Departure : Paris, France – Charles de Gaulle Airport, 1st of March 2016
Arrival : Guarapuava , Brasil – bus station, 2nd of March 2016
Mission: World Wise Web
This is my first article about my EVS project. I’m Jess, 25, and I am in Brazil for 4 months now. I have changed the country, the continent and the hemisphere to live at exactly 10 000Km of my comfort zone which is Strasbourg, France. I live now in a little town called Guarapuava situated in the state of Paraná. I work with the association Outro Olhar. We work with the indigenous people of Brazil, the Guarani community.
This experience as a volunteer is a really amazing and surprising adventure. This is the first time I stay abroad for so long. I have to adapt myself to the culture, the language, the food. I have the chance to discover two different cultures: the Brazilian and the Guarani ones.
My foundation carries out different activities: We organize courses and assignments about traditional food, ecotourism, law about the human rights, drugs and alcohol prevention… We organize several market stands in different places to sell products made by the Guarani people: handicrafts (jewellery, blowgun, rain sticks, keychains…), and we encourage forestation projects by creating essential oils and soaps with the plants that the Guarani people grow in their fields.
I have many projects with my foundation and that’s very stimulating both professionally and personally. My mission is to help the association with all activities above mentioned, and to promote the Guarani culture by making videos, pictures and articles for Facebook and for the blog of the foundation (Facebook, YouTube, Blog). It is very challenging when you are a novice in Portuguese, but also very formative. I’m still in a learning process but I learn every day about, well … everything! How to make an enterprise work, new words in Portuguese, what’s the Guarani culture, how to cook typical meals, how the bus/mails work….
I have personal projects too: I’m studying journalism classes at the University of Guarapuava once a week. It allows me to improve my skills, my work at the office, to develop my Portuguese and meet new people. I also give French classes for beginner students at the university once a month. I also have planned to travel throughout Brazil, and I have started to organize the trip and it’s very exciting.
My days are a little bit crazy: everything is new and I have the impression that I am in a movie with the « Google Translate » subtitles. I work in Portuguese, I correspond in French and with my roomy – an Italian guy – we speak mostly in English. I have a new routine, I have to live differently, with different cultural code, a different way of life. Here, we hug people to say hello (even if we don’t know them), we speak to people like we know each other since centuries– and we speak a lot – A LOT. The landscape is completely different. There are favelas here and I am pretty shocked about the difference between the rich and the poor. In the neighbourhood where I live, we can find a big, beautiful and very modern house and just next to that, as a neighbour, there is a dingy house…I have never seen a sky as beautiful as you can see here: the colour, the stars make it mysterious and giant. It’s just a detail but I never get tired of watching the sky here.
As everybody knows, stereotypes about Brazilians do exist: lot of festa, caipirinha, samba & soccer. That’s not so true. In my town, it’s more about sertaneja (a typical music from Parana state), pinhão (symbol and food of Parana) and cold weather. I live in the coldest state of Brazil and I am probably the only person in town who is waiting impatiently for some snow on July or August (just in time for my birthday J). Another stereotype of Brazilians according to European people is that Brazilians are the kindness personified. Before my departure I was thinking that this is probably exaggerated, but in fact, they are! I appreciate it a lot, especially comparing this attitude to the gloominess of French people (haha).
The food here is really good, but very different from my habits. At home, I cook for myself. For obvious reasons, I can’t cook Brazilian meals and it’s hard to stay vegetarian here. I have introduced meat in my diet because it would be really hard to physically endure if I didn’t. I haven’t a hoven to cook some salt pie or salt cake like a did a lot in France, so I must review all my food habits.
So, for Brazilian people, the regular meal is based on rice and black beans with a lot of meat. I discovered the flavour of the yam, cassava, guava, papaya and other delicious pastries but I have to confess that I miss eating cheese and drinking wine.
In one word, the EVS is wonderful. It’s a way to be shaken, to get out of our comfort zone and even if it’s not always easy, that’s what I was looking for. I am learning things about myself that I could not even imagine, and I am doing things that I didn’t think I could able to do – and I can’t figure out what’s coming next.
While waiting for the future, I wish you the best: I wish you the same kind of experience!