Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
April 2005: Writing the thesis, being among students, and enjoying student parties.
Like March, April 2005 was a quiet month for me. Another month without traveling. I spent this month at the campus; I made nice progress with the completion of my thesis. I got more used to the ins and outs of the department where I stayed. The differences with the departments in the Netherlands, where I’ve done my scientific work, are huge. Brazilian universities simply have less (financial) resources to carry out research, and therefore a strong dose of resourcefulness is essential.
In the Netherlands, we only have to make a small remark o complaint to obtain what we needed. And the goods or equipment arrived only a few days later, whether bought in the city where the university resided, or bought in the United States by telephone or internet. Only in the case of large sums, permission from the department leader was required. In Belo Horizonte it was a bit different. They also put orders on regularly basis, but it is uncertain when the orders will arrive. Particularly, goods obtained from companies outside Brazil may suffer much delay. Meanwhile, when waiting for the arrival, the investigators are combing other departments in the hope to find the ingredient or equipment, badly needed to continue the research. Thanks this kind of investigations, employees can find good contacts, and are very well aware what’s going at the other departments. In The Netherlands, we are much less aware of the ins and outs of the departments, and we are only informed through the seminars and working meetings.
The mutual contacts in Belo Horizonte are also maintained through the many social activities. Regularly, churrascos (barbecues) are organized for students AND teachers. While enjoying bits of roast meat and cold beers, essential information may be exchanged. At every Friday night, the biology students gather for their weekly drinks. Until midnight, students can stop by for a snack and drink, while enjoying music from the sixties and seventies. Many students are real dance freaks, and are frequently found on the dance floor while dancing the rhythms of samba, forró and pagode. At these nights I met many friends, and through these friends, I met more friends, and as a result I quickly became more familiar with the university.
Life was more than work and university for me. I was invited at a number of meetings and parties. There was a farewell party (‘despedida’) of the Uruguayan student I had met in January. I was invited by her and her professor for a long evening, with a lot of beer and cachaça. Not that I got drunk, but many of our large group became very drunk. The next morning we left for Confins, Belo Horizonte International Airport, to accompany her to the plane. We still have good contact with each other. She is also working on completing her thesis.
Jessica, who I have met in January, often invited me to join her and her boyfriend, and some other friends a drink or somewhere to go. I then went by bus to the south of the city (a bus trip of at least one hour) where I had to climb a very steep road to arrive at her home. The south of Belo Horizonte is built on the slopes of the Serra do Curral: a ridge upon which the Mangabeiras Park is located. One evening I accompanied Jessica and Fábio to Mangabeiras, where we enjoyed the beautiful evening panorama of the illuminated mega city below us. From that great height Belo Horizonte no longer seemed a mega city, but merely a huge decor of a miniature city, consisting of buildings with the size of match boxes, and lights from micro lights. A fairy tale.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom