Friday, October 2, 2009

Provas, Provas, Provas

This past week was week one of two weeks of midterms (or, as they are called here, provas de G1). I managed to survive a week of presentations, written tests, and papers -- and, surprisingly enough, for a brief moment it felt kind of like I was back at Brown. I actually had to use my free time to study and do work! (Though I was doing reading on the beach last Sunday, so I don't know if that counts.)

Tuesday morning at 7am I had my first written test here, this one for my class on the health of the worker. I was slightly worried about it because the assigned book never showed up in the library and the professor never responded to my email asking for her Powerpoint slides. When I complained about this to my dad, he reminded me that everyone in my class was "in the same boat." Not exactly, considering everyone else in my class was Brazilian and not only spoke fluent Portuguese but had actually written essays for tests in that language before.

While we did have to write short papers in my Portuguese classes at Brown, they were always assigned for homework, so I could use a dictionary and spell check and stop to think about what exactly it was I was trying to say. That's added to the fact that they were on subjects like "describe your ideal family" or "describe your plan for a vacation in Brazil" -- which didn't inspire the most complex analysis, I must say. But now not only did I have to answer three essay questions in two hours without any outside help, I actually had to answer the questions in a way that would show my professor that I wasn't a complete idiot (a common misperception in this country).

I have always taken my ability to write for granted. In fact, out of the four language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), I think I'm best at writing, not only in English but probably also in French. It's not that I'm illiterate in Portuguese -- though it certainly sometimes feels that way as I do the readings for my Portuguese literature class -- but oral and aural skills played a bigger role in my learning the language than written ones.

This is something I have always been grateful for -- it's more helpful to my life in Brazil to be able to understand what the people I live with are saying than to be able to read 19th-century Portuguese literature. But it is also something that worried me a bit coming into this week.

Luckily, my fears were mostly unfounded. I pulled off the essay questions on Tuesday morning with plenty of time to spare. And for the paper on Brazilian literature that I had to write for Wednesday, I used a hint that my Portuguese professor gave us Tuesday afternoon. It all boiled down to looking like I could write in Portuguese. Adriana, my Portuguese professor, was explaining to us the use of the word cujo/a(s), which pretty much means "whose", and which is completely avoided in spoken Portuguese. But, she said, if you can use it correctly in writing, we send you straight to level five. Since I somehow fooled the Portuguese department into putting me in level five, I figured I might as well throw a few cujos into my Brazilian literature paper to see if I could fool that professor as well into thinking I could write Portuguese. I haven't gotten my grade back yet, but hopefully it worked!

I still have a couple more tests next week, but I'm not too worried right now. It's a beautiful day out, it's been declared an optional holiday for public workers, and I'm skipping surfing class to party on Copacabana beach with 100,000 Brazilians from 10am until whenever the party ends (perhaps all night, depending on the news from Copenhagen). But I'll write more about the Olympics later!


  1. That sounds really fun! And good job on the cujo's..

    Also, you're going to be amazing at portuguese when you get back.

  2. I scanned CNN and Washington Post pictures for you dancing on the Beach Friday....mainly because I thought it would be funny if they showed a non-Brazilain. But I didn't see you among the 100,000.... Hope the Olympics celebration was fun!!

    Aunt Deb