tw2015, January 21st, 2019
Written by Taylor Wiest
This trip has exceeded my expectations in every way. When I first got on the plane to Brazil, I was not expecting a country abundant in luscious greenery, blissful lives, and the kindest people. I experienced moments of light-hearted play and moments filled with wonder so palpable that it brought tears to my eyes. Between the company visits were times of friendship, sports, and places of awe. I didn’t have much time to cry when I left, but a piece of me will always be in Brazil because Brazil brought out a spirit within me that will continue to inspire for many years to come.
I’ll start this blog with some of my favorite memories. Starting with a day where we drove up into a mountain near Caxias do Sul. We were dropped off in the small community center which included a church, soccer fields, an indoor soccer field, and a vineyard all-in-one area. There were a few old men, and an older lady present to greet us and tell us where to go. They were very nice and happy looking.
We played outdoor soccer first. It was very hot – 90ﾟF with strong humidity. After playing a couple of rounds of outdoor soccer, we took a break before playing rounds three and four. The ending of round four was the result of me kicking my foot full-force into my friend’s leg (unintentionally) and having the wind knocked out of me due to the pain. My foot immediately swelled, but I tried to walk it off and take it easy. On the bright side, we were the longest playing group Dr. A’s had, whoop!
After a little break – and a change into swimsuits – we were told to get into either a wagon & tractor or the back of a truck. We then went down the mountain road/cliffs and across a gorgeous river (still in the truck) in the jungle. We stopped and hiked down a path a bit more to get to the untouched, beautiful, and private waterfall. It was something straight to out of the movie Avatar! The waterfall spans a good several yards and featured a mini cave on the side. Above the middle of the cave/river, there was a mass of trees growing over the cliffside. It was an extraordinary place.
I later found out that the old men who greeted us were the owners of the land and normally didn’t allow tourists to come. They were so kind because they showed us their land, helped keep us safe, and gave tips on what to do. Their dog was cute too.
After a while of swimming, we went back to the trucks. Where my friend and I had a mini rollercoaster ride when the truck did a 3-point turn and almost went off a cliff! We rode up to the community center and saw a whole group of Brazilians waiting for us. Including Dr. A’s cute family and an intimidating group of women in soccer uniforms.
We proceeded to play with the local women’s soccer team in 10-minute increments where my team did pretty well thanks to my teammates. Once the soccer tournament was over, we went downstairs to have an authentic, home-made Brazilian BBQ. This was something they prepared well in advance since all the tables were set up and the meats were rotating beautifully in the ovens. I couldn’t even eat half of the food because they brought out so much! It was very good, and again, I couldn’t get over how nice and accommodating they were. It was truly a memorable day filled with kind-heartedness, adventure, wonder, and fun.
This day opened up my eyes to the misconceptions that people, especially Americans, can have about other places. Before I came to Brazil, I was warned by many to be on my guard because the country is ridden with crime. How little we knew. In Brazil, as in every country, there are far more nice people than bad. In fact, I would say the Brazilian southern hospitality beats ours by a mile! I don’t know any family who would prep for a whole day of hosting strangers; letting a whole group of foreigners onto their most prized land, creating a whole soccer tournament event (complete with game tables and convenience stand), and cooking all day long just so that everyone was beyond satisfied when the night was over. Several members of the community came to spend time with us. And the most extraordinary part is that this was just a typical day for them!
Americans can be so caught up in our own lives and we tend to ignore our neighbors, community, and world around us. In Brazil, if a neighbor were to call at midnight with an emergency they wouldn’t hesitate to wake the whole town up to help. These relationships are their foundation for life, and in the end, they are happier because of it. Every person I met seemed like they had lived a life full of laughter, joy, memories, and friendship. It is the kind of life I could only dream of growing up in. There is a kind of peace in having relationships with those around you; in having the innate ability to demonstrate sympathy without borders or reservations. It is something I believe Americans can learn from. Their hospitality inspires me to seek out others like that all across the world, and someday have the courage and confidence to be just like them.
Another impactful memory occurred on a different day when we went on a mini bus tour with Dr. A. The highlight of this tour was a small community church on top of a mountain that overlooked many farms and vineyards. This sanctuary brought tears to my eyes. There was an intense energy/spirit and peace that existed there. Sitting on a bench, I could look out to a valley of mountain tops, with birds chirping overhead and a farmer’s truck driving by below. It was quiet and it was breathtaking. I prayed for everything I was grateful for at that moment and just felt so humbled and blessed to be there.
There were several great companies we visited in Brazil. The company I found the most interesting was Santa Clara. Santa Clara’s business model is that of a cooperative. Cooperatives are uncommon in America; for Santa Clara, it entails different farmers in the area owning a share of the company and voting on a representative for their area. These 11 representatives are the “Directors” and share what their area wants/needs from Santa Clara. Everyone is an associate and have to give a 1,000 ml milk entry fee (and usually they give more over time) and are then able to gain the Santa Clara benefits and help run the cooperative.
The speaker for Santa Clara was very nice and she explained the several benefits, events, and practices the company holds for its farmers. They offer education, training, and advice to farmers on the latest technology and practices that could help them in the field. They also host conferences every year for women, children, the elderly, etc. that elicit thousands of participants every year. These events try to draw in the younger generations, which are a concern since many children are choosing to leave the farm, which means farms are disappearing. They are able to handle it for now since technology enables individual farmers to produce more than ever before, but it will get to a bad point should this trend continue. For now, they are trying to appeal to kids via the technology that can be used in the field.
Some other interesting facts about the company include their own financial institution and the process of collecting their products. Many major companies in Brazil have their own financial institutions to help employees fund various living necessities, Santa Clara included. For example, Santa Clara will by an associate’s new house, then set up a mortgage with lower interest rates and monthly payments than the associate would find elsewhere, which is very cool. For products, Santa Clara sends trucks to collect from the farmers every single day. For many products, they only have 24 to 48 hours from the time the milk is produced to have it on the shelf at a grocery store. Insanely fast inventory turnover and their positive profits show for it. They offered us a sampling of their products: milk (that tasted like Go-Gurt) and cheese tasted very good as well. If they were in the US, I would be a loyal customer.
Santa Clara surprised us with something even Dr. A didn’t expect. The speaker hopped onto our bus and took us to their packaging factory! When we got there, we had to put on these silly head to toe sanitary outfits and then we went in. We saw the boxed milk get sorted and shipped. Then we walked over to the cheese storage area which was huge! He kept opening doors that would lead to rows and rows of cheeses of all types and ages. The smell was quite strong, but I really enjoyed it.
A final note I would like to end on is something that has shifted my whole mindset. Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work.
I’m young – we are young – and will only have this passion, energy, inspiration, and naiveté for so long. I want to run on the tops of mountains, laugh aloud with strangers in Europe, practice the thousand-year-old traditions in Japan, and so much more! This trip helped me understand that there are different ways of viewing the world and finding satisfaction.
Brazilians have a simple, but fulfilling way of life. They don’t need mansions, designer clothes, or a job making millions – not if it comes at the cost of having no time for family, community, and loved ones. They take two-hour lunch breaks at home. They close shops early to see their children and play with their grandkids. They are able to enjoy the nature around them without building more garages, pools, houses, etc. They work to sustain themselves, and they leave when their hard work is done. They are able to work hard and work efficiently because they know when they are done, they have a whole life full of love and laughter waiting for them at home.