Category Archives: Author: Cara

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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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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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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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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TOEFL Course at UNIVASF

On Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 13 hrs, C² gave their first TOEFL course (Test of English as a Foreign Language) at the Universidade Federal do Vale do São Francisco (The San Francisco Valley Federal University- UNIVASF); Chels is at the campus in Petrolina (famous mostly for its medical school) and I am teaching in Juazeiro (the campus that will produce some of Brazil’s top engineers).  This is the first course we are offering for UNIVASF.  Our relationship with the University began when I met the Dean of Student Life, Lúcia Marisy, who is a feisty lady who likes to say that her mind is 30 years younger than she is.  In light of the 100,000 Science Without Borders scholarships, and the TOEFL test required in most cases to win them, I suggested we give a preparation course. Rather than receiving payment in the form of Reais (Real, the singular form of Reais, is the Brazilian currency, which is 2.022:1, R:USD at the time of writing), Chelsea and I are living in a University-owned mansion (here are some pics from our housewarming party – Chá de Casa in Portuguese) with the wonderful Dona Gilmar to help us cook and clean (pictured below).

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Non-Brazilians who are reading this post should note that any Federal University in Brazil is completely free and public (WHAT?!– Americans pay hundreds of thousands of USD to get their degrees…).  Traditionally these schools are the most competitive and prestigious, and UNIVASF is no exception.  Students must take entrance exams called the vestibular and more recently one called the ENEM, and receive top-marks to be admitted (and so students often pay for expensive private fundamental education to be able to study at the best free Universities… but that is a whole other post).  We are thrilled to be working with such dedicated and brilliant young minds, and it’s also nice to have a packed class (22-30 students), full of students who realize the importance of our course, which they are eager to take advantage of.  You can access the power-point from the first class using the scribd document embedded here:

Saturday was the first of two months’ worth of classes; classes that are the first step in our students’ exciting journeys to become world citizens.  Chelsea and I are ecstatic to be a part of this process!  See you next week 🙂

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IF on Strike, Classes on Pause

“Workers of the Rural Campus ON STRIKE”

The space was packed. Monday, July 23, 2012 the Instituto Federal, Campus Petrolina was full of boisterous cheering, loud clapping, passionate outbursts. Sporting event? Evangelical retreat? No and no. But the experience was equally as thrilling–I was taking part in my first worker’s strike. After all 38 IF campuses in Brasil entered on strike or greve, mine finally voted unanimously (all those who were present) to join.  We were the last campus to enter.

One of the things I respect most about Latin America its affinity to strike- individuals sacrificing for the greater good.  All of my experiences in South America have been shaped by unions of workers or students in protest.  Even having been historically ruled by brutal and violent dictatorships, people here rebel against their government, and not by bitching about it but by getting together and actually doing something about it. It is exhilarating to see the country stopped by Professors and administrators, supported by their students, fighting for a salary that matches the dignity of their profession (among other demands). We in the USA could learn a lot about the art of protest and unity from our Southern neighbors’ strikes.

Join the Conversation… the conversation course, that is!
Every Monday and Wednesday from 10-11 or 13-14.
Basic knowledge of English recommended. The more the merrier!

Although my and Chelsea’s TOEFL courses will continue as normal though the UNIVASF, ALL COURSES AT THE IF, CAMPUS PETROLINA AND ZONA RURAL WILL BE SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Please stay tuned for updates on when classes will restart. I look forward to seeing the smiling faces of my dear students when we return!

Students from Basic English Conversation Course I

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Cara’s Calender of Courses

I know what you’re thinking – what amazing alliteration.  You know, sometimes you have to say something, and it all happens to start with the same letter and that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

And with that, here is the calender of courses (and other activities) for this semester.  I will be updating it as situations arise (cancellations, adjustments, etc.).  So subscribe to the calendar or to this blog to stay informed.

Please note that Intermediate English (formerly Advanced English) will begin this Monday, July 16 at 16:00 at the IF-Sertão, Petrolina Campus.

Also note that Chelsea and I will begin the first phase of our TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) course on July 21st.  Students interested should register with UNIVASF and begin studying for the entrance exam, which will be a simulated TOEFL test.

This week is the second week of English Conversation.  Week one was FANTASTIC (thanks to all who are coming to participate).  Also many thanks to Grande Rio TV for interviewing me live to talk about the course!  I’m trying to get a hold of the footage to post… stay tuned.  To those of you who have not yet come– COME!  Class is either from 11:00-12:00 or 13:00-14:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays at the IF-Sertão, Petrolina Campus.  We have fun, play games, chat and so much more all in an hours time.  The class is open to all, and the more the merrier!

As always, feel free to write with any questions or comments.

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Happy São Jõao!

São Jõao, aka the June fesival, in Brazil – bonfires, lots of corn and corn-related foods, homemade liquors and tons of forró music and dancing (check out the news clip below at minute 2:20 for a demonstration by yours truly!) and even a type of square dance called quadrilha!  Think Brazilian Carnaval …for the country folks.

The northeastern tradition, celebrating the nativity of John the Baptist, draws from the european midsummer… although here in the Northeast the festival marks the beginning of winter (and when I say winter in the NE of Brazil think springtime weather in DC) and the end of the rainy season.  In the semi-arid climate of the interior, a little rain is cause for thanks and celebration indeed.  If you´d like to see where I was last year during this time and some examples of the quadrilhas, check out this short clip:

São Jõao is one of my favorite holidays of all time.  It unites the warm, happy people of the Northeast  and celebrates the culture of their region: a region often marginalized and discriminated against, despite its being what I think is the richest and most unique area in the country.  A lá Brazilian, we now have two weeks of vacation, to make the end of São Jõao a little less painful.

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