April 4, 2014, by Guest blog
True inside knowledge of life in Brazil
I am currently enjoying the second part of my Year Abroad in the amazingly colourful country of Brazil. I finished my university term in Cádiz, Spain, said tearful goodbyes to all the amazing friends I had made, some from places such as Kazakhstan, who I’m not even sure when I will see again, and took the long journey to the unexplored Northeast of Brazil all on my own.
I am doing an unpaid internship for an International Relations company called LIRNEO in the city of Recife; working five hours a day from home, mainly researching and writing articles and documents for the English side of the company.
As there is no Erasmus grant available to me here in South America, I knew I had to be smart about my finances, and managed to find a lovely half French half Italian family with 3 young kids to live with for free in their luxury apartment on the beach.
Of course nothing in life is free, and in return for the accommodation, food and advice, I teach English to the kids an hour each, twice a week, and I also act as an au pair every day for the family.
This means I am extremely busy all week with all my jobs, and the kids can be extremely difficult – when you have constant shoes thrown at your head it’s hard to stay positive! However it is great being able to mix with the friends of the family and my bosses, in their wealthy circles, showing the affluent side of Brazilian life.
Through these circles I have been to parties for five and one year olds more elaborate than any party I have ever been to; bouncy castles, candy floss machines, make up artists, temporary tattoo artists etc. I have also visited some glorious beach houses; one with it’s own private helicopter, indoor cinema, and zoo of exotic animals.
However while making connections with these people is fascinating and makes Brazil’s economy seem like it is in fact booming, I am also in contact with the other side of life. Quoting the mother of the family I live with ‘here in Recife you either have a maid, or you are a maid’; there is no middle class.
We have a maid who comes to the apartment six days a week who I often chat with and who I found out earns very little for all of her hard work. I have also made an English friend here who volunteers in the favelas and has told me some heart-wrenching stories of kids with prostitutes and drug dealers for parents, the awful conditions of the free hospitals, and the poor quality of the public schools.
So I am learning that here in the Northeast of Brazil it is no Rio or São Paulo with tourists and a mixture of colours and nationalities. The streets of Recife are so dangerous, as a clearly foreign, white, girl I am forbidden in going alone into the streets or on public transport.
However the social situation is slowly improving in the state of Pernambuco, and thanks to all of the lovely people I am meeting here, I have true inside knowledge of life in Brazil.
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