Saturday, June 2, 2012

What do YOU know about Brazil?

Back in December, when I found out that I would be travelling to Brazil, I realized that I really didn't know much about the FIFTH LARGEST COUNTRY in the world. And as I have talked with friends, family, and colleagues about my upcoming trip, it seems that in general, many other people (at least in Seattle) don't know very much about Brazil either.

Despite taking multiple Latin American history courses in college and even living in South America for a year, my understanding of Brazil was limited to what I have seen in films like Central Station and City of God. I decided that I needed to learn as much as I could about my host country before I leave in June. Here are some of the books and other resources that I'm using for my self-taught crash course.

Brazil is hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016. People all over the world, including the United States, are going to be paying much more attention soon - I hope to get a head start with this trip (and reading list).

"Brazil on the Rise" is written by a New York Times correspondent. Some reviewers accuse him of being too critical and negative about Brazil. He claims to have vetted his ideas with Brazilian colleagues and family. I'm giving it a chance (I'm only a couple of chapters in). So far, I'm enjoying it.
I had a hard time getting into this book - it's a bit dry. On the back cover, the first review says it is "for the corporate executive facing his or her first long flight to Sao Paolo..." For some reason, that's wasn't a selling point for me. But it covers a lot of ground in about 150 pages. I'm going to give it another try. I really do want to understand the incredible surge in Brazil's economy. Last year, Brazil passed the UK and became the world's 6th largest economy. And they are on pace to pass France and enter the #5 spot. (The USA, China, Japan, and Germany are ahead of France and Brazil on the list.)

I read NACLA's (North American Congress on Latin America) magazine often in college when doing research for my Latin American history classes. It's a great publication. I just downloaded a few articles from the March/April 2011 issue and hope to read them on the plane. The articles focus on the transition from Lula to Dilma Rousseff's administration (Brazil's first female president).

I am not going to carry a guidebook with me to Brazil, but I did download the PDF of the first chapter of the Lonely Planet Brazil guide, which focuses on history, culture, and food. And I picked up the Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook. I plan to try my best to master some basic phrases. I speak Spanish pretty well, which helps, but learning Portuguese has proven to be a challenge so far.

I checked out the Pimsleur short course (eight 30-minute lessons) from the public library and have been listening (and repeating) in my car. I really like the approach of this course. You listen to a short conversation between two people. They break down each phrase into individual words and syllables. There is time for you to repeat everything a couple of times and just as you are about to forget something from a few minutes earlier, they bring it back. I am going to spend some time during my commutes home this week to finish the course.
Perry, my colleague from South Carolina, told me about this podcast. I had to register on the SurvivalPhrases website to be able to download the first ten lessons for free. They are short and sweet and go over the most essential phrases as the name of the site implies. All ten lessons total about an hour.

I like to be informed when I travel. I hope to be able to integrate what I am reading about Brazil's history, economy, and culture into my reflections on this blog over the next few weeks. I hope you join me.

1 comment: