(disclaimer: I basically took no photos on this trip. Sorry)
It finally happened: the return to my beloved city of São Paulo. The best part, it was a requirement for my grant! The trip was for our Mid-Grant Enhancement Seminar. And, not only were there 120 Brazil ETAs, but there were about 25 ETAs from Argentina and Uruguay as well. It was crazy! This week was a great for two main reasons. It was an opportunity to see ETA friends, collaborate on different projects, brainstorm new ideas, and develop professionally, but it was also a chance to visit my host family and see some friends after three years!
I arrived on Tuesday, took a shuttle to the hotel, and promptly headed off to see my host family. For those who may not know, I studied abroad in São Paulo in the fall of 2011 and stayed with the best host family I could have ever imagined. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, but this was my first time seeing them since I left in 2011! When I got off the bus at Cardoso de Almeida and Caiubi, an intersection where I spent a lot of time, I suddenly felt at home again. No looking up bus/walking routes to new places; no asking the bus driver to let me know when we’re getting close.
It was amazing to see Claudia, Fernando, and Érika (and dogs Nina and Otto) again, but it was also great to finally meet their son, Rafa, who’s room I occupied for five months.
We sat around chatting; talking about my life in Fortaleza (they went on a family trip last year and are kind of familiar with the city), what my grant actually entails, and what my plans are for next year. Fernando kept joking, “stop feeling like a guest, this is your home too,” only adding to the fact that São Paulo is where I want to be. We decided that I would return Wednesday night and that Rafa would cook. Suddenly it was 10:30, and I was taken back to the hotel.
Instead of being responsible and going bed, especially since I was exhausted, I ended up hanging out in my friend Megan’s hotel room just chatting with some of the other ETAs, some who I’ve seen recently, and others I haven’t seen in months. We caught up about our cities, talked about what we do (and don’t do), and eventually went to bed.
Bright and early Wednesday morning, the #EnhancementSeminar began. (Yes, hashtag. We were encouraged to use a number of Fulbright and Fulbright Brazil related hashtags throughout the seminar, which, considering that the hotel had good wifi and we were all on our phones anyway, was a good plan. Thanks Mary Evans from IIE! ) Our first morning was mostly introductions. We heard from the Consul General in São Paulo, the Chairman of the Fulbright Commission, and a representative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department.
Following the introductions, we split into different tours of the city. They offered four options, but I had honestly been all the places they were taking us, so I ended up going with friends to Centro. We visited the Cathedral and Praça da Sé.; we talked about the history of São Paulo; and, we visited the Mercado Municipal.
After our tour, I hung around the hotel for a bit and then when back to my host family for another fun night! We ate an amazing dinner, cooked by Rafa, and just hung out. Anyone who has ever traveled extensively or lived abroad before knows the importance of feeling at home in a place, and that’s exactly how I felt (edit: feel) when I’m with them. Senti bem em casa, and I know this wasn’t be our last evening together. (But actually, my mom and brother are coming in November and we’ll be visiting my host fam in SP!).
Thursday was when the real #enhancementseminar began. We split into a variety of workshops in the morning, took a break for lunch, and returned to our workshops in the afternoon. I ended up in one by Ryan, an ETA from Argentina, about different active games to play with a class. We did a number of mixers and worked through different teambuilding activities that get students up and moving. I’m definitely going to use some in my classes! In the afternoon, I attended a workshop on phrasal verbs with Nicole, one of the second-year ETAs/mentors here in Brazil.
For those who are new to English teaching, phrasal verbs are basically the worst. As native speakers, we use them all the time without thinking about, but they have no set grammar rules, and therefore end up being a major point of frustration for English Language Learners. A phrasal verb consists of a verb and a particle (usually a preposition) that changes it’s meaning. Good examples include:
To turn (virar), to turn on (ligar), to turn off (desligar). In Portuguese, these are three totally different, and unrelated, verbs. And to a native English speaker, these are also three separate verbs. But, to an ELL, there’s no rhyme or reason for when these phrasal verbs are used.
Anyway, I can talk more about phrasal verbs (and how we covered them in conversation club) in another post. It’s an issue I’ve been wanting to address for a while with students, but I really lacked inspiration on how to do it a fun way. So, when I saw that Nicole would be leading this workshop, I signed up right away! We ended up discussing and playing several games that get students thinking about and using phrasal verbs. We also discussed modifications of these activities based on different student levels. Less than a week later, and I’m already using them in the classroom!
Thursday evening, Fulbright took us for a night out, which was great in theory, but in practice, it’s a little hard with 150 people. I stayed around for a little over an hour, and ended up making new friends (shoutout to David and Rob from Uruguay and Ruben in Minas!) before heading over to Skybar with some other ETAs. Skybar is essentially the chique-est bar in the city (or, at least, the chique-est bar I’ve ever been too) on the roof of a hotel. You get an incredible view of the Sampa skyline and the people watching is great. We hung around there until about 1 and then decided to call it a night.
Friday was the final day of our enhancement seminar. We had meetings with our mentor groups (whatup Gatinhos Nordestinos!). It was a great chance to finally sit down as a whole group, most of us were in JP back in May but not all, and talk about what’s really happening at our universities. We discussed our struggles and our triumphs, what we can do to improve, and outlined our goals (both personal and professional) for these last two and half months. That’s right, two and a half months. That’s it. It was a little overwhelming to think about how quickly time has gone by and how little we have left, but I left the session feeling great about my work and what’s to come.
Our last session of the day was also led by the mentors and it focused on making the most of these last months. Again, we discussed goals (had we met any already? Yes. Did we have more? Absolutely) and I left the session feeling inspired to really make these ten weeks count. Ten weeks. That’s it. And including my one-week trip to Porto Alegre coming up, that’s not a lot of time. But instead of dwelling on the “what’s next,” we were challenged to focus on our lives here. The mentors shared some of their bucket list items and I’ve started making my own (along with the one I have posted on this blog), and we wrapped up for the day.
The evening ended with a trip for delicious and spicy thai food, gelato, and a trip to my favorite samba place—Pau Brasil. I only ended up samba-ing with one other ETA, Kelci, but it was also kind of nice to be there just the two of us. We enjoyed great live music and samba-ed the night away.
My flight on Saturday wasn’t scheduled to leave until about 3:30, leaving me with most of the morning free. I ended up heading over to Vila Madalena with Kate and Abby (from Natal) where we ended up taking a long walk to Beco de Batman, a famous alleyway known for it’s incredible graffiti art. It took us almost an hour to get there from the metro, courtesy of bad directions from Brazilians. But it was incredible. I had visited Beco de Batman before, but it’s always changing and I loved going back. Finally, here are some pictures on my blog:
There were some complaints that the seminar came too late (really though. August is definitely not “mid-grant”), and times I agreed. But I also feel like it was the perfect time. The semester barely started before the seminar and now I feel reinvigorated and inspired to continue doing great things at UFC. Just this past week, we had a meeting with all of our bosses to discuss our upcoming projects. I feel really great about the work I’ve done and truly believe that this semester can only be better.
While this is obviously not my last blog post as an ETA, I want to say thank you #FulbrightBrazil for this amazing opportunity and thank you to all the ETAs I talked to at the #enhancementseminar for inspiring me to do my best and try my hardest. We may not meet up again as a huge group during this grant, although I’m a little relieved about that, but I hope we can stay in touch as our “real adult” lives begin following this grant.