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By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The land of adult learning in Rio takes a novel new twist next month when Casa do Saber in Lagoa launches its first ever ‘Brazil For Beginners’ course on October 14th, the first at the center to be designed specifically for foreigners.

Julia Michaels, the former journalist behind Brazil For Beginners which begins in October, photo by Thorsten Keschelis.

The brainchild of American journalist Julia Michaels, the course is intended to help foreigners understand the country that still baffles a great many Brazilians. As the official blurb goes, “How do you explain a people who love to party yet vie to arrive last at a festa, or who would expect that Carnival exhibitionists would be prudes about toplessness on a beach?” All this and much more is set to be explored in detail over four weeks.

From its São Paulo beginnings, Casa do Saber now has two outlets in Rio de Janeiro. Dedicated to providing courses on a rich variety of subjects, it grew from the culture of the 1990s when groups of adult friends would hire a professor to offer classes in their homes on a designated subject. The desire to learn into adulthood remains particularly strong in a country where professional competitiveness is flourishing.

The course is split up into four distinct sections which, when taken as a whole, will provide an invaluable insight to attitudes surrounding race, religion, values, behavior, sex, sensuality, notions of time and space, and class relations.

The first week comes under the banner ‘Occupying The Space’ and was inspired by the words of a driving instructor from São Paulo who considered the phrase to be the ‘first rule of driving’. Applicable not just to the highways and byways of the country, it also goes some way to explain the Brazilian mentality at large.

Casa do Saber is and upscale adult education center located right on the Lagoa in a refurbished mansion, image by Casa do Saber.

As does part two, looking at the lingering effects of slavery which was only made illegal here in 1888 and therefore still held a legacy for many Brazilians towards the end of the twentieth century. Part three looks at sexuality, fidelity and attitudes toward the body, and the final section in week four looks towards the future of the country and the changes it is undergoing so rapidly today.

Julia Michaels is understandably excited at the prospect of getting under the skin of the country she has adopted as her home since arriving in the 1980s. Having worked in São Paulo as a freelance journalist for the likes of The Wall Street Journal, it is an interesting new challenge;

“Casa do Saber has a wonderful catalog of topics that it covers from philosophy to jazz to history of art., and they asked me if I would be interested in running their first course designed for foreigners. I’m an intense observer, so i’m very much looking forward to it.”

“Using the ideas of anthropologist Roberto da Matta, I hope to give the students the tools for beginning to think about Brazilian society, so they can make their own observations, ask questions, and begin to come up with some answers. I expect it will be a fun process, using music, film, poetry, literature, and life stories.”

The classes begin at 6PM in the hope that “foreign executives as well as their spouses will be able to attend” and run weekly from October 14th.
Casa do Saber
Av Epitacio Pessoa 1164, Lagoa
Tel: (021) 2227 2237
Price: R$360

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