BLOG: An American in Brazil: 10 Lessons from the World Cup


After a two-week jaunt in Brazil and meticulous research (drinking caipirinhas with Brazilian friends while watching World Cup matches on TV), I’d like to chime in on the World Cup commentary and speculations about “how Brazil feels at this moment.” I can assure you that no Brazilian shed a tear over Argentina’s loss yesterday. Yes,  Germany destroyed Brazil 7-0. Ripped them out of the standings, perhaps like hair in bikini wax (Thank you, John Oliver!). Even so, my research suggests that no one in green and yellow rooted for their blue and white South American compadres. And why? The answer is #1 on my list of Top 10 Lessons I Learned in Brazil During the World Cup.

Top 10 Lessons I Learned In Brazil During the World Cup:

1.  *Argentina sucks. Now, I know this may sound harsh, especially after their defeat by Germany yesterday that left blue and white fans crying in the stands and ignited riots in the streets of Buenos Aires. However, I’m speaking purely from a Brazilian perspective. See, Brazilians loathe all things Argentinian. Why? Because Argentina  thinks it is the best country on the continent –  Everyone knows that Brazil holds that honor. I wager that this sibling rivalry trumps their humiliation-inspired vengeance towards Germany. Regardless, the arrogant Argentinians arrived by the VW Bus-load. I mean just look at them:

Argentinian Fans "dressing" for the game

Argentinian Fans “dressing” for the game

 In a small bar nestled in the colonial town of Paraty, the room rooted for Iran, rather than giving love to these Smurfs. (Note: we also cheered for Ghana over Germany) Outside of Brazil *I have heard only wonderful things about Argentina and have found the people lovely.

However, when in Brazil, if you know what’s good for you, don’t root for Argentina – root for Iran, China, ISIS – anyone, but Argentina.

2.  Wear your country with pride. Speaking of Smurfs, I learned that the World Cup provides a unique opportunity for both nationalism and Halloween-style exhibitionism. On my one venture out for a caipirinha without my phone/camera, I missed snapping shots of Americans in Cat in the Hat-sized Uncle Sam hats draped in the American flag. Even our Independence Day can’t drum up this kind of support. Here are a few examples from other countries: IMG_6922 - Version 2IMG_6899 - Version 2





3.  “Futbol” is pronounced Foocheebowl in Portuguese. If you are an American who, out of reverence for American Football, clings to the term “soccer” when referring to the game at the center of the World Cup, no worries. You, too, can join the rest of the world. No one will confuse Foocheebowl for the NFL.

4.  Futbol (Foocheebowl) is an international language. On a playground in Rio my five-year old son approached a couple of boys and in butchered Portuguese attempted to ask them to play. The boys passed confused glances back and forth, then dropped a futbol between them and they were off! The ball, a Rosetta Stone. For the next hour they spoke the language of Foocheebowl. Before this moment, my son was not a fan of soccer. He’d taken a class when he was three, but lost interest when he realized that the “games” the coaches led were just drills masquerading as fun. But, in Brazil everyone speaks Foocheebowl. As a matter of fact, the World Cup demonstrated that everyone in the world speaks Foocheebowl. All you need is a ball – no helmet, no expensive equipment. Despite FIFAs excesses, the game still has a purity to it. Now, my son is hooked – and our customs form declared a green and yellow flagged foocheebowl.

It’s ON!


5.   Protesting is better with Superheroes. If you’re in the mood to protest something it’s always good to bring along an internationally recognized superhero. Batman works well. Here he is supporting a teacher strike at the Camara dos Vereadores (equivalent of their city hall) downtown… …and later at Copacabana beach for a protest against privatization of health care.

Education Batman

Education Batman



Health Care Batman

Health Care Batman


6.  When in doubt, bring out the military police.

Here’s the view out of our window near Copacabana…  IMG_6819 - Version 2

And here they are bringing up the rear of Batman’s health care protest…


7. Nothing is more important than the World Cup. Nothing. During one round, the games were scheduled for 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm Brazil time. EVERYTHING shut down when the games started. Even the bars. Streets were deserted. Businesses were shuttered. At bars that showed the game, employees huddled around TVs in the back. And the government helped out by declaring national holidays whenever Brazil played.

An abandoned street in Paraty during a game

An abandoned street in Paraty during a game

The employee TV in our restaurant's kitchen

The employee TV in our restaurant’s kitchen

8.  Brazil fever is contagious! As we learned this week, national pride and team pride are inseparable. And demonstrations of this pride are everywhere, from big city to small hut (with the notable exception of the protests). It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this country and their passion for their team simultaneously. I mean, who doesn’t love Brazil? (Perhaps Argentina, but who else?)

An American stricken with Brazil Fever

An American stricken with Brazil Fever

Actual Brazilians with Brazil Fever

Actual Brazilians with Brazil Fever


Even the fruit is patriotic

Brazil Fever is found in the most remote Brazilian  locations

Brazil Fever is found in the most remote Brazilian locations

9.  Brazilian “team spirit” is passionate, but not blind. (i.e. They ain’t Redskin fans). I grew up in DC, and we cheered for the Redskins through the rain and snow, through strings of defeats, like happy minions, and after the occasional win, the city shut down. There is a saying in Brazil that people trade wives, but never teams. Brazil fans are crazy passionate and committed. But, don’t mistake that passion for blind love. Theirs is a tough love. It is the job of every Brazilian fan to gesticulate wildly, curse in front of small children and babies and throw things at the screen if a player misses a goal the fan deems unmissable. Otherwise kind, gentle people, pacifists even will mutate temporarily into blood-thirsty colliseum-goers. Nobody is blowing sunshine here.

An otherwise gentle, kind, and peaceful Brazilian doing her part for her team

An otherwise gentle, kind, and peaceful Brazilian doing her part for her team

A halftime with a tied score does not invite encouragement, but rather, depression.

Halftime Brazil vs. Chile

Halftime Brazil vs. Chile


But if the team makes a dramatic turn around fans will take you back. And with a win that same baby we just ranted to will be showered with kisses and thrown up in the air with something more joyful than ecstasy. A win – well, there’s nothing quite like it. I had the privilege of watching (on TV) Brazil beat Chile in the World Cup with my Brazilian friends in Copacabana. It was an emotional rollercoaster ride – ups and downs, twists and turns and a triumphant return.

And in the end, the Brazilian fans are resilient. They may trade wives after their crushing defeat, but never teams.


10.  And finally, #10 – Did I mention that Argentina sucks? 

Goodbye to Brazils World Cup

See you at the Olympics!

See you at the Olympics!

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IMG_4339BEGIN!   July 3, 2014

I don’t know quite where to begin, but I have been wanting to start a blog for many years now, but I don’t know where to begin. But I have been wanting to …

I teach a college course on the nature of creativity and use choreographer, Twyla Tharpe’s book The Creative Habit as a primary text. She offers wisdom for those of us who can’t quite start the big project we’ve been dreaming about because we are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task and can’t find a way in. To us, Tharpe says:


Simply begin somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t matter where. It doesn’t need to be at the beginning of the story. Just start and eventually you will carve pathways that lead you forward. I’m not sure about so many things: how often I will write, if there will be a consistent theme, topic or format… And so, even still, I begin. I imagine that the shape of this offering will form itself as I continue to write.

Years ago, before the ferocious Midwestern storms took down so many of our trees in our ½ acre back yard, Fall leaf raking was an arduous task. I have this memory of standing in the middle of our yard, buried practically up to my knees in crimson, gold, and fire orange leaves, leaning on my rake and moaning at the magnitude of the task in front of me. Where would I even begin?!!  I decided that I would just start raking – right there in the middle of the yard. You have to start somewhere.

Is there a project that has been scratching at your soul? The thing you never have enough time to do? Well…


and the path will present itself


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Radio Story aired Friday, 7:30am during Morning Edition on WMUK radio!

Friday, April 11th, 7:30am –  WMUK (NPR, 102.1 FM, aired our 2nd radio documentary story in our series about LGBT identity and acceptance during Morning Edition.  We rushed to get it done to line up with the Day of Silence, an annual day of action to protest the bullying and harassment of lesbiangaybisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and supporters.. The piece, “One Day in Michigan” is a collage of experiences from newly married gay couples and their allies at the Washtenaw County Courthouse on Sat. March 22nd. The piece celebrates the day, the community, and the experience created as a result. Listen to the piece here!

IMG_6158IMG_6016 IMG_6069 - Version 2 IMG_8080

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Allison selected to perform at The National Storytelling Festival StorySlam October 5th!!

So, 3 years ago this weekend I landed in Jonesborough, Tennessee to immerse myself in the world of storytelling. I spent days sitting mesmerized by masterful tellers. This year I entered the National Storytelling Festival’s 2nd Annual StorySLAM competition by submitting a 2 minute overview of what would have to be a 5 minute story. A committee of judges selected 7 storytellers from all the submissions received between January and August.  I am so honored to be one of 7 storytellers to perform this Saturday. From what I hear there will be upwards of 1,000 people there to listen. I don’t expect to win -(wish me luck anyway, though). Even if my story is good,  I’m telling a sad story, and in my experience, sad stories rarely if ever win slams.  But, I AM aiming to do my very best to authentically share a meaningful story with good people. And, I’m just thrilled to be selected.

I also can’t wait to listen to the other tellers, the slam storytellers, yes, but also the master tellers I love ( Kim Weitkamp, Syd Lieberman, Milbre Burch, Bil Lepp) and the ones I’ve been eager to hear for the first time (Antonio Rocha, Rev. Robert Jones, Minton Sparks, David Novak….)

Off to Story Land!!!

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