Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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One, Two, Three—What do YOU believe?!

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I have had the pleasure of writing three belief statements in my life (so far). I wrote my first belief statement,  called a credo statement,  when I was 14 years old as part of my coming of age ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist Church (incidentally Chelsea, Laraine (Petrolina’s one and only English fellow) and I are all UUs!).  Then, I put what I believed on paper again during my fifth year free at Agnes Scott College as part of a series called Agnes Scott Believes based on the National Public Radio (NPR) series This I Believe.

While our 12-year-old credo statements at church were mostly angsty cries evoking the right to privacy and freedom to do as we pleased (aka make stupid decisions without parental interference), the Agnes Scott Believes series was, as everything at my wonderful college was, life changing.  I’ll never forget the story our feisty College President Kiss (who continues to be one of my most cherished role models) told about her Hungarian Grandfather, who  chose to plant a bed of roses with the handkerchief-sized plot of land he was alloted by the then-communist regime.  She used the image to illustrate her belief in optimism.

After that day, her words and her idealism became such a part of my life that I wished to share the formative experience. And so after the initial two months of an English Writing Course I offered at the IF- Sertão, Petrolina Campus, the course evolved into IF Sertão Believes, and belief statements became a part of my life for a third time.

The class began  in December (during my time at home in the USA) as an English Writing at a Distance course.  Ten weeks later when I returned to Brazil, we began  IF- Sertão Believes.  Over the final  weeks, 5 students who will forever be near and dear to my heart, thought deeply (in English!) about what it was they believed.  On the last day of class (last week), after the final peer revision, they submitted their 300-500 word statements and voice recordings to the This I Believe Website.  You can see what they wrote in the scribd document embedded in this post.  I encourage all of you reading this post to 1- take a moment to be still, 2-ruminate and then 3-write about what it is you believe and why!  Feel free to send me some thoughts!!

Then we celebrated with cake and I was gifted this adorable t-shirt, which says Amigos para sempre!, “Friends Forever,”  which I know we will be!

Amigos para sempre! = Friends forever!

Thank you – Raquel, Aline, Luzanira, Iane, Sandra and Sergio — for such a rich and inspiring class.

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Rugby and Dancing and History, Oh My!

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Two Rubgy workshops (with 80 students each), one hip-hop dance class,  ten meet-and greets, one stereotypes activity, a dozen sessions of one fantastic English class featuring Shakira (thanks to the lesson planning of the incredible Laura Mizuha, English fellow in Salgueiro, PE) and a history lecture by Chelsea– our week at the Salgueiro Campus of the IF-Sertão Pernambucano was a busy one.   Check out my FB album for pictures of the week (click here for pics from the classroom and click here for Rugby shots) and tag yourselves a vontade (as you please).

The post was delayed while waiting for student feedback, but here it is at last-in English and Portuguese.  Read over the student and staff responses, and you can see what a big difference one week can make!

If I had to invent a perfect work week, this would be it.  I adored every second.

How does a week like this happen?  Start with a visionary research coordinator (Clovis Ramos, Professor of Irrigation) (note – this could be YOU), add two very dedicated English teachers (Roberta Godoy and Josenildo Forte) to organize the schedule and help facilitate the classes, a wonderfully dynamic PE teacher (Marcio Gondim) and a campus full of students and staff eager to help and to learn.   So, I know you’re all wondering – where will the next week be?

…You tell me!

This is an open invitation for all interested parties to please contact me at if you,  too, would like a fun-filled, tailored, English inspiring day or week at your school!  I would LOVE to hear from you. 

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5 de Mayo at IF- Petrolina

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On May 10, 2012 students and staff of the IF-Sertão, Petrolina Campus had its first of hopefully many bilingual events to celebrate 5 de Mayo, led by the fantastica Spanish Professor, Soccoro Dutra, and myself, Professor Cara Snyder  and with the help and participation of countless amigos!

We began the event with a student presentation (by Everton Medrado) on the history of 5 de Mayo and the Batalla de Puebla.  Then, pressed to illustrate the complex relationship of Mexican-American relationships and identity in less than 30 minutes, I turned to photographer and journalist Joseph Rodriguez.  I projected images (which you can view in the Power Point Presentation below) and we discussed (in a mix of Spanish and English) their reactions to them.  I also showed the first few minutes of a video to provoke dialogue about what it is like to migrate.  Next, students presented (in English) short auto-biographies of famous chicanos (Mexican-Americans) such as Dolores Huerta and Sonya Sotomayor.  As always, the most delicious part of any event is the food, our fiesta being no exception; the highlight of the event were students from Professora Soccoro’s Spanish-Language courses presenting (in Spanish) the recipes of the Mexican food they prepared before we ate!  And since I love to finish things with a lil’ baila, with our bellies full of salsa, I gave a short salsa dance class (video soon to be released on!

I hope that the event was the right mixture of fun and homage.  I’d like to close with wise words from my dear friend, brilliant colleague, fellow Fulbright alumna and proud Mexican-American, Gaby Baca.  When I asked for her help and thoughts on 5 de Mayo this is an excerpt from her response:

“In recent years, I’ve proudly gone to cinco de mayo events and celebrated (and cried!). Cinco de Mayo for me — and I think for a fair number of Mexican Americans– represents the celebration of our culture. Beers and guacamole aside, it’s a time to understand what the battle meant for Mexican and American History. It’s a day to appreciate the ballet folklorico, the mariachi and mole. At first, I got angry when friends used to say, happy cinco de mayo or when friends expected me to drink a margarita on that day. I’ll usually remark back — why not every day? Cinco de Mayo is just one day, but I hope it makes us all realize that the beauty of the holiday is or should be (save for AZ, GA, etc) that we can celebrate this heritage and the contributions of latinos all across the U.S. every day.”

For more curious followers, Gaby has so kindly provided some links for your reading enjoyment.  Thanks Gaby, I wish you could have been there 🙂

Another gracias to all who participated and all who are reading this now!

Stereotypes Continued at English Week in Salgueiro, PE

As a follow-up to Chelsea’s great post on stereotypes, I would like to continue and expand on the theme by sharing an activity about stereotypes during English Week (May 21-25) in Salguiero.  Inspired by her first American Club’s meeting about stereotypes, I decided to also touch on the theme, this time focusing on stereotypes we hold regarding the USA and Brasil.  The dialogue was lively and the results were fantastic.

I began the lecture with printouts of 4 provocative pictures.  In groups of 3 students and staff worked together to write opinions, descriptions and questions on the back of the photo.  When I said switch, they were to exchange pictures with a group who had a picture different from theirs and repeat the process.  After the third switch someone from each group was called to stand up and read the comments on the back of the picture (comments written by groups other than their own).  After each group spoke I revealed who the people in the picture were (see the included power point presentation… but before reading the answers, try yourself!): 1 an American boy scout; 2 Japanese-Brazilians in São Paulo (the largest city in Brazil in the state of São Paulo); 3 Brazilians in Rio Grande do Sul (another Brazilian state); 4 Mexican-Americans celebrating 5 de mayo.

Groups talked amongst themselves about stereotypes – definitions, when they are helpful vs hurtful, etc. and then we watched the first 4 minutes of a clip from an episode where the Simpsons go to Brazil, which you can watch by clicking here or by clicking on the slide in the power point presentation.  They wrote down the stereotypes made evident in the clip, we talked about it as I wrote their comments on the white board (shown in the image below).  Then all together we named some of the stereotypes people have of Americans including fast food, capitalist, warmonger, etc.

But my favorite part was the discussion that followed when I provoked “ok, so we all know what we don’t want people to associate with Brazil, but what do you want people to think about when they think about Brasil”?  I started them off with some of the things I associate with Brazil such as a thriving democracy, warmth and hospitality, athleticism, diversity and openness.  They added many more including nature, gastronomy and lots of music and dancing from the North East .

Student Feedback: on the left, some of the existing stereotypes and on the right, are some alternative visions as expressed by the participants!!

The group present in the classroom represents mostly people from the interior of the North East region of the country.  Yet Brazil is physically massive with extreme regional, cultural, environmental and even linguistic diversity.   With the World Cup (2014) and the Olympics (2016) coming up, Brazil will be spending millions on selling  its (whole) self, and I for one and thrilled to see what they will come up with!

So, readers, what do you all think about Brazil?  How about the USA?  I’d love to hear from our multi-cultural readership–have Chelsea and I made you think twice about any stereotypes formerly held?

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Hip-e Hop-e

Before coming to Brazil and learning Portuguese, I realized that my favorite word in “Brasileiro” is Hip Hop.  It’s pronounced Hip-e Hop-e… which makes me very hoppy 🙂

This year I have started a Hip-Hop Dance Club at the Zona Rural.  I made a video with the first two short choreographies. It is the first of hopefully many, so I would love your feedback.

We laugh, we dance and we learn, and like all good things we end with a little samba.

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American Easter at IF-Sertão, Zona Rural

Chocolate eggs, the Easter Bunny, decorating eggs only to hunt them later—what could be more fun than an American Easter? This year, me, Chels and Rafa with the help of art Professor João and with many thanks to Director of Administrations Alberto Bruno and Pedagog Rosilene Oliveira, put on an American Easter at the IF Sertão, Zona Rural Camps for the 110 students of the accelerated High School (Ensino Medio) program.  It was a hit.

It was a great to start to what will hopefully be a year full of culture and language-related activities.

This blog post will be done in three parts—the background and English activities, the decorating of eggs, and then finally the hunt!

Part I- The Class, A Palestra

Before the lecture we filled cups 2/3 of the way with water and 1/3 with vinegar before adding the food coloring to dye the eggs.  Then Chelsea and I explained some of the history of Easter and about the American traditions of Egg decorating and the Easter-Egg Hunt.  The students completed worksheets and had a review test—the first to correctly finish the test won a pin-drive!

Part II- The Decorating, A Decoração

After the lecture, it was time to decorate.  The students split into three classrooms.  There, they used wax crayons and rubber bands to form patterns on their eggs before submerging them in dye for 5 minutes.  Some added oil for a psycidelic, tye-die effect.   They turned in at least two eggs for the hunt and took two home to show to their family and explain the American tradition… and then, of course, to eat!

Part III- The Hunt, A Caça aos Ovos

The next day we hid the eggs in a top secret location as the students anxiously awaited.  Once set loose they took 30 mintues to find the carefully hidden silver egg!  They received prizes for the most eggs collected (35 eggs was the winner) and the finder of the silver egg.  Thanks to all who participated and collaborated for a delicious and hoppy Easter 🙂

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Domestic Violence and the Women’s Commission in Pernambuco, Brazil

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The Government of the state of Pernambuco where I live has a special Secretaria da Mulher, a Women’s Comission.  At the invitation of the marvelous Dr. Rossana, Professor of Portuguese at the UPE where Chelsea works,* I gave a talk about Domestic Violence and Gender Issues in the US to Brazilian social workers, police officers and other socially-minded Pernambucans as part of a certification program run by the state.  Thanks to my training with Kim Frendak, Community Educator from the Women´s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence and my life-changing Women’s Studies course with Professor Elizabeth Hackett, I was ready for their challenging questions.

For instance, I was asked what I saw as the biggest barrier to women’s advancement here in Petrolina.  Due to my mother’s lead-by-example feminism and Agnes Scott’s all women’s education, I had already thought deeply about the question: the constant and nearly exclusive focus on women’s physical appearance (as opposed to anything else that humans value in their “equals,” such as intelligence, creativity, etc.).

Instead of fomenting feminist revolution, women here from a very young age spend vast amounts of time and money in the name of achieving a white, eurocentric, capitalistic beauty ideal.   One obvious  example is that due to the mysogenation of races, 80 % of Brazilian women have some sort of curl pattern in their hair, yet I would estimate that 70% of that population use chemical straighteners, pass countless hours applying expensive products and damaging heat to their hair, and a good majority dye their dark hair with blonde highlights.   The pervasive ideas of good hair–straight, and fine– vs bad hair—tight curls—reinforces the intersectionality of oppression, the fact that race and gender are very intertwined.  The white hair ideal pumps women’s bodies with chemicals, discourages them from engaging in phyical activity since sweat reverses the chemical proccess, and has other damaging effects.

Flat-ironing and dying your hair may seem far removed from Domestic Violence,  but these issues are all connected; everything that belittles women, that puts them below their male counterparts and devalues their thoughts, their bodies and their self-worth, contributes to a climate of oppression that is responsible for violence.

It was refreshing to be around a group of feminists.  It felt like home.  I am constantly reminded that mysogeny (the hatred of women) is an international problem that cripples the advancement of the world.  But on days like this I am also reminded of the powerful desire of most women and a few good men to change things and I fill with hope basking in the presence of an international sisterhood.

*Correction, 4/12/12: We mistakenly identified Professora Rossana as the Coordinator of Portuguese at UPE. The Coordinator is Professora Maria Aparecida Ventura Brandão. Our apologies!

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