By Andrew Willis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In a world turned upside down in recent years, more and more foreigners are travelling to Brazil for work, attracted by its growing economy and rising middle class. Tourism is also booming, with a string of upcoming international events and a world-famous Carnival likely to ensure that this trend continues.
Arriving for the first time, however, many visitors to Rio notice two things they may not have expected; the high price of accommodation, and the lack of English spoken.
This makes the case for some formal Portuguese tuition a strong one, with a number of options existing in Rio de Janeiro including the Casa do Caminho Language Centre, situated less than a hundred meters from the beach in the stylish Ipanema neighborhood.
The school’s professional teachers hail from all over Brazil, with group and individual classes from beginner to advanced level.
“We have a relaxed atmosphere in the school that tends to set us apart from the more corporate based set-ups,” says Jascha Lewkowitz, a Dutch expatriate who runs the non-profit language school. “We also provide activities, it’s a holistic experience.”
The activities include samba classes, Brazilian music lesions, beach volleyball and a Brazilian film night, plus weekend treks up some of Rio’s many peaks.
The school also provides a homestay program across the city, a more affordable accommodation option and a chance to gain a closer insight into the daily lives of Cariocas, as Rio locals are known.
As part of the homestay program, students can pick between living with a Brazilian family, students or a retired couple, depending on preference and availability.
“The students get to live in a Brazilian family, practice their Portuguese and have a cultural experience,” says Lewkowitz. “On the whole, they tend to love it.”
Established four years ago as a means of raising funds for an orphanage in Xerem, a town 1.5 hours north of Rio, student fees at the language school now also help fund a cultural center and an environmental training program in the same area.
Thanks to the cultural center, Xerem residents have access to a range of different activities at a fraction of their normal cost, including yoga, ballet and music classes.
And situated on a hectare of rural land just outside Xerem, the ‘Comunidade Verde’ project includes an organic garden and a house where the orphanage kids can spend their weekends under the supervision of volunteers.
The aim is to use the space, originally bought by a group of Brazilian idealists in the 1980s, as a model of sustainable living and an alternative way to treat the land. An organic garden on the site provides vegetables for the orphanage and a means for the children to earn some money.
To connect the two sides, students at the language school have the opportunity to visit the environmental training site and meet with the kids during ‘working parties’, weekend trips to Xerem where they can help out with activities.
For those interested in learning Portuguese and gaining a closer insight into Brazil and its inhabitants, the Casa do Caminho is an excellent option that also supports a good cause.
* This is a paid Advertorial for Casa do Caminho Language Centre.