Author Archives: Cara Snyder

Celebrating the Transformative Power of Women’s Athletics– Rugby and Feminism at IF-Petrolina’s Zona Rural

International women’s day is a day to ruminate what it means to be a woman.  It is a day to critically reflect upon the current status of women around the world, but also a day to celebrate all that women are.  We are mother’s, sisters, doctors, lawyers, lovers, fighters and everything else in the whole spectrum of being present in today’s world.

We are also athletes, and I believe in the transformative power of women’s athletics.  Nothing affirmed this belief like the women’s rugby team at the Zona Rural where I lived and worked last year.  I would like to dedicate this post to the deepest feminist experience I had in Brazil – my women’s rugby team.

Below is a news report on the sport and our teams (my very first TV appearance here in Petrolina) and also the text (translated from Portuguese to English) from a poster I’ve presented in two national conferences about rugby and feminism.

Happy International Women’s Day– now get out and play.

Women’s Rugby and Feminism:  Four Feminist Theories at Work, Combating Oppression at the Federal Institute in Petrolina’s Rural Zone

The women’s rugby team commenced at the Zona Rural in March 2011 (the same time as the male team) and has been vibrantly active since, competing twice since its inception and practicing weekly.  Due to the high level of contact and aggressive nature of the sport, women’s rugby provides for a fascinating intersection of feminism and athletics.  Using the four main feminist theories described by Professor Elizabeth Hackett of Agnes Scott College, this section details how Rugby Feminino at the Zona Rural illustrates women´s liberation and empowerment in action.

Humanist (Same theory)

The female team is humanist in the sense that there is woman’s team, just as there is a men’s team, with the same resources, practice time, balls, competitions, etc.  The equality between the two teams is empowering as it shows that the women’s team, and its young female players, are as equally important as the men’s team.  They are equally as strong, skilled, athletic and able.

Gynocentric (Difference Theory)

It is important that there is a women’s rugby team separate from the male team.  As rugby is a sport involving high levels of physical contact and tackling, the differences of height and weight between men and women require that they compete separately.  In accordance with the gynocentric approach, the female team at the Zona Rural values women’s athletic contributions while affirming separate but equal athletic qualities between men and women. 

Radical

Besides occasional male coaching or refereeing, the women’s rugby team at the Zona Rural is matriarchal.  With the exception of minor guidance, the Women’s team is largely self-administered:  warm-up, stretching, practices and practice matches are largely self-run, providing invaluable leadership opportunities and offering an alternate, radical model to the patriarchal society at large.    

Moreover, rugby involves tackling, scrums and overall physical intensity that are not gender stereotypical. 

Neo-Classical

What words or images come to mind when you think of rugby? And what words or images come to mind when you think of women? Most likely, for rugby you thought of the words and images associated with “violent, bruising, intense, strong, sweat, hard-core, etc.” For female maybe you thought of “delicate, sweet, beautiful, gentle, pink, etc.” and the images associated with those words. Thus Rugby is also a classic example of neo-classical feminist thought, the mere fact of women playing rugby completely defies these stereotypical images.

A major outcome of this apparent conflict is that on an individual level, the female players learn that they are in control of how they want to be defined. They are the masters of their identity and nobody can tell them what they are. They are empowered by learning that to be a woman, to be who they are, means what they want it to mean. In a society that is constantly telling women that they are weak and sensitive, they are actively proving that, as women, they are strong, courageous, powerful, athletic and capable. The women’s rugby team is breaking gender stereotypes on campus and in the community of Petrolina, playing in inter-campus games, appearing on local news Channel 4 and now internationally to those reading these words!

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What Carnival Means to Me

February was the month of carnival this year in Brazil.  For many, carnival means Rio, Samba, skin, and massive street parties.  For me, carnival means so much more–it marks the moment Brazil captured my heart.

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My first carnival!

I arrived two years ago, on February 20th of 2011, having received my Fulbright scholarship for Venezuela but ending up in Brazil due to an unexpected turn of events.  So when I actually got here, I knew very little about Brazil; I didn’t speak Portuguese, or know the history, or understand the geography, and the only image I had of carnival was a mulatta in a glittery costume shaking it fast.    After the week of Fulbright orientation in São Paulo, we were sent to our respective cities right during the largest holiday in Brazil when everything shuts down and prices sky-rocket, aka carnival.  Since I didn’t want to spend the week, or two, or three alone at the farm where I was living at the time, nor did I want to brave it alone in an expensive big city, I sent a desperate e-mail to my wonderful economics Professor, Patricia Schneider, who just happens to be from the capital city of the state of Pernambuco where I was placed. Since her family still lives in Recife, I asked her to put us in contact to see what they were doing and if I could tag along.

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Maria Emilia, Marcos and Felipe 🙂

To my delightful surprise and great relief, her sister, Maria Emilia, wrote immediately inviting me to stay at their home and celebrate the festivities with her and her family (her husband Marcos and their adorable son, Felipe).  I bought my ticket and I was off to Recife/Olinda to be introduced to Brazil during its most-famed festival.

Since the carnival most Americans are familiar with is a la Rio de Janeiro (the glittery half-naked one), I must clarify that the carnival in Recife/Olinda (twin cities of sorts) is very different.  Where Rio is samba, Recife is frevo; where Rio is expensive and exclusive, Recife is an all-access street party; where Rio is sparking elaborate costumes, Recife is traditional maracatú.  During the day partiers go to Olinda, a neighboring city famed for its status as a World Heritage site.  Olinda is home of bonecos, large artisan-made dolls, that are marched through the lovely cobblestone streets past the preserved antique architecture.  Then, in the evening and late into the night the crows head to the city center, called Marco Zero, to enjoy free shows by renown Brazilian and international artists and get some street food.

The Galo da Madrugada in Recife is the biggest street festival in the world.

The Galo da Madrugada in Recife is the biggest street festival in the world.

For the record– carnival anywhere in Brazil is incredible.  To me, it is Brazil at its best; people of all ages, colors and socio-economic status dress up in costumes and hit the streets to dance, sing, laugh and kiss.  It shows the happy essence of the Brazilian spirit.    But what was most remarkable to me about carnival, and the reason why it will forever be the Brazilian holiday dearest to me, was not the parties on the street, but the way Maria Emilia, her family and friends, welcomed me into their homes and their hearts.

DSCN1460Carnival was my first experience with Northeastern warmth and compassion.  From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was cared for by complete strangers, taken in and treated as if I was a blood relation.  I cried like a baby saying good-bye to the family I knew for a total of two weeks.

In those two weeks they completely changed the way I saw the world!  I cried not only because I would miss Maria Emilia and my new family, but also because I wished we lived on a planet where everyone were this open, because I couldn’t imagine how I could ever re-pay the kindness I had been shown and because I recognized that I had fallen completely and totally in love with a country that was not my own.

This year's carnival 2013 with my American friends Usha, Laura and Heidi!

This year’s carnival 2013 with my American friends Usha, Laura and Heidi!

This year was my second year in Brazil and my third carnival.  I returned to Recife/Olinda.  Of course, as my relationship with Brazil grows and deepens, I experience the holiday differently.  Still, what I will never forget aren’t the parties and the kisses (although they were pretty unforgettable, too), but the overwhelming amount of love I was given by people I had never met before.  That is what carnival means to me.

PIEF in the News

It has been two months since the first Petrolina International English Fair (PIEF), a C² + 3 –Jeziel, Laraine and the US Consulate– event that was called by some revolutionary in terms of English-Language education in the region.

To refresh our minds of all that the fair accomplished and, of course, to bask a little longer in our fame, we would like to share with you the local news coverage (thanks again to the dynamic staff at TV Grande Rio): before, during the first day and then on the final night of the event.

Before:

During:

Grand Finale:

Long live PIEF and here’s to a repeat performance!

Petrolina is Calling You

… Pick up!

But seriously– come visit C² in Petrolina.

This Holiday season, I had the immense pleasure of hosting my dad, William, and twin brother, Nathaniel for a weekend.  As I approach year two of life in Petrolina, Pernambuco, they came to see what the hype was all about.  Should you, too, choose to venture into the Sertão, which I highly recommend you do, here are some places you may go and people you may see.

In the morning I'll make you breakfast and you can drink out of my special mug.

In the morning I’ll make you breakfast and you can drink out of my special mug.

We can head to the São Francisco river, where you will get your first introduction to bode, the Portuguese word for goat.

We can head to the São Francisco river, where you will get your first introduction to bode, the Portuguese word for goat.

We'll take a ferry boat to the rodeadouro island to spend the morning coolingeating delicious river fish.

We’ll take a ferry-boat to a near-by island, Rodeadouro, to spend the morning cooling off and eating delicious river fish.

... and sunning our you-know-whats.

… and sunning our you-know-whats.

In the afternoon we can have a churrasco, a Brazilian bbq, at my best friend Jeziel's lovely home.

In the afternoon we can have a churrasco, a Brazilian BBQ, at my best friend Jeziel’s (pictured here) lovely home.

You can meet some of my closest friends.

You can meet some of my closest friends.

And, if you are lucky, get a arrocha or forró-- two regional dances-- lessons with  Petrolina's finest!

And, if you are lucky, get an arrocha or forró— two regional dances– lessons with Petrolina’s finest teacher, Jessica!

The day after we could do a VIP tour with wine-specialist, Professor of viticulture, and very dear friend of mine -Ana Paula Barros at a vineyard where she worked called Ouro Verde (Green Gold).

The day after we could do a VIP tour with wine-specialist, Professor of Viticulture, and very dear friend of mine  – Ana Paula Barros at a vineyard where she worked called Ouro Verde (Green Gold) in the state of Bahia.

Here in Petrolina is the only place in the world where you will see a variety of grapes growing at all four stages at the same time.  Thirteen hours of sunlight and  the hot, dry, climate year-round allow up to four harvests per year.  The growth of grapes is at the complete whim of irrigation cycles creating, as my brother noted, the perfect conditions for science experiments.

Here in Petrolina is the only place in the world where you will see a variety of grapes growing with all four stages of development happening at the same time. Thirteen hours of sunlight and the  year-round hot, dry, climate allow up to four harvests per year. The growth of grapes is at the complete whim of irrigation cycles and pruning, creating, as my brother noted, the perfect conditions for science experiments.

Wine science... yummmm.

Wine science… yummmm.

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the aging...

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the aging…

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the bottling.

…to the bottling

To the best part, which is, of course, the tasting of innumerous distillates, liquors and wines all produced in the San Francisco Valley!

…to the best part, which is, of course, the tasting of innumerable distillates, liquors and wines all produced in the San Francisco Valley!

My personal favorite is the brandy, a distillate of wine, that uses the Spanish mark Osbourne, but is made right here in my back yard.

My personal Ouro Verde favorite is the brandy, a distillate of wine, that uses the Spanish mark Osborne, but is made right here in my back yard.

Quick stop at the hydroelectric damn in Sobradinho to see the impressive largest artificial lake in the Americas.

We make a quick stop at the hydroelectric dam in Sobradinho to see the impressive largest artificial lake in the Americas.

After a tiring day of wine drinking you will probably want to relax in my hammock with Chels' and my lovechild - Liverpool (and the mosquito racket handy).

Then home, where after a tiring day of wine drinking, you will probably want to relax in my hammock with Chels’ and my lovechild – Liverpool (and the mosquito racket handy).

Em fim, we can say our até logos (see you laters) to Petrolina by eating mouth-watering goat at the bodoromo (the goat drome).

Rested?  We can say our até logos (see you laters) to Petrolina by eating mouth-watering goat at the bodoromo (the goat drome).

So, tempted to sojourn? You should be.

I can’t wait for you to visit!

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Student Projects from Petrolina´s First English Immersion Camp

We waited to show our student´s creative and brilliant projects from the English Immersion Camp held back in October until the closing night of the Petrolina International English Fair.  Now that these films have been shown in Petrolina, they are ready for their international debut via ensinapetrolina.com.

The first are a compilation of songs:

And the second is a selection of skits about why English is important:

If we didn’t include your piece, it’s only because the sound was bad– all of your projects were amazing and we would have loved to share all of them.  Next time we will be sure to secure a less-windy location.

C² hopes you enjoyed watching as much as we enjoyed making!

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Upcoming TOEFL Tests in Petrolina

Please see the following dates and times for the upcoming TOEFL tests:

12-Jan-2013 09:00
18-Jan-2013 12:00
02-Feb-2013 09:00
15-Feb-2013 12:00
02-Mar-2013 09:00
08-Mar-2013 12:00

All seats were used during our last two TOEFL tests– so sign up ASAP by going to ets.org and registering.

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PIEF Thank Yous

Parabens to all who participated in Petrolina’s First International English Fair! Although there is a still lot of work to be done, the fair itself ended with a wonderful evening of music and presentations at the public amphitheater in the city center on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

The first of many posts about our event must be dedicated to thanking all the people who helped and collaborated.  Without everyone listed (and probably others who are not listed) this event would not have been possible.

Consul, Usha Pitts (center in black jacket) and participants after the opening ceremonies

Consul, Usha Pitts (center in black jacket) and participants after the opening ceremonies

Fabio Marcelino: Volunteer number 1 who did all of our design work for FREE–from making our logo, to designing the program, and crafting the posters from large to small.  We even had a billboard for the event!  All thanks to the fabulous Fabio.

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All of our event volunteers who worked 12 hours over 3 days, helping with everything from picking up trash to managing the stage and to our volunteer MC who opened the fair with grace and style—Karina.

Surprise Superstars – Eliane from the GRE and Ana Maria from UPE who worked thanklessly behind the scenes.  Eliana organized all the transportation, making sure students arrived, providing snacks for the teacher’s workshop and ensuring a lovely space at the GRE for our cocktail event on Thursday night.  Ana Maria created the two most beautiful stands– one with a chocolate fountain and the other with a Gothic themed tea party, complete with costumed students– representing UPE, the only University in Petrolina responsible for forming English Teachers!

Francisco: He built all the stands from scratch and made all three of our event locations aesthetically pleasing with just colored fabric and a lot of creativity.

English fellows: Avram Blum, Laura M.—our inspirational/informational lecturers with a special thanks to Laura for whipping together at the last-minute a games section.  Thanks to Scott for helping with the consulate stand!

Maria Snarski, Regional Language Officer for Brazil, with students trying, for the first time - the free English Language learning video game "Trace Effects" sponsored by the US State Department.

Maria Snarski, Regional Language Officer for Brazil, with students trying, for the first time – the free English Language learning video game “Trace Effects” sponsored by the US State Department.

American consulate in Recife and their fleet of Americans: Special shout out to Heidi for all her work and mentoring leading up to the event, the informative palestras, and the heartfelt speech during the round table and for all the time and energy at the consulate stand.  Heidi continues to be not only an inspiration for aspiring young women such as Chelsea and me, but also a good friend.  Thank you for everything, Heidi.   Maria, Brazil’s Regional Language Officer for honoring our fair to be the inaugural event of the Consulate’s Language-Learning computer game, Trace Effects and for her workshop on Saturday, which many said was the highlight of the event for them.  And finally to Usha Pitts, Consul for the North-Northeast who used the fair to visit Petrolina for the first time, opened the fair with a charming and sincere speech and interacted openly and with humility to all participants.  Usha never ceases to impress all who cross her path, and we thank you for bringing grace and prestige to our event.

The GR TV, the radio shows (especially the dynamic Genival Ferreira) that helped get the word out about our event.

Thanks to the following institutions for their contributions: GRE – space for the cocktail, teachers workshop, print material, student presence and buses; IFSertão – buses, print materials and 3/5 of organizational committee, and the flooring performance at the opening ceremonies by the Symphony of the Sertão; UPE  – even when they cannot contribute with resources, they over compensated with talent- wonderful stands and 100% participation; UNIVASF -even though we would have liked more physical participation we thank them for being unafraid to put their name and we are grateful for Lucia Marisy´s faith and confidence in our abilities; SENAI – complete use of space and Lucienne and Paulo—two great helpers; and finally Gilmar Mello and Amazon Produce – for being a leader in corporate responsibility in the region, sponsoring the cocktail, graciously showing the diplomatic team around Petrolina and the genuine speech at the opening ceremony.

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Laraine: for her vision of a culminating event, the delicious meals to ease the pressure of meetings, the results she produced despite communication difficulties and most especially for her dedication to the teachers from the public schools, who made the event what it was… which brings us to…

Teachers:  Your projects and your presentations floored us.  We recognize that you do not do it for the money, but for the love of your students.  That love shone through the marvelous work you shared with Petrolina during the fair.

Students from 1- public schools: from far and wide came to post their work on imported science fair boards and present songs, dances, plays, etc. My most sincere thanks go to the students and their teachers from Cabrobo, who traveled 4 hours from the island where their indigenous tribe live to present work about their tribe (in English) and present a song a dance representing their tribe at the fair.  2- the universities: who made up our volunteers and enriched our lecture halls.  We hope that you were inspired—you certainly inspired us.

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PE Professors Filipe and Barto: They helped run the rugby workshops on Saturday morning.

Rafaela: MC for the closing ceremonies, writer of all eloquent Portuguese, mounter of the IF stand and contact with the private schools and institutions.

Finally – the most important person to C² – Jeziel.  Thank you for your dream, for your tireless and too often thankless efforts, for caring for us as people and treating us like family.  You inspire and push us everyday.

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From left to right – Heidi Arola, Jeziel Junior and Rafaela Carla

THANK YOU!

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TOEFL Test 1- Success

The first TOEFL test in Petrolina was administered on Saturday, October 27, 2012.   It was a total success!

Be on the look-out for more dates to be set in December 2012.  There are only 14 seats available for every date, so make sure and get yours quickly!

Many thanks to Alexandre Correia, Computer Science Professor at the IF-Sertão, who helped with all the IT and graciously did all the preparatory tests, the set-up and the take down.

Congratulations to the students– Wandersson and Bruna– who took the test; you are now officially Petrolina TOEFL pioneers   🙂

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Free Conversation Course and 4 Minutes of Fame

Free Conversation Course at the IF- Sertão in Jõao de Deus (2101-4300) every Monday and Wednesday (TOMORROW) from 11-12 or 13-14 in classroom H27.  All are welcome and encouraged to join!

For more info, or just for kicks, see my live interview (four minutes of fame) with Grande Rio TV:

Translated Script:

Female Anchor:  An opportunity for those who would like to work on their English, a free conversation course here in Petrolina with a North American professor, and here she is live with Juliano Roque. Juliano, I think you must have at least knowledge of English to participate in this course, right? Good afternoon…

Juliano: Good Afternoon (in English).  So, yes you do have to have some notion of English to participate, but as Professor Cara Snyder, the Professor of the course, and I were just talking about, it’s not outlandish for people today to know English.  In reality, English is a very much a part of our reality—someone may know a word, a phrase from a song, this also facilitates [English language learning]. 

Cara, good afternoon.  Besides having some notion of English, or for those who don’t, what will this course be like, how will you give a conversation course for people?

Professor Cara:  Well, that will depend on who comes, but it will be just an hour.  We’ll play games, learn songs, chat… it will be as challenging as possible within in hour.

Juliano: So would this class be good for people, say, who are wanting to travel outside the country and don’t want to arrive not knowing what to do.

Professor Cara: That too, but it’s also for people, I hear a lot of people say that they need to learn English, they need to practice, they’re a little rusty, so this will be a good chance for them once or twice a week as a sort of “refresh”… a sort of…

Juliano: As a reminder for people to remember the things they learned during x course, etc.

Now, who can participate in this course, is there an age limit for instance?

Cara: No, there’s no age limit. People from the community are welcome to participate, students from all schools, I want everyone to participate!

Juliano: Do you have to pay anything to participate in this course?

Cara: No, it’s totally free

Juliano:  The course will be held at the IF- Sertão in the Jõao de Deus neighborhood, is that correct?  Is there a certain time people have to register by?  When does the course begin?

Cara: Yes, you can register, or not, I just want lots of people to come and participate so COME, come and join us the course begins tomorrow so come, see what you think and then keep coming. 

Juliano: What times are the courses held?

Cara:  You can either come from 11-noon, before lunch or from 1-2 pm

Juliano:  I see that you have an excellent accent.  Now you’re from Washington (she was telling us that she’s from Washingon, D.C.), you’ve been here for one and a half years, I’d like to know—is it more difficult for a Brazilian to learn English or for a North-American to learn and understand Portuguese as you are doing so well?

Cara: I think it’s much more difficult for a North American to learn Portuguese.

Juliano:  What were the most difficult aspects for you to understand, speak and write in Portuguese?

Cara: Humm… I think the accent is probably the most difficult part.  As I told you, I arrived already speaking Spanish, so that helped a lot, but there are some sounds in Portuguese that are extremely difficult for us to master like aeroporto (airport), pão, cão: these sounds are difficult. 

Juliano: Cara, thank you so much.  According to Cara there’s no reason why anyone can’t learn English.  The number to the IF- Sertão in  Jõao de Deus is 2101 4300 and now for…

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Coming Soon to Petrolina: TOEFL

It is with great joy I report that today I received the equipment necessary to administer the TOEFL (many thanks to the help of Michael Capelli and the folks at Educational Testing Services)!

I began the process of registering the IF-Sertão, Campus Petrolina as a TOEFL site upon return to Brazil in February.  Due to the unbelievable abundance of study-abroad scholarships such as Science Without Borders made possible by the Brazilian Federal Government, demand for the Test of English as a Foreign Language has sky rocketed.  The test, accepted by higher learning institutions in over 180 countries, measures students’ English-language abilities and is often the make-it-or-break-it factor in winning the aforementioned scholarships.  Unfortunately, earning a high score is far from the only barrier to taking the test and getting the grants.

If you look at the map, you will notice that Petrolina (the red dot in the sea of blue) is quite far from the coast, where nearly all of the major capital cities in the North East region of the country are.  This means that until now, not only did students have to pay the already prohibitive cost of  ~450 R (150-250 USD) just to register for the test, but they also had to pay for transportation to, and room and board in, expensive capital cities, the closest being 10 hours away (by bus).

Thus, one of my main goals for this year, in a two-pronged approach of 1-teaching English to students who don’t know English while 2-finding and facilitating the scholarship opportunities for those students who already have the language skills, was getting the TOEFL here to Petrolina, the hub of the NE interior.  Every barrier eliminated is one step closer to making our students’ dreams of becoming world citizens come true.

With the arrival of headsets, microphones and web-cams, we are only a short time away from holding our first test, which I hope to set for mid-December.  

Be on the lookout for upcoming posts for specifics about when to register!

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