Learning Portuguese in Porto Alegre (Brazil) November 23 2014, 5 Comments

Some Background 

When I was 18 years old (2008) I left home to spend 12 months learning Spanish in South America, a  journey that took me through four countries and 6 500 kilometers of Spanish speaking terrain. During this time I was introduced to an ancient ceremony whereby drinking an infusion of hot water and dried leaves harvested from an indigenous tree brought about immense cultural exchanges. Drinking maté (the drink that must always be shared) with locals became a healthy habit and sculptured within me a different point of view.

South African Goes Abroad to Study Yerba Mate 

In 2014, I returned to South America for five months in order to learn Portuguese in Brazil. With a budget of only R150 (US$ 13.60) a day in a country with a higher cost of living than South Africa, I prepared myself for all possible situations. The thing that literally kept me off of the streets was the decision to use the trip to study yerba mate, the tea harvested from the Ilex paraguariensis tree which possesses so many medicinal and nutritional benefits, it is classified as a staple food in three South American countries.

Discovering the Bright Green Herb

My quest started by making my way 1000 kiometers South from São Paulo (where I had landed) to the state of Rio Grande Do Sul, one of the main yerba mate producers in the country. It was clear from the beginning that the key to achieving my goals would be dependent on how quickly I would learn the language, so I spent a large chunk of my money on a private Portuguese course with one of the best teachers in the state. During the month that I was taking the course I would go out to public areas every day to meet new people so that I could drink maté (called chimarrão in Portuguese) and practice the language. The people I met were fascinated  by the story of a South African who had come to Brazil for the purpose of learning about the drink which is symbolic of their culture. Before long, I had adopted a network of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents in the country-side who would, "welcome me as their guest" and help me to visit yerba mate farms in the months to come.

Heading Into the Country-side - The Moment Of Truth

A few days before I was due to be kicked out of the shipping container that I had been living in, one of the students I had been teaching to speak English offered me a lift inland and dropped me off in a small town surrounded by yerba mate farms known as the yerba mate capital of Brazil, Venâncio Aires. By absolute coincidence the time of my arrival happened to be at the beginning of the annual 10-day national yerba mate festival, which hosted the National Brazilian Conference of Maté (Congresso Nacional do Chimarrão).

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Thank you's...

Eu gostaria agradecer as siguintes pessoas que tão simpatico me ajudaram enquanto ficar em Porto Alegre...

Verônica; Marcos; Ricky; Lorenzo; Filipe; Eduardo; João; Virginia; Vinicius; Alfredo