|Brazil Through Foreign Eyes |
| March 24, 2008|
Meet R Dub from the USA who has been fascinated with Brazil for several years and almost moved here. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?
I‘m the Program Director of Hot 92.3FM in Los Angeles and I also host and produce a syndicated "love songs and dedications" radio show called Sunday Nite Slow Jams that airs in 50 cities. I‘ve been doing radio since I was 15 years old - it is my passion (along with Brazil). I recently relocated to Los Angeles from Tucson, Arizona to run one of the biggest radio stations in the country. I was supposed to be living in Brazil right now... but that‘s another story, which I‘ll explain later...
2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I‘ve always had a special attraction to the Latin culture - since I was a boy. Whether it was the music, the beautiful women, warm hospitality, or great food - part of me always felt connected with Latin America, its people and its customs. I remember exactly how my Brazil fascination started: a sophomore in college, I was taking a Spanish class so I could speak to this girl from Mexico that I was madly in love with - she didn‘t know any English! Although that relationship didn‘t work out in the end, I did have the most incredible Spanish teacher, who not only taught me so much when it came to Spanish, but she had the best stories! One day she told the class her story of her incredible travels in Brazil, and it was that day that I promised myself I‘d go.
The first trip I planned with my best friend, I had to cancel because he bailed out. Same thing the following year - we were almost ready to buy our tickets, and he canceled again. Finally, in 2002, I decided to just go by myself; after all, I wasn‘t getting any younger. I broke down and bought myself a ticket to Rio. Going to Brazil all by myself? My friends thought I was crazy - come to think of it, I thought I was crazy! But you only live once, and Brazil was calling me in my dreams.
3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?
On the plane to Brazil I couldn‘t sleep! I was so excited, but also kind of afraid that I would be lonely in Brazil all by myself. Kind of like going to Disneyland alone - you want to share the fun with someone else. But it was not even 24 hours into my stay in Rio that I was already making lifelong friends. The people were so warm and friendly. I LOVED the language (at the time I could not speak or read Português), loved the food, and was amazed at how far my dollar would go (the exchange rate was almost 1 to 4 then - those were the days!)
Those 10 days I spent in Brazil turned out to be some of the most memorable times of my life, and I was so glad I did it.
I was not ready for the emptiness that I was to feel leaving Brazil. Getting on the plane was horrible, it is a feeling I cannot describe to anyone.
4. What do you miss most about home?
Well my situation is a little different. Currently I live in Los Angeles most of the year. Let me back up a little. After four visits to Brazil, and falling more and more in love with the country each time, when I turned 30 (2006) I decided to move there. I applied for a visa to stay, found an apartment, and quit my job to live in Recife. I was actually MOVING to Brazil. I am lucky enough to have a job where I can work any place in the world. My radio show can be recorded anywhere. It is a pre-recorded show, so I can produce the show anywhere in the world, then send it back to the USA for distribution. Anyway, I quit my day job at the radio station in Arizona, sold my car, rented out my house, and was ready to leave for Recife to start a new life. Then just FOUR days before my plane was to leave, I was offered the absolute, once-in-a-lifetime, DREAM job - to run my favorite radio station: Hot 92.3, in Los Angeles, California. In radio, if you make it to New York or LA (the two biggest markets), you have officially "made it." Brazil would be there in two years, this opportunity wouldn‘t. I just couldn‘t say no. I accepted the job and moved to LA. Although it is wonderful here, I think about Brazil todos os dias.
5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
Let me start by saying that some of my favorite things to do in Brazil are the tasks that might seem frustrating to most foreigners: Finding an apartment all by myself, getting a CPF number, trying three times to open a bank account (and finally getting one), and shopping for furniture - these were all somewhat difficult to do, especially since I have not mastered the language yet, but are all so rewarding when you accomplish each task. I look at it like a "game." Jeeze, I mean just finding the right office to apply for my CPF was a challenge! But these challenges give me a chance to practice my Português and meet new friends. And boy, the feeling you get when you accomplish these things all by yourself is pretty amazing!
So back to the question - the most frustrating thing? Wiring money from the USA to Brazil. I just bought my apartment in Recife this year, and had to do most of the transaction from the USA. When I wired the money to the seller, even though he had all the paperwork, the Brazilian government wouldn‘t release the funds to his bank. Deadlines were missed, late fees accumulated, the seller became impatient - it was a big bagunça (mess). I finally ended up hiring a Brazilian attorney to sort it all out, which I should have done in the first place. He was great. His name is Jose Santiago, and he often posts articles here, as well as posting on the Gringoes.com forum. If you decide to buy property in Brazil like me, hire an attorney first - don‘t make the mistake I did!
6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?
The week I flew in to Recife for the first time to find a place to live. This was the trip that I would decide whether or not I was going to actually "take the plunge" and move. I met the most incredible friends, found the most amazing apartment and leased it all by myself, and actually made the decision to leave my life in USA for Brazil. When I left to return to the USA (to put in my notice at work) I was in tears. Even though I knew I‘d be returning in two months, for good, saying goodbye to Brazil again was tough.
7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?
That‘s such a hard question. When people ask me what I like most about Brazil, I usually say, "The people, the music, the language, the food and the beaches." I could talk for hours about why I love Brazil, but most everything I love about the country can be filed into those five categories.
8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?
I had goat for the first time in 2007, at a restaurant that quickly became my favorite in Recife, Entre Amigos. Their Super Bode Assado is amazing - goat with melted cheese, rice, beans and vinegrete (salsa). They bring it out sizzling! It‘s an amazing meal, and a great place to take a date. But I also like the random fresh fruit stands on the street, and the agua de coco huts on the beach.
9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
Well, I was warned not to talk to the girls on the streets in Rio - that they would pickpocket you. Well, my first night in Rio, I was so excited to talk to some locals. I approached some "working" women on the street to chat. Needless to say when I returned to my hotel and emptied my pockets, I was $100 poorer!
10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
Too many to name! From airlines, to stoplights, to cars, to electricity! I made a list of "coisas interessantes" on my website. I think you‘ll enjoy it!
11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?
The first time I went to Brazil I knew virtually zero Português. I tried to get by on my Spanish and that was pretty tough. Well, after that first trip, and falling in love with Brazil so much, I decided to start taking Português classes at my community college. All I can say is that my next trip to Brazil was 100 times more enriching, knowing the language. It was so neat to actually be able to communicate with people in the country that I love so much. To talk to the taxi drivers, ask directions, order food at restaurants, and make new friends with more than just hand-signals!
So far I‘ve taken two semesters of Português, and am studying lessons on CD from Pimsleur (a great program by the way). As long as I keep up with my studies, it isn‘t too difficult - although I‘m not advanced enough to watch much TV or listen to Brazilian radio yet.
The most frustrating thing now, is trying to speak Spanish, whether it‘s here in LA or Mexico. I‘ve been studying and using Português so much, that it‘s all but ruined my Spanish! I‘ll be trying to say "Toda bien?" to a senorita here and all that comes out is "tudo bem!" Or "Buenas noches" comes out as "Boa noite." The people I‘m trying to talk to in Spanish must think I have a speech impediment!
12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?
Have patience. Take time to really learn the language. Visit Gringoes.com for great info!
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
I think everyone should visit Fernando De Noronha once in their life. People tell me about their exotic vacations to Maui, The Bahamas, Tahiti, etc. and how great the water is there, and I tell them, "That‘s nice... but if you really want to see some of the most incredible beaches in the whole world, take a trip to Brazil and go to Fernando De Noronha." Talk about a true paradise, un-spoiled by tourism. They have really got their act together their. It is a treasure.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below: