Brazil enjoying one of the most spectacular places in the world: the Amazon, the greatest biodiversity of the planet lying on two fifths of Latin America. The climate is humid, the culture is indigenous, the place is exotic. Brazil is probably best known as the land of the Amazon and the forest contains the world's largest single reserve of biological organisms and while no one knows how many species actually exist there, scientists estimate the number could be as high as five million, amounting to 15 to 30 percent of all species on earth. I was as surprised as they were when we visited an Indian tribe in the heart of the rain forest. I also found out a new talent; I’m a very good photographer!
Heading to northeast we came to Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador. Northeast is sunny, pleasant, festive and stimulating. The beaches in Brazil are an open invitation to leisure and relaxation. We made sure to take everyone in a buggy ride in the Dunas or sand dunes. The kids loved the thrill of the fast and exciting ride.
It was time to make our way to the historical cities of Minas Gerais. Minas Gerais is my state, where my natural family lives and where I was counting down to be with my American family. Home sweet home. Minas has tradition, warm people, and much of the history of Brazil. During four days, I was the guide!
We started in Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state, at my grandma’s house, the best place to meet the whole family. Brazilian culture values extended family ties and we do not like to live any distance from our kin. We normally interact weekly, if not daily and never hesitate to be together for special occasions.
When we rang the door bell we were right into a typical Brazilian family with my parents, siblings, maternal and paternal grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, married children and their spouses, and in-laws.
It’s hard for Americans to talk to 20 people at the same time especially speaking Portuguese, but we managed the occasion by adding some music and providing them with a lot of food – lots and lots of food!
On that day we had Brazil's national dish, feijoada (literally "big bean" stew), consisting of a variety of meats slowly cooked with black beans and condiments accompanied by rice, fresh orange slices, a side dish of peppery onion sauce, chopped greens, such as collards, and farinha (manioc flour). To drink? Caipirinhas, a potent blend of Brazilian sugarcane alcohol (cachaça), crushed limes, and sugar. In the background, we could hear “Bossa Nova” by Toquinho e Vinicius including “Girl from Ipanema”. Lunch was finished with a cheese and guava dessert called “Romeo and Juliet” followed by tiny cups of strong Brazilian coffee called cafezinho.
Brazilians are not bothered being packed together and we are physically expressive and convey emotional information through touch. Each member of my Brazilian family said good-bye to the Americans with kisses on both cheeks and hugs. Not surprisingly, it made my guests feel just like at home. We ended up the day with a night tour to many sights of Belo Horizonte.
The other three days in Minas Gerais we spent in the Historical Cities of Ouro Preto, Diamantina, Tiradentes and Sao Joao Del Rey. These cities owe much to the legacy of Portuguese colonialism and have narrow streets with continuous building facades that converge on central plazas. Minas Gerais Historical Cities have been a UNESCO-registered World Cultural Heritage and have also lots of old churches from the time gold was discovered by the colonizers of Brazil.
During those days they learned about Brazilian history as we visited cathedrals, churches and historical sights. Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world. Brazilian Catholicism has always coexisted generally in harmony with other religions. They also learned a bit of Portuguese, the official language. Portuguese is spoken by all of the population and is virtually the only language used in newspapers, radio, television, and for all business and administrative purposes.
Last stop, for the last three days: Rio de Janeiro, the “wonderful city”! No better way to rap up the trip. We got there a bit too late for Carnival, the four-day extravaganza marked by parades of costumed dancers and musicians, a truly nationwide party considered one of the greatest shows on Earth. No matter though, Rio has such a magical energy that makes you feel happier than ever and we still had a blast!
We went to see “Christ - the Redeemer”. This massive statue with its outstretched arms was selected as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” and symbol of Brazilian Christianity. We went to seaside moutain called “Pão de Açucar” (Sugar Loaf) and to the beautiful beaches. But, for my host father, the greatest time was still to come - a soccer match at the famous Macaranã stadium. Brazilians are passionate about soccer and are rated among the best players of the sport in the world. With 80.000 other people, we found ourselves cheering for a team of which we were not a fan, but became one at that night.
After 21 days traveling around Brazil it was time to say good-bye. Being the host to my now exchange family, I learned more than I had expected. I understood that having tremendous diversity in just one country makes Brazilians the most adaptable people in the world and the biggest smile you will ever see.
If you already had a Brazilian Au Pair you probably understand what I mean and probably recognize some of the facts I mentioned. It’s your time to give her the chance to be the host and come to Brazil. If you haven’t had this unique experience to host an Au Pair from Brazil do it now and find out the explosion of joy waiting for you!