Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Long weekend in Uberlândia

All dressed up in our Sunday best for my cousin's birthday :)

This past weekend was a long weekend here in Brazil because of Corpus Christi.  I'm not religious, but I took advantage of the 4-day-weekend to go visit my cousins in Uberlândia, in the interior of the country (about 600 km NW of São Paulo).

We left on Wednesday afternoon (I left work a little early to meet my aunt in São Paulo) and arrived late Wednesday night at my aunt's mother's house (she's my aunt by marriage, so I'd never met this branch of the family before, but they welcomed me right away).  By the time everyone arrived, there were about 40 of us, and I still can't remember everybody's name.

I spent about a third of my time with this new branch of the family, who hosted a *fantastic*  party for my cousin's birthday.  The party was "festa Junina" themed.  A festa junina (literally "June Party")  is a traditional brazilian party thrown to honour one of three saints who have saint days in June.  For a festa junina,  brazilians get all dressed up as hillbillies (plaid shirts, fluffy scrap dresses, blackened teeth, painted on freckles and straw hats),  eat traditional cakes, sweets, roasted corn and popcorn, dance to brazilian country and folk music, and set off fireworks.  My aunt's family sure knows how to party!

More pictures:

Showing off my dress. Beside me is Aunt Adila, my aunt's cousin, who went all out with her costume :)

Dancing waaayyy into the night.

I also made sure to spend lots of time with my cousins (the ones I knew before who are actually related to me :) ).  I was particularly excited to see my cousin Laize again.  Laize and I have known each other since we were babies, and we've always been close.  We're both studying civil engineering, and she's the one I called in a mad panic when I first got called in for the internship interview, so she could help me learn construction industry terms in Portuguese.

I was curious to see what civil engineering school was like in Brazil, so I asked Laize to take me to one of her classes.  She had only one class on Friday, Structural Analysis II.  We got to class a little bit early, and she introduced me to her professor as her Canadian cousin who's studying civil engineering over there. 

About halfway through the class (we were working on sample problems), the professor approached me, and asked which city and university I was at.  It turned out that she'd done some post-doctoral work at U of T, and knew several of my professors!  Her thesis supervisors had been Prof. Collins and Prof. Vecchio.  What a coincidence!  I went to only one class, and it turned out that the prof had not only been to Canada but worked with my profs!

Unfortunately, most of the labs were closed for the holiday weekend, so we didn't get to see too much of the university or meet any more of the staff.   Hopefully, I'll get to do that later on.  Laize is also hoping that she can get me to come speak at one of her classes about green building, which would be really cool.  It seems like the focus of civil engineering in Brazil (or at least at the University of Uberlândia) is more focused on the structural and geotechnical elements, and less on the municipal, transport and sustainability aspects.   Introducing a larger focus on environment and sustainability in the technical fields might be an important next step in greening the brazilian construction industry!

Before a night on the town with my cousins
Left to right: Me, Letícia, Laize and Diana


  1. Funny Costumes! Nice that you got to spend time with your family. I can't believe your cousin's professor knows Prof. Vecchio and Prof. Collins! what a coincidence, haha that's very cool. If you get a chance to speak at the University about Green Building, thats twice as cool.

  2. Great site, excellent article, congratulations!

    We´d like to show you the St. Jonh celebrations during the month of June in Brazil.

    Come and get to know this original party with a lot of music & dancing!

    Check out these cool pics and videos:



    Become fan of our page and stay connected with all the news about Brazil!

  3. Lee this looks like great fun! I simply love anything that involves traditional dress, even if that means peasant outfits and blackened teeth. Let us know if you do end up giving a presentation about Green Building, it sounds like a fantastic opportunity to widen the scope of what sounds to be a more traditional engineering class. Who knows, it might become someone else's future passion thanks to your talk!

  4. Oh, so that's why there were pics of you with freckles.

    You look adorable.