Category Archives: Uncategorized

Moving Forward

cara and chelsCara and Chelsea have both moved on from our English Teaching Assistant activities in Petrolina, but we hope to continue to be involved in Brazil, education and internationalization to provide lifelong learners access to opportunities in and outside the classroom. For now, we’ll stop updating this blog, but we wanted to highlight what we see as some of our best posts for readers who might be arriving late to our Brazil experience.

There are quite a few listed here, but we’ve categorized them according to topic so they should be easier to browse.

Happy reading! – C²

Petrolina International English Fair

English Immersion Camp

Brazilian Social and Democratic Progress

English Advocacy and International Scholarships

Classroom Activities to Grow and Learn

Fun Classroom Activities

Arriving and Departing


Presenting: PIEF Video Overview

It’s taken us a while, but C² are finally ready to share the short overview video we made for the first Petrolina International English Fair. No need to say much more here–despite somewhat questionable video technique from our videographer, we’re happy the overview captures the essential components of the Fair. Enjoy!

TOEFL site released in Portuguese

TOEFL site released in Portuguese

As of January of this year, the TOEFL website on has been released in Portuguese! This is the seventh language option to be released on the site. We still recommend practicing your skills by reading as much in English as possible, but this Portuguese version will help with some of the more complicated questions you might have about the TOEFL.

Tagged , ,

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. 


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. 


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!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


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.


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.



Grand Finale:

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

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

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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   🙂

Tagged , ,


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).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 🙂

Tagged , , ,

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

Tagged , , ,