Category Archives: Rotary Youth Exchange

Drinking In Brazil (A 1998 Journal Entry)

This is a journal entry from 1998 through the eyes of a 16 year old small-town Michigan boy. Despite my naïveté, I did my best to record what I saw and experienced so others would know what it was like. Try to interpret anything you read here through that lens and realize that it may not completely match reality.

Drinking (Entry 1)

Drinking here is very different. Anyone can buy beer. It’s weird because there are vending machines where you can buy it, just like treats or pop. Drinking is more like  pop than something “special”. It seems that they think at lunch”oh, a beer might be good, or coke?”

The appropriate age to drink seems to be around 12-13 to start and at 15-16 just drink w/ the adults. For example,  we were at a club and my host sister wanted a drink (not a whole can) of beer, but her mom said no; but later on the way home my host mom offered her a cup of wine.

When someone gets a beer they offer everyone in the group a drink and if I say no, it’s no big deal. It’s just “ok you’re not thirsty”. If I say I don’t drink then they look at me funny for a second and then say ok. It’s no big deal and they don’t pressure me to drink.

Drinking at Carnival (Entry 2)

Brazilians know how to handle their beer? I have never seen so many drunks in my life. At Carnival everyone (almost) was drinking and drinking and…

All You Can Drink Night At the Club (Entry 3)

One night the disco had a special. Buy 1 beer for R$5.00 and trade your empty can for a new one, as many times as you want. So everyone gets plastered right away and then slows down. But what happens when you slow down? Your beer gets warm. And hey! If you can get a free beer with an empty can, why not dump your beer on the dance floor and…

There were 1/2 inch deep puddles everywhere

2012 Update

Not every 12-13 year old in Brazil is being given drinks on the side by their parents, but it happens a lot more than in the US. Not every 15-16 year old in Brazil gets plastered at parties and at the clubs, but the number drunk teenagers I hung out with back then only gets more disturbing the older I get. When I say drunk I’m not talking about just a slight buzz after a can, I really mean altered-state, crying on the floor drunk.

Part of the blessing and curse of being an exchange student is that the most outgoing people approach you first and invite you to join their circle of friends. It seems logical that there would be a correlation between being outgoing and doing social activities such as going to parties, clubs and bars as a group where drinking occurs.

I love the group of friends I made in Brazil, but at the same time I wish I would’ve had more friends who didn’t drink, or at least more friends who drank responsibly. It’s completely possible that if I had found a different groups of friends my perception would be that everyone in Brazil was a responsible drinker.

If you go to Brazil as a teetotaler like me or someone who loves getting really drunk, you will find plenty of people to be accepting of your stance on drinking.

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Toilets and Showers in Brazil (A 1998 Journal Entry)

This is a journal entry from 1998 through the eyes of a 16 year old small-town Michigan boy. Despite my naïveté, I did my best to record what I saw and experienced so others would know what it was like. Try to interpret anything you read here through that lens and realize that it may not completely match reality.

Toilets

No toilet seats! But the hole is smaller so its no problem. By most house toilets, but not public restrooms, there is a bidet.

It’s true, water really does go backwards down the pot. But, 2 things: 1) I think I’m not far enough south to get the full effect and 2) the way the water is pressurized out it spashes at the bottom so there’s no nice neat smooth spin.

It just so happens I have a high-tec toilet; it accepts TP. Many many exchange students say no, don’t put toilet paper in the toilet, but I asked an I can.

Showers

In most places in Brazil there isn’t heated house water. So showers work a little different. Basically as the cold water comes out, an electronic heater in the shower head heats it. What at the books said is:

  1.  Turn water on
  2. Put sandals on to protect yourself from shocks
  3. Turn on heater
  4. Shower
  5. Turn off heater
  6. Turn off water

If you use the heater without water you can short out the room or building…or house.

Most showers in the USA come sideways from the wall. The ones I’ve seen here come out and drop the water straight down.

2012 Update

I wanted to believe that the water went down counterclockwise. If it did though, it wasn’t because of where I was relative to the equator.

Lots of toilets in Brazil do have toilet seats, but lots don’t. The nicer the bathroom is, the more likely that there will be a seat.

When I went back to Brazil as a missionary I was in Sao Paulo and I never encountered a toilet that wouldn’t take toilet paper in real buildings in the city. The only places I found those was in places where DIY plumbing left the toilets with extremely low water pressure — mainly in favelas and in small self-built rural homes.

One other thing I didn’t note back in 1998 is that toilets in Brazil come in way more colors than in the USA. Black, red, blue, yellow, marbled…lots of colors. You can find colored toilets in the US, but they’re not nearly as common as in Brazil.

When I went to Brazil as an exchange student I must have caught the tail end of a transition from manual-on shower heads to automatic-on showerheads. The books I read before leaving gave lots of warnings about turning on the water first and avoiding shocks. I only ran into a couple of places where that was an issue.

For the most part the showerheads now have water sensors that turn the heater on and off automatically when the water comes on. As long as it has been installed and grounded correctly you won’t get any shocks either. There was only one shower I used where you could feel the electric current running through the faucet handle, but only if you had a hangnail.

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Describe Sacramento, Minas Gerais, Brazil (A 1998 Journal Entry)

This is a journal entry from 1998 through the eyes of a 16 year old small-town Michigan boy. Despite my naïveté, I did my best to record what I saw and experienced so others would know what it was like. Try to interpret anything you read here through that lens and realize that it may not completely match reality.

Describe Sacramento, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Well…First the roofs. Almost every roof is either red clay shingles or corrugated metal or plastic. The building show a strong trend towards cement, stucco and tiles. The average building is 2-3 stories tall. The sidewalks are stone with stones about 1 foot or 1/2 foot across and wide. The roads are organized cobblestone. Each rock looks the same color and is cut almost the same size. In the middle of the road every 10-15 feet is a tree, some kind of palm.

The highways however are paved and much smoother than Ironwoods.

Driving laws are different. I think there isn’t as much respect for the centerline, speed limit or pedestrians.

2012 Update

I now know that the roads weren’t cobblestone, they used Sett Paving. If I had spent any time at all in California before going to Brazil, I would have described the architecture as Spanish Mission Style.

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