Volunteer in Mission to Brazil

04 June 2007


"Tricotando" means "knitting" in Portuguese, but it also means "chatting." This week I distributed skeins of yarn to the kids so they could make scarves. We were inside rather than our usual garden spot because of the cold, but even so, many of the kids were wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts. I checked to make sure that it wasn’t because they didn’t own warmer clothes. I finally remembered to bring my camera to take pictures of the knitters.

Matheus is a particularly avid knitter.

This group turned out to be all boys just by accident.

On Thursday, I went to a free concert downtown to hear a band play music from several Latin American countries. It was cool that not only was I able to find out about a club where I might be able to dance salsa every other weekend, but also that I was able to run and catch the bus afterwards because it was pretty cold outside to be waiting 30 minutes or more for the next one.

A very nice practice that I’ve seen on buses and the metro is people who are seated offering to hold the bags/books/etc. of people who are standing near them. I try to remember to ask people if I can hold something for them, but it’s not automatic yet. I can’t imagine people doing that in the U.S. because you’d be too paranoid that somebody would try to rob you.

Just as I was giving up hope for the foreigners’ get-together, we had the biggest turnout yet on Friday. I learned something very interesting about how the Portuguese with less resources who couldn’t afford real molds used to make the terra cotta roof tiles by shaping them on their thigh, so there are a few words/phrases in the language with respect to the thigh that mean to approximate something. There was also another example of “it’s a small world.” One couple invited their Brazilian friend, who had lived in the U.S. and was fluent in English. When I said that I was a volunteer for the Methodist church, he said, “Oh, really? My ex-girlfriend is Methodist. She was studying in Spain.” and I knew immediately who he was talking about because it’s the daughter of my former roommate, Márcia.

One thing that frequently pops into my mind when I’m navigating the hilly streets of Belo Horizonte is “what goes down must come up.” It would be really helpful to have a map that would indicate where there are steep hills so you could plan the least strenuous route.

There are two different types of washing machines—the cheap ones that are called "suggar" that only centrifuge the water out of clothes you've washed by hand, and regular washing machines, which are much more expensive. I haven’t yet seen liquid detergent here, but there are many brands of powdered detergent.

The most common rolls here (“salt bread”) are interesting because when they are fresh, they are hard on the outside and soft on the inside, but the next day, the bread gets softer, not harder. The yogurt I’ve encountered here is thinner than the yogurt in the U.S. and is basically drinkable.

I was surprised to find out what the phrase “vide bula” meant because it’s the name of a popular brand of clothing. Can you imagine a line of clothing in the U.S. called “see the insert”? “Vide bula” is the phrase on the side of pharmaceutical boxes to tell you to see the insert for complete details.

You see a lot of tattoos here, like in the U.S., but I saw a young man on the metro who had quite a unique tattoo—a UPC bar code on the back of his neck.

Something quite popular here in stores is using announcers/entertainers with microphones to get people’s attention. When I walk to the metro on Sunday mornings, I can usually hear the guy who promotes the grocery store two blocks away. I’ve frequently seen people in costumes standing in front of stores. Once, I even saw two young women dancing rather suggestively in the window of a department store (something like Sears) to grab the attention of potential customers. I resolved right then never to buy anything from that store.

I finally asked about the lack of soap at the sink in some families’ bathrooms and was repulsed to find out that they wash their hands only with water after using the bathroom (especially since I have eaten in these homes). What can you do?

Just recently, I learned that the Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer (at least in Portuguese) doesn’t add “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.” I looked it up in the Bible and realized that Jesus didn’t say that last phrase. I guess the Protestants just got a little fancy...

Rulers are an indispensable here because they are used not only for making straight lines but also for tearing paper.

It’s so common to meet other people with your first name (or the opposite gender version of it, for example a Fernanda meeting a Fernando) that there’s a special word in Portuguese to call somebody that has the same name as you--chará.

Finally, thanks to my friend Shanta for recommending neem oil as a natural remedy for getting rid of lice. It’s commonly used in India for that and many other purposes, and, with a little persistence, I was able to find a source of it here. With my new neem shampoo once a week, the lice seem to be staying away, thank God.


  • Grammy would be so proud and happy to see her skills being passed on and used. Think of all the knitters who will be using these new found skills after learning from the kids which you have taught, pretty awesome, mom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 June, 2007 13:03  

  • These knitted items have really longlasting value- - I still have one of my first Christine creations (perhaps from the early 1970's)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 June, 2007 13:21  

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