Blog’s Birthday

In the midst of preparing papers for conferences, sitting in various committees, doing Iter work, and attempting to write my thesis, I completely forgot to mark this blog’s second birthday. Its aim was rather simple, as the very first post indicates:

On 22 March 2006 hubby and I will be moving all our belongings into storage and making our way first to Montreal, then to Paris and finally to Barcelona where we will be living for a year. This blog is meant to document our trip(s) and allow us to keep in touch with friends and family in Canada, US, Brazil, and around the world. I’m looking forward to sharing all our photos, reviews of restaurants and bars, and remarks of the many places we’ll visit.

Slowly it grew as I started reading other blogs and became encouraged by them to talk about more than just the places I visited. The more politically-engaged blogs, such as Sindrome de Estocolmo or, to some extent, 42 and Bumblebee & Sweet Potato, led me to talk a bit more about issues that matter to me such as immigration, cross-cultural relations, health care and the environment. The numerous blogs written by people living in adopted countries, such as that of a Catalan in Austria or the US, Americans in Germany, Spain, or even Brazil, the numerous Brazilians in Canada, US, Spain, France, has made me fascinated by the experiences of people across cultures. It is hard to articulate exactly what it is about the process of moving to a new country that fascinates me. Perhaps the mix of wonder, surprise and recognition as people start building bridges between their culture and the culture they have chosen to inhabit. The recognition that the other is not so foreign after all.

Of course, the blogs I read are particularly open-minded and positive, not surprisingly reflecting the tone of my own ramblings here, and thus not necessarily representative of most immigrant or expat experience. But this blog may be many things but it doesn’t claim or wishes to be anything too structured, serious, academic, or scientific. It is basically the space where I can leave the depths of my academic life and be light, often airy, and simply engage in conversation with the many wonderful people I have met here. It is also a space where I can share my passion for people, photography and food. That people I have never met have found it worth reading and some have even found it worthy of awards, is a never-ending source of surprise and delight. Thank you all so much for reading, sharing your thoughts, and allowing me into your lives.

There are many other blogs I read that I haven’t cited, I hope you don’t mind. I’ll be updating the list of links on the side bar shortly to reflect more accurately what is on my bloglines rss-reader.

2007 in pictures…

It was fun doing this last year, so I thought I’d continue…

January

We watched the arrival of the Three Kings in Barcelona, walked along the beach in Barcelona, went to the calçots festival in Valls and happened upon the wonderful monastery of Poblet along the way, and discovered the little town of Arenys de Mar – more pics here.

Three Kings Barcelona beach ArenysPoblet Calçots

February

In February I met Moussa ag Assarid, enjoyed the Festes de Santa Eulália, a festival dedicated to children, and had lunch on top of a mountain near Vic.

Moussa Castellers de Barcelona Festes de Santa Eulalia Lunch at Vic

March

In March Alan and I went to Girona for a bit of a research trip, where we also had some amazing food and I became tempted to find a project that would allow me to spend a year in that amazing city

Street in Girona Tourists in Girona Old books

April

Last month in Barcelona – we visited friends in Mataró and otherwise simply hanged out in Barcelona

Archives Mataro View from Sara's house in Mataro Capoeira in Raval

May

Back in Canada after 13 months in Spain! We stayed with our friends Pearl and Al for the first two weeks and then left for Brazil to visit my family. While we were at Pearl’s, she took us to Todmorden Mills and Bufflers Park.

Yonge & Bloor Good friends Good friends 2 Todmorden Mills Bufflers Park

June

We moved into our new apartment and enjoyed summer in TO; I invented some cool salads and we had a blast at the Pride Parade.

Welcome basket BCE Place Kensington Salad Friends Pride Parade

July

We celebrated Canada Day at the harbourfront and visited Montreal, where we had to spend a few hours at the market. We also went on the first of many photo shoots with Mel and discovered Ireland Park.

Canada Day Montreal Ireland Park Toronto urban beach

August

A great month in Canada. We cycled quite a bit, watched the opening of the CNE, and I got into black & white photography.

Opening of CNE First b&w Bike ride - harbourfront East Chinatown Little Indi

September

September was back-to-school month. Super busy, no time to go out and take pictures. But it was also the month I got my piercing and Alan got his tattoo.

Piercing Tattoo

October

Halloween month! So of course we checked out the action at Church street and I got some good pictures

CatCat Warrior Geisha

November

Remembrance day and another trip to Montreal

End of fall Montreal Remembrance day

December

It seems all I did between November and December was mark papers and exams. But there was also a snowstorm in TO and our trip to Barcelona and Paris!

Snowstorm Barcelona Riding on bicing Kids playing in Paris Invalides

And 2008 arrived like this:

Snowstorm

Lots of beer & laughter

During the past few months, I started getting involved in blogs/communities/forums dedicated to immigration. I became particularly impressed by the incredible amount of sites of Brazilian immigrants chronicling their immigrant experience and/or helping other immigrants in the same boat (pun not intended). I have talked recently of how I felt about my own experience as an immigrant, and how my life has changed since I came to Canada.

When I first visited Canada, the internet was not so 2.0 and there were no blogs or interactive sites that I could go to share my experiences or ask where I could find carne seca in Montreal. Being comfortable in an English-speaking environment and not feeling that much of a cultural shock, I didn’t really seek the friendship of my compatriots when I first got here. I attended the occasional Brazilian event, but that was about it. I had only two Brazilian friends in Montreal that I saw from time to time and, until recently, had only one Brazilian friend in Toronto.

We all know that living abroad and meeting new cultures does wonders in terms of shaping the way we see the world but I had no idea of the impact of Canada on me until we moved to Spain last year. In a way, it shook a bit my perception of my own identity. In Spain, a country that reminded me so much of my native Brazil, I found myself often behaving and expressing myself in very Canadian ways. When asked where I was from, my initial instinct was always to say “Canada”. I would then catch myself and add “…but originally from Brazil”. Don’t get me wrong! I have never attempted to hide my Brazilian roots, even when I could have easily done so. But the way I see the world is largely shaped by the past eight years I spent in Canada. They were, after all, very formative years – I came here for the first time at 22 and moved for good at 24.

Yet, now that I feel more Canadian than ever, I started reading sites by and about Brazilian immigrants. I have even been promoted to moderator in one of these sites! Slowly, I made many online friends as I attempted to help people by sharing my experience building a life in the Great White North. Yesterday, many of us met for the first time in a pub here in Toronto.

The meeting lasted over 5 hours (!) and it was a lot of fun! I have seldom been in such a nice group of people. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and there was only one picture taken at the event:

Orkontro

Two people left after this picture was taken and another five to ten people showed up. The meeting was such a success that we are planning to repeat it next Sept 7th. Anybody else wants to come?

Brasil brasileiro

Since this post is aimed mostly at my Brazilian friends, it will be in Portuguese:

Coisas que eu gosto de fazer quando estou no Brasil:

comer arroz, feijão, angu, couve e alguma carne no almoço [faço essas coisas MUITO raramente por aqui]

ir à casa de sucos quantas vezes for possível e passar meia hora escolhendo entre as centenas de frutas disponíveis

tomar caipirinha e comer petiscos nos barzinhos da vida batendo papo sem gastar uma fortuna

comprar blusinhas na Taco e na Hering (nessa última eu gosto de comprar modelitos diferentes das camisetas da campanha do câncer de mama)

comprar havaianas (que estão ficando caras mesmo no Brasil!)

rodízio de sushi

tomar milkshake de ovomaltine do Bob’s

assistir filmes e vídeos de rock com meu irmão

tentar não brigar com a minha mãe

bater papo com minha cunhada

ir à praia ou à montanha (dessa vez fiquei mais em casa mesmo e não fizemos nada)

comer pão de queijo

e por aí vai….

Antigamente eu sentia saudade de certas coisas, certas comidas principalmente. Eu geralmente ia ao Brasil de 6 em 6 meses no mínimo mas por causa dos meus estudos e a mudança para a Espanha ano passado, dessa vez passei quase dois anos sem ir. E não sei se foi essa diferença ou o fato de já estar fora há mais de 8 anos, mas notei que algumas coisas mudaram. Já não gosto tanto de comer feijão com arroz todo santo dia. Acho o feijão – apesar de adorar – pesado para a digestão. O excesso de carne também me deixa bem “estufada” e com as gengivas doendo depois de uma semana. Já não me sinto mais segura por lá. Fico chocada com a política e a falta de esperanças de que as coisas melhorem. Senti um choque cultural que me incomodou um pouco – por isso o post mais abaixo em ingles.

Mas fazer o que… é a vida…

Brasileiros em Ontario

This post will be in Portuguese since it’s directed at Brazilians living in Ontario…

Estudos sobre a comunidade brasileira no Canadá são muito raros e geralmente os brasileiros são estudados como parte de um grupo mais genérico de imigrantes latino-americanos. Pesquisadores da University of Western Ontario querem retificar essa situação e estão buscando informações sobre brasileiros residentes na província de Ontário. O projeto chama Brasil Mostra a Tua Cara e é coordenado pelo Centro de Informação Comunitária Brasil Angola .

Se você é brasileiro(a) e gostaria de participar do estudo, você pode obter mais informações no blog do Gean. Para responder o questionário anônimo click no link direto:

http://centrobrasilangola.org/brasilmostratuacara/chamada.asp

Eu já respondi o questionário! Não sei se há muitos brasileiros ontarianos passando por aqui, mas fica o recado…

Brazil: here we go!

After 10 days of running around, finding an apartment, applying for it, signing the lease, sorting things out at school, going to meetings, meeting old friends, and shopping for relatives, we are finally ready to go visit the family. The last time we went was August/05 and I’ve never been this long without visiting. Luckily the last 20 months have been so busy that I hardly felt the time go by.

Family

I love my family dearly and we’ve always been very close. There’s nothing like having to move every two years to a different city to make a family stick together. These days they are the only thing that keeps me going back to Brazil. The country is beautiful, still undiscovered, full of amazing people but the corruption, crime, and social inequality are sometimes too much to bear. I’ve definitely lost the degree of tolerance all Brazilians seem to have for these things. Even Alan, who’s always liked Brazil, is less and less excited about going for a visit.

But I digress…

What I wanted to say is that this year’s trip is dedicated to hanging out with my little three year-old niece and spending as much time as possible with my 91 year-old grandmother. I even bought a voice recorder because I want to have some talks with her about her life. Can’t wait to see her!

My gramma and my niece:

gramma & Lorena

Brazil not such a haven for immigrants

It was on the news: Brazilian students at the University of Brasilia set fire to the student residence where African students lived. The criminals emptied fire extinguishers, piled bricks against the exit doors, waited until the foreign students were asleep and poured gasoline on their doors. Luckily, a student from Guine-Bissau was able to extinguish the fire before it consumed the building and no one died.

I often hear from Brazilians abroad that it’s not fair that they are discriminated against in places like the US and Europe when they are so nice to the foreigners going to Brazil. Sure. If you are a white, blond foreigner, maybe… If you are African or Latin American it seems Brazilians can be just as xenophobic as anybody else…

For those who read Portuguese, check Denise’s very thorough post on the situation of immigrants in Brazil.

Immigration blogs: future academic sources?

One of the reasons I’ve had immigration themes on my mind lately is the profusion of blogs I’ve been reading lately written by Brazilian immigrants (mostly to Canada but a couple to Spain, France or the US).

The blogs written by Brazilians going to Canada are the most fascinating from an academic point of view. The fact that Canada is a country open to immigration doesn’t mean that the process is as easy as hopping on a plane. The main avenue of entry into Canada is as a skilled immigrant and to qualify as such, the prospective immigrant needs to have a minimum amount of schooling (usually university level), work experience, a certain proficiency in English or French, and enough money to support him for the first few months in the new country. For Brazilians the whole process can take around 16 months. So it’s not easy. It requires a lot of investment in time, planning, energy, resources, etc. All of this planning and organization reflects on the blogs written by those imbued by a Canadian dream.

Most of them start writing their blogs the moment they make the final choice, after much soul-searching, to initiate the process. They are usually couples in their thirties or young families looking for a better quality of life. Most have good jobs and good careers in Brazil but are sick of living a life of fear, locked behind tall fences and electric wires. So career and jobs are not the main motivators, but rather the search for a place where they can be assured of safety, respect and a more organized life.

There are usually three phases in this process of immigration.

1. The prospective immigrants (usually a husband and wife) file the application at the Canadian consulate. While they wait – they know it will take some months before they hear back – they research continuously about life in Canada and what to expect. They join support networks of other Brazilians who have gone to Canada, they read Canadian news and listen to CBC Radio. They also start saving as much money as possible and brushing up on their language skills. They try to pick a city. Most have never been to Canada and choosing between Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, etc without ever setting foot in the country can be quite daunting.

2. Visa arrives, move to Canada. The most fun parts to read are the last posts in Brazil and the first few in Canada. The going away parties with family and friends, the difficulty in trying to fit one’s whole life in two 32 kg suitcases, the excitement and the tears. The flight to Toronto – for some, the first international flight – the arrival, going through immigration, the dreamed-off “Welcome to Canada” greeting by the immigration official when he stamps one’s visa.

3. Settling. The first few months. Getting all the pertinent documents, finding a place to live, opening accounts, registering at special programs offered by the government to integrate immigrants into the workforce. From the blogs I’ve read it seems that people in more technical professions such as ITs, engineers, system analysts, programmers seem to find work within the first 2-3 months in their area. That seems to be particularly the case in Toronto. Others from professions in the humanities and social sciences take a bit longer and often need to work for a few months in a co-op (non-remunerated work) to get Canadian experience in their area of work.

It’s fun to follow their first impressions and their positive attitude. Most give updates every few months evaluating their progress and their decision to immigrate. I notice very few disappointments. I think this is mostly because of the extensive research they do before immigrating and their general open-mindness about the whole process. It makes me wish I knew about blogs way back when I immigrated to Canada so I could have documented my process…
Some of my favourites are:

A Era do Gelo

 Cravo e Canela

 Mikix

 Familia Saltense no Canada

 A Marcha dos Pinguins

 CanaDaBoa

 Meu Cantinho

 Destino: Canada

 Brancas Nuvens

 Maple Brasil

….and many others…