Meredith's in Brasilia
My name is Meredith and I'm a thirty-year-old American, originally from upstate New York. I'm a high school English teacher who decided that I wanted to combine two of my favorite activities, teaching language and culture, and move abroad to teach at an international school. So that's exactly what I did 3 months ago. This may not be the first time that I teach in Brazil (I taught EFL in the Amazon a few years ago) but this time I have no immediate plans to return to the U.S. I'm quite content living in Brazil's capitol, teaching high school English at a bilingual school. I live here with my Brazilian husband, our American cat, and now we're expecting our first baby!
When and how did you decide to move to Brazil? Is it complicated to settle down there?
I lived in Brazil previously, from 2004-5, so this is not the first time I've lived and worked here. I loved it so much the first time that I decided to come back as soon as it was time. I finished graduate school in May of this year and moved here in July to start work that month. I'm a teacher so I came down here to teach at an international school; I was hired last December. It wasn't too complicated for me to settle here because my employer takes care of a lot for us, and since I'm married to a Brazilian I was given a permanent residency visa through him. Otherwise, settling in Brazil is complicated because it's difficult to obtain a working visa and the cost of living is very high.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
I lived abroad in Cochabamba, Bolivia for a year as an exchange student when I graduated from high school and honestly that's when my travel bug began. I fell in love. I also worked in Manaus, Brazil for a year when I graduated from college, and I also studied in Montevideo, Uruguay for a semester and worked in Ayacucho, Peru for a summer. In addition to my time working and studying abroad, I've traveled to Canada, Mexico, and Argentina.
What do you like the most about Brazil and Brasilia?
I've only been living in Brasilia for a few months so I still feel like I've so much yet to explore and visit in order to feel like this is really my "home", even though I am very comfortable living here. I like how safe I feel. I like my job and I believe that working in Brasilia is better than working back in the U.S. I have excellent benefits and a good salary.
Apart from work, however, I've met fantastic people which has always been one of my favorite parts of Brazil. I also love the fresh fruits, the healthy food, the arts and crafts, music, and much more . In addition to all of this, I love the diversity in this country; I may live in a dry area, but during the rainy season the city changes color and it's lovely. We can also travel to the coast and visit gorgeous beaches or return to the Amazon and visit the rainforest. It's a fascinating country!
How was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?
I haven't suffered too much from cultural shock. Maybe it's because I lived in Brazil previously, maybe it's because I'm married to a Brazilian, or it could be because I was so excited to move here. I'm not sure. I also try to look at the positive side of things when I can. I try to focus on what I have here versus on what I'm missing. It's not always easy but it does help.
A few of the "big" differences for me were having a doorman (which is wonderful), working fewer hours (again, wonderful), and the gastronomic difference which is easy to get accustomed to. The food is much better for you in Brazil, despite there not being as much diversity as in the U.S. However, not every change is easy to accept. The weather in Brasilia during the dry season is VERY dry. The side effects are headaches, fatigue, and even dehydration and I've suffered as a result, especially because I moved from hot/humid Orlando, Florida. August and September were extremely difficult for me as a result of the dry weather and the heat. There were a lot of fires and one day school was even closed because of the amount of smoke from a neighboring fire.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
First and foremost I miss my family A LOT. Thankfully we have a Magic Jack (if you're an expat, or soon to be, buy one!) and we use Skype and e-mail to keep in touch; however, that doesn't mean I miss them less, it just makes the distance seem smaller. I also miss my friends, but we keep in touch and I know that I'll see them soon here or there. As we haven't bought a car yet, I miss owning one and the independence that comes along with that. I can't forget shopping, either. I'm not the type of women who LOVES to shop, but it's MUCH cheaper and much easier to shop on-line in the U.S., so one of the first things I'll do when I go home for a visit is go to the mall :). And course there's more, but I'd say that what I have here mostly compensates for what I'm missing in the U.S. For instance, hiring a cleaning lady is very common here and it's inexpensive and easy to get; that's not the case in the States.
Your best souvenir?
The best memory that I have at this point is learning that I'm pregnant and unlike me, s/he won't be an expat. I've actually been enjoying my time more in Brazil ever since I found out that I will have a baby here. I'm glad that the maternity leave, insurance, and benefits in Brazil far surpass the U.S. I'm sure this will be my best experience and for sure my best "souvenir" from Brazil.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
I began blogging in December 2010 after reading a number of other blogs on expat-blog.com written by American expats living in Brazil. I decided it was an excellent way for me to "track" my progress and experiences as I worked my way from teaching in the U.S. to teaching in Brazil. It's also for my friends and family to read so they know how we're doing and what we're up to. I never thought I'd enjoy blogging so much.
Did you make new friends with your blog?
Yes, unexpectantly, I did make new friends with my blog. It's been a real blessing. So many people have posted good advice for me, tips, shortcuts, and it's been wonderful. I believe I was much better prepared at the time of my move as a result of everything that I read on my blog. I look forward to meeting people that I've met on my blog.
When did you register on Expat blog?
I don't remember exactly when I registered on Expat Blog, but it was sometime last year. As I knew I was going to live in Brazil I started to "research" the experiences of others, and that's when I found this website. It's been very informative and has led me to find a number of interesting, fun blogs to read from all over the world.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Brazil?
I recommend it, especially if it's their dream. I really wanted to return to Brazil to live and work and since I worked so hard to get it, I was successful. You can live a good life in Brazil, even though it may not always be easy, so if you really want it, go for it!