Stereotypes

Joanna Shieh - Brazil


April 7, 2014

 

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I know I haven’t posted a blog in awhile, and to be honest I have no excuse. I’ve been too busy enjoying and creating my experiences rather than taking the time actually to write about them. A gap year is really not complete without a little procrastination. But hopefully, I’ll get my next blog up soon and you’ll be able to understand a little bit more about my life in Florianopolis.

Before I came to Brazil, I had a preconceived image of what life would be like. The movies made me picture favelas everywhere full of dangerous drug gangs and dirty streets. Because of what I saw on the news, I expected hoards of people constantly protesting the World Cup and Olympics. So far, I have been in Florianopolis, Brazil for four months. Shockingly, I have not stepped foot into one favela, and I have yet to encounter a protest. Granted, I am living in a tropical paradise full of well off vacation goers and tourists, however, this was a Brazil I was not prepared for. I failed to realize how enormous Brazil actually is and how drastic differences are between regions. So yes, favelas exist, and so do occasional protests, however they are not what characterize this diverse country.

However, my time during this program has not only been revolving around this aura of paradise. In my first month of Brazil, I was living in a small fishing village where the only way to get there was by boat. There were no cars in the village, my host mom was either related or friends with everyone, and the house I lived in was extremely modest. This was new for me, and my first time living with a lower class family. I believe it was the best way to start my time here, as it was such a unique experience, filled with characteristics that in no way coincided with previous stereotypes.

My life for the past seven months, however, has been filled with whole different kinds of stereotypes. The stereotypes that make people want to drop what they’re doing, pay the pricey plane ticket, and visit Brazil. In Florianopolis, there is never a shortage of nightlife as you can casually stumble upon live samba music with wild Brazilians effortlessly shaking their hips to the beat. Fresh coconuts, juices and delicious snacks overflowing with gooey cheese are sold everywhere on the streets. With forty-two beautiful beaches to choose from, the stereotypical beach culture and thong bikinis are very much alive. And finally, I get to volunteer at an NGO dedicated to exotic animal rescue, so any stereotype about Brazil you’ve created because of the cartoon movie “Rio” probably rings very true according to my life here in Florianopolis.

All of these wonderful characteristics I am exposed to here makes my life feel like paradise. Unfortunately, I am living within the minority of the Brazilian population, overridden by an immense tourist industry. When people visit this island, they have expectations of these positive stereotypes; therefore, it is impossible to make money if those expectations are not met. Because of this, I have yet to be exposed to the majority of Brazil’s population. With my first month in the fishing village, however, I was introduced to a new way of living, and now I am able to compare this to the community I am a part of now. In the end, I hope to gain even more perspectives through travelling, as it is impossible to actually understand this diverse and complex country by experiencing only one of its regions.

Joanna Shieh