Monday, January 31, 2011

Frequently asked Questions about Brazil and Belo Horizonte

I'm sitting in the Tocumen Airport in Panama (a man, a plan, a canal--Panama!), on the last leg of my journey back from the States. While there, I was asked lots of questions that I did not have answer for! So, here are some of the frequently asked questions, and the answers that I have managed to find.

1. What is the population of Belo Horizonte? It's approximately 2.4 million in BH proper, and over 5 million in the Belo Horizonte Metropolitan area. It is indeed the 3rd largest city in Brasil, and as I like to say, the biggest city in Brasil that no one in the US knows about.

2. What's the elevation? What's the climate like? It's about 2800 feet above sea level. The climate is called "tropical savanna climate" and it borders on a "humid subtropical climate." All to say, it's pretty much the same temperature year round. It is dry in the winter (about March to about October), and it rains in the winter (December, January, early February).

3. What about favelas (slums)? Our neighborhood is home to one of the largest favelas in BH, with about 46,000 residents. There are medical clinics in the favela (5, according to one website), but as far as I can tell, there are no schools in the favela. I have never been the the favela, and from what I have gathered it is one of the safer favelas in our city.

4. How far are you from the equator? Our latitude is 19°55'S. I think we are about 2500 kilometers south of the equator, or 1553 miles south of the equator. We are not in the Amazon Rainforest. We are not near the Amazon river.

5. Do you speak Portuguese? Do your kids speak Portuguese? Well, I usually can get through my days without too many major problems. I can go to the grocery store, take the bus, make phone calls to schedule dentist appointments, and talk to teachers. It's hard for me to evaluate my children's ability (since my Portuguese is still pretty basic), but I would say that they are doing remarkably well. Sebastian has had sleepovers at a friends house where they only speak Portuguese, Beatrice plays with the 3 other little girls who live in our apartment building, and Dora corrects my mistakes. It makes so much more sense to expose younger kids to another language than high schoolers (i.e. we've got it backwards with language in the U.S.)

6. Do they still make Volkswagen Beetles (Fuscas) in Brazil? No, production stopped in 1996. The last Beetle ever made was in Puebla, Mexico in 2003.

7. And not frequently asked questions, but some of my favorite: What is the Catholic Church doing regarding family planning? Why don't Brazilians put screens on their windows to keep the bugs out? What is the octane level of gasoline in Brazil? What is being done to prepare for the Olympics/World Cup? What is President Dilma doing regarding economic development? . Either I don't know the answer to the questions, or I don't feel like I should answer them.

Alright--off to my gate, and back the reality of having to work hard to listen and understand, driving on bumpy roads, and loving on my kids and husband. Thank you to them for the gift of letting me take this trip!

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