julia123, January 25th, 2017
When sifting through notes I took in Brazil, it was almost impossible to choose a favorite corporate trip or cultural visit. The entire two-week trip was a blast, and at each stop I learned something new and interesting about Brazil, its personality, and its people.
A corporate visit that sticks out to me especially was the visit to Tramontina in Farroupilha. We met with them on January 6th, and they still had not resumed operations from the New Year celebrations. However, the Director of Human Resources was kind enough to meet with us, give us a lecture on their business philosophy, and tour of the manufacturing facility. We learned that Tramontina has a fantastic employee development program, paying for employee’s schooling and the schooling of young people who hope to one day work at Tramontina. They also carry heavy responsibility to their environment by applying to the strictest standards of environmental protection in their manufacturing processes. The company has been centered on the ideas of protecting and improving their staff and their environment since they were founded in 1911 by a family of Italian immigrants. After we learned about the business philosophy, we were able to tour the office building where we saw the accounting, marketing, and human resources department. On the top floor of the office building there was a showroom that had their silverware, cookware and ceramics on display with a big table in the middle – they use the table for negotiations with other companies that want Tramontina to supply them with cookware. Lastly, we toured the manufacturing plant next to the office building. One unique thing about Tramontina is that peacocks roam the property because one of the old CEO’s really liked peacocks! Another unique thing about them is their manufacturing facility – differing from the manufacturing plants I’ve seen back home in Houston, their facility was extremely modern and pretty. There was landscaping in the front, a seating area outside of the main floor, and a beautiful test kitchen inside, in addition to the manufacturing floor itself. After we left the manufacturing facility, we left the Tramontina corporate headquarters and drove up the road to the Tramontina T-Store, the retail storefront where you can buy all of their products. It was a massive stand-alone building that was super modern, much like their office and manufacturing plant. The inside was very open and bright, similar to Ikea. We were able to buy some of the same products we saw in their showroom, and were able to watch an employee etch our names into their knives with a laser. I remember leaving Tramontina and thinking that, if I spoke Portuguese, I would love to work there!
I also enjoyed the visit to Santa Clara, where we got to visit a farm that had 38 dairy cows that contributed milk to the cooperative every day. It was interesting to hear about the process of a cooperative collecting milk from small family farms, and then actually getting to witness the beginning of that process. It was also neat to visit Santa Clara, and continually see their products at restaurants and hotels for the rest of our time in Brazil. Similarly, I enjoyed the tour of Marcopolo, the tour bus manufacturer, since we used a Marcopolo tour bus for our trip. It was fun to see the process of the busses being made and to hear all of the engineering and thought that went into making our bus, and being able to ride around in it for the next two weeks.
The Floripa beaches were one of my favorite cultural visits. My family and I have vacationed at beaches my whole life, so I was very excited to visit the beaches in Brazil. The beaches in Floripa were so different from any beach I have ever been to, with big cliffs and rocks enclosing the beaches. It was beautiful! Joaquina Beach was probably the most crowded beach I have ever seen, but we could see the more relaxed side of Brazilian culture there, opposed to the fast-paced urban lifestyle we saw in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. The vendors on the beaches had some of my favorite food on the entire trip. At Mole Beach we had caramel and chocolate filled churros and fresh coconut water from beach vendors and it was so much fun to sit on the beach and have food brought right up to your umbrella! We also had acai bowls a couple of times on the beach and that was probably my favorite thing to eat in all of Brazil.
The most exciting cultural visit in terms of crowds and activity was the Sao Paolo New Year celebration. There were thousands of people there and it was so loud and fun! The host of the show was a well known Brazilian Carnival dancer and singer, so everybody around us was dancing and singing along. Even though we didn’t know the words, we were all having a blast! It was also fun to see how other cultures celebrate the new year. For example, Brazilians wear white for good luck in the new year, so we were surrounded by a sea of white clothes and I felt out of place in my black dress!
I was also super excited to see the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Ever since I can remember, I have associated Rio with the Christ Redeemer, and it is one of the Seven Man-made Wonders of the world. It was almost surreal to see it in person. The park was crowded with tourists taking pictures, but nonetheless it was breathtaking to get to the top of the mountain and see the Christ Redeemer for the first time. We were lucky to get up to the top early, before the clouds rolled in and covered the statue or the view of the city of Rio. I also really enjoyed going to Sugarloaf that evening for dinner and waiting until the sun set to see the Christ Redeemer from across the city. Once you see it up close it’s hard to believe how big it is from far away! We found out the last night we were in Rio that you could also see it from the top of our hotel, so we were all really excited to leave Rio after seeing it one last time.
I think one of the best things about this trip was how much of Brazil we got to see. We visited so many different cities and could see some sharp contrasts between the city and the country, the islands and the vineyards. Sao Paolo, Floripa, and Rio de Janeiro were all very urban cities, like what we think of when we think of New York City or downtown Houston. In those areas, there were more people out always, and there were a lot of recognizable American chains like McDonalds and Subway. However in Bento Goncalves, life was much slower paced and relaxed. There were less people roaming the streets and restaurants and stores closed much earlier in the day. There was also a lot of undeveloped countryside in Bento, because there is a lot of farming and vineyards there. We were lucky to see as much of the country as we did and I think that really enhanced our understanding of the country’s culture and also the culture of the different states and cities we visited.
Another thing that made this trip so special is that we could visit the country and live like locals for two weeks. Dr. A did a great job of making sure that we experienced the country the way a Brazilian would. For example, when we went to Floripa we drove throughout the morning and spent the whole day on the beach, just like Dr. A and his friends did when he was in school. We ate at local restaurants, visited local parks, and played futsal with locals. This also gives us a unique perspective on Brazil because we were not limited to what we learned at museums or tourist attractions, we truly got to experience Brazil in an uncensored manner. This trip was so much fun, but also such an incredible learning experience. Visiting another country always changes the way you view the world and definitely puts into perspective the effect that the US has on other countries, especially emerging economies like Brazil. I know this trip was a once in a lifetime experience for me, but I would jump at the opportunity to go again! I made so many awesome memories and new friends, and grew so much as a person. I truly feel like I left a piece of my heart in Brazil.