Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brazil Part I - Sao Paulo & The English Convention

Note: It took me a while to get all of the pictures together for this. Hence it was written when it was happening, and i'm just posting it now a week later.

What a brotherhood we have in Jehovah’s Organization! This last week here in Sao Paulo has been truly among the most amazing experiences in my entire life. Time will fail me if I try to do this story justice by including all of the pictures, experiences, and new friends that I gained over this week. As such I will endeavor to relate as much as I can.

First a little about the family that hosted us, without whom, we never would have been able to get anywhere, or eat anything, or survive for that matter at all. We stayed with the Zerede family Stephanie 16, Matthas 18, and Mom and Dad were very helpful throughout the entire weekend.

Brazil Bethel

Our first full day in Brazil started at 6 AM when we left our house and headed towards Bethel which is located very far outside of the city limits in the country side. We met a brother at the train station who then took us all the way there in his car, about an hour and a half long drive. Once we arrived we were so happy that we had arrangements for us to eat lunch with the Bethel family. After our lovely meal of rice and beans (a Staple food that is sorely lacking in Buenos Aires), fresh fruit, and fruit juice, we stayed for a while and met many different brothers and sisters that our Hosts knew.

We even met a sister who spoke English and offered to give us the tour in English. What followed was a lovely tour around the complex that is the most expansive I have seen outside of New York. The Brazil branch houses one of the largest printing operations in the world along with Mexico, Germany, Japan, and of course the USA. It was nice to see how Bethel life is very similar no matter way you are in the world. All of the departments we have in the States are here also. The rooms look the same, the dining room, the meals, and Bethel routine; it’s all the same no matter where you are.

One of the things that was very unique about Brazil bethel is that, in addition to the facilities, there are also two very special expositions that are located there for the tour groups. One is a detailed look at the story behind Jehovah’s Witnesses under Nazi Assault, and the second chronicles the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil.

The Nazi exhibit is full of pictures, artifacts and stories about the extreme persecution our brothers underwent during the Nazi regime. While going through it you cannot help but be moved by the suffering inflicted one these dear brothers during this time. It also shows in great detail how the Catholic Church played a large role in Hitler’s rise to power, and the blood that is on their hands because of it. This is especially striking to most of the visitors who see it because this is the largest catholic country on Earth. This entire exhibit was show throughout the country on several occasions resulting a great witness being given. The most moving piece for me was at the very end there is a large black stone wall that has engraved upon it the names of all of the brothers and sisters who were killed as a result of the Nazi rĂ©gime. I tell you the truth I do not see how it is possible to look at that, and shed a tear…

This is the brother who wrote "Forward You Witnesses" while on a death march in the camps.

The second exhibit about the history of the Witnesses in Brazil was quite a bit happier than the other one. It shows how from 8 Brazilian sailors who found the truth while their ship was in port in New York in the 1920s, the work has expanded to the point that now Brazil has the largest amount of publishers outside of the USA in the world.

During the course of our day we also were introduced to a lovely couple from Sweden who had been sent to Brazil as Gilead Missionaries in the 1970s. They kindly invited us up to their room after our tour for dinner. After we spent a few hours with them, we started on the long trip home. We arrived home around 11:00 pm truly a full day, but one well spent.

Our dear Swedish sister who is next to her Gilied picture from 70

Pidgin English...Awesome!

Sao Paulo

On Thursday we wanted to explore Sao Paulo a bit. So we recruited Stephanie (Who ditched school for us) and a sister Xerxes had met in BsAs who was visiting from Sao Paulo named Mariana, to show us around the city. As I had said before, Sao Paulo is not really known for having things that are of interest to visitors. Our main guide Mariana however did manage to introduce us to a few new things, and give us a lovely day in the city. Mostly I took pictures of the crazy exotic fruit as you will see. Here are some of the pictures to show you what that involved.

Dave Tamura anyone?

It looked like an artichoke, but tasted like tomatoes.

The Convention

Our house was full of guests as we were not the only people that our host family was putting up for the convention. Including us, there were a total of 10 different people that stayed over for parts of the weekend, in addition to the 4 in the family who live there. So as you can imagine it was not the easiest thing for that many people to all get ready in the morning but somehow we did it. (It helped that the house we were staying in
had 8 bathrooms.)

The convention was held at the local Assembly Hall which conveniently was only about 5 min from our house. Absolutely beautiful is the only way I can describe it. As you look through the
pictures below you will see what I am talking about.

This convention was the first full three day convention that has ever been held in the country. There is an entire circuit here of English with over 10 full congregations, and several groups spread throughout the entire country. The brothers and sisters who has parts were mainly Brazilians who had learned English, but there were a few notable exceptions with several American, British, South African, native speakers having parts. (Our Swedish friend Lars from Bethel also had two talks) While the English might not have been the easiest to listen and pay attention to, the effort put forth by the brothers to do all of this in a foreign language (For them) was truly remarkable.

Below are some pictures and videos from the program. (More coming soon)

This brother was interviewed during the talk about being disciplined by Jehovah. He related how he was reproved as a young man when he had many privileges and how hard it was for him to go through the embarrasment. But then he related how much it benefited from it, however thing in his life got better from that moment on. When he started listing the good things he has now in his life (his Ministry, Elder, English Congregation, Wife and Family) he started to cry in thanks to Jehovah for everything he had...needless to say this was the best interview of the whole convention. Then this brother had about 3 min to pull himself together because he had the very next talk (Pictured here).

But of course my favorite part was all of the dear friends that we met. Me and Xerxes we kind of celebrities most of the time among the friends there. On the one hand we were American, but we also were representing the Buenos Aires English group, and along with it the whole of Argentina at the convention. It was quite a surprise to me, that several brothers thought that Xerxes and I were real life Argentines (Since they don’t speak Spanish and can only talk to us in English they simply assumed that we were native Portenos).

On Saturday night our host family had a cookout for us, and we were pleased to see that a good number of the people we had met at the convention were there also.

Many email exchanges, and a million pictures later we were sad to see that the convention had reached its end. Today Xerxes left for Rio by plane, I elected to take a bus for around $50 and enjoy the scenery along the way. I will never forget the love that this family showed for us, and the brothers and sisters we met and came to know.

Extra Convention Pictures

Funny Moments From Sao Paulo

Below is a collection of several things that made us laugh quite hard during our stay in Sao Paulo...Please dont be offended.

Random out of context quotes:

How does your mom make lazanga, with meat? - Xerxes
I dont know what you mean by meat. - Stephanie
You know...dead animals... - Dominick
No she doesn't use dead animals! She makes it, you know with cheese and ham...Stephanie
Where did the ham come from? - Dominick

I dont know what that was, but it was wet... - Domninick

Oh ya, I have luscious lips - Xerxes

Teaching Swearing Class:

Since Xerxes and I were the native speakers all weekend...many people had many different questions for us. The most common questions usually had to do with which words are swear words, and whether or not we can use certain words. Since one of the main ways that people learn English here is by watching movies which include lots of swearing, they often have a hard time figuring out which words are really swears and which are not. All of this lead to what I termed "Swearing Class" having to be taught by Xerxes and myself. We introduced a system of grading the severity of the swear words by using a Pyramid design. With the worst words at the top and then working our way down. After this class was taught, we heard a lot less "Good Faith Swearing" (As I have come to call it) coming from our new friends.

Pyramid levels of swearing

Level 1
Words you are never, ever allowed to say!
Level 2
Words you hear on TV and in Movies, but that Witnesses also never would say, but are not quite as bad as level 1.
Level 3
Words that you hear people say, but as Witnesses we should not say, unless readin certain bible verses that contain them used properly.
Level 4
Words and phrases that people say all the time, but you really shouldnt say on the stage or in the kingdom hall.
Level 5
Words and phrases that are a personal matter.

New words learned at the Convention: (I promise these are the actual words all 1,200 in attendance heard uttered)

After that long hard day at work, I was just so "Anointed" when i got home. (Annoyed)
I really want to go to this party Dad, I mean "Gaytering" (Gathering)
Many are taught that God has A Bo Don Dun ed (Abandoned) them.
Stop "Jewdg ing" and you will not be "jewed" (Judging).
Have you ever been asked to do a "down" task? This thing was very "downing" for her(Daunting).
Mary was very "Sexy-ful" in completing her role. (Successful)
We must be "Fu&*usd" (Focused) on the bible. (My personal Favorite)

This was my favorite picture. This is in the Bathroom as the Assembly hall.

Nickname List

Just to show that even in other countries i still end up giving nicknames to everyone i meet i present you with this, the list of all of the nicknames we came up with for people we met over the week.

Chancho (Chanchito)
Polla Pollita
Feris (Ferret)
Chiquita (Andressa)
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Viking Princess (Norweigen)
Mad Persian
The man of the sons of Anakim (Dutch Monster)
Stan Lee
Colonel Sanders
The 12 Year old stalker
Chancho's Brasilia Girlfriend

Friday, September 17, 2010

A New Adventure

As if Buenos Aires Argentina was not far enough away from home, I now found myself sitting at the airport in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Me and my good buddy Xerxes (Fellow American Expat living in Buenos that goes to our English) are traveling to attend the English District Convention in Sao Paulo, Brazil and then proceeding to Rio de Janiero.

This is my first real time being in Brazil (I had a layover here in the Airport once) and I’m a little overwhelmed by the experience. Even though I live in Argentina which is a foreign country, there they speak Spanish, which while I am by no mean fluent in Spanish, I am able to get by, and not get myself killed. Here however this is my first real experience with Portuguese, and let me tell you all…it’s freaking me out. Whenever they start talking, I kind of know what’s going on from my Spanish, but then things take a crazy left turn right when you are not expecting it. It sounds like someone from France, whom after learning to speak Spanish poorly, and then speaks it to you.

Today in the airport was quite an adventure trying to get around without knowing even a word of Portuguese. I managed to somehow exchange some money (Airport Exchanges are the biggest crooks), and then head up to the food court. However after my experience buying a English – Portuguese dictionary went bad, I didn’t have the courage to try and order something strange Brazilian food items, from a bunch of people that don’t speak English, so please forgive me for what I have done but I felt that my only option for lunch was…MacDonald’s. Even there the girl at the counter had a hard time working with me. I guess the way I said “MacChicken” was not clear enough. Then apparently there was something she didn’t like about the 50 Real note that I gave her so I had to pay with my credit card…still trying to figure that one out.

After hearing all of this you must be wondering how in the world I expect to get by going to Brazil for two weeks? Well to be honest I don’t really know. But fear not, we are staying with brothers from the English hall in both Sao Paulo, and Rio, and they have already told us that they are going to take good care of us. So I am not too worried about it all.

We arrive late tonight in Sao Paulo, and then we have a few days to play there, and then we have convention all weekend. Me and Xerxes plan on visiting the Branch on Wednesday (We already have a place at lunch…See why you should be a Pioneer…) and then service on Thursday with the English Congregation. Saturday night the family we are staying with has planned an “Asado” (Cookout or BBQ) with us as the guests of honor. Already I am finding these brothers and sisters to be among the most kind, and hospitable I have ever met.

After our near week in Sao Paulo we will be traveling to Rio. There I will be staying with a brother from the English Congregation there, while Xerxes’ parents are flying from the states and staying with him in a hotel. Our plans there are a little less set, but with so many things to do in Rio (which is a Tourist paradise with world famous beaches) compared to Sao Paulo (Which is the Business Capital of the country, Think New York without the culture) I know we will find plenty of cool things to do there.

Right now as our trip is just beginning I can only tell you of our plans, and what we believe will happen. But as any seasoned traveler (World Travelers especially) will tell you: nothing ever goes according to the plan, and the best travel stories and adventures always come from the unexpected. So I will try to write about this trip as I go, and keep the updates going.

Thanks again for reading and I will talk to you all soon.

Ciao Ciao

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back To BA...

So here I am at last. Despite what seems like such a long time since my last trip here (Jan - March 2010) I am finally back living in Buenos Aries. The only difference this time around is that I am planning on being here for a whole year this time. A whole year! Am I crazy?...Dont answer that! Either way, this is going to be an interesting experience for sure. One that is going to be unlike anything else that I have ever experienced in my life. And even though I plan on returning after one year here, I might find out after all is said and done that I want to remain here even longer, or else I will want to try out living somewhere else. For now we will play it by ear and see how things go.

Please keep in touch all of you back home, and keep reading this blog, as it will be my main way of keeping in touch with all of you, unless you send me a personal email.

Ciao Ciao