Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My First Portuguese Presentation!

Oi todo mundo!

The moment you've all been waiting for...seeing the gringo speak Portuguese in public!

I had my first presentation in Portuguese today about accounting. For those interested, I discussed how public sector governments budget through the commitment and encumbrance process...and here is the video! You can tell that I was a little nervous when I started but about half way in I get going!

Just so you get a taste of what it's like to have a class in another language, I took a 30 second film of my professor's lecture too. Check it out!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Living the good life...and learning too!

This past weekend I made another trip out of Sao Paulo to the relaxing town by the name of Araxa, in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It was one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had in life and you'll shortly read why. We made the trip on a last minute notice for a company visit to CBMM, the worlds leading company mining niobium, which is used to strengthen steel. So...there will certainly be some fun stuff in this post because we were hosted for a lavish weekend and even made our way there on a private jet but I learned a lot about business so I'm hoping that my fellow UC LCB readers will enjoy this management case study, too! A link to the pictures (company, hotel, plane, animals, etc.) is at the end!

Well first thing is first...the private plane! Easily one of the coolest things I've done. The whole treatment was awesome. We just pulled up to the hangar and we were greeted with pao de queijo (cheese bread - brazilian famous) and refreshments in this swanky waiting area. Then we just boarded the plane and took off! No TSA, no waiting in line, no tickets, no passports, no turning off electronics, no baggage hassle...you name it, it didn't exist haha. I can see why people get used to private travel! Not to mention the plane itself was a billion times more comfortable than any commercial flight I've ever been on. I'm dreaming...one day haha. Here are some video's of our experience (two more...video, video)! We arrived and were given even more of a surprise...the company was picking up the tab on our entire weekend! We were staying at this huge palace resort that was once the summer home of Portuguese royalty and we would be welcomed with open arms (drinks, food, massages at the spa, and everything else included).

This was all good and fun but I was really mind boggled with the company's approach to management, socio-economic development, and sustainability...so for my business readers...here comes the real fun stuff!

CBMM is the world's leading company producing niobium, an important natural resource that dramatically increases steel's durability and strength. Every steel manufacturer in the world is its customer. It currently has 85% of the world's market share in this sector. We spent the entire day with the company's CEO and General Counsel and I was instantly engrossed in how personable both of them were and how casual they were too (jeans and a polo). The first question was obvious, how can mining be sustainable? Well, my visit convinced me to answer this question differently than I otherwise would have so read on...

Tadeu (CEO) greeted us with one common theme, "sustainable products must be sustainable in every way and that's the way I am running the business." We met him in the company's human development center, a 30 year old facility that didn't look a day old. The center was built to provide a Pre-K through K education center for employees' children and also give those employees training. Tadeu was completely focused on family economics. "I cannot sell a sustainable product in a developed company without a first-class workforce." He knew that he would have to build strategic investment with his workforce so that he could develop the business. What were people in Brazil looking for? Education! In the 1980's more than 50% of Brazil's population had never been to school, wreaking havoc on the nation's economy from a development perspective. CBMM took matters into its own hands by creating the type of socio-economic development it wanted to see in the country and built it's development center and a residential community for its workforce. It also built a database to track the socio-economic status of every one of its 1800 employees working worldwide. The database included information about the family's income, medical history, access to healthcare and education, information on children, family life, and even included pictures of previous homes the worker's owned and the types of homes they live in today. The CEO essentially said his goal was to increase everyone's socio-economic status multi-fold. This was even proved by the residential community that the company built with over 150 homes that were given to its workers. Workers slowly built equity into the homes and now they all own them and have their own community governance structure. The company has 90% of its workforce owning its own home with the goal of getting to 100%.

CMBB is a low-profile business...you won't see them on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (which is probably a good thing) but I tell you what, I was instantly impressed with the leadership style and focus on people. Even more impressive was the CEO's following comment, "this is not charity what we have here...this is good management." CBMM believes that it can gain even more customers if it has the opportunity to show its partners and customers exactly what they're doing on-site to positively impact the lives of its workforce. I couldn't agree more.

Back to education. The company now educates between 300-400 pre-K students each and every year and then subsidizes education for every employee's child through University at 80% of cost. The ROI has been amazing. Turnover rates are at less than 1% and are mostly attributed to retirement. Absenteeism at the worksite is less than 0.5%. The performance of the students is incredible and most of them go on to have extremely successful careers in business, engineering, and medicine...all because they got a good head start and were built on the values and morals of an ethical and equitable company and its management system. The approach ties workers to the company in a way that 9-5 can't and it's having a significant impact in the lives of people around the country.

Capitalism took matters into its own hands for Brazil's economic development and CBMM is leading the way. Before the big beautiful luxury hotel was in town, the company had to build a guest house to host guests (equally as beautiful) and used some of the city's 70% of tax revenues attributed from the company or its workforce to reinstate the hotel some 12 years ago. With minimum wage over 4 times the required minimum, a profit sharing program awarding 6-7 times salary, and a lifetime pension, CBMM has single-handedly developed an entire town from scratch...it is simply incredible.

Some of you might be a little more interested in the niobium...I sure was. It is an alloy used in steel making. It's not a rare resource but it's difficult to find in a good position with good exporting abilities, making this mine especially prosperous. 95% of the product is exported, mostly because Brazil isn't a huge steel making country. Niobium is all about making steel safe and strong. It's used in nearly everything and we even watched some scary movies of cars crashing (those with niobium withstood nearly all crashes when those that didn't caused instant death). It is also proven to have saved millions of people in oil pipeline bursts (or better lack thereof) because it doesn't make the steel break, only bulge. Spending just $9USD on niobium per one car will reduce the car's weight by 100kg and save one litre of fuel and 2.2 tons of CO2 emissions in the vehicle's lifetime which the emissions savings are more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the production of all the steel in the vehicle anyway. If niobium weren't mined, these things wouldn't happen. That's the pitch for why it is sustainable! With a lifetime supply left and its many other uses (MRI technology, camera lenses), CBMM believes they are making the world a better and safer place to live day in and day out. Only 3% of all the ore they mine is actually niobium but they recycle or process the other 97% in gigantic manmade mineral lakes on the property. Over 90% of the water that is used is recycled and the air quality in the mine is actually 5 times more clean than the air quality in the city. They are ahead of the game having 8 times less emissions than regulations permit and they desire to continue setting the trend. There's double the amount of vegetation on the mine property than there was 50 years ago and the company also started a plant and animal nursery where they breed endangered species.

The message was all about the two most important things that make the world a better place: Education & Ethics. The rest is money and that is just a number on a computer screen, we don't even see it. There was even some questions on workplace safety. The response: "We don't have to stress much about that. We've created such an incredible environment and our employees have education, healthcare, pensions, homes, etc at their fingertips working for us that they are so mentally engaged in their jobs to do well to stay that we rarely ever have a safety breach". Training may be costly but it doesn't really matter if the employee gives more than 30 years of service to the company. Again, I was impressed with the executives' attitudes and they even knew every employee's name in the entire mine....even the cooks who made us a delicious brazilian lunch. I was amazed!

Just when I thought the day was over, we stopped at the company's entrance, where we had to plant our group tree. Every visitor must plant a tree on the grounds and the company puts a plaque next to the tree with your name engraved in it. We were also given company gifts made by local artisans in an effort to help spur that industry as well. Everything was incredibly coordinated and so purposeful.

I hope I was able to give some good details and get some of the future leaders reading this blog some ideas about how to run a great company and how to invest in PEOPLE! It's not hard, it's the little things that count.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My letter to everyone back home

Oi todo mundo! Hello everyone!

We had an assignment in Portuguese class this week and it was to complete a letter to tell your friends a little bit about Brazil...and I thought it would make a great post! So here it is, my letter to you all. You'll see that some words are linked. Click on them and you'll be taken to YouTube where you'll witness firsthand all the things I am experiencing here as well. Enjoy!

Dear Friends,

Finally, I arrived in Brazil and I'm enjoying it very much. It's a little different than what my friends told me about it. Many told me that Brazilians speak Spanish and the truth is that they don't...they speak Portuguese. They also told me that the capital of Brasil was Rio de Janeiro (see below). It's not! It's Brasilia. I, on the other hand, am living in a concrete jungle called Sao Paulo (see below). Rio is famous for Brazilian Carnival and its natural beauty! But it doesn't last all year, only four days in the beginning of March.

They have beautiful music here as well. A famous type is called "chorinho". You have to listen to it! There's also lots of "samba" and MPB (popular brazilian music). I adore "bossa-nova" and of course, the famous Brazilian song about Ipanema!

Another friend of mine said that Brazilians dance mambo. Well, they really dance "samba", famous all over the world. Brazilians are also complete fanatics about soccer...or here called...futebol! Pele or Neymar are the two most famous players of all time. Futebol is a religion here and they even call the best players angels! And when Brazil is playing...everyone wears green and yellow and cheers like crazy!

Brazilians drink lots of coffee but unlike the US, here coffees are very small and always have lots of milk and sugar. The typical Brazilian plate is feijoada and generally, this is accompanied with a very strong drink called a caipirinha, which is made with an alcohol pronounced "cashassa" and has lime and sugar in it. When it's not made with lime, you can usually find it with other fruits and even made with sake or vodka too. The dessert of choice is called brigadeiro...one of the most delicious things ever. If you're just looking for a quick snack, then they eat salgados, which are breaded pockets with stuffing of cheese or meat or hearts of palm or other things.

Another interesting thing is that Brazilians always say hello and goodbye with a kiss on the cheek. And when you end a conversation on the phone...it's always a goodbye with "beijos" (kisses) or "abracos" (pronounced "abrassos") (hugs). Depending on where you are in the country, you can expect anywhere from one to three kisses!

Brazilians also have an interesting sense of time. It's normal to be about 15 minutes late and when you go to a Brazilian party, at least 30 minutes late but not rare to be 2+ hours late.

Brazilians are also very superstitious. Women do not put their purses on the floor EVER and when someone says something bad, everyone knocks on wood three times. For New Years, everyone wears white, which symbolizes peace. Every other color signifies something different; for example, pink means you're looking for love, yellow means you want money, blue for good health, and green for hope. And the clothing is always new to bring about good luck. And when they go to the beach, they jump seven waves for: health, love, luck, money, hope, peace, and happiness.

Well friends, that is all for now. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about Brazil!

Your friend,


Saturday, August 18, 2012


I figured the title would catch a few readers eyes! I was not deported, but thinking of it what not out of the question this week when a clerical error made by the Brazilian consulate in Washington DC on my visa application did not allow for me to get registered with the Federal Police of Brazil...an absolute must for all foreign-born residents. Read below for the story!

This week has been full of interesting surprises and has got me to thinking more about how exactly I'm going to spend my time here.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my rough days and are mentally exhausting. I have a two-hour lecture on Public Accounting in Portuguese from 9-11 and then Portuguese language classes from 3-7:30. So, it's Portuguese all day, which is awesome from a learning perspective but you can also sympathize with me here...by 8 PM, my mind has had to think about everything two and three times over! Because I just can't read the book or listen to the lecture, I have to read and listen with my trusty Portuguese-English dictionary, writing down or highlighting words every few minutes that I don't know. Then it's a challenge to look that word up while continuing to listen to the lecture so that I can keep up with the lecture. Nothing worse than looking something up and then being lost for the next 20 minutes because I didn't pay attention to the lesson when I was looking the word up. Anyways, you get my point...back to sympathy...8 PM rolls around and I just want to speak and think in English for a few minutes for some mental relaxation. I also think I've been sleeping like a baby here because of all this. My mind is exhausted after a "day in the life" here so when I hit the pillow it's lights out!

Good news is that this week I had another test in my accounting class and...I think I did much much better! I'm surprised how much more Portuguese I've learned in just a week to go from a solid C on my last test to an A on this one! haha. I was feeling good when the Professor said, "let's go over the two hardest problems on the test" after we turned it in and I got them both right! Now some of you are thinking that this shouldn't be hard for me because I'm an accounting nerd but here in Brazil, they use even a different system of accounting in the public sector. For you americans, Public Accounting is a profession but here in Brazil, it's actually the system of accounting they use for the public sector...in America, we know it as modified-accrual...the type of accounting we use for governments and non-profits. But, they don't use modified-accrual here. They use a nice mix between cash and accrual accounting, so I do in fact have to think before churning out my T-accounts and journal entries! Ok, enough on accounting technicalities...some of you are yawning I'm sure! haha

Here was another fun experience. So most of you know that I really took college involvement seriously. It was a ton of fun and I enjoyed being busy, always having something to do at UC. Well, now that I've been here a month and have my schedule set, I'm picking out my time in my schedule where I can do something here and there. I get restless otherwise. Well, there's these organizations at school that are called "Junior Businesses". They are like mini businesses or consulting organizations run by the school and they work with big companies to provide free consultation. Very popular here! So, I was thinking that that would be a good thing to get involved with and will surely keep my accounting skills sharp since that's a key area of need in these groups. What I didn't know is that there's like a 5 stage interview process to even join! I made it through the first one with the help of my FGV buddy. I had to write some essays on the Brazilian economy (in Portuguese, of course) and luckily I made it to the next round where I had to take an Economics dynamic (test). Not so sure how I did on that puppy, especially because they wouldn't let me use my dictionary either! The first third was ok...the typical econ questions like: If Jimmy is blonde and the receptionist is short, how old is Bobby's mother? The second third was a brain racker: If this graph shows the supply and demand of an elastic good that's imported, draw a new graph after interest rates have been increased to control foreign currency fluctuations. The third section I hadn't a clue. They were questions from the Brazilian newspapers like: What did Dilma Rousseff (Brazilian President) say in June in her State of the Union address about Brazil's relationship with China on electronic imports? YIKES! I hadn't a clue, so I took a wild guess based on what I thought would make logical sense. Awaiting the results...we'll see! If I pass, I get to do a team-based consulting exercise, that will be interesting with my now 8th grade level of Portuguese haha.

So, this brings me to another point. If you ever go abroad, study up on your own country! Never in my life have I been asked so much about the American system. Everything from economics, to trade agreements, to our constitution, to how our public officials are elected! I've found myself googling lots of these topics so I can answer intelligently to these questions. I feel like more of an American expert here in Brazil than I even did back home! Which is another challenge because all of the news is not readily available, I have to search for it.

I was really thrown off my game this week in class when the professor was asking me questions about the General Accounting Office of the US Government and how it compared to their equivalent.

What else...? On Wednesday for my Brazilian Law class, we got to go to the Ministerio Publico and had class in the courthouse with some Brazilian attorneys. Very very very interesting stuff! We got a tour of the facility and had some good dialogue on the system. Here was the most interesting fact to me: Over 13,000 new cases go through the Sao Paulo courts every month. I was shocked! This seems absurd, but we were assured that the system was not out of control and that there wasn't really pressure between the courts and police about who was doing a good job or not. But, the more I think about it, I'm not that surprised. I, alone, have witnessed at least a handful of crimes since I've been here and I'm just one person who's only traveling in so-called safe places in the third largest city of the world!

So, the moment you've all been waiting for...the deportation! haha. So, in order to stay in Brazil for the year, I had to apply for a year-long student visa with the Brazilian consultate in Washington DC. The application was extensive, requiring multiple forms to be signed by both my home and foreign institutions, notarized by local governments, disclosures of personal wealth, objectives, police records, etc...not to mention a hefty fee! Upon getting to Brazil, you must register with the federal police because I will be here so long, they want me on record! Again, more forms and fees. So, this Friday, I had my appointment to go in and finalize the paperwork and get my fingerprints taken, etc. It was an extremely frustrating process. My appointment was scheduled for 9 AM and there was no one there for me. Even worse, our group could see all the workers in this meeting through some glass windows. It was about 10 AM before a lady came out and said, "we're sorry, we're having a mandatory meeting on improving customer service...not sure when it will let out." ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! How can you improve customer service when you have a boatload of people waiting for you with scheduled appointments over an hour ago?! I can't imagine what people with 8 AM appointments were feeling like. Again, I don't know what I had such high expectations. Half of the public sector is on strike here. Police, universities, you name it, they're not working. Nevertheless, the meeting let out by 10:30 and I was in line...not for long, because when they started matching my documents, my processor realized that the dates didn't match. The visa in my passport said that it was valid until July of 2013 and my visa paperwork, which was done by the consulate, had a hand written note that said valid until July of 2012. Clearly the person who wrote the note made a clerical error, it was hand written and he put 2012 instead of 2013...everything else said 2013, but after a few minutes of trying to convince them that it was an error and even having a conversation with the supervisor, there was nothing they could do. I am now forced to spend another morning or afternoon at the Foreign Affairs Ministry sometime in the next week and have additional forms processed for me that says the hand written note was a clerical error and that I am legally authorized to be here. The bad news about this all is that until I get registered with the police, I am technically held in a "detained" state, you could say, because the form I get from the police authorizes me to actually travel to other countries, including exiting Brazil and entering the US. Good thing I don't have any immediate trips planned elsewhere, otherwise I wouldn't be able to go! Let's hope this gets resolved quickly...the pleasures of traveling abroad!

So, this has been a long post but I hope you've enjoyed some of the stories. As a means of closure, let me send a gigantic THANK YOU to all the people who have offered me a way to get Skyline chili! In fact, I've been put into touch with someone who is traveling to Brazil next month from Cincinnati who is going to bring me a can or two in exchange for a Sao Paulo city tour! My dream is complete! This brings me to a very important lesson to be told. Tell the world what you want! haha. Chances of you getting it increase exponentially!

I'm going to make another post shortly about Brazilian culture, which will include lots of pictures and YouTube links so you can actually see all the things I've been experiencing!


Sunday, August 12, 2012


So now that I've been here a month, I'm going to start updating about once a week. Not that there's not a lot going on, but now I have more of a defined schedule and not "everything" is new, so I'll be giving updates about once a week.

This past week was absolutely jampacked...here were a few highlights:

1. I had my first test in Portuguese, which I passed...barely. Evidently you can be tested over things that have been previously taught to you at the University in previous semesters. Well, surprise surprise, I've never studied here...I only jumped into a class taught in Portuguese to learn the language better. Nevertheless, the professor said the test was over Ch. 1 and it was really over Ch. 2 and the questions were really specific like, "Which of the following organizations file under public administration laws here in Sao Paulo?" It was a complete ABCD guessing game because I didn't even know what half the choices of organizations listed did, much less did I know they existed. I think I'll be having a conversation with the Professor soon to determine whether or not he can test me on something that has to do with the lectures or what's in the book rather than test my 3-week old Brazilian knowledge on governmental entities.

2. We had our official International student welcome which was a complete blast. If you've ever been lost in translation, then you know exactly how hysterical it is. Then if you know when people try to speak correct English and say something that's technically correct but just doesn't translate, it's even more funny...story of this occasion. And I'm sure it didn't help that it was an open bar, so the speech for some was especially slurred by the end of the night. We also got to hear the college band and learn some of the "FGV" chants and see some "Caipuera" which is a type of controlled Brazilian martial arts for performances...muito legal (very cool).

3. It was one of our friend's birthdays this week so we rented the top of a skyscraper to host a party...amazing views!

4. I went out for my first American cheeseburger since I was thoroughly disappointed in the airport on the way here...which is where I had my last burger. Speaking of...McDonalds here is like a really special treat and actually a meal costs almost $10 USD....no dollar menu!

5. I had a student come up to me at the school and said, "Hey I noticed that you're in my accounting class in Portuguese and well, you freaked me out!" As we further discuss, he's going to be an international student in Canada next year and he had envisioned himself in my shoes in the near future...so he created a three step plan in hopes of creating some good karma. 1) Sit next to me in classes to see if I need any help with the material or translating. 2) To practice talking to each other in both English and Portuguese. 3) To grab lunch with me a time or two per week because he was afraid that I was eating alone! Wasn't that nice?! Again, college students in the US, DO THIS!!! It's the best thing ever and so considerate.

6. Speaking of US college students, also realize that although our education system is praised, the students who I've met who've been to the US here are not impressed with our "welcome". In fact, most ever student here who desires to learn English goes to Canada because the International Relations office says that American's are not welcoming and that their students won't like it as much as Canada. This continues to be a big time bummer for me. Not only is this not healthy for our educational system (reminder: these students are the top business students in all of Latin America) but also unhealthy for our economy, both because these students are future Brazilian leaders and also because international students spend lots of money when they study abroad...trust me, I'm proof!

7. I started my Law curriculum at the Grad school this past week too. I loved it!!! Super interesting...I don't think I've ever learned so much in such a short period of time. Plus the learning environment was super dynamic. Every student was from a different country (USA, Israel, Germany, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Spain)...maybe Law School is in my future!

8. We had our first company visit to TV Cultura...which was super cool! We got to see live broadcasts of television and radio shows here in Brazil and got to tour the sets and meet the actors, actresses, and announcer. Very neat stuff!

This weekend, I was invited by my international buddy to go to his house, which was about a 3 hour ride west of Sao Paulo in a small town. It was a great weekend, a very quiet and calm town (what I would say is the real Brazil), and I enjoyed getting to use lots of Portuguese (I'm getting good!) and also enjoyed getting to know his family. It was a great break from the big and busy city.

So, I learned a new word this week that has no direct translation in English and it's called "Saudade". From what I gather, it's a really really really strong longing for and missing of something which leads me to the following.

I'M ABSOLUTELY CRAVING SKYLINE CHILI! I think about it at least 10 times a day and I've had dreams of me eating pounds of it and even swimming in bowls of it. Just an FYI for my readers.

I am missing home, family and friends for sure. I think I went through every one of my facebook pictures one day this week when I couldn't sleep. It was good and bad. Good because I had great memories but bad because it only made me want to get back to Cincinnati and enjoy my fifth and final year there! I didn't know that last year would be my last on campus and well, college was a blast and I miss it! But all the same, I know that I'm living a dream here as well and learning so much about me and this country and it will undoubtedly be one of the most incredible things I'll do in life and will certainly benefit me in so many ways...so I continue to live life to the fullest, wherever I am!

Here are some more pictures...the first link has about 50+ new pics in Sao Paulo and the second link has pictures from the countryside city!



Sunday, August 5, 2012

You're only smart in your language

This was the first week where it really started to sink in that I'm going to be here for a long time. I felt like I was at my first day of Kindergarten again when I attended my first class at Fundacao Getulio Vargas. I didn't know anybody, everyone looked at me when I walked into the class, and all I wanted was someone to sit next to me at lunch! haha

So, first things first, there were definitely some frustrations this week. The first of which was scheduling  classes. The whole process here is quite a bit less advanced than that in the US. In fact, so less developed that I didn't even get my schedule until after classes had started...how about that?! I really want to know who scheduled orientation after classes began...doesn't seem logical to me! But, oh well, I lived through it. There's not an automated scheduling process here. You simply email what classes you want to the International Relations office and then wait until they give you your schedule at orientation. Then you find out whether or not you got into the class because it's hand written for you. And if you didn't get into a class, they don't keep a running list of what's full and what's not...you have to email again and wait. Ok, enough of my venting.

I went to my first class, International Accounting, taught in Portuguese. Luckily for me, I understood most everything the professor said. He was very nice. He knew I wasn't from Brasil and talked to me after class, saying that he could translate anything that I didn't understand and that he'd be happy to work with me all semester long to help develop my business Portuguese skills, which was awesome. A very nice girl sat next to me also offering help and two guys from across the room asked me to be in their group as soon as class was done. This led me to one very important note that I have to put in this blog...IF YOU'RE STILL IN COLLEGE AND READING THIS, BE NICE TO THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS!!! I definitely had no clue what international students went through until having come here. It was the biggest relief ever to have someone talk to me and also have someone offer for me to be in their group. Big weight off my shoulders and I instantly felt welcomed. Had that not happened, my whole mood about that class would have likely changed. So...do what you can to be an international buddy or lend a helping hand or invite them to lunch or out for a drink, it will make their stay wherever they are that much more comfortable!

But, it was not all fun and games after that class. I went to my next class taught in Portuguese the following day: Brazilian Tax Structure and Public Finance, and was completely embarrassed. I could not understand a word this professor said! I think it was because he had a deep grumbly voice and a mustache (so I couldn't even lip read). I brought in a newspaper to class and he asked who's it was. I had no clue what he said so I didn't say anything. Meanwhile everyone was pointing at me. After that debacle, I thought it'd be a good idea to conveniently place my Portuguese-English dictionary on the front of my desk so that it would be an obvious sign to him not to ask me questions anymore...but that, too, did me no good. He must have noticed my "deer in headlights" look I had on during his lecture because half-way through he asked..."Do you understand?" At which point in time I responded, "I don't know," which was in English so clearly he knew I didn't. At the end of the lecture (yes, I'm realizing that I should have probably left when I knew I wasn't going to be taking this class anymore), he asked me if I was going to stay in the class. Of course I said no! He was a nice guy but I just think the topic was too advanced (talked about Brazilian laws and regulations) and the language barrier was too much for me to handle. Thus, I'll be attending a few more classes taught in Portuguese between now and the add/drop period so that was I have a full class load. I need to take a professor that I can understand! Now you know why I titled the post as I have. Because, if you can't communicate, you just don't look very smart. It was an extremely humbling experience for me because in English, I feel very capable of handling advanced topics but with a middle school vocabulary of another language, it makes it very difficult to be that big bad student I hoped to be here. With time I'll come along.

The University is a beautiful facility...just one building, but very modern. The professors really know what they're talking about. FGV is considered the best business school in Latin America. Most people give you that "Oh you're from Harvard" look here when you say that you go to school there. Evidently your job is guaranteed if you go to school there. You can tell the students are high-class. They all come from money and are all very light skinned. It has me wondering what this means about Brazilian economics, access to education, and their future business leaders. I'm not sure I've put enough thought around it yet so I'll have to report back but it's something that I've noted. I also met my Brazilian buddy who took me out for lunch and has been showing me around the city. Again, fortunate to have some local help and we've gotten along great.

On Friday, we went to the FGV welcome party for all the students. It was pretty interesting...$2.50 all you can drink Skol (US = Bud light) and also included free entertainment...watching all the Freshman get hazed. At first I thought it was pretty harmless, just throwing some beer around but then I saw hair shavers and eggs and rotten food and paint and well you get the point...it went on for hours! Our group dipped out real quick, not only because we thought it was getting a little crazy but also because our Director had invited us over to her place for dinner, which was great.

We headed out to a new district today for this antique road show you could call it. Lots of cool old stuff. Boatload of music stores and artsy bars and pastry shoppes. Not much to report on here aside from the fact that I saw some cool old stuff for about two hours today haha.

Just wanted to thank everyone for all your comments, posts, emails, etc. The Boren Bearcat in Brazil Blog has been up for 20 days now and on Friday, I hit the 1,000 pageview mark, about 50 readers per day. It's been way more successful than I could have ever imagined! I've had readers from as far as India, Russia, Poland, Spain, and Korea. I hope you're enjoying it and it gives me just as much enjoyment to share my experiences with you all and brings a little bit of home back to me here in Brazil!