Category Archives: Events

Winter Festival in Guaranhuns

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Last weekend, I had the great opportunity to travel to the city of Guaranhuns, Pernambuco, which sits up on a hill about an hour away from the capital, Recife. Every July for 23 years, Guaranhuns has hosted a Winter Festival (Festival de Inverno): ten days of music, art, cinema, theater, literature, dance and workshops. The most incredible part is that all events are completely free.

During the three days I was there, I mostly stuck to the music scene—the main attraction, there being five separate stages for music. I was able to see some incredible and quite diverse performances: from Caetano Veloso to the Orquestra Contemporânea de Olinda to pianist André Mehmari. Believe it or not, I even saw a medieval/baroque performance group (Grupo Allegretto), complete with traditional instruments, dance, and miming.

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Caetano Veloso

The festival was, in a word, fantastic. In Petrolina, sometimes one falls into the habit of forgetting that higher culture exists when surrounded by arrocha blaring out of every bar. The festival was refreshing in that sense, presenting an impressive spread not only of MPB, folkloric/alternative, pop and forró artists but even, as I mentioned, extraordinary pianists and other classical and instrumental music. The mood is one of deep cultural appreciation, and the crowd looks the part—lots of long flowy skirts, handmade leather goods, and colorful scarves. (And did I mention beards? Guaranhuns is relatively cold compared to elsewhere in Pernambuco.)

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Furthermore, apart from the seriously inadequate number of bathrooms near the main stage (and I do not deny that this is a major problem), I was extremely impressed with festival logistics. Programming was made widely available through pamphlets, large posters at every major event site, and even a smartphone app with a map function. Event areas are clearly and attractively identified, and overall not too crowded—exceptions to this were only to be expected; what else could happen when you offer a free Caetano concert? Glass bottles are not allowed into the main stage area, but empty plastic ones were provided free of charge at the entrance for visitors arriving with wine or other alcohol. (I asked the guard if the bottles were recycled—he said no, they were new, which is not surprising for Brazil which hasn’t developed much of a recycling culture. Certainly I would recommend that option for future years.)

Finally, I have to mention the festival art—this year’s logo and other promotional art was simply stunning, with bright colors and animated figures all in a traditional folkloric theme.


Obviously, the “Brazilian party” to which most tourists are attracted tends to be Carnaval above all others. But for those who insist on local and off-the-beaten-path kinds of experiences, I would highly recommend the Festival de Inverno.

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English Camp II: Success!

I am on “cloud nine,” as we colloquially say: last weekend marked the second successful realization of the English Immersion Camp at Treasure Island (see our fairy tale from last year for more pictures). This year, while much of the programming was similar, I made a big change to our leadership structure: namely, this time I wanted to integrate local Brazilian leaders into the planning process so that the camp can be realized again in future years without my (or Cara’s) help.

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I remained on as one of the Camp Logistics Coordinators, in partnership with Wanderson Kassius (soon to study abroad in New Jersey through Ciência Sem Fronteiras!). Lia Moraes and César Ribeiro (with the help of Rafael Maynart, also soon to study abroad in England through CsF) planned two brilliant All-Camp Activities: a screening of “The Lion King” (in English and with sing-along lyrics, of course) and a Treasure Hunt, which ended up being the most popular event of the weekend. Alicia, this year’s English Teaching Assistant at UPE, partnered with UPE English student Jessica Sena to find and train our Club Leaders, who led four separate activities over the weekend in their designated Clubs. Thanks to our outstanding Club Leaders: Neuza Lantyer (Lion Club), Bruno Amorim (Rabbit), Emerson Lima (Zebra), Sara Lisboa (Bee), and Davi Tavares (Panda)!

It was extremely gratifying to be at camp with all these local leaders, and not only because I got ample chance to relax in my hammock and leave the work to them. It’s because the biggest barrier to learning English, or achieving any goal, isn’t English itself—it’s having the determination and skills to see that goal through. These leaders, in addition to our superstar campers, all proved themselves extremely capable of not only surviving, but actually coordinating, leading, and inspiring—all in English. If they can do that, I’m pretty sure they can do anything.

All this is to say—and I’m talking to you, campers—I know the camp can happen next year, without me and without Cara. The next time, there will be another ETA thrilled to help out, but you’ll have to be the ones showing him or her the ropes. After that, who knows whether there will be an American grantee in Petrolina whose job is supporting regional English programming. But that shouldn’t be a problem for you, because the island will be there, you have all the right contacts, and you all know how valuable the experience is—and it isn’t all because of one or two Americans. Let’s commit to English Camp 2014! (I want video proof, ok?)

In case you need a little inspiration, here are your brilliant skits showing why Petrolina needs English.

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Violence Against Women: This Isn’t the World We Want

Violence against women isn’t acceptable anywhere. It hurts everyone. However, women standing up and fighting together is powerful everywhere. It inspires us.

"Violence Against Women: This Isn't the World We Want"

“Violence Against Women: This Isn’t the World We Want”

On February 1st of this year, Amanda Figueroa, a professor in the nursing program at UNIVASF in Petrolina, was followed home by her ex-boyfriend and brutally attacked in front of her six-year-old daughter. After her agressor was detained, Amanda bravely shared her story with the Petrolina/Juazeiro community via Facebook and a local blog, bringing attention to the countless cases of violence against women in our region and in Brazil. The picture shared by Amanda is horrifying; her face is so beaten that it looks unreal.

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The picture and story provoked strong reactions here in the region. One of these reactions was a rally on the UNIVASF campus, organized by the Women’s Collective. The goal of the rally was to raise awareness of Amanda’s experience and to protest against violence against women as well as the machismo that still exists in Brazilian, and particularly Northeast, culture. The speeches and songs at the rally also touched on the deeper issues of the unjust political and economic systems that bring about inequality.

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The rally was in many ways familiar to us–group songs and chants (see below), a march through the campus, protest signs, and a theatrical presentation to illustrate the ways in which women are still oppressed in our society. Yet the Women’s Collective gave the event a particularly Northeast flavor. One of the songs we sang has its roots in a traditional Northeast folk song that emphasizes the domestic role of women, except the version we sang turned that song into a call to “leave the kitchen and come to the street to fight.”  At the end of the rally, we gathered together to sing and dance a cirandar, another classic folkloric tradition, where people hold hands circling clockwise in rhythmic step– a symbolic unifying act made more beautiful by historic roots.

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This was our first Women’s Collective event, and it inspired us as we enter our second (Chelsea) and third (Cara) years of Northeast life. Society in general places an unnatural value on women’s looks, but it seems especially prevalent here in Brazil, a country that is famed for its beautiful women. This stereotype clearly plays out in the psyche of women here, as makeup, high heels, hair-straightening, and other alterations to natural appearance are ubiquitous. It was so refreshing to be part of a group of beautiful women who define that beauty on their own terms. It’s inspiring to see that progressive movements are gaining strength even in interior Northeast Brazilian cities–from rallies like this one to a gay pride parade that we attended last year.

International Women’s Day (March 8), which goes virtually unacknowledged in the U.S., is a big deal in Brazil. Women are congratulated for their contributions and varied roles in society, and encouraged to continue the struggle for gender equality. The women’s collective is planning another, grander event this year with an emphasis on domestic violence awareness and women’s liberation (details to follow).

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Mulher não foi feita pra serviço de cozinha
Salsa, cebola, batata e cebolinha
Mulher não foi feita pra levar nenhuma tapinha
No braço, na cara, nem bundinha!
Women were not made for kitchen service
Salsa, onions, potatoes and scallions
Women were not made to be hit
On her arms, face, or her butt
A nossa luta é todo dia
Somos mulheres e não mercadoria!
A nossa luta é por respeito
Mulher não é só bunda e peito!
Our fight is every day
We are women and not material goods
Our fight is for respect
Women are not just ass and tits
A violência contra mulher
Não é o mundo que a gente quer!
Violence against women
This isn’t the world we want!
Olê mulher rendeira
Olê mulher rendá
Sai do pé desse fogão
Vem prá rua, vem lutar
Ole, lacemaker woman
Ole, woman who makes lace
Leave your place at the stove
Come to the street, come to fight

If you know anyone who has suffered domestic violence in the Petrolina/Juazeiro region, contact the Secretaria da Mulher (3867-3516), the Centro de Referência de Atendimento à Mulher – CRAM (3861-4620).

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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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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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Breaking News: PIEF Countown, 24 days!

C² is thrilled to announce our big hurrah for the end of this year:

the Petrolina International English Fair (PIEF)!

The event is the first of its kind in Petrolina: think science fair (with English instead of science), academic congress, and cultural festival all tied into one. The Fair has two main goals: to showcase the work of English students in Petrolina, particularly from the public high schools and universities, and to demonstrate the importance of English as an international language in an increasingly globalized world.

The Fair will take place November 29-December 1, 2012. For two full days, there will be lectures and free English mini-courses during the day, framed by a science-fair style demonstration of students’ English creations and a stage to show their performances. At night, we’ll have invited guest speakers and round-table discussions on how to improve English teaching and broaden access to English classes. Finally, Saturday will feature sports events and a teacher training workshop, and a big arts and culture festival in the amphitheater at the city’s center. (Check out our full program.)

It’s amazing to think back at where we were when we started this blog, and where we are now–collaborating with other visionary English teachers and local educational leaders to realize an event that highlights a crucial key to Petrolina’s future. The blog itself shows some of this change; we’ve moved to an official .com domain and we’ve temporarily rearranged the organization of the site to be the Fair’s online home base.

I don’t think we’ve linked this video before, but we use it all the time in class. Jay Walker’s brief TED Talk on English Mania succinctly and powerfully describes the drive for the world to learn English–and it isn’t because of hamburgers and Hollywood. We’re proud to be taking part in helping our students achieve their highest potential.

Thanks to the PIEF sponsors below: particularly the U.S. Consulate in Recife, the State of Pernambuco Secretariat of Education, the Petrolina Prefeitura, and UNIVASF for their support and resources.

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Coming Up: Autonomous Learning at UPE

One of the things I’m emphasizing this semester at UPE is that language learning requires independent initiative. You’ll learn a language best not only by going to class, but by setting goals for yourself, learning the way you learn, and practicing effectively on your own.

However, it can be hard to know how to start this independent work. To this end, when Cara and I come back from our English Camp (for which we are inexpressibly excited) next week, I’m kicking off a two-week series on Autonomous Learning at UPE. In Week 1, I’ll give a half-hour lecture to each of the four periods (freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in American terms) during scheduled class time. At the lecture you’ll discover what Autonomous Learning is all about and receive a questionnaire to begin your “journey.” In Week 2, I’ll teach a workshop to follow up on the lecture, where we’ll talk personally about your questionnaire, set some goals, and design strategies for moving forward.

Week 1 begins on Tuesday, October 2. UPE English students will get the lecture in their classes; students from other courses or outside the school should contact me to get a schedule. Week 2 will have two identical workshop slots, so choose which one works best for you. They will be October 9 and 10th, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 5:30-7pm.

Stay tuned for a post-Camp post (hah) in the beginning of next month!

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Application Open for English Immersion Camp!

[Tradução em português abaixo]

C² is thrilled to announce our first English-immersion camp at the Ilha do Tesouro (Treasure Island) in Sobradinho, BA.  The camp will be a four-day event: participants will leave Petrolina at 11 am on Thursday, September 27th and return Sunday, September 30th.  There will be kayaking, zip lines, horse rides, beach time, campfires and lots more—all in English! 

The camp is part of an upcoming Petrolina International English Fair, to be held from the 29th of November to the 1st of December in the Convention Center in Petrolina (more details in future ensinapetrolina posts).

WHO CAN APPLY: University students and Petrolina community members of at least 16 years of age, who will commit to speaking only English during the camp and to volunteering at the Petrolina International English Fair at the end of November.

COST:  Only R$70 (all-inclusive price)

HOW TO APPLY: Fill out the English Immersion Camp Application, and send it to escreveconversaingles@gmail.com with a copy of your CPF and identification. Applications are due by Friday, September 7thselected participants will be informed of their selection Monday, September 10th, and payment will be due by Friday, September 14th.  There will be a mandatory question and answer session at the C² home on September 21st.

Also check out the Four-Day Camp Schedule of activities and the Four-Day Sample Menu.  Feel free to write with any questions or comments and spread the news to all your friends—we want MAXIMUM participation for this one-of-a-kind oportunity!

For pictures and information about the island, click here.  Looking forward to reading your applications!

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C² – Chelsea e Cara – estamos super animadas anunciar nosso primeiro acampamento da língua inglesa na Ilha do Tesouro em Sobradinho, BA.  O acampamento acontecerá durante quatro dias; os participantes selecionados vão sair de Petrolina as 11:00 horas na 5ta-feira dia 27 de setembro e retornarão domingo dia 30 de setembro, 2012.  Entre ambos, as atividades incluirão tirolesa, carroça, praia, fogueira e caiaque—todo em Inglês!

O acampamento faz parte dum evento iminente – I Petrolina International English Fair – que será realizada de 29 de novembro a 1 de dezembro no Centro de Convenções em Petrolina (mais detalhes estarão em postos futuros do blog ensinapetrolina.wordpress.com)

QUEM PODE SE CANDIDATAR: Alunos das universidades e pessoas da comunidade que têm pelo menos 16 anos de idade, que vão comprometer falar somente inglês no acampamento, e que podem ser voluntários no evento Petrolina International English Fair no final de novembro.

CUSTO: Apenas 70 R (todo incluído)

COMO SE CANDIDATAR: Favor de preencher o English Immersion Camp Application e mandar para escreveconversaingles@gmail.com com uma cópia do seu CPF e sua identificação. Tem até 6ta-feira, dia 7 de setembro, para enviar os formulários preenchidos. Dia 10 de setembro os participantes selecionados serão informados, e terão que entregar os 70 R na 6ta, dia 14 de setembro.  Haverá uma reunião mandatório  para perguntas e respostas na casa da C² dia 21 de setembro. 

Também anexados são o rascunho do calendário dos eventos (Four-Day Camp Schedule) e o cardápio pelos quatro dias (Four-Day Sample Menu).  Escrevem-nos com qualquer pergunta ou duvida e divulga a informação para todos seus amigos—a gente quer a participação de TODO O MUNDO!

Para ver fotos da ilha, visitem o site.

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We will accept 75 campers, and camp quotas are as follows:

10 spaces for IF- Sertão

10 spaces for UPE

10 spaces for UNIVASF

5 spaces for GRE

35 open/undefined spaces

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Capoeira: What I Do When I’m Not Working

I showed up for my first capoeira class in Boston almost a year ago because I knew that the Mestre would teach in Portuguese and I wanted to practice my language skills. Looking back, it’s amazing how much I’ve fallen in love with a sport on which I accidentally stumbled (I saw the banner on the training center a few blocks from my house).

Chelsea and Cara all suited up!

My group is Grupo Capoeira Brasil – Mestre Cabeça, which miraculously has a large branch here in Petrolina–so I moved from training with Mestre in Boston to training with his students here in Brazil. I’ve been training since I arrived in March with Formando Carcará, a brown cord student of Mestre’s, with whom Cara has also started training. For the first time last week, because of Dia do Capoeirista (Capoeirista Day), we met a number of other capoeiristas from the same group who train with different professors.

It was a wonderful experience, and I realized while watching everyone play that I couldn’t do the sport justice only in writing. Accordingly, I’ve made a little film that incorporates footage from our “roda” (pronounced ho-da) during the event, as well as some history and personal thoughts about capoeira. The sport has exploded in popularity in the past few decades, especially internationally, but outside of capoeira circles, knowledge about the Brazilian martial art is lacking. Hopefully this video can help clarify what capoeira is all about.

If you’re hooked, here’s a simpler and longer video I made using almost all the footage from the roda:

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Second Semester Classes at UPE

I’m back from an eventful vacation: a trip with my parents to Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, and the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra, a move from a one-room studio apartment to a three-bedroom, two-bath house in the center of Petrolina, and a whirlwind of course planning for my UPE classes and new TOEFL class at UNIVASF.

This semester, I’m changing my class offerings a bit. In addition to my TOEFL class and a for-credit course, “Literature & Cinema,” I’ll be teaching a number of extra classes: a class of English games, an hour-long discussion seminar, a professor conversation class, and Arts in the Americas workshops (theater, dance, sports) about once or twice a month. Movie nights for my Lit & Cinema class will be open to whomever is interested, too. The English Chorus will continue from last semester. You can read all about the updates here, on the UPE English Course blog.

Here’s the calendar! All classes will occur at UPE in the English classrooms, with the exception of the movie nights, which are at our house here in the Centro. Email me at seawaite@gmail.com for the address!

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